Ryan Heenan used to make $30,000 a year as a preschool music teacher. Now he makes $30,000 a month producing jingles and videos through a website caller Fiverr -- and he does so from the comfort of his home in Orange County, California.
Heenan is part of an explosion in home-based work opportunities occurring thanks to the Internet. Consumer reporters such as myself used to struggle to offer people legitimate work-at-home options. In fact, most of our stories on the subject were about work-at-home scams. But now there are all sorts of solid opportunities to make a living in your pajamas.
Websites that connect workers with clients are the game-changer. For example, on Fiverr, Heenan's venue of choice, freelancers list their services -- many starting at just $5 -- for companies to browse. On FlexJobs, companies list jobs for freelancers to consider. FlexJobs charges a monthly fee of $15 for membership, or $50 for a year. Fiverr takes a 20 percent commission on earnings. Both sites cater to a wide variety of professionals, but Fiverr seems to attract creatives such as graphic designers, writers and videographers. FlexJobs' list of categories includes more technical options, such as accounting, project management and engineering.
There are also many niche employment websites that focus on a single type of home-based work. Many hire freelancers; others are looking for home-based employees. Some even offer benefits such as health-care coverage and paid vacation. Here are several worth checking out:
Administrative: Zirtual hires college-educated virtual assistants, trains them, and assigns them to work for sole proprietors and small teams.
VirtualAssistants.com pre-screens remote administrative job listings to make sure they are legitimate.
Consulting: Zintro represents consultants in highly specialized fields such as biochemistry and wastewater and asks employers to deposit their fees upfront to make sure workers get paid.
Customer Service: Sutherland CloudSource offers many work-at-home positions, from entry-level jobs such as call-center operator to higher-level positions such as business analyst.
Convergys hires for three types of home-based work: sales and service, customer service, and technical support.
Research: Wonder hires "analysts" to do research for clients, which have included major firms such as Deloitte, PwC and Shell.
Teacher: Skillshare and Udemy are platforms that connect you with students and offer tools to create online courses. The wide variety of available courses include how to make sourdough bread and how to create animated graphics.
Tutoring: Chegg Tutors and Tutor.com hire tutors to help students with their homework in subjects such as calculus and zoology.
Writing/Videography: Skyword hires writers and videographers to create content that it calls "brand journalism" for companies.
• Leamy is a 13-time Emmy winner and 25-year consumer advocate for programs such as "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show."