Do you know that your
neighbor down the street might be working at home as an independent
contractor for Carnival Cruise Lines, Office Depot, etc., and keeping it a
big secret? No? Don't be surprised. Most people don't like to reveal their
work at home secrets.
Well, I'm here to tell you
that you can join the thousands of home-based workers that are secretly
enjoying a lifestyle of freedom working as an independent contractor
(Customer Service Rep) from the comforts of home for Fortune-500
Check out the following old
article from the Orlando Sentinel (Harry Wessel) regarding working from
home as an independent contractor for Willow CSN (
ANSWERING CALL OF
COMPANIES ARE TURNING TO
AT-HOME WORKERS TO HANDLE CUSTOMER-SERVICE CALLS
By Harry Wessel, Sentinel
Esther DeJesus is unusually
close to her 19-year-old twins, Nydiana and Crystal. The trio shops
together, takes kick-boxing classes together and works together as
call-center phone representatives.
call-center workers, they do not commute to their jobs. For the past seven
months, they have worked in their Orlando apartment: Esther works in the
den, and the twins work in their respective bedrooms.
The family is about to move
to a new home in Avalon Park, where they will have a 12-by-14 foot
"The room will be
hard-wired for three computers, so there won't be messy cables around,"
Esther DeJesus says.
DeJesus, 41, is an
enthusiastic "cyberagent" for Willow CSN (
www.Arise.com ) , a Miramar
company that recruits and trains people to handle customer-service calls
out of their own home. Willow acts as a middleman between large companies
that need help handling customer calls and its cyberagents, who are
Basil Bennett, Willow's
chief executive officer and president, says the idea of home-based agents
taking calls for outside companies is still in its infancy but growing
fast. Willow, founded in 1997, currently has 30 Fortune 500 companies as
clients, 14 more than it had last year
Most of the company's
nearly 2,000 cyberagents live and work in South Florida, but it expanded
to Orlando in December 2003. It already has about 200 people working out
of their homes in Central Florida, Bennett says, plus a few agents working
in other states
About two-thirds of the
cyberagents work part time, Bennett reports, and their average age is 38.
More than three-quarters are female, 86 percent are college-educated, 16
percent are older than 55, and about 5 percent are
As a full-timer, DeJesus
usually puts in about 40 hours a week, answering calls for AIG Auto
Insurance during some periods, and for Office Depot during others. Her
daughters, both college students, are part-timers who put in 25 to 30
hours a week
"That's their job:
school and Willow," DeJesus says.
All three average at
least $15 an hour, "and there's very little overhead," DeJesus says, "All
you need is a regular phone line, a computer and high-speed Internet
access. I use my cell phone for friends."
Bennett says he expects to
double the number of cyberagents in the next year, and triple the
company's revenue, because the business model is sound. Traditional call
centers, no matter how well run, have problems handling peaks and valleys
-- times when they get too many calls or too few.
Home-based agents can take
the overflow calls during peaks and cover the phones during the valleys of
nights, weekends and holidays. "We schedule our people in 30-minute
increments," Bennett says. "We can have 100 people working at 8 a.m., and
drop it to five at 8:30."
The business model makes
enough sense that other companies have joined the action. Reg Foster heads
Alpine Access in Golden, Colo. His 6-year-old company, which has
home-based agents in Colorado, Arizona and Texas, also is booming. "This
is the next big thing," he says. "There's the flexibility you can provide
to the workforce to select hours that work around their daily schedule,
and there's no commuting
Foster says home-based,
virtual call centers also are an answer to complaints about U.S. companies
shipping jobs offshore. "What we do is outsourcing, but it's outsourcing
to your neighbor who lives down the street. We call it home-shoring, or
Alpine Access works
differently than Willow. Its agents are company employees, almost all of
whom work part time. They work for a flat rate of $9 an
Willow's cyberagents are
required to incorporate as small businesses, and their pay rates vary with
the client. In most cases, they are either paid by the call or by the
number of minutes they spend on calls. Some clients pay an hourly flat
rate, usually about $10 an hour. Cyberagents also are charged $37.50 a
month for administrative and support fees, which includes a 24-hour
technical support phone line
The start-up costs total at
least $500, not including the cost of a computer. Would-be cyberagents
must be PC proficient, go through a background check, a psychological
evaluation and a role-playing exercise that tests their ability to handle
Then they must take an
introductory online course and go through training for the specific
company or companies for which they want to handle calls. The cost for the
courses, which typically take two or three weeks to complete, ranges from
$75 to $225
Janet Angelo of DeLand, a
single mother with a 15-year-old son, became a Willow agent in February.
