Be Careful, Is It Really Employment?

I came across an opportunity to work at home. It was featured in an newspaper article that talked about it as “employment.” Eager to look at it and tell the readers of this blog about this “new opportunity” for employment, I went to the website to check it out — and realized a good lesson that is very important to the telecommuting job hunter.

The difference between employment and self-employment or more specifically, the difference between a job and a business.

Understanding the difference between being an employee and an independent contractor can save you a lot of money as well as keep you on the right track in finding telecommuting work.

For example, the article I read was about someone that utilized a website,
http://www.willowcsn.com, to begin working as a home-based customer service agent.

From what I can see, nothing is wrong with this company. It seems that utilizing this company’s training and strategies can allow you to work from home.

My problem is in the wording that they use: “employee“. When in fact, you are never an employee with this company. This company puts one who wishes to become a CyberAgent CSRs(tm) into business.

The steps that they outline, ultimately trains, sets-up and incorporates the individual to become an “independent contractor.” To do all this, you must INVEST up to $600. Once you have gone through the 8 week process and invested $600, you are then given contracts where you can make up to $14 an hour. (Understand, this is NOT a scam. They are totally above-board with the time and money you must invest to be able to take on these opportunities.)

There is nothing wrong with the scenerio above. It is not a scam. But it is considered a business. Basically, they are helping you set up a “home business.” Yet they still use the term “employee” on their website (which is very mis-leading).

An employee can not (by IRS standards) be an independent contractor. An employee does not need incorporation. An employee does not need to pay for anything to begin working (not equipment, not incorporation, not training). All these things are provided by an employer at no cost to an employee (usually).

Now, if you want to begin a home business, great. Look up willowscn.com, it looks like a reputable company. And I must say, that having your own business entity set-up does open you to contract positions that you can do from home that those looking for “employment” positions may have to pass up. (If you are interested in information on setting up a home business, let me know. I have alot of knowledge on doing that as well).

But, if you want to seek employment (where you submit a resume and time and effort alone), then move on. These types of opportunities are not for you!

News Flash!: I found a service that will employ you for customer service needs without the above investment.

Check out: Alpine Access at:
http://www.alpineaccess.com/external/agentFAQ.html
Happy Hunting.

57 comments

  1. LiveOps has a great FAQ page about becoming an agent in case anyone is interested. It looks like the only cost is a non-refundable $30 background check fee (and the monthly expense of having a dedicated phone line, an internet connection, a computer and other normal home office equipment). They require their agents to pass certification, they provide teleservices, mainly in the direct response marketing industry (infomercials) and agents are required to sign an independent contractors agreement where you agree to keep your relationship with LiveOps confidential – although it is non-exclusive, meaning you could provide similar services to other companies as well.

    West Telemarketing (WorkAtHomeAgent.com) is along the same lines where you register, pass certification and then begin taking calls as an independent agent. I didn’t see anything about application fees or equipment fees but they do run a background check as well.

  2. Donald- To find out more about the opportunites listed here, please visit their respective sites. Alpine Access at: http://www.alpineaccess.com/external/agentFAQ.html as well as the WAH Journal comment suggestions (http://www.liveops.com and http://www.workathomeagent.com).

    If anyone has any more information about Alpine, LiveOps or WorkAtHomeAgent, feel free to send in information and I’ll be happy to post it. You can email me, editor-at-telecommutingJournal.com, with the name of the site in the subject line or simply post a comment here about your own personal experiences!

  3. Just was terminated from Alpine Access after 21 months under a pretext of attendance issues which were posted incorrectly by their payroll/ scheduling/ adherence department. Our turn over rate the last 6 months has been approx 35% total, and about 60% of each new training class. I now have stress induced diabetes and a hugely noticable amount of grey hair. I wouldnt recommend my worst enemy to apply at Alpine Access, they have no business ethics, and use sloppy payroll / hours accounting practices to their financial benefit, at the expense of the employee. There are many others who have developed the same opinion as mine.

  4. Thank you for the comment, Carrie. Gathering individual and specific opinions based on actual experiences is what gives us all the power to make informed decisions!

  5. Alpine Access has a lot of problems. The management expects perfection from it’s employees in contrast to the many errors management makes but never admits. A very frustrating situation for agents.

  6. I would avoid Alpine Access. Many of their positions pay $2-$4 per hour less than similar jobs at a call center such as credit card processing. Also every paycheck seems to be short compared to hours worked. If you use direct deposit you will never receive a paper stub showing the amounts with held or taxes paid. This company exploits it’s employees.

