Guest Post: Finding a Work-at-Home Job

photo by Johan Larsson

Guest Post by Emily Howard from Violet’s College Fund

Two years ago I was a working mom of one with one on the way. All I thought about was staying home with my children. I just didn’t want to miss a single thing that they might do during the day while I was sitting at a desk and they were with a sitter. Not to mention, by the time we paid for two children in childcare it almost wasn’t worth it for one of us to work to pay that bill. Just before our daughter arrived, my job started to change. My husband and I discussed it and decided it was time to make a change.

I know there are so many people out there who feel the same way and you just wish there was an alternative. If you’re like us, simply quitting my job simply wasn’t an option. I had to have some kind of income because we were in debt and my husband’s paycheck simply wouldn’t pay the bills. So I got to work.

The first thing anyone who wants to work at home must do is consider what you can do. What skills do you have? What degree or certifications do you have that may lend itself toward a certain type of work?  What do you like to do?

There are many types of work-at-home jobs that will require specific training or certification, such as scoping, coding, and medical or legal transcription. But there are many jobs out there that will not require anything more than the training the company provides.

You must also consider what your working environment will be. Do you have an office or workspace that is isolated from the rest of the house? Will you be working while your children are home?

These things matter because there are basically two types of work-at-home jobs: those done entirely online and those that
involve phone work. Online positions are more flexible, because it typically doesn’t matter where you’re working. Phone positions, however, often require specific working conditions, including no background noise.

One of the biggest obstacles for those who want to work at home is not knowing where to find the jobs. I suggest forgoing the do-it-yourself search and going straight to the experts. WAHM.com and Work Place Like Home are two very reputable work-at-home websites with message boards featuring people who are actually doing these jobs.

The discussion all day, every day on these boards is which companies people work for, who is hiring and what is a scam. Once you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, visit these sites. I spent every single night for a month on the message boards at WAHM.com and I covered an entire 8.5 x 11 inch paper
with ideas!

While you’re busy looking for companies and positions, you’ll want to dust off your resume. A work-at-home resume will look very much like a typical resume, but you’ll want to tailor it to highlight any skills you have that will make you more marketable
to companies who hire virtual employees. Highlight your computer and technical skills, your ability to work independently, meet deadlines and any experience or specific skills you may have in the field you’re looking at.

Save a copy of your resume in a text format and make sure it looks presentable that way, so you can easily copy and paste it
into website forms and in the body of your e-mail. Often, companies prefer to see your resume in text format in an e-mail and won’t bother to open an attachment. Pay close attention to the company’s instructions for how to apply, whether it’s through their online form or by e-mail.

A few words on scams; they’re definitely out there. Unfortunately, there is probably no one more vulnerable than someone who is desperately seeking a certain type of job so they can work at home.

First, never pay for a job. I always say you would never pay a bricks and mortar company for an interview, so why would you pay a virtual company for the opportunity to work for them? There are few exceptions to this rule.

Secondly, you can often find out information on a company by doing a simple Google search or checking with the BBB. If all else fails, check with one of the message boards I mentioned. The people on those boards can easily smell a scam. If you’re unsure about a company, search there. If you come up with nothing, ask.

There is just one more important thing you should know about working from home. It’s very important to have a plan for
when you will work and be realistic about it. If your children are in school, then finding time to work should be simple. If you have small children and/or homeschool, you should understand that you will not likely be working if they are at home, unless they’re sleeping or someone else is there to care for them.

If you have a newborn, you should know that the sweet, sleeping-all-day phase lasts about 2-3 months. But don’t worry, the beauty of working at home is that it is often very flexible. Many types of work can be done any time of the day or night. I personally work after my children are in bed and on weekends.

Finding ways to be a work-at-home mom (or dad or grandparent) is not impossible. It just takes work. Sure, there are scams and it might be hard to find a position that suits your needs, but a little hard work will produce results. Regular people do it every day.

If this sounds like something that might be a good fit for your family, don’t be afraid of the unknown. I took my full page of ideas and narrowed it down to the ones I wanted to start with and I started off trying two or three different things to find what
worked best for me. I applied, got hired, and I quit my job. I’ve stayed home with my children for two years while doing my work in my free time. I haven’t missed a t-ball game or a swimming class yet!

Emily Howard is a work-at-home transcriptionist and a mom of two. Her blog, Violet’s College Fund, is dedicated to helping other moms find work at home, as well as other ways to make money, save money, and get out of debt.

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Guest Post: Avoiding Work-At-Home Scams

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photo by atconc


Guest Post by Mandi from LifeYourWay.net.

