Appen recently interviewed Co-Founder of Rat Race Rebellion Christine Durst, an early leader in the work-from-home movement. We asked Christine about why she’s passionate about remote, flexible work, how to find work-from-home jobs, and how to spot online scams. Read on to hear her tips on working from home.
1. What made you passionate about advocating for working from home?
I grew up in a very small town with a strong sense of community in the “Quiet Corner” of Northeastern Connecticut. Opening day of fishing season went hand-in-hand with the Boy Scouts pancake breakfast and the “big fundraiser” for the 8th grade class trip was a spaghetti dinner in the school gym. 4-H club meetings were after school on Thursdays (in my mother’s kitchen). The Memorial Day parade consisted of the little league team, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, veterans, and both of the town’s two fire trucks.
As an adult, I looked around and realized that the “need for speed” and the rising cost of living was leading to the demise of communities and increasing difficulties in the way families function.
While we can’t all live in small towns, I do believe that, as increasing numbers of people come home to work, we’ll see them reconnecting with their families, their neighbors, their communities … and themselves.
2. How did you choose the name of your website?
We are passionate about family and community, and wanted to create a site that not only helps people find real work-from-home jobs, but also promotes a more “sane” way of life generally. The name “Rat Race Rebellion” is a larger umbrella under which we can house all types of de-Rat-Racing information and resources.
3. What challenges did you face when you were working a traditional office job?
Perhaps being raised by an entrepreneur shaded my perspective on work because my attitude is, “when I am working, I am working.”
I love being around people — just not when I am working. When working in a traditional office, I found that I was too easily distracted (read: annoyed) by non-work-related conversations going on around me.
Mix that in with the lack of control over my physical work environment (room temperature, music, etc.) and I was not a happy camper.
4. What do you think some of the benefits and downsides are on working from home?
Working from home has so many benefits: lower stress levels, reduced commute time, and a balance between the demands of work and family. It also gives you increased flexibility, fewer unplanned interruptions, and more control over your work environment. One hidden benefit is that you’ll often have fewer work-related expenses. And finally, the flexibility of working from home gives you to opportunity take geographically remote work.
There are, however, a couple downsides. Without an office to go into, it can be difficult to separate work from personal life, and easy to work too many hours. It also might be necessary to “train” your family and friends to see your work as a “real” job. And there’s always the lure of the refrigerator …
5. What are the best ways to find work-from-home jobs?
Start with blogs, forums, and websites that focus on real work-from-home jobs, like RatRaceRebellion.com.
Visiting these sites and digging into the jobs and information they’re posting can help job-seekers both find jobs directly and also learn about the types of work available and companies that are hiring.
From there, job hunters can branch out and do some searching of their own using job boards, Google, exploring companies’ websites like appen.com/careers, and other sources.
6. What skills are employers looking for?
That really depends on the position(s) the employer is hiring for.
A company that’s hiring for Customer Service roles, for example, may be looking for people who have experience working with customers (either in person or online), the ability to multitask, empathy, basic tech skills, and time management skills. A company seeking Travel Agents will have a whole different “skills needed” checklist.
7. How can work-from-home job seekers avoid scams?
First and foremost, trust your gut! Most people who are scammed report that they “weren’t sure” about the alleged opportunity when they dove in.
The following red flags will help you identify potential scammers and stay safe in your work-from-job hunt. Here’s what to avoid:
- High-pressure signup tactics. If the job offer is featured on a page with prominent “pressure text” — “ONLY 3 OPENINGS LEFT!!!” or “OFFER EXPIRES IN 11 MINUTES 38 SECONDS!!!” (complete with a countdown graphic) — it would be best to move on. Also, don’t click on any links, as these pages often contain malware, too.
- “Beaches, Benjamins, and Bling.” Scammers know that many job seekers are desperate for work. So they decorate their advertisements and promotions with the trappings of wealth. If the ad features Bentleys, beachfront villas, and $100 bills fanned out across the page, watch out.
