It's the dream of every exhausted professional: keep the paycheck, and the career advancement, but lose the expensive and tiresome commute. If you'd just as soon do your job in your pajamas -- or, at any rate, far from the madding crowds of the cubicle farm -- there are several solid options for making your work-at-home career blossom. Here's how to get started.
1. Negotiate With Your Boss
Many of today's jobs require only an internet connection and maybe a phone line. If your present gig is one of these, you might be able to talk your manager into allowing you to work at home on a full- or part-time basis. The best way to do this is to demonstrate that letting you do your job from a home office will benefit the company.
Focus your argument on the productivity gains, and therefore the money the company stands to earn. Be prepared to back up your claims with real numbers, hopefully with dollar signs in front of them. Your case will be stronger if you're able to demonstrate your ability to get stuff done while outside the office.
If you're already allowed to work at home on an occasional basis, be sure to put in your very best work whenever you're having a work-at-home day. If your manager and colleagues have to go looking for you during your WAH, it'll be hard to persuade them that you can be trusted with a more permanent arrangement.
2. Look Online
If the job you have doesn't lend itself to working from home, or you're in the market for a new job altogether, take a look at one of the many online job searching sites that allow you to search just for work-from-home opportunities. Monster, Craigslist, and CareerBuilder all have searchable listings that you can filter with keywords like "work from home" or "work at home" or "freelance."
In addition, specialty job sites like FlexJobs allow you to search vetted banks of telecommuting, freelance, and a part-time work (generally, for a fee). If you go it on your own, just be sure to avoid scams. The old adage is true: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Other warning signs of internet job scams include outrageously high pay, vague job descriptions or titles, or people contacting you out of the blue via email with any of the above.
Finally, never, ever give anyone your bank account information, credit card number, or any identifying personal information that could help someone steal your cash or worse, your identity. Work-from-home scammers often try to sell their victims a "kit" to help them get started, but the best-case scenario is that you'll waste your money.
3. Focus on Companies or Specific Jobs
So no, you're probably not going to make six figures stuffing envelopes or processing rebates. But you can make a decent living working at home by used those vetted resources described above, or looking specifically at companies which feature a large number of work-from-home positions or by investigating career paths that lend themselves to telecommuting.
Laureen Miles Brunelli at About.com's Work-at-Home Moms site offers a list of 200 companies that hire everyone from data entry operators to doctors. The employers on her list include well-known names like 1-800-Flowers, UnitedHealthcare, Lockheed Martin, and Enterprise.
Note that there's no guarantee that a specific company on the list is hiring at this time, but all have hired work-from-home employees in the past. Definitely worth a look.
Lastly, if you're sick and tired not only of your job, but your whole career path, you might consider a complete change to something different and more flexible. Some occupations lend themselves to the work-at-home setup more than others; if you're looking to make the switch, take a look at this list of jobs that often allow workers to telecommute. You'll find everything from call center jobs to online teaching and transcription.