Money - Jobs
By: - at July 3, 2013

How to Successfully Work From Home

Setting Up Your Home Office
home officeNow that you know what it takes and have decided you're ready to find a work at home job, let's move on and talk about what you'll need to set up your home office.

Before you start your work at home career, you need to take a look at your home office setup. In most cases, you'll want to have the equipment you need before you send in your application. That way, you'll be ready to start training as soon as you get hired. Many companies will not be willing to wait while you acquire the necessary equipment and tools.

The Basics
Here's a list of basic equipment that you'll need for almost any work at home job. Keep in mind that specific companies may have additional requirements. And depending on the type of job you get, you may not need everything on this list. For example, you probably won't need to have a landline telephone for a writing job.

  1. Computer
  2. Surge protector
  3. Software
  4. Virus/malware protection
  5. High speed internet connection
  6. Printer
  7. Land line telephone
  8. Office Furniture
  9. Work Environment

Let's look at these requirements in more detail.

computer1)  Computer
You probably already have a computer, but is it up to the challenge of a work from home job? If you haven't replaced your rusty old desktop for a few years, you may need an upgrade.

For most jobs, you'll need a fairly late model Windows computer running either XP or Vista, with adequate RAM and a large enough hard drive to store all your work software and documents. Some jobs insist on a desktop, but a laptop is fine in most cases.

Note: Sorry, MAC users – unfortunately, quite a few companies that hire remote workers require you to use a Windows operating system.

2)  Surge protector
Surge protectorTrust me on this one – I learned this lesson the hard way. You don't want to miss a deadline (or even worse, lose your computer) due to a power surge or electrical storm! One day during a major thunderstorm, I kept working, not really thinking it was a big deal. But ZAP, one quick lightning bolt and everything went out, including my computer.

I freaked, thinking that was the end of my computer, and I absolutely could NOT afford another one at that point. Thankfully, my computer came back on and everything was OK. But that was a close enough call for me so I went out and bought a surge protector that day.

3)  Software
Most jobs require you to have a word processing program that's compatible with Microsoft Word. In most cases, you don't need to have the latest version, and if you can't afford to buy the software when you're starting out, that's not a problem.

Microsoft OfficeOpen Office has a free software suite that's fully compatible with Microsoft Office and allows you to save documents in Word format.

Some jobs might also require you to have spreadsheet software, like Microsoft Excel. Open Office has a spreadsheet called Calc, so if you don't have Microsoft Office, you can use this free version and save your files in Excel format.

Note: Most new computers come with a trial version of several software programs, so you can try before you buy.

Your computer probably already has an internet browser installed, most likely Internet Explorer. I prefer Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.

You'll also need a program that lets you read PDF files. Almost all files that companies send you will be in either PDF or Word format. But no problem – you can download a free Adobe reader.

4)  Anti-virus/malware protection
This is JUST as important as a surge protector. The last thing you need is a virus attacking your computer. This could not only prevent you from getting your work done in the short term, it could actually cost you a job or even destroy your computer.

Not only do you need to have anti-virus software installed, you have to make sure you keep it updated and run regular checks – AT LEAST once a week. Most anti-virus programs can be configured to update and run regular checks automatically.

Be aware that viruses often come through emails. Any good virus protection software will have an option that checks emails – make sure you activate this option. A lot of your work communication will be through emails. You don't want to either send or receive emails with viruses attached.




5)  High speed Internet connection
These days, many people have wireless internet connections at home; but because of security concerns, wireless or Wi-Fi connections are not acceptable with many work at home companies.

If you work for one of these companies, you'll need a wired connection through your cable company, telephone company or some other internet service provider.

6)  Printer
All in one printerA printer may not be an absolute necessity for some jobs, but you'll often have reams of training material to go through, and reading it online can be tedious at best. An all-in-one printer that allows you to print, scan, fax, and make copies is your best bet – and they're quite inexpensive.

7)  Phone
If you take a customer service or other phone-related job, you'll need an actual landline phone. Nope, no cell phones allowed. In some cases, not even a cordless phone.

If you're taking inbound calls (receiving calls instead of making them), you need a basic landline - no voicemail, three-way calling, call waiting, etc.

landline phoneThat's because calls are filtered to your line by the company, and they don't want customer calls going to voicemail. It's considered unprofessional, and it is confusing to the customer to hear someone's private voicemail.

So that's the list of what you absolutely HAVE to have for most jobs. But there are a few more considerations.

8)  Office Furniture
Since you'll be working from home, you won't be required to have any particular office setup. But you might as well have a pleasant, efficient workspace. It's your office – why not make it as comfortable as possible?

At the very least, you need a comfortable chair, a desk, and a keyboard. Since you'll be spending a large portion of your time at your computer, get an ergonomic chair, desk, and mouse if you can afford it.

Consider it an investment in your long-term health and your ability to continue to make a living from home.

9)  Work Environment
Customer service jobs require a quiet space, but even if your company doesn't have this requirement, a quiet office is ideal for working, period. Noise interrupts your concentration and you can easily lose focus, preventing you from working effectively.

The last thing you (or the company) want is for them to hear children, dogs, TVs, loud talking, or laughing in the background. Put yourself in their shoes: would you appreciate that kind of distraction when you're trying to get your issues resolved? Is that good customer service? No, it is not.

Customers expect and deserve your undivided attention. Each encounter should be as professional as if you were in an office with your boss standing over your shoulder.

