Money is always tight, but during the current epidemic, earning a few hundred dollars extra a month can be a matter of survival. Between the lockdown, its effects on the economy and ongoing social distancing, new opportunities seem to be few and far between.
There’s no need to be pessimistic, though: while a lot of people in traditional businesses are being laid off, others are seeking and finding new ways to create an income during the corona pandemic. In many cases, they’re finding the answer online. Let’s take a look at a few options which may suit your skillset, the amount of time you have available and how much money you have to invest:
Table of Contents
- 1 Sell Your Time
- 2 Sell Your Knowledge
- 3 Sell Stuff
- 4 Taking the First Step
Sell Your Time
Even ten years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine just how many jobs would end up being done via the internet. Social distancing has only accelerated this trend, with telecommuting now being the norm for those who are able to.
One of the best aspects of this is that people are no longer bound to one employer; you can work for one company this week and easily find another the next. Clock-punching is much less of a thing: if you can complete eight hours of work in four, it simply means taking the afternoon off. If you need to take care of children or study while working, there’s nothing stopping you.
You also don’t need any fancy qualifications or special skills to take part in this knowledge economy. As long as you have a computer, a reliable internet connection, and the willingness to work, you’ll find that the opportunities are out there. Some of them can even grow into your new day job.
Plenty of people are willing to pay you to do things they can probably do themselves but don’t really want to. The trick to turning a profit is to use the power of the internet to connect with them, which as you’ll soon see is not hard at all.
Spreading the Joy of Pizza
If you’re getting tired of being cooped up at home, you can sign up with DoorDash to become one of their delivery drivers. Other companies to consider include Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates. You choose when and where to work, all you need is a vehicle of some kind, a driver’s license and car insurance, and you can start earning within as little as a week from registering.
Getting meals from restaurants to home dining tables is one industry that has benefited hugely from the coronavirus epidemic: it is projected that Americans will spend over $15 billion on this service in 2020, 17% more than in the previous year. If you like, you can supplement this income by turning your car into a rolling billboard. This can net you several hundred dollars a month, easily covering your gas bill.
If you prefer petting pooches to transporting tacos, you can also look into petsitting using the Rover, DogHero, and PetBacker platforms. Some people earn up to $1,000 per month for taking care of pets at their own or the doggie parents’ home. You can increase this number further by offering services like overnight boarding, grooming, and walking. All the administration, including billing and payments, is handled for you automatically.
Hammer and Tongs
If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you can also consider taking on odd jobs like basic appliance repair, house painting, cleaning, and gardening. Most homeowners are hesitant to hire a stranger off Craigslist, but websites and apps like TaskRabbit, Handy, Angie’s List, and Thumbtack allow vetted contractors to specify what kinds of work they feel comfortable doing, what locations they can work in, and when they’re available. Most people earn at least $20 an hour doing this; skilled artisans can charge $60/hour or more.
Market research has come a long way since the days of interns with clipboards accosting passersby on the sidewalk and phoning up random people while they’re trying to eat dinner. Opinion polling is now done mostly online and respondents are usually compensated for their time.
How many surveys you qualify for depends on your statistical profile: your age, gender, zip code, and so forth. The pay isn’t great: you’d be lucky to make $100 a month by filling in surveys, but at least the work is easy. Tasks include explaining why you prefer one brand over another, saying what you think of a short video clip, or participating in an online discussion panel led by a moderator. Online survey options you can look at include Swagbucks, Toluna, LifePoints, and OnePoll.
You can also, especially if you have any kind of software industry background, become a paid app tester. Websites like TesterWork, UserTesting, IntelliZoom, Userlytics, and Utest will send you jobs that involve putting websites and mobile applications through their paces, hopefully leading to less buggy and more usable software. In some cases, people have even turned QA testing into a kind of career and earn upwards of $2,000 doing this from home.
