Tory Johnson's Tips to Make Money at Home

These days it seems like everyone is looking for recession-proof ways to make money at home. Here are some options:

Home-based customer service agents. Business is strong for home-based customer service providers. I talked with several companies that look for home-based customer service reps and they say they are looking to recruit at least 20,000 new agents through the end of this year. The reason? Some large companies are cutting back on staff positions to save on salary and benefits. One of the first departments they look to outsource -- because they can -- is customer service. From banks and retailers to infomercials, consumer-focused companies require people to answer calls from customers.

Among those now recruiting: LiveOps, West, Convergys, Alpine Access, Arise, VIPDesk and Working Solutions. Each company has a different business model, pay scale and criteria for certifying new agents, so visit their Web sites to determine what may be the best fit for you.

For example, LiveOps is actively looking for home-based workers interested in sales, as well as licensed insurance agents for both health and life. Arise is specifically looking for agents with specialized skills in language and sales because its high-tech and retail clients are currently demanding this expertise from home-based agents. More specifically, Arise is seeking to recruit hundreds of French or German bilingual professionals, as well as those with great sales aptitude. The company says former phone-based, car or real estate sales agents could find a good fit with Arise when putting their sales tactics to work.

TeamDoubleClickfocuses exclusively on virtual administrative assistants. The company says its client hours billed for 2005 were 8,840 and for 2008 they are on pace to exceed 80,000 client hours.

Freelance opportunities are growing. The work isn't downsized even though the work force is. So many companies are turning to freelancers to fill the void. Freelancing is very viable option for people facing job uncertainty either because they're out of work or need some extra money to make ends meet or create a safety net.

There are now a number of Web sites dedicated to connecting freelancers with companies of all sizes. Check out Elance, oDesk, Guru and SoloGig among others.

Elance, for example, says it has more than 40,000 active buyers (the companies looking to hire freelancers), which is an increase of 60 percent from a year ago. And the site has 4,000 new projects posted every week, totaling more than $2 million in value.

oDesk, which has nearly 7,000 job opportunities posted per month, is an online staffing marketplace that supports time-based work. The company supports the entire work relationship, and its solution includes software that tracks a provider's time and gives the buyer visibility into work as it is being done. The company says this approach enables people to build teams and work as if everyone were in the same office.

The most popular categories for freelance work tend to be clients looking for experts in various marketing and technology functions -- from coding and Web design to copywriting, customer service and more.

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