Tory Johnson's Work-From-Home Tips

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Whether you're looking to contribute to your family's finances or earn some cash to cover special or unexpected expenses, many people want more ways to make money at home.

From freelance to full-time gigs, we have a range of fields and resources below to help guide you in discovering the options that exist. Only you can decide if an opportunity is right for you.

Don't limit yourself solely to responding to advertised openings. Sometimes the best way to land a home-based job is by calling someone you'd like to work for and offering your services.

Virtual Customer-service Agent

A growing work-from-home opportunity is to answer the inbound customer calls for companies like J. Crew, 1-800-flowers, Virgin Atlanta or Walgreens. These major players and many others like them outsource their customer-service calls to companies that hire U.S.-based virtual agents.

Set your own hours and pick an account that's ideally suited to your knowledge and interests. In addition to having a pleasant voice and strong customer-service skills, you must have high-speed Internet access, a computer, a landline, and a quiet place to work -- all of which you pay for on your own.

Expect to make an average of between $8 and $15 an hour depending on your experience, call volume and accounts. Be prepared to work a minimum of 20 hours per week, although some agents work 40 hours to 60 hours when their schedule permits.

Among the companies that hire inbound and outbound agents to explore:

Alpine Access hires virtual agents as employees. Other companies, including LiveOps, West and Arise, Working Solutions, Accolade Support, Customer Loyalty Concepts, Sci@Home, Reps for Rent, Overflow, ACD Direct.

Each company has different needs based on location, hours, clients, payment schedules, skills, knowledge, etc., so be sure to check with a few of them to determine the best match for you. Some pay hourly wages, while others require that you incorporate in order to work for them.

Create Your Own Product Line

Ever dream of seeing your slogans and artwork on T-shirts, mugs or hats? You can turn that dream into reality -- and into cash -- without investing even a penny in expensive start-up costs like equipment and stock.

Submit your original ideas and art online to Web sites like zazzle.com, cafepress.com and others, and you'll receive commission on all sales generated with your designs.

Do this for T-shirts, mugs, kids' accessories, housewares, posters, stickers and so much more. In addition to securing orders from strangers who visit those sites, you can also make money by doing some proactive promotion of your own. Encourage your friends and family to place orders, and get them to e-mail all of their friends, too, by forwarding links to your products.

Channel Your Inner Judge Judy

Instead of spending time watching the courtroom programs on TV, make money while determining verdicts as an online juror. Lawyers deciding whether or not to accept a case or looking for preliminary feedback on cases they're currently handling use various Web sites as a cost-effective tool for research and focus groups before heading into a real courtroom.

Sites including eJury.com, OnlineVerdict.com, and TrialPractice.com pay nominal fees to home-based e-jurors, ranging from $10 to $60, depending on the length of the e-trial. Research all of the sites and read the requirements before signing on to serve.

Home-Based Jobs for Americans with Disabilities

National Telecommuting Institute, Inc. connects Americans with disabilities to employers willing to hire employees and contractors for home-based assignments. The database is small, but it's proven to be a smart resource for many workers. They may also be able to refer you to other resources as well.

Transcribe Audio to Text

Speeches, lectures, television and radio programs and interviews must be converted to text that's delivered in a timely and accurate way. If you possess exceptional English language and grammar skills and you're an experienced typist with a speed of at least 75 words per minute, you could transcribe audio to text. Some businesses may require you to take a transcription test before offering you opportunities to work. Most assignments are handled on a freelance basis. Sites to explore include ProductionTranscripts.com, TigerFish.com and AliceDarling.com. Find others by searching online.

Talk Tech

If you're an experienced information technology professional and you enjoy problem-solving and quality customer service, you may be able to work from home providing tech support via phone, online and in person to customers nationwide.

As an independent contractor or employee (this varies per company), you'd work from your own home office, set your own hours, and service clients in your area. ComputerAssistant.com, GeeksOnTime.com, PlumChoice.com, SupportFreaks.com are some of the companies to explore

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Driving for Dollars

I'm not talking about becoming a taxi driver or chauffeur -- you can make money by driving your normal route while allowing your car to feature advertisements.

Specially created decals are provided to drivers to affix to the back window. Depending on your location and the amount of driving you do -- usually a minimum of 1,000 miles a month is required -- you can earn $50 to $150 a month by "renting out" this space on your car. You can make even more money -- up to $500 a month -- by allowing your car to be fully wrapped with an advertiser's images and message.

