Best Ways To Make Money From Home

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Working the usual 9-5 isn’t for everyone. Even working at a brick and mortar office, regardless of your rank in the business or organization, isn’t for everyone, especially if you aren’t getting compensated for all the hard work you put in. Or maybe you have young kids at home, are a little older and can’t commit to a full 40-hour work week, or are disabled and unable to commute. If you’ve dreamed of stay at home jobs, starting your own home business, or starting a blog and making money online, why continue applying for or working at careers that offer low employee satisfaction if you could make a living doing something you actually enjoy?

You are not alone in wanting this: for years, particularly since the inception of the internet, people have been exploring the potential to make money from home through legitimate means. I stress “legitimate” ways to make money because there are countless scams out there that prey on individuals with promises of “six figure incomes,” “just answer a few surveys” and jobs that require “barely any effort.” You know, the “Get Rich Quick” schemes.

The reality of the situation is that to make a decent income from home, you’ll probably have to work harder than your regular job required, at least during the start-up phase. There are no overnight millionaires, even online. You may not even make a profit the first year. However, with thorough research and planning, the right execution, a pinch of luck, and patience, it’s quite possible to make an income from home that matches or exceeds your salaried career. The best part is that the harder you work, the more you earn. Not to mention the other intangible benefits of setting a flexible schedule, avoiding a stressful and costly commute, and independence.

Below is a list of the best ways to make money from home, with detailed information on how to make it happen, factors to consider, challenges and hardships you may face, and how to prepare for success.

Freelancing

FreelancingOne of the most popular ways to make money from home is freelancing. This is a wide field that encompasses everything from graphic design to writing and all you need to start is a computer, high-speed internet access, and perhaps a few software programs (Microsoft Word is important). A few freelance job options include the following:

  • writing, editing, web content development, ghost writing, and proofreading newspapers and magazines
  • graphic design, web development, phone application development, and video game creation, design and development
  • public relations and marketing, writing press releases, search engine optimization, web services, and writing reviews on behalf of companies
  • translation services that include translating books, business and legal documents, audio and video, and interpreting for others

Getting Started

There are thousands of opportunities in the field of freelancing (both online and offline), so demand is very strong, but the competition can be stiff and the pay may not be great when you’re first starting out. If you offer expertise, are a very skilled researcher, or have a captivating writing style that engages readers, you may be able to command a high rate. For instance, I’ve heard freelance writing jobs can pay up to $250 for an article, but expect the higher rates to come from publishers with very strict writing guidelines and high expectations.

If you are trying to make money online, acknowledge the fact that you’re competing with people from all over the world, some of whom are willing to work for low pay because they’re either desperate for money or live somewhere in the world with a lower cost of living and thus don’t mind working for a couple dollars per hour. Nonetheless, there is an increasing demand for high quality writers from English-speaking countries. With that being said, you simply need experience to enhance your marketability, and the research to know where to find these jobs.

Have Samples Ready

Before you go out hunting for clients, make sure you have sample pieces of your work. This will help you avoid common scams, such as a potential client asking for you to submit an unpaid sample piece customized to their standards. For example, when I first got into freelance writing, one job posting asked me to write a 900 word article on dog grooming techniques. The posting baited writers with the promise of “competitive compensation for future articles” if they hired you. In all my optimism, I submitted the sample article and proceeded to never hear from them again. Don’t sell yourself short or work for free and don’t submit customized samples if there’s no guarantee of compensation. This sets a certain standard for yourself right off the bat. It may limit your pool of potential clients, but you’ll save a lot of time and headache along the way.

Finding An Assignment

Once you’ve got your samples and you’ve carved a little niche for yourself by becoming familiar with a specific topic or genre, where do you start looking for jobs? A broad range of freelancing jobs can be found through Elance, Guru, Freelancer, ProBlogger, oDesk or any number of independent online media and publishing companies such as Demand Media Studios, Quinstreet, Examiner.com, or Investopedia. Even Gajizmo.com is always looking for high quality writers and freelance bloggers.

