When discussing their aspirations for a home business, many people use the words “telecommute” and “work from home” to describe the type of work arrangement they are seeking. Many are surprised to learn that while it may seem as though these words can be used interchangeably, they actually mean entirely different things.
“Telecommuting” is a term that is typically reserved for people who work at home all or part of the time but who are employed by a specific company. During my days in the corporate world my employer, a large financial services firm, allowed me to work from home 2-3 days a week provided I appeared in the office at least twice a week. Because I worked at home, I was known as a telecommuter. Now that I am on my own, I no longer telecommuter but rather “work from home” even though I do spend a portion of my work-week on-site at my client’s location.
While the difference may seem like nothing more than semantics, it does make a difference. As a telecommuter, you are still considered to be an employee of the company for which you work; your paycheck is subject to the same deductions as an on-site employee and depending on the number of hours your work, you may also qualify for benefits. As someone who “works at home”, you are considered to be a consultant. You are actually your employer and the company for which you are working is referred to as your client. This means that you are responsible for paying your own taxes and you are not eligible to receive employment benefits. And, unlike a telecommuter, your engagement with any given employer is usually limited to a clearly defined period such as 6 months or one year – or lasts until a specific task is completed.
Understanding the distinction between these two terms is important because it will ultimately affect the type of job you look for. Those looking for a steady paycheck in return for working a specific number of hours each week will likely seek jobs in which telecommuting is an option. Those who desire more flexibility will probably be more suited for “work at home” opportunities.