Last Updated February 6th, 2017

Work At Home, Remote, Telecommute? Do They Mean The Same Thing?

When you want a job that you can do at home, there are several keywords you can consider to help you in your search. They can all be used to mean a job you do at home, but sometimes they mean something else. Let’s take a look at some of these terms. Most often they mean that you will be working at home, but other times may imply that you will be working elsewhere at least some of the time.

Work At Home

The classic search term for work at home jobs, yet one of the most dangerous. You can pretty much assume that a “work at home” job is to be done primarily at home, but some jobs will involve a bit of travel, probably local.

The danger with searching for “work at home” is that too many scams use it as a keyword. Lots of legitimate jobs use it as well, so don’t rule it out entirely. Be careful.

You will probably also say that you work at home if you run your own business from your home. Then again, you might be better off talking more about what your business has to offer, and less about where you work.


Telecommuting has been around for a long time. Telecommuting jobs aren’t always done entirely at home – they may require you to work in the office some days as well. This term isn’t as popular as it once was, but you will still see it around.

If you have a current employer and want to work at home, telecommuting is probably what you would suggest. You and your employer may both benefit from a telecommuting arrangement if your job is suitable.

Work From Home

“Work at home” and “work from home” are very similar, and are often identical. Sometimes the term “work from home” means you may not be at home as much. You might do some work at your home, then go to another site to do other parts of your job.

Home Based

Much like a work from home job, a home based job may mean that you use your home as a base from which you work, but you may work other places at certain times. Other times, it is simply a job you do from home.


A virtual job is generally done online, or at least at home. There’s an implication that the job is done over the internet, but virtual jobs can involve phone work as well.

You may be familiar with the term “virtual assistant,” but that’s far from the only job that is call “virtual.” Some companies are entirely virtual, which is wonderful when you want to work for them from home.

Not all jobs that say they’re virtual are done from home. There are virtual assistant companies where employees work in the company’s office and are virtual assistants for various clients. They aren’t at home at all. That’s an exception, but it happens.


Now here’s one of the tricky terms. Most of the time when I see a job listed as being remote, it’s a job you do at home. Other times it means you work at client sites, in another country, or in an office that isn’t the main office of the company. I’ve seen it used all those ways.

Read the job description carefully to ensure you know which way the potential employer means it. If it still isn’t clear, make your expectations known in your cover letter and clarify things during your interview if you get one.


An online job may be much like a virtual job, but not always. As a job searching keyword, it may find you some jobs, but it will often refer only to that the job is listed on an online job board.


A freelance or contract job means that you are self employed and working for someone else under a contract. While these jobs are often done at home, sometimes the contract will require that you work on site. A freelancer is responsible for paying his or her income taxes quarterly, as there’s no withholding by the employer.

Which Terms To Use When Looking For A Work At Home Job?

You can use just about any of these terms if you want to find a job you can do at home. Any of them will show up on job boards. With all job searches, even if you aren’t trying to work at home, be aware of the possibility of a scam. Pay close attention to any travel requirements as well. If you don’t want to travel at all, it’s a quick way to rule out many jobs.

Don’t use them as your only search term. What kind of a job are you qualified for? What do you want to do? Consider possible job titles and the skills you have to offer, and use them in combination with your preferred terms.

Don’t use “freelance” unless you are looking for that kind of work. There’s nothing wrong with freelance work, and a lot right with it, but it’s not what everyone wants to do.

It’s not uncommon for work at home jobs to consider you an independent contractor rather than an employee. Make sure you know which they consider you to be. You should read up on the legal differences between being an independent contractor and an employee. Be aware of the tax implications if you want to do freelance or contract work. It can really mess up your finances to be hit by a big tax bill when tax time comes around if you haven’t been paying quarterly.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated November 15th, 2011

What Does It Cost to Find a Legitimate Work at Home Job?

If you’ve read much about looking for work at home jobs, you’ve probably often heard that you should never pay for a work at home job. That’s absolutely true, in the sense that you shouldn’t be paying a company to “prove” that you’re serious about applying for a job with them. There are, however, legitimate expenses you may have as you pursue a good home based job.

Work at Home Job Board Memberships

You can find work at home job leads for free, but it’s time consuming and often difficult to tell the scam ads from the legitimate employers. A good job board can be worth the purchase because they filter out the job leads for you, putting them in one place without paid advertising.

I do not mean all paid work at home job boards are worth it. Some never update or are rehashed lists of companies that allow some employees to telecommute, regardless of whether or not they regularly hire people to work at home. Those aren’t worth the price. HomeJobStop has a good reputation.

Paying for these really isn’t so different from buying a newspaper back when that was the big place to find job listings, except HomeJobStop only charges you once.

You can look for listings for free on your own. Check Craigslist, Indeed, etc. It’s time consuming – that’s why a membership site that seeks out postings for you can be worth it, but you can do it on your own. It’s a matter of how much time you want to spend each day on the search.

