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Working From the Comforts of Home

You can make money without leaving your couch — like these 5 people did


spinner image People working from home
JEFF MINTON

Flexible hours, 30-second commutes — and the ultimate in business-casual clothing. No wonder so many older adults are intrigued by the idea of a job they can do at home. 

No wonder, too, that so many work-from-home scams are out there — 60 to 70 fake jobs for every legitimate listing, estimates Sara Sutton, CEO of FlexJobs, an employment search site specializing in telecommuting, part-time and freelance jobs.

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Fraudulent postings aside, technology has boosted the growth of home-based employment in recent years: FlexJobs, for one, reports that its remote job listings grew 52 percent from 2015 to 2017; the most common categories are sales, medical and health, education and training, customer service, and computer and information technology.

Interested in working from home? Be inspired by these five people, who have found ways to stay in the workforce while staying really close to home.

spinner image Paulette Weems working at a desk from home.
Jeff Minton

Virtual Assistant Enjoys Lower Stress Levels

When Paulette Weems, 57, lost her job as an executive assistant to a police chief, she wasn’t quite sure what she’d do next. “I had not had to apply for a job for 20-some years,” she says. “Just the task of putting together a résumé was intimidating.”

What she does: Weems serves as a virtual assistant for a variety of clients. She sets up meetings for a marketing communications firm, for example. She organizes a schedule for an airline pilot. She helped one client sort through 45,000 emails. “We keep those little things at bay,” she says, “so they can stick to bigger things.”

What she likes: There’s plenty of sunshine in her home office, and she has time for family. “The decrease in stress levels is unbelievable,” Weems says.

The challenges: Friends and family can be disruptive. “They know you are working from home, but they still call during the workday. They stop by to visit. I have to constantly remind them, ‘I’m working. Yes, I am home. Yes, I am wearing yoga pants. But I am working.’ ” 

The money: Weems, who works about 35 hours a week, made approximately $35,000 last year.

spinner image Jim Ratzlaff working at home with this two dogs.
Jeff Minton

Research Analyst Ditches Suit and Tie

Three years ago, Jim Ratzlaff, 69, retired after a 30-year career as a computer programmer, business analyst and application development manager for companies including Boeing and Fender Musical Instruments. But he wasn’t feeling useful. Even worse, he and his wife “started to eat through our savings,” Ratzlaff says. “And we needed a new car.”

What he does: Working remotely for a sales and marketing support firm, he researches leads for the marketing campaigns his company does on behalf of clients, and he writes for those campaigns. 

“I work about four hours a day Monday to Friday, but it’s flexible,” Ratzlaff says. “I started as a digital marketing administrator putting together marketing emails.” 

What he likes: “I get to work on a variety of things that fall within my skill set,” he says, including research, analysis and writing. Plus, he says, “I don’t have to drive to work or dress up.” 

The challenges: “As an independent contractor, there are no insurance benefits, but I’m on Medicare,” he says. “Since I work remotely, there’s no company picnic, but I don’t really miss that sort of thing.”

How he landed the job: He signed up with a job search site. “The hardest part was narrowing my search to what I wanted to do,” Ratzlaff says.

The money: Ratzlaff earns roughly $16,000 annually.

spinner image Norma Oquendo working by the pool at home.
Jeff Minton

Insurance Rater Breaks Out of Comfort Zone

Norma Oquendo was 62 when her prior employer closed its doors. “I wasn’t ready to stop working,” she says. “I still had a lot left in me to contribute, and Social Security doesn’t pay my mortgage.”

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What she does: Oquendo, 69, provides insurance-rate quotes to insurance agents who work with businesses such as convenience stores and hotels. The agents send her applications, which she checks for missing information. After an insurer quotes a price for coverage, she finds out whether the customer wants to proceed. 

What she likes: New software for her work is continually rolling out, and Oquendo enjoys learning how to use it. “You can’t be stuck in old ways of doing things,” she says.

The challenges: “I miss the interaction with coworkers,” Oquendo says. “No paid vacations is a concern. And if you do take a vacation, who is going to do the work you’ve been doing?”

How she landed the job: Suspecting age discrimination in her traditional job hunt, she sought out an age-blind job with Work at Home Vintage Experts (WAHVE). “They valued my experience,” she says.

The money: Oquendo, who works 35 hours a week, makes $17 an hour.

spinner image Diana Hood working at a desk from home.
Jeff Minton

Online High School English Teacher

Diana Hood, 60, retired in 2013 after 33 years as an English teacher and school librarian in Texas. Nearly a year later, she set up shop in her daughter’s old bedroom. 

What she does: Hood teaches English literature to 200 seniors in public high schools across Texas who, for one reason or another, are studying at home and not attending a local school. Her work involves a virtual class, tutoring sessions, and constant communication with students via email and phone calls.

What she likes: “I can talk to kids one-on-one without worrying about kids going nuts behind me,” Hood says. 

The challenge: The physical distance, in some cases. “I can’t say, ‘Sit in that desk and finish that.’ You have to rethink how you motivate kids.”

The money: Around $50,000 for a 10-month school year, which is on par with the surrounding school districts.

spinner image Leslie Bailey-Clarke working from a desk at home.
Jeff Minton

Insurance Account Manager Gains Family Time

Leslie Bailey-Clarke, 53, started working in the insurance business right out of college in 1987. After stints in customer service, sales and management, she’s now working out of a guest room turned office in her home. “I wanted to spend more time with my teenage daughter,” she says.

What she does: An independent contractor and licensed insurance agent, Bailey-Clarke works with her client’s existing customers — providing proof of insurance on their behalf and renewing their existing contracts. She welcomes the solitude after the seven years she spent working as a branch manager. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the quiet,” she says. “I usually have some classical jazz music playing quietly. It is a very restful, peaceful day for me.”

What she likes: The flexibility. “I’m here for my daughter, to go to her basketball games.” 

The challenge: It’s a part-time job with no overtime, so that limits how much Bailey-Clarke can make. 

How she landed the job: “I discovered Work at Home Vintage Experts through an online search. It was a rigorous vetting process, but worth it. Once I was accepted in their database, they matched me with a job that offered the hours I want.” 

The money: Bailey-Clarke works around 30 hours a week for $20. She also spends several hours a week giving voice and piano lessons to aspiring actors, actresses, public speakers and performers.

spinner image Diana Hood working at a desk from home.
Jeff Minton

Online English Teacher Connects One-on-One

Diana Hood, 60, retired in 2013 after 33 years as an English teacher and school librarian in Texas. Nearly a year later, she set up shop in her daughter’s old bedroom. 

What she does: Hood teaches English literature to 200 seniors in public high schools across Texas who, for one reason or another, are studying at home and not attending a local school. Her work involves a virtual class, tutoring sessions, and constant communication with students via email and phone calls.

What she likes: “I can talk to kids one-on-one without worrying about kids going nuts behind me,” Hood says. 

The challenge: The physical distance, in some cases. “I can’t say, ‘Sit in that desk and finish that.’ You have to rethink how you motivate kids.”

The money: Around $50,000 for a 10-month school year, which is on par with the surrounding school districts.

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