Tory Johnson: Get a Job, Work at Home

In the two weeks since our segment aired on home-based virtual customer service agents, more than 25,000 online applications have been received by the two companies featured. We also heard from viewers interested in other home-based opportunities, especially those that didn't require phone skills.

Here are a few more suggestions for people looking for a job that offers the flexibility of working from home.

Medical Transcriptionist

This work is focused on translating a doctor's report to an electronic record of a person's medical history, diagnosis and treatment. As the health care industry moves toward electronic health records as the standard -- allowing easier storage and accessibility of an individual's history by physicians anywhere -- there is an increased demand for medical transcriptionists

There are about 100,000 registered MTs in the United States now -- the majority of them work from home. Technology is paving the way for more people to pursue this line of work from anywhere in the country. I talked to a dozen companies that hire home-based agents, and they're all eager for new hires -- both part-time and full-time employees as well as independent contractors. Some of the biggest employers in this field are Focus Infomatics, MedQuist and Spheris.

Training: In addition to needing high-speed Internet access and a PC, training is required, which can take up to a year -- either through online distance learning or at just about any community college in the country. The cost ranges from about $1,000 to $3,500. Keep in mind that learning medical terminology is like learning a foreign language. It takes diligence and motivation. Accuracy and speed are essential, which means the people best suited for this job are well-coordinated and disciplined and have an exceptional ear. Before selecting a school, ask about its job placement record and research the employers they claim to work with.

Money: Medical transcriptionists are paid by the line, so it's a field where productivity drives compensation. Expect to earn between $30,000 and $40,000 annually once you're well-trained.

Medical Coding

Coders translate the verbal names for diseases, ailments and treatments into numerical codes. Changing government regulations and the growth of managed care have increased the amount of paperwork involved in filing insurance claims, all of which are based on these codes. No codes, no payment!

Training: You still have to know general medical terminology and pharmacology to do medical coding, but codebooks and software support your efforts. Again, you can learn this online or at a community college or technical school. A top school can assist with job placement upon completion of coursework. Expect to work in an office for a period of time before being able to work from home full-time.

Coders can earn an average of $30,000 to $35,000 annually.

The American Association for Medical Transcription and the American Health Information Management Association can be good sources of information to assist your efforts in identifying schools and employers for becoming either a transcriptionist or coder.

Mystery Shopping

Get paid to shop and eat at great restaurants and then report back to the corporate headquarters on the level of service and cleanliness to help improve the customer service experience. This is not a way to make steady money, but there are opportunities for small amounts of money here and there -- and to get free products and services -- depending on where you live. Don't get hooked into paying $25 to $100 to become an official mystery shopper and assume you'll automatically get hired. There is no such thing. A legitimate opportunity will not cost you any money, nor will it be steady, so you can't rely on this to support a family. But if you're just looking for a few extra bucks, may be a helpful resource in getting started.

Envelope Stuffing

Since the most popular work-from-home opportunity on the Internet is envelope-stuffing, I decided to give it a try. I sent in $19.95 and in some cases $29.95 for "starter kits" from 10 different Web sites to learn how to make "up to $1,500 a week or more" stuffing envelopes. Every one of them was a scam. All I'm doing is getting other people to "stuff envelopes," and if they're sucker enough to pay the $20 fee, then I'll get a cut of it. Don't fall for this -- even though the ads are compelling, it doesn't work. When evaluating any advertised opportunity to make money at home, keep two key tips in mind:

  • Talk to a live person. Do not send money if there is no contact information for a live person on the Web site. E-mail is not sufficient. You must be able to talk to someone at the company directly in order to pose questions and evaluate the opportunity to determine if it's right for you.
  • Beware of promises for "easy money." Some marketers are so clever with language that they had me fooled on more than one occasion with promises of making easy money at home. But of course, get rich-quick-schemes are just that -- schemes. There is no easy way to make money from home. Every thing takes work and skill, so don't jump into something until you know the facts.

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. To connect directly with Johnson, visit