Too often I see people just say they want to work at home so they can be there for their kids. They haven’t put much more thought than that into it. Many people don’t know what they can do from home, what the income potential is or what to look out for. This can cause problems not only when you’re trying to avoid being scammed as you look for home based work, but as you try to build your career.

1. Learn the basics of spotting a work at home scam.

It almost doesn’t matter what you’re going to do as a work from home job. You need to know what work at home scams look like, or it’s too easy to fall for one. Simply knowing that you shouldn’t pay to show that you’re serious about applying for the job and that pay rates should be realistic for the kind of work you’ll be doing will help you avoid a lot of scams. A bit more research can be necessary to spot other signs, but those basics will help you avoid the most obvious issues.

2. Know what kind of work you expect to do from home.

Don’t go around applying for every work at home job you hear about, whether or not you have the ability to actually do the work. It’s just not a good idea.

Employers want people who are interested and capable of doing the job they’re applying for. Your resume should show that you have some sort of experience relevant to the job. Training is a bit more challenging when you’re at home, so employers don’t want to have to do an excessive amount of it.

3. Is this a job until the kids are old enough for school or your career you’re planning?

Many stay at home moms only stay at home until the kids are old enough to go to school. They then head back to work. Others plan on staying at home pretty much forever, and want to build a career from home.

While you may be looking at similar jobs, they won’t necessarily be entirely the same. If it’s a career at home you’re after, you want to know if you can grow in the job and still stay at home. If you’re planning on going back outside the home to work eventually, you need to know that you can move the skills you’re using in the job to either move to the office with that company or move along to another business in your area.

4. Do you know how you’re going to work at home?

It’s easy to say that you’re going to work at home. Doing a good job of it is something else entirely.

Motivation is one of the first issues people face when they start out. There are so many distractions at home, and it’s often all too easy to skip out on work when you don’t have to report to an office. That’s fine, so long as you don’t mind risking your job. Home based employees do get fired for not working when they’re supposed to just as people do when they work outside the home. Just because you don’t have direct supervision doesn’t mean they don’t know when you’re working or how productive you are.

Children are another distraction even when you’re feeling motivated. It takes time to teach them to let you work, and very young ones won’t understand at all. Many work at home parents do use daycare or have a family member or friend take the kids so they can get work done. Have realistic expectations for your family.

5. Are you comfortable with all the technology you’ll need to use?

If you’re terrible with computers, most work at home jobs aren’t going to work out for you. They’re a big part of most positions.

You need to be comfortable enough that you can quickly learn any new software your job requires. There will probably be some programs you learn to use in order to do your job that you wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. You may even use familiar programs in unfamiliar ways.

This includes knowing some basic troubleshooting. If your computer freezes up, what do you do? You shouldn’t need to call someone for help for minor problems.

6. How consistent is the work?

One problem many home based jobs face is that the work isn’t consistent enough for you to maintain a constant income. Some weeks your employers are begging you to put in overtime; others they have no work at all for you.

If you’re going to depend on the income, you need work that is consistently available. Depending on the industry, you may need to work for more than one employer to build a reasonably consistent income. Other industries, the one job is plenty.

This isn’t even about being laid off when the company is really low on work. Some jobs have times when they naturally have less work for employees, then a surge of work, and they’ll keep you hanging on even when there’s not much to do. Considering that many home based employees are paid on production rather than hourly, this can be terrible for your income.

7. Are raises available?

Some work at home jobs pay pretty respectably. Others not so much. But in either case, you probably want to know if you will be able to get a raise as your skills improve or for other reasons. The cost of living increases over time – odds are you’d like your income to do the same.

8. What about benefits?

This is particularly important if you’re trying to be the one to provide health insurance for your family. In some types of work at home jobs benefits are hard to come by while in others they’re about as common as they are in the office based versions of the same job.

Remember that benefits aren’t only about health coverage. Look at retirement plans, educational opportunities and other offerings that may be available to you.

9. Will you be considered an employee or a contractor?

The difference between an employee and a contractor is very important when it comes to handling your taxes and sometimes other issues. Companies that hire home based workers don’t always pay enough attention to the legal differences, and that can mess up your taxes pretty badly, as the difference determines factors such as who is responsible for certain taxes.

Do you have any further suggestions for things people should consider as they start looking toward a work at home job?