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What You Need To Know To Start Your Work From Home Job Search The Right Way

Ready to start your work from home job search but have no idea where to actually start? No problem! Here's what you need to know to start your search off the right way.As of 2017, a whopping 43% of U.S.-based workers work from home at least some of the time. That’s pretty impressive considering, just even a decade ago, that number was less than 10%!

And even though recent headlines show big-name companies, like IBM, calling their remote workers back into the office, the remote-work trend is here to stay.

In fact, more than half of polled workers in large metro areas prefer remote work over any other commute option (think driving or public transportation!).

Companies have taken notice of this desire to telecommute and are increasingly offering it as an option. And, of course, this is great news for out-of-the-cubicle thinkers, like you!

But getting started with a work-from-home job search isn’t as simple as a traditional one. There are a lot of different terms, things to consider, and scams to be on the lookout for.

And, if you like the idea of telecommuting but have no idea where to start, it can be daunting to try to figure it all out on your own.

So, instead of joining the 43% of us who work remotely at least some of the time, you simply keep thinking of working from home.

But, fear not! I’m starting with the very basics to help you better understand the work-from-home job search landscape. And it all starts with knowing the terms used to describe the many work-from-home options out there. ‘Cause you can’t get started if you don’t actually know what you’re getting into 😉

Know Your Terminology

Freelance? Virtual? Telecommute? Remote? Are these all the same or something different?

Good questions!

You see, when looking for a work-from-home job, you’ll come across some different terms used to describe a job. A lot of them are interchangeable, but some aren’t. And there are some implications in how and when you’ll work with certain terms.

Needless to say, it’s a good idea to brush up on your remote-related terminology. Soon enough, you’ll realize that one type of job or employment is better suited to you than the others. And knowing this will make your actual job search so much easier.

Independent Contractor

An independent contractor works on a contract basis. That is, you are not an employee and may only be hired for a specific project. Work can be extended for longer or can be terminated without notice.

Independent contractors receive a 1099. That means you are responsible for paying taxes on income earned. And, because you’re not an employee, you are not entitled to benefits like paid time off or health insurance.

But, independent contractors are afforded flexibility in how and when they work. You may have a certain number of hours to log weekly or due dates for work, but how and when you get your work done is entirely up to you.

Some examples of contract jobs include researcher, search engine evaluator, independent customer service agent, and transcription.


When you freelance, you are your own boss. That’s because you, as the freelancer, are in charge of everything from finding clients to work with to collecting payments and managing your time.

Freelancers package together services for sale. These services are sold to clients for a specific project or length of time. For example, a freelance writer may be hired to write one 500-word article at a rate of $0.05 per word. Once that job is done, payment is collected and the freelancer moves onto something else.

Freelancers are self-employed, which means no benefits or taxes are withheld from payments. With self-employed status, however, you have total control over your work. The flexibility that comes with freelancing means you can work around your busy schedule.

Some examples of popular freelance jobs include writer, proofreader, designer, and virtual assistant. But, really, if you can think it, you can freelance it! There are endless possibilities to earn a living as a freelancer in today’s digital age.


Sometimes, a job may be referred to as “virtual.” Essentially, this means it can be done entirely online. That is, you don’t have to come into the office ever.

You’ll often see the term virtual used to describe administrative type positions that can be done from home. Think of virtual assistant, virtual librarian, virtual researcher, and virtual receptionist jobs.


If a job is marked telecommute it means you can work from home! That’s it. When you telecommute, you work from somewhere outside of the office. Often, this means from home. But it could also include cowering spaces, cafes, and coffee shops!

Employee positions are often given telecommute status. A telecommute employee position is just like an in-office one. Employees of a company who telecommute often receive a set pay rate, consistent schedules, and may be benefits eligible. Benefits vary from one company to the next, but often include perks like paid time off and health insurance.

But, unlike a traditional office job, telecommuting allows you to skip the daily commute in favor of working from your home office.


Like telecommute, the term remote is just another way to say a job where a person works from home or any location outside of a traditional office.

Again, remote work is often a term used to describe employee positions (those with benefits, set schedules, etc.). If a job’s location is listed as “remote” it means you can work (almost) anywhere.

Work From Home/Work At Home

The terms work-at-home and work-from-home are broad terms that can be used interchangeably. Sometimes they’re also abbreviated to look like WFH or WAH.

Big-name companies, like Apple, Amazon, American Express, and Hilton, often use the terms work-from-home and work-at-home when advertising their remote jobs.

Direct Sales

I don’t often talk about direct sales here on Work From Home Happiness. That’s because I focus on freelance and remote employee positions that don’t require startup fees.

Now, that’s not saying that direct sales isn’t a legit way to earn a living from home — it is. But it’s also not for everyone and not a guarantee for success. And I absolutely do not like to promote “opportunities” or programs that require initial investment for products or other inventory without a guarantee of a living wage.

Nonetheless, if you come across a listing for direct sales, it means you are an independent consultant for a company. You are responsible for selling products. As a consultant, you’ll receive a commission for each sale you make. Direct sales is often done both online and offline. So, you probably will solicit sales on Facebook as well as host in-person parties or pop up shops.

Often, you will need to pay fees for inventory upfront. You may or may not receive these fees back if you fail to sell any products — it all depends on the direct sales company you contract with. It goes without saying, make sure to carefully read a contract BEFORE you jump into direct sales. You may end up finding yourself on the hook for quite a bit of product if you’re unable to sell it.

Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)

Multi-level marketing, aka, MLM is a type of direct sales, but not all direct sales companies are MLM.

What makes it different is MLM often requires you to recruit other consultants to work ‘under’ you, who then recruiter more consultants, and so on and so forth down the pyramid.

Often, MLM opportunities present themselves as get-rich-quick type opportunities. And, I never, ever recommend them to anyone who wants to work from home. Period.

There are too many legitimate, stable ways to earn a living from home without having to resort to shady ‘systems’ and ‘programs.’ These MLM opps often promise at-home riches but hardly ever deliver. There’s a reason, after all, the SEC issues a stern warning about getting involved in them.

Don’t Know Where To Start? Start With The Basics! 

There you have it. I know it’s not fun to have to learn about the basics, but it really lays the foundation for a successful job search. When you know what it is you’re looking at in terms of a remote job, you can better figure out if it’s the right type of employment for you.

Questions? Hit me with them in the comments below!



P.S. This post contains affiliate links. Check out my disclosure statement to learn more. 

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About Carol St. Amand

Carol St. Amand

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