Search the Internet for work-at-home opportunities and the results are pages deep. It's true you can use the Internet to increase your income and do it from home, but proceed with caution. There are plenty of scammers who make their money by taking yours.
There's no quick way to Internet riches. To earn money, you need to provide some sort of service in return for pay. Like real-life jobs, you may need to pass a test or a background check before getting hired. How much you can make depends on your skill and experience. But where possible, I've listed average pay rates.
If you have special talents, consider freelance work. Freelancing isn't just for writers. Designers, programmers, business professionals, engineers and even administrative assistants will find opportunities.
Many small sites list freelance opportunities. Some let you bid on projects for free. For more opportunities, try Elance.com, Guru.com or Sologig.com. Expect to pay $100 or more for an annual membership.
As a freelancer, you won't have the security of a full-time job. Projects could be sporadic. You may spend more time finding work than working when you start out. But you set your own hourly or per-project rates.
If you're experienced in customer service, you can do this virtually. In addition to your own computer and a landline, you need a quiet environment. You can pick your own hours. You'll earn between $6 and $30 per hour. Try Arise.com, LiveOps.com or WorkingSol.com.
Virtual concierges handle errands and inquiries. You may be assigned mundane tasks like scheduling appointments. Or, you may get wacky requests, like locating clothing donned by a movie star.
You need strong customer service skills. Try VIPdesk.com. Or, if you can sell yourself, start your own service. Compensation starts at $14 an hour.
Have strong typing skills and a good command of the English language? Consider transcription work. Experience is required, and you must type 75 words per minute. Visit Tigerfish.com and ProductionTranscripts.com.
If you're good at selling, consider direct sales. Many companies have programs, and it isn't just Tupperware or Avon. You can sell in person or via the Internet.
The Direct Selling Association (www.dsa.org) will match companies to your interests. It also offers advice. Visit the individual companies' sites for information on their programs.
If teaching is your passion, become an online tutor. You connect with students via online chat.
Be prepared to take a rigorous test. Teaching experience may be required. Start by visiting SmartThinking.com or Tutor.com. Expect to make $10 per hour.
Help for the disabled
Telecommuting is particularly beneficial for some disabled people. The National Telecommuting Institute (www.nticentral.org) helps individuals with disabilities find work-from-home opportunities. You'll find job listings and advice.
Watch out for scams
You'll find plenty of scam artists when you look for work-at-home opportunities.
Be wary of companies that promise extraordinary sums of money for little work or opportunities that require a substantial investment. In most cases, there shouldn't be up-front fees for getting started. With direct sales, you may need to buy products. Don't pay more than $500. And make sure the company will take back unsold stock.
Before you get involved with a company, do an online search. Type the company name, along with "scam" into a search engine. You'll see if others have had bad experiences with a company. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) for complaints.