Do you find yourself repeating things like “I want to work from home” or “I wish I could work from home,” every time you get ready for work?
I feel ya.
Before I started working from home full-time, it seemed like an unattainable goal. Maybe you feel the same way.
Figuring out how to start working from home in a way that fulfills you and gives you the level of income you need isn’t easy.
There’s a ton of confusing, inaccurate, and sometimes even scammy information online, and it can all get overwhelming fast.
With the right information though, things get a bit easier.
That’s why I made this guide.
Below, I’m going to share everything you need to know about working from home, including:
- The pros and cons of working remotely
- Five skills that will help you succeed
- All the different ways to work from home
- And more
By the end, you'll know IF working from home is right for you, WHICH path to pursue, and HOW to pursue the said path of your choosing.
It's a beefy guide so grab some snacks and a beverage and get ready to dive in!
How I Started Working From Home
Some people like origin stories, others can click here to skip this section.
Here's the condensed version of how I started working from home:
- 2011 – Fortunate enough to have access to a computer from a young age, my friend introduced me to GPT sites when I was just 13/14 years old. I used them to make my first online dollars (in the form of gift cards, which I spent on video games).
- Early 2013 – Started learning about cost-per-action (CPA) marketing, started my first website, and had my first taste of passive income. It was just a couple of dollars earned while I was sleeping, but after that, I was hooked. I loved the idea of being able to put it in work once and then get paid for it over and over again in the future.
- Late 2013 – After building my online income to $200-$500/month with CPA, I finally made enough to build a new gaming computer. Unfortunately, this caused me to get a bit complacent and I coasted off of my passive income for a while until it eventually died out.
- Mid-2017 – Yep, took me this long to get back into things. After going to night school for software development and working random jobs, I decided to get back into CPA. I started making about $500-$1,000/month just a few months later.
- Sep/Oct 2017 – Founded Swift Salary and started working on content.
- March 2018 – Quit my job at a grocery store to work from home full-time. Unfortunately, my blackhat methods caught up at the same time, Google deindexed my CPA site, and my earnings plummeted. Lessons learned? Always provide value and don't sacrifice quality for quick results. Luckily, even though I lost my CPA earnings, Swift Salary was ready to launch.
- April 2018 – Swift Salary was officially launched. It didn't make as much as I had hoped, but I did make my first dollar with it, and I was pumped. Read my first-year blog income report for more details.
- September 2018 – After dwindling down my savings, I realized my blog needed more time to grow and I started looking into freelancing to supplement my income. Found my first freelance writing job with the help of my blog, and the rest is history.
What My Current Work-Life Looks Like
Present-day, I now work 10+ hour days to write this blog and grow my freelancing business.
I’m working more than ever, but because I'm choosing to – rather than feeling forced to – I’m happier than ever.
Now, you may be thinking:
“10+ hour workdays!? I'm outta here!”
Don't worry, you don't have to work 10+ hour days to start working from home successfully.
I just choose to because I'm running a blog AND freelancing biz at the same time. I'm basically working huge hours now to (hopefully) create time freedom for myself in the future.
If you just want to freelance or transition your current job into a telecommuting position, you don’t have to worry about working crazy hours. You might have to put some extra hours in at the start, but that's to be expected.
That being said:
If you are the entrepreneurial type and you WANT to put in the extra hours to build multiple income streams, this guide will help you do that too.
No matter what your goals are, I’ve detailed everything you need to know about making money from home below.
But, we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
Before I show you HOW to start working from home, I want to talk about something even more important:
Why Do You Want to Start Working From Home?
Although you may want to start working from home because it seems like the greatest thing in the world, this lifestyle definitely isn't for everyone. It has its fair share of pros and cons, and it's important to consider both before jumping in.
Right now, take a moment to write down all the reasons you want to work from home.
When the going gets rough (and it will), that list will come in handy. It will motivate you and remind you of WHY you started down this path.
Once you've written your list, read the advantages and disadvantages of working from home below. They should help you solidify your reasoning, or they'll show you that maybe this isn't exactly the right path after all.
For me, the pros definitely outweigh the cons, but I'll let you decide for yourself…
The Benefits of Working From Home
- Increased productivity – There have been various studies done showing that many employees who work from home are happier and more productive (here's one). A lot of this has to do with being able to work wherever you want, and potentially even on your own schedule.
- Fewer expenses – Working from home saves you money on gas (no more commute), food and coffee (less takeout), and even clothes (no more having to buy work-specific attire).
- Better health – It's a lot easier to eat healthier and work out more when you work from home. For most, it's a lot less stressful too.
- More time with family & friends – Although working from home means seeing fellow coworkers less, it makes it a lot easier for you to schedule time with friends and family. You'll get to see the loved ones you live with more often too.
- New personal growth – When you work from home, you have to develop new skills by necessity, and you're going to have to deal with challenges that don't exist inside a typical workplace. These new challenges will help you grow and evolve in new ways. They'll also cause you to realize things about yourself and your work ethic that you may not have been aware of before.
