What Work Can I Do from Home?

Working from home is the dream of so many people, yet so few know exactly what it is they want to do. Working from home is possible, as those of us who already do so can attest, but it takes a lot of work and planning. Until you can answer this one question, you can’t even begin to plan.

The phone rings mid-day and it’s an old friend – a stay-at-home mom who needs some extra income. I get the big question: What kind of work can I do from home? “Oh, I don’t know,” I stupidly quip, “How about the dishes?”

The question is awkward. I write a column about home business and working from home – I’ve been writing it for years, and the best answer I have to the question – what work can I do from home – is, “I have no idea what work you can do from home, but stay away from stuffing envelopes.”

The problem is that the question is HUGE. Too huge to answer without a number of lengthy conversations. The real answer could take weeks, months, even years to answer effectively. Even the simplest breakdown of the question is difficult. I ask, “What do you want? To find a work-at-home job? Or do you want to start a business?”

This question leaves most people speechless. And we’re talking very smart people with plenty of years of post graduate education. After a few moments of awkward silence, I get the weak response, “I guess I could do it as a job.”

Do what?

Then comes the dreadful question: “What do you think of stuffing envelopes?” Now I know my poor friend has slipped into deep and scary waters. Rational thought has completely vanished. Machines stuff envelopes at the rate of 10 for a penny. Doesn’t everyone know that?

Nobody wants to hear the real answer to the question, what work can I do from home. The quickest road to successful home-based income is through a purchased franchise. Most people are dumbfounded by the answer. The thought conjures a disturbing vision of a Subway stand out in the front yard. There’s a long silence. Then my friend goes terribly vague and says, “Well, I guess I better not send away for the envelope stuffing kit.” There are a few mumbles about thanks for your help and the call’s over.

Most of these calls come during that fuzzy period between the uncomfortable realization that they need more income and the acceptance of the fact that they’re really going to have to plop the baby in daycare and drive off to a job they really don’t want at all.

Working from home is entirely possible, but it takes work and planning to make it happen. That simple question – do you want a job or do you want to launch a business – is very, very big. You can’t have any ambiguity about it. You can’t take one step forward until you clearly answer that question.

The crux of the decision is money and credit. If you want to start a business you need money. You also need to accept the fact that you’re going to spend countless hours each day building the business. Yes, you can do it while taking care of kids – I can testify – but it’s not easy, and unless you buy an at-home franchise – and there are many – you will walk into some terribly nerve-jarring risk. Franchises are not nearly as risky, but they cost money and they require just as much work as any other start-up.

If you want a job, your options are much more limited. If you have a solid profession that can be practiced from home – tax accounting, even journalism – your chances of getting a decent work-at-home job are reasonable, even if slight. To get there, it will take considerable research and daily attention to job sites and professional postings.

There is one simple answer to the question, what work can I do from home. You can go about the difficult and time-consuming work to learn what’s out there for you – be it job or business. The market changes constantly, and I have no idea what’s out there for you right now. But if you’re doggedly determined and you’re willing to do the heavy lifting of deep research, I believe you’ll find something.

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