- The job offer involves a “program,” a “system,” etc. A job is a job. The employer needs you for a specific role. There’s no “program” involved, no system, no kit, no membership fee. If someone offers you a program for working from home, it’s not a job. It’s a program — and likely a scam.
- Your contact is using a non-corporate email address. This is not a hard and fast rule, since some newer companies and smaller players may occasionally use non-corporate email addresses. But for the most part, legitimate employers have corporate email accounts. If your contact has a non-corporate email address, be more cautious than usual.
- High pay for entry-level work. This often appears in data entry scams. If the “employer” is promising a high hourly rate for basic administrative work — especially when they emphasize “No Experience Necessary!” — you’re almost certainly dealing with a scammer. Many people are looking for entry-level work, so employers don’t need to offer high pay to get help. Steer clear of these fake offers!
- The “job” involves wiring funds. This often shows up in mystery shopping scams, where victims are sent a cashier’s check. You’re told to deposit the check, and keep a generous fee — this is the worm on the nasty hook — plus money for the shopping you’ll do. Then wire the rest to your friendly hirer. When the check bounces, you’re on the hook with your bank for all the funds you withdrew. And since the scammer is usually overseas, the money you wired is gone forever. The scam may also involve an offer to pay for your home-office equipment. But again, the check will be bogus, and any funds you wire will be lost. Legitimate work-from-home opportunities will never ask you to pay them money, deposit cashier’s checks, or provide your banking details in a non-secure manner.
- The “employer” wants to interview you via text-based online chat. Scammers always try to conceal their identity. Through text, they can create an illusion of legitimacy and urgency that would be hard — or impossible — for them to do with video. So they stick to text, and if you ask, they’ll refuse to move to video. Time for you to move, too — away from their offer!
- Typos and bad grammar in the offer. A legitimate employer will prepare an ad or offer that typically has few, if any, errors.
8. What trends are you seeing in the work-from-home job space?
A few years back, when Yahoo! shut down their work-from-home program, the media was ready to proclaim the death of telework. Quite the opposite has happened. We’ve seen a growing number of companies, of all sizes, joining the distributed work movement.
The most notable development has been the surge in interest as the public realizes the legitimacy of work-from-home jobs and online side gigs.
In addition to the growing number of traditional jobs moving to people’s home, the number of people seeking “extra income” opportunities is bigger than ever, and the phenomenon is not restricted to a particular age either. Retirees and millennials alike have their own reasons for wanting the additional income. The former cohort likes “fun money” or to supplement their retirement income, and the latter is often trying to address college-related debt and the rising cost of living.
The On-Demand movement is also enabling people to generate income by helping others address their immediate needs — usually via Smartphone apps. For example, companies like Uber and Lyft are part of the on-demand movement, as are the many on-demand services that provide pet sitters, tutors, handymen, movers, shoppers, and so many others.
9. Can you tell us more about your work with the armed forces?
In 1999, we developed a work-from-home training program specifically for US Military spouses. Many people don’t realize that the men and women who are “married to the military” often relocate every two to three years as they follow the service member’s career. This can lead to unemployment, under-employment, and swiss-cheese holes in their resume that can be hard to explain to prospective employers.
Our programs help military spouses find meaningful “portable careers” that can move with them — enabling them to have a career that can grow regardless of frequent moves and interruptions.
10. Can you tell us some fun facts about yourself?
For about three years, I was a professional clown. I appeared at corporate openings and events, children’s birthday parties, and parades. I loved it — the kids were so much fun and the money was excellent. If you’ve never put on face paint, a red nose, and a rainbow wig, and driven around town, you should try it. The reactions you’ll get are priceless.
I have co-written two bestselling business books, addressed the United Nations, sat on Presidential Committees, and appeared as an expert in The Wall Street Journal and Business Week, and on CNN Newsroom, Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Anderson, and dozens of others — but I did not go to college. I think college is great for some, and not for others. I fit squarely in the latter category.
I can all of my own jams and jellies, and it’s not unusual to see me hauling my 55-year-old body up trees in the autumn to pick the wild grapes that have grown so high they weave through the treetops.