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How to Work From Home: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

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In this guide, I break down all the basics of how to work from home. 

On Pinterest, there are a million and one pins about how to work from home.

Some of them are legit but there’s a lot of junk out there too.

But the reason those pins are so popular is that more people want to work from home and make money online, myself included.

And if you’re one of them, this guide is just for you.

How to Start Working From Home and Make Money Online

how to work from homeBefore I started working from home, I was skeptical that it was something people really even did.

This was back in 2011 when side hustling and freelancing and making money online was a newish thing.

I didn’t know anything about it but I knew I wanted to make some extra cash. One thing led to another, now here I am running a business from my couch.

It’s a goal you might have too but you might be stuck on the “how to work from home” part.

As in…

  • How do decide what kind of work you want to do?
  • Where do you even look for work at home jobs?
  • Should you start a business or a side hustle instead?
  • How much money can you really make working from home?
  • And what kind of time do you need to put in to make that money?

Hey, I totally get it.

I had a lot of those same questions when I was starting out.

So here’s what we’re going to cover in this guide:

  • Finding your ‘why’ for wanting to work from home
  • Setting work at home goals
  • Deciding how to work from home
  • Figuring out what you need to get started
  • How to spot work at home scams

Ready? Let’s dive in.

1. What’s Your Why?

Ask yourself this question: why do you want to work from home?

For me, it was about having something to do and making a little money.

I got a side job as a virtual assistant when I was a newish mom because I wanted to make some extra money and contribute to the family budget.

Eventually, I switched to freelance writing. That side gig turned into a business when I became a single mom.

My ‘why’ now is all about giving my kids financial security and a flexible lifestyle. And you need to figure out what your reasons are for wanting to work from home.

If you’re a mom (or a dad) working outside the home, your why could be a desire to spend more time with your kids.

You might be trying to get out of debt or save money so you can reach some big financial goal. Or you could just be well and truly sick of the 9 to 5.

Whatever your why is, get really clear on it. This is what’s going to help motivate you and determine what steps you take to start working from home.

2. Set Goals for Working at Home

If you know why you want to work at home, ask yourself what you hope to get out of it.

For example:

  • Do you want to make a certain amount of money each month to pay off debt?
  • Are you hoping to make enough money so your spouse can quit their job?
  • Is there another money goal that working from home could help you fund?
  • Would working from home let you adopt a different kind of lifestyle, like one that involves travel?
  • Do you want to earn more money than your current job while working fewer hours?
  • Are you ready to make money doing something that lets you use your creativity?

Setting goals can be really helpful if you’re trying to earn an income from home. It gives you a target to work toward and a blueprint for getting there.

Say, for example, that your goal is to make $100,000 a year working from home.

It’s a big goal, right?

But if you break it down monthly, you’d need to make $8,333 and some change each month.

Now, that’s still a big goal but it’s a little easier to wrap your mind around. From there, you can come up with a plan for hitting your monthly goal.

Setting goals and then breaking them down can make whatever you want to achieve with your work at home efforts more manageable.

So think about exactly what it is you want to accomplish and what needs to happen for you to do it.

3. Decide How to Work From Home

Working from home can mean a lot of different things, depending on your perspective. To me, it means:

  • Freelancing
  • Starting a side hustle
  • Starting a blog
  • Running a business
  • Holding a work at home job

So what you need to decide next is how you want to work from home. Because there’s a big difference between having a small side hustle, running a business full-time or working as a remote employee for someone else.

If you’re not sure which one to choose, it helps to look at the pros and cons.

Work at Home Option #1: Freelancing

When I talk about freelancing on this blog, I’m mostly talking about freelance writing. But there are so many different freelance services you could offer from home.

For example, there’s:

  • Social media management
  • Pinterest management
  • Graphic design services
  • Blog management
  • Proofreading
  • Editing
  • Transcription

The list could go on and on. (And if you’re interested in freelance writing, check out this free course I put together for new writers. It can help you get your freelancing career started off with a bang!)

So, here’s what’s great about freelancing:

  • You can choose your own hours, making it super flexible.
  • The earning potential is virtually unlimited.
  • You can offer the services that you’re most skilled at or interested in.
  • It’s up to you to decide who you want to work with (or don’t).

Now, what’s not so great about freelancing?

The biggest thing that I’ve found is that as your freelancing business grows and you become established as an expert, it can get pretty demanding.

Instead of having to pitch people or apply for jobs, clients come to you wanting you to work for them. That’s great because it means more money but it can also be overwhelming if you’re not aces at managing your time.

Work at Home Option #2: Start a Side Hustle

I’m all about side hustles and I think they can be a great way for just about anyone to make extra money from home.

Because there’s just so much you can do as a side hustle these days, online and off.

You could freelance as a side hustle, take surveys, babysit, dogsit or be a dog walker, do small jobs through Task Rabbit, hire yourself out as a personal errand-runner.

