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. 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 some type of 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 most of them are. The simple fact is that hiring someone is a known cost of doing business. These costs are almost never passed on to the employee (unless you are required to have textbooks, special uniforms, or equipment that's easily available in department, home improvement, or other such stores near you). It just doesn't make sense to do this, and you should be very leery of a company that asks for money before hiring you.
3. Is training provided?
Think about regular jobs you've held in the past. Were you trained for the position? Of course. Online and work at home jobs are no different. If your employer can't or won't provide training, 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 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 key 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 there are other factors 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 important, obviously. Just make sure the pay structure fits with your personal goals and values.
8. How will I be paid, and how often?
This one is self-evidently important, but it's often overlooked.
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, or bonuses, it might not be such a sweet deal over the long-term.
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.” But it's important that you get a commitment on that. When will you know?
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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.