  7. I wanted to apply for alpine, never would I imagne this company had so many problems. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences & sorry for time loss….

  8. I got an email today from Alpine and I am glad I saw this site and the comments made before I wasted my time.

    Thanks.

  9. I just want to say that before my wife and I did invest the $139.00, I checked the company out with the BBB and they came up clean. So now I am mad and have the original letter without the order form, but I will cancel the money order I just sent. They just made the wrong person mad I am taking the letter to the post master and then I am filing charges against for false advertising. I just wish I found your site sooner would saved me a lot of trouble.

  10. I just recently submitted an application with Alpine Access and everything seemed so much more legitimate than other companies. They don’t request for the background check fee until AFTER you are offered a position. They also pay by the hour and not by the minute, their website was great and had lots of FAQ. I used to work at a traditional call center that offered NO benefits, full time, listening to phone warriors ramp and range using their vulgarities and profanities because they think you can’t see them so it doesn’t matter. Believe me, it’s shocking to hear the “F” work at random times or some adolescent throw a hissyfit on the phone because they can’t get what they want… The atmosphere there was dull and dry and gas prices now, the company couldn’t pay me to go back to them. Staying at home, wearing sweats and not having to pay for childcare fees and gas is the better route for me!

    Regarding the other comments about Alpine Access posted on the website…. Any company expects you to work at maximum capacity. Why would they hire you otherwise? As far as payroll and proving hours worked, blah blah blah, you HAVE to personally document EVERYTHING! Even if you clock in online or via phone (like Alpine does) you should always verify with a supervisor and document each call. Can’t be too safe now a days! You’ll end up screwing yourself if you don’t keep proper tabs…. 🙂 Anyways, I’m just little ol’ me with my own opinions. Alpine won’t be for everyone!

  11. I have been working with Westathome.com for about 2 1/2 months. It has a crappy system used to route calls and place orders, but it’s ok. The craziest thing I have seen is that it states you can never get paid less than minimum wage for your city, but I have definitely gotten paid less than that before! I can’t quite figure out the pay system and they do not make it simple! My friend has worked for Live Ops for almost 2 years. They have a variety of opportunities there, not just infomercial calls, by no means! But it is very hard to get on with them. The fee for a background check with them is now $50. But she is telling me that they are about to lose a law suit that will require them to make all agents, employees! So, that will eliminate the background fee! I wanted to know it anyone has ever done Arise? I got all the way to the point of going to Incorporate myself, but that is expensive! And I have heard that your assigned a client, you train for them and if you don’t like them, too bad..your stuck with them! Can anyone comment first hand on Arise?
    Thanks!

  12. Angie – it looks like Arise actually used to be Willow (the same company written about in this article). A quick search on Google produced the following sponsored link at the top of the results page:

    Willow – Now Arise.com
    Arise.com/GMA Work from home. Be your own boss! As seen on Good Morning America.

    and the Arise homepage discloses the fact as well:

    “Since Arise Virtual Solutions, Inc. was founded as Willow CSN Incorporated in 1997, the home-based sales, customer service and technical support concepts have become some of the fastest-growing business segments in America.”

    It’s certainly a legitimate business opportunity, so long as you know what you’re getting into (just as it was when it was Willow). They don’t hire you — you join them and you’re self-employed with all the costs that implies.

    I do find it remarkably strange that each independent contractor is actually called a “Virtual Services Corporation” and it does sound expensive since you “invest in your own certification courses and equipment” but what I really don’t get is that you can then also “employ additional Arise Certified Professionals agents” since it seems anyone who joins has to be their own corporation… so who are these Arise Certified Professional agents you’ll be able to then employ?

    I’ll be interested to see if anyone who has worked there gives you additional tidbits of info here. If not, try looking over at the Friends in Business message board (yeah, it’s OLD school but it’s full of priceless real-deal info on working at home and scams and self-employment options). When you want to search the message board for something in particular – here’s a shortcut way to do that:

    Google FIB and whatever you’re looking for. So, for example, in this case you’d search for FIB arise on Google and you’d get what you’re looking for in the top 2 spots: http://www.friendsinbusiness.com/board1/index.cgi/noframes/read/131859.

  13. I just happened to stumble onto this site as I am researching Arise. I would be very interested in anyone who works as an Arise agent or who knows a bit more about them. I don’t mind investing a LITTLE money and my home office is just about up to their specs now. But I am being very wary and cynical until I can get more of the straight “skinny” on this. Thanks, Gary

  14. Gary – I hope someone who’s got first-hand knowledge also stumbles onto my site and is kind enough to post a comment here for you (and others who are looking). I totally understand being wary and cynical – you have to be these days.

