Working at home, telecommuting, earning money at home, passive income – can quickly become extremely daunting and overwhelming to anyone who decides to turn to their home computer as a way to make money, whether part time, full time, a little to pay that large cell phone bill or a lot to become comfortably well off or even wealthy.  There are not only hundreds or thousands of websites offering this money or wealth, but also those sites claiming to have information about those sites, sites that will charge large sums of money to be a coach or find the work/business for you, blogs, forums, and social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.  Many of these sites will use typical advertising catch phrases that remind me of the late-night infomercials, feeding on your need, fear, or desperation, or yes, even on people’s laziness – i.e.:  “Make $100,000 a year working 30 minutes a day!”  Many sites also remind me of negative political campaigns, letting you know how terrible the other sites/businesses/programs/offers are, and the word “scam” is thrown about on a very regular basis.  So beginning a search for working at home is yes, overwhelming and even a bit scary.  Who to trust?  Who to believe?

I can say that I literally stumbled across the first job (and I use that word loosely, I was not an employee) I found on the internet, having found the website by searching online for call centers located in my area.  I eventually expanded my online searching, and from that time in 2005 to current time, the opportunities have expanded in a truly enormous number, but so has the information that is at best useless and at worst truly criminal and desiring to part your money from your wallet and many fall somewhere in between.

So – how do you wade through this mountain of information and find a legitimate work at home job with benefits or some other way of earning money from your home computer?  I think the first step is understanding the different kinds of opportunities that you come across when searching, and where you fit in, what you might be looking for or fits your lifestyle or needs.

Job vs. Business 

Don’t judge a book by the cover.

One tip that I highly recommend is, don’t get caught up in the jargon, catch-phrases, and verbiage.  I personally view earning money online, and how to search for that, in a very general, broad sense, all lumped into the “work at home” or “earning money online” categories, although you could also include some other broad terms such as “internet business.”  The reason is that you can really get tangled up with trying to differentiate between:

  • Job
  • Work
  • Assignment
  • Project
  • Business
  • Opportunity
  • Employee
  • Independent Contractor
  • Telecommuter
  • Freelance
  • Remote Worker
  • Affiliate
  • MLM
  • Direct Sales
  • Internet Marketer
  • Consultant

And that list could go on and on.  Try to put the specific labels aside when you are initially reviewing or researching a company or a website that states they can provide you with a way to earn money at home.  Although those labels definitely do have meaning, but let’s face it – not every company, every website, every individual is defining them the same way or even using them in the same context.  So one reason I suggest putting the labels aside is simply to avoid the confusion that you could develop in your own mind trying to figure out what the real meaning is, but also because you may pass something up that would be a great chance for you to earn money doing something you are good at and really enjoy, simply because of the label that the writer chose to use and your preconceived notions about that particular label!

Believe me, after you have spent some time searching for ways to earn money online, you will come to recognize the sites fairly quickly that you want to immediately dump and not waste your time on.  But until you do, it’s worth the 30 seconds or 2 minutes to at least scan a website, read a few lines, or watch part or even all of a video presentation to make sure you want to toss it into the not interested pile.  With that said, don’t click the back button immediately based on the visual appearance of a website.  Quite frankly, some of the websites of companies offering legitimate jobs are not that professional looking, not very well written, and sometimes not even easy to find your way around their site to get the information you need or see where to apply (and of course many scam sites ARE great looking), so again – don’t judge the book by its cover, keep an open mind, and read and review and research.

Tip:  Use a 1 or 3-day rule for providing your credit card information or making any kind of payment.  If it’s a company, job, business, coaching program, training course, membership site that you are absolutely sure you are ready to hand over some hard-earned dollars –  then stop and wait 24 hours, or some people wait 3 days, just as a general rule.  Then go back and decide after the waiting period is up, if you still want to hand over your money, there’s a much greater likelihood that this is truly what you want and you are not acting on impulse.

For clarification sake, the first distinction should be to realize the basic difference between a “job” and a “business.”  For those new to searching online for a source of income, as stated above, this line can be blurred, but if you understand how the difference can impact you, or fit in with what your needs are for earning money, that is what is important.

The following are very loose definitions, but can help you understand the options you have online, what you’ll find when looking, and also determine what it is that will fit your needs.

