Taking Action Report: Can You Really Work From Home?

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For Stephanie Hernandez, being Bella’s Mommy is the best job in the world.  Hernandez left her job in banking after six years to stay home to raise Bella and her little sister on the way.

“I don’t want to have to pay someone else to take care of my kid when I can actually stay at home and do it myself and actually have a better relationship with my kids,” said Hernandez.  “I just thought it would be better.”

So while Stephanie stays home to teach the girls, her husband Armando is a high school physics teacher.

“He took a $10,000 pay cut coming here,” said Stephanie.  “He has a job cooking in a restaurant just trying to keep us afloat.”

That’s why Stephanie emailed WHNT News 19 to ask if we could take action to help her find a legitimate work-at-home opportunity.

“I did try one of them but it’s a lot of research and it didn’t hardly pan out,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie is looking for flexible hours that would allow her to be a mommy and help take some of the pressure off Armando.

“I want to be able to relieve some of the pressures on him, you know, so we can work as a team like we’re suppose to be,” Stephanie said.

Michele Mason with the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama has spent years shopping ‘work at home’ opportunities.

“Out of 112 companies, we only found one company that we would say was legitimate,” said Mason.

It’s a luring proposition — “Sell your hobby, make $2,000 a month” — but willing worker beware.

“Envelope stuffing ads, medical billing, so on, we had some that were already out of business by the time we shopped them, that’s how quickly it comes and goes,” Mason said.

Mason says the legitimate work-at-home opportunities are few and far between.

“They are going to be very sporadic and hard to find,” said Mason.  “There are so many people that call us every day looking for jobs they can do at home, but the competition is going to be huge.”

Meanwhile, the embroidery machine is buzzing at Hillary Dunham’s home office.  Dunham, a work-at-home mother of three, has orders to fill before the baby wakes up from her nap and afternoon carpool starts!

Dunham’s schedule is as tight as her stitches.

“I get up long before the kids to answer emails, start the machine, get whatever projects I have that I know need to be done first priority, get those out,” said Dunham.  “After that I get the kids up, around 6.”

Dunham is back in the office by 8 a.m. and back on the machine. She sets the schedule and it works for her family.  Dunham started Mint Julep Monograms when she was expecting her third child.

“I had no background, no experience, no anything, and I openly tell people that because God put people in my life to train me, to give me the experience to open doors that I would have never ever had before so I know it was a desire that he put in my heart,” said Dunham.  “Slowly, step by step it kind of came into place and so it has been a huge blessing for our family.”

Dunham has a few more projects to finish before she heads out the door for afternoon carpool.

“Alot of people think that you stay home in your pajamas, eat bon bons, flip through soap operas, but that’s not how it happens,” said Dunham.  “There’s got to be alot of self discipline.  You still have customers depending on you just like any retail store.  Alot of what I do depends on me getting up and doing what I do.”

Through her website and Facebook page, Hillary is able to share her business around the world without ever leaving her home.

“We’ve set up a community online to be able to make friends, to make customers to help them to answer their questions, to work with them, to work in an environment that just doesn’t take place in a physical store,” Dunham explained.

Back to Stephanie Hernandez and our quest to help her find something that pays some of the bills.

“Websites out there that have a list of these work-from-home jobs, but you have to pay to get the list, so to me it didn’t seem very legitimate,” she said.  “I don’t know if there’s a lot of them out there, and I think that’s why I just haven’t really…  I think that’s what prompted me to e-mail you guys.”

“I’ve seen the Taking Action things on TV — I just wanted to see if you had some input, I definitely didn’t expect all this,” Stephanie said with a smile.

“That’s the million dollar question,” said Mason, with the Better Business Bureau.  “We get calls every day from people who are calling to check out offers and can learn from us the red flags and so they can of course know that it’s a scam.  The next question, where can I find legitimate work I can do from home.  It’s very hard to answer that question. You can check with state employers, you can check with businesses to see if they have work can you do from home to see if you have the qualifications you have for the job that they are advertising.”

So what are your ‘work at home’ options?  A recent Woman’s Day article gave readers ’10 Ways To Make Money From Home’.  Here they are:

  • Sell your own arts and crafts through websites like Etsy.com
  • Set up a home-based bakery or catering company.  You will need a food license through the State Department of Agriculture, and you’ll need to check with your local health department depending on what you plan to cook.
  • Sell beauty products, jewelry, or cookware.  Companies like Mary Kay, Premier Designs, and Pampered Chef let you set your own schedule and build your own client list.  There are startup costs, and you have to host parties and social events to drum up sales.
  • Set up an eBay business.  You can sell wholesale merchandise, or clothes your children have outgrown. You need basic digital photography and web skills to set up your storefront.
  • Make money writing articles online.  Content publishers such as Associated Content and Demand Studios are looking for articles on gardening, crafts, travel, and shopping. A great way for companies to get feedback is through real customers.
  • Become a tutor.  Check with your child’s school.Maintain a blog.  Bloggers can make money writing about what they know, especially if you have knowledge on a particular topic.
  • Sell gift baskets online.  One site that does this is egiftbaskets.com.
  • Become a virtual assistant. One site to try is virtualassistant.org.
  • Be a personal assistant.  You can run errands, pick up the dry cleaning and shop for groceries for an executive who is too busy to do those things.  It’s a great way to pick up some extra cash while the kids are in school.

Check with your city or county to see if they require a business license.  Those requirements vary by municipality.

And always remember to check with the Better Business Bureau.

“Our checklist would be, make sure you’re not asked to pay any up-front fee for a job,” said Mason.  “Make sure you’re not asked to process checks, to wire money, the wiring money is the red flag for that.”

“Keep in mind a job for that – medical billing , if you sign up for that and all you receive is details on how to train on that it’s up to you to be out and find your own business,” Mason added.

The best bet:  Be your own boss!

Maybe you have an idea and you just need help getting it off the ground.  The Women’s Business Center of North Alabama is a non-profit that can help you with a business plan and a budget.

Remember: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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