Is There a Legitimate Way to Work From Home?

Article Summary: 
Tag and Catherine, authors of
Dream Careers and founders of, answer the question: How can a mom find legitimate ways to work from home? 

Dear Tag and Catherine,
I need to be at home with our children yet I need to earn an income. I know there are other women in the same situation as myself. Do you have any suggestions on how we can find legitimate work at home employment that doesn't require paying a fee? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Cindy,
The benefits of working from home shouldn't be rocket science, but it took a NASA spacecraft designer named Jack Nilles to start convincing employers of the benefits of hiring "teleworkers" (his books include 1994's Making Telecommuting Happen). 

Despite the efforts of Nilles and others to show employers that telecommuting (having employees work from a remote location such as home) is good for productivity as well as the environment, companies have not embraced telecommuting as enthusiastically as workers have.

A 2005 study for the International Telework Association found that out of 135.4 million American workers, 45.1 million had worked from home. However, that doesn't mean 33% of jobs are home-based. It simply means lots of people have occasionally taken work home. (The same study found more than 20 million people claimed to have worked from their cars!)

In fact, there are many more people looking for telecommuting positions than there are positions available. But that's true of virtually every dream career. So while you can use traditional job search methods such as searching job ads to look for work you can do from home, you should also consider creating a job or starting your own home-based business.

If you want to go the route of searching job ads, check out sites such as or The former has a list of no-fee work at home opportunities while the latter has a free basic membership where you can search for work. makes either a 5% or 10% project fee which is subtracted from the total amount an employer pays you. The challenge is that most of the jobs offered are short-term contracts that go to the lowest bidder, so it's unlikely to be as lucrative as an ongoing position.

You can also try looking for "telecommuting" positions anywhere else jobs are advertised, whether in your local newspaper, at, or even occasionally at major job sites like CareerBuilder, Monster, and Yahoo! HotJobs. However, even legitimate job boards may advertise work at home opportunities that are not legitimate.

The Federal Trade Commission warns that work-at-home schemes that are unlikely to deliver on their promises include medical billing, envelope stuffing, assembly, or craft work. If an employer is offering something that sounds "too good to be true," ask yourself why. For example, why would a business owner pay anyone a dollar for each envelope stuffed when they could hire someone to stuff dozens of envelopes an hour for minimum wage?

The Federal Trade Commission suggests a series of questions you should ask if you have doubts about whether or not an opportunity is legitimate: 

* What tasks will I have to perform? 
* Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commission? 
* Who will pay me? 
* When will I get my first paycheck? 
* What is the total cost of the work-at-home program, including supplies, equipment and membership fees? 

Of course if you're applying for a job with a well-known company, it's fine to ask questions during an interview, but replying to an ad for a legitimate job with a list of questions will not help you land an interview.

Instead of looking for an advertised job, you might be able to "create" a work at home job by contacting your previous employers with a proposal to work for them from your home. Or you may be able to create a new position with a new employer. Lisa Jelinek, a FabJob contractor who works at home herself, says:

"Your at-home job opportunity may be right under your nose. One excellent example of this is my friend Nan who absolutely loved going to karate class with her son. Nan was inadvertently attracting more and more business to the karate studio from her large circle of friends. She realized she was bringing in a fair amount of income for the owner and approached him for a sales position. She now works part-time out of her home for the karate studio. She is able to contribute to her family financially and she and her son both enjoy the benefit of free karate tuition." 

Read our article on how to create a dream job for more ideas.

Finally, consider starting your own home-based business. Among the popular choices for moms visiting are: Bed and Breakfast Owner, Caterer, Children's Book Author, Children's Party Planner, Daycare Owner, Doula, Etiquette Consultant, Event Planner, Fashion Designer, Florist, Image Consultant, Jewelry Designer, Life Coach, Makeup Artist, Travel Consultant, and Wedding Planner
[Editor's Note: You may also be interested in the following Guides: Home Stager or Redesigner, Professional Organizer, Public Relations Consultant, Travel Writer, and Yoga Teacher.]

Depending on your local business bylaws, some of these businesses (such as applying makeup, coaching, or consulting) may allow you to do virtually all your work at home, having clients come to you. Other businesses could allow you to do much of your work at home while earning enough to afford child care for those times when you're away from home doing work that you love.

About the authors: 
Tag and Catherine Goulet are authors of Dream Careers and founders of FabJob Inc. Visit to discover how to break into the career of your dreams. 
Published with permission from Visit to discover how to break into the career of your dreams.