With job postings still scarce, job security dissipating, and wages seemingly stagnant at best, many people are trying to establish some security by creating multiple streams of income. It’s a smart strategy, but if you have trouble leaving your home or primary position to get to a second job, you’ll find yourself frustrated and stressed out.
Perhaps you’re raising kids and you’re committed to not using daycare. Maybe you’re a little older and can’t commit to a full-time job. Or you might be injured or disabled, making it difficult for you to leave your home each day. Whatever your reason is, if you’re stuck at home most of the day, you’ve probably thought about the income you could be making by taking a work-from-home job or running your own business.
Good news: There are plenty of legitimate ways to earn extra money sitting right where you are right now. Some of them involve starting your own small business, while others mean working for someone else using your home as an office.
These endeavors aren’t without traps and challenges, though, so before we take a look at some legitimate ways to make money from your home, let’s review a few things that you should avoid. Unfortunately, if you want to earn an honest living from home, you’re also a common target of scammers, especially in these economically tough times. But if you keep these simple rules in mind, you won’t become a victim of one of the many work from home scams.
Money Scams to Avoid
1. Requests for Money
Sure, you might expect some legitimate costs to be associated with starting a new business, like business licenses, permits, materials, or even some advertising or marketing fees.
You should never have to pay someone for the privilege of selling their product for them, but that’s just what scammers tell their marks. They trick people into paying for worthless information about how to run a business or for substandard materials to use in creating a product.
Some scams might involve asking you to pay for a “training” book or CD that explains how to make money in a certain business. Others charge for supposedly “exclusive” products that you’re supposed to sell at a premium. Avoid both of these scenarios. Remember, you should never have to pay to get a job. And if someone asks you to, you can be sure that it’s a scam.
2. Get Rich Schemes
Get-rich-quick schemes get only one person rich: the schemer. Not you. Don’t be that con artist’s next victim. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you will have the opportunity to build a viable business or become a trusted home worker in a great business.
But if you’re looking for easy money, you’ll likely just get stuck with a lot of bills and worthless information. When websites run promotions that promise that you’ll make thousands a week with no experience and very little time, you can bet your money that they’ll be in your wallet before you can ask the first question.
Legitimate Ways to Make Money from Home
Now that we’ve talked about the things you should avoid, let’s look at a few real ways you can work from your home and make the extra cash that you and your family need.
Freelance Writing: Sell Your Words
I may as well start with something I know well. Today’s freelance writers can choose from a variety of markets. You can write for magazines, either online or in print. You can blog by setting up your own site, or by writing for someone else’s. The market for new articles on the Internet is vast, and there’s plenty of work to go around.
If you want to work from home as a freelance writer, consider this checklist before you get started:
- Samples. You’ll need some samples before you can really begin marketing yourself. Figure out which market you want to approach first, and then find or create some related samples. For instance, if you want to try your hand at blogging, study some successful blogs, and then write a few posts of your own to use as samples. Do this for any and every market you’d want to write for.
- Tools. You don’t need much to work as a home-based freelance writer, but there are some tools that you must have. The most important will be your computer. Get the fastest Internet access that you can afford. It doesn’t matter what kind of computer you get. Just make sure you’re comfortable enough to spend a lot of time with it. Most clients will request that you submit your work as a Microsoft Word document, so make sure that whatever programs you use are compatible. In addition, because you’ll be spending so much time at the computer, make sure that you have a good work area with proper lighting. Some clients will want to be able to reach you by phone or Skype, so have both set up and accessible. You’ll need an invoicing program, such as Freshbooks, and a good bookkeeping system to keep track of sales, orders, and accounts receivables.
- Job Boards. When you’re first starting out, you’ll have to go looking for work, and the best place to do that is on one of the online job boards. Places like Guru, Elance, Freelancer, and oDesk are today’s writers’ best friends. They allow individuals and businesses to post projects, and freelancers to bid on them. Take a look around the sites, sign up for the free access in the beginning, and then begin to place bids on the projects that interest you. It will take some trial and error to find your groove, but once you do, the jobs will start to roll in.
- Persistence and Commitment. You’ll need to have a good amount of persistence while pursuing freelance writing gigs. This business is subjective, and while one person may love your writing, another may not. Do your best to always produce good, solid copy and hold on to your commitment to do the best you can for your clients. Just by committing to do those two things, you’ll be miles ahead of your competition.