The Disadvantages of Working From Home
- Productivity pitfalls – Although some people are actually more productive from home, it requires a strong mind and a lot of self-control to stay productive for long periods. The home is full of distractions (looking at you, Youtube), and there's no one there to motivate you or keep you in check.
- Hidden costs – Working from home can definitely save you money, but there are also hidden costs like office supplies, a laptop, internet, and those times when you order takeout just cause you don't feel like making anything (it happens).
- Screwy work-life balance – Some find it harder to keep a good work-life balance when working from home, and for good reason. Having your workspace in the same place you're trying to relax can make it harder to unplug at the end of the day.
- Loneliness – Working in an office forces you to socialize. That can be annoying sometimes, but if you don't actively schedule social activities into your calendar as a remote worker, you're going to become a lonely work from home hermit. Even the most introverted people need to socialize occasionally.
- Communication challenges – Remote work often means working with others in different timezones and/or doing a lot of communication over email or chat services. This can make working with a team pretty difficult. Not impossible, but difficult.
While there are solutions to many of the disadvantages above, for some, working from home part-time only might be the best option.
That being said, I'll share some tips near the end of this guide to help you offset some of the disadvantages above.
Skills Needed to Work From Home Successfully
Now that you have an idea of the upsides and downsides of working from home, it's time to talk about something equally as important:
The skills that will help you thrive as a remote worker.
And no, I'm not talking about high-income skills here. I'm talking about specific work from home skills EVERY remote worker should have, no matter what work they're actually doing.
These are also known as soft skills – they're sort of like personality traits rather than job-specific abilities (i.e. hard skills).
Here are the top 5 for remote workers:
- Time-management – If you can't manage your time effectively, you're going to have trouble working from home. You need to be able to deliberately put your time towards important, productive things in order to find success.
- Organization – When you work remotely, you have to keep track of all the tasks on your plate. There's not always going to be someone there to remind you of what needs doing.
- Self-motivation – If you're not good at motivating yourself, you're going to have a really hard time getting anything done at home (even if you're super organized). There are sooo many potential distractions, and once again, no one to hold you accountable but yourself.
- Communication – As you've already learned, communicating is more difficult as a remote worker. To avoid confusion and tons of back and forth with clients and coworkers, you should have good written and digital communication skills.
- Critical thinking/self-learning – Working remotely means you won't always have someone around to ask for help (except maybe Google). You need to be able to think through things on your own, learn, and problem-solve on the go.
If you already possess some of these skills, great. If you don't, that's okay too; you can develop and improve at them over time.
What's important is to be aware of them because as you work from home, you may notice that your lack of a certain skill is holding you back.
When that happens – and you realize it – you can work on fixing the problem.
The 6 Ways to Work From Home
OK. You made it.
Now that you know what you're getting into, we can start talking about the different ways to work from home.
Below I'll outline six main paths you can take, each with their own pros, cons, and sub-opportunities.
Afterward, be sure to read the tips below on how to actually pick the right path for you.
Here are six of the best ways to work from home:
- Start Small
- Turn Your Job Into a Telecommuting Position
- Get a Work From Home Job
- Try Independent Contracting
- Become a Freelancer
- Build a Home Business
Path 1: Try Small Opportunities First
Small opportunities are just what they sound like: easy, low-income work from home gigs that pretty much anyone can do.
These are good for people who either:
- Want to make easy (but not very much) side cash from home (e.g. while working a full-time job); or
- Want to test out working from home before jumping into the bigger income opportunities
Don't expect to be able to earn a full-time income with these opportunities. It's possible, but unlikely.
Check out these posts to learn more:
- Ways to Make Extra Money on the Side
- Easy Ways to Make Money Fast
- Online Survey Sites That Pay Cash
- Best GPT Sites (Get Paid to Sites)
- How to Make Money Testing Websites and Apps
- MTurk Review and Earning Guide
Keep in mind, some of the other paths below can be followed while working a full-time job too. They just require more work and brainpower. That's the trade-off for a better reward.
Path 2: Turn Your Job Into a Telecommuting Position
This is a good choice for many as it's a safe way to see if you even like working from home, and it's easier than starting from scratch.
There is one tiny problem though:
If you can only function at your job in-person, it's going to be next to impossible to convince your boss to allow you to work from home.
You need a location independent job for this path to be an option.
If you have that, the next step is to come up with a plan. Simply walking up to your boss and asking if you can work from home probably isn't the best strategy.
Your best bet is to prepare some sort of written proposal and presentation.
It's a bit of work, but if you really care about working from home, it'll be worth it.
Plus, just think about it: all you need to do is prepare something that shows your boss why it's a good idea to allow you to work from home. How hard could it be?
Here are some tips to help you put together a convincing presentation:
Tip #1: Read Your Companies Work From Home Policy
The policy should state things like which positions are eligible for telecommuting, how scheduling works, and more. Use the info in said policy to support your proposal.
