Make Money From Home While You ChaCha

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Chacha.com is a brand-new search engine, similar to Yahoo and Google, but with the added component of allowing users to take advantage of a human guide to assist with their searches -- all for free.

Beyond that, it's also one new way to make money at home via the Internet because all of those guides are home-based contractors who set their own schedules and work as little or as much as they wish.

Based on several conversations with ChaCha co-founder Scott Jones, here's how he explained that ChaCha works:

If you have a computer, broadband (high-speed) Internet access, and a comfort level with searching on the Internet, there's a chance you're ready to become a ChaCha guide.

By comfortable, that means you've Googled or used Yahoo on a regular basis to find what you're looking for online.

You don't have to be a tech genius, but you need to know how to navigate your way around the Internet with ease.

Guides also have good basic grammar and spelling, along with a desire to help people quickly.

Guides select categories or keywords, initially three, that represent their interests or expertise.

For example, a mom who's into gardening, antiques and cooking might select those three categories for the focus of her work.

A college kid who loves rock music, baseball and skiing could opt for those topics.

A man who's battled cancer might want to share his expertise in this area.

Using an instant chat feature, guides help people online who are searching for information on a topic that is familiar to them.

That mom who selected gardening, antique and cooking will help visitors to the ChaCha site find information on those topics. She's not going to be asked to help with searches on astronomy, for example, because that's not a subject in which she indicated interest.

Not to worry, guides aren't grilled on what they know.

They find and send links to Web sites on the topics the user is seeking. Guides' knowledge is also aided by a sophisticated technology system that helps them find those key sites.

Test ChaCha for free as a user before applying to be a guide to get a better sense of how it works.

All About Flexibility

Unlike many other jobs, serving as a ChaCha guide does not have to be scheduled in advance. It's all about flexibility.

There is no set schedule and no minimum time requirements that you must work.

This type of work can be done at your convenience -- during the day when the baby sleeps, at night when you return from another job, or weekends for fun.

The schedule and hours are up to you.

To get started, visit Chacha.com and select "feedback" from the bottom of the screen.

Complete the form by clicking on "Guide Sign Up" as the reason for your inquiry. Remember to pay careful attention to your message -- proper spelling and grammar, along with a polite demeanor, definitely count.

Once you receive an invitation to become a guide via e-mail, you'll complete an online profile, select your keywords, watch several training videos, and respond to sample search questions posed by ChaCha trainers that simulate real queries that you'll be expected to handle if you choose to become a guide.

This initial phase is at the level of apprentice, which is an unpaid training period. Some guides advance to the next level, which is pro, in as little as 30 minutes or as much as a few days, depending on their comfort level with technology and their ability to accurately respond to the search queries they're given.

Guides won't take on real queries or begin to make any money until they've mastered the basic training. So there's no guarantee of income until you've passed the training phase.

Pros make $5 per search hour. The next level is master, which is also paid at $5 per search hour, plus the added ability to earn commissions for referring friends, if they become guides.

The top level is elite, which earns $10 per search hour.

There are two ways to get paid: One is by debit card where guides are paid on demand, which means as frequently as desired. There's a $2 fee each time payment by this method is selected.

ChaCha sends guides a debit card, and the money is instantly credited to the account so that guides can go out and spend it.

The other method of payment is by direct deposit, where payment is once a month and there are no fees.

Some people aren't comfortable providing their banking information, or they don't have an account, which is why ChaCha says it offers both payment methods.

There is no cost to getting started, and there are no fees, but there is also no payment while guides train.

Of course guides must maintain their own computer and Internet access.

Keep in mind that ChaCha is in an experimental stage right now. There are still kinks to work out, as the system grows from 7,000 guides to an expected 50,000 by year's end.

If you don't mind being part of the growing pains, and you thrive on the challenge of getting involved in a new system and learning the new technology, you can start today.

If, however, you prefer to start when it's a less bumpy road, consider waiting a month or so.

As with any opportunity to make money, only you can decide whether it's right for you.

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Connect with her directly at www.womenforhire.com.

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