Working at home can be fun, but it can also be stressful. Not only do you have to manage your own schedule (which is a daunting task in and of itself), you also have to steer clear of work-at-home scams. You want to believe that every company out there is honest, but they aren't, scams do exist. Sadly, some people would take advantage of their own mother.
Here's what you need to ask before agreeing to any work-at-home opportunity:
1. What are the responsibilities of the position?
A legitimate employer will have a job description. That description should outline your duties and responsibilities, a contract, and even the pay structure. If the company hiring you fumbles over this most basic of requests, it's time to move on.
2. Are there any fees for coming on board with this company?
Not all companies that charge an application fee are trying to scam you, but some of them are. The simple fact is that hiring someone is a known cost of doing business. These costs are generally not passed on to the employee (unless you are required to purchase textbooks, background check, special uniforms, or equipment that's necessary for the position). Also, be sure you understand the difference between a job and a business opportunity. With business opportunities, you will indeed have to pay a startup fee for things like samples, order forms, supplies, your website, training, and other business-related expenses.
Related Content: Legit Work-at-Home Jobs – No Fees
3. Is training provided?
Think about regular jobs you've held in the past. Were you trained for the position? Of course, you were! Online and work-at-home jobs are no different. If your employer can't or won't provide training, then it's time to move on.
4. Would I be guaranteed a certain amount of hours each week?
While it's uncommon for work at home jobs to have a set schedule or “hours,” there certainly are jobs that have virtual time clocks and pay by the hour. If your potential new employer has a virtual time clock, ask about set hours or flexible scheduling. Make sure you get the minimum hours you need and that the hours don't conflict with any other jobs or personal obligations you have.
5. How soon would you like me to start?
This is a crucial question. Some employers will want you to start right away. However, a work-at-home position might defer your start date out several weeks if other factors are prohibiting immediate employment like supplier delays. Also, you might be part of a pool of employees, and the employer wants to wait until everyone's hired before starting.
6. Will I be paid as an employee or an independent contractor?
This is a big one. The IRS makes a clear distinction between employees and independent contractors. You have to know this because it affects whether you're eligible for employee benefits, whether taxes will be withheld, and whether you're protected under labor laws.
7. Is the pay an hourly rate, salary, or commission?
Knowing how you get paid is essential. Make sure the pay structure fits with your personal goals and values. If you're getting hired for a job, generally the pay structure will be pay per hour, or it will be a salaried position. If you're working as a freelancer, you may get paid by the hour, per project, or on a monthly retainer. And with direct sales opportunities, income is dependent on how much you sell; make sure you fully understand the compensation structure and ask questions if you if don't fully understand.
Related Content: What is the Difference Between Hourly and Salary Employees?
8. How will I be paid, and how often?
This one is self-evidently important, but it's often overlooked. Most companies pay every two weeks, but of course, there are variations with frequency as well. Another consideration is, when will you receive your first paycheck? According to The Balance Careers, “When you receive your first paycheck depends on the timing of the company's payroll and when you start employment. Payroll checks may be issued at the end of each pay period worked, or there may be a lag and your paycheck may be issued a week or two (or longer) after you begin work.”
9. Is there potential for advancement or an increase in pay?
You don't want to be stuck in a job where you can never advance. If your employer has no opportunities for raises, additional work, bonuses, or growth opportunities, it might not be such a sweet deal over the long-term. Consider your overall goals and be sure to factor this into the equation.
10. When can I expect to hear from you?
Don't let companies leave you hanging. Most interviews end with a “we'll let you know.” Try and get a confirmation on when they will be choosing a candidate. Be sure to send your “thank you” note after the interview — this is an easy way to stand out from the crowd.
There are many legitimate work-at-home jobs available, but, that doesn't mean that scams don't exist. Be sure to do your research and ask these questions when you're interviewing, and you'll be on your way to working from home in no time.
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Originally published March 13, 2013. Content updated July 2019, by Holly Reisem Hanna.
Victoria Heckstall is a career advancement consultant. She enjoys sharing her insights and tips on various employment blogs. Visit Paidto.co.uk for more information and to get tips on using paid online surveys in the UK.