Freelance Job Boards

Freelancing is another great way to work from home, and there are a number of sites where you can locate and bid on jobs, such as eLance, Guru and oDesk (edit: now Upwork). Be careful not to set your price to low of course.

Some boards have membership levels you have to pay for monthly, and there’s usually a fee that is a part of your earnings from the jobs you get there. Take a good look around the site before you pay for a membership. Paid members may get to bid on more jobs or have other advantages, so it can be worth considering.

Even if you’d rather have a steady job, freelancing can be worth your time, especially if you need to build up your resume or nothing is panning out for you right away for a longer term job.

Resume and Cover Letter Writing

If you don’t know how to write a stellar resume and cover letter, it can be worth the money to pay someone to create one for you. You’ll still need to edit it to match each job, but you’ll have the core written by someone who knows what they’re doing.

Alternatively, buy a book or ebook on the process and write it yourself. A good resume takes some time and effort to write, but it’s well worth it when you get the job. Don’t just slap one together, especially if you’ve rarely or never written a resume. Do what it takes to get one written that will catch the attention of potential employers.


Sometimes you have to have the right education to get a job, such as if you want to go into medical transcription or if the position requires a certain degree or certification. That costs money, either now or at some time in the past. There’s nothing wrong with paying for the education required to get a job – that’s necessary for many jobs both at home our outside the home.

There can be a problem if the employer says you have to pay them or the exact program they tell you for the job. Sometimes that’s a scam.

That said, some companies such as Arise are legitimate enough, but are more business opportunity than work at home job, and you do have to pay for training. Read my interview with Arise to learn more about how this can work, and be careful if any company is asking you to pay them for training. They must have an excellent opportunity before you consider such a thing.

Overall, this means that yes, you can have expenses associated with your search for a work at home job, and they can be legitimate. Just make sure you know why you’re paying someone and that it really will help you to get a good job. Too many people pay for things to help them work from home, and all that happens is that their money disappears and they’re frustrated. Use caution and things should turn out better.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated February 11th, 2010

Do’s and Don’ts for Your Work at Home Job Search

Many people make mistakes when they’re trying to find a work at home job. There are so many wild promises out there, it’s easy to do. But if you know what you should and should not do you can keep yourself out of much of the possible trouble.


Do know the difference between a work at home job and a home business.

Also know the which one you’re really searching for. Knowing whether you want a job or want to start your own business can really help you to focus on the right kinds of opportunities and help you to avoid a lot of scams. For the rest of this article, I’ll be assuming that it’s jobs you’re looking for.

Do have your resume ready.

Just as with any other job, potential employers may be interested in your work history. You’ll probably want to customize it a little depending on the particular job you’re applying for, but having a basic one ready is a big help.

Do your due diligence.

Don’t forget to be careful about what you do apply for. If you got the company name and contact information from a trusted source it’s probably okay, but sometimes companies or websites do change hands. Pay attention to what they’re asking, and when in doubt ask for opinions from other people. People on work at home message boards can be very helpful.

Do consider whether paying for access to a work at home job database works for you.

This is very, very different from paying to show interest in a job, paying for a job, etc. The payment is for resources and links to work at home jobs you probably won’t find elsewhere. It’s not for everyone and you may be able to land a job without buying a membership to a database.

If you do buy, make sure it’s a reputable one. There are more bad databases than good ones. Home Job Stop has an excellent reputation as a good, regularly updated resource.

Do know what common work at home scams look like.

There are some basic signs of work at home scams, many of which I’ll be covering in the “Don’t” section. Reading up on work at home scams in general can be a big help in weeding out the false leads you will almost certainly encounter.


Don’t pay to show you’re serious.

Somehow this very basic scam works, probably because it’s generally a fairly low payment. But you wouldn’t pay to show you were serious about an outside the home job, would you? Same principle, and legitimate employers won’t ask you to do this.

Don’t trust jobs that promise oddly large pay for easy work.

It’s not true. If working at home were as wildly profitable as some claim, we’d all be rich. That’s especially true when you’re looking at jobs rather than home businesses.

Don’t assume websites have screened all of their ads.

Even huge websites often don’t have full control of the ads on their sites. It can be problematic, but it’s true. If you find a bad ad it doesn’t hurt to let the website owner know about it so they can do what they can to get rid of it.

Don’t give out your checking account information too easily.

Direct deposit is a wonderful way to get paid. It saves so much trouble. But don’t share anything as personal as your checking account information until you know that this is an employer you can trust.

Similarly, think before sharing your social security number. Legitimate employers will need it for tax purposes. But if the application asks for it and you aren’t 100% certain you trust the employer, just fill it in as zeroes. If you can, indicate that you will fill out the proper form when necessary. This may make it a touch harder to get the job if the potential employer doesn’t like having to get the information later, but it’s a small detail if you’re really qualified.

A little caution goes a long way when you’re working for a work at home job. Be smart, ignore the hype, do your research and you can cut your odds of falling for a scam way down.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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