If your company doesn't have a work from home policy, you're at a disadvantage, but don't give up right away.
Tip #2: Focus on How Your Boss Will Benefit
Your boss most likely cares more about how they'll benefit from you working from home, rather than how you'll benefit.
If there's nothing in it for them, it's not really worth the hassle.
Luckily, there IS a lot in it for them, you just have to explain the benefits in your proposal.
So for example, if working from home will increase your productivity, that's something you could mention. If it'll save the company money, that's another point.
Tip #3: Keep Accountability In Mind
Office workers can sit in their chairs and look productive. For telecommuters, it's not that simple.
If you're going to start working from home, you need to build in accountability measures and ways for your employer to track your performance.
The easiest way to do this? Remote tracking software.
It sucks, and it can feel like a breach of privacy, but it allows you to prove to your boss that you're capable of being productive from home.
Some other, more desirable options, include:
- Setting up accountability meetings (in the office or over audio/video chat)
- Creating trackable goals
- Sending your employer a summary of your workday (e.g. over email)
Without these things, for all your boss knows you could be at home watching TV all day rather than actually working. (If only there was a way to make money watching TV…sigh)
Tip #4: Make Yourself Easy to Reach
Another way to keep yourself accountable and in the good books with the boss man/lady is to stay in contact. Make yourself easy to reach.
In your proposal, talk about when and how you can be reached and how you'll stay in contact with your coworkers.
Setting these expectations and boundaries from the beginning will make things easier for everyone. The last thing you want is a call from your boss after 5 pm when you're trying to wind down for the day.
Tip #5: Suggest a Trial Period to Start
Asking for a 1-2 week trial period at the end of your proposal is key. Your boss is more likely to say yes, and you get a chance to prove yourself. Just don't blow it!
If your boss still says no, their loss. Time to try one of the next options so you can get outta there ASAP!
Path 3: Get a Work From Home Job
If you can't turn your current job into a telecommuting position, this is the next best option (assuming you don't want to be self-employed).
A work from home job is just like a regular job, but remote; you work for a company as an employee and you get paid a set salary or hourly wage.
This means your income is consistent and predictable. It also means you may have to work a set schedule (which is less flexible), but that's not always the case.
Most work from home jobs also come with employee benefits and other nice things like vacation time, which is a big bonus.
If you're looking for security and you don't mind potentially losing a bit of flexibility, a work from home job is probably your best bet.
On the other hand, if you're looking for something that gives you a bit more freedom and control, paths 3, 4, or 5 might suit you better.
Keep in mind, there are several different types of remote job, all with their own ups and downs:
- Remote/in-office mix – These jobs involve office and at-home work. The balance will vary from job to job.
- Fully remote, location-dependent – These types of jobs allow you to work from home full-time, but with certain location requirements. This is usually for communication reasons (e.g. they want team members in the same timezones).
- Fully remote, location-independent – Pretty self-explanatory here. This is as free as it gets. You can literally work from anywhere.
Work From Home Job Sites
If you like the sound of working from home as an employee, browse these work from home job sites for potential opportunities:
How to Avoid Scams While Job Searching
Unfortunately, the work from home space is filled with scammers. It's one of the reasons why so many people think making money online is impossible.
Luckily, it's pretty easy to avoid the scams if you know what to look out for. Most of it comes down to common sense.
If something seems fishy or too good to be true, avoid it. Do your research into the hiring company before committing a significant amount of time towards anything.
And of course, always follow rule numero uno:
If they're asking you for money, it's probably a scam. That's the ultimate red flag.
Another great way to avoid WFH scams is to go directly to companies you know are legit. Which leads us into our next section…
Companies Known to Hire Remote Workers
Going directly to well-known companies that hire remote workers not only helps you avoid scams, but it can also help you find better opportunities.
Well, not all companies post their jobs on job boards (there's this thing called the hidden job market). Going directly to the source means less competition and a better chance of your application being seen.
Here are some examples of companies that hire remote workers:
- MailerLite – This one came to mind for me because it's the email automation software I use.
- Toptal – This is another company I'm quite familiar with. They currently have over 500 fully remote workers.
- Hubstaff – Another fully remote company, Hubstaff has over 60 remote employees in 18 different countries.
- VidIQ – This is the software I use for Youtube research, and they have a fully remote team.
- Empire Flippers – A popular marketplace for buying and selling websites, I believe their entire team is remote.
This is of course only a handful of examples. Head here for a more comprehensive list.
Update Your Resume!
If you're trying to land a work from home job, step one is getting your resume past the gatekeepers (most of the time automated software that looks for certain keywords in applicant resumes) and into the hands of the real, human decision-makers.
The best way to do this is to tailor your resume and cover letter to each job you apply to.
But…that's definitely not as easy as it sounds. Read this guide to learn how to really make a dialed-in WFH resume.
Path 4: Be an Independent Contractor
Ok, we're getting into the self-employed area of working from home now…sort of.
