Two years ago, I started out on my own as a Virtual Assistant. It was a leap of faith–and it is exactly what I hoped for in a work at home dream. But being a Virtual Assistant isn’t how I started out with working from home.
My first real introduction to working at home happened almost 10 years ago when I landed my first job taking customer service calls from a makeshift desk in my bedroom. Over the last ten years, I’ve worked a variety of work at home jobs for different companies, and I’ve talked to lots of women who wish they could earn something–even a little bit!–from home. Like me, many of them aren’t into direct sales or just don’t have the personality to push product effectively.
Helping women find their niche in the work at home world is a passion of mine. While I absolutely love being a Virtual Assistant, building any kind of business takes hard work and time. I’ve been in the position where I didn’t have the time to wait for six months or a year while I grew a client base and started actually bringing in reliable money every month. We needed the money now, not eventually.
I get asked about where I’ve worked and how to get started dozens of times over the years, and these companies and resources are the ones I share often.
This is where my own quest to find my way in the work at home world took me. I have no affiliation with any of these companies and am simply sharing my personal experiences and how I made it work for us. My hope is that for those of you who are standing on the brink and not sure how to get in, this will give you some solid direction to go forward with.
West At Home (Now Alorica At Home)
My very first job–the one I worked from a corner in my bedroom- was through a company called West at Home (now called alorica at home). I had absolutely no experience in retail, customer service, or any related field. I did have good computer skills, and apparently my “phone voice” was satisfactory enough to land me an interview. Basically, this was the easiest company of the ones I applied to get into. I had to get a landline set up and buy a phone with a massive battery life and a good headset. The pay was not wonderful, but as much as I would have made at most of the box stores in town. I believe it may have changed to minimum wage at some point, which has gotten better in the last few years in some states. West at Home offers services to a lot of big companies in the USA and Canada, and if you are hired, you may have the option to pick between a couple companies, and eventually certify for more than one.
Pros were that it was extremely flexible. During the fall and winter, I would have my pick of hours and could set my entire week as I wanted. Cons, the hours were grabbed first come, first serve. If you missed the initial time when the hours were posted out, you had to pick from what was left. During the non-holiday season, sometimes this meant that there weren’t very many hours to choose from if you were only certified for taking calls for one company. Theoretically, being certified with a couple companies could have taken care of this problem.
I worked as a Customer Service Rep for a prominent toy and baby supply store. I got the calls that the land stores didn’t want to deal with often, and sometimes it was rough. You have to be resilient, positive and know your stuff. The good news is you have access to a lot of information, and all of my managers were wonderful. I eventually was promoted to a manager position myself. I got married shortly after, and could no longer work with West at Home as they didn’t offer jobs to the state I moved to.
I had also trained to take orders for a flower delivery company. I worked this during the holidays for a few weeks. It was not quite as intense as customer service, but sometimes more tedious and I really disliked upselling.
Overall: West at Home is a good starting point. It will give you experience that can help a lot in getting some of the “better” jobs out there that hire home-based agents.
After Scott and I both lost our jobs at the aircraft company and relocated to Tennessee, I spent a while without any internet access. I finally was able to get set up and Convergys was my second experience working for a company out of my home.
Convergys had the best pay and perks of any of the companies I ended up working with. They also had a much more intensive training program which helped me feel prepared for the hectic holiday season and to know exactly what I would be doing. If I remember right, there were some insurance options and some other perks for working with Convergys. The biggest plus for me when I decided to apply to work with Convergys was that I didn’t need a landline. Everything was done right through my computer. All I needed was a USB headset and high speed internet. This helped keep my initial cost and monthly cost down significantly. Another plus was that you could pick your preferred block of hours, and your number of hours you worked was set each week. So no scrambling to try to make sure I filled up my work week! This meant less flexibility (getting time off was basically the same as if I worked a real job: talk to a supervisor and try to find someone to trade or pick up your hours. This was not a guarantee that you’d be able to find anyone to take your hours and sometimes was difficult to work out). I ended up working the graveyard shift. I got up at 11 pm and worked from 12 am- 9 or 10 am. That was absolutely brutal for me as a morning person! But the trade off was that I got Saturdays off- a non-negotiable for me as a Sabbath keeper.