She has two clients, Office Depot and AAA.
With a varied career that
included teaching, call-center management, insurance sales and working in
a department store, Angelo, 45, says she was fed up with working for
"We humans are biologically
designed to be self-employed," says Angelo, who adds that single parents
are particularly in need of jobs that allow them to set their own schedule
so they can be available for their children.
"I usually work 9 to 5, but
if I need to release to get my son, I can," says Angelo, who says she
makes $550 to $600 a week as a full-time cyberagent. "When he wanted to go
to an Aero- smith concert in April [on a weeknight], I scheduled my
afternoon so I'd be through by 3 and could go with
Though she loves the
freedom and self-reliance the job affords her and expects to continue with
it "for the rest of my life," she acknowledges a major drawback. She has
no health insurance for herself or her son. She can't afford the plans
available to the self-employed
Many cyberagents get around
the health insurance problem by relying on coverage from their spouse's
company plan. That's the case with Esther DeJesus, whose husband works for
NASA, and with Valencia Champ of Apopka, whose husband works for a
Champ, 53, is an unlikely
cyberagent. She spent most of her career as a "diamontologist" for several
high-end jewelry stores and was a self-described computer
But she got tired of
commuting by bus to her job in an Altamonte Mall jewelry store. She quit
last December, and with the help of her computer-savvy husband, made it
through the initial hoops with Willow
Now she's working 40 hours
a week or more in a converted back bedroom, where she answers 12 to 16
calls an hour at a rate of $1.15 per call. That usually works out to at
least $14 an hour, which satisfies Champ, particularly since she doesn't
have to leave her home
Though Champ, Angelo and
DeJesus are relatively new to the cyberagent fold, Shelley and Roger Pratt
are old-timers. After five years with Willow in Miami, they moved to
Deltona in March -- but only because Willow had expanded to the area, says
Shelley Pratt, 52
The two have health
insurance through Roger's retirement plan and plan to continue working as
cyber- agents as long as they can. They work together, each on their own
computer, in a guest bedroom of their house
"You don't have to go
through the rituals of waking up at the crack of dawn, putting on makeup,
getting dressed," Shelley Pratt says. "You can get out of bed and work in
your pajamas. There's nobody there except you."
Though some might find that
isolating and lonely, Pratt says many workplaces tend to be cliquish.
"I've passed by the habit of being in the working world for socialization.
I don't need that any more.
DeJesus answers a customer-service call for AAA. She works out of the
Orlando apartment she shares with her mother and twin sister,
also are independently contracted phone representatives.
W. GREEN/ORLANDO SENTINEL)
Mom Esther DeJesus is among
about 200 cyberagents in Central Florida. `All you need is a regular phone
a computer and high-speed
Internet access,' she says.
W. GREEN/ORLANDO SENTINEL)
So why haven't you
seen any of these home-based jobs advertised in the newspapers or on the
telecommute-friendly companies do not advertise their job openings because
if they do advertise online or in the newspapers, etc., they will be
inundated with too many inquiries. They would even receive inquiries from
people who are not qualified for the jobs.
Few companies are hiring
home-based tele-workers directly, while others are contracting out to
companies like Arise, the company I used to work for in Miramar, FL.
This is one of many firms that contracts with Fortune-500 companies to
answer calls that are going unanswered by on-site call center employees.
The calls are then sub-contracted out to home-based
For A List Of Other Companies Besides Arise.com That
Are Always Hiring Teleworkers, Click