Before starting any type of venture it’s essential to be clear on what that venture will entail. Oftentimes, when people decide they want to work from home they’re not even sure that they're suited for telecommuting life. In a survey conducted by Telework Recruiting, Inc. (2005), of people who were successful at finding telework, respondents offered suggestions of what to look at before beginning a telecommuting arrangement. In order of their most common responses, here are some of their suggestions:
- Locate sources of legitimate telecommuting opportunities. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Learn to recognize a scam. As you use the internet for your job search, save yourself a lot of time and money by recognizing the different types of scams out there, so you can skirt them altogether.
- Learn how to research a company. Don't just browse a company's web site. Their site won’t tell you if they have problems paying their workers, or if the work they offer is inconsistent. Look at the company through other sources such as the Better Business Bureau, Rip Off Reports.com, social media, and forums that discuss the business you're interested in. Google will have information both from them and about them, which can prevent future heartache for you.
- Understand what the realistic earnings are for a job when it is done as a telecommuter. Don’t be surprised if, for example, as a mental health counselor making a yearly $30,000.00 in a hospital, you’ll make $10.00 an hour as a home-based telephonic counselor. Companies that employ teleworkers factor in employees’ lack of commuting costs and work expenses.
- When necessary, get resume assistance. Resume styles can change over time, so look at the resumes of other people to compare. Chances are you could use a resume expert to create one for you. Remember: Your resume is what determines whether or not you even get in the door to make a proposal for telecommuting.
- Make sure your home office is efficient and up to date. Up to date does not have to mean top-of-the-line and super-expensive. It means that you must at the very least own a computer with a relatively recent operating system, a fax machine, a printer, and wifi/high-speed internet access. None of those things are luxuries anymore. Further, part of having an up to date home office is having work space that is separate from the rest of the house. The dining room table will not do.
- Understand the frustrations of a telecommuting life. The most common ones respondents mentioned are: frequent interruptions by children, non-work-related phone calls, and distractions in the home such as laundry. For some teleworkers, it is a constant struggle between their families trying to convince them that though they may be at home they are still working and cannot be at their beck and call. Therefore, time at your desk needs to be treated as work time, without unnecessary interruptions.
- Recognize that companies that hire telecommuters do so to save themselves overhead (AKA money). This often means hiring independent contractors rather than employees, which eliminates paying required employment-related taxes, unemployment, and workers' compensation. The responsibility for taxes is all yours, so you’ll need to learn what it means to be an independent contractor from the IRS's perspective.
- Another part of a company's telecommuting plan might be not paying for health benefits. (This may be changing soon.) Be prepared to fend for yourself when it comes to health insurance. If your husband or wife works outside the home and receives benefits, this makes things a bit easier. However, health insurance is still something worth researching in the event you end up being responsible for obtaining health care for the family.
- Finally, the life of a telecommuter is a very lonely and independent one compared to those who work in a company's office, with all the hustle and bustle of fellow workers. You not only don’t have someone close by to share the latest jokes with, but also you don’t have anyone just around the corner to bounce ideas off of or discuss work-related issues.
Taking all this into consideration, as well as the bumps that go along with finding a telecommuting position, how important is working at home for our survey respondents? On a scale of one to ten (one being the lowest), almost everyone said “Ten”. Having their independence made it all worth it. Being able to spend more time with their family instead of on the highways outweighed any potential 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 offer.
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