The whole point of having a side hustle is that it’s something you can do in your spare time to make money. And depending on which hustle you choose, you might not need any special training or education to do it.

That’s different from freelancing, which usually requires you to have a specific skill set you can make money from. Like writing, for example, or a great eye for design.

Some ideas for easy money-making side hustles include:

  • Reselling things on eBay or Craigslist
  • Selling your services on Fiverr
  • Renting out part of your home on Airbnb
  • Driving for Uber or Lyft
  • Dropshipping

In terms of what you can earn, it depends on the hustle and how hard you work it. Some of the most lucrative side hustles you can do from home include being an Airbnb host and freelancing.

working from home

Work at Home Option #3: Start a Blog

Starting a blog is another way to work from home and make money online.

There are lots of ways to make money blogging. The most popular methods are:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Sponsored posts
  • Ads
  • Selling digital products
  • Offering services

Affiliate marketing, sponsored posts and ads all involve making money by selling or advertising someone else’s products or services. And there are some bloggers, like Michelle of Making Sense of Cents, who is completely killing it with affiliate sales.

Selling digital products is another way to make money. You could sell courses, ebooks, printables–Sarah Titus makes millions selling printables through her Shopify store.

Two keys to successfully selling a product and making money as a blogger are having an audience and offering a product that fills a need for that audience. If you don’t have an idea for a product, you could also sell a service.

For example, you could get paid to write for other blogs or offer Pinterest consulting services if you’re a pinning pro.

There are plenty of possibilities for making money with a blog. And if you want to start a blog now, check out the hosting plans offered by Siteground–they’re seriously the best.

Also, take a peek at this tutorial for how to start a blog with Siteground if you need a little help with the setup.

Now…let’s talk about the cons of starting a blog as a way to work from home.

While there are some blogging unicorns out there making money from day one, for most bloggers it’s more of a long game.

Blogging takes a lot of time and patience. Otherwise, you’ll get frustrated and quit.

So if you’re interested in blogging as a way to make money, just know that it can involve a lot more work than say, freelancing or starting a side hustle.

Work at Home Option #4: Start an Online Business

There’s a lot to like about running a business online.

You can make great money and it’s a chance to really focus on what you’re passionate about. And even though you’re a business owner, it can still allow you some flexibility with your lifestyle.

There are tons of business ideas that are perfect for working from home.

You could start a VA business, for example. Being a VA basically means doing tasks that help other businesses grow.

Some other ideas for online businesses include:

  • Starting an online travel agency
  • Launching a digital marketing company
  • Doing PR work
  • Being an online event planner
  • Offering online coaching or consulting services
  • Opening an Etsy store
  • Running an online teaching business and creating your own courses
  • Direct sales

A lot of the things you could do as a freelancer or as a side hustle could be turned into a full-time business.

I started out side hustling as a freelancer and now I run a six-figure business.

The difference between having a freelance gig or side hustle and an online business really comes down to how much time and effort you can and want to put in.

You might be able to freelance a few hours a week but a business can be a lot like working a full-time job.

When I first got started, I easily put in 40+ hours (and sometimes, a lot more) so I could grow. Now that my business is established, I’m working fewer hours but the first year and a half was a really hard slog.

If you’re considering a business as a work at home option, look at the initial time involved first. That can tell you if it’s realistic.

Then, look at the earning potential. An easy way to gauge earning potential is to research what other people running the same kind of business are making.

You can use the time commitment and the money-making potential as guidelines for deciding whether starting a business is the right move and what niche you should focus on.

Work at Home Option #5: Get a Remote Job

Remote jobs can either be independent contractor jobs–meaning you’re not an employee–or regular employee jobs.

The main differences between being an employee and a contractor when you’re working remotely are:

  • How much you get paid
  • When you get paid and how
  • Employees may get health insurance or other benefits
  • You may be required to work a set schedule as an employee
  • Being a contractor means you’re responsible for paying your own taxes

Basically, being an independent contractor who works remotely could give you more flexibility with your schedule. But being an employee means you could get the kind of benefits that in-house employees get, like a retirement plan or paid time off.

Where to Find Remote Work at Home Jobs

There are a ton of job boards you can use to find work at home remote jobs. The boards feature jobs for customer service, marketing, writing, IT services, accounting–you name it.

Here’s a rundown of job boards you can use to find remote work:

One thing to know is that some remote work job boards charge a fee to view jobs; others are free. If you don’t have a lot of money to research work at home jobs, consider using the free sites first.

Then, when you start making some money from home you can invest in a paid membership to one of the premium sites.

4. Figure Out What You Need to Get Started

By this point, you should have an idea of what you want to do to start making money from home. The next step is getting your tools together.

Here are some of the basics you’ll need to work at home:

PayPal Account

If you’re working from home you’ll need a way to get paid. Setting up a PayPal account is the easiest option.