Job – A specific role with specific wage and with very specific terms.  This does not always mean employee, it can often be as an independent contractor.  It does not always mean regular or steady work, but it can be by the job or as needed, possibly a temporary or seasonal position.

Direct hire by a company as an employee – Some large companies are using at-home workers and hire directly through their regular HR avenues, and there are some companies who are based solely on virtual workers.  Within this category, requirements or criteria can vary greatly and location should be the first thing checked before pursuing any employment.  This is similar to what most people think of as a job, with regular hours, pay, (possibly) benefits, etc., although of course details vary greatly by company.  Examples of this would be American Express or Amazon, Alpine Access, and West At Home.

Independent Contractor – Many call centers contract with people to provide services instead of actually hiring them as employees, as well as transcription companies, virtual assistant companies, writers, teachers, and many other industries.  Independent contractors can be used for part time and full time, temporary and permanent positions.  The main differences can be no benefits, no taxes withheld, (a 1099 is provided for you for income tax purposes), and typically there is less control by the company when you are contracted as an independent contractor versus being hired as an employee.

For a more detailed definition on the difference between being an independent contractor and an employee, see our recent article, Employee or Independent Contractor, and an informative article posted on the  LegalZoom website, Employee vs. Independent Contractor:  Differences You Need To Know.

What are you really looking for?

Ultimately job or business, employee vs. independent contractor, MLM, direct sales, affiliate marketer – what it comes down to is looking at your lifestyle, your needs, your finances, your skills, what kind of work makes you happy, and also – what your particular comfort level is.  Make a list of that criteria and then hold that list up against the information that you are reading about a company, a product, a website, etc.  You also want to make a list of the things that you definitely do NOT want or are just too far out of your comfort level.

Research a company website, if it checks all the boxes on your list of what you want, look at your list of “don’t wants” and see if it checks any of those boxes.  If not, then you may have a good fit for you.  Does it matter if you had started your job search saying – “I’ll NEVER do an MLM,” or “I’m not going to pay ANY upfront costs to get a job,” if you suddenly find a job that could turn out to be a great fit for you and the income you want and need?  Of course not.

There is so much negative information in the media and what people spread by word of mouth about work at home jobs, much of it extremely outdated, and I believe this has caused a lot of people to be very jaded and cynical about any ability to make money at home.  There was a time when the legitimate work at home jobs were definitely less common, but this is no longer the case; however, the attitudes of many people and the media has changed very little over the years, based on the same old/same old I still  see almost daily posted on forums, blogs, and well known media sites as well.

This means there are some great jobs out there overlooked by people who don’t have an open mind or jump to conclusions about what to sign up for and what to stay away from.

Does this bother me?  Well, as my mother used to happily (and loudly) say when we were having dinner and someone in the family would complain about what they were eating – “Okay, then more for me!!”

Keep your eyes open.  Do your research and your due diligence.  Check with forums, but read the comments as an outside observer, as people are much more likely to complain than to compliment.  Think of exactly what the complaints are about and if they seem to be a “I didn’t get picked for the team” kind of venting, that may not be a true picture of what that company is really like.

Lastly, trust your instinct and your judgment.  If something seems too good to be true?  Well, you know the answer to that.  Do you really think you can earn $100,000 a year working 30 minutes a day?

However, do you think that if you are really interested in a certain type of work, such as a transcriptionist or a virtual assistant, that investing money in a training program (required for medical transcription) or paying for a membership site where you’ll be able to get great information and make some contacts might just be worth it?  It could end up making a huge difference in how fast you get a job and getting one you like.

Tip:  Keep in mind that “reputation” or stigma about earning money online that I mentioned above if you seek the advice of friends and family who think the only “real job” is to get in your car and drive somewhere, make your hourly wage, and drive home again.  If someone you know is already making money online, they are a better source for some feedback and advice.

Work at Home Research Guide is striving to provide the kind of information about a company that will help you make an informed decision and one that is right for you, as well as list companies that under a basic scrutiny, do seem to be legitimate companies.  As an additional tool for our subscribers, in the next few days, we will be adding a free service to have the ability to submit a company, business or job you are considering applying for or working with, if you are concerned about it being legitimate or whether it seems reasonable, or would maybe just like an opinion from someone who is not a friend or family member, and does not have any vested interest in it but can provide some impartial feedback.  Watch our website and our newsletter for the availability of that service.

Good luck in your job search and wishing you much success and happiness in the hours you spend earning your income at home!