South Africans are just as keen to explore opportunities that will allow them to work and earn from home. Unfortunately, as a nation they have been fairly late in getting started particularly when it comes to online business and internet-based jobs. In recent years the online marketplace has been flooded by cheap and skilled labour from Asia which further hampers the ability of South Africans to earn a meaningful living from a piece of the online pie. Difficult but not impossible.

So what exactly is this buzz about working from home? The ads seem to be everywhere throughout the internet but what does it entail and is it a scam? Before delving specifically into the online opportunities, let’s look at working from home in its entirety.

Small Office Home Office

You are more likely able to work from home as part of your job is you are a skilled professional. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, accountant or architect running your business from home, the fact of the matter is that it is a home office. In fact at the turn of the 20th century, most private professional businesses were run from homes in Western nations. Over time it became the norm to find a commercial premises and rent out an office or shop away from your home. The trend these days, however, is changing particularly as the global economic slowdown (not yet a meltdown) eroded profit margins, trimmed down formal labour and limited capital sources for new entrepreneurs.

Whereas 30 years ago you were considered small and insignificant if you had a home-based business or job, it is now slowly becoming the norm once again in South Africa. In fact some of the South African success stories started in a garage – ever heard of Mark Shuttleworth? Creating a small office at home and fitted with the latest technology allows you the luxury to work from home and still earn a decent income without the cost of premises and staff. Plus you can now integrate your business or job into your daily life, a way of life now encompassed by the trendy new term “lifestyle job”. A small office home office (SOHO if you want to sound more trendy) allows a person to work from the comfort of their home and still conduct income-generating economic activities.

Online Jobs

Taking the small office home office further is the possibility of working from home as an employee. Unheard of in South Africa? Only in the movies and only happens in the United States? Not at all. It is as much as reality in South Africa as it is just about anywhere in the world. For at least the past decade, employers have been allowing employees to take work home and not even come into the office for days as the internet, email and mobile technology has made it possible to have a “remote presence”. Of course these opportunities were only opened to the highly skilled professionals and only for some days in the week.

But the landscape has changed in the past 10 years where online jobs are full time work from home opportunities. Yes, online jobs with companies of all sizes are a reality and not only reserved for the highly skilled. The term for this type of work is know as telecommuting. You essentially log into the work server everyday where you activities are monitored, enable your video conferencing facilities to converse with colleagues and maybe once or twice a month show up in person at the office. Even semi-skilled workers now have these opportunities although they are few and far between among South African employers.

Internet Businesses

The internet is just another communication tool like the telephone, fax or cellular phone. It allows for vast amounts of information to be transmitted globally through computer code. It is now one of the cheapest means of mass communication extending well beyond the reach of other forms of media. Naturally it could be used as a business tool and with time even became a platform where businesses could operate. Starting an internet business is often cheaper and less labour intensive than a traditional brick-and-mortar office or store. And it allows you to work from anywhere at any time. But don’t be fooled – it is not easier.

Like a traditional business, an internet-based business requires innovation, a demand for your product or service and intensive marketing apart from the other business processes that are essential in making any enterprise a success. If you do not have a product or service that you can sell in the “real” world then don’t even consider starting an online business. Be careful with ads encouraging you to start an online business – many are scams. However, there are also tons of legitimate ebooks, courses and seminars that will show you how to start an online business when you have a product to sell or service to offer. But should you even look at starting a business when you don’t even known what your business is or will be?

This is where many people fall flat flat in their search to work from home through their internet business. If you business model does not make sense in reality, there is no reason why it will succeed online.

Can You Earn A Living By Working From Home?

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