If you’ve spent any time looking into working at home, chances are you’ve come across scams. The truth is that legitimate opportunities are highly sought after, and the scams take advantage of the number of women who desperately want to be work-at-home moms (not that there aren’t other demographics of people who want to work at home, but that is by far the largest).

Here are a few things you should know as you search:

1. Run far away from anyone who charges you a fee for a list of companies who hire home-based contractors or who charges you to get started working for them. I can think of a few very exceptions:

::There are private groups that charge for “exclusive” job leads. I have never paid to join one of these groups myself, but there are legitimate ones out there. However, if a company is trying to sell you a static list of companies, don’t fall for it. You can research and find the information yourself.::The only company I know that legitimately charges you to begin working for them is LiveOps, a call center company. Once you are hired, you must pay a fee for a background check. It’s possible there are others, but I would be very, very wary of any that charge even a nominal fee.

::The third exception is for home-based businesses such as Pampered Chef or Southern Living. You do need to purchase a kit to get started with them, the obvious difference being that you receive products that are worth significantly more than the price you pay.

2. Envelope stuffing jobs are not legitimate. You will NOT make any money doing this. The envelopes you are stuffing are to convince other people to sign up to do the same thing. Stay away!

3. Legitimate data entry jobs are very hard to come by. I actually have one of these that I applied and tested for over two years ago and was just able to start working. It’s worth saying again–do NOT pay for a data entry job.

Don’t be discouraged! There are legitimate and lucrative work-at-home opportunities out there. How do you find them? There have been a lot of tips and ideas shared on this blog such as selling things on Etsy and blogging for profit.

Another valuable resource for looking into opportunities to earn an income at home is to join the forums at WAHM.com or Work Place Like Home. Not only will you find job leads, but you can also ask the other members about the opportunities you come across so that you’re not trying to sort through them all on your own.

As has been said here before, there are plenty of opportunities for you out there. However, it does take time, hard work and patience, and you need to use discernment as you consider your options!

Mandi Ehman is the chief deal finder behind Jungle Deals & Steals, where she and her mom find and share the best Amazon deals every day! She’s also the founder and publisher of Life Your Way, a magazine-style blog inspiring readers to live intentional lives.

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Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: In the Beginning… (Part 1)

I am a firm believer that, with God’s blessings and lots of hard work, anyone can successfully work from home. However, I will be the first to tell you that working from home is just that–it’s work.
I’m by nature a positive person but I won’t sugar-coat the truth when
it comes to working from home: if you are not prepared to put in lots
and lots and lots of time and effort, working from home won’t work for you.

I’m sure many moms could look at me and want what I have–the
ability to make a good income while staying at home, choosing my own
hours, and taking care of my husband, home, and family first. I can
take a day off (or even a few days off!) whenever I like and
the money continues to come in at about the same rate because of the many
multiple streams of income I’ve set in place.

All this might sound really wonderful (and it is!) but what most people
often don’t add into this equation are the countless hours, days,
weeks, months, and even years I’ve spent working, learning, and experimenting to get things to the point they are at.

The effort has paid off and I’m now reaping the fruits of my labors
(though I’m still making lots of mistakes and I’m sure I’ll continue to
do so until the day I die!), but I won’t ever forget the struggles I
had to go through to getwhere I’m at or the mountains I’ve had to
climb along the way.

This series is my personal journey to Becoming a Work-at-Home Mom. I will be sharing what things have and haven’t worked for me, what I
wish someone had told me when I was first contemplating starting a
business from home, and how you, too, can become a work-at-home mom.

Let me start at the very beginning…

When my husband and I were married–over six and a half years ago–we knew we wanted to stay out of debt, live on a budget, and we wanted my primary place to be at home. I had no desire to pursue an outside-the-home career; I just wanted to be a stay-at-home wife and mother.

However, there was also this thing called money. We didn’t have a lot of it and my husband still had three and a half years of school left ahead of him. We were living on a very tight budget but we weren’t even making enough to pull that off. We knew that the only way we’d survive the next three and a half years was if we not only continued to pinch pennies, but if we also found ways to increase our income.

Before we got married, I worked an odd assortment of side jobs to produce a little income: I taught violin, babysat, tutored, and worked as a mother’s helper and a waitress. I continued on in some of these after we got married but when we moved to a new town where we knew no one so my husband could begin three years of law school, I found that my side job possibilities narrowed a great deal!

However, we prayed a lot and talked about a hundred different ideas. And then we got creative.

I advertised my experience as a mother’s helper in the local homeschool newsletter and soon was working for four different families each week. I enjoyed this work and it helped to pay the bills. We didn’t have any wiggle room at all, but by carefully squeezing every little thing we could out of every penny, not buying anything but basic necessities, and strategic grocery shopping, we were able to survive on $800-$1000 per month.

