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Want to Telecommute? Get the Right Equipment!

Recently, I counseled a woman who actually found a telecommuting job that paid $105 a week part-time. The duties of the job were simple:

  1. Call 20+ companies each day
  2. Contact a specific department and ask for specific information
  3. Place this information in a spreadsheet and send it back to the employer via e-mail by a certain time each day.

But the woman who contacted me found this work very difficult. She seemed to be unable to acquire 20 businesses' information in the allotted time. Her supervisor didn't understand why this was so difficult for her. The supervisor felt that this particular task shouldn't have taken more than three hours each day. But in actuality the work seemed to take her (with her mother's help) 6 hours to complete.

What was the problem? Was the job actually a scam? No. Actually, it is something that we find often with home employment. The problem is that employers simply don't know how to direct the remote worker in some of the challenges faced by remote workers. These same employers would be more effective in dealing with employees AT THE OFFICE because those types of employees would be able to pull them into a cubicle and actually show them the problems. When you are working remotely, it's very difficult to effectively describe particular problems or challenges over the phone.

After talking extensively with the person, I found the problems she faced are problems that remote workers (telecommuters) often must consider:

Time Zones
The companies being called were on the East Coast and the woman was in the CENTRAL Time Zone. The employer did not tell her that the best time to call the list of companies were when the departments opened at 8AM Eastern Time. It seems that the "new employee" made her calls at 8:30 AM (her time) when she should begin at 7:00 AM or earlier to be most effective. If her calls arrived at the East-Coast offices BEFORE the scheduled morning meetings her contacts would have more time to give her the needed information.

Equipment
We realized she needed a programmable phone with speed dialing. The employer gave the "new employee" a commercial long-distance code to dial (about ten digits), then the phone numbers of the companies they were to contact.

She and her mother were dialing manually. The problem with this is that it's too much work and manually dialing took to much time. She needed the ability to program the long distance code into her phone so she could press ONE button to quickly dial the next contact on her list. She also needed speed dial memory - enough memory to hold the phone numbers of 20 or more companies.

Voicemail and Busy Caller I.D.
Voicemail connected to her phone number and accessed whenever the line is busy or cannot be answered, would allow her to tell her contacts to simply call back and leave the specific information she needed on her voicemail. If the contacts attempted to call her and found her not available (because she's busy calling other contacts) the "voicemail" could capture the information the contact relays.

Caller I.D. When Busy feature would also be a good tool. If she were on the line with ONE company and another company called and did not leave a message in voicemail, she would know which company called her back. This would allow her to immediately call them back and receive the information she needed.

Toll Free Number
An 800 number (toll free) would have been useful if any of the people she contacted would have been averse to calling a long distance number. She could simply use a low-cost toll-free service like Ureach.com (http://www.ureach.com), which allows anyone to have a toll-free number and then pay for the minutes used. The wonderful thing about this service is that it provides a PHONE LOG that she could submit to her employer for reimbursement. Everyone wins . . . contacts are more open to calling a toll-free number and she does not miss any calls because voicemail and caller I.D. is automatically attached to this service.

Answering machine - Conversation Recorder
Everyone is not Speedy Gonzales on the keyboard. A good idea is an answering machine that could tape conversations so she would not have to write down or type in information. She would be able to record the conversations and then transcribe the information after all the calls were made. These devices can be found at any Radio Shack .

The woman I counseled had none of these things to assist her in her job. The least she could have is VOICEMAIL so that those calling her back did not receive busy signals, could leave the information she requested and relieve her of additional calls to make her 20-company-quota.

The motto to this story - don't rely on employers to tell you EXACTLY what you will need to effectively do the job. This telecommuting thing is new to them just as it is new to you. You may have to analyze the situation yourself and decide what tools would be most effective in completing and succeeding in your work. So when you DO find that telecommuting job, look around you and try to figure out what tools you can use to make life easier. It will be worth the investment and the time to figure it out. It might just help you KEEP your new telecommuting job!

Happy telecommuting!

-Rosalind Mays

Rosalind Mays, best-selling author of The Real Deal on Telecommuting, and co-author of "Get Your Money Back! Stop Scammers and Save Your Dollars," works at home as an Internet Researcher. She hopes her advice and report (which compiles all the information she found while searching for her current job) will shorten other job seeker's time in finding legitimate work at home opportunities.
Visit www.telejobs.cjb.net for a free list of telecommuting jobs compiled monthly.
Go to: www.siennapublishing.com to learn more about her books. She may be reached via e-mail RozMW@aol.com.