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April 22, 2004
“Survey Says….!” Telecommuting Ranks High On Job Seekers’ List
By Pamela La Gioia

It’s tough to find employment in today’s job market, especially if a person lacks a formal education or has minimal work experience. Still, even without such background deficits, attempts to find home-based employment may be fruitless at best, financially and emotionally draining at worst.

According to the International Telework Association and Council (ITAC) of Washington, D.C., there are more than 19.6 million people who reportedly work from home (1999). The ITAC estimates that by 2010, there will be around forty million people working part- or full-time from their homes. (http://www.jala.com)

Sage Research, Inc. reported that companies will continue to initiate telecommuting programs. The use of remote workers will become a necessity as overhead costs continue to rise. (http://www.sageresearch.com/)

Yet, even though the trend of telecommuting (working from home) has steadily grown over the past two decades, it remains an untapped benefit for the majority of North America’s workforce. This makes many job seekers ask: “Where are the companies that allow individuals to work from home? What does it take to land a home-based job?”

With a bit of thorough research, this information can be found. Without proper research, however, there are plenty of unscrupulous people trying to make a lot of money from others’ need to find home-based work. Through tricky advertising they take millions of dollars from the very individuals who are trying to earn a living. These scammers, as they are commonly called, are all too aware of how desperately people want to earn a paycheck from their homes. And their target market grows by leaps and bounds every year.

Compared to the amount of misinformation out there, the amount of reliable information about working from home seems scarce. That’s why it’s important to search it out and take advantage of it when it becomes available.

To learn what it is like trying to find and actually land a telecommuting job, Telework Recruiting, Inc. surveyed dozens of people who frequent online E-mail groups that focus on telecommuting issues. The results of this survey will help give job seekers an understanding of what’s involved in a search for a telecommuting position. These results should also help employers realize the value that having a telecommuting option has for so many candidates.

Although telecommuting is a work option that increases each year across North America, it is still not the norm. According to Telework Recruiting, Inc.’s survey, the average length of time a job seeker spends searching for a position that allows telecommuting is two years. For individuals who want to start out with a new company as a teleworker, it can take longer than for those who try to persuade their current companies to allow them to telecommute full- or part-time.

The number-one reason survey respondents believe that it takes so long to find telecommuting work with a new company is that they simply can’t find legitimate companies to work for. Their research usually takes them to companies offering bogus job opportunities or scams. These supposed hiring companies either want people to pay for information about the job or to file an application or, they want people to perform idiotic activities such as sending spam E-mail or posting advertisements all over the Internet.

The second reason is that they believe companies are afraid to trust them to perform their work from home. Despite numerous studies that indicate that teleworkers are actually more productive, it still seems to be a concern for employers that home-based employees will be sitting around watching television, rather than working.

The third top reason people feel they can’t find work from home employment is there are simply too many people competing for the few telecommuting opportunities that are out there. This may be true, which only reinforces the point of how it is important for job seekers to invest in creating a top-notch resume and to continually hone their skills.

Other reasons attributed to the inability to find telecommuting opportunities include:

-- Lack of training or experience for the jobs they are seeking

-- Not being open to other types of work; that is, being too narrow in their job seeking focus

-- Not looking hard enough

-- Or not actually having a home situation conducive to telecommuting. (I.e. Having a child around that requires almost constant attention.)

For survey respondents who have been successful in finding and keeping telecommuting positions, we asked for their input on what were some factors related to their success. The number one reason they gave: Diligence. They believe they were successful mainly because they didn’t give up looking. They researched everything. As one person put it: “Leave no stone unturned.”

Another top factor for their success was having a good employment track record. These days background checks are almost always performed. (The growing number of background checking services out there evidences this.) Maintaining exceptional references by previous employers is extremely important.

The third top factor for successfully finding work from home is being able to demonstrate how they could perform their jobs from home just as well or better than if they worked onsite. However, they didn’t wait for an interview or meeting to start coming up with reasons why they felt their company should let them stay home. Each person came prepared with a proposal. A well thought-out proposal that would answer any questions or objections an employer might have. Bringing samples or examples of work already done from home was an added bonus to a proposal.

Other important elements to successfully finding work from home include:

-- Opening doors for themselves by starting out as volunteers.

