Oftentimes small business owners and mid- to executive-level professionals need a personal assistant but cannot afford to hire one on a full-time basis or simply don't have the space in their offices. Therefore, they hire people from remote locations to do their administrative work for them.
Virtual assistants can handle bookkeeping, administrative duties, travel arrangements, transcription and correspondence, and other support services that can be done remotely via e-mail and phone.
A search on Google using keywords "virtual assistant" will generate results for many independent contractors. Some will outsource a share of their workload. Check out virtualassistantjobs.com and teamdoubleclick.com. The International Virtual Assistants Association may be a valuable resource.
You should also consider starting a similar business on your own. Be your own boss, set your own hours, and acquire clients through self-promotion and marketing. Networking and referrals are your best bets for landing clients. Create an e-mail about your services and send it to everyone you know -- and ask them to forward it along to everyone they know.
From PR to Web design and so much in between, you can find freelance opportunities on a number of Web sites devoted to posting part-time and consulting gigs.
Web sites such as elance.com, sologig.com, guru.com, craigslist.com, clicknwork.com and ether.com have thousands of opportunities to respond. Some of them allow you to post a free profile about yourself and your skills and services.
If you're bidding on freelance projects, be sure to research going rates before indicating what you're willing to work for. This is especially important for work outside of your geographic area. If you live in Ohio, the going rates for graphic design might be much less there than in New York.
Yet, since this is home-based work, you can be located anywhere to do the job. While the client is looking for a good deal, you don't want to underprice -- or overprice -- your services or you're likely to be knocked out of the running.
Keep in mind a few basic rules before embarking on any type of work from home:
1) Stick to a schedule. There's no manager watching the clock to see whether you report for duty at the designated hour. You're the boss, which means you bear the responsibility of getting to your workstation on time.
Create a realistic schedule each week, and do what it takes to stick to it. This includes building in breaks for lunch, personal calls, e-mails, and other brief timeouts from your work just as you'd have in a traditional office setting.
2) Create a dedicated work space. Your dining room table shouldn't double as your office. Select a quiet space where you can work uninterrupted. It's important to have an area to look forward to working in each day -- no dreary corners -- and a place that you can walk away from at the end of your shift.
3) Measure your progress and success. Determine in advance the goals you're aiming for and then work to achieve them. Be willing to re-evaluate your expectations if necessary to adjust for the realities of your home-based opportunities.
Don't give up. Even though we all crave overnight success and instant gratification, there's no such thing as an easy way to make tons of money with minimal effort. Everything takes work.
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor for "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire.