What is a Homeworker?

Donn Saylor

A homeworker is an individual who conducts business out of a home-based office and produces goods or services in exchange for profit. Considered neither independent business owners, freelancers, or independent contractors, homeworkers are rather viewed as remotely located employees telecommuting to a main office. Their employment is through an outside company that offers a salary to the homeworker in exchange for designated goods, endeavors, and services.

Some homeworkers use a headset to communicate more effectively from home.
Some homeworkers use a headset to communicate more effectively from home.

There are many advantages to working from home, both for the homeworker and the employer. The worker has the ease of being in his or her own surroundings, saving time and money on lengthy commutes, and focusing on the work at hand, uninterrupted. For the employer, utilizing homeworkers means less money spent on office space and equipment, employee parking, uniforms, and other expenses.

Telecommuting allows employees to work from a remote location.
Telecommuting allows employees to work from a remote location.

Jobs in the information technology (IT) field are among the most common positions for homeworkers. These computer-centric jobs allow for easy telecommuting and permit a worker to accomplish just as much as he or she would if located in a centralized, on-site office. In some cases, the homeworker may be even more productive as intrusions and distractions in a home office tend to be less than in a busy, formal workplace.

While IT positions require an advanced skill set, many homeworker positions are more routine in nature. These often include data entry jobs — usually entailing keystroke input performed on a home computer — and customer service positions, in which workers take calls wired to their home phones and field emails via their personal computers. Some administrative, executive, and personal assistants might also work from a home office, supporting an individual or department through technological means.

One area of the homeworking industry that has received much scrutiny is the field known as industrial homework, or piecework. In these positions, workers are hired to assemble products from their own homes. Critics of the industrial homework sector cite evidence that many work-from-home companies are exploiting workers, violating minimum wage laws and business ethics, and operating under sweatshop working conditions. As a result, in several countries, homeworkers have become included in local and national legislation to become a legally protected class of workers.

An aspiring homeworker may be drawn to the field by print or online advertisements promising huge amounts of money for minimal work. Unfortunately, the homeworking industry is full of scams, targeting unsuspecting homeworkers who think they are about to be given a job in exchange for "a small fee." Recruitment for legitimate work-from-home opportunities is typically advertised directly by the employer, and under no circumstances do they require any sort of payment from the worker.

Many work-from-home companies operate under sweatshop conditions.
Many work-from-home companies operate under sweatshop conditions.

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