  15. I am also looking for an online job. I have the equipment and technical, customer service, sales, etc. experience. I found Arise and carefully read everything. Then I took their tests, and went through the whole process. UP TO THE FINAL POINT.

    I was ready to do the background check and that’s when I saw the incorporation fees, etc. I decided that I wanted to talk to them before taking the next step. I called and waited long distance going through all the channels, etc. After about 10 minutes, or more, the message changed that I could leave a message. It was during regular working hours and I could not get a human.

    My decision is this: I met their supposed requirements. Now they want money for training, etc. AND I CAN’T TALK TO ANYONE? Sorry, the service I would provide their customer base would be stellar! And, as a professional I expect to be treated as a resource that has value. They are not providing that and I smell a rat! I’m not proceeding with Arise.

    Please! There has to be decent legitimate companies out there. I am ready to give my best, but not to be taken advantage of.

  16. Nancy – Good for you! I can’t speak first-hand for working with Arise, or for working in customer service and sales, but I totally understand the fear of not getting a human on the other end of the line.

    I’ve actually got a rough draft of an article about just that. I’ll see if I can get it completed in the next day or so. Meanwhile, if anyone has any first-hand knowledge as a Customer Service Rep who telecommutes, please feel free to speak up.

  17. I happened to stumble across this page and noticed the responses about Arise (formally WillowCSN).

    I have worked as an Independent Contractor for Arise for 5 years. Just as many of you, I had my reservations at first due to the set up fees for training, background checks, etc.

    I enjoy working as a contractor for Arise. I create my own hours and if I don’t like the contract I am working with I am not bound to them beyond my contract (generally 90 days). The Companies who use Arise are reputable companies, including a well known roadside assistance company. Your earning potential is unlimited and most companies offer a minimum rate of $9-$10 an hour. On average I make about $21 an hour, working approximately 45 hours a week.

    To compare to Alpine Access, West (Workathomeagent), and LiveOps by far Arise exceeds them all. I have tried each one of them, and Arise was the only one that paid fairly, and the systems were user friendly.

    Granted working from home is not for everyone, but it has its benefits. Being a mother of two and a full-time student working on my master’s degree, Arise worked for me.

    I would recommend them to anyone who is looking for a legitimate work at home company as an independant contractor.

    There is another company out there that actually employs you to work from home. If you want an alternative to Arise due to the set up cost and fees, try Hirepoint. If anything were to ever happen to Arise, they would be my next choice. Their primary calls are for a company called B*ST B*Y.

    Good luck

  18. I have found myself in need of employment, I would like to work from home since I have a child that I home school. I have read through the comments, and find this interesting. I at this point do not have much money to invest. Have you heard of any companies that do Data Processing? Thank you for your patience, this is my first time to inquire about working from home. Susan

  19. Susan – Keep your money and keep looking. Data entry jobs are often scams and you’ll need to determine your skills and look for something that you can do (not buy into a program that promises you simply data entry for thousands a week).

    Many (but perhaps not all) data entry jobs tend to have hidden meanings, so be sure to take a peek at Dissecting Data Entry Jobs to see learn more about that.

  20. I recently applied for a position with LiveOps. I was declined due to credit issues. I do admit my credit stinks due to divorce and trying to support 4 children who have a deadbeat father. I am a very dedicated hard working person and feel that basing employment on past credit is strange. People who apply for these jobs typically have marginal credit. I was wondering if anyone had info on how to work with LiveOps to overcome this credit issue. Thanks

  21. Sorry — I would also like to know if anyone can recommend a company that offers not only call center service but Instant Messenger as well. I am partial to typing.

  22. Wow, I had no idea they did credit reports for the LiveOps jobs (I’ve never applied). It is a classic catch 22 alright. Hopefully someone may have some advice about working with LiveOps to get around the credit issue. It looks like VIPDesk also has the same requirement “must pass a credit check”… Any thoughts anyone?! Anyone ever successfully got past the credit issue for call center work?