For non-company specific freelance jobs, these are the top websites for both job seekers and employers. Setting up a profile is easy, and the search engines allow you to find jobs suited to your skill set, desired pay, time frame and more. Beware of bidding wars, however, as some freelancers will bid cents on your dollar in order to attract cost-cutting employers. Set a base pay for yourself and don’t accept anything less, even if it means missing out on potential jobs. Also, remember that there are employers out there willing to pay more for quality work as opposed to rushed, grammatically incorrect, and factually inaccurate pieces that bottom-rung freelancers churn out. This type of low-quality work is usually produced by sweatshop-like operations where quantity trumps quality, and English is not their first language.

Freelancer Demand

Ultimately, when it comes to freelancing, there are thousands of jobs out there. There are also thousands of freelancers, but creating a niche for yourself (i.e. graphic design for motocross companies, blogging for the healthcare industry, or translating for Germany-based businesses) and having samples and former clients to back you up with testimonials will greatly aid you in your quest to make money from home as a freelancer.

Consulting – A Type of Freelancing

In addition to writing, web development and graphic design, providing consulting services to businesses is a type of freelancing. You can be a sales, operations, engineering, human resources, financial or tax consultant with the hands-on experience, credentials and know-how to help any organization grow or manage itself. If you have the proven skills, marketability, and a strong professional network, selling your knowledge as a consultant can become a huge income stream that allows for flexibility and independence.

Personal Concierge

Nearly everyone wishes they had a magic genie to grant their every wish or desire. This is obviously a stretch as a career option, but personal concierges come close. The services provided are similar to the concierge desk at a hotel, tailored for on-the-go individuals who need help completing tasks that they otherwise wouldn’t fit into their busy schedules. This is where you, the magic genie – ahem, personal concierge – come in.

Job Duties

As a concierge, your clients could expect you to run errands (dry cleaning, miscellaneous item pickup/delivery, car services, etc.), go shopping (groceries, office or event supplies, gifts, personal shopper), make reservations and schedule appointments, research and planning (weather, travel, etc.), and more. The extent of services you offer depends on your own personal interests and limits, and the more time-consuming or difficult tasks you’re willing to undertake, the more you’ll be able to charge. Efficiency, organization, patience and punctuality are key traits for anyone wanting to be a personal concierge for busy professionals, as well as a willingness to handle the occasional dull assignment.

What To Expect

This venture isn’t entirely home-based, but working as a personal concierge can be a rewarding and sometimes lucrative experience. You can either start your own concierge service or work with an established company like VIP Desk. Concierges who work virtually can make over $30,000 per year on average, and the more client referrals and years of experience you rack up, the more you’ll be able to make. Unless your company doles out assignments, you’ll want to have your own website, email address specifically for client communication, plenty of business cards, and a good source of transportation, if you’re planning on running errands.

Being a personal concierge is not a glamorous job, but it doesn’t require tricky technical knowledge and you’ll be helping others more effectively manage their lives. You never know who you’ll end up working for, and could end up the personal assistant of a very successful and powerful executive or entrepreneur.

Virtual Assistant

Virtual AssistantVirtual assistants, also called VAs, are similar to personal concierges except VAs are more focused on administrative tasks. According to the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA), VAs are independent contractors who work from home or even on the go, if you have an internet connection, and help clients with both personal and business-related tasks.

Job Duties

As a virtual assistant, you can offer a plethora of administrative and creative services, such as:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Internet marketing and social media account management
  • Event planning
  • Secretarial services, answering service
  • Mail, email checking and responding
  • General research
  • Web design, development, and webpage management
  • Writing, editing, proofreading
  • Typing or creating correspondence
  • Updating and maintaining a schedule
  • Transcriptionist – medical or legal
  • Customer service

Getting started doesn’t require much money upfront, but given the high number of virtual assistants already out there, it will take a significant investment of time to get your name out there and start bringing in clients. You could search for jobs on bidding sites, such as the aforementioned Elance.com, but again, watch out for those who will undercut your hourly rate. Hiring virtual assistants based in countries like India has become increasingly popular in recent years, and North American-based VAs are losing business overseas because rates, on average, are lower for the same level of service provided.