A number of months went by and one week I began noticing that I didn’t feel so well. I was tired and sick to my stomach much of  the time. I went about my usual routine, but I could barely keep up with my mother’s helper jobs. I continued to feel worse and worse and we couldn’t figure out what on earth my problem was. After about a week of this, I realized that the one thing I’d not considered was the possibility I could be pregnant.

We’d wanted to have children since we were first married but we’d struggled with some infertility issues and I’d finally just given up the hope that I’d ever be a mom. However, I had some pregnancy tests stashed away and that morning I decided–on a whim!–that I’d just take one. After all, it wouldn’t hurt anything.

Imagine my total shock when I took it and looked down a few seconds later to see two pink lines! No wonder I’d felt so sick and tired!

We were ecstatic, elated, excited, and overwhelmed all at once! We were thrilled to be parents, but we realized this was going to turn our world a little upside down. Never could we have realized at the time just how much having a baby was going to change our lives forever–for the better!

To be continued next week…

Just for fun: How many of you currently work from home?
Tell us a little about what you do. (And if you have a website, be sure to leave the link in the comments section.)

Graphic designed by A Source of Joy Graphic Design

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Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: Starting with Small Things (Part 2)

Wahm

Last week, I left you hanging in the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series at the point where I’d just found out I was pregnant. Let’s pick up from there…

Those two pink lines changed my life forever. Not only because they meant I was going to be a mom, but they also were the impetus for me to become a work-at-home mom.

It’s easy to say that becoming a mom also propelled me to become a work-at-home mom, but believe me, it wasn’t anywhere easy. In fact, I had no idea just how hard it was going to be.

I was sick from week five to week twenty-one in my pregnancy. I never had to be hospitalized for dehydration, but there were days when I could barely get out of bed because I was so nauseated. I wanted to be a mom more than just about anything in the world, but I had no idea how miserable morning sickness was going to be!

Needless to say, my jobs as a mother’s helper were abruptly ended. And therefore, our income was drastically reduced as well. When I was working four days a week as a mother’s helper, we were scraping by, without that income, it seemed impossible we could ever pay all of our bills.

I remember how helpless I felt so many times during those long weeks of my early pregnancy. I knew there had to be something I could do to earn an income from our little basement apartment, but what? I wracked my brain for days and weeks on end. I prayed, I worried, I cried, and I prayed some more.

As thankful as I was to be pregnant, I couldn’t help but also wonder and fret over how we were going to eat and have a roof over our heads. And I couldn’t even begin to try and figure out how we would pay for the extra expenses of having a baby, too. How would we survive for two more years of law school?

At that point, I had no idea. But I did know one thing: God was watching over us. He had called us to step out in faith and get married, move to Topeka, KS, and God had clearly opened up the doors for Jesse to go to law school. I also knew that God had given us this precious baby and He was going to take care of us.

And you know what? He never failed us or forsook us.

Oh yes! I worried many times when it seemed there was no way we were going to be able to pay all of the basic bills for the month. But somehow, someway, every necessary bill always got paid.

God called us not only to step out in faith and trust Him, but we also knew it was our responsibility to do everything we could to be wise stewards of the gifts, time, talents, and resources He had given us.

Since the beginning of our marriage, Jesse and I spent long hours talking about and tossing around ideas of possibly starting our own business. When we found out we were expecting, we knew that it was time to act on these ideas.

But where to start? Jesse was gone long hours at school and I was stuck in bed or on the couch much of the day feeling very sick.

I decided if I were going to be sick all day, it wasn’t going to make things any worse if I tried to use that time to learn what I could about possible ways to earn money online.

So I took the laptop and dug in where I was at. I spent countless hours scouring the internet, I signed up for Yahoo! Groups on entrepreneurialism and small businesses, I emailed anyone and everyone who had any clue about anything when it came to internet businesses or running your own business, and I read stacks of books on starting a small business and online marketing from the library.

Little by little, I came up with different ideas. I began with small things–mostly things I could do straight from the couch! Here are just a few of the things I tried during those long weeks of morning sickness that produced at least some positive results:

::Half.com–I listed and sold a number of books we were no longer needing or using (especially Jesse’s old textbooks) through this website and ended up making at least $1500 over the course of a few years. I tried my hand at buying used books at the thrift store and reselling these but I never had much success with that.If you’re interested in reselling books, I’d recommend that you start by looking around your home and finding books you no longer need or use and see what the going rate is on Half.com. I’d suggest check out Cash4Books.net, too, as they will pay you immediately whereas on Half.com, you have to wait for a buyer to purchase from you.