Let me explain:
Being an independent contractor means you'll be working for someone else, but not as an employee.
This typically means you get to work on your own schedule, and you might get to set your own rates as well.
However, similarly to a work from home job, you'll still typically work for one (or a few) companies long-term. The companies you work for will provide you with clients/work, and you'll get paid through them too.
And that's the catch:
With the opportunities in this path, you're still relying on another company for work. You're actually more of a dependent contractor than an independent contractor.
For example, look at Rover. Rover's a pet care platform that helps independent pet sitters find work. They provide the clients and other helpful services, and sitters set their rates and work when they want.
It's a good gig, don't get me wrong, but the sitters are still relying on Rover to give them work and money. They're depending on them.
Being a (in)dependent contractor is similar to being a work from home employee, but with a teeny bit more freedom.
This bit of extra freedom comes with a few downsides too:
- No guaranteed paycheck
- No employee benefits; and
- You have to handle your own taxes (this also means you can deduct certain expenses, so it's not necessarily a downside – just extra work)
(In)dependent Contractor Jobs
Here are some places you can find remote dependent contractor work:
- Sites That Pay You to Test Websites and Apps
- Online Tutoring Jobs for Teachers and College Students
- Teach English online – Try VIPKid or MagicEars.
- Babysitting Job Apps
- Transcription Jobs for Beginners
- Lionbridge (search engine evaluation)
- Arise (customer service)
Most of the opportunities above will still classify you as an independent contractor, which is why this path is a bit blurred.
Once dependent contracting becomes a real employment type I think you'll see it being used a lot more in the gig economy.
Path 5: Start Freelancing
Being an online freelancer makes you a truly independent contractor.
As a freelancer, you'll typically be marketing your skills/services yourself (i.e. finding your own clients) and working on a shorter-term, project-to-project basis.
This is more work, but it's also more rewarding, flexible, and scaleable. You're essentially building your own business rather than riding the coattails of someone else's.
This means you get to:
- Set your own rates
- Work how and when you want; and
- Choose who you work with.
You can also potentially start an agency later on down the road which creates even more opportunity, but more on that later.
Freelancing requires a bit more work than dependent contracting or remote employment, but it offers more flexibility, freedom, and income potential.
Online freelancing businesses are typically pretty cheap to start too. All you'll usually need is a computer and some time.
Oh…and a valuable, in-demand skill that business owners are willing to pay for <- that's actually the most important bit.
It's also the bit that must people get caught up on. But don't fret.
Here are some examples of in-demand freelance skills + learning resources for them:
If you're the type that's always pointing out errors in text, stop annoying your friends by correcting they're spelling mistakes on Facebook and start monetizing your skill instead.
PS: Did you catch the error in the paragraph above? If you did, maybe this is the skill for you.
Transcription is the art of converting audio to written text. If you're a good listener with a decent typing speed, it could be the perfect fit.
- Free Transcription Mini-Course
- How to Make Money Transcribing as a Beginner
- Transcription Jobs from Home
Have a way with words? Freelance writing is a huge industry with lots of opportunities.
You could be a copywriter focused on conversions, an email marketer, an eBook writer, a blog article writer, there are SO many options. Writing is such a good skill to have.
- How I found my first freelance writing job
- Where to find online writing jobs
- How to Become a Freelance Writer
- How to Become a Copywriter
If you love Pinterest, managing and growing accounts should be decently fun for you, and it pays well. Plus, if you already use the platform, you probably have most of the skills needed to get started.
Podcast Production Assistant
Help Podcast owners find success, manage their show, edit audio, find sponsors, find guests, write show notes, and more.
With everyone and their moms starting a podcast these days, there are a lot of opportunities here.
One really cool thing about this is that you can potentially work with podcasters you really enjoy listening to.
Download this free workbook to learn more.
Help business owners do various tasks like email management, customer service, data entry, and more. If you have good communication skills and you're trustworthy, this can be a position where you can land long-term clients.
Scoping is a lesser-known work from home service, but that's actually a good thing. It means there are fewer people to compete with.
So what does a scopist do? Simply put, they edit transcripts for court reporters.
Learn more by taking the scope school mini course.
Once a business grows large enough, they'll typically hire a bookkeeper to save time. I'm actually thinking about hiring one myself soon.
This is a job that's easily done from home, it's in high demand, and it pays really well too. If you don't mind working with numbers, it could be the perfect fit.
Learn more with this free bookkeeping class.
Other Freelancing Ideas
- SEO consultant – Every website strives for that first page of Google. If you can help them get there, you can charge a pretty penny. Start learning SEO for free at Backlinko.com.
- Translator – If you speak more than one language, you've got a high-paying skill that most others don't have.
- Graphic designer – Make logos, business cards, you name it.
- Web developer – This could be as simple as helping clients set up Squarespace/WordPress sites, or programming sites from scratch.
- Programmer – Make apps, games, software, etc.
- Social media manager – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Help businesses expand their presence across the web.