When it comes to the pay scale, recognize that you won’t secure every potential client because some are simply looking for the best bargain. Set a high standard of quality service and charge a reasonable rate, whether it be monthly, hourly, or whatever you deem appropriate. Coupled with strong and smart self-promotion, you’ll likely see a stream of clients trickling in within your first year.

International Virtual Assistants Association

For more exposure and in-depth research into the virtual assistance profession, the IVAA is an extremely valuable resource. The IVAACast newsletter can help you learn the ins and outs of the industry, as well as discover ways to better market yourself and reach a larger client base. To get access to all of the resources listed on IVAA’s website, you can become a member for $137 per year. This isn’t required, but definitely recommended for anyone seriously looking to make money from home as a virtual assistant.

Online Education and Classes

Those with a background in teaching don’t necessarily need to work in a classroom. A Master’s Degree or higher, a specialty in your subject or years of experience, and good interpersonal skills could qualify you for a job as an online professor. The salary for online professors is half that of full time, on-campus faculty members at approximately $56,200. You’ll also need a set of computer skills for tasks such as posting assignments online, digital lectures, and posting grades.

Furthermore, you may not need to teach classes on an academic subject. You can offer exercise or yoga classes, dance or cooking lessons, dog training, child birthing courses, teach a foreign language or how to play an instrument. For workouts or yoga lessons, it is easier to volunteer at a civic center, recreation hall, or even a local community college that will provide the space and coordinate sign-ups. You will get paid an hourly rate or flat-fee for the semester.

Tutoring

For those who don’t have an advanced degree but still want to teach, there is a variety of tutoring outlets you can work for from home. For example, there are several ESL-learning sites where you can offer your English teaching skills to a growing global market of ESL students. Lessons can occur over easily-accessible video programs such as Skype or Google Chat, email, or through online chat rooms. Subjects such as math, science, and ACT/SAT prep are also always in high demand. If you used to work as a counselor or college admissions advisor, you can start your own college planning and guidance service online by reviewing applications, editing college essays and personal statements, and helping students target specific schools that present the best chances of acceptance.

Although there are a lot of tutors offering their services online today, making a name for yourself in a specialty area and charging reasonable rates can get you started on the right foot. You don’t even need to start online – you can simply advertise your services to college students at nearby campuses.

Beyond The “Classroom”

Learning doesn’t need to be limited to school subjects; if you have solid experience in a valuable skill, there are probably people out there willing to pay to learn it. For example, a woman named Tanya Burr quit her job as a makeup artist after her Youtube makeup tutorials started bringing in enough income to cover her monthly living expenses. Ms. Burr’s case isn’t common since advertising revenue from the 2+ million hits per month on her videos is her primary income, but it goes to show that creativity can be a source of income if you’re willing to self-promote and heighten your online presence in order to accumulate more clients.

Setting Your Rates

Before randomly determining a rate to charge, research competing services in your area or online to learn about the other choices clients have. Whether you have an exceptional knowledge base, offer a very unique experience, or are just an amateur with a hobby and want to generate income from it, your value proposition will determine if the market accepts your pricing. Early on, consider offering package deals as a means of marketing your services and entice long-term loyalty. However much you decide to charge, remember that individuals always want to feel like they are getting a bargain.

Home Day Care Center

Home Day Care CenterIf you want to help people, love kids, and have a sizable residence, starting a home daycare business can be a great way for stay at home parents to bring in an extra income. Home daycare centers were all the rage in the late 90s and early 2000s, but increased regulation has made this once easy home-based business into more of a serious commercial endeavor.