If Cash4Books is going to pay you somewhat similar to the going rate on Half.com, definitely go with Cash4Books as you won’t have to sit around waiting for a buyer. Instead, you’ll get the payment immediately.

There’s a great article here on reselling books which gives some more detailed advice if this is something you’re interested in. Some folks actually make a living doing this full-time. I’ve heard the market is more saturated than it used to be, but it’s still something to consider–especially if you have some decent books around your home you’d like to part with!

Online Surveys–I had no idea what I was doing when I signed up
for online survey companies and I quickly found out that most of them
are much more work than they are worth. However, I definitely don’t
think they all should be discounted.

A few companies I’ve done surveys with in the past, have been paid by,
and would recommend are: Pinecone Research (currently not accepting new
sign-ups), Inbox Dollars, and CashCrate. Others I have heard good things about but haven’t personally tried are: GlobalTestMarket and Survey Head.

If you’re interested in earning a little money by filling out surveys, check out Carrie’s extensive post on the subject here.

::MyPoints–this is a site which rewards you points for online activity such as reading emails, taking surveys, signing up for offers, and so forth. I mostly just read the emails and clicked on the links and slowly accumulated points. You won’t get rich quickly doing this, but you can earn enough points by reading emails to get free gift cards each year. We paid for our few and far between law school date nights mostly with gift cards I earned through MyPoints.

I was encouraged to see money start trickling in from these things. It wasn’t enough to pay our bills, but it was something–and something is better than nothing, right?

As I started feeling better and I researched more ideas, I got braver and branched out to try other things. Most of these things flopped royally, but I learned a great deal in the process. I’ll tell you more about these in Part 3.

…To be continued

If you haven’t taken a chance to read through the comments on Part 1 of this series, be sure to do so here. There are dozens of great business ideas and tidbits of wisdom shared there!

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Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: Learning Through Failure (Part 3)

Wahm

Last time in our Becoming a Work-at-Home Mom series I shared how I had to stop working as a mother's helper due to my pregnancy and while that was a huge cut in our income, it also was what lit a fire in my belly to learn everything I possibly could as fast as I could about earning money from home.

I began with small things, like taking surveys, mystery shopping, getting paid to read emails. Once I became proficient in those, I started scratching my brain for more ideas. 

One idea I had was to teach creative writing classes out of our home. I'd always loved writing and thought that probably homeschool moms would jump at the opportunity to enroll their children in creative writing classes–especially if they were very inexpensively priced.

I spent hours writing up advertisements to place in homeschool newsletters and had visions of at least 40 children signing up. I excitedly strategized how I could break the classes up and handle a large number of children and I eagerly calculated numbers and was expecting a good earning potential from these classes. All in all, I was stoked.

Problem was, instead of 40 children signing up as I'd hoped, only 4 signed up. So much for my big plans!

Needless to say, the turn out was very disappointing to me. I thought God had clearly directed me to do these classes and I was confident He was going to bring dozens and dozens of children to them. I worried about how on earth we were going to pay our bills since my big idea had pretty much totally flopped. I wanted to quit and throw my hands up in despair. But I couldn't because I'd already made a commitment to teach these children–all 4 of them–and I had to see it through.

When I look back at those classes and the measly four sign-ups, I realize that not only did that experience prepare me for some greater failures I'd have on down the road, it also taught me that it's okay if things don't turn out like we are expecting. We can still carry on and do our best whether we have four students or forty students or 400 students. Whatever the outcome of our efforts, what matters most is that we give it our best.

I've slowly learned over the past few years that failure of some
kind is inevitable when you have your business or are trying to start
working from home. Everything just isn't going to turn out exactly like
you expected. In fact, much of the time, things will be a lot harder
and a lot less successful than you planned or hoped or dreamed.

Contrary to what I thought in the beginning, I've come to realize that failure is my friend. I've learned much more through failure than I have through success.

The creative writing classes were only the start of my flopped endeavors and learning through failure. Next time, I'll tell you about a much bigger work-at-home failure and how it turned out to be one of the best things which ever happened to me.

To be continued…

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Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: More experimentation and failure

If you’re new here, you’ll want to go back and read the first parts of the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series.

It’s quite often that I get emails from people who say, “I really want to build up a blog and business like you have.” While I’m honored they would want to be like me, I sincerely don’t wish all my failures and struggles upon them.

Many of you have only found MoneySavingMom.com in the last year or two. And you might see a successful blog with hundreds of thousands of readers, the fact that I have a team of people working for me or that we paid cash for our house thanks in great part to this blog and the income it provides.

