Thursday, May 5, 2011

What About All Those "Work From Home" Opportunities?

We’ve all seen the ads – “Stuff envelopes in the comfort of your own home and earn hundreds of dollars!!!” There’s a small fee for your moneymaking kit, typically $47 - $97 nowadays, depending on how much money you want to make.

So How Does it Work?

A friend of mine, years ago, signed up for one of these programs, so I learned from his experience. He was to get $1 for every envelope he stuffed and sent out. I looked it over and it seemed to me that he could probably stuff 50 in an hour.

There was a big catch, though: Danny assumed that he’d stuff the envelopes and ship them back to the company, and they’d pay him $1 for each stuffed envelope. When he got his moneymaking kit, though, he learned that he had to stuff the envelopes and then mail them directly to consumers, after they sent him $1 requesting the free sample. He was the one responsible for finding those consumers, though – people who’d send him $1 apiece for the samples.

They made it all sound very easy. They recommended he go to different stores, community centers and the like – wherever there was a “public” bulletin board – and post ads for the free samples with his address for people to send him $1 for shipping and handling. “Thousands of people see those bulletin boards every day – imagine how much you can make if only 10% respond!!!”

Today, of course, they recommend using the Internet. Hundreds of millions of people use the Internet daily, but it’s doubtful that this “free sample for $1 (or $2, or $5, or whatever)” offer will generate enough interest to provide hundreds of dollars weekly to the hundreds or thousands of people who sign up for this particular scheme.

Are there any legitimate work-from-home opportunities?

Yes, and they’re growing. Last week, I discussed online employment, which is primarily oriented toward computer skills like software engineering and website design, as well as other business skills like HR management or accounting. Some companies are successfully outsourcing communication-oriented tasks, like customer service and other call center operations, to people working form their homes. Some of the more well-known companies offering at-home employment are West at Home, Alpine Access, Working Solutions, Arise and Team Double-Click. These jobs are generally oriented toward service and communication (like customer service), not production (like stuffing envelopes).

Anything Else?

All the usual caveats apply, such as “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” and “don’t pay to get a job.” One special thing to keep in mind when looking for a work-from-home job is that most are paid on an hourly basis, and usually have excellent ways of making sure their at-home workers are actually doing the work they’re being paid for. In addition, there’s a chance you’ll be classified as an independent contractor. This means that you won’t have any taxes withheld from your pay; however, you’re still required to pay income tax, social security tax and Medicare tax.

- Dale

After a long career in Human Resources, Dale is currently a business consultant and writer in Metropolitan Atlanta.

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