Legal Matters

There are certain requirements you must first fulfill, such as orientation, familiarization of state laws and regulations, home inspection, and ultimately, licensing. Requirements vary from state to state, but the process is relatively the same. Much of this regulation is required in cases where you start to enroll and take care of more children, and hence start to make an actual livable income. Otherwise, if you are babysitting 5 children for a couple families in your neighborhood, you can forgo the legal concerns.

Also note that licensing isn’t required in all states, but in order to care for more children, it’s advised to do so anyway. Sometimes it’s not just the state regulators you need to be worried about, but the legal liability and possibility of litigation brought on by concerned or upset parents.

Drawbacks To Consider

Although caring for kids can be a lot of fun, it’s not all fun and games, as evidenced by the movie Daddy Daycare. Profitability is tough in the beginning, when you’re just starting to make a name for yourself and have upfront expenses like safety equipment and perhaps a playground. It’d be wise to invest in some marketing materials, such as flyers, business cards, and even a bumper sticker or car decal. Reputation is very important from the get-go, and be sure to use word-of-mouth marketing to your advantage as well.

Is running a home-based daycare easy? No, but it can be a worthwhile business and allow you to spend more time at home with your own children.

Coaching

If you have excellent interpersonal communication skills and a passion for helping others, a relatively new profession known as “life coaching” could be your calling. Life coaches act as motivators for people in relationships, weight loss, business, competitions, or even just their personal life in general. Most coaches choose a concentration, such as women’s relationship coaching or a writing coach, and are therefore able to charge more for their specialized background.

Keys To Success

To help people overcome obstacles in their lives, you must be the force of accountability to keep them on track. A background in psychology is quite helpful when it comes to analyzing your clients’ needs and desires, helping them navigate potential routes to achieving their personal goals, and evoking a sense of trust and credibility with clients. Making money while assisting others makes life coaching a very rewarding profession, but it’s not without its challenges.

Downsides

For instance, you’re probably wondering how much it costs to become an accredited coach. The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC) offers a 320 hour comprehensive training program over the course of 7 months to certify new life coaches. The price tag is $8,995 for the complete program and accreditation. Not exactly cheap, and considering the number of uncertified life coaches in business, this is more of a guideline than requirement. With that said, there are some people out there who don’t believe life coaching is a legitimate profession, yet there are arguably many positive aspects, such as reported success rates among previously-struggling athletes, business professionals, and other normal individuals who seek out life coaches to help them achieve personal development and self-improvement goals.

Animal Care and Training – Pet Sitter

Pet SitterIf you’d rather spend time in the company of animals over children, there are dozens of animal-centric careers you could pursue from the comfort of your own home. Whether you have an affinity for training dogs, love grooming cats, or want to carve out a niche in reptilian care for owners on vacation, the door of opportunities is wide open for pet lovers.

Getting Started

Pet sitting is a growing profession where the sitter either visits pets in the owners’ homes while they’re away, or the sitter cares for animals in their own home. To become a professional pet sitter, I recommend you seek certification, licensing and bonding if you want to make a business out of it, rather than working as a mere independent contractor. This can be done through the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Getting insurance will protect you if damage occurs to the home in the duration of the owner’s absence, as well as emergencies with the animal’s health. Duties of pet sitters include exercising, feeding/drinking, grooming, and playing with the pets while the owner is away. As a former professional pet sitter, I can say it is fun and pays well so long as you maintain a high standard of care for the animals under your watch. Owners place a lot of trust in you the moment they not only hand you the key to their homes, but also leaving their beloved pets in your care. Don’t betray that immense trust.

Fun With Dogs

Dog walking and training is another way to make money from home. Certification isn’t required, per se, but it does look better, especially if you don’t have years of experience or client referrals to back you up. Grooming dogs and cats is also a plausible, home-based business idea, though it’ll require a significant investment in proper grooming tools, including a specialized bathtub, grooming table, brushes, and proper training. As with most animal-related professions, there is a risk of injury while on the job, such as getting bitten or scratched, so investing in a First Aid Kit isn’t a bad idea, either.