Computers Can’t Do Everything (Yet)
There are a surprising number of tasks that require no skill whatsoever to do, yet still can’t be automated. Some examples include typing handwritten numbers into a computer, flagging inappropriate content on social media, making voice recordings that sound like a human being, and checking that machine-generated text looks natural.
All of these take no brainpower or concentration, never mind academic qualifications, but are still important enough for companies to spend large sums on websites like Fiverr, TranscribeMe, Mechanical Turk, and Lionbridge Smart Crowd. The pay is, as you would expect, not great. On the other hand, it’s very easy to get started with this kind of gig, making it a good choice if you need money quickly.
Sell Your Knowledge
If you want to get ahead in life, it pays to be either hardworking, lucky, or smart. Of the three, smart is probably the easiest, at least once you’ve gained a marketable skill and some experience in the field.
Making money with what you know doesn’t have to mean putting your diplomas and degrees down on a résumé and hoping that someone will hire you. You may be surprised at what kinds of alternatives a motivated expert in any discipline has at their disposal.
Write an Ebook or Create a Course
Even more now during the epidemic, many people are turning to online courses in an effort to improve their employment prospects and expand their horizons. Supplying this demand, unlike freelancing, doesn’t lead to an instant payoff. On the other hand, it can bring you a guaranteed income for years to come, pandemic or no pandemic.
The global reach of the internet means that creating training materials even on obscure, niche subjects can be very profitable. If you know how to use a tricky piece of software, you’re a wizard at making sausage or you can play the mandolin, you can turn this knowledge into a money-making course. Should you have a talent for explaining complex ideas in a simple or inspiring way, you can also create courses on fairly mundane topics and still expect good results.
Some of the more popular platforms you can use to reach potential customers are Udemy, Teachable, and Thinkific, or you can host the material on a website of your own. Regardless, you will probably have to make at least some effort to market it, perhaps by hosting a webinar or making a few Youtube videos.
Since you’ll already have all the course material organized into a manageable format, you may as well write an ebook on the subject at the same time. This provides an additional passive income stream, establishes you as a kind of authority in the field, and may pave the way for additional business opportunities like one-on-one coaching.
Remember that the time and money you pay for whiteboard software, video editing and other services is a one-time expense. After that, almost every dollar someone spends on your course is pure profit – if you get a thousand students who pay $20 each, for instance, you’ve made twenty grand.
Call Yourself a Freelancer
The “gig economy”, while not always offering a guaranteed income, has been a major feature of the employment landscape even before the corona epidemic came around. More than a third of Americans already do freelance work on either a part- or full-time basis, and this figure is expected to pass 50% by 2027.
The basic idea is that, instead of being paid to sit in an office for eight hours a day, attend meetings and pretend to like your boss, your remuneration is based only on outcomes. Freelancers compete against each other for jobs based on their experience and fees, receive a list of deliverables and a deadline, and are told to get on with it.
This way of working is much cheaper for companies, as they can avoid a whole range of expensive complications by paying these workers as contractors. On the other side of the coin, many people prefer freelancing to traditional employment, especially because of the freedom to work wherever and whenever they want.
If you know a foreign language well enough to translate, can code more than a little, have some experience with Photoshop or possess any other skill that companies are willing to pay for, you should definitely spend half an hour or so checking out websites like Upwork, Fiverr, FlexJobs and Guru. Numerous people make a living solely from this type of piece work, while many others use it to earn a much-needed couple of hundred dollars every month.
Become a Consultant or Advisor
It’s all too easy to think that you have to be a world-renowned expert before you can charge for your insight and acumen. Actually, as they say in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; as long as you know more than 95% of people, there is a market for whatever sought-after skills you possess.
A formal certification is practically essential for some consulting jobs, like those in the information security and project management spheres. Others, however, may be well within your reach. To give one example, some people who are trying to learn English (or whatever other language you speak) are willing to pay $10 to $50 an hour just to practice their conversational skills with you over a video call, even if you have no teaching experience whatsoever.
