With the dramatic changes in the employment landscape in recent years, more people are looking to work from home and find freelance work. The problem is that there are many ripoff work-from-home outfits that claim to find you jobs for an upfront fee. They're just trying to make a quick buck off you. Below are some sites and companies Clark has determined to be legitimate. Of course, you should check them out thoroughly yourself before getting involved. Good luck!
Remember, these are not ways to get rich; most opportunities just pay enough to allow you to supplement an existing income.
Legitimate work-from-home opportunities
• AlpineAccess.com - Virtual call center provider using home-based customer service agents. They charge $45 for a required background check.
• Amazon Flex - Pays you as an independent contractor around $20 an hour to deliver packages to Prime customers in under one hour. You cover gas, maintenance and any other car expenses. Available in Seattle, Richmond, Nashville, Austin, Dallas, Baltimore, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis. Coming soon to New York, Chicago, and Portland.
• CashCrate.com - Make money online with paid surveys.
• CheckPoints.com: This app offers manufacturer deals while you're in the store. You earn points for simply scanning the barcode on an item in a store. No purchase of the product is necessary. You can redeem the points you collect for free gift cards, airline miles and other perks.
• ConvergysWorkatHome.com - Be a home agent providing customer care, human resources and billing services
• EasyShiftApp.com: Essentially turns you into an on-demand secret shopper. You're assigned "shifts" by product manufacturers who want people on the ground to go into stores and confirm that their merchandise is being displayed properly. The pay rate for a shift is between $3 and $8 and the money is remitted to you via PayPal.
• eJury.com - Online mock juries and focus groups allow large groups of people to help attorneys determine case value, develop case themes, find the facts to emphasize, and learn "public" attitudes.
• Elance.com - Find clients and freelance jobs offered by small businesses to do freelance web design, programming, SEO, graphic design and more.
• Foap.com: Sell photos you take on your Android of iPhone into this online stock photograph market.
• FieldAgent.net: Find local jobs in your area and complete them within two hours for cash.
• Fiverr.com - People share things they're willing to do for $5. The low price is often a loss leader allowing a contractor to develop a client base for their particular area of expertise.
• Google Opinion Rewards - Answer quick surveys and earn Google Play credits.
• InstaEDU & Tutor.com - Become an online tutor. These sites allow you to virtually connect with students in need of lessons and do the teaching right from your computer at home.
• IntelliCare.com - Call center company that provides clinical and non-clinical telephone services to health plans, healthcare providers, and care managers nationwide. Anyone who is not a qualified nurse needs to work at one of their their bricks-and-mortar call centers, not from home.
• LiveOps.com - Virtual call center offering home-based agents in the United States contract opportunities in sales, insurance sales, insurance claims, customer service, healthcare and roadside service. Most client companies require applicants to undergo a comprehensive background and credit check that typically costs $65. Independent agents will also need to meet technical requirements including the installation and maintenance of a dedicated landline telephone only to be used for LiveOps work.
• oDesk.com - Find work as freelancer doing coding and web work, business consulting, writing, planning, newsletters and more.
• OnlineVerdict.com - Provides online case review and juror feedback services to attorneys. (Editor's note: Onlineverdict.com's website has an Expired Security Certificate, so no one should access their website at this time.)
• RedBeacon.com - Market your services in your local area to provide services for others. This website only serves select metro areas.
• Scoopshot.com - Receive photo assignments from the media based on your location.
• SnapWi.re - Connects mobile photographers with businesses and brands that need creative imagery.
• Sutherland CloudSource - Work from home customer service opportunities. Includes paid training, paid background checks, and no hidden fees.
• TaskRabbit.com - Market your services in your local area to run errands for others. For example, if you're good at building Ikea furniture, you might position yourself as a "rabbit" who gets the furniture at the store and then assembles it for others. This website only serves select metro areas.
• WAHM.com - An online magazine for work-at-home moms
• WAHVE.com - Offers remote contract opportunites for retired insurance industry workers
• West.com - Be an "at-home-agent," with duties including obtaining, entering and verifying customer information, answering questions, resolving issues, explaining sales features or offering additional products or services. (Some users have reported being asked for their Social Security number when filling out the Work Opportunity Tax Credit [WOTC] info. However, filling out the WOTC is strictly voluntary -- not required.)
• WorkingSolutions.com - Hires independent contractor home-agents to provide sales and customer service. Home-agents earn anywhere from $8-$20 per hour, depending on the program.
• WorkplaceLikeHome.com - An active discussion forum where you'll discover lots of job leads
• Zintro.com - Market yourself as a consultant based on your area of expertise. (Unlike other sites, Zintro requires the hiring business to put the money it intends to pay a freelancer into escrow. Once the work is completed, Zintro releases the money into the freelancer's account, generally through PayPal. )
• 2020Research.com - Market research services for professional marketing researchers, including online focus groups, hosted focus groups and online surveys.
Beware of these common ploys for work-at-home scams
Work-at-home scams are always in season, with scammers looking to empty your wallet at a time when it's already light because of unemployment or reduced hours at work. Here are a few common warning signs to look for:
- Social network are a hot spot for work-at-home danger. One company called Easy Tweet Profits claims you can make up to $873/day online. They even claim one person earned $400,000/year using their method of tweeting your way to success. The catch? By signing up for their program you agree to be charged just under $50/month! There are a whole host of other companies with similar names (usually involving "make money" or "make profits") that suggest social networking can be a cash cow. But their game is all the same. Whether you're talking about something you see on Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, Twitter or whatever's the next hot thing, you've got to be wary.
- Phony job listings on legit job-hunting websites. One fraudulent group was listing fake jobs on CareerBuilder, which is an otherwise respectable site. The group was charging a big fee for a background check before consideration of any applicants. Federal, state and local authorities received more than 17,000 complaints filed by people who were ripped off by this particular group. And that's just the number of people who found their way to complain. Who knows how many others were taken?
- Pitches to be your own boss. I'm hearing from a lot of callers who go to help-wanted sites, find an opportunity that looks good and then contact the supposed employer. It turns out to be a pitch for owning your own business, with promises of huge money. But the only ones making money are the people pushing startup kits and related costs.
Read more: Should the minimum wage be raised?
One final bit of advice before you take the leap into a work-at-home opportunity
Take an inventory of your talent, add a dash of creativity to your thinking and come up with a plan that suits you.
• Can you sew? Do alterations. Handy with crafts? How about making costume jewelry and gifts?
• If you have a good grasp of a particular subject, tutors are always needed.
• Good with a computer? Consider teaching others how to use one. You might also want to do computer work for college and graduate students. Try putting up flyers around your area as well as the local colleges and universities.
• Everyone's busy these days. Consider the needs of your friends and neighbors and provide a service that can save them time. Could they use help with errands or odd jobs? Do they need pet or child care?
The list can go on as long as you align your talents with services or products others need. Be imaginative and create a job! If you choose to go the standard work-at-home route, heed these warnings from the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.
Want more help with your next career move? Check out our Jobs section.