Work at home ideas and tips from Lynie Arden

1. The first part of your book lists working at home opportunities. Would you say the opportunities are increasing?

Definitely. When I first created this book in 1987, the trend was just beginning to emerge. I had to work really hard just to find 500 qualified entries to fill the book. By 2005, everything had changed. Working at home was no longer a little thing that housewives did on the side for extra cash. It's become mainstream. Mostly that's due to emerging technologies that made it possible to move more work to home offices. It's also because of the changing profile of the types of work that are being done today. Now there are so many opportunities, I have the luxury of being very selective about which ones I include.

2. Can you tell us a little about companies who use telecommuting?

Companies all over the world use telecommuting. It's not just an American phenomenon. Ever since Pac Bell and Blue Cross/Blue Shield conducted the first pilot projects to study telecommuting back in the late 1980s, corporations have been adopting it as a viable option. The reason is simple: it saves money?both for the employer and for the employee. The facts are well-documented. Companies save a lot of money from lower overhead (less real estate needed for expansions or satellite offices), increased productivity (up to 50%), and far lower turnover rates. Today, most corporations have some sort of telecommuting program for employees, whether it's a formal HR plan or informal agreement between workers and their managers.

3. What is the first step in moving your work to your home?

If you're moving a job home, you're talking about telecommuting since the definition of telecommuting is 'to transport work to the worker rather than the worker to the work.' The first step to take is to find out what your employer's policy is on working at home. If there is one, then simply follow the rules. If not, don't give up. It's probably still do-able?IF you have a job that can be done in a home office environment. Obviously, if you're a chef, there's not much you can do. But most people work in offices. The thing to keep in mind is that your employer needs to know that the work is going to get done even if you're not physically within line of sight. So your first order of business is to make sure you're known for being a trustworthy employee.

Next, come up with a plan. Figure out what's feasible. What job tasks can be done at home? All of them? Some of them? Then consider what could go wrong. If you look at possible problems and come up with solutions beforehand, your plan is more likely to be accepted.Now, test the waters. Tell your manager you'd like to take a project home for one day because it's less distracting and you?ll do a better job. Do that a few times, then raise the bar. At some point, it'll become obvious that you have this telecommuting thing figured out and it'll be a soft sell to take it all the way.

4. Where can an interested person go to find at home positions?

The short answer is: anywhere you find any other kind of job position. There is no such thing as a 'work at home job.' Rather there are jobs that can be done at home. If it's possible to do a certain type of work at home, then you?ll find opportunities to do so as a matter of course.

5. You warn those interested ? don't expect too much. What do you mean by that?

For decades, there have been scams going around that advertise 'easy work, big money, all from the comfort of your own home.' There?s no such thing as easy work. That's why it's called work. Working at home is no different than working anywhere else. And finding a job at home is no different either. You have to conduct a job search, send off resumes, go through interviews. You should also expect plenty of competition. There are lots of people just like you, looking for the same thing?work they can do at home. That gives the employer an advantage, having so many candidates to choose from. If you really want to work at home, you're can. But you're going to have to work at it.

6. In some cases working at home is a cost saver. Can you address that aspect of it?

There are several ways that home workers save money. First is the cost of transportation. This is especially true now that gas is well over a gallon! Second is the cost of office apparel. You can usually work in jeans and T-shirts instead of heels and business suits. And in some cases, you can save on childcare costs. I say sometimes because I don't recommend trying to take care of small children while you're trying to work.

7. Can you give an example of an up and coming at-home job category?

Virtual assistants is the 'next big thing.' These are people who do administrative work, sort of like secretaries of yesteryear. They're basically administrative assistants who use computers and phones to interact with their employers and the employers? customers. There are even agencies springing up now that do nothing but place virtual assistants with companies all around the country and sometimes even overseas.

8. What is the hardest area for working at home? You list the arts, crafts, computer work, etc.

The hardest type of work to find is any kind of assembly work. That used to be the traditional type of home-based work, but since we have moved into the Information Age, that's simply not the case. Assembly jobs have moved offshore for the most part.

9. What is the downside of working at home?

There are two challenges: social isolation and self-management. Most people build their social lives around the workplace. That's where they meet people and develop friendships or even romances. When you work at home, you have to make a concerted effort to get out and meet people. That could mean joining organizations and clubs or simply taking your laptop down to the local coffeehouse with WiFi for a few hours a day. Managing yourself is another sticky spot for a lot of people. Not everyone is cut out to be a home worker. Some people really are more comfortable being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. At home, there's no one looking over your shoulder. It takes discipline to sit yourself down and get your work done?especially when there are so many distractions like dirty laundry, neighbors dropping by, TV, and food in the fridge.

10. Is there anything else that you would want to tell readers of this website?

I've been working at home myself for over 20 years and I love it. During that entire time, I've been tracking the trend and writing about it. From all my research, I can state without hesitation: if you want to work at home, you can. The 1,200 opportunities that I found for the latest edition of The Work-at-Home Sourcebook represent just a small portion of what's out there. Read the book and you?ll get all sorts of ideas when you see how many different kinds of jobs are being done at home. I lay it out in detail, even things like how to interview over the phone and what red flags to watch for. Borrowing from Nike, I'd say: Just do it!

11. As you know there are a lot of scams targeting people who are trying to find work at home, what are the tell tale signs that a job offered is a scam ? What should job seekers keep an eye out for when applying for work at home jobs ?

If You've been scammed by phony work-at-home offers, you're not alone. No one better understands the desire of millions of Americans to be able to work at home than dishonest dream peddlers. For many years, these scam operators have made themselves rich at the expense of naive would-be home workers. Their ads can be found all over the Internet, in tabloids, in the back of consumer magazines, tacked up on laundromat bulletin boards, and even in the help-wanted columns of newspapers. The promises are bigger than life and hard to ignore. 'Easy work. Make a week assembling products at home,' and 'Get paid while you surf the Net' are typical headlines.

Why do otherwise sensible people fall prey to these bogus offers? Because the operators tell us what we want to hear - that we can make lots of easy money in the comfort of our living rooms. To protect yourself, watch for these red flags:

--A request for money should set off an alarm. Legitimate job offers do not require registration fees or payment for instructions.

--Is it economically feasible for the offer to produce the expected results? For instance, product assembly is only possible when the company is within your local area. The cost of shipping parts and materials around the country is prohibitive.

--The company should have a listed telephone number and be reachable during normal business hours.

--If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! There?s no such thing as easy money. That's why it's called work.

For more information on work at home schemes, check out this article by the Federal Trade Commission. -

Lynie Arden