By Holly Reisem Hanna
Dear Work at Home Woman,
What type of computer e.g. speed and equipment do I need for telecommuting or virtual English teaching?
For most telecommuting jobs you’re going to need a well functioning computer and a high speed internet connection. While this sounds straightforward, there’s actually a lot of little details that will need to be taken into consideration before you can apply or accept the position.
Let’s take a closer look.
With any telecommuting position you’ll want to check out the specific equipment requirements that they have. Usually this information can be found in the job posting itself.
While most companies allow you to work on a PC or a Mac, there are a few, mainly customer service and transcription jobs, that will require you to have a Windows operating system.
So if you’re an Apple fan, like myself, you’ll either need to look for companies that allow Mac computers or you’ll need to download Bootcamp which installs the Windows operating system on your Mac. Miranda, from Work at Home Adventures has a great list of companies that let you use an Apple computer, if you don’t want to download the additional software.
For many telecommuting positions, especially customer service and lead generation you’re going to need a land line. What this means is you’ll need to have service through a traditional or digital telephone provider. Cell phone and VoIP services like Skype, Google Voice, and Magic Jack are generally NOT permitted.
Again, you have a couple of options. If you don’t have a land line you can usually bundle this service along with your internet provider for a discounted rate. Or you can search for jobs where a land line isn’t required — Anna has a great list over at Real Ways to Earn.
One additional note. Most companies will NOT allow you to take personal calls during your shift. If this is the case, you will need to have a dedicated phone line for working — which could be an added expense for you.
Many companies have minimum internet connectivity requirements that must be maintained to ensure proper functionality of their programs. A subscription to a reliable, high-speed (usually 3 – 5 megabits), hard-wired, internet connection, like DSL or Cable is what most companies require. So, no dial-up or wireless connections. To make sure you’re in compliance double check the internet connection requirements listed on each employer’s website.
If you’re going to be doing phone work you’ll need to purchase ($25 – $100) a telephone headset. Since you’ll be wearing the headset for extended periods of time it should be comfortable — so don’t just purchase the cheapest one on the market. While wireless seems to be the way to go … most companies require a corded headset, so that it can plug directly into your phone jack. Also, look for other requirements like, does it need to be noise-canceling? From what I’ve read online, the Plantronics S12 Corded Telephone Headset System seems to be the preferred set for telecommuters.
For general transcription work you’ll need to purchase a foot pedal and transcription software — which can often be purchased together as a package. Once you download the software you can control the speed of the audio with the foot pedal. I’ve never done transcription work, so if you’re looking for more information on this work at home career — make sure to check out expert transcriber, Lisa Mill’s interview.
If you’re going to be teaching or tutoring you may need video conferencing capabilities. Many laptops come with built-in cameras, so all you would need to to do is download is a video conferencing software like Skype, Google Hangouts, or Goober. However, if you’re using a desktop computer or if your laptop doesn’t have a video camera — you’ll need to purchase a webcam. Luckily, you can purchase a nice HD webcam for as little as $25.
The last piece of equipment that you will need to work from home is a printer with scanning capabilities. While you may not use this a lot in your daily functions and tasks — you will need it for signing contracts, forms, and W9s. Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good working color printer and scanner. In fact, Epson makes a wireless, color printer, scanner, and copier for just $59.99.
One last word of advice. If you’re going to be talking on the phone or teaching on a video conferencing device, you’ll need a quiet place to work. Depending on your living arrangements you may need to set up a dedicated office space where you can filter out noises and distractions. Some companies not only require a dedicated office space, but also a locked door or file cabinet to secure personal information from clients. Just make sure to read all of the details before applying.
Good luck and keep us posted on your journey!