It’s free to set up a PayPal account. I get paid this way from several of my freelance writing clients.

Most of the time, it doesn’t cost me anything to get paid through PayPal. But I do have one client who takes the fee PayPal charges out of my earnings.

So just watch out for that. And if you have a client who charges you to get paid through PayPal, consider another option, like a free account through Bill.com.

Computer and Internet

I literally started my freelancing business with nothing more than a laptop and internet. And depending on how you plan to work from home, that’s all you might need too.

If you don’t have a good computer, then this might be an investment you need to make to start working from home.

As you decide what to spend on a laptop or desktop, consider how much you can afford to spend. And think about how quickly you’ll be able to earn it back once you start making money.

Business Plan

A business plan isn’t just for offline businesses. If you’re starting an online business, having a business plan can give you a roadmap to follow.

At the very least, you should have a written plan for working from home that covers:

  • How you’re going to make money
  • How much you expect to make
  • What your expenses are likely to be
  • Your goals for working from home
  • What you plan to do to grow your work at home efforts over the long term

Other Things You May Need

Certain types of work at home jobs or businesses may require you to have special equipment or training.

For example, if you want to be a freelance proofreader, then you’ll need editing software. A free tool like Grammarly can be a good place to start but you may want to invest in the paid version or a more comprehensive proofreading program.

Or if you want to do something that involves making videos, you’ll need video equipment and lighting for that.

At the very least, you may need to take a course or two to learn more about what you’re planning to do to make money.

So, consider what other tools you need and how those fit into your work at home budget.

get paid to work from home

5. Watch Out for Work at Home Scams

This guide to how to work from home wouldn’t be complete without a warning about scams.

Work at home scams are plentiful and they’re something to avoid like the plague.

These scams usually promise fast results to help you start making money from home quickly. But in order to find out what the secret sauce is for doing that, you’ll need to pay a fee or buy something.

Only, once you pay the money what you get in return is way underwhelming. Or worse, the scammers take your money and you get nothing at all.

There are some warning signs that can tip you off to a work at home scam.

For example, a shoddy looking website can be a dead giveaway. If their site is full of spelling errors or broken links, or it’s just one single page with nothing else, then that’s a scam red flag.

Also, be wary of anyone or anything that promises you instant results while asking for money upfront. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Start Working From Home Today!

I wouldn’t trade the work at home lifestyle for anything and this guide sums up everything I’ve learned about making money online.

Do you have a great tip or a story to share about working from home?

Head to the comments and tell me about it, then pin and share this post if it helped you. 🙂

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Hi there, I'm Rebecca, homeschooling single mom of two. I built a six-figure freelance writing business from home and now I teach busy moms how to save money, make money and master their time! Follow me on Pinterest and Twitter and don't forget to check out the Resource Library--it's packed with tons of free tools to help make the busy mom life easier!

Comments

  1. Rebecca, thank you from the bottom middle and top of my heart for this article. It is exactly what I have been needing. In the pits of my soul I know this is what I am meant to pursue but am tired of all the salesy fake pitching ones saying make $20k your first month blogging. There’s so much more to it than that. Thanks so much for everything but mostly for sharing your wisdom and insight. Have a beautiful day.

    • You’re so welcome Susan! I agree with you that those make $20k blogging posts are not realistic for the vast majority of people. There are so many ways to work from home and make money, other than blogging, and a lot of them can offer a faster return without all the frustration that often accompanies blogging.

    • Thanks Carrie! Being productive is hard sometimes but it helps to set goals and try to do one thing at a time, especially when you’re trying to work from home or build a blog.

  2. You just gave me some new ideas on how to work from home. I do more of selling online because some remote jobs pay very little change and my house is not so quiet for phone call jobs. Thanks for the freelance writing guide too.
    Great article, Rebecca.

    • You’re so welcome Buayifa! I can’t do phone jobs because my kids are just crazy loud but also, I’m a super introvert and talking on the phone is difficult. Freelancing is great if you’re looking for a work from home option and there are also plenty of online businesses (like being a virtual assistant, for example) you can start fairly easily and with little to no money.

  3. I really loved your article. I’m at the beginning of my journey into my goal to work from home. II currently work a 9 to 5 and my goal is to be able to earn enough in the next 18 months to quit my job and work from home. I started a blog and I’m loving what I’m doing and I know it will take time to start to make money. This article goes over all the ways to make money so I may start freelancing as a way to earn until my blog takes off.

    • Thanks Kathy! Working from home is great if you can make it work, there are just so many benefits to it. Freelancing is an excellent way to make money online, especially if you’re already writing on your blog. You can take the skills you’re using to grow your blog and create content and use those to create content for other businesses or brands. It gives you credibility and sharpens your writing skills, not to mention freelance writing has great profit potential!

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