Search online using keywords "car wrap advertising" to locate opportunities nationwide. Don't be shy about calling around to compare rates and advertising opportunities to find the best fit for you. Never settle on the first company you find since there could be a more lucrative option available to you.

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 experience for future customers. There are opportunities to earn small amounts of money -- and get free products and services -- here and there, depending on where you live.

While there are some people who've managed to make a living at this, I don't recommend that you rely on it to pay the bills, especially because assignments can be sporadic.

Don't get hooked into paying $25 to $100 to become an "official" mystery shopper, assuming you'll automatically get hired. A legitimate opportunity should not cost you any money. It should give you the chance based on your profile, interests and background. One helpful resource in learning more about the industry and finding links to opportunities is Mysteryshop.org.

Nurses on Call

Registered nurses who don't want to work in traditional hospital settings or doctors' offices -- or who want to supplement their income -- can put their knowledge to work at home.

Several companies, such as Fonemed.com and McKesson.com, hire nurses to provide phone-based triage and advice to callers requesting information on medical conditions and reactions to medication.

Home-based nurses can also provide sound advice to patients on disease management and health care options so they're armed with information to make the best decisions about their care.

Connect With Clients as a Concierge

Do you think you have what it takes to handle phone, e-mail and online customer inquiries for services that range from making dinner suggestions and reservations to planning a vacation for busy professionals?

What if the caller asked you to locate the dress Julia Roberts wore in "Ocean's Eleven," rent monkeys for a birthday party, or help write a speech for a best man?

Those are some of the common and quirky requests asked of home-based concierge agents at VIPdesk, one of the leading services. VIPdesk's clients are executives and employees of some of the top companies in the world, all of whom are willing to pay for such services of convenience.

VIPdesk hires home-based agents who are highly resourceful and have prior experience in high-end customer service, travel and/or hospitality. Apply online at vipdesk.com.

Because concierge services are growing in popularity as a benefit for businesses of all sizes, consider starting your own service. Contact employers in your area about offering services of convenience to their staffers.

For example, during the busy holiday season -- and throughout the year -- employees are often distracted by personal needs. You can help busy parents save time by researching day care, planning birthday parties, and scheduling doctor's appointments for their kids.

A doctor's office might require its staff to work long hours to accommodate patient needs. Employee absenteeism can cause a disruption or slow down in services.

It may be more beneficial for the medical practice to pay an outsider like you to handle errands and special chores for a nurse than to give that nurse a day off.

This same theory applies to companies where staffers work long hours or are required to travel regularly.

Cook Up Some Cash as a Culinary Consultant

Can you whip up culinary magic in the kitchen? That just might qualify you to become a home-based consultant for Chefsline.com, which provides live, professional advice to anyone who needs help with cooking or baking.

Chef consultants must excel at cooking, teaching and customer service, and must be available to take calls for a minimum of eight hours per week during afternoon and evening hours. A culinary degree is preferred, but not required. A specialty in regional cuisine is desirable, such as African, Latin American, Middle Eastern or French, among others. Compensation ranges from $7.50 to $30 an hour, depending on expertise.

There are also other options in this arena. Local companies hire dietitians and nutritionists to handle customer and client calls from home. Call gyms and diet centers in your area to offer your services if you're knowledgeable and experienced in this line of work.

If you've got a strong entrepreneurial spirit, you can also offer to plan and execute cooking demonstrations in supermarkets, gourmet shops or private homes. Or find clients who'll allow you to plan their meals, shop for groceries, and prepare dinner. Time-strapped individuals often dream of having an affordable personal chef instead of relying on frozen dinners and takeout.

Become a Blogger

Blogging and media sharing on the Internet are super-hot right now, with no signs of fading any time soon. Web sites with videos, personal content and gossip are raking in advertising dollars with each click of the mouse.

You can become a professional blogger, too. Web sites such as Eefoof.com allow you to post videos and photographs, and then receive a percentage of the site's revenue, which is generated from advertising associated with page views and clicks to the content posted by you. The harder you work to promote your own videos and photos, the more money you'll earn.

Another way to make money is to create your very own blog at Blogger.com. Set up your own page and create captivating content to lure readers to your stuff. Then add the site's AdSense feature, which allows advertisements to be included on the page.

Every time a viewer clicks through on the advertisement on your blog page, cha-ching! Keep in mind this only works if you're committed to creating a blog that others would find fascinating -- and you hustle to attract readers to build a following for yourself.

Verify Sales Calls for Accuracy

Ever change your long-distance service or your cell phone plan? It's likely that you were asked to hold for a verification operator to come on the line to confirm your choices. There's a good chance that the operator was working from home.

