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Identifying Opportunities with Stability: Finding a Job That Fits Your Health Needs

It can sometimes be hard to navigate a traditional work environment, whatever that may be for you, with asthma or other chronic illnesses. While this article may resonate more with other family sites of Asthma.net, there are certainly applications for those of us with asthma, too.

After all, while we can do pretty much anything we want to with asthma or allergies, some work environments just might not… well, work. If you have pet allergies and asthma, for example, you might have a bit of trouble with all those years you put in to be a veterinarian. Or chemical irritants and RADS may make your current career difficult to continue.

How to work from home with a chronic illness

While we all want to contribute to our own—or our family’s—finances, and to the world, it can sometimes be tough. The good news is there are legitimate work from home opportunities that exist. The less good news? It’s not as easy as searching the web for “work from home” or “remote” work opportunities (although from some companies, often in tech, that are totally credible if you find them the right way!). However, deceptive marketing tactics mean it can be difficult to discern what’s “legit”—a source of relatively stable work and income—and what’s not.

Here’s how, in my somewhat accidental primarily work from home life, I’ve figured out how to identify a legitimate “work from home” opportunity that may be compatible for your health needs.

Identifying an honest work from home opportunity

For four years, I made 90+% of my income doing freelance/contract work. After a brief stint working outside my house for 8.5 months (though I still mostly chose my hours!), I am now somewhat accidentally (and serendipitously) back to non-traditional, work from home life. I’m no expert on this—I lucked out and every freelancing or remote opportunity sort of came to me. Nothing I inquired about ever worked out. So, depending on your background, there could be a fair amount of luck involved (unfortunately?).

Here’s what an honest work from home opportunity has:

  • An up front “job description”

    Postings are often on job websites, and if a job description doesn’t exist, you’ll be able to get one by contacting the employer. For freelance work, this may take form of a contract.

  • What you’ll need to start

    The posting—or employer—will tell you up-front what you need to start, such as an internet connection and computer. If they don’t, ask and ensure you get a clear answer. If this is actual employment (vs. contract or freelance work), you should get a stipend to cover part of these expenses as is relevant to your job. The employer may provide you a computer or cell phone for work purposes; they will at minimum provide any special software you need to do the job without cost to you (I recently found out, for example, if I hadn’t already had Microsoft Office on my computer, I could’ve downloaded the package via the nonprofit I’m working with for free with their Office365 account).

  • Clarity on how you’ll be paid

    Will you be paid hourly, salaried, or on commission?1 Do you know how to submit your hours and how money will come in (ie. direct deposit or check) and when? This should be clearly outlined before you get started.

When you have to work

As opposed to freelance work, an employment situation dictates when and, often, where you have to work.

For me, both when I’m doing writing work and communications work for the nonprofit I work with, I can do work at any time of day. We schedule the occasional meeting, but they don’t tell me when or where to work. In my previous employment situation, I chose my hours, but my boss pretty reliably knew when I’d be in my office—and I definitely reported to him. In freelance or contract work, you usually produce work for a deadline, but nobody’s (usually) checking up on you regularly. They just expect you to get it done.

Of course, legitimate work from home employment situations have a boss, and they may call you or expect you to be logged into the server and actively working at pre-defined times.

Depending on the industry, there may be more items that indicate a legitimate work from home opportunity. If you feel uncertain, check with friends, colleagues, and even online message boards (even like Reddit and Quora) to get a wide variety of opinions. Checking Glassdoor or the Better Business Bureau may also help; although be mindful to seek out only information on the actual operations of the job—an overwhelming bias online is that people usually post reviews when they’ve had a bad experience!

Exercising caution: Potential red flags

It’s important to be cautious and mindful, however, that some “work from home” opportunities target potentially vulnerable people (read: most often people with disabilities/illnesses, stay at home moms, and the recently unemployed), to fulfill their needs to be able to work when they are able, from home—and at times, even from their bed—and operate in a way that no other “jobs” do.

These are often “direct sales,” “network marketing,” or “multi-level marketing” roles (I’ll refer to them by the latter), that promise if you work hard, you will do well. However, often people put in a lot more than they get out—and in my opinion, may put in even more energy than they would going to an office everyday! Not a good thing if you are trying to conserve energy or decrease stress!