And remember, most companies that hire customer-service agents to work from home will monitor your calls, and if they hear background noise, you'll be reprimanded, or possibly even terminated. So don't tell a company you have a quiet space if you really don't.

Note: Some companies will even require you to let them know about uncontrollable outside noises like construction work. I had a personal experience with background noise with a certain company. I had already been hired, but the employer called me to discuss training materials. Not five minutes into the conversation, she asked me whether I had my TV on.

I had known she would be calling so I had turned down my TV, but evidently it wasn’t turned down low enough, because she still heard it through the phone. I didn't think it was that loud, but it was loud enough for her to hear. It was a very embarrassing situation and unprofessional and definitely a lesson learned. When I do phone work, the TV is on MUTE!!

The ideal quiet space is a separate room with a door, where you can work without interruption. But if you don't have access to a completely quiet environment, don't give up. There are plenty of jobs with more flexible requirements that are found in my free eBook.

I've given you an idea of what it takes to set up an effective home office. But before you run out and start buying equipment or furniture, read the rest of the book and figure out what types of jobs you're going to apply for. A writing job won't necessarily have the same equipment requirements as a customer service job.


Pros and Cons of working at home
We talked about the need to be disciplined and self-motivated, and have specific equipment and skills, to work at home successfully. There are many positive aspects; however, there are negatives just like in anything else. Let’s look at a few more advantages and disadvantages:


Advantages
Working from home officeThere are many advantages to working from home: nobody is breathing down your neck, watching your every move; you work when you want to work; and in most cases, you set your own schedule.

If you are an Independent Contractor, you can take your vacation any time you’re ready. Nothing is based on priority or workload. Also as an independent contractor, you can schedule your career or job around your life, not the other way around.

One of the biggest advantages working from home allows is freedom - freedom to choose your own hours and freedom to work your job around your life.

Transportation
No more driving to and from work every day, sitting in rush hour traffic, hoping to get home at a certain time or rushing around to beat traffic to pick up your children or go to the grocery store. Avoiding rush hour alone is a huge benefit.

rushhour trafficBy the way, you can avoid long lines in the grocery store on the weekends by shopping during the day when there are fewer people in the stores. Then you can spend your weekends doing other things like getting caught up with plans.

 

Clothes
Buying a new outfit or two every month just so you will have something new to wear to work can be very expensive. Working from home allows you to dress anyway you wish. You can work in your pajamas, dress casually or even in business attire, if you like. But you definitely cut down on buying outfits.

 

Childcare
Other than helping retired and disabled persons, my main reason for writing this book was to provide information about work at home jobs for mothers who prefer to stay at home with their children. One of the best benefits of working at home can be saving on the cost of babysitting, along with the secure feeling of watching your own child and being with your children.working mother home office

How great is it to be able to keep your child at home and save money? Since many work at home jobs allow you to set your own schedule, you can work around your child’s nap, school hours, and playtime or work at night when they go to bed. It’s a win-win situation.

 

Food expense
I do not know your situation, but when I worked outside the house, I spent at least five dollars a day on lunch and more for snacks, breakfast and drinks. Not to mention the weekly office dinners. I often wondered where my money had gone; it went to all the food.

 

Weather
snow covered carIf you live in a city where the weather gets bad in the winter, you will definitely be thankful that you work at home. Avoiding the snow, cold and icy weather is idea. Not only do you stay warm, you avoid driving in adverse weather, save on car expenses, avoid waiting for your car to warm up, and hoping that you will make it to work safely. It is a beautiful thing to be able to look out your office window at the snow, but not have to drive in it.

Another huge advantage to working from home is the money you save. You save on each of these situations mentioned above.


Disadvantages
Now, let’s look at some possible disadvantages.

Taxes - If you are an independent contractor you are responsible for paying your own taxes. income taxes

Contact the Internal Revenue Service or your accountant for more contractor tax information.

 

Benefits
Most independent contractors aren’t likely to receive benefits. You will also need to consider paying for your own insurance. There are many insurance companies that offer insurance for self-employed persons.

Remember, you can deduct your health and dental insurance plans when filing your taxes.

Interruptions
This can be a huge disadvantage because for some reason family and friends do not understand the fact that you are actually working from home. Arrange your family and friend time around your work schedule.

If a company is unable to rely on you to work when you say you will work or if you cannot sit and work without being interrupted or losing focus, then working from home is probably not for you.

Expenses
You will incur expenses – background check fees, equipment and supply costs, internet connection costs. But, overall, these expenses are a minor problem compared to the many benefits of working from home.

Cut down on expenses by catching sales on equipment and supplies, recycle, shopping around and finding the best values and deals for your money. And remember, you will be able to list your expenses as a deduction during tax time.

Consistency

  • A rule of thumb when working from home is to always have more than one work at home job.
     
  • Consistent work can be a concern for many who work at home, particularly for those who are Independent Contractors. Stability with any company is a misnomer.
     
  • Job cuts layoff noticeMajor corporations and small companies have laid off workers, closed down offices and branches with little or no warning.
     
  • Many people who have invested years into companies are finding themselves unemployed and with very little to show for their dedication.
     
  • Keep in mind that some work at home jobs operate based on a seasonal, overflow or client-based need, so it is necessary to always have more than one work at home job.

Competition
The last, and one of the greatest disadvantages, is the fierce competition for work at home jobs. So many people are interested in working at home that companies will post an ad for a position and easily get hundreds of applicants.


 

 

 

 

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