How to Successfully Work From Home
When you think about working from home, what pops into your mind? Do you
think of freedom, not having a boss, being able to work whenever you want?
Have people told you it's easy?
If so, get ready to have some of your preconceptions challenged.
Sure, once you get going, you might be able to hang out on the beach with
your computer, but for most people, working from home requires even more
discipline than a regular job. When you have a job, you generally have to show
up at specified times and perform assigned duties. Regardless of the complexity
of the job, someone else is usually telling you what to do and when to do it.
When you work from home, it's up to you to get the work done. It takes a
certain amount of discipline and self-motivation to actually sit and work from
your home. You can become easily distracted by everything from the TV to barking
dogs to children clamoring for attention. Many people think it is easy to work
at home but that’s often not the case when they actually start doing it.
Qualities required for a Work at Home Career
Before you think about ditching your job, take a look at the following list.
How many of these qualities or personality traits do you possess?
Self-motivation and self-discipline
- Ability to work independently
- Skill Set
Now, let's go over each of the above qualities so you can see why each one is
important and what it means in terms of your potential work at home career.
A lot of people think working from home isn't a "real job" – in fact, be
prepared some lack of understanding from friends or family, at least initially.
But make no mistake. Working from home is VERY real.
Don't let anyone tell you that you are not really working or that your work
from home job is not “real." Your job is every bit as real as that of your
friends in the "brick and mortar" world. The truth is that I have worked harder
and longer from home than I did when I worked outside the house. Working from
home requires qualities that may not be needed in a "real" job. Read on to see
if you have what it takes.
1) Self-Motivation and Self-Discipline
These two qualities are arguably the most important, and you'll need them right
from the start. It takes motivation to search for work on an ongoing basis.
Not everyone has the discipline and self-motivation needed to work from home.
And that's fine! Some people work best in a more structured environment, with
someone telling them what to do, when to do it, and for how long.
If you're one of those people, it's important to recognize that you may not
thrive in the self-driven world of telecommuting. If you have small children, it
can certainly be a challenge to organize your time. Without self-motivation and
self-discipline, it can be virtually impossible!
When you work at home, you and you alone are responsible for organizing your
schedule and sticking to it. Take a look at whether you're easily distracted.
Can you sit down to work without jumping up to do a load of laundry, watch TV,
chat with your friends on the phone, or play with your kids? Sure, you can take
breaks, but you have to be able to focus and get the work done.
Persistence is just as essential as self-motivation and self-discipline.
Competition for work at home jobs can be fierce, and you'll need to keep
plugging away. You'll probably get rejected (or not hear anything back at all)
more often than you get the gig. That's all part of the process.
And when you nail down a gig that's not the end of it, most work from home
jobs aren't full-time, nor are they secure. Seasoned home workers often talk
about not putting all their eggs in one basket, in other words, not relying on
any one gig. So think about the fact that looking for work will be an ongoing
part of your life.
Patience ties in with persistence. You'll apply for jobs and may not get a
response for weeks, sometimes even months. Or you may be told you have an
assignment and then have to wait while the company or client works out the
Many companies that hire are fairly new (less than five years old), and you
have to be patient with the kinks they may have in their system. With the number
of people they hire, sometimes their taskforce gets overwhelmed and issues such
as pay, scheduling, and system issues may not be as streamlined as in a company
that has been around for a while.
4) Ability to Work Independently
You won't have a supervisor looking over your shoulder, so you'll have to be
able to complete tasks and meet deadlines on your own. Are you starting to
notice that many of these qualities are closely related? Being able to work
independently isn't possible without self-motivation and self-discipline.
Another aspect of independence is the ability and motivation to search for
jobs on your own and do the required research. I see people on work from home
forums who expect others to hand them the work on a silver platter. They'll come
into a forum without checking out any of the job leads on their own and ask
where they can find a job, even when the forum is filled with potential job
If you're going to be successful at this, you have to take the initiative and
check things out for yourself. You can't rely on other people's research. Do
thorough research on the company you're interested in working for. Read about
the company's policies, the duties required for the job, any equipment you might
need to have, etc.
Once you've completed your research, decide for yourself if the company is a
good fit for you. You're the only one who knows your circumstances. A job that's
perfect for someone else may be completely wrong for you.
