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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Finding Work from Home Jobs

Dear Sue: For medical reasons I need to find a business that will enable me to work from home. How can I tell which companies that proclaim success working from home from the ones that are no good?

- Homewardbound

Sue Says: I have received a number of questions similar to yours. Many people like the idea of starting a home-based business or somehow doing some type of work from home. And why not? There are many advantages to working from home whether it's for medical reasons, to be home with children or simply for a change of pace.

Because of the interest in this subject and the amount of important information available, I am devoting today's column to the subject.

Joanne Frank, editor and publisher of "Home-based Business & Small Business Network" magazine, says that working at home is great for creative people who do their best work on their own time-clock. It is not, however, for everyone. Working at home has a tremendous impact on the family - sometimes good and sometimes disastrous. If your family is enthusiastic about your work and able to participate in some way it can be great, but if they resent your wok, it can cause friction.

It is easy to be lured from your work by other household needs, so it is important to develop structure and routines to follow.

There are many opportunities to run a business from your home and many people who are anxious to develop independence with their own home-based business are being exploited. Just as you wouldn't want to do business with a bank that operated out of the back of a van, you shouldn't feel secure investing in a business that cannot be established as qualified and secure. If the company is new and doesn't have a track record, then do your research on the people involved. Frank offers advice for opportunities that seem ideal and too good to be true.

Look for the following red flags:

  • You must invest money
  • The solicitation is from out of state
  • No address is included* It has an 800 number
  • The promises sound "Too good to be true"
  • The solicitor is not particularly interested in your qualifications
  • There are no training programs
  • There are indications that you must "act right away" or there is an urgency to act now

There are many advertisements that solicit people to "work from home," and "start a home based business." If you are looking into any one of these opportunities, you will need the answers to the following questions:

  1. Who is this company? (Investigate this.)
  2. What exactly are they offering (and to who)?
  3. How much money will you have to invest?
  4. What's the big hurry (usually there is an urgency about taking advantage of the "opportunity" as quickly as possible).

Some additional suggestions:

  1. Never send money until you have fully investigated the company.
  2. Ask for copies of brochures and other marketing materials. A lot can be learned from these.
  3. Obtain a street address (not a post office box number), and a telephone number. If they have an 800 number, expect them to also have a local one. Call the local number to verify it is legitimate. Difficulty getting through to the person or company or receiving a recorded message, may be reason for concern.

Check with the following offices in the state the business is based in and make calls to:

  • The Secretary of State's office to see if they are a registered business
  • The Better Business Bureau to see if they have complaints lodged against them
  • The Attorney General's office to find out if any legal action has been taken against them
  • The local Chamber of Commerce to find out if the business is a member or if they know anything about them

If you view the opportunity as a potential business, seek business advice through a small business development center near you and ask them if they would review your plan. In addition, talk to people whose opinion you respect.

Many opportunities are provided by companies who are established and reputable. They willingly provide the information you need. There are also companies who provide the service of investigations such as these. Don't hesitate to investigate--expect that your potential customers will also investigate you. Following are a few agencies and organizations that take consumer complaints and answer questions about business fraud:

  • The Attorney General's Consumer Division
  • The Better Business Bureau.
  • The Federal Trade Commission
  • FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, Washington, DC 20580. Phone: 202-326-3650
  • The Secretary of State's Office registers corporations doing business in the state. You may want to check to see if a company is registered
  • The U.S. Postal Inspection Service ( to report suspected mail fraud). Postal Inspection Service, PO Box 64558 St., Paul MN 55164-0558. Phone: 651-293-3200

Starting a home-based business takes time and thorough planning. Many people start their business while working full-time at another job as they get things off the ground. If you can do this, you will have the security of steady income. There are many wonderful opportunities available - take the necessary time to find the one that is best for you.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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