To make money in verification, apply online at VoiceLog.com, a leading provider of third-party verification services. The company hires home-based independent contractors to serve as live operators to verify calls for telephone companies and other service industries focused on combating sales fraud.

Those calls are recorded for quality assurance and compliance purposes. Another set of home-based workers listen to Web-based files to review the calls for accuracy.

Carefully read the frequently asked questions page on the career section of the site so you're familiar with the application, training and hiring process before applying.

Medical Coding and Transcription

Medical coding and transcription can't always be performed at home, especially with strict privacy policies and guidelines. However, there are many companies that hire home-based workers with the skills and experience to provide both services. Keep in mind, however, that it's very difficult for entry-level, inexperienced candidates to get hired to perform such work from home. This is by no means the "get-rich-quick" line of work that many mistakenly perceive it to be.

In most cases, in addition to the proper training, you must have your own computer, high-speed Internet access, and, where applicable, headphones and a foot pedal.

In an effort to weed out the poor-quality schools, the American Association for Medical Transcription, in conjunction with the American Health Information Management Association, has been approving medical transcription schools based on the AAMT Model Curriculum. There is a list of approved schools on the AAMT Web site.

Some companies also require you to have your own software; others will provide it. In addition to finding appropriate employers online by searching Google or the big job boards, you can check out the opportunities with Medquist.com, Healthiva.com, and Precysesolutions.com.

If you're interested in starting your own coding or transcription business, begin with medical offices in your area. Ask the doctors you know how they handle such tasks and offer to provide your services. As with any new business, expect to get many rejections before you finally get a yes. Then remember, if you can get one yes, you can get two, then four and so on.

Direct Your Attention to Direct Sales

It's not just Avon, Mary Kay and Tupperware anymore. There are thousands of exciting opportunities to make extra money through in-person and online direct sales. More than 14 million people now work as independent contractors doing just that.

Select a company that best mirrors your own passion and interest, since there's a greater likelihood that you'll be able to sell products to which you can relate.

Are you into health and wellness? Try TiensNA.com. Like fine wine? Consider becoming a rep for TheTravelingVineyard.com. Is high-end clothing your soft spot? Check out the CarlisleCollection.com.

Want to sell toys to parents in your kid's play group? Perhaps DiscoveryToysInc.com. is ideal for you. The Direct Selling Association offers links to businesses and advice on how to succeed in direct sales.

Become a Virtual Publicist

Technology has made it possible for thousands of virtual public relations firms to exist nationwide, all of which are eager to identify experienced communications and marketing professionals who are diligent in their work habits but also crave the flexibility of a home base.

Among them: Perkett PR, Bisbee and Company, PartnerCentric, Orca Communications, and Wasabi Publicity, just to name a few. If you're a seasoned PR pro, contact them with your capabilities and availability.

You should also consider starting your own virtual PR firm. If you're experienced in promotions, event planning, writing, pitching, media contact management, crisis communications or strategic planning, there's a good chance your services are in demand.

Without expensive office overhead, you can offer competitive prices while making a hefty profit. Create a Web site that promotes your abilities, and start spreading the word. Since you're in PR, you no doubt know how to toot your own horn.

Telemarketing Opportunities

Many companies and organizations outsource their cold-calling campaigns to third parties. Those third parties hire full-time and temporary workers -- many of whom work from home -- to place those calls with specific goals in mind.

You may be required to persuade contacts to book an appointment, commit to making a donation, or agree to try a product or service. Your calls could also be focused on debt collection.

Typically you'll receive an hourly base pay, plus performance-based commission. While some training is provided, applicants are expected to have some high-quality customer-service and/or cold-calling experience.

Among the companies to explore: Intrep.com, and West.com. You should also search online for home-based telemarketing positions on the big job boards and the major search engines. Do not pay for leads; you should be able to find employers that are hiring without paying a middleman for access to that information.

Guide Users Online

Use your subject-area expertise to make money assisting others who are in need of that knowledge.

Chacha.com is a new search engine that is similar to Yahoo or Google, but users have the ability to request the free help of a live guide. That live guide is sitting at home making money while he or she assists with the online search. Learn how you can make $5 to $10 per hour, which can be paid to you via debit card or direct deposit, at chacha.com.

About.com offers qualified applicants the opportunity to become guides if they have proven expertise in a topic area. As a guide, you're responsible for publishing a full-length article every 14 days and you must update your blog at least three times per week. Anyone can apply, but you must pass a 17-day self-guided online training program to familiarize yourself with About's tools and demonstrate your knowledge of the process.

