Working From Home: A Beginner's Guide

Before You Begin

You've decided you want to learn a living from home. Wonderful! Working from home is an immensely rewarding venture, and allows more freedom and control than traditional jobs. It is also, however, a lot of work, and requires self-discipline, knowledge, and research.

Before you dive in, take the time to ask yourself some important questions, and learn about your options. What works for someone else may not work for you, and it's vital that you know what will be required of you, and what results you can expect.

A few things you need to ask yourself and consider:

  • How much money do I want to make, and how much time am I willing to invest?
  • What skills, talents, and qualities do I possess?
  • Do I have an audience I can market to? How can I develop one?
  • How much money can I afford to invest in this?
  • What will I require to be successful (for example: a home office, craft supplies, a printer, a reliable vehicle, a business licence, an affordable mobile phone plan)?
  • What would I enjoy doing, and what would I not enjoy doing?

Once you have a general idea of what you are skilled in, would enjoy, and can afford to invest a little time and money in, choosing a work from home venture becomes a lot easier.

Survey sites and associate programs can easily supplement one's income.
Survey sites and associate programs can easily supplement one's income. | Source

Know Your Options

In this day and age, there are countless work from home opportunities. Some are better than others, some require less time than others, some are great as income supplements but not as full-time jobs, while others pay a living wage but require a lot of time and effort. The most common are:

  1. Direct Sales. If you've spent more than five seconds on Facebook, you're likely aware of companies like Younique, Scentsy, PartyLite, GelMoments, and Avon (yes, that's still a thing). All of these ventures are alike in that you are an independent representative, selling the products these companies offer, and earning a profit on what you sell. Direct selling can be a fairly lucrative enterprise, if you are the type of person who enjoys socializing, isn't shy about promotion, and wants to be their own boss.

    Upsides: For those who put a lot of effort into it, direct sales can be one of the better paying options. And, because these are established, successful companies, they make it easy to promote yourself via social media, professional website profiles, annual and semi-annual sales, and special products.

    Downsides: Depending on the company you choose to join, you may have to make an initial investment, and will be encouraged to try to get others to become sellers, making it feel a little like a pyramid scheme (though with much better results, to be fair!). Also to be considered is that if you take the idea of "work from home" really literally, this may not be for you. The most successful direct-salespeople often deliver their own products, make regular trips to the post office, and travel to local fairs, markets, and shows.

    Pro-tip: people who genuinely like the product they are selling are much more likely to succeed.

  2. Surveys & Market Research. Advertising is a bizillionty (approx.) dollar industry, and a lot of that money goes back into researching what people want, and what types of advertising works best on them. Anyone with an internet connection, an hour or so of free time a day, and a willingness to provide a bit of personal information to a faceless company can earn a surprising amount of money doing so. Most of these sites involve answering surveys about products and spending habits; others ask you to record and enter each purchase you make over a set period of time.

    Upsides: Survey sites are abundant, and many have proven trustworthy and well-paying. Joining a few of these sites and checking in daily can earn one a few hundred dollars a month. Best of all, most take only a few minutes to fill out, so they can be done during slow periods at your day job, during your daily commute, during your morning coffee at home, or during the commercials of your favourite show.

    Downsides: Unless you're willing to treat this as a normal, full-time job and devote 8 hours a day to it, survey sites will not replace a traditional job. They can provide a cushion and supplement your income nicely, but it's unlikely you'll ever become a professional survey-taker.

    Pro-Tip: Those who join a handful of trustworthy sites make a lot more than those who join large numbers of lesser-known sites.

  3. Ad & Associate Programs. If you already run a website, social media page, or just really enjoy talking about books, music, or products you love, this can be a great way to earn a little extra cash. With very little effort, you can place links to merchandise within your own website text, blog post, or social media text, or add banners to your header or footer, and earn a little money anytime someone clicks a link or buys a product you've promoted.

    Upsides: By far, the largest benefit to this is how incredibly simple and not even remotely time-consuming it is. Adding links and ads to your own site takes seconds, promoting books and music you genuinely like is effortless, and asking people who already shop on the sites you have joined to use your link is easy even for those of us who hate promotion.

    Downsides: Like survey sites, these programs aren't likely to completely replace your need for a steady paycheque. While some have been hugely successful, most will only make, at best, a couple hundred a month.

  4. Self-Employment. The most serious of all work-from-home ventures, self-employment goes beyond selling another company's products, giving someone else your opinion, or advertising someone else's services. Self-employment means selling your own product or service, and being in charge of your own promotion. While this is certainly the most difficult work from home opportunity, it's also undoubtedly the most rewarding. Not only can you work whenever and wherever you want, you can set your own prices, your own schedule, and your own principles. Best of all, you can do what you love, and make a living doing it.

    Upsides: Self-employment gives you almost total freedom and control over your career, and allows you to do what you love. Like knitting? You can start a business. Skilled wordsmith? You can start a business. Talented jewelry maker, painter, potter, seamstress/tailor? You can start a business. Anyone with a distinct skill can become an entrepreneur, and succeed.

    Downsides: Without the back-up of an established company, promoting oneself becomes a lot more difficult. Those who truly hope to succeed must be willing to devote a lot of time to researching marketing techniques, social media, promotion, as well as the wants, needs, and budget of their target group. A small start-up fee should also be anticipated: materials, business licenses, website creation, business cards, and promotional material will all need consideration.

    Pro-tip: Do what you love, but research your audience. Don't try selling beef to cows just because you love beef.

Learn How To Brand Yourself

If you're anything like me, the words "brand yourself" make you want to delete your website and cry in a corner, but, sad as it may be, creating a recognizable logo or writing a clever tagline is vital in succeeding as an independent entrepreneur. If you opt to sign on with a direct sales company, survey sites, or ad programs, a lot of that will be taken care of for you, but for those who decide to open their own business or do a lot of self-promotion, branding will become very important.

Thankfully, branding in this day and age does not have to be a morally repugnant venture. Simply knowing what colours and shapes most appeal to the masses can be the difference between success and failure. Beyond that, branding often just means knowing your audience, and wording your presentation wisely. The below links offer plenty of sensible, reasonable, and respectable advice:

Personal Branding 101

10 Colors That Increase Sales

5 Things Product Packaging Must Do

8 Self-Promotion Tips For Shy People

7 Ways to Self-Promote Without Selling Out

A strong logo is vital in promoting any venture you take on.
A strong logo is vital in promoting any venture you take on. | Source

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Know What to Expect

Whatever work from home venture you choose to join in on, it is important that you know what to expect. Some, like direct sales and self-employment, can turn into full time jobs that generate enough income to fully support yourself; others, like survey sites and ad programs, can generously supplement your income but not replace it. Researching your options, and self-evaluation if of utmost importance. Whatever it is you decide to do, know that with the right information, audience, and approach, you can make a living from home.

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