I’ve been at this for about a month now, and despite the existential crisis, I have learned some things. I’ve been sharing them with a friend, but as I did I realized that what I know might be helpful to other people in our position. So here’s a roundup of some of the most important stuff so far.
AS A CSR
When Indeed and CareerBuilder only turned up responses from work-from-home jobs that required I pay for my own training, I got creative. The way the world is now, I knew there just had to be better options for at-home customer service positions.
Before I go on, though, I’d like to take a moment to talk about paying for your own training. It’s not as scammy as it looks at first glance. Paying for your own training is a good way for companies to keep costs down while reducing the impact of high turnover on their bottom line. Before you commit to anything, do your research. At the very least, read reviews from current and former employees on sites like Indeed and Glassdoor.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of places are not hiring employees, they’re hiring contractors. You’ll be responsible for your own taxes. If you’re not familiar with paying your own local, state, and federal taxes, you’re going to have to hire someone, or invest the time to learn.
But there are other options for at-home CSR work! I actually found some really great ones in a negative review for Arise, and when I explored them, I was much happier and much less skeptical of what I found.
Things to Know:
- You have to meet their basic requirements. I had to bump up our Internet speed tier with our ISP to get the required upload speed for Sitel. It was an extra $15/month ($10 for the next speed tier + $5 for the wireless router modem with the extra ethernet port), and the job Sitel hired me for is full-time at $9/hr, so it’s cost-effective for me.
- My equipment met the requirements for Convergys before the bump, but my ISP did not. That sort of compatibility requirement may eliminate a lot of people in areas with only one ISP option (like for us, here; when we first moved to Lawton, Fidelity was our only option, and they’re a local-to-several-states ISP), so that’s something to be aware of.
- Some positions/companies require hardwired landlines, either Plain Old Telephone Service or VoIP lines, without any added features. I’m going to be honest, I have no idea who to even contact about getting a POTS line, but had I not gotten a response from Sitel I probably would have at least gotten a VoIP line just to qualify for other positions. If you already have a POTS, you’re probably ahead of the curve.
- You’re probably going to need a wired headset. I bought this one from Amazon and I love it. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can use it on your phone (awesome for while I’ve been job-hunting and needed my hands free to write down info) and a USB plug so you can use it on your computer. The USB attachment has volume and mic control right on it, so you can adjust volume and mute/unmute the mic. The noise-canceling is fantastic and the mic only picks up your voice, not background noise. (For an added bonus, I paid for it with a couple of gift cards I earned taking surveys through the QuickThoughts app.)
- If you need or want a new computer, but you’re looking at new computer prices and your face looks like you’re having a stroke: refurbished work computers. If you’ve ever held an office job you know what workhorses those can be, and refurbished usually means upgraded, and it’s possible to get a whole system (monitor included) for $200 or less. Sitel requires I supply a monitor for their equipment, so I ended up getting another one from the same guys I bought my computer from, and a nice big flat-panel monitor was $65.
- Apply to all of them! The absolute worst that can happen is you get job offers from all of them and have to decide who to go with, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a bad problem to have.
- Get on their notification lists. If you don’t see the job you want currently listed, let them email you when they might have something.
My favorite resource: The Penny Hoarder Work-From-Home section. I’ve gotten two extra gigs so far from here, plus an invitation to go further in the application process for another.
Outsourced, in-depth research and analysis. I just started this and my first job wasn’t accepted, but there are so many tips and guidelines, and I got great feedback, so I’m pretty comfortable with my ability to learn and succeed here. The group chat is really nice, because you immediately get to see what other researchers are doing and how they feel about the work. You can also get immediate help and support, so you’re working at home, but it has the useful social component of office work.
I did my first test for them and got a four-star review, and for a first test? That’s not bad. Tests pay about $10 each for about 20 minutes of work and you get paid seven days from approval. It’s not steady work, but I keep checking back and taking screeners, so it’s probably going to be a nice way to just get a little extra. You could also check out this list from The Penny Hoarder.
I just got my invitation this morning to complete the testing for a client here. I’m pretty excited about it because I keep thinking about my parents and grandparents and how they use search engines, and the idea of making the experience easier and better for people who aren’t as serious about research and finding the right information, but still need the right information, is incredibly appealing. There are other search engine evaluators, and for most of them you can only work for one at a time, but it’s like with the CSR job: apply to all of them, the worst that can happen is you have to decide who to work for.
These HITs are a lot like the surveys and videos you do on survey sides like InboxDollars in that they don’t pay much per HIT. The work is way more interesting and engaging, though. You won’t get rich and it probably won’t pay all of the bills, but over time it’ll add up pretty decently, I think. I mean, $5/day isn’t a lot of money, but $5 every day for a month is a phone bill. (And for at least the first ten days, you have to complete HITs every day.)
Things to Know:
- These side gigs in particular require attention to detail and even some studying.
- Read instructions.
- Give yourself time to learn what they expect of you, and use all the resources they offer you.
- Ask for clarification if you need to, but there are so many opportunities that you’ll find the right one, so if it’s too difficult, move on.
Work is out there, and it pays well enough to make it worth your while, it just depends on your skills and interest and how far you go in your searches.