How to find legitimate work-at-home jobs

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It's one of the most common questions in the comments on any post related to working at home (and even some that aren't): "How can I find a real work-at-home job?" The key to the question is the word "real." While there are plenty of shady people out there on the internet willing to promise you thousands of dollars a month for stuffing envelopes or doing vague, unspecified work on your laptop, genuine work-at-home opportunities are a bit more scare. The good news is that if you know what you're looking for, you can absolutely find good jobs that you can do entirely or mostly from home.

Here's where they're hiding:

1. ...on employment sites that specialize in work-at-home jobs.

If you're interested in telecommuting, but afraid of getting taken in a work-from-home scam – and more on how to avoid these in a minute – signing up for a site that vets job listings might be the solution. For example, FlexJobs allows users to access verified work-at-home job listings for a monthly, quarterly, or yearly fee.

2. ...in free listings of legitimate work-at-home employers.

Don't feel like (or don't have) the money to spend on listing services? Many job search sites compile their own lists of employers who frequently offer legitimate work-at-home opportunities – for example, this one. Of course, every company listed won't currently have openings, but if you're willing to do a little digging, you'll at least start your search knowing that you're dealing with companies who really do post telecommuting jobs on a regular basis.

3. ...on the old-standby job sites.

Nearly all of the big-name job sites (e.g. Monster, Indeed, etc.) allow you to filter your search for specific terms. Try "work-from-home," "work-at-home," or "telecommute," at any of your favorite sites, and you'll see jobs that allow workers to telecommute on a full- or part-time basis. Just remember to read with a critical eye.

4. ...at your current employer.

If you like your job, but can't stand your commute, don't make plans to jump ship just yet. You might be surprised to find out that your boss would be as excited to have you work from home as you would be to trade your business casual for a set of pajamas. (Why? Money. Telecommuting saves real estate costs for the company.) If you're a good employee, and have a solid relationship with your boss, make your case. Even if you can arrange to work from home some of the time, it'll save you the cost and aggravation of commuting every day.

Finally, a word about scams.

"If it sounds too good to be true, you can be sure it is!" writes Alison Doyle at About.com's Job Searching site. "Also, read any 'offers' you get very carefully. One candidate for employment got a very detailed job offer from an employer. The only problem was that she hadn't applied for the job and buried deep within the lines was a request for her bank account information, so the employer could pay her. It was a scam, of course, but with some of the well-written ones it can be hard to tell."

If a listing involves any of the following, it's most likely a scam:

  • A lot of money for not much work. If it's part-time, but full pay, or a sure path to wealth, or entirely on your own schedule but guaranteed to make you higher wages than that of a corporate attorney who works 80 hours a week – it's a scam. Alas, in life, there's no shortcut to riches.
  • A request for your bank account numbers. Never, ever give out your banking information. They're not trying to pay you faster. They're trying to drain your savings account.
  • An initial investment. Real work-at-home jobs won't require you to buy a kit or a training program or a starter pack or anything of that nature. Those are the hallmarks of pyramid schemes at worst or multilevel marketing jobs at best. The latter, while not necessarily a scam, promises money if you sign up more people to sell products. Doyle notes that this is essentially starting a business, not getting a job, and that if you're doing it, others are too ... and probably none of you are getting rich.
  • Anything that's easier done by a robot. No company in the 21st century is going to pay a contractor to stuff envelopes when they have postage machines that can do it at a fraction of the cost.

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