Classes: Sell Your Knowledge
Another great way to earn money from your home office is to sell your skills or knowledge by teaching classes. For instance, if you’re an exercise guru, you might start an exercise class in a large spacious area in your home. People are willing to pay to learn about many fields of knowledge, from cooking to candle making. Playing a musical instrument, dancing, dog training, yoga, and even foreign languages are all great topics for expert classes.
The key is to make the class sound unique and irresistible. Don’t just teach a cooking class; come up with specialty cooking classes. The possibilities are endless, and if you consistently offer educational and fun classes, you’ll have people signing up over and over again.
But being successful at hosting your own classes requires some serious planning and attention to detail. Here is an outline of the things you’ll have to consider:
- Your Idea. It’s not enough to say that you’re going to offer an exercise classes. The people considering your classes will want to know exactly what they are going to get for their money, and it will be up to you to explain it concisely and effectively. Understand that you’re basically giving a sales pitch to potential attendees. You’ll have to really narrow down your topic.
Your Schedule. Decide in advance how often you want to teach your class, and what times will work for you. If you’re teaching a foreign language, you will want to offer structured classes that meet at the same time every week. But if you intend to offer cooking classes, where one lesson won’t run into another, you can be a little more flexible.
- Remember that you’re making a commitment that will last weeks or months, and you won’t want to end up canceling classes. Pick a schedule that you can keep.
- Furthermore, carefully consider your likely attendees, and what schedule would be attractive to them. For example, if you’re planning on teaching a tutoring class, you obviously couldn’t schedule it during school hours. Likewise, a class aimed at mothers of young children will either have to include babysitting services or be scheduled at night, when they’re more likely to have help with the kids. Find the delicate balance of times that fit your prospective students’ schedules as well as your own.
- Your Price. When establishing a price for your classes, start by calling around and finding out what other choices your clients have. If you plan to offer cooking classes, call some commercial establishments and other in-home teachers. Compare your own talent and experience to what they’re offering, and set a price accordingly. You should always come in a little lower than classes offered by commercial establishments as that will be one of your selling points: expert information for less money.
- Your Deals. In addition to establishing a per-class price, also offer packages to entice people to sign up for more than one class. For example, if you intend to host classes on making soap, offer the classes individually, as well as in a group. Someone could take a class learning how to use fresh flowers in homemade soap, or they could buy a bundle that teaches them how to use those, fresh herbs, and plastic toys for kid’s soap. However you decide to price your classes, remember that the buyer will want to feel like they’re getting a lot for their money. If you can provide that in a fun atmosphere, they’ll likely be back time and time again – and they’ll bring friends.
- Your Ads. The key to success will be in your ability to get the word out about your classes. Word of mouth will play an important role in your marketing efforts because taking classes is something that friends like to do together. Don’t just rely on friends and family, though. Post fliers in supermarkets, churches, and school bulletin boards. You’ll definitely want to have an online presence so people who are searching your area for such classes will be able to find you. You can establish one by creating a website, and then using digital media to spread your message. And don’t forget your neighborhood as a source of business. Take some time to visit your neighbors, even if you just visit one block a day, and tell them about your new business.
Crafts and Art: Sell Your Creativity
If you have a knack for creating beautiful things, then you were born at the right time to make some serious income from home. The growing trend for vintage and homemade products shows no signs of stopping. Plus, the Internet is chock full of well-known outlets for such wares.
Etsy, for example, is one of the fastest growing sites that gives artists a chance to sell items at a fair price. The site boasts over 40 categories, from gifts to clothes to edibles, with thousands of listings. And the price is right; you can get your own site connected to Etsy for just 20 cents per listing.
Selling on Etsy and similar sites, however, has become an art form itself, and finding success in these marketplaces takes a lot of work and planning. Your art is already a full-time job, but you’ll need to devote plenty of time to being a smart businessperson too. Here are some guidelines to getting started:
- Research. You need to know what others are selling before you decide what wares you will offer. Lots of people sell handmade items, but those who work hard to make their items unique in some way are the ones who truly stand out. After you’ve decided on a product, check out the other sellers on Etsy and find what they’re offering, and then figure out how you can do it differently.
- Commit. People who run successful shops on Etsy say that they do way more than create. They pass out business cards everywhere they go, they blog about their site, and spend all of their free time trying to think of new ways to promote it. In other words, to truly be a success, you have to treat it like a full-time job.
