Considerations for Working a Home-Based Job After 50

By Kerry Hannon

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

One of the great American dreams is to work at home, having a flexible schedule and working as much or as little as desired or needed to make ends meet. Unless you require a lot of social contact primarily obtained through work, you’ll probably like working at home as much or even more than you had imagined. The two big questions you need to answer before you make the leap are: “Is the work safe” and “What sorts of opportunities are available?”

Is it safe?

Con artists often dangle the home-based job as a carrot to get people to hand over their cash or their personal information, which the con artists use to steal. Still, many work-at-home opportunities are legitimate. Organizations often save money by outsourcing work to home-based workers, avoiding the overhead of maintaining office space and equipment and paying benefits.

Although you may not be able to avoid risks entirely, you can minimize your exposure to risk by taking the following precautions:

  • Work only for brick-and-mortar employers — those that have a physical address, a phone number, and a domain name.

  • Never give any personal or financial information, such as your Social Security number, birthdate, or bank account or credit card numbers over the phone or online until you’ve done your research and confirmed that the organization and the person claiming to represent it are legitimate.

  • Search the web for the organization’s name followed by “scam,” “rip-off,” or “complaints” to tap into any online discussion about the organization that may reveal it’s not legitimate. Also, search the organization’s name at the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

  • Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your area and the area in which the company is headquartered, and verify the organization with its local consumer protection agency and state’s attorney general.

  • Contact one of the organization’s reps and ask what specific tasks you’ll have to perform, whether you’ll be paid by salary or commission, who will pay you, and when and how frequently you’ll be paid. Ask what the total cost to you will be, including supplies and equipment. Get answers to your questions in writing.

  • Be wary of overstated claims of product effectiveness, exaggerated claims of potential earnings, and demands that you pay for something before instructions or products are provided.

  • Be wary of personal testimonials that never identify the person so you can’t investigate further.

What sorts of opportunities are available?

If you’ve set your sights on a work-from-home job, go straight to a company you’d like to work for and see whether it hires remote workers. A good place to start is the career section of its website. Sites such as FlexJobs.com focus on legitimate work-from-home jobs and prescreen each job and employer to be certain they aren’t scams. Here are some great work-from-home jobs to consider:

  • Translator-interpreter: Fluency in two languages generally qualifies you for the job, but to work for certain employers, you need to know specialized vocabulary, such as legal or medical terms.

  • Mediator: Arbitration and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) have steadily gained converts from those hoping to bypass lawsuits with onerous fees and often a drawn-out legal process.

  • Graphic designer: If you have a talented and well-trained eye and know your way around graphics programs, you can find plenty of assignments designing websites, logos, letterhead, business cards, restaurant menus, marketing brochures, and much more. Local colleges and universities and the American Institute of Graphic Arts are great places to go to find out how to get the training and certification required … and to find a job when you have what it takes.

  • Writer/editor: If you have a flair for the written word and a clear grasp of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage, you can find a wide range of writing and editing jobs. Reach out to local associations and organizations, community newsletters, and other regional publications. Ask if they need an extra hand on an assignment basis for online and print articles, brochures, and press releases. Freelance writers can find postings on Elance and Freelancer.com.

  • Grant/proposal writer: If you have a knack for research, are detail-oriented, and have fundamental writing skills, grant/proposal writing could be in your future. To find out how to succeed as a grant/proposal writer, check out Grant Writing For Dummies, by Beverly A. Browning (Wiley). Check online job boards such as the Chronicle of Philanthropy for job postings.

  • Bookkeeper/accountant: Duties run the gamut from processing payroll checks to handling invoicing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and other financial reporting. Some firms may ask you to monitor checking and savings accounts and track credit card bills. Although you may find work without being a certified public accountant (CPA), that certification will open a lot of doors. Visit the American Institute of CPAs to find out how to become a CPA.

  • Customer service representative: You’ll need an up-to-date computer (usually a PC), a high-speed Internet connection, a dedicated landline telephone during business hours, a telephone headset, a quiet place to work, and people and communication skills. Potential employers include American Airlines, 1-800-Flowers.com, and Hilton Hotels. Others use third-party companies who then hire home-based workers.