by Pamela La Gioia
It’s tough to find employment in today’s job market especially if a person lacks a formal education or has minimal work experience. Still even without such background deficits attempts to find home-based employment may be fruitless at best financially and emotionally draining at worst.
According to the International Telework Association and Council (ITAC) of Washington D.C. more than 19.6 million people reportedly worked from home as of 1999. The ITAC estimates that by 2010 there will be around 40 million people working part- or full-time from their homes.
Sage Research Inc. reported that companies will continue to initiate telecommuting programs. The use of remote workers will become a necessity as overhead costs continue to rise.
Yet even though the trend of telecommuting (working from home) has steadily grown over the past two decades it remains an untapped benefit for the majority of North America’s workforce. This situation makes many job seekers ask: “Where are the companies that allow individuals to work from home? What does it take to land a home-based job?”
With a bit of thorough research worker can find this information. Plenty of unscrupulous people however try to make a lot of money from others’ need to find home-based work. Through tricky advertising they take millions of dollars from the very individuals who are trying to earn a living. These scammers as they are commonly called are all too aware of how desperately people want to earn a paycheck from their homes. And their target market grows by leaps and bounds every year. So appropriate research is crucial.
Compared to the amount of misinformation out there the amount of reliable information about working from home seems scarce. That’s why it’s important to search it out and take advantage of it when it becomes available.
To learn what it is like trying to find and actually land a telecommuting job Telework Recruiting Inc. surveyed dozens of people who frequent online e-mail groups that focus on telecommuting issues. The results of this survey will help give job seekers an understanding of what’s involved in a search for a telecommuting position. These results should also help employers realize the value that having a telecommuting option has for so many candidates.
Although telecommuting is a work option that increases each year across North America it is still not the norm. According to Telework Recruiting Inc.’s survey the average length of time a job seeker spends searching for a position that allows telecommuting is two years. Individuals who want to start out with a new company as a teleworker may search longer than those who try to persuade their current companies to allow them to telecommute full- or part-time.
The No. 1 reason survey respondents believe that it takes so long to find telecommuting work with a new company is that they simply can’t find legitimate companies to work for. Their research usually takes them to companies offering bogus job opportunities or scams. These supposed hiring companies either want people to pay for information about the job or to file an application or they want people to perform idiotic activities such as sending spam e-mail or posting advertisements all over the Internet.
The second reason is that they believe companies are afraid to trust them to perform their work from home. Despite numerous studies that indicate that teleworkers are actually more productive employers still seem concerned that home-based employees will be sitting around watching television rather than working.
The third top reason people feel they can’t find work-from-home employment is that too many people are competing for the few telecommuting opportunities that are out there. Whether real of exaggerated the competition for positions only reinforces the importance for job-seekers to invest in creating a top-notch resume and to continually hone their skills.
Other reasons attributed to the inability to find telecommuting opportunities include:
- Lack of training or experience for the jobs they are seeking
- Not being open to other types of work; that is being too narrow in their job-seeking focus
- Not looking hard enough
- Or not actually having a home situation conducive to telecommuting. (i.e. having a child around that requires almost constant attention.)
We asked survey respondents who have been successful in finding and keeping telecommuting positions for their input the factors that contributed to their success. The No. 1 reason they gave: Diligence. They believe they were successful mainly because they didn’t give up looking. They researched everything. As one person put it: “Leave no stone unturned.”
Another top factor for their success was having a good employment track record. These days background checks are almost always performed as evidenced by the growing number of background checking services out there. Maintaining exceptional references from previous employers is extremely important.
The third top factor for successfully finding work from home is being able to demonstrate how the the successful telecommuters could perform their jobs from home just as well or better than if they worked onsite. However they didn’t wait for an interview or meeting to start coming up with reasons that they felt their company should let them stay home. Each person came prepared with a well-thought-out proposal that would answer any questions or objections an employer might have. Bringing samples or examples of work already done from home was an added bonus to a proposal.
Other important elements to successfully finding work from home include:
- Opening doors for themselves by starting out as volunteers.
- Knowing how to network.
- Having self-discipline and good management skills.
- Having a supportive supervisor or manager.
