Frequently asked questions about being a homeworker

Find more information below about becoming a homeworker and answers to the most frequesntly asked questions.

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Q1: What is homeworking?

A1: Homeworking is literally when you work from the comfort of your own home doing the kind of work that is usually done in an office with a PC and a phone. It is a more flexible way of working which cuts out the need to travel to a workplace every day. It also gives you greater freedom to create a work-life balance which suits your personal circumstances.

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Q2: What sort of work is available?

A2: The kind of work available to homeworkers varies enormously depending which business you are working for and what kind of clients they have. Many homeworkers in the Highlands and Islands perform customer service roles for large companies in sectors such as retail, leisure, financial services and travel.  That can include processing orders or helping with queries or complaints.  You normally choose the hours you work and can opt to do single or split shifts,  as long as you carry out the minimum number of required hours.

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Q3: What skills and qualifications do I need?

A3: You don’t need any specific skills or experience to become a homeworker but you should enjoy dealing with customers and be confident using a computer so that you can comfortably master the various technical systems.  Homeworkers with experience in different fields bring transferable skills which are of significant value including interpersonal skills and communication skills. One of the major requirements is that you are self-motivated, committed and sufficiently disciplined to work from home alone.

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Q4: Are the working hours flexible?

A4: Flexibility is one of the main attraction of homeworking. You must normally fulfil a minimum number of hours per week specified by the individual company, this can vary from 10-15 hours up to about 30 hours per week, however the actual hours you work are booked on a flexible timetable. Most companies release available working hours one or more weeks in advance and you go online to secure the hours you want.  You can normally book one-hour or half-hour time slots and you can also choose to work longer or shorter shifts or to swap hours with fellow homeworkers if you need to change your plans.

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Q5: What equipment do I need to get started?

A5: The company you work for will issue specific guidelines - some companies provide equipment while others may require you to purchase your own. In general, the main requirement is a PC which meets a certain technical specification, a reliable broadband internet connection and a phone line with a high quality headset so that you can work hands-free and communicate clearly, you may also need a webcam. You might not necessarily need a new standalone PC or separate phone line but some homeworkers recommend it. Often companies require you to have either Cable, DSL or ISDN internet access as dial-up, satellite and wireless connections do not provide the necessary speed rates. Most people have sufficient access to the internet to allow them to get set up as a homeworker.

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Q6: What training will I receive?

A6: All homeworkers undergo training prior to dealing directly with customers to ensure that they are proficient in the systems they need to use and to familiarise themselves with the company, clients and sector they will be dealing with. For example a new homeworker might be given training on the insurance or travel sectors if they were preparing to handle those kind of accounts. Training usually takes several weeks and involves tests in which new recruits must achieve a high score in order to be contracted by a company. The training is mainly online with support from mentors and supervisors and as well as virtual support from fellow new recruits via online chat rooms and other forms of social networking.  You are frequently assessed to ensure you are performing and coping with the workload.

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Q7: Do I need to set up my own business to become a homeworker?

A7: There are different homeworking models which means you can choose how you want to operate. Some, but not all, companies may require you set up your own company and act as an independent contractor or to link up with another homeworker who has already established a small business and work through them. There are lots of resources available to help you set up a company if you wish to go that route and many homeworkers have done it successfully. However, there are other operators that will employ you directly to work for them on their client accounts.  There are different opportunities available to suit your preference.

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Q8: I don’t have a spare room I can use as a home office - is that a problem?

A8: A home office is ideal but not essential -  what matters is that you have  a dedicated, properly-equipped space you can use for work whether that is in a spare bedroom or a converted space elsewhere in the house.  You will need a desk and comfortable chair as well as peace to concentrate. You must be able to exclude background noise so that there are no distractions for you and the customers you are dealing with. It is about creating a professional working environment and ensuring you have the tools you need to do the job to a high standard.

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Q9: I have a disability, can I become a homeworker?

A9: Yes, homeworking has proved a good solution for many people with disabilities or long-term health problems who find commuting to work and rigid working hours difficult. It has the added benefit of allowing you to configure your workspace to suit your own particular needs, which is particularly good for people with back problems etc. In fact one of the companies which recruits homeworkers started out with a focus on helping people with disabilities into employment.

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Q10: I have caring responsibilities, can I become a homeworker?

A10: Yes, as long as you are prepared to organise your working hours to fit around your caring responsibilities whether that involves tending a sick or elderly relative or looking after children or animals. The main thing to remember is that you can only do one of these things properly at a time, so you need to allot separate times for work and your personal life. Most employers have support you can call upon in emergencies if the need arises and you either cannot work or need to change your hours at short notice.

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Q11: I am retired and I just want to work part-time, is that possible?

A11: It’s not a barrier, in fact older workers with good skills and life and work experience are valued by companies recruiting homeworkers. The age range for homeworkers is quite wide and includes people in their 50s, 60s and even a few in their 70s starting homeworking after retiring. Some want to top up their pensions and others just enjoy working, new challenges, and talking to customers and colleagues. Availability of flexible part-time hours is a big attraction for many older people who still want to have time free to pursue other interests and enjoy life.

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Q12: Can I still be a homeworker even though I live in a remote area?

A12: Homeworking is ideal if you live in a remote location; provided you have access to a broadband internet connection then there is no barrier to signing up. Homeworking makes finding employment location-neutral so you can work for companies which operate globally and across different time zones without having to leave the comfort of your home. There are homeworkers in remote parts of the mainland and also living in island communities across the Highlands and Islands. Some combine homeworking with other occupations such as farming, fishing or leisure or seasonal work in leisure and tourism.

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