I had a work at home job that I initially loved. It was legitimate and paid my bills.
AND THEN I WALKED AWAY FROM IT. (But well get to that at the very end.)
A few years back I was in desperate need of a job. My son was only 3 so any job outside the home would still require daycare. It didn’t make sense to give most of my paycheck to someone else for hanging out with my kid. I needed a work at home job. A legitimate work at home job.
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If you’ve ever googled that, there is no shortage of dead ends, scams, pyramid schemes etc. on the internet promising to make you a small fortune at home. I didn’t trust a “get rich quick at home” I wanted stability and to work at home.
I had been looking for some way to work at home for years. YEARS. Occasionally I’d find something that looked like it could work out. I did a few tasks at Amazons Mechanical Turk (MTurk) that paid pennies for more work at home tasks than it was worth. Not hard work, just time consuming. To me, time is the most valuable thing you can take from me. If I’m going to do something, it had better be worth it.
One day I was getting desperate and was browsing the Craigslist job section and I saw an ad for a “Work at Home Answering Service Agent”. I almost scrolled past thinking it was the typical scam but something about it made me click.
Instead of the generic global pitch it looked local and legit. It had two ways to apply. By calling an 800 number and leaving a message (which makes sense I guess if they are hiring you to answer phones it is nice to hear your telephone voice before the interview) or by emailing a resume. I had both done in about 2 minutes. I hate talking on the phone, but I hate being broke even more.
The boss lady called me the same day and we had a quick chat which led to an in-person interview. A couple days later she emailed me letting me know I was hired. I purchased a USB headset, an upgrade key for Windows professional, and a small backup power supply, for about $100 total and let her know I was ready to go. She set me up for training with the supervisor. I would be logging into the teamviewer program for 3 hours a day and observe her take calls. I was terrified! But I had to do this. My first day was amazing. I sat in my pajamas with my coffee and my cat in my lap and listened and observed. When I was done I hung my headset up and was already home, no traffic, no road-rage, I was in love.
After a week of observing I had to log into the system and take calls. I felt like I was going to vomit but I did it. When a call comes in it beeps in your headset and you hit a button on the keyboard to connect in. There were several accounts that this Answering Service answered for and whoever the call was for would pop up on your screen with the necessary information and the message form. Plumbers to Doctors and Property Management and everything in between. I trained hard for a week and then the supervisor said I was ready to take calls unsupervised. The recordings would still be listened to afterwards for awhile because I was new, but I no longer needed anyone listening live.
It was great. I took calls from the comfort of home. The hardest part was being nice to dumb people. Oh my you don’t realize just how dumb people are until you work in customer service. It is a 24/7 business and the hours varied but I never had to work overnights. The only major bummer about the schedule was the holidays. 24/7 includes Christmas and Thanksgiving etc. The boss was good about giving hours to those who wanted them for the extra money and filled the gaps in with those who didn’t. To her credit, she tried very hard to help find what worked best for us. I still had to work on Christmas, but it was when it was most convenient for me in between doing things at home and going to the grandparents.
After about a year the honeymoon period started to wear off. I may or may not have mentioned this elsewhere but I am an introvert. An introvert with raging social anxiety. Talking on the phone is not my cup of tea to begin with but its amazing the things you can push yourself to do when your back is against the wall. I put my fake customer service voice on and played the part for as long as I could. Eventually, it started to get me and there was nothing I could do about it.
I can fake the most pleasant voice while saying “I am SO sorry that your kitchen cutting board is broken and I understand that it is an emergency to you and will call the on call person for you now” at 6am on a Sunday. I can fake it. But it was killing my soul. I have enough common sense to know that the scenario was not, in fact, an emergency and it took all I had not to say things like “A broken cutting board is not an emergency. I am not calling the apartment manager and waking him up at 6am on his day off because you don’t understand that.” And calls like that happened every day on every type of account you can think of. It started to make me bitter and angry.
I began having anxiety about taking calls. The “beep” would agitate me.
When I would hear it my body would tense up and and I would dread connecting in. I started having nightmares about the beep. I started complaining about the beep. Several hours of my day I was a hostage to the beep. When the beep happens you have to handle it, immediately. I was constantly beep hopping back and forth to talk to people that frustrated and annoyed me.
My Children were hostages to the beep also. I resented that I had to constantly tell them “Shhh! I have a call!” or snap at them if they forgot that I was on a shift and came happily singing down the hallway. That was awful for me. I couldn’t help the kids get ready for school because I was on shift every morning. My daughter was late to school almost everyday and was stressed out about it. My work at home was no longer the perfect scenario.
Then one day it became clear that I had to go. I was covering for the supervisor and handling emails and we had received a complaint from one of our accounts. After listening to some calls to try to narrow down whos call it had been, I realized that it was mine. The scenario as described to the account/business by the caller was, in my opinion, really petty, taken out of context and misrepresented from what had transpired.
I forwarded the call to my boss and I really thought she was going to have my back. I really did. But she didn’t. She wanted me to personally call the account/business and apologize for any perceived wrong doing. She didn’t agree with the callers complaint but wanted me to take the heat for it anyhow. I was not willing to do that because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was polite and efficient with this caller and did not feel like I should have to throw myself under the bus with the business and imply otherwise.
That was it for me.
The holidays were one thing, the 6am’s were one thing, the “shhh-ing” my children was one thing, but my boss not being willing to stand up for me when it mattered was absolutely it.
I immediately starting applying for every part time position in every local school district. Got an interview and got hired.
I disliked the idea of returning to a workplace after not paying for gas to drive to work etc but I was so happy to be on the same schedule as my kids. If they have the day off, so do I. I don’t have to scramble to get them to school and I am off before they are out for the day.
In another time with another set of circumstances I might return to working from home. For now, i’m enjoying being free from the beep.