March 12, 2009

Reader Mailbag: Legitimate Work at Home Jobs

Every Thursday, the JobMonkey blog answers your burning questions about your job search. So far, we have covered how to negotiate a salary offer, how to write a cover letter for a nursing job, and how to find a summer job at Disney World. Do you have a question about your job search? Send me an email or leave me a note in the comment section.

Dear JobMonkey,

I am a Stay at Home mom looking to earn some extra money, while still staying at home with my kids. I need to find something that I can do during nap times or at night, once my kids are in bed. I have looked at some Work at Home sites, but truthfully, they all seem like a scam to me. Most of them ask for money in order to even give you a list of jobs. I did that once, but the leads were pathetic. Can you point me in the right direction? I would be happy with a few hundred dollars a month in “pocket cash” at this point.

Cheryl in Wisconsin

Dear Cheryl,

Thanks for your letter. You have perfect timing, it would seem, because I just read a great article on AOL with a list of seven legit work from home gigs that are hiring now.The list includes staffers for a virtual call center, virtual assistant, pro-blogger, mystery shopper, website designer, transcriptionist and on-line English teacher.

Many of these jobs are discussed in detail in JobMonkey’s section on Work at Home jobs. Have you checked it out yet? If not, let me give you a brief run-down:

>> Mystery Shopping is a market research tool used by companies large and small. As a mystery shopper, you pose as a normal customer at stores, restaurants, banks, hotels, casinos, etc. Your job is to perform a variety of assigned tasks — from purchasing products and ordering services to filing a complaint — and then report back to the company on your experience.

>> Data entry and transcription jobs are ideal for people who type quickly and have a computer already set up at home (with high-speed Internet). The job is fairly easy and does not require specific career experience or educational background. It can quickly become tedious, though, as it demands hours of rather monotonous work.

>> Freelance writing, editing and professional blogging is a hot field, thanks in large part to the Internet.  A growing number of companies are jumping on the blogging bandwagon. They want writers to post to their company blog several times a week about new products and other related news. Blogging rates vary widely, so be sure to have a frank discussion about salary before you jump in with both feet. For more info on freelance writing, check out this recent JobMonkey blog post on how to break into the field.

As far as potential scams go, you are right to be concerned. My top three suggestions for avoiding the work at home scam artists?

1.    Don’t ever pay to get paid.
2.    Beware of exaggerated salary claims. (No, you probably won’t be earning six figures from data entry… not even if you do it 80 hours a week)
3.    Avoid ads that ask you to sign up for a service before they tell you more about the job.

A few more Work at Home resources:

>> You may want to check out articles about new mystery shopping scams. The common denominator of scams seems to be their request for money. With this latest one, the scammers have gotten a tad more sophisticated — they send you a check and then ask you to wire the balance back to them. Of course, the check is a fake, and once your bank realizes it, you will be out the value of your wire transfer plus a whole mess of fees. So definitely keep exercising your common sense when you approach Work at Home opportunities.

>> A few weeks ago, we got a letter from a reader in a similar spot to you. She is a full-time mom, looking for a part-time job from home. You might find some of my suggestions to her helpful as well.

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