Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Working From Home: Fact vs Fiction


One of the biggest questions I get has to do with ideas for working from home.  So let's sort the truth from the fiction: 

First, no matter where you do it, you can't make money by doing nothing ... or almost nothing.  Working from home is still work and you have to understand that going in. I had a young man tell me he didn't think he should have to work a 40-hour work week because it cuts into his fishing and it's that attitude the scam artists are banking on.  Second, it is possible to earn a livable wage working from home, but it takes as much hard work and ingenuity as working in an office and requires more dedication and discipline than working outside the house. 

So how do you know if an idea is a scam or a real opportunity?  Here's some things to look at and consider:

*  You can't make money stuffing envelopes or assembling products from home.  It's a scam.  Period. 

*  If you aren't self-motivated and focused, you won't be able to work from home.  Working from home takes discipline - discipline to stay on task, stay away from the laundry or chores that need to be done and get work done first before anything else during work hours.  

*  Examine why you want to work from home.  Is it to have greater freedom and work less?  Working from home isn't for you - it's usually longer hours and more work, albeit hours you set and on your own schedule.

*  Most people who work from home have education or background in a specific field that allows them to do what they do.  I have a friend who makes and sells teeny, tiny moving train sets inside eyeglass cases, lanterns and a whole host of other household items (http://www.tiny-trains.com/) and makes a decent living at it.  But he was an engineer before he started his company and had education to back up his work.

*  The best work-from-home ideas are those you come up with yourself, from things you love to do anyway and are born from necessity.  The first 1000 people who started selling things on EBay as a business came up with the idea on their own.  My first company was a computer consulting firm that I came up with on my own, on a shoestring.  I didn't go to an expensive seminar, I didn't buy a kit.  I got laid off and my husband left me with a 4-year-old to take care of.  I had to find a way to earn a living.

*  Sometimes, companies will allow employees to telecommute.  If you want to work from home and you feel your profession is adaptable to that, ask your boss.  It can't hurt and you might be surprised by the answer.

*  If you don't have the education or background required to work from home, don't be afraid to go to school to learn a trade.  But make sure it's a legitimate school and a legitimate trade.  For instance, medical transcription is a great industry, but you need training.  Community colleges are a great resource to learn a trade like this. 

*  As with any beginning enterprise, you may need to continue working your present job while you get things going, at least until regular incoming starts coming in, so don't burn any bridges you might need.

* Finally, always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it is.  Look at all the details to see if they all make sense.  Len asked about medical billing as a viable work-from-home idea.  For the first ones into that area, it was.  But now, the market is saturated with people believing they can just jump in and find doctors begging to use them, but that's just not the case.  Most doctor's offices have their own in-house billers or use large billing services.  You'll find some clients, but schools that push the business grossly overestimate your earning capability, especially in the first 2 years.

The bottom line - you don't need someone to help you figure out what you love to do.  All you need is to figure out for yourself how to make money at it, by being passionate about your work, dedicated to making it succeed and filling a need, even if it's just a small one ... that's the meaning of being an entrepreneur.  And when you work from home, that's exactly what you are - an entrepreneur, even if you work for someone else.