1. Computing

How to Become a Telecommuter or Find a Work-from-Home Job

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Want to work at home but prefer the safety of a steady paycheck versus starting your own business? Getting a telecommuting or telework position may just be the ticket for you: nix the commute and let your employer handle the company sales and administration.

If you're like the 38% of U.S. employees who don't currently telecommute but have jobs that can be done remotely, you may even be able to set up a work-from-home arrangement with your current employer and telecommute at least part of the week. Here are the best places to look and steps to take to become a telecommuter.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Look to your current employer. Often the best place to get a telecommuting position is at the company you are already with: you've already established a relationship with this employer and -- although working from home will be a bit different and require some transition -- you already have in-depth knowledge of how to do your job. Also, many organizations won't allow telecommuting until you've established a proven track record at the company.

    First, make sure your job duties and occupation are appropriate for telecommuting. If they are, skip the rest of the steps below and go straight to how to negotiate a remote work arrangement.

  2. Research potential new employers that are telecommuting-friendly. If you're looking for a new job, seek out those that have telework programs or are known to let their employees work from home. In general, these are usually large corporations (they have the resources to allow telework and want to attract the best talent) and small companies (they want to attract and keep the best talent). Keep in mind that most organizations decide on telecommuting possibilities on a case-by-case basis and may want you to work at the office before letting you telecommute.

    More: List of Top Companies for Telecommuting.

  3. Check out job listings that specify you can work from home. Some jobs listings are targeted toward people who want to work from home. The most important thing to remember when viewing these kinds of job listings is to avoid the terrible plethora of work-at-home scams, which will end up costing you money rather than paying you to work. About.com's Guide to Job Searching has a useful article on how to avoid work-at-home scams, which you should definitely read before searching for a work-from-home position.

    There are dedicated sites for telework job listings (many require a subscription or service fee), but you can also use general job listing directories that allow you to search nationwide and for the keywords "telecommuting", "telecommute", and "telework" ("work at home" and "work from home" may have more scammers). If the site allows, you can also search for "telecommut*" and "telework*" -- add the asterisk to include variations of these terms in the search results. Here are a few links to get you started:

    • Indeed.com search for "telecommut*" and "telework*"
    • Monster.com search for "telecommuting", "telecommute", "telecommuter", and "telework*"
    • Flexjobs.com: hand-screened telecommuting and online jobs -- possibly the best of its kind. To access their directory of over 2,000 jobs, as well as resources like company backgrounds and daily updates, it's $14.95 per month or $49.95 per year.
    • Tjobs.com: another paid work-from-home jobs directory, but this one includes many freelance (i.e., self-employed) positions in addition to some telecommuting jobs. The interface is a bit outdated, but they offer job-seeking resources, are certified by the Better Business Bureau, and the cost is $15 per year.

    More: About.com's Home Business site has instructions for finding legitimate work-from-home jobs and also regularly posts new available telecommuting positions -- definitely worth a visit.

  4. Tailor your job application and resume to showcase telecommuting skills. The qualities employers look for in telecommuters include self-motivation, responsibility, excellent communication skills, and comfort with technology. Make sure your resume shows how you've used these traits in previous jobs, and be prepared to display your knowledge of the pros and cons of telecommuting at your interview. If you have experience telecommuting (or significant time working remotely), be sure that is listed on your resume as well -- that may be the most convincing point on a telecommuter's resume.

  5. Get equipped and up to speed on technology and communication. Although some companies provide computer equipment to their telecommuting employees, not all do. You can get a leg up by having at least the basic equipment needed for working from home. If you can prove strong typing skills and computer abilities (e.g., show computer class certificates) and know how to communicate effectively using email, phone, and IM, use web conferencing, and collaborate with others virtually, your telecommuting application will be stronger.

Tips:

  1. Don't worry if your employer doesn't have a formal telecommuting program in place. Suggest to your supervisor working from home on a part-time or trial basis to start.
  2. If you're willing to relocate, you may get better luck finding a work-from-home position (at least part-time) in one of the top cities for telecommuting.
  3. If you know in advance that you only want a work-from-home position, state so upfront in the cover letter/interview, but do so explaining the benefits for both you and the employer and reinforce how you can perform the job even better working from home. If your skills set is in demand and you are a highly qualified candidate, you can use telecommuting -- at least part time -- as a bargaining chip.
  4. Make sure the prospective employer knows you want to succeed at the job and contribute to the company -- don't give the impression that working from home is your primary motivation. Focus on your skills and your ability to accomplish the job.
  5. Follow best practices for general job searching -- see About.com's Job Searching site for more guidance in this area.

What You Need

  • Patience
  • Determination
  • Skills suited for a job that can be done remotely

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