The phrase "work at home" used to make me think "scam." I'd see signs saying, "Make $1,000 a day stuffing envelopes" and knew this was too good to be true.
Times have changed: No longer are these sorts of scams a perennial on the Federal Trade Commission's list of Top 10 Consumer Complaints. In fact, finding legitimate work you can do in your pajamas is more possible than ever before. Check out these promising new options.
1. Let your fingers do the working
If you are a wiz with a word processor, consider work with a transcription service, such as Rev.com. To apply, you need to take a test by transcribing an audio file. If you're accepted (only about half of applicants are), you can decide what and how much work to take on. You get paid based on the length of the audio files (in minutes), so the faster you type, the more money you can make. A good typist can earn as much as $100 a day.
2. Tap your expertise
Experts in a particular field — computer technicians or lawyers, for example — may want to try Pearl.com, where you can answer questions from consumers or businesses. Customers pay an average of $30 to have their question answered. About half the fee goes to the expert, half to the site. Applicants must take a subject matter test and submit to a background check. Only 5 percent of those who apply are accepted.
3. Teach, virtually
Some 6.7 million students take at least one college course a semester — and the market has barely been tapped. That's translated to an uptick in opportunities for online teaching at places like Johns Hopkins and the University of Phoenix, says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, a job-search site. You can also find nonuniversity-based teaching jobs at education and technology companies. Be sure to brush up your LinkedIn profile, she says. You can also apply directly to an online school by going to its website.
4. Use your social skills
If you like to talk, look into call-center positions. FlexJobs' Sutton Fell notes that such work is often needed round-the-clock — good news for early risers and insomniacs. Don't limit your search to your own state; a lot of call centers are located in Utah and Georgia. The travel and hospitality fields tend to have more open positions. When searching, use terms like "call center," "customer service" and "customer support." You'll need a dedicated phone line and Internet access.
Jean Chatzky, best-selling author, journalist and money editor at NBC'sToday, is AARP's financial ambassador. With additional reporting by Arielle O'Shea.
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