Working from home can be a great career option for people with all skillsets and lifestyles. You can set your own hours and even work in your pajamas - a pretty appealing alternative to the old nine-to-five in a cubicle. Here are six careers you can do from home, and how you can get started. (For more, see the Top 4 At-Home Financial Jobs.)
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  1. Personal Chef
    If cooking is your passion, becoming a personal chef may just be the job for you. This job can mean that you cook a week's worth of meals in a client's home, for instance, or you can look at delivering gourmet meals - the alternative to the old pizza delivery. With today's high-pressure jobs and families where both parents work full time, this type of service is becoming more desirable, particularly in urban areas. Be sure to understand local regulations regarding the kitchen you prepare the food in; many states require you to have a kitchen separate from your home, and may inspect for health code adhesion.

  2. Birthday Party Planning
    If you talk to any parent, they'll tell you: planning a birthday party is hard work, and a challenge when you're busy. Where there's a need, there's a job, and birthday party planning can be a great career if you're creative, like kids and can work weekends when parties are often held. You can also plan retirement parties, promotions - any event you think you can handle. For the best changes at earning a good income, make sure you research local rates and competition and understand your liability, particularly if you'll be working with little ones.

  3. Home Staging
    It's a tough real estate market out there. To sell your house in this buyer's market, it needs to look its best, and home staging can make all the difference. If you have an eye for design, home staging may just be the career for you; there are no education requirements, and although there are many courses and professional organizations for home stagers, they're not required to be successful in the field. Take some time to research rates in your area and practice staging your home or a friend's. Think about what services you'll want to offer, and the startup costs you'll incur. Networking with realtors can be very helpful in generating business.

IN PICTURES: 8 Tips For Starting Your Own Business

  1. Web Design
    Are you computer savvy, and do you have an eye for detail? A career in web design may be for you. Even if you don't have the skills, consider going back to school to learn; there are many online courses, and current education tax benefits can make the bottom-line expense very low. Before you hunt for jobs, think whether you'll be starting your own business or work as a freelancer - the two are very different tax and legal-wise. Check with IRS on tax obligations, and with your local small business chapter. (To learn more, see Freelance Careers: Look Before You Leap.)

  2. Virtual Assistant
    With today's uncertain economy, more businesses are looking to hire temporary or per-project help, sometimes in the form of a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant can handle anything from receptionist duties to bookkeeping, depending on your expertise and the client's needs. For work in this field, look to online job boards. Tell your friends and family you're looking for administrative-type work to do from home, and check with any old business contacts you may have. Virtual assistants are still a fairly new concept, so expect to have to explain what you do a few times before generating business.

  3. Tutoring Service
    These days, problems are increasingly solved with use of the internet, including tutoring services. Work as a tutor can be helping a child with homework, or teaching adults how to use a computer - if you have a specific skill, you can become a tutor. You can find work on job boards, or at online colleges. If you have a college degree in your expertise (like math, or English), your chances at building a successful career as a tutor will be even better.

The Bottom Line
These six careers are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to at-home careers. For the best chance at success, look at your previous career for a start - you may be able to work as a consultant. At-home careers are a great way to explore your passion and make a living too. Earnings can vary greatly, depending on your expertise and experience, so take time to research before setting your rates. Make sure you understand your tax obligation, and whether you might be best off starting a small business to protect yourself legally. Your local small business organization or SCORE chapter is great place to get some help. Whether you're designing web pages or starting a small business as a party planner, working from home can be a great way to forge own your career path - and avoid the cubicle doldrums, too. (For more, see Can You Handle A Home-Based Business?)

For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: Ghosts Of Economies Past.

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