- Advertiser – Facebook ad management, Google ad management, etc.
- Resume writer – Yes, this is a real thing. If you can critique resumes and help people get hired you're a valuable person. Learn more.
- Video editing – Videos are everywhere these days and good editors are always needed. Learn more.
- Photo editing – Same as video editing, but with photos. You probably didn't need me to explain that.
- Voice-over acting – Got a nice voice or a classic movie trailer voice? Put it to work!
- Tutoring – Math, music, a sport, or something else. If you're good at something, people might be willing to pay you to teach them.
- Music-making – This guy makes $20k a month selling beats. ‘Nuff said.
As you can see, there are a TON of different freelance skills you can make money with. I haven't even scratched the surface here.
Think about your skills/what you enjoy learning, get creative, and make yourself stand out!
Where to Find Freelance Gigs
Some of the guides I linked to above will have their own tips for finding work, but here are some freelance job sites that you can also search through and advertise your services on:
Some of the gigs posted on these sites don't pay the best, but there are golden nuggets in there if you search carefully.
Other Ways to Get Clients as a Freelancer
- Facebook groups – I got my first freelance client through a Facebook group. Figure out where your ideal clients hang out, go there, provide value and participate, and look out for opportunities.
- Forums, social media, etc. – Same idea as above. Works in places other than just Facebook. Just DON'T SPAM. Provide value, and let the clients come to you. If you see a job posting, THEN feel free to advertise yourself.
- Inner circle – This is how many now-massive agencies started out. Ask your friends and family if they (or anyone they know) need the service you're selling. It can be embarrassing or nerve-wracking, but it's a great way to get started.
- Advertising – I wouldn't recommend starting with this, but after you've made some money you could advertise your services through Google, Facebook, etc.
- Cold calling/emailing – This won't have a high success rate, but don't listen to the naysayers who claim it never works. If you're good, it's all a numbers game.
After using some of these methods or the freelance sites above, the key is to provide the best quality work possible. That's how you retain clients, receive good testimonials, and earn referrals.
Path 6: Build a Business
Although freelancers are technically business owners, the ideas below are a bit different.
See, as a freelancer, you only get paid while you work.
When you own a home business, you have an asset that can generate income without your actual presence. You can put in work once and get paid for it over and over again.
This may sound magical at first, but don't get the wrong idea. There's still work involved.
The difference is that the work you put in today could make you money tomorrow, the next day, and so on.
For example, blog posts that I've written over a year ago are still making me money today. My blog is always working for me in the background.
It's not all sunshine and rainbows though:
You have to invest time and money in order to get a business off the ground. In the beginning, that's money out of your pocket, and time you aren't getting paid for.
In fact, your business may take weeks, months, or even years to become profitable. I blogged for 6 months before making a cent with Swift Salary.
Starting an online business requires a lot of work, dedication, and risk tolerance. It can pay off massively in the long-run, but there's also the chance your idea will flop.
If you're willing to put in work consistently (even with the chance of no reward), check out these home-based business ideas:
If you want to go from freelancer to true business owner, you'll want to create an agency and start outsourcing some (or all) of your work to others.
This is also sometimes called service arbitrage, reselling services, or drop servicing.
Whatever you call it, it's the best way to scale a freelancing business.
Here's a simple look at how it works:
- A client finds you and purchases your service (e.g. video editing)
- You retrieve the info needed from the client (e.g. video files) and send them to another freelancer (e.g. from Fiverr or Upwork) to do the work
- You send the completed work back to the client and everyone is happy
That's just a quick example, but I'm sure you get the point. In most cases, the agency owner (you) becomes a middleman, connecting clients with service providers.
While this may sound like easy money, just remember that finding clients is often the most difficult part of freelancing. On top of that, you'll also need to find a freelancer you trust to carry out client work.
- 14 Signs It's Time to Switch from Freelance to Agency
- How to Start an Agency – Proposify
- How to Go From Freelancer to Agency – Hubstaff
- An Intro to Service Arbitrage
- Drop Servicing Guide
- An Interesting Reddit Post on Dropservicing
Although I am a bit biased, blogging is definitely one of my favorite home business ideas. The income potential is limitless, you get to help and interact with people with similar interests, and it's inexpensive to get started.
On top of that, a blog can support a ton of different income streams: online courses, digital products, physical products, affiliate marketing, advertising, and more.
Blogging will also teach you valuable skills like writing, research, social media marketing, email marketing, SEO, web design, and more.
- Free 10-Day Blogging for Beginners Course (My Best Blogging Resource)
- How to Start a Blog
- How to Monetize a Blog
Youtube is similar to blogging, only in video format. If you're more comfortable being on camera and talking rather than writing, it could be a better choice.
Keep in mind, Youtube has a lot of control over your business. They can technically shut you down or kill your ad revenue at any moment.
That's why I recommend starting a blog before a Youtube channel. Your blog is like home-base, and your Youtube channel can provide a ton of additional growth.
Plus, if one income stream drops, you've still got the other.