-- Knowing how to network.

-- Having self-discipline and good management skills.

-- Having a supportive supervisor or manager.

Before starting any type of venture it is always helpful to be clear on what that venture is and to have a plan for that venture. Very often people decide they want to work from home (for various personal reasons), yet they aren’t sure what type of work they will do, or even if they’re suited for a telecommuting life. Our survey respondents offered some suggestions and ideas to look at before even beginning a job hunt. In order of their most common responses, these suggestions are listed below:

1) Be able to recognize a scam. If you plan to use the Internet at all for your job search, save yourself a lot of time and energy by knowing the different types of scams out there so you can bypass them altogether.

2) Locate sources of legitimate telecommuting opportunities. This, of course, is easier said than done. But it is possible.

3) Learn how to research a company. Don’t just browse a company’s web site. They won’t tell you on their site if they have a problem paying their workers, or if this is a third attempt to start this company, or if the work they have for contractors is extremely inconsistent. Look at the company from other sources, such as the Better Business Bureau, Rip Off Reports.com, message boards that focus on the type of business that you’re interested in, and even Google.com will have information about them.

4) Understand what are realistic earnings for each type of profession when performed as a telecommuter. Do not be surprised if as a counselor you made $30,000.00 at your local rehab center, but only make $10.00 as a home-based, telephonic counselor. (Approximately $19,000 a year.) Companies that use home workers know that you won’t have the usual commuting costs and work expenses. Working from home is NOT a way to get rich quick.

5) If necessary, get resume assistance. If you think you have a great resume, look at resumes of other people and compare. Chances are you could use a resume expert to write one up for you. Remember: Your resume will be what determines whether or not you even get in the door to make a proposal for telecommuting.

6) Be sure you have an up-to-date home office. Up-to-date does not have to mean “top of the line”, “super expensive”. It means that you must have: a computer with at least WIN98, a fax machine, a printer, and usually high-speed Internet access. None of these things are luxuries anymore. They are basics. Also, part of having an up-to-date home office is actually having a workspace that is separate from the rest of the house. The dining room table will not do.

7) Know the realities of a telecommuting life. Some most common ones are: constant interruptions by children or non-work-related phone calls, and distractions of the home such as laundry or the lawn. For some teleworkers, they have to constantly struggle with family and friends to convince them that just because they are home, they are still at work and cannot be at everyone’s beck and call. Their time at the computer needs to be treated as work time, without interruptions.

8) Companies who hire telecommuters do so to save themselves overhead. Part of saving money is hiring independent contractors rather than employees. This eliminates the need to pay employment-related taxes such as unemployment and workers‘ compensation. This means that you will be responsible for your own taxes. Learn what it means to be an independent contractor from the IRS’s perspective.

9) Another part of a company‘s telecommuting plan is often not having to pay for benefits. Be prepared to fend for yourself when it comes to health insurance. If your husband or wife works outside the home and receives benefits, this makes things a bit easier. However, health insurance options are still something worth researching in the event you end up being responsible for obtaining healthcare for the family.

10) Finally, the life of a telecommuter can be a lonely and independent one compared to those who work in a company’s office with all the hustle and bustle of fellow workers. Not only do you not have someone close by to share the latest jokes with, but you also do not have a conveniently located person around to bounce ideas off of or discuss work-related issues.

Taking all these things into consideration, as well as all the bumps that come with finding a telecommuting position, how important is working at home for our survey respondents? On a scale of one to ten (one being the lowest), almost every one said “ten”. Having their independence makes it all worthwhile. Being able to spend more time with their family instead of on the highways outweighed any downside of telecommuting. Having a personal life, even if it wasn’t an exciting one, was of more value to them than any other benefit a company could give.

Copyright 2004, Pamela La Gioia

Pamela La Gioia is Founder and Administrator of Telework Recruiting, Inc. (http://www.teleworkrecruiting.com), a premier job-lead web site that provides thousands of job leads and job resources for the US, Canada, and the UK. She is currently writing a workbook on telecommuting, which offers step-by-step guidance on finding real home-based employment. Questions or comments are welcome and can be sent to Pamela at pam@teleworkrecruiting.com.
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