Alpine Access is the only major virtual call center that hires home-based agents as employees. Willow CSN and VIPDesk, for example, require agents to incorporate as independent contractors. The main difference is that contractors must handle all their own taxes. Tens of thousands of agents do this with ease -- it's like running your own home-based business, which makes that entrepreneurial sensibility even more important.
All three of the companies will allow you to decide the types of clients you'd like to service. If you love flowers, maybe you'll be assigned to handle calls for a national florist. If money matters are your cup of tea, then a financial institution could be your client.
So have an idea of what types of businesses you're interested in when you start the interviewing.
Loneliness and isolation must be considered before you enter into this kind of work. If you thrive on the camaraderie of the workplace and you don't like to work independently, then this isn't right for you.
Alpine Access, Willow CSN and VIPDesk are well aware of this potential problem. To help agents overcome the isolation, they work diligently to create a strong sense of community through regional events, conference calls, contests and mentoring relationships.
Time and Money
Most companies will want you to commit to working at least 15 to 20 hours a week -- otherwise the training and scheduling isn't really worth it. Some agents work 40 to 60 hours a week if they can handle that volume.
Expect to earn between $8 and $15 an hour, based on experience, call volume and the type of clients you're handling. A retailer might not require the same skills and knowledge as a financial institution, so the pay scale might differ a bit. Many agents can earn commissions for successful sales and upgrades on the incoming calls.
Some companies pay based on the number of calls you take -- so you're only paid while you're on the phone. Others pay by hour, from clock-in to clock-out, so be sure you ask about how you're paid before committing to one company over another.
You're trained specifically for the company you're handling calls for, so you'll know their products and policies inside and out, and you'll learn their technology too.
In some cases, the training period is considered an investment on your part, meaning you usually do not get paid for it. For the employer, it helps ensure that you're really motivated to make money in this fashion.
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. To connect directly with Johnson, visit www.womenforhire.com.