To learn more, check out this guide.
Similarly to the Youtube channel, I'd highly recommend starting a blog/website before starting a podcast. If you're able to build up an audience through your blog first, it will help jumpstart your podcast.
Once you have some active listeners, you can monetize with things like sponsors and affiliates.
Check out Pat Flynn's Podcasting Guide to learn more.
If you're someone who loves searching through garage sales and thrift stores for hidden gems, turn that skill into money by flipping the items you find.
You can sell the products you find on places like eBay, Craigslist, and FB marketplace.
With more specific niches (like clothing) you can sell on more specific marketplaces (like Poshmark or Depop).
Physical Product Arbitrage
Arbitrage is similar to flipping, except instead of flea markets and garage sales, you'll be sourcing products from stores like Walmart or Target.
You can then sell the products you find on Amazon, with a little thing called FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon). Essentially, as an FBA seller you just ship your products to Amazon, and they handle the rest (e.g. shipping, packing, returns, customer service, etc.).
This allows you to tap into a huge customer base that's willing to pay higher prices for the convenience of Amazon Prime shipping.
Another step up in the selling/FBA world is private labeling – selling your very own branded products.
This path requires a bit more of an investment, and it's definitely harder, so I recommend starting with flipping or arbitrage first to build capital.
Learn more with this free Ebook.
Print on Demand
Print on demand is a really cool way to sell your own custom products/designs online.
Here's how it works:
- You create a design and put it on a digital product (e.g. a hat, shirt, mug, etc.)
- Someone buys the design
- The print on demand company you're working with prints your design on the purchased product and then they ship it to the customer.
With sites like Redbubble, it's easy to get started too. You can literally sign up, upload some designs, stick them on things like t-shirts, mugs, wall art, and countless other products, and then have the potential to start making sales.
(Keep in mind there is a LOT of competition on Redbubble and similar sites. You need a unique product that really stands out to start making sales.)
As you find success and start building momentum, you can create your own store (on say, Spotify) and sell independently too. This is much better for building a brand.
To learn more, read this guide from Wholesale Ted.
There are definitely more home-based business ideas than the ones I just listed above. However, these are some of the best.
I'll continue adding to this list over time.
How to Pick the Right Path For You
Now that you know about the different paths available to you, it's time to get started.
For some, picking a path will seem easy. For others, all the options above may have sent you into a state of analysis paralysis.
Don't worry. This section will help with that.
Below are five simple steps you can follow to narrow down your options and find a path worth pursuing.
(These steps are inspired by Ramit Sethi's guide and a ton of other career stuff I've read over the years.)
Step 1. Eliminate the Obvious
Just like back in school when taking a multiple-choice test, start by eliminating the answers you know are incorrect.
In this case, eliminate the paths that don't suit your interests or income needs.
For example, if you want to make a living working from home, Path 1 is automatically eliminated because the opportunities in that path aren’t full-time money-makers.
Another example: if you know you don’t want to be employed but instead want to be your own boss, that definitely eliminates Path 2 and 3, and potentially Path 4 as well.
At this point, even if you don’t eliminate further, you already have a much better starting point.
Step 2. Examine the Sub-Opportunities
Step 1 was easy stuff. Now it's time to look through the remaining paths and start narrowing down the sub-opportunities in each path
Here’s are some tips to help you do that:
- Look for things that interest you. Read the descriptions of each opportunity and write down any idea that you think you might like.
- Think about your natural strengths. What have you always enjoyed doing or been good at since you were a kid? For example, maybe you've always been a good problem solver. Maybe you enjoy being creative. Look for opportunities that support your natural strengths and skills.
- Look for jobs that involve skills you would like to learn. Think about the journey though, not the end goal. Just because you enjoy playing video games that doesn't necessarily mean you'll enjoy learning how to actually make them.
Don't be afraid of opportunities that are new, intimidating, scary, or unexciting.
Because fear is often a good sign, not a bad one. And, it's always good to step outside your comfort zone – that's how you'll really learn more about yourself and grow both personally and professionally.
Keeping all of this in mind as you go through and evaluate each opportunity, write down the ones that you'd like to look into further. When you're done, move onto the next step.
Step 3. Explore What's Left
Ok, by this point you should have a list of specific opportunities you're interested in. Now it's time to dive deeper and learn more about them.
To start, you can use the links I've included under each work from home opportunity above to learn more.
Google is a great resource too. Try searching things like:
- [Insert job] (e.g. software developement)
- Day in the life of a [insert job title]
- How much do [insert job title] make
Basically just do a ton of research on the options you're interested in. As you do this, you'll be able to narrow down your list even more.
That being said:
Don't eliminate every opportunity you're not instantly passionate about.
Passions can be developed – and it's often better that way.
For example, just look at me. Two big things I do on a daily basis for work now are writing and SEO. Neither were ever my passions.
In fact, I disliked writing quite a bit in high school and always thought SEO was confusing as hell.