Red flags of a multi-level marketing (MLM) company:

  • Paying for your own startup costs

    While starting your own business may have some startup costs (such as inventory if starting a restaurant or stocking goods for a store), these costs should rarely if ever be incurred if you are being truly employed by someone else. Purchasing an inventory from a specific online retailer, unless perhaps, you are a franchisee, should be a red flag.

  • Recruiting

    Multi-level marketing operations often have you move “up the ladder” by recruiting friends to sell the product, which you earn a commission off of—this is a red flag.2 Jobs hire people: there is a difference between a friend “helping you get a job” by introducing you to their boss and connecting you for an interview, and being recruited by a non-discerning signup process to sell a product. Example: Once, a friend introduced me to his boss where I did an interview in a hoodie and jeans, and got hired as a tennis tournament assistant where I got paid an hourly rate.

  • “Pay-to-play” requirements2

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, these organizations often have monthly requirements on purchases and often so, these targets are incentivized.2 However, most often the seller ends up purchasing the needed inventory themselves, more than they can reasonably expect to use or sell—called “front-loading”3—to meet requirements of the company.3 This is the exact type of “paying for your own startup costs” warned against in the first bullet.
    Of course, if you are starting a retail store, this is a requirement too, however, in this case, there is no requirement to buy more stock until you legitimately need more—rather than to meet a spending requirement to remain in good standing with the company as happens in MLMs. 99% of people who join MLMs lose money5—and I can tell ya, I’ve never lost money at work!

  • Leveling up

    My job isn’t a video game, and I don’t increase by levels! While in both cases you have to work hard for success, your success should pay off both financially and emotionally. As the name suggests, “the business model of ‘multiple levels’ of distributors and recruits,” may base leveling up on sales or recruiting (and earning a commission off of recruits).6

A promotion in a traditional job leads to more money and yes, more responsibilities. But it does not mean you have to recruit your friends and family to join you—a main component of leveling up. This creates what is known as an “upline” and a “downline”—the upline is the person who “sponsored” you in joining, and the “downline” is the people who signed up under you.7 And if you’ve been in any sort of employment situation, from a McDonalds to a law firm to a non-profit, you know that’s not how seniority works!

Deceptive tactics and wording are used to recruit to these types of jobs. So if you’re confused and nobody can answer your questions, or you get a really scripted explanation, it may be time to reconsider and re-evaluate.

Finding the right fit

Multi-level marketing opportunities can seem appealing because of their flexibility and the inherent sense of community involvement. However, it is best to avoid taking the “easy route” when trying to find a job that works for you and your health needs, as it can cost you a lot financially, and result in undue stress and often, hardship, as both finances and friends may be lost in the process. Those are the last things you need when trying to manage chronic illness!

These are some considerations you should have when figuring out how to work from home with a chronic illness. Hopefully these tips help you to identify a job that will treat you well, help you grow, and of course, help you pay the bills at the end of the month. Whether you’re looking for a job to get away from your house, or especially one you can do from within, do your research and be careful out there!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Monster. How to spot a legitimate work from home job. https://www.monster.ca/career-advice/article/avoid-work-at-home-job-scams-canada. Accessed September 2019.
  2. Taylor JM. The 5 red flags: Five causal and defining characteristics of product-based pyramid schemes, or recruiting MLM’s. https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_comments/2006/07/522418-12585.pdf. Accessed September 2019.
  3. Federal Trade Commission. Business guidance concerning multi-level marketing. https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/business-guidance-concerning-multi-level-marketing. Accessed September 2019.
  4. Lan PC. Networking capitalism: Network construction and control effects in direct selling. Sociological Quarterly, 2002:43(2);165-184. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2002.tb00045.x
  5. Rosenberg E. 3 mindblowing statistics about MLMs. https://due.com/blog/3-mind-blowing-statistics-about-mlms/. Accessed September 2019.
  6. Roos D. How pyramid schemes work. https://money.howstuffworks.com/pyramid-scheme2.htm. Accessed September 2019.
  7. Friedner M. Deaf uplines and downlines: Multi-level marketing and disharmonious sociality in urban India. Contributions to Indian Sociology. 2015:49(1);1-25. doi: 10.1177/0069966714558538

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