Of course, one of the first questions one might ask about any new job is “How much does it pay?” However, when it considering an at-home call center salary, the question becomes “How does it pay?” because virtual call centers have varying methods of calculating pay, depending on whether it is an employment job or an independent contractor position. See more about the difference between employment and contracting call center jobs.
Call center jobs may pay an hourly wage, a per-call or per-minute rate, or one of these rates with an incentive. If a job is an employment position in the U.S. it must pay minimum wage in the state where the agent lives. However, independent contractors do not have to receive minimum wage.
Call Center Hourly Rates
Both independent contracting and employment call centers may pay an hourly rate, but it is more common in employment positions. Basic pay rates (not including incentives) range from the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 to as much $12 an hour. Bilingual agents may be paid at the upper end of the scale because there is often a pay differential of $1 or more per hour for bilingual call center jobs.
Any call center job that pays more than $12/hour is likely including the incentive in its average pay, looking for very specialized skills and experience (such as telehealth nursing jobs) or charging fees to its workers. As with a brick-and-mortar job, pay is often based on the average wage in the geographic area of the worker, so the same company may pay employees in different states different hourly wages.
Independent contractors should figure in any training fees, unpaid training time or other pay deductions that companies may charge when calculating their true hourly wage. And both employees and contractors should calculate the ongoing and one-time external costs, such as Internet/phone service, headsets, computer equipment, virus scan subscriptions, etc., when calculating their hourly rate. (Plus, these things may be tax deductions, so keep good records.)
Per-Call and Per-Minute Rates
Agents compensated on a per-call and per-minute basis (or for “talk time”) are paid only for time on the phone—not for time waiting for calls to come in. And there is little way to know if calls will come in a steady flow. Per-call pay rates might be anywhere from $.10 to $.25 per minute, but there is no way to know what this might work out to as an hourly rate. For those paid per call, obviously moving quickly through calls means more money.
Employment positions will pay a minimum hourly wage—usually minimum wage—if too few calls come for an agent to earn the basic wage. However, independent contractors rarely get such protections, and can easily make less than the minimum wage. Because taxes aren’t taken out of independent contractors’ wages (though contractors pay these later at tax time), it can appear that they are making more money than their hourly-wage counterparts.
Agents paid on a per-call or per-minute basis should make a habit of calculating their pay on an hourly basis for their own records so they can project paychecks, compare their current jobs with potential jobs and be sure they are getting the going rate for call center work. Also, as with those paid on an hourly basis, it’s a good idea to figure in any costs associated with working at a company.
In the vast majority of cases, incentives for both employees and contractors are added to one of the base pay systems above. There could be a few independent contractor sales jobs that are incentive only, but these are rare. Incentives could simply mean commissions on sales (a percent of the amount sold), but there are many other types of incentive pay programs that call center companies use. Companies might offer cash bonuses for sales of a certain product, for sales above a certain amount, for the top seller of the day/week/month, etc. But incentives can be offered in non-sales jobs too. Companies might offer a higher rate for those who complete a certain number of calls per hour, a bonus for those with good customer service feedback or a certain number of calls/surveys completed.
Regardless of how a company calculates incentives, agents starting a new job will not be able to project incentive pay until they’ve been on the job for a while. And even then, it will fluctuate.
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