How to Create Work-at-Home Gigs to Free You From Your Cubicle Forever

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In 12 Reasons Why Your Next Gig Should Be Work-at-Home we discussed the why of working at home – as in why you should. My hope was that in spelling out why work-at-home is a better way to earn a living, you’ll be sufficiently motivated make any effort needed to make it happen. It’s how I work, and I never get tired of promoting its virtues to anyone who might be willing. In today’s article I’d like to cover how to create work-at-home gigs. They’re not as common as we’d like to think, which is proven by the fact that more people aren’t doing it already.

How to Create Work-at-Home Gigs
How to Create Work-at-Home Gigs

Just as I reported in the first article, use of the word “gigs” is entirely intentional. While it may be possible to get a work-at-home job, they’re still fairly hard to come by. If you’re serious about working from home, you may have to create your own work-at-home arrangement – a gig, for lack of a better description. Statistically, only 5.2% of the American workforce works from home, so you’ll need to expand your concept of work beyond a traditional job if you want to join this fortunate group.

We’ll start by looking at ways to get formal work-at-home jobs, then move over to creating your own work-at-home gig of some sort. My guess is that for most people, creating your own work-at-home gig is more likely than an actual work-at-home job.

Work-at-Home Jobs

There are two ways you can approach the work-at-home arrangement. The first is to work to convert your current on-location job to a work-at-home arrangement. A lot of employers are not responsive to work-at-home, but it’s always worth trying. If you’re a highly valued employee, your employer may entertain the idea. But you’ll need to approach it from the angle that will benefit your employer – not you. After all, everyone – including your employer – is only motivated to do anything out of self-interest. If your pitch is all about how it will benefit you, it’s not likely to happen.

For example, you might be able to sell your employer on the idea that you be more productive working from home. You can also point out that you won’t be occupying an office or cubicle (which is an additional cost to your employer). If, because of personal circumstances, you have no alternative but to convert to a work-at-home arrangement, you can try selling the employer on being able to retain your services as a result of the change. That’s a risky strategy, but it could work.

If your employer isn’t agreeable, you’ll have to weigh the costs and benefits of making a job change. If you do, you’ll need to concentrate on jobs new employers are specifically offering as work-at-home arrangements. You’re bargaining position is never greater than just before you start a job. Use that to your advantage to get the work-at-home arrangement from the beginning.

Be aware however that most employers resist work-at-home arrangements (it’s that tired control factor thing). That being the case, you’ll need to look for employers or employment services that specialize in work-at-home. They do exist.

Employment Services that Specialize in Work-at-Home Jobs

Earlier this year FlexJobs, a website that specializes in work-at-home jobs, published its annual list of the 100 Top Companies with Remote Jobs in 2019. You can check out the entire list of 100 on the site, but I did some research on the top 10, including:

  • Appen (technology services).
  • Lionbridge (part-time, freelance positions in diversified occupations).
  • VIPKID (part-time, freelance positions providing English language instruction, at $22 per hour).
  • Liveops (full-time and part-time independent agents in diversified capacities).
  • Working Solutions (independent agents for customer service and sales in diversified industries – they also provide training).
  • Amazon – see their Virtual Locations page (working for the company full-time in diversified positions).
  • TTEC (mostly full-time positions in customer service, working for the company).
  • Kelly Services (full-time positions with a wide variety of employers in many different fields; you’ll need to specify work-at-home because they hire for all types of employment situations).
  • Concentrix (full-time, part-time, and temporary positions in mostly technical occupations; there’s a strong emphasis on international operations, and you may be doing shift work as a result).
  • United Healthcare (direct employer focusing on healthcare specializations – be sure to include “work-at-home” in your job search on the site).

The FlexJobs list shows the potential for work-at-home positions. Use their list as a starting point, but also feel free to search the job boards using terms like “work-at-home”, “work from home”, “work remotely”, or similar descriptions. You may have to apply for dozens of positions to find one that will work for you. Also keep in mind you’ll be looking for a highly specialized work arrangement. It’ll be a bit like panning for gold.

The Self-Employed Work-at-Home Route

I’d love to tell you that there is a work-at-home job out there with your name on it, but that would be a gross exaggeration. If it were true, millions more people would be working from home. Most work-at-home job situations are unconventional arrangements and/or require highly specialized skills. Many will be only a hybrid arrangement, like two days at home, three in the office. In addition, the best paying positions naturally go to people who have the most experience. In most respects, it’s much like the traditional on-location job market, except that you’re working from home. And maybe only partially at that.

For many people, in many circumstances, the only way to get into a work-at-home arrangement will be to create your own. That will involve some form of self-employment.

Please don’t let the idea of self-employment scare you. In truth, you’re already self-employed, but if you hold a job, you only have one client. The trick to traditional self-employment is to provide service to multiple clients, or even to the general public. Put another way, it’s about taking what you do now on your job – or can do based on outside skills – and marketing it to a broader client base.

Thanks to the Internet, there are more paths to the self-employment/work-at-home combination than ever before. That’s a good thing, because brick-and-mortar business operations are rapidly disappearing in all corners of the economy.