Before starting any type of venture it is always helpful to be clear on what that venture is and to have a plan for that venture. Very often people decide they want to work from home (for various personal reasons) yet they aren’t sure what type of work they will do or even if they’re suited for a telecommuting life. Our survey respondents offered some suggestions and ideas to look at before even beginning a job hunt. In order of their most common responses these suggestions are listed below:
- Be able to recognize a scam. If you plan to use the Internet at all for your job search save yourself a lot of time and energy by knowing the different types of scams out there so you can bypass them altogether. [Editor’s note: Our article Your Home-Based Career: A Key Resource Guide contains links to articles advising how to avoid scams.]
- Locate sources of legitimate telecommuting opportunities which of course is easier said than done. But it is possible. [Editor’s note: See our Telecommuting Job Flexibility and Work-at-Home Job and Career Resources.]
- Learn how to research a company. Don’t just browse company Web sites. They won’t tell you on their site if they have a problem paying their workers or if this is a third attempt to start this company or if the work they have for contractors is extremely inconsistent. Look at the company from other sources such as the Better Business Bureau message boards that focus on the type of business that you’re interested in and even Google will have information about them.
- Understand what realistic earnings are for each type of profession when performed as a telecommuter. Do not be surprised if as a counselor you made $30000 at your local rehab center but make only $19000 a year as a home-based telephonic counselor. Companies that use home workers know that you won’t have the usual commuting costs and work expenses. Working from home is NOT a way to get rich quick.
- If necessary get resume assistance. If you think you have a great resume look at resumes of other people and compare. Chances are you could use a resume expert to write one up for you. Remember: Your resume will be what determines whether or not you even get in the door to make a proposal for telecommuting. [Editor’s note: See our assessment Could You Benefit from a Professional Resume Writer?.]
- Be sure you have an up-to-date home office. Up-to-date does not have to mean top of the line or extremely expensive. It means that you must have a computer with at least Windows 98 a fax machine a printer and usually high-speed Internet access. None of these items are luxuries anymore. They are basics. Part of having an up-to-date home office is actually having a workspace that is separate from the rest of the house. The dining room table will not do.
- Know the realities of a telecommuting life. Some most common ones include constant interruptions by children or non-work-related phone calls and distractions of the home such as laundry or the lawn. Some teleworkers have to constantly struggle with family and friends to convince them that just because they are home they are still at work and cannot be at everyone’s beck and call. Their time at the computer needs to be treated as work time without interruptions.
- Companies who hire telecommuters do so to save themselves overhead. Part of saving money is hiring independent contractors rather than employees thus eliminating the need to pay employment-related taxes such as unemployment and workers compensation. You will be responsible for your own taxes. Learn what it means to be an independent contractor from the IRS’s perspective.
- Another part of a company’s telecommuting plan is often not having to pay for benefits. Be prepared to fend for yourself when it comes to health insurance. If your spouse works outside the home and receives benefits things are a bit easier. However health-insurance options are still something worth researching in the event you end up responsible for obtaining healthcare for the family.
- Finally the life of a telecommuter can be a lonely compared to that of onsite workers in a company’s office with all the hustle and bustle of fellow workers. Not only do you not have someone close by to share the latest jokes with but you also do not have a conveniently located person around to bounce ideas off of or discuss work-related issues.
Final Thoughts on Telecommuting and Working from Home
Taking all these things into consideration as well as all the bumps that come with finding a telecommuting position how important is working at home for our survey respondents? On a scale of 1 to 10 (one being the lowest) almost every one said 10. Having their independence makes it all worthwhile. Being able to spend more time with their family instead of on the highways outweighed any downside of telecommuting. Having a personal life even if it wasn’t an exciting one was of more value to them than any other benefit a company could give.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Pamela La Gioia is Founder and Administrator of Telework Recruiting Inc. a premier job-lead website that provides thousands of job leads and job resources for the U.S. Canada and the UK. She is currently writing a workbook on telecommuting which offers step-by-step guidance on finding real home-based employment. Questions or comments are welcome and can be sent to Pamela firstname.lastname@example.org.
And don’t forget to take advantage of all of all our telecommuting and work-at-home resources.