By Carol Tice
Time was, you had to be a graphic designer, a consultant or a freelance copywriter if you wanted to ditch your cubicle and make money in your pajamas. But advances in technology have brought work-from-home jobs to nearly every business sector. If you're ready to trade your morning car-commute for a quick stroll over to your home computer, consider these unusual work-from-home possibilities.
Ask for restaurant recommendations or directions at the Santa Clara Hyatt in California (or a growing number of other fine hotels), and you'll be directed to a flat screen mounted on the wall. Virtual concierges use videoconferencing technology to ask hotel guests about their interests and provide them with sightseeing tips, says Kate Lister, co-author of Undress For Success: The Naked Truth About Making Money At Home.
You might think it'd be impossible to work in food service remotely, but FlexJobs recently had a job listing from a national bagel chain for a telecommuting junior catering manager, reports FlexJobs CEO Sara Sutton Fell. The work involves coordinating banquet orders via phone and computer software, then traveling to job sites to oversee the actual events, with no office or commercial-kitchen time needed.
The rise of online classes and universities has meant a boom in teaching jobs you can do from home, says Fell. Recent FlexJobs listings have included an adjunct professor of opticianry and an instructor for a world religions course. If you've been teaching but want to skip the classroom-management problems and faculty-lunchroom drama, stay home and email your students about their online lessons.
To attract the best talent, a growing number of nonprofits are hiring executive directors and letting them work wherever they are, says Fell. If you have a management background and a passion for a cause, you may be able to combine them into a job that lets you do good – while also doing the laundry.
"Some are virtual organizations anyway," she says. "Nonprofits like the lower overhead costs."
5. Patient champion/patient advocate
Home-Based Business For Dummies authors Paul and Sarah Edwards noticed the emergence of this home-based job. Patient champions help ill people navigate the complexities of the healthcare system – calling doctors, obtaining copies of medical records, and accompanying patients on doctor visits. Often relatives don't live close, Paul Edwards notes, so they'll pay someone to make sure grandma is receiving appropriate care and understanding doctors' instructions.
"It's a great service," he says, "and there's a great need."
6. Virtual juror
If you're a person with strong opinions, you might make some quick cash serving as an independent juror. Virtual jurors help lawyers evaluate the strengths of their case before they take it to court. Some companies promise up to $60 a case – not bad for an hour's work at your computer. Major players in this space include Virtual Juror (www.virtualjuror.com) and Online Verdict (www.onlineverdict.com).
Are you an experienced golf instructor who's tired of slogging around the course? Virtual instructors review video from golfers and then email or phone in tips on improving their swing. Fell's seen this one pop up on FlexJobs.
Registered nurses tired of working 12-hour shifts standing on their feet are taking advantage of booming opportunities in virtual nursing, says Undress for Success's Lister. In teletriage, nurses staff phone lines and take calls from people with health emergencies, helping them evaluate whether they need an immediate trip to the ER. Lister knows one insurer that offered a nurse-staffed chat line for pregnant mothers, helping them resolve minor issues without resorting to more-costly doctor visits.
"It saves the medical system a lot of money," she notes, "to contract with organizations that offer nursing support by phone."