1. Customer Service Representative
The nitty-gritty: You must have an up-to-date computer (usually a PC), a high-speed Internet connection, a dedicated land-line for your use while working, a telephone headset and a quiet place to work.
In general, you're answering incoming calls, taking new orders and tracking existing orders. In some cases, you'll troubleshoot and help out with technical support. Online chat sessions and e-mail may be part of the job. You'll need the ability to toggle seamlessly between several computer screen windows at a time. Employers usually offer paid training sessions.
The solitary work demands a good dose of "get up and go" gumption and discipline to keep from being distracted. It's not a bad idea to brush up on yoga stretches to do at your desk between customers. And don't skimp on buying a comfortable, ergonomically safe chair and headset. Remember, it's tax-deductible if you're an independent contractor.
Potential employers, including Hilton Hotels, American Airlines and 1-800-flowers, might hire directly. Others use third-party companies, which then hire home-based workers. In addition to Alpine, other virtual call center operators include Convergys, LiveOps.com, Arise.com, WestatHome.com and WorkingSolutions.
The hours: Full time, part time and split shifts are available. Employers may require at least 20 hours a week, plus weekend slots.
Median pay range: The typical hourly rate is about $9, but workers can earn more than $20 an hour with incentives and bonuses. Some firms provide health, vision and dental benefits, or access to group plan rates. Paid vacation and matching 401(k) plans may be a perk, but you'll have to clock in enough hours to be eligible.
Qualifications: Job descriptions typically call for customer care or technical support experience. Think broadly. Prior experience in a retail store, as a bank teller or in sales might suffice. Typically, an online test and a phone interview are required. Background, drug and credit checks are standard. Some firms charge $30 to $45 for the screens.