However, as I've done each of them more and improved at them, they've become passions. AND, they've given me more freedom to practice other passions of mine (like skateboarding).
All I'm saying is, sometimes it's better to follow opportunity, find success, and then let passion follow.
Just something to think about before moving on.
Step 4. Get Started
At this point, if you really followed the steps above, your list should be pretty short.
The best thing to do next is to simply pick one of the opportunities remaining and get started.
So for example:
- If you have a particular work from home job on your list, start searching for open positions.
- Super interested in freelance graphic design? Start practicing with design tools. Follow Youtube tutorials. Find a course you can afford. Try to find clients. Create fake, made-up companies and design logos for them.
- If you want to start a print on demand business, start researching how to get started. Watch videos. Buy a course. Make a design and put it on RedBubble.
You get the point.
For some things, you'll quickly discover that they're not the right choice for you.
That being said:
Don't give up on something just because it makes you uncomfortable or you're not good at it right off the bat.
While you do this, look for work that makes you forget time exists for a little while (aka flow state). If you can find that, never let it go…
Step 5. Stick With It
Once you find something that you enjoy and that you flow with, prioritize it. Do it every day, even when you don't feel like it.
Don't get distracted by other opportunities either. Stick with what you uncovered throughout the last 4 steps until you find success. Everything else is just noise.
- If you're a freelancer, work on your main craft/skill until you're a master at it. Once you master one skill – and only then – start learning another.
- If you're starting a home-based business, don't just give up after things get difficult or doubt starts to creep in. Keep at it and learn from any mistakes that happen along the way.
- Finally, if you're looking for a remote job, keep learning and searching until you find something. And once you land the gig, don't get complacent. Continue learning, work on your own thing, and network. Your job might not be around forever.
This stuff won't be easy, but it's what will set you above the rest. SO many people give up too early.
When you feel like giving up, just remember this:
Even if you love something, there will be days when you don't feel like doing it.
If you can show up on those days, you'll put yourself ahead of many others. Consistency is key.
What To Do Before Quitting Your Job
If you're learning about how to start working from home because you want to quit your current job, it's important that you prepare yourself a bit before you tell your boss the big news.
Some online income streams can take time to build up, and even then, inconsistency is still an issue.
Follow these steps for a smooth transition that won't leave you wondering how you're going to make rent next month:
Start on the Side
This is the smartest thing you can do before quitting your job. Start building your online income on the side first.
(Or, if you're looking for a remote job, wait until you've actually landed something before quitting your current job.)
If you can manage to do this, you've already proven you can be productive from home, and you'll end up killing it once you go full-time.
This also lets you prove your business can succeed without risking too much. Since you'll have a steady income from your job, you won't have to worry about not making enough to pay rent, and you can even use that job money to invest in and grow your business more quickly.
Build an Emergency Fund
Even if you do a trial period and build up a decent income before quitting your job, it's still a good idea to build an emergency fund.
Actually it's a good idea to have an emergency fund no matter what. I recommend starting with $1,000, but I wouldn't quit your job until you have at least 3-6 months worth of expenses saved.
To figure out how much that is for you, use this simple emergency fund calculator.
Work From Home Tips
Working from home, as you may discover soon, isn't as easy as it may seem. It's nice, yes, but it requires self-discipline. It can also be expensive if you're not careful.
To help you save money AND time, here are six of my best work from home tips:
Create a Dedicated Workspace
To keep your work-life balance in check while working from home, you need to learn to unplug, AND plug-in when the time is right.
Creating a dedicated work-only area helps a lot with this.
(This was also one of the top tips I received when putting together my guide on working from home with kids.)
If you don't have sufficient space in your house for a home office – or you simply don't like working at home – try working elsewhere (like at a coffee shop or coworking space).
Have a Routine
You may want to start working from home in order to escape your old routines – and you can to an extent – but you'll be much more efficient if you stick to some sort of schedule.
So for example, have a certain time when you start and end work. This not only helps you become more productive, but it also helps you unplug at the end of the day.
It's a good idea to write your to-do list the day before too. That way when the new day starts, you can get right to work instead of having to try to figure out what to work on.
Other than having a particular routine, it's helpful to have certain habits too. You can read my post on the habits of the rich and successful to learn more about which ones you might want to include in your day.
Fun fact: Some people will even put on work clothes to get in the work mindset. I'm not that dedicated.
Keep Your Money in Check
This is a finance blog, so you should have seen this one coming. While working from home can save you money, there are also some hidden costs to be aware of and things you should do to stay organized financially.
For business owners (freelancers, independent contractors, etc.):
- Track tax-deductible expenses while working from home. This could be software, office expenses, some of your internet bill, gas, etc. (contact a professional for advice in this area).
- Use bookkeeping software (I use Zoho Books). And keep your business accounts and transactions separate from anything personal if possible. This will help you stay organized and save you tons of time (and headaches).
For remote employees:
- Take advantage of your benefits. Many remote employers will reimburse you for certain expenses like office supplies.