There are other pet-related enterprises you can do from home, such as baking dog biscuits, creating gifts tailored for animal lovers, building birdhouses, or designing animal apparel and accessories.

Call Centers: Customer Service Agent

If you’re a good communicator, have patience, like to provide good customer service, and enjoy talking to people on the phone regardless of the subject matter, then being a home-based customer service agent could be a good fit for you.

Who’s Hiring

Almost every major U.S. company has a strong need for quality customer service representatives. These companies offer telecommuting positions for people with good phone skills and generally prefer people who speak fluent English. This saves private companies a bundle to outsource customer service duties to calling centers rather than hire, train and pay full time employees.

On the flip side, not all call center positions are geared towards customer service. You may practice direct-selling as a telemarketer for a company’s products and be required to cold call 50 people per day.

The average pay for a remote customer service agent is about $9 to $10 per hour, with some companies even arranging for health, dental, and 401K plans for their employees. For cold-calling or sales jobs, you may be compensated hourly plus bonuses for exceeding performance standards. However, in this industry, you can’t trust everyone. Be sure to complete your research and due diligence before accepting a position. Calling the Better Business Bureau to learn about fraud, complaints, or illegal labor practices will protect you from working with the wrong business.

“Patience Is A Virtue”

Patience is crucial to succeeding as a customer service representative or cold-caller. You might have a bad experience or two with a rude customer, but you must always maintain your composure and grace. For selling products or services over the phone, you will need to practice diligence, persistence, and have tons of self-motivation. After all, never assume your job security is guaranteed so keep calm and call on!

Virtual Nursing

Virtual NursingAs one of the best careers for the future, the healthcare industry is experiencing an across the board shortage in nurses, both in hospitals and those who can work from home. Registered nurses (RNs) who are tired of their commute to a doctor’s office, changing hospital hours and schedules, and the hustle and bustle of a busy hospital environment can potentially work from home as virtual nurses. Virtual nursing is one way parents, retirees, and any nurse looking for flexibility can stay connected and up-to-date with the profession. There is still a considerable amount of nurse-patient interaction, but through answering questions via email or over the phone.

Furthermore, due to patient privacy laws, hospitals that hire you will generally pick up the tab for specialized software and equipment to ensure compliance with regulations. Making money from home as a virtual nurse can give you the freedom you wouldn’t otherwise have in a hospital environment.

Arts and Crafts – Photography and Jewelry

Taking beautiful photos or making fashionable jewelry doesn’t need to remain a hobby. If you have a high quality camera, an “eye” for angles/lighting/clarity/motion/landscaping, and perhaps a few photography classes under your belt, why not sell to stock photo companies? ShutterStock.com, iStockPhoto.com, Fotolia.com, and GettyImages.com are just a few of many websites you can sell stock photos to. Whether you take pictures of animals, mountain scenery, food, events, or people, there are several companies looking for new material to use on their websites and in their advertisements.

Specialization

Rather than sell your photos to strangers, you could also become a specialty photographer and make money by going to events such as weddings, birthdays, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Sweet 16 parties, and graduations, or photographing people’s homes, pets, children, etc. You may not be raking in the dough, but as far as creative freedom and schedule flexibility is concerned, the sky is the limit with photography.

On the flip side, selling jewelry online has become easier than ever with Etsy. Etsy, an Amazon-marketplace-like website for handmade and vintage goods and supplies, gives you a platform to market and sell your arts and crafts. There are no membership fees, it costs $0.20 to list an item for four months in your shop, and Etsy only collects a 3.5% fee once your items sells. With over 40 different categories ranging from jewelry to clothes to edibles to paintings, thousands of storefronts, and millions of listings, the competition is fierce. Here are a few important factors to consider before selling on Etsy:

  • Be smart about what you plan to produce and sell – the more unique and intricate your work is, the harder it will be for other businesses to copy and compete.
  • Product Images – styling, product placement and taking professional quality pictures will help consumers who can’t touch or feel your products get comfortable with their purchase.
  • Offer selection – the more variety and product choices you offer, the more conversions and sales you will make. Most serious shop owners recommend at least 200 different items for sale, but you can slowly build up to this level. Start with 5 or 10, and learn what works and doesn’t.