  23. I was looking into applying for a Work at Home job also and I noticed that many of you who are working from home mention going to school, have children at home and home school, etc. How are you able to do that at the same time? I envisioned myself having to just sit at the computer all day long waiting for the calls to come in. How are you able to do other things like personal work from your computer or household things at the same time? How often do the calls come in? I am brand new at this idea and really want to know how you’re able to incorporate your personal work with your At Home professional work and do they frown on that? Thank you

  24. Lydia – It depends on the age of your children and what it is you do. You’d be amazed how you learn to multi-task and accommodate everything you need to get accomplished. I do spend a lot of time on my computer of course, but over the years my schedule and my ability to do things has changed. You definitely have to adapt to what’s going on around you and have the discipline to fit your work into your day.

    I’m not a call center agent, so can’t speak directly to working that into the mix. It would definitley be difficult if your children weren’t yet in school (or were schooled at home). But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Perhaps your better half works a first-shift job and can help take care of the kids while you work a four-hour late shift. Or maybe you hire someone to come by during the day to help you watch a younger child or children. Or you trade play-dates with another mother who’s working at home on alternate days.

    As the children get older, working at home tends to get easier. They quickly learn to appreciate what it means to have a mom who works at home and what it affords the family in terms of additional time and revenue.

  25. I too am trying to find out if there are any companies that do not require credit checks. I was also wondering if anyone knows of specific companies that offer jobs doing credit card processing or insurance claims/underwriting? I am curious what people have to say about VIPDesk as well.

  26. I’m in the final stage of getting hired on with Alpine Access. I just looked at my credit report, and I do have more than 4 negative items on there, but it did not hinder me from getting approved for a home or credit cards. I’m not interested in paying $45 for a background and credit check when I have never had to pay before. I don’t understand how my credit will affect the job either. I’m unsure on what I am going to do at this point. I am glad I found this website, I am supposed to reply to them the time I would be available for an appointment. A lot to think about tonight..

  27. I’m in the process of applying w/ Alpine Access. I am pleased that so far there is no mention of any fees or investment (the type that are typical with most online scams!), other than the fee for a background check, which I expect and understand. Is Alpine one of the companies that everyone here is talking about that surprises you with extra “fees” and charges for equipment and training after they offer you a position? I’d appreciate any info anyone has that could save me a little time and/or stress!
    Thanks!

  28. I have worked for Alpine Access since Feb 2009. I have read some of the comments and I agree and disagree with what they said. Yes, Alpine Acess is an above board company. I always get paid ontime and they DO supply you with a paystub (it is virtual and you can print it). There have been problems with my hours before, but as long as you keep up with your schedule and report and problems before payroll, they DO get fixed (at least all of mine have). I do agree that oay seems low compared to a brick and mortar call center, but I suppose they rationalize that by taking in account you do not have to buy clothes, commute, pack lunch, etc. They do expect a great deal from the employees and sometimes it seems like you cannot keep up with standards, but I guess that’s what sets this company apart from other call center I have to deal with on my contract.
    Overall, if you are looking for a legit work at home company, I would suggest Apline Access.

  29. i am a student who is getting a certificate in microsoft office apllications. i would like to be able to work from home for a company that has benifits without it being a scam! will someone please tell me where i can you my experiance to work online from home?

  30. Abby B is a shill from Alpine. I can tell she is an ad from Alpines marketing. PLease remove her post. Its upsetting to see loser businesses that take advantage of people go out and plant shill comments like this ficticicous Dear Abby.

  31. I’m thrilled to read that Alpine is legit.

    It is my guess that all the fees can be written off in taxes as well as your office space. Is this correct?

    At the end of the article there is a NEWS FLASH but no mention of the company.

    Can you email me the name or website of this company?

    Thank you

  32. Anyone had experience with Alpine Access asking for social security numbers, age, address, etc. before sending employment paperwork. Then saying offer changing because shift not available but another is, and then saying that no job available. This is after requesting above information upon verbal job offer.

  33. Wondering, since it has been almost 2 years since the last post on here, if anyone has any new info on Alpine? I just applied with them and then I checked them out and found this. Uggghhh…I hope to be ok.

  34. Please… make sure you double check everything these ads say.. I did one, paid money, and ended up putting a small ring around nails for like $.10 an hour! lol..

  35. some information on arise at wiki answers.com. I was looking to get involved with them myself and was doing some investigating.

  36. I am a new hire from alpine access, was looking around to see if I could find Coach and Lead position salaries and saw your site. I wont post my name since I’m sure alpine wouldn’t like me posting details about them.

    1. It is legit, yes you have to pay $45 for background check, yes that sucks buy you obviously make it back fairly quickly.

