The 10 best (and real) work-at-home jobs

  1. Virtual assistant
  2. Medical transcriptionist
  3. Translator
  4. Web developer/designer
  5. Call center representative
  6. Tech support specialist
  7. Travel agent
  8. Teacher
  9. Writer/editor
  10. Franchise owner

1. Virtual assistant

This is a job with much potential, in part because the title description covers many things. “You can fit your offerings to what you know how to do,” says Foster. One can own a virtual assistant business or work from home for a company that makes you available to other employers or clients. HomeWithTheKids.com, for example, currently features several such companies. Small businesses hire virtual assistants to help when they can’t justify a permanent employee. The International Virtual Assistants Association, which Durst co-founded in the 1990s, began with 28 members and has grown to more than 600. They charge from $37 for a six-month student membership to $137 per year for a regular member.

2. Medical transcriptionist

As Foster knows, being a medical transcriptionist is a demanding job, and nearly every company listed on her site seeks applicants with experience and/or training from certain schools. The work involves listening to and typing up dictation from doctors — some of whom have thick accents, slur words, and even “eat, drink, chew gum (and) talk to other people in the room” while dictating, she says. But hearing about medical matters can be interesting, and good transcriptionists are in very high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2015 data, the median hourly rate for transcriptionists is $17.17.

3. Translator

People with fluency in more than one language translate audio files or documents, not just word for word, but often with cultural differences in mind. “Companies can access home-based translators with hard-to-find language skills without being held back by geographic location,” says Fell.

Foster’s site lists jobs for home-based translators. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook 2012-13, which groups translators and interpreters, notes a projected employment increase of 29 percent by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

4. Web developer/designer

Information technology is the sector, Durst says, where most of the home-based hiring is being done. Terri Orlowski, a virtual assistant and Web developer based in Pittsburgh, offers services such as custom website design, template modification and redesigns, code updates, hosting and usability reviews. She previously held administrative positions in a variety of industries and makes a higher per-hour rate now. Out of the many new monthly work-from-home job postings on Upwork.com, Web developers are in high demand, says former CEO Gary Swart.

5. Call center representative

When you phone to order something from a catalog or infomercial, a big office with rows of cubicles may come to mind. But the person on the other end of the line is likely to be sitting in a home office. “It’s a huge and growing industry,” Durst says of companies that hire independent contractors to take calls from home. She says the “home-shore movement” started in response to complaints about the many companies that looked offshore for workers.

While some websites such as Sykes Home actually hire representatives, most use subcontractors. Just be aware that the pay may be by the minute rather than by the hour, so you may not be paid for time you spend waiting by the phone. A list of companies that hire call center reps can be found at HomeWithTheKids.com.

6. Tech support specialist

Call centers also hire technical support specialists to work remotely. Kate Lister, co-author of “Undress for Success: The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home,” names it as one of her top three “best-bet work-at-home jobs.” And according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, jobs for computer support specialists (on-site and remote combined) were expected to increase by 12 percent from 2014 to 2024 — faster than the average for all occupations — with 88,800 new jobs.

7. Travel agent

Scams abound in the travel industry — particularly organizations that charge for information on how to break into the field. But operating a home-based travel agency can be an excellent business, says Tom Ogg, founder of HomeBasedTravelAgent.com. “Real home-based travel agents have experienced robust growth over the last decade, and there are probably 40,000-plus of them and growing.” A growing (although small) number of people earn $100,000 or more a year, he says. “A solid business concept and plan focused on profitability will take you a long way to achieving your monetary goals.” There’s also the joy of helping others enjoy their leisure time.

8. Teacher

From postsecondary education to elementary schools, there are opportunities for students to learn virtually. Along with that comes opportunities to teach (and tutor) virtually. While distance learning is not new, advanced technology, collaborative multimedia software designed for schools and high-speed Internet connections have created more opportunities for teachers and students to work together from afar, says Fell.

Durst has also noticed more teacher jobs being posted, and she knows of one professor who works mainly online and makes six figures — although income “depends on how many hours you’re applying to it and the type of classes you’re teaching.” A resource center for online teaching jobs can be found at GetEducated.com.

9. Writer/editor

Yes, the print publishing industry has been suffering, but Durst is seeing frequent listings these days for writing, editing and proofreading, particularly for the internet. Even those without writing experience can join the blogosphere. Not only can blogging be lots of fun, Foster says, but also there’s money to be earned blogging for someone else’s site, getting paid to post on your own blog or through revenue-sharing arrangements.

10. Franchise owner

It’s a no-brainer: Owning a business can be the road to at-home work. For an initial investment, franchises may offer a ready-made business with brand awareness, a system and a territory, says Leslie Truex, founder of the website WorkAtHomeSuccess.com. Her advice: Consider businesses that target the over-50 crowd or the self-employed, involve health and wellness, relate to the “green” movement, or involve electronic or online devices (i.e., accessories, applications).

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