1. Customer-service rep. Many companies, such as J. Crew, Express Jet, 1-800-flowers, and even the IRS, outsource customer-service operations to third-party companies who then hire home-based workers or "agents" to take calls and orders. When you call 1-800-flowers, you may be speaking with Rebecca Dooley, a retired police officer and employee ofAlpine Access, a major call-center service. When you dialed the number, your call was automatically routed to Rebecca's spare bedroom in Colorado.
Alpine Access currently employs more than 7,500 work-at-home customer-service agents who take in-bound calls (there's no outbound or cold calling) for dozens of companies. "This works perfectly for me because I can set up my hours around my family's busy lifestyle," says Rebecca, who usually works 20 to 32 hours a week, depending on her schedule.
While the typical hourly rate is about $9, Alpine Access agents who work more than 20 hours a week are eligible for benefits plus a 401k program when they have worked for over 1,000 hours. (Some companies consider their staff independent contractors, so they don't provide benefits.) Other companies that hire virtual call agents:
2. Telemarketer. To do this job, you need a pleasant voice and personality, and really thick skin—you're bound to encounter some hostility. Still, it's a good way to earn income. Many large companies now outsource their cold-calling campaigns to third parties who hire home-based workers to place the calls. Telemarketers are typically paid by the hour, and they may earn incentives and commission based on performance.
Companies hiring home-based workers include Telereach.com and Intrep.com. Apply on their websites. Keep in mind that a legitimate company will typically not require you to pay a fee to get information or leads, and will explain how to apply, exactly what is required and what to expect.
See also: Tricks to Save Money on Almost Anything
3. Online juror. Companies will pay you to sit on mock juries to give attorneys and other jury consultants feedback on cases they are currently handling. Think of these as focus groups. The cases are real, but your verdict will do little more than give those involved a prediction of how things might go. You can earn fees ranging from $5 to $60. Be sure to read all the disclaimers and details. Go to:
4. Survey Taking
I'd pretty much ruled out survey taking as a legitimate way to earn money from home, but then I heard from Bonnie Alcala. She and her daughter Andrea Spain, an elementary-school substitute teacher, take surveys online for fun and a little profit. They are careful to avoid any scams by refusing to pay an upfront fee or other charge. Bonnie and Andrea pocket around $100 a month for spending two hours a week taking surveys, which gives each of them extra pin money. In addition, they collect all kinds of gift cards and other prizes
5. Writer, Blogger, Editor, Proofreader. Everyone says you're a fantastic writer, so isn't it about time you got paid? Good writing is still in demand says Durst, especially for online content. For the best sites try JournalismJobs.com, About.com seeks "Guides" in a broad area of topics, and MediaBistro.com. For blogging jobs, try problogger.net. If you have experience as a freelance copy editor, writer or proofreader, go to editfast.com. Rates vary between $15 and $25 an hour.