The same concepts can be applied to selling items through EBay or Amazon.

Farmer’s Market: Sell Your Produce

Farmer's Market - Selling ProduceFresh, organic produce is booming in the United States right now, and farmer’s markets are popping up all over the country. With research on the detrimental effects of pesticide consumption, more people are visiting these new natural markets and you could be a part of the pro-organic movement.

Getting Started

If you have a green thumb, consider selling homegrown produce at weekend farmer’s markets. The upfront investment is more about effort and time than it is about cost, though you’ll still need some basic gardening tools, seeds, and stable watering system to make it worth your while. Other intangible benefits include the fact that gardening is extremely therapeutic and stress-free for most people and a great form of exercise.

For starters, you may want to focus on rare fruits and vegetables, or easy to grow but beautiful plants. Though your sales volume may not be huge your first season, you’ll learn the basics of gardening and the dynamics of your local market before diving into more sophisticated and potentially costly or time-consuming niches.

Down At The Markets

Once your wares are ripe and ready for the market, what’s next? You don’t need a license if you’re only selling fresh produce, though you should check with your local health department to make sure. Additionally, it’s not as easy as setting up a table and laying out your fruits and vegetables. You’ll need to fill out an application to get permission to set up a stand at the local Farmer’s Market, something to protect your produce from the weather, signs and price tags to simplify your potential customers’ shopping experience, boxes to transport and display your produce, and bags or baskets for customers to carry their purchases in. You’ll also want a protective box to store your money in, while bringing change for all dollar amounts under $20.

Growing and selling produce from your own home garden can be an ample source of income for the outdoorsy types. It doesn’t require a major upfront investment, but you’ll improve your chances of turning a tidy profit if you grow more uncommon items and make your produce stand out from the crowd. Before diving into this venture to make money from home, visit a local market and network with other home-growers. Ask them how they got started, what challenges they face each season, why they’ve chosen to grow and sell the plants, vegetables and fruits they offer, and most importantly, genuinely build a relationship with them.

Software Development and Design

Like science, technology, engineering, or math? Or better yet, have a degree in one of these fields, particularly software development or computer science, but don’t want to work in a traditional office environment?

Demand for employees in the STEM industry is on the rise, particularly in the areas of computer software development. More and more software developers are telecommuting, which helps companies cut down on costs and gives employees more schedule flexibility. Whether you work best before the sun rises or you’re more of a night owl, developing software while you’re in your pajamas can be both a lucrative and exciting endeavor for tech-savvy individuals.

With computer science engineers and web developers earning an average of about $90,000 in 2010, one of the biggest advantages of this stay-at-home job is that entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to self-fund their start-ups without digging into their own savings and investments. By providing Fortune 1000 companies with IT services, applications and systems software development, or web design services, self-employed programmers will earn a decent living while having the flexibility and time to work on their own projects or home businesses.

How To Make Money From Home

Starting your own business is arguably one of the most rewarding and enriching endeavors you can pursue, even if you are just trying to make a little extra money from home. Nevertheless, it requires countless hours of research and planning, not only on your chosen industry, but marketing principles, legal issues, competitive analysis, long-term economic growth outlook, your own financial sustainability and strength, pricing, corporate structure, customer needs, etc.

You will also need a strong balance sheet to fund your start-up costs (depending on the type of business you start), and the determination, motivation, and perseverance to continue working hard, even when problems arise. Lastly, you’ll have to always be honest with yourself and objective about the viability of your business. Never become so emotionally attached that you allow yourself to be blinded and eventually bankrupt.

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