Determine What Skills You Can Provide to Potential Clients

One of the problems with working in the same job for a long time is that you can become blind to your own abilities. But if you’re serious about wanting to work-at-home, particularly from a self-employed angle, you’ll need to critically evaluate what you can do. That’s almost certainly going to be more than you ever imagined.

Take the following steps:

  1. List all the skills you use on your current job.
  2. List all the skills you’ve used in previous jobs.
  3. Think hard about any personal skills you have that might be of value to someone else.
  4. Make a list of skills you think you can provide, even if you never have before.

Number 4 needs a deeper discussion, because it really gets down to making an active choice as to what you’d like to do. A successful salesman/entrepreneur friend of mine is fond of saying you can if you think you can, and that’s become a phrase I live by. I’ve used it to transition into blogging and freelance blog writing, two skills I’d never experienced before I actually started doing them. And lo and behold, it’s now my work-at-home full-time career.

You don’t have to become a blogger or freelance blog writer like me, but the example still stands. Even if you’ve never done something before – but you have a strong desire to do it – there’s an excellent chance you’ll be able to convert it into an income generating venture. It’s what can happen when passion and desire come together.

Once you’ve listed all your skills, choose those you’ll feel most comfortable providing. Make up a two or three paragraph description of your abilities with each skill. You can use these descriptions to market yourself to potential clients.

Where to Find Work-at-Home Gigs

Probably everyone today is familiar with the reality that employers are gradually but relentlessly eliminating positions. But the part we don’t hear as much about is that the work that was done by those who were laid off still needs to get done. In a real way, reductions in force produces a potential market for independent contractors and freelancers.

It may be possible for you to market your services to employers – especially those who have had recent layoffs – on a limited basis. And because they probably don’t have room in the budget for even a part-time job situation, they may be open to subbing out certain responsibilities. You can provide services as an independent, work-at-home contractor. Some assignments may only be a few hours a month, while others can be steady part-time arrangements.

Another rich source of potential clients are small businesses. In fact, these may be your best potential clients. They can’t hire people on a regular basis, but still have certain jobs that need to be done. You could build your own work-at-home business by providing similar services to several small businesses.

A third group of potential clients are individuals. We live in a complicated world, and every day people are being faced by ex-your responsibilities are totally unfamiliar with. For example, someone may need help organizing your finances, paying their bills, interpreting medical bills, dealing with insurance companies, building a website, or navigating the social media. This is just a small list of potential situations. And just because you know how to do these things doesn’t mean others do. That will present an income opportunity for you.

You’ll be amazed at what opportunities will come up once you put yourself out there and begin actively soliciting for work. Which is our next topic…

Marketing Yourself to Provide Work-at-Home Services

The prospect of marketing scares a lot of people, and that’s unfortunate. Marketing – especially your own skills – doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive.

A longtime friend of mine, currently holding a full-time job, but looking to grow additional income sources, recently placed the following post on Facebook:

“Are you a small business owner who needs technical support on a contract basis? So many of you are unable to hire a full-time staff member to support the vast landscape of today’s demands! I can provide technical support and services for a monthly rate with great SLA’s! Let’s grab a coffee and talk through your needs!

Blake Sargent
Blake@BlakeSargent.com
(470)902-9002”

There are several key takeaways from this post, and they can be applied to any type of marketing strategy you use:

  • The pitch is simple – in fact, it has no sales spin whatsoever.
  • In the first two sentences, Blake is defining his target market. Hundreds of small business owners will see themselves in those two sentences.
  • In the third sentence, he’s stating how he can be the answer to the prospect’s problem. This angle is critical to marketing anything!
  • The “hook” – the final sentence – is disarmingly inviting. He’s also very deliberate to emphasize “talk(ing) through YOUR needs!” Again, this emphasizes the point that providing any kind of self-employment related services is about the customer or the client’s needs first and foremost.

Use this post as a template for your own client marketing campaigns.

Using the Above Approach with Email Contact

In generating business for myself, I’ve used a similar approach to Blake’s successfully. It works especially well with email contact to prospective clients. Unlike applying for formal jobs, where you create a cover carefully crafted letter then attach your resume, this simple approach is little more than a fishing expedition. It doesn’t need to be formal at all – in fact, the more casual it is, the better.

Your first marketing task is to identify client need. If the need exists, there’s an excellent chance you’ll get a response. And I don’t mean a response rate of one out of 100, but closer to one out of 10 emails sent. The reason is because you’re approaching it from a client need standpoint. If there is no need, the best marketing pitch in the world won’t get you a new client.

Use this approach as a door opener only. A one or two paragraph introduction is all that’s necessary. You don’t even need to attach your resume. If the client is interested, the contact will progress to additional emails, a request for additional information (such as a resume), or even a phone conversation. If the prospect is local, you might even have a face-to-face meeting.

With any subsequent contacts, be sure to focus the conversation on identifying the client’s needs. Your job will be to convince the client that you can fill those needs, solve his problem, etc. And that’s simply a matter of talking about what you can do and how it can help the prospect.

