Many people see working at home as the Holy Grail of job perks, and thanks to the Internet, it's totally possible. Whether you want a full-time job or just want to make a little extra money on the side, the options are there if you know where to look.
I should warn you now that "working from home" and "online jobs" do not translate to "get rich quick." Always be extremely skeptical of jobs that promise a fortune for very little work. They're almost guaranteed to be scams.
Here are some more quick guidelines to avoid scams while looking for jobs online:
Always make sure the company is legitimate and has a solid online history.
Never pay any money, such as application processing fees, up front.
Never give out personal information in your application that a typical company wouldn't ask for.
Do your research.
With those caveats in mind, let's look at some jobs.
A home agent is a catch-all term that includes tasks like phone sales, market research, customer service and tech support. In other words, it's any job that you would normally do in a large call center with hundreds of other people, but you do it from home.
You can find home agent jobs listed on regular job boards like Indeed.com, Monster.com and others. Or you can go right to the source with dedicated home agent companies like Converygs, TeleTech and Sitel. These companies generally treat you as an employee with regular hours and health benefits, but if you want to be an independent contractor, check out a site like LiveOps.
If you don't mind stepping out of your home occasionally, you can sign up with a service like TaskRabbit. This helps you find small jobs near your home, like walking dogs, picking up groceries and making small repairs, and get paid for them.
For those skilled in creative or technical areas such as graphic design, video and image editing, writing or programming, you can try the life of a freelancer. There are plenty of job boards expressly for freelancers and people who want to hire them.
Most of these sites let you set your own hourly or project rate before you start applying. Keep in mind that some jobs might require a lengthy interview process before you're hired. Pay can vary from a few bucks to several hundred dollars, depending on the project.
Of course, being a freelancer isn't always smooth sailing. You'll run into difficult clients, which could leave you without pay or even in court.
If you can write, but don't want to write for someone else, being an e-book author might be the job for you. With publishers getting $3 billion in sales on e-books last year - that doesn't include self-published e-books - there's definitely money to be made.
You don't even have to write a novel to succeed. Short stories, funny life anecdotes, insightful commentary and detailed instructions in skill-based tasks are all popular topics that you can sell.
Just head over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and look at the top-selling e-books in every category to get an idea of what kind of titles and topics sell the best. Then figure out what unique viewpoint you can bring to those areas and get writing.
Before you publish, be sure to have an editor or two go over your manuscript. You can use friends or family, but you might also want to contract a professional using some of the freelance sites I mentioned earlier. You also might want to hire someone to create a great cover. It's the first thing people will see after all.
Then you just need to decide where to sell. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is a good place to start. Apple's iBookstore is another. Or you can create your own e-book file - PDF or ePub - using a program like Calibre and sell it independently through your own website.
No matter where you post the e-book, marketing is key. You'll want to promote it on social media at the very least. One good trick is to start a blog and post short blurbs or even full chapters to give people a taste. Maybe start an entire site on the same topic as the book to gather that audience.
I have a whole write-up on my site about writing and publishing your own e-book. Be sure to pay attention to how to price your book for the best chances of success. Go to http://bit.ly/1jkswcP to learn how to make money with your own e-Book.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com.
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