Let’s face it: the economy stinks right now. Unemployment rates have soared in recent years, and many new graduates are facing an uncertain economic future as they leave their classes and dorm rooms behind. However, for some, this dim reality may create a new opportunity to explore innovative ways to earn a living. Today, millions of Americans have retreated from traditional office environments and have set up shop from the comfort of their own homes. Even more carry on work from home on the side to supplement their normal income. In some instances, the flexibility that comes with working from home could even work for fulltime students. So, whether you’re currently employed or in school and looking for a way to earn some extra cash, or whether you’re looking for a permanent gig to help you get on your financial feet, the following information will help you figure out if working from home is a viable option for you.
What Kind of Work Can You Do from Home?
The possibilities of the kinds of work one can perform from home seem to be growing every day. Indeed, the advent of the internet has led to remarkable advances in communication, which often make the need for establishing an office away from home unnecessary. As a result, it should come as no surprise that a large portion of the jobs recent graduates are performing these days to make money from home involve the internet. Blogging, for example, has become a huge business. In addition, the computer skills of your average recent graduate typically far surpass those of your average employee in the workforce, and this disparity has opened the door for many youngsters to do general IT work. For creative types, web design can be a lucrative option. In addition, lovers of literature can put their skills to work by working as a freelance writer. And if you’re more of a visual person, a photography business can easily be operated out of the home. Tutoring and offering music lessons may allow you to put your college major to good use.
These money making ideas represent just the tip of the iceberg. Consider your strengths and talents; chances are you may be able to put those to good use and turn them into a business. Making money from home by doing something you enjoy can be extremely rewarding.
What are the Benefits of Working from Home?
- Money: Because a traditional office isn’t necessary to conduct the kind of work mentioned above, you can save yourself the financial burden of writing a monthly rent check for commercial office space. Having only one mortgage or rent payment, only one electric bill and one water bill can help you realize tremendous financial savings. In addition, you may be able to write off some of your normal expenses as tax write-offs, which you couldn’t do if you were a normal W2 employee.
- Autonomy: For many, the personal satisfaction that comes from working for yourself and calling all the shots can make the work very gratifying. That may be true for you if you have a bit of the entrepreneurial instinct.
- Flexibility: Many people dream of working from home because they assume that you can do as you please and only work whenever it’s convenient. While it’s true that those who operate at-home businesses can usually take charge of their schedules more easily than employees at a large company, being your own boss often requires a great deal of hard work and focus. In short, if you abuse the flexibility that comes with working from home, your business may fail.
- Goodbye, Road Rage: Walking down the hall from your bedroom to the computer in the office sure beats battling rush hour traffic. Avoiding a daily commute can enable you to be more productive, particularly if you live in a densely populated area where driving even short distances can take hours because of morning and afternoon traffic. It can also help you save on gas, and in many cases, your sanity.
How Do You Prepare to Work from Home?
The tools you’ll need to work from home may vary dramatically depending on your chosen vocation. For many at-home jobs, the primary prerequisites involve technology. Most importantly, you may need a computer, phone and possibly other devices to stay connected to your clients or customers. If you need much more than that, make sure to put some thought into your idea before you jump in, as upfront costs for a new business can be steep.
Before you take the plunge, you’ll also want to address the legal and tax implications of your new venture. For example, even if you’re working solo on your project, you may want to incorporate your business, set up a limited liability company, or formally organize yourself in another way. Laws vary from state to state, so consulting an attorney knowledgeable about business entities and their formation could help you figure out the best way for you to operate your business. In addition, the owners of many small businesses find out the hard way that some jurisdictions require licenses to operate even very small businesses. Therefore, you should check with your local officials to find out if you’ll need a business license to proceed. In addition, talk to an accountant or other tax specialist to find out how you’ll be taxed. Self-employment tax rates are generally relatively high, and you may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS and your state taxing authority in order to avoid paying penalties and having to strike a huge check to Uncle Sam at the end of the year.
Furthermore, while many at-home businesses can easily be conducted without any resulting disturbance to others, you should carefully consider whether anything about your business could annoy your neighbors and whether operating the business from your residence could violate any local zoning ordinance, any restrictive covenants governing your neighborhood or the terms of your mortgage.
Finally, you need a financial plan for your business or, at the very least, a rough budget. Although operating your business from home could potentially save you thousands in upfront startup costs, you need to carefully examine how much money you’ll need to conduct business before you get started. The amount you’re willing to shell out on the front end should be determined, at least in part, by the earning potential of your new venture. For example, if you’re going out on a limb with a risky idea and have very few potential clients lined up, consider easing into the project so you minimize your financial exposure.
Is Working from Home Right for You?
The decision to work from home should usually come after you make the decision to pursue a money-making venture that interests you, that you’re passionate about, or that suits your talents particularly well. If your chosen vocation is simply a means to allow you to work from home because you expect it to be easy, then you could be making a mistake.
Although working from home often does offer several benefits, including scheduling flexibility, you likely won’t realize success unless you put forth a great deal of effort. After all, if you’re working as a self-employed blogger or freelance writer, for example, you won’t have a boss barking out orders and setting deadlines for you. As a result, it’ll be up to you to generate business and ensure that everything stays on track. So, if you’re a self-starter and can motivate yourself to remain productive, chances are you really can make some money doing this kind of work. On the other hand, if you might be easily distracted by the comforts of home (like the television), if you need feedback from superiors to motivate you and keep you on task, or if the thought of foregoing the social aspect of many traditional office environments pains you, then perhaps working from home is not right for you. A good idea, coupled with a passion and desire to see it through, should be the primary force behind the decision to start working from home.