Successful guides never make less than $500 per month, according to About.com, and some guides can earn upwards of $100,000 a year for popular, high-trafficked sections. Visit the getting started guide on About.com for details.

On JustAnswer.com, users agree to pay for experts to answer their questions. If you have an expertise -- from gardening to genealogy -- you can agree to answer questions for a price. The site then pays you based on accepted answers.

Become an Online Tutor

If you graduated from a college or university in this country or in Canada, or you're a current student at an accredited school, and you have expertise in English, math, science or social studies, you could make money as an online tutor.

You must be able to convey key information to students of all ages -- generally fourth grade through college level -- in an online environment. That means teaching mathematical formulas and chemistry equations to a kid through cyberspace, rather than face-to-face instruction.

Visit www.tutor.com to learn how you can make $10 an hour or more working five hours to 30 hours a week from home. To find other online tutoring opportunities, or to learn how to start your own online tutoring business, do a Google search using the keywords "online tutor" and research dozens of options based on your availability and subject-area expertise.

Get Paid to Write or Edit

A handful of Web sites pay for articles, but unless they're commissioning your original work, you won't make big bucks. Associatedcontent.com pays around $10 per approved/published piece. Helium.com is another option that rewards prolific writers, and both sites are a good way to build an online portfolio of published work while making some money at the same time.

Myessays.com allows essay writers to sell their original work starting at $10 for a short paper, and up to more than $100 for comprehensive work. Writerfind.com lists a range of freelance opportunities for experienced writers to pursue on their own.

Another option is freelance writing for magazines, trade publications, newsletters or local newspapers. If you've developed a specialty or have a particular interest in a single topic -- film, fashion, food, travel -- many Web sites and small publications work only with freelancers and regularly look for writers to do reviews on products or new releases, ranging in topic from electronics to beauty.

Contact the editors of the publications you'd like to work for. (Their names and contact information can typically be found on the masthead or Web site.) Ask for their writers guidelines and be ready to submit samples of your work. (This is also where links to your work from the two sites listed above can come in handy.) We hire freelance writers for our company's magazine, which is published three times a year. All of them have come to us unsolicited with their writing samples and story suggestions.

Compensation varies based on your experience. Novices might have to accept free products or press passes for their work. Experienced writers can expect to make anywhere from fifty cents to $2 per word. For multiple articles, you might settle on a flat rate.

Apply for freelance work on sites such as Cyberedit.com, which hires professional writers for a range of projects including resume writing and document proofing. Editfast.com also hires experienced editors, writers and proofreaders.

Maximize Online Job Boards

The big job boards like HotJobs.com, CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com are filled with thousands of work-from-home opportunities. SimplyHired.com and Indeed.com compile positions from a wide variety of sources. The key is to search all of these Web sites by using the words "virtual" or "home-based" when looking for opportunities advertised online.

TheLadders.com, which focuses on positions paying in more than $100,000 annually and requires a monthly fee to join, features a wide range of senior-level positions from home in sales, technology, finance and marketing. You can also promote your own skills and abilities on Web sites such as Guru.com to enable employers to find you. Craigslist.com and Backpage.com are two sites that post local listings for a wide range of freelance opportunities.

As with any advertised opportunity, you must do your homework to determine if something's right for you. That means talking to a live person and not just relying on an e-mail exchange to learn in-depth about the requirements, challenges and potential earning power. Don't be fooled by postings that promise big bucks for minimal effort. If it were that easy, we'd all be working in those jobs!

Use Your Language Skills as a Translator

If you are a native speaker of a foreign language, then becoming a freelance translator could be a great opportunity. Several companies need documentation translated for international partners and hire freelance translators through companies like Welocalize, Language Translation, Inc. , Accurapid.com, Telelanguage.com, Sdl.com.

Most companies require applicants to take a written test and sign a non-disclosure agreement. Precision and accuracy is a must. Companies who hire freelance translators prefer candidates who are native speakers of the target language, have experience with professional documents, software or multimedia translations, and are members of a professional translation association.

The most in-demand services include translation from English to Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Russian and Italian.

This is another business you can start on your own if you have the skills and are able to network effectively to land a client. A major corporate client can keep you busy full-time and smaller businesses would likely offer project work here and there.

Become a Virtual Assistant

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.

Find Freelance Gigs

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.

Work-From-Home Rules

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.

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