    2. You also have to have a functioning computer, phone line (no voip) and also purchase a phone headset. I suppose they wouldn’t know if u didn’t but they have a zero tolerance policy regarding background noise (for obvious reasons) and a hands free headset with mute button comes in very handy.
    3. Its an employment (w2) job
    4. It does come with full benefits up front however I’ll be honest and tell u their not great. Compared to my state I pull market rates, be comparable to what alpine charges andget better coverage. But maybe its a better deal in some states… Dunno.
    5. The company handles calls by “program” and after 9 months you can switch programs. The current programs they support include aol, sprint, hp, msft xbox support, and I’m sure more I don’t know of.
    6. Yes pay is about $9-$10 depending on ir states wage laws.
    7. Yes u work from home.
    8. Don’t know what else to say, vie been there just a few months and while theres better work out there, at least this is a job fr now!

  37. Count me in as a fan of Alpine Access! True, they have their problems, like every company does (I have yet to find any perfect employers!). But they are totally legitimate and run by good people that seem to be doing their best. The top Fortune 100 business that use AA can’t be too wrong (as far as legitimacy goes)!

    I’ve worked for AA for nearly 3 years now and it’s clear they are a fine company. I agree with most of what Abby B. said, especially about the payroll – you do have to watch it carefully if you want to get paid for every second you work. But in general, the pay is correct, with only the occaisional mistake – like any employer I’ve ever known. I’ve never had any problems getting my payroll problems fixed – not always lightening fast, but it gets there.

    AA was recently awarded the best outsourced call center in the world by some important research group, and that’s understandable because they do expect good performance and high standards, and take great pride in all they do! They say they only hire like 2% of the people that apply – they are looking for the best, not just warm bodies to fill seats! So there’s no need whatsoever to try and “trick” people to apply! This is a GOOD company – not perfect, but as close any I’ve ever known!

    Yes, I do sometimes think the managers ask a bit more from the employees than they do of themselves, but then again, seems about the norm for the work world. I also worked for a brief time for West at Home, and AA is SO much more professional in their business tone and manner.

    AA isn’t perfect, or for everyone, but I’m glad they were there when I needed an at home job! I have recommended them to my friends and family, and will continue to do so!. I would seriously be suspicious of people who would try and divert you from AA! If you want to work at home – I know of no better place. Solid work for solid people!

    BTW, I am in no way any type of shill or any other extension of AA – just a near 3 year CCP employee who is reasonably happy with the company!

  38. what is it you do ? do you take calls (in coming calls) of problems
    people have with their products. Or you call trying to make a sale?
    what dose this job intale?

  39. Hello all,

    Wow 2008, well I guess I’m a little late. If there is anyone still out there on this blog…

    I would not normally “advertise” in a situation like this but it seems some of you have asked for someone in my shoes to make a comment.

    In fact, my intention is not to advertise. I simply want to provide information regarding Arise, and it’s contracted Virtual Service Corporations. I am the owner of a “Virtual Services Corporation”, and we currently have 2 “Arise Certified Professionals” (ACPs) working for us. They are both technically independent contractors, and we are working on hiring some employees.

    If you have any questions I would be glad to help. Cheers,

    Chelsea Goodyear
    Norstrong Virtual Services Inc.
    http://www.norstrong.ca
    goodyear.vsc@gmail.com

  40. I’m a stay at home mom with a soon to be one year old and I’m as well looking for a stay at home job. I seem to have no luck I’ve only found all scams after reviewing this site. Which thank you. Any helpful directions please let me know. I don’t want ny daughter in a day care when its way cheaper that I’m home with her. Please and thank you.

  41. @kate: -I’m sincerely hoping some of these articles will help you in your quest:

    Advice for someone who wants to start doing some online work…
    Finding Telework
    5 Ways to Find Your Next Telecommuting Job
    Telecommuting Resume Advice

    Also take a look at the Finding Jobs and Getting Jobs Sections (on the right) to learn how to avoid scams and find legit work . . . as well as Telecommuting Gigs for examples of actual job listings I sometimes find and post. Good luck!! I’ve been in your shoes and you can do whatever you set your mind to. A mother’s love is a powerful driving force.

  42. Arise or formerly Willow has experience tremendous growth and now is the absolute worst company to partner with. If they have any system issues that are client related they will advise you the issue is being escalated and the client will resolve. And that my friend is a complete FARSE. ARISE could care less once they have your money and the clients trust. It becomes a matter on Client retention for Arise and the agents suffer the cancer of being jobless and minus the client training fee in the area of $250 which is never returned…without so much as an apology.

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