What you don’t see is the thousands of hours of effort, the miserable failures, the huge disappointments and the nights when I only got a few hours of sleep because I was working 60 to 70 hours per week from home to make ends meet, plus being a wife, homemaker and stay-at-home mom.

I’m very grateful to the Lord for how He has blessed the labors of my hands. And I’m humbled beyond belief to think that someone like me — who has no college degree and struggled with math in high school — is helping hundreds of thousands of families around the nation with their finances. That’s God, not me. He can take the weak things of this world and do mighty things through them (1 Cor. 1:27). I know, because I’ve experienced it in powerful ways in my own life.

But before He could do great and mighty things in and through my life, God first had to take me through some very humbling and difficult failures. Last time, I left you when we were groping to come up with any way to make ends meet without going into debt while my husband was in law school.

I remember wracking my brain to come up with anything — anything — I could do to earn money from home. We really felt like my place was to be home with our soon-to-be born child and yet how we were going to pull that off without debt or government assistance* was mind-baffling.

It seemed there was just no way the ends could meet. I felt helpless and incompetent. I’m one of those people who is not skilled in many different areas: I can’t sew or decorate or make beautiful crafts; I’m quite domestically-challenged despite many efforts to reverse those inadequacies!

I’ve always been very interested in marketing, writing and anything related to computers, but I didn’t really know that it would be possible to earn any more than a small amount from any of those things. My attempts to teach creative writing classes fell pretty nearly on their face. I scoured the internet looking for writing opportunities and only came up with a few very small-paying opportunities that someone with my inexperience could qualify for.

In my heart of hearts, I really wanted to start a website of some kind. And after weeks of prayer and research, I hatched an idea to start a website called Covenant Wedding Source which would provide custom-made, modest wedding gowns and accessories. I found a few young women who were exceptional seamstresses and contracted with them to provide the sewing services.

My job was going to be the go-between. I’d market the website, work with the customers and my contractors would provide the custom-made products. I knew that there were very few websites providing modest gowns and I knew, from talking with many brides, that there was a market for gowns which showed less skin but didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

My husband — always the cheerleader — willingly invested $2,000 of our law school savings to start the business (that money paid to have a website designed, buy a computer, a few other needed supplies and a business license). I look back and wonder what got into him to willingly risk what was a huge chunk of money for my wild and crazy idea.

I’d read a bunch of books from the library on starting a business and I was pumped about my great idea. But I quickly learned I was in way over my head. I hadn’t a clue about online marketing and I learned very fast that you can set up a great website, but you need a whole lot more than a great website to get more than you and your mom visiting everyday.

After a few weeks of very little traffic and no sales, I decided I had to become terribly pro-active if you wanted people to notice your site. So I came up with every free advertising idea I could concoct. I joined Yahoo Groups which I thought might have a relevant market and would interact with people and include a link at the bottom of my emails to my website. I wrote articles for any website which would publish my articles and include a link to my website in my bio.

After about six months, we actually had had six different brides who were brave enough to send in their measurements and what they wanted for a gown and have their gowns made by a seamstress across the country. But I learned another lesson: creating custom-made gowns according to a bride’s specifications and measurements requires a massive amount of time and work to pull off — and it’s really hard to do if you are trying to do it inexpensively!

I also was very discouraged to look over the books after six months and realize I’d put in countless hours, but I had not turned a profit at all. This was a problem because we severely needed to see at least a small profit in order to survive. It was a business, not a charity and something had to change.

In the past six months, I had been researching everything I could about online marketing and I’d stumbled upon this Yahoo Group which was all about entrepreneurialism. They had some very interesting ideas — many of which were brand-new to me. The more I read, the more I realized the wisdom in what was shared in this group.

I realized I needed to build an email list, look for multiple streams of income to develop on my site and learn more about affiliate marketing. Little did I know that these very things would someday be some of the backbone pieces for the success of MoneySavingMom.com.

After analyzing what my current market might be interested in and how to leverage that, I started experimenting with my small email list to see what worked. Those first attempts were so pathetic that I look back with great embarrassment. But you know what? I learned so much through those failed experiments. And somehow, my email list readers stuck with me!

While I was excited to be learning new things, I still desperately needed to be making more of an income for all my efforts. However, instead of a windfall of profit, I was about to experience one of the most difficult business lessons ever.

…to be continued next Friday

___________

*I know that different people have different circumstances and beliefs, but my husband and I have never felt like it was right for us to accept government assistance. We wanted to trust the Lord to be our Provider and also to be forced to be as creative and resourceful as we could. I’m in no way judging those of you who have chosen differently than us, just sharing how God led our family.

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