October 15, 2008
Real, live work at home opportunities
Last week, I wrote about how to avoid work at home scams. Why? Because I get a lot of email from people who've either been out of the workforce a while to raise their kids or have had it with commuting to an office every day and would like to try their hand at a legit work at home gig. For those with limited professional skills and experience, working as a call center agent (a.k.a., customer service rep) can be one of the better work at home options. Note, however, that some prior administrative and office experience is almost always a must for such jobs.
Two companies currently hiring for such positions are VIPdesk and Arise. Both hire workers as independent contractors rather than employees, meaning you probably won't get health coverage and other benefits from them but you may get more flexibility in your work schedule.
For those interested in learning more about this type of work, VIPdesk is holding a free "virtual open house" this Thursday, October 16, at 2 p.m. Eastern time (that's 11 a.m. here in the Northwest). And for all you earlybirds, the company will repeat this event on Wednesday, October 22, at 8 a.m. Eastern (5 a.m. here in the Puget Sound area). Register for either event here.
Then there's Arise, which trains and hires at-home call center agents from our region to work for companies such as Home Depot, Walgreens, and AAA on an ongoing basis. Learn more about working for Arise in this online seminar.
I had the pleasure of speaking with an Arise spokesperson recently to glean a few tips and requirements for interested applicants:
- You need to have a quiet place to work uninterrupted. (As in, no kids or dogs underfoot and needing your assistance when you're "on duty.")
- You need a computer as well as the technical skills to install and launch the call center software that Arise provides you with.
- You need to be able to multitask and type at least 35 words a minute, and you must enjoy working with the public.
- Arise's application process includes an online business skills assessment test and a $16 criminal background check (as you'll be dealing with customers' credit card numbers).
- Candidates are required to take a $99 orientation course (not a scam; both RatRaceRebellion.com and "Good Morning America" vouch for them, as do I) and to set up their own company as an S-Corp or LLC (which you can do through MyCorporation.com, starting at $129 + state filing fees). This is presumably so Arise can prove to the IRS that you're an independent contractor, as opposed to an employee.
- Once you're hired, there may be some other nominal ($50 to $200) training fees to orient you to working with Arise's clients -- for example, to learn how to handle a AAA roadside assistance call.
- The base hourly rate for an Arise call center worker is $10 to $14. Since you're an independent contractor, you'll have to pay your taxes directly to the IRS. So it will take at least a couple weeks to recoup your expenses, though such expenses are usually a tax write-off for independent contractors. (Check with your tax preparer or IRS.gov.)
If this sounds like a lot of hoops to jump through to jumpstart a home-based career, I suggest putting the time and money toward some community college courses in web design, bookkeeping, or another virtual assistance service you can perform from your home. The beauty of going through a company like Arise, however, is that they bring the clients to you, rather than you having to find the clients yourself.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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