- Photographs. Because your customers won’t be able to touch or hold your items, you need to give them as much of a visual feel for the products as you can. You’ll do it with photographs – but not just any photos. They have to be pleasing to the eye and make the item look fantastic. You’ll have to learn the art of photography, and if you can’t get the hang of it, you’ll have to hire someone to do it for you. Yes, it’s that important.
- Selection. One of the keys to success on Etsy is selection, according to industry insiders. In fact, the goal of most serious shop owners is to have at least 200 items for sale. If you’re creating all of those items yourself, that’s a pretty big time commitment. But the more options you give to your customers, the higher the chances that you’ll make a sale.
Consulting: Sell Your Knowledge
Consultants offer their services or advice for a fee. For instance, you may help a new non-profit organization develop a plan for fundraising, and then oversee the process. Or you may help a new company garner media attention by writing press releases and then distributing them to the proper channels.
Individuals use consultants, too. Some people use consultants for tax, wedding, marriage or financial advice. Basically, if you have proven skills in an area, you can market yourself as a consultant and provide your services from home. Breaking in isn’t always easy, though, so consider these topics:
- Experience. Whatever area you want to work in as a consultant, you must be able to show clients that you’re qualified to advise them. If there are organizations related to your field, make sure that you’re a member of them. Similarly, if you can take a course and become certified or registered in your field, do it and then add that to your credentials.
- Work Space. When acting as a consultant, the probability is high that clients will be visiting your home office. Therefore, you need to have a neat, professional home office that is welcoming to guests. Try to locate your work space in a quiet, even secluded, area of the house. A converted garage space with its own entrance works well, giving you a private space for work and adding to your credibility.
- Marketing. When operating as a consultant, you won’t necessarily be marketing your company; you’ll be marketing yourself. You’ll have to “package” yourself in a way that makes people trust you. For instance, if you’re marketing yourself as a financial consultant, ask yourself why someone would trust you with their life savings, and then figure out a way to convey that to potential clients. It might be in the form of a brochure, a portfolio, a sales letter, or all three.
To get the word out about your services, you’ll have to talk to a lot of people. Attend functions where your typical client would hang out. That may mean the local agricultural department’s classes if you’re a gardening consultant, or Chamber of Commerce meetings if you’re a business consultant.
Despite the proliferation of technology in our lives, many people still find computers complicated to maintain and terrifying if they go wrong. If you have a reassuring manner and are not fazed by the inner workings of a PC, offer your services locally and let word of mouth do the rest.
BECOME A DJ
It goes without saying that you need a deep love of music and an extensive collection of tunes before you can even consider DJing, but as much of the work is at evenings and weekends, it could make a perfect side business. Be ready to cater for a range of crowds and musical preferences, not just your passion. Learn the ropes by concentrating first on weddings and birthday parties or by doing roadie work for an established DJ, which will gain you useful contacts.
If you are a part-time teacher or are perhaps taking a career break to look after young children, this can be a great way to make a little money while keeping your syllabus knowledge up to date.
SELLING AD SPACE ON A PERSONAL BLOG
This is not a big money-earner to start with but could be if you work at it. Set up your own blog and fill it with great writing, photos, videos and anything else you’re passionate about,” she advises. “Get ads automatically through Google Adsense and make a few pence every time someone clicks on an ad.”
An increasingly competitive field as the software needed becomes more and more mainstream. However if you have a good eye for design generally and formal training, it can be a profitable side business.
You’ll need a website or blog to showcase your work, but if you’re confident that your photography is good enough, there’s no reason why you can’t do wedding/function work professionally. Do your homework though – you’ll need to take charge of arranging people into groups and know all the classic poses expected of the occasion.
If you’re one of those people who can’t help but flip through bridal magazines and daydream about nuptial arrangements, this might be perfect for you. A great way to get started is to develop a website on the topic, get to know people online and offer your services to the community.
For some people, work just has to be in an office, factory, store, or any other environment that’s separate from home. Even a second job would have to be in a separate place. For others, a home office is a welcome place for a secondary or even a primary job. If you’re one of those people, you have some unique opportunities, but you also have some very particular challenges of working from home.
Make sure you set a smart schedule that lets you diligently focus on your work, without throwing the rest of your life out of balance. And make sure you always keep your guard up for scams and cheats. When you’re on your own, you might have a little more freedom with your schedule, but you lose the sense of protection that a company can provide.
These ideas are just a few of the great ones for earning money from your own home. While employment opportunities are getting scarcer, isn’t it good to know that your ability to take things into your own hands is getting greater?
Do you make money working from home? What other ideas have you been able to come up with?