I primarily worked taking orders for a very well known fruit of the month type company. It was a combination of customer service and data entry type work. It wasn’t strictly sales, but I was prompted (and required) to try to upsell the product on each order. I won’t lie. Upselling was really hard for my personality. But it was fun to help people pick out gifts and make suggestions of things that their loved ones would enjoy. The hardest part? I don’t drink and am not familiar with all the fancy wines. Thank goodness for a great, searchable database which helped me with some pairing suggestions or I’d have ended up looking like a fool more than once. Later on, I had several more positions offered to me. Unfortunately, all of those required weekend working and eventually I needed to take a break from graveyards for personal reasons.
Overall: I would recommend trying to get on with Convergys. If you need steady hours you can count on, a little higher pay (or it was when I was working, at least!) and don’t have a landline, it’s a really good option. If you don’t mind inbound sales calls (typically for phone companies.), there are even more options you could work and a really good choice for getting started from home while still having some reliable income.
I got recruited to work for Apple twice. I loved their training program, and it looked like they had great hours. However, I didn’t have an apple computer. At the time, I think they provided a computer for a fee each month, but for various reasons, I didn’t end up taking the jobs. But I liked what I saw and their pay was actually really decent for this kind of job as well. I do think you may be an independent contractor vs an employee with Apple. This means you are responsible for your own taxes completely if I’m not mistaken.
I think you no longer have to actually own an apple computer to work for them. If I was in the market to work for a company, I would be applying there too.
When I was saving up for my wedding, I did a lot of little side jobs. Much of what I did then was a good foundation for my Virtual Assistant business now. But I actually paid for a couple things just from the income I made testing websites for other people with Usertesting.com. The pros of doing user testing is you can do a quick job in your spare time. It takes 20 minutes to review the site, and you earn $10. That’s pretty good! The con is you aren’t going to be able to sit there and get jobs all day or even every day. There are only so many in the queue and then only so many you’ll qualify for. You can only grab one at a time, and so you have to decide quickly if it’s one you’ll be good at. Sometimes I’d get 5 jobs in a day. Other times it’d be a few weeks before I got anything. But it fell into the odd job category I could do whenever I got the chance and it was interesting to do website reviews.
It was helpful that I had a background in web design for some of them, but all you need is a good headset and good internet. You need to be able to speak clearly and not have a lot of background noise or you’ll get bad ratings and that can cost you your account. Since you’re uploading a video file,
Since you’re uploading a video file, slow internet makes it hard to get the job done. You have 1 hour from the time you accept the job to the time you have to submit your review or it goes back into the pool. Since I sometimes had to record my review twice (Hello random and unexpected sneezing attack!), I do recommend making sure you can get that uploaded in time.
I’ve applied to many companies over the years. Some of them I’ve gone through the hiring process for but didn’t end up working any of their lines for various reasons. All of them I know to be legitimate and they are worth checking out.
More Lead Resources
There are lots of scams out there. It’s not easy to discern between the real and the fake. I found a couple of places that helped me be sure that the places I applied were legitimate and not another scam to either flood me with junk mail or try to steal money from me.
- RatRaceRebellion.com -lots and lots of leads and information. It was often my first stop in my job search and where I point most people who are looking for jobs!
- WorkPlaceLikeHome.com – leads and discussion by people in the business. Be aware that while it is a good place to get information, people who have a bone to pick with companies go in there and trash talk a lot too. But it’s helpful for finding leads of home based positions that are currently hiring and to ask questions about the process.
Disclosure: I am not affiliated in any way with any of these companies. I’m not getting paid to promote them. This is simply a statement of my personal experiences during the time I spent working for other companies. It is meant as inspiration and encouragement for the people out there who would like to work from home but aren’t able to start their own business for one reason or another.