Similarly, personal trainers and chefs are now offering personalized online classes over Skype. Rates of $50 an hour are not uncommon, and most clients will sign up for way more than a single session. You can offer a similar service if you’re good at interior decorating or laying out gardens, you’re a snappy dresser who can advise others on their wardrobe choices, or you used to be a small cog in the marketing machine of a big company who can now tell small businesses how to run more effective advertising campaigns. Getting clients will probably require at least a website and some ads, but as long as you’re any good, word of mouth is sure to bring you a guaranteed stream of business very soon.
Working for yourself while helping people probably sounds like a fantastic idea. There is one thing to be aware of, though: there are only 24 hours in a day, and you’re probably planning on spending at least a couple of those in bed. In other words, no matter how much you get paid per hour, your income will always be limited if your business requires you to personally spend time on every job.
Counter to what you’d expect, selling physical products is sometimes easier. The catch is that you will generally have to invest both time and money getting the inventory, sales channels and support structures in place. Starting a business is rarely risk-free, especially if you need to borrow money to get up and running. On the other hand, while a steady income is not guaranteed, online sales have kept right on ticking during the coronavirus pandemic. With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, becoming an online vendor may lay the groundwork for a prosperous future.
Becoming an Amazon Seller
Around 150 million people buy something from Amazon each month in the United States alone. Hitching your star to theirs isn’t all that difficult: the application process is straightforward and the fees, while high, are not ridiculous.
Most likely, at least at first, you’ll choose the “Fulfillment by Amazon” option, meaning that they handle all the details involved in shipping, returns, and inventory management. That is the easy part: thriving in this competitive marketplace will rely on vigorous advertising, always being aware of what the competition is doing, and shrewd product selection. Some ways in which you might source these products include:
- Keeping a keen eye on sales, both on- and offline. If something is available at below market price, you may be able to snap it up and sell it on Amazon for a profit.
- White-label or private-label goods. These are simply appliances and other products made by a factory that is willing to mark them with your brand or logo, even though you have nothing at all to do with their design or manufacture.
- Dropshipping means that you act as a kind of intermediary between the customer and the real seller, without ever owning or handling the product yourself.
- Buy wholesale. By purchasing large quantities and splitting them up into more useful amounts, possibly repackaging them along the way, you can buy cheap and sell high.
For the Artists
“Do what you love” is normally not great financial advice. Exterminators and CPAs probably don’t adore their jobs, but they do earn good salaries. If you’re a dedicated artist or crafter, you’re probably going to do what you love whether you get paid for it not, though, and it turns out that it’s possible to be paid quite a lot.
While Amazon focuses on high-volume, mass-market commodities, platforms like Etsy specialize in unique and often handmade items. For many people, this and similar websites are their first port of call when they need a special gift. Applying your creative talents, whether these revolve around digital design, needlepoint or metalsmithing, for profit may sound like a dream come true, but you should be realistic. It’s true that some Etsy shops rake in a very respectable amount of money, but others struggle to make more than a dozen sales in a good month.
In other words, this may turn into a profitable side hustle, but you’re better off pursuing one of the other alternatives listed above if you need a guaranteed income during the lockdown. If you would like to share your creativity without the risk, you can also look into selling designs shoppers can have printed on clothing, coffee mugs, or whatever they prefer. TeeSpring, SpreadShop, and CafePress are some of the websites that allow you to more or less upload your work and let them get on with all the heavy lifting.
Taking the First Step
With the U.S. unemployment rate currently at almost 15%, this is not the best time to look for a traditional job. Right now, people with a little extra creativity and the desire to make their mark can rise above the crowd and forge their own guaranteed income streams, without first waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to blow over.
Taking the reins of your own life in this way can be scary. It’s not, however, impossible, and being forced into seeking out new opportunities may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.
Have you had any experiences with one of the side hustles discussed above? Please share them with us in the comments, whether good or bad. Other readers would certainly like to know.