There are roughly four main ways to work from home. There are variations of each, of course, and combinations, but most work at home falls into these four categories:
1. Direct Sales
This is the one most people are familiar with when they think of "work at home". There are many options within this category. It's a matter of picking a company or line of products you like, support and feel comfortable representing to your circles. From cosmetics to cook ware, fashion to bags, and food to cleaning products, there is something to fit every lifestyle, passion and budget.
Direct sales have a bit of an undeserved bad rap. People think that direct sales mean hosting parties, begging family and friends to buy from you, and hounding people for sales and money. But it doesn't have to look like that -- and if it does for you, then you are in the wrong business.
To start: choose your company, contact a rep, buy your kit and start selling.
Cost to start: $-$$ Most kits average around the $100 mark.
Degree of difficulty: 0 -- anyone can do this.
Amount of money to make: $ - $$$ Most people will only make a few dollars a month with direct sales. It takes a perfect storm of a product you are passionate about, a compensation plan that works for you and being a really good salesperson to really make money.
If you're outgoing and can talk anyone into doing just about anything, and on a low budget, this is probably going to be fun and a good fit for you.
2. Network Marketing
This is a form of work at home most people don't understand. Basically, network marketing is representing a company to others without actually directly selling their products. Getting paid is more like an employee than being self-employed, usually in the form of commissions and bonuses. The structure of most compensation plans are similar to the sales force structures of major corporations, with front line sales people reporting to managers and on up the chain. A good example of network marketing is independent insurance brokers or mortgage brokers. There are a variety of companies to choose from, all with their variations of start up costs, training and income opportunities.
Unfortunately, many think of network marketers as hawking pyramid schemes. This is absolutely not true, though confusion abounds, and there are a few scams that add to the chaos. Good network marketing companies will be upfront with their contracts, have clear cancellation terms and good reputations with trade associations, such as the BBB.
To start: choose your company, contact a rep, purchase your membership or start up kit, and complete training.
Cost of starting: $-$$$ The more it costs to start, the more likely it might be a scam. Beware and do your research before investing.
Degree of difficulty: 1-5, depending on how good your supports are. Supports are essential to be successful with network marketing.
Amount of money to make: $$-$$$$$ Most people will make a decent amount of money, provided they are consistent and have a good support team to help them. A few will make 6 or 7 figure incomes.
If you are outgoing and a natural sales person, love working with a team and find an opportunity you can be passionate about, this is an excellent fit.
This kind of work at home requires that you have either a skill to create a product or a network to purchase products for resale. Once you have your physical or digital product in place, you simply open up an e-store and start selling it. It seems simple, but requires a good deal of technical know-how to set up an e-store and be able to handle inventory, shipping, taxes and the accounting necessary to back it up, on top of the actual making or sourcing your products. It will probably cost you a bit more to start than the first two ways as well, as you'll need to purchase supplies to sell, as well as the domain names and server space to host your site.
Options for e-stores that are simpler: Etsy (for handcrafted goods), Ebay and Amazon. You can also hire yourself a web designer or webmaster to customize a site for you, but be prepared to pay for that service.
To start: make or find a product to sell, make a website or profile on an existing site to sell it.
Cost to start: $$$-$$$$ Inventory, hiring an expert, domain names, back of house costs all add up.
Degree of difficulty: 4-7 You may knit out cute little baby hats like they are flying off an assembly line, but actually selling them online is a different story. It takes a certain amount of skill (or connections) to create the store to sell them in. It's still easier (and cheaper!) than owning a brick and mortar store though.
Amount of money to make: $$-$$$$ It depends on how good you are at marketing your product, and how much demand there is for it. But you can make a decent income at this, if you are willing to put in the work.
Self-employment by providing a service is probably the most challenging way to work from home. First, you actually have to have a service you can provide, and that usually means you have a skill, a talent or a specialty experience to share with others. Services that allow you to work from home include things like: real estate, accounting, speaking, authorship, coaching, law, personal fitness, etc. Most require you to have extensive training or worked for someone else in a similar capacity before launching into self-employment.
Despite the difficulty, this is the most lucrative way to work from home. When you are self-employed, you get to set the fees you charge. You aren't dependent on commission rates, dealer discounts or market demands. You have complete control over your income, your schedule and your business.
To start: decide on what service you will provide, and find clients to provide it to.
Cost to start: $ I say this, because most of the time, it doesn't cost anything at all, if you have the pre-existing skill, talent or experience. But sometimes, you may need to get a certification, pay for advertising, go back to school or hire an expert to help with marketing or creating a business plan.
Degree of Difficulty: 7-10 Pre-existing conditions must be met before you can succeed, plus finding the right niche, creating the platform and connecting with an audience can be tricky, and has a steep learning curve.
Amount of money to make: $$$-$$$$$ The most profitable way to work from home. Seriously. It pays well. Just not right away (see steep learning curve!)
I have worked from home in each and every way I've listed here. I still have my rep kit for Avon and Tupperware (my personal favorite direct sales companies) and I have close friends in the network marketing company I was a part of (still have my membership, just not active on the business side). I still will sell physical products online through Amazon and Ebay. But my favorite (and the one that lets me stay home!) is my business as a researcher, blogger and VA.
If you have any questions about how to work from home, or want leads on where to start, feel free to contact me via email or by commenting here. I'm happy to help.