Approach Follow-Up Contact with the Right Mindset

Don’t get all nervous and choked up about this either. The prospect is a person just like you – he or she has needs and insecurities just as you do. If you can find common ground, which is best done when you can be your true self, you’ll likely land a new client.

And as is the case with any new endeavor, you’ll get better at it with experience. Sure, the first few times you do it it’ll be awkward. Then after you land your first one or two clients, it’ll get a lot easier. And once you reach that point, you’ll be on your way and the sky will be the limit.

It will also help if you can set in your mind that no single prospective client is a make-or-break situation. If you fail to reach common ground with one prospect, keep the emails flowing, and move on to the next.

One of the big advantages to mastering this marketing method is that once you do, you’ll be on your way. It’s almost like a wall you need to scale to get you from where you are to where you want to be. But if you think about it, it’s exactly what you do every time you apply for a new full-time job. The main difference is that prospecting for clients is a lot more casual, and lacks the do-or-die element that comes with a formal job search.

Other Strategies to Create Work-at-Home Self-Employment

Start as a side hustle. I would never recommend anyone with a full-time job quitting and transitioning immediately into work-at-home self-employment. The better approach is to do it as a side venture. Launch your email marketing campaign, pick up one or two clients, and move forward gradually. As you build your side business, you’ll eventually reach a point where you’ll realize you’ll need to take that “leap of faith” and move into the new venture full-time. But only you can know when the new venture and your finances will enable you to make that jump. In the end, it might never be anything more than a side venture. But that will work if all you’re looking for is the ability to earn additional income from home.

Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges. A strange and miraculous transition starts to unfold when you begin working independently – you come to realize you can do more than you ever imagined. We learn by doing, and the more things you try, the more you’ll master. Naturally you shouldn’t take on any project or client that’s obviously well above your skill set. But it’s perfectly okay to reach up to the next level.

Add new skills. The more skills you can provide, and the better you are at them, the more clients you can get, the more money you earn. Invest some time – and even some money – in improving the skills you have, and adding new ones. As you do, your market value will rise.

Always ask for referrals. If you get a client, and the arrangement goes well – even if it isn’t ongoing – ask the client if she knows anyone else who may need your services. This is a way of generating warm leads for prospective new clients.

Final Thoughts on How to Create Work-at-Home Gigs

Unless you’re searching strictly for a formal full-time work-at-home job, think in terms of gigs. Those aren’t jobs, but income generating arrangements. And that’s really what earning a living is all about – creating income streams. That’s what you can do by approaching work-at-home from the self-employment angle.

I realize that a lot of the suggestions and strategies I’ve put forth in this article are likely to take you out of your comfort zone. But that’s practically a requirement for any major change you want to make in your life. And if work-at-home is what you want to do with your life, you should have all the motivation you need to put yourself out there.

Rest assured you can do it, because other people are doing it right now. Do you have a desire to create work-at-home arrangement? Are you willing to implement any of these strategies to make it happen? Have you tried any other strategies that have been successful in generating home based income sources or jobs?

( Photo by Dick Penn )

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4 Responses to How to Create Work-at-Home Gigs to Free You From Your Cubicle Forever

  1. Interesting, have seen many people do amazing things….particularly in their ‘second careers’, ‘retirement’.
    One is the ‘Ironing Diva’, as she is known. She sells top quality ironing board covers around the world, as well as other great products. All from her home in remote rural Australia.

  2. Hi Jill – It’s interesting you bring up about her selling from “remote rural Australia” because a lot of “gigs” do allow you to earn a living from very remote places. If you an get one of those up and running, you can pretty much live anywhere you want. I think geographic mobility is a real blessing, and though I don’t take advantage of it myself, I love having the option. But alas, I’m a homebody!

  3. My brother and I, both in our 40’s, living on opposite ends of the country, have learned that working remote has been a huge life-changer for us. We’re both in technology – I work for a software startup and he has his own web design business. Neither of us has an office we can even go to. The digital world provides so many ways to work remotely now. I’ve improved my work/life balance, reduced my carbon footprint, and I’m incredibly productive. It’s not for everyone, but it’s amazing when you find it and work it properly.

  4. Hi Joel – I feel the same way, working from home, writing web content for other sites and running this blog. Another perk is that the income is completely portable so we can live wherever we want. No need to be stuck living in a high cost area because that’s where your job is. You can earn a metropolitan income but live in an inexpensive town or small city.

    I think work-at-home is only going to get more common going forward, especially after the next recession when employers realize office space has gotten too expensive. But in the meantime, now is a good time for anyone who wants to work from home to begin developing a plan for how to make it happen, even and especially if it won’t involve a job. There are more opportunities to set up a remote occupation now than there have ever been, thanks to the web.

    It may even be that combining occupations – i.e., the “slash worker” – will become much more common, so you’ll have people combining a work at home business with a part-time job or some other form of formal or semi-formal employment. The latter is also becoming more common as fewer employers are able to afford full-time employees.

    On the surface it sounds like a negative situation, but it holds enormous potential to create a freer and more flexible way to make a living. Based on my own experience, I hope more people will embrace it intentionally.

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