When you do get a job, in most cases you will be provided training and
assistance, but be prepared to figure out some things on your own. If you do
have questions, please ask the company and not another co-worker. And DO
ask when you have a question. That's much better than making assumptions and
possibly making a mistake that could have easily been averted.
This can be tough for some people. When you're working at home, it can be easy
to get distracted by your kids, by phone calls, by a million other things. Can
you organize and prioritize your work and home life?
That's one aspect of organization. The other is the organizational skills
you'll need to keep track of your jobs and to do the assignments.
Note: I've often hired people to work for me. Based on our initial
communications (and often from observing people's forum behaviors), I can tell
whether they're disciplined, whether they're quick learners, and whether they're
able to communicate effectively. If you're looking for work, think of everything
you do online as part of the job interview.
Working from home can be a great way to avoid the rat race (and yes, you
CAN work in your pajamas!), but never forget that it IS work.
6) Skill Set
Once you've determined that you have the qualities needed to pursue a work at
home career, you need to look at the skills you bring to bear.
There's a wide variety of available jobs and many of them require specific
skills, such as customer service, technical support, medical transcription, or
coding. Before you apply for a particular job, make sure you have the skills
needed for that job.
There are a few required skills that most work from home jobs have in common
(as with the qualities, I'll list the skills and then go over them in detail):
- Research Capabilities
- Computer Literacy
- Ability to Follow Instructions
1) Research Capabilities
The jobs are out there, but you can't rely on others to do the legwork for you.
You'll have to do your research, both to get a job and to keep the job.
Part of proving that you can work from home without close supervision
includes being able to do your own research and work independently. Friends with
work at home jobs and people on forums will be more than willing to help as long
as you're prepared to do your part.
If you consistently ask questions that could be easily researched, you may be
categorized as lazy and lacking in initiative. And be aware that companies and
potential clients often keep an eye on job forums, so the impression you make is
important. In many cases, you can get the information you need through a simple
Google or forum search.
As you start your search, you'll find that there are a lot of scams in the
online world. So you'll need to research every listing you find.
Don’t assume a job is a scam just because everything's not neatly organized.
It may be growing pains. On the other hand, you need to look for certain warning
signs. If a company continually pays late, or if you can't get responses in a
timely manner, cut your losses and move on. NEVER work for free.
Note: Because I've already researched the listings in this book,
you can feel relatively confident using them. But even here, it's important to
do your research. Companies can go out of business or change management, the pay
system can change… a company with a stellar reputation today may be a loser
2) Computer Literacy
I'm constantly amazed at the number of people who don't have even basic computer
skills, but somehow think they can work from home. If you don't have these basic
skills, make sure you acquire them before you look for a work from home job.
Otherwise, you're just wasting your time and that of any company where you
Here are a few of the essential computer tasks you should be able to
- Know what a browser is and be able to open your browser.
- Know how to save
files into your My Documents folder (and of course know what a folder is and how
to create new ones).
- Open software programs like Microsoft Word and Excel
familiar with your anti-virus software and know how to keep it updated so that
your computer remains free of spyware and viruses.
- Know how to save documents.
- Know how to add attachments to email messages, as well as how to open
This is just a short list, and some jobs may require more specific computer
skills. If you're rusty, brush up on your computer skills before you look for
work, or perhaps take a class. An employer will train you on the specific skills
you need for the job, but they won't be willing to teach you how to save a Word
document (just one example of a very basic skill).
Since most of your communications will be through email, you need to be
comfortable with your email program. Additionally, even if a job doesn't revolve
around typing or writing, you should be able to type at least 30 wpm.
3) Ability to Follow Instructions
If you can't follow instructions, why should a company hire you? Because
you're working remotely and without supervision, you need to be a quick learner
and be able to easily understand and follow precise instructions.
Part of following instructions is paying close attention to what a potential
employer asks for in an ad. You won't have the opportunity for an in-person
interview, so all the employer has to go on is your online interactions.
So, for example, if a company states in an ad not to attach your resume, DO
NOT ATTACH THE RESUME. If you do, it tells the company that you didn't read the
instructions and that you don't follow directions. They'll figure that if you
can't follow instructions in a simple job ad, you probably won't read the
training manual or take the job seriously.
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