Track Your Time
One of the best ways to improve anything is by tracking it. Tracking your time to become more productive is just like tracking your spending to improve your budget.
I use the Pomodoro method to track my productive work hours.
Here's how it works:
- Pick a task on your to-do list
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working
- After 25 minutes, put a tally next to the task
That's one completed Pomodoro. After one, you can take a 5-minute break, but I like to do two at a time and take a 10-minute break after.
At the end of the day, count your total pomodoros to get an overall view of your productivity.
If you use the system properly and honestly, it will boost your productivity a ton and help you actually FOCUS when you're working on something.
Learn more about the Pomodoro technique here.
Make Use of Helpful Tools
There are a ton of helpful tools, apps, services, and products that have made my life working from home a lot easier.
For example, the ultimate thing that I could not live without is my bullet journal. It helps me stay productive, organized, and sane.
Keep in mind, before working from home, I was NOT the journaler type. I hated handwriting and thought journals were for keeping a diary or some crap.
Boy was I wrong.
I've now filled up multiple journals and optimized my bullet journal layout for maximum efficiency, and I love it. Can't live without it.
(That's only ONE of my must-have tools. Keep reading for more.)
Learn to Experiment
The tips above aren't set in stone rules that you have to follow. Neither are all the productivity and work from home tips you'll read elsewhere on the internet. They're more like guidelines.
In the end:
You need to learn to experiment and try new things in order to figure out how you can reach YOUR maximum level of efficiency.
Different things work for different people, so figure out what works for you.
Also, don't beat yourself up when you have an unproductive day. Instead, figure out what caused it and learn from it (tracking your time and schedule will help a lot with this).
Must-Have Work From Home Tools
While I don't think any piece of software is the solution to productivity or success in general, there are a lot of tools remote workers can use to save time and work more efficiently.
Some tools are also borderline necessary for certain things (like receiving payments).
The problem is, these days there are about a billion tools that all do the same thing. To help you avoid overwhelm, here are my favorite work from home tools:
If you're working with others, making communication easy is essential. There are plenty of great tools for this, but here are a few I use:
- Zoom – For video chats and meetings.
- Trello – For project collaboration.
- Slack – For quick messages to people.
Payments / Bookkeeping
- PayPal – Good for receiving money, terrible for exchanging currencies.
- TransferWise – Excellent for currency exchanges and virtual foreign bank accounts.
- Payoneer – Another great account for receiving payments. Decent currency exchange rates too.
- Zoho Books – Inexpensive and feature-filled bookkeeping software.
Productivity / Time Management
- Tomato Timer – A simple, free web-based Pomodoro timer.
- TopTracker – Free time tracker for freelance and personal projects.
- Bullet Journal – As I said above, I couldn't live without one of these. I use mine to track my daily to-do's, daily schedule, and weekly goals. Right now I'm using a Leuchtturm1917 journal.
Project Management / Organization
- Trello – I already mentioned Trello in the communication tools section, but it's much more than that. I personally use Trello for managing all sorts of projects, as well as client projects as a freelancer. I've heard Asana is a good alternative too.
- G Suite – Great for business emails (e.g. email@example.com), and I couldn't live without Google docs and sheets.
- Evernote – I mostly use this to digitize documents (like journal pages and business cards) and to store web articles to read for later. That way my browser bookmarks (which are for quick access to things) don't get super unorganized.
- Notion – I've heard great things about this software but haven't tried it myself yet. It's supposed to combine Trello, Gsuite, and a ton of other things in one.
Working from home means you're in charge of protecting your data. Safe browsing is a good first step, but these tools can give you some extra layers of security:
- NordVPN – I used to only use a VPN when on public wifi (or for unblocking US Netflix), but recently, I've started using one even while at home. NordVPN has good prices and servers.
- Sticky Password – Best purchase I ever made. With a password manager, you only have to remember one password and all the rest are auto-filled. This also provides a bit of added protection from keyloggers.
- Malwarebytes – Antiviruses like Windows Defender don't block everything, so I use Malwarebytes as an extra layer of safety.
As you've seen, there are multiple ways to work from home. But in the end, it all comes down to YOU.
You there sitting in front of your laptop, desktop, phone, tablet, whatever.
If you want to start working from home, you're going to have to step out of your comfort zone and take action.
The sad thing is, a lot of people will read this guide and give up before they even start. Or, they'll give it some effort for a little while, and then give up a month or two later.
Here's the thing:
Learning how to start working from home is easy (you've already done it by reading this guide). Taking action is a lot harder.
If you really want to succeed, you have to give it at least 6-8 months of consistent hard work. Possibly more.
Some will find success earlier than that and some later (a lot of it depends on the path you choose), but that's a good average. Just remember that consistency is key.
Pick a path and then a sub-opportunity within that path, dedicate yourself to it, and you will almost certainly find success. Everything you need is above.
And with that, good luck!
Have questions? Have a plan? Comment below if you need help, or if you want to share your thoughts and motivate others.