By Kimberly Fusaro
Whether you're in between jobs or looking to pad your savings account, chances are, you could use a little extra cash right now. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to make a little money without committing to a new career. Robyn Freedman Spizman, coauthor of Will Work from Home, shares 10 innovative ways you can earn a tidy living-from your own living room. Read on to realize your undiscovered earning potential.
Service on the Dial
• A people person who enjoys telephone contact might find work as an at-home customer service rep. Visit Alpine Access and apply to be one of their Customer Care Professionals. The company hires you as an employee (not an independent contractor), guarantees your schedule and pays for your training. You coordinate with them to decide when you'll work, then you're on standby (from your home) for the customers of one of their many clients.
• Tech savvy? If you have a background in information technology, you can troubleshoot other people's computer snafus from home. Apply to be a remote IT professional with 1-800-GeeksOnTime or Support.com. Customers register with either site, and call you when their hard drives go on the fritz or their documents disappear. They'll permit you to tap into their computer systems, then you can point and click your way to a solution.
Craft for Cash
• If you have a knack for knitting or an eye for embroidery, why not hawk your handmade wares via a virtual shop? Crafty women can set up an e-storefront on Etsy, which charges a nominal startup fee and takes a small percentage of all your sales, says Spizman. You can sell a variety of one-of-a-kind goods, or focus on a particular type of item, such as handbags. If you're a better bargain shopper than you are a crafter, try scouring local yard sales for vintage pieces; many Etsy shoppers are in the market for secondhand buys.
• Are you the most organized of all of your friends? Most people don't have the patience to clean out storage spaces and resell their unwanted goods. Offer to help neighbors declutter their garage or closets; then, coordinate eBay sales of their used baby gear or abandoned exercise equipment and you can collect a percentage of the profits. Not sure how to get started? Write a catchy ad listing the organizing services you can provide, and post it on the Domestic Gigs page on Craigslist.
• Former office coordinators can exercise their skill set on Office Arrow, an online community for office professionals. Share expertise you've garnered from previous jobs and get "smart, up-to-the-minute" information on providing business support services-including coordinating travel, scheduling meetings, organizing contacts and creating presentations-from your home. Don't miss the Careers section on the site, where you can find aggregated job postings for virtual office coordinator positions from all the major career sites. As long you have a phone, a fax machine and a photocopier, you can manage a small business without ever setting foot in an office.
The Write Stuff
• Wordsmiths can offer their services on numerous sites: Elance, oDesk and EditFast allow writers and editors to register to join their databases. (EditFast requires applicants to take a test, so study up first.) Fill out a profile to share your experience with potential employers; you tell them what type of work you've done-and what you'd like to do-and they'll hire you outright or allow you to bid on specific assignments.
• If you have super typist skills and a can-do attitude, you can spend a few hours a day as a "virtual assistant." Team Double-Click retains tens of thousands of on-staff virtual assistants to help businesses meet their staffing needs; they evaluate each client's project and match up the client with an assistant who has relevant experience. If you're not sure your skills are up to par, apply to AssistU, which offers a training program for potential contractors.
• Former travel and hospitality workers are in high demand: VIPDesk trains its home-based concierges to handle the personal and business needs of its professional clients. You might be asked to procure dinner reservations or sporting event tickets, make travel arrangements or schedule a car rental. If you can handle these tasks, not only will you get to work from home, you'll get medical and dental insurance, among other competitive benefits.
Teachers for Hire
• You don't need a teaching degree to put your knowledge to work. Tutor.com hires college graduates to work as virtual tutors for five to 30 hours a week. You get paid by the hour to chat with a student, draw problems on an "interactive whiteboard" and review essays. The site caters to tutors with English, math, science or social studies expertise, and is especially in need of bilingual applicants who speak English and Spanish or English and Vietnamese.
• If you're willing to make the initial investment, direct sales might be your calling. You host a party in your own home-or a friend's-and showcase your wares. Choose something you enjoy, and you'll enjoy sharing it. Sell jewelry through Silpada, Lia Sophia or Cookie Lee, or cooking tools through The Pampered Chef. Depending on the company, you can earn free merchandise, or a percentage of your sales.
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