We are living in uncertain financial times, because of the political rumblings that have been felt as far apart as France, Brazil, the USA and the UK, and it can be difficult to work out how to raise a family with all this upheaval. Inflation is swelling the cost of living while wages and salaries stagnate – with a net result that most of us are trying to live on less income than we enjoyed in previous years. It is for these reasons that food bank usage is on the up, and that more families are sliding inexorably into poverty. If this sounds familiar to you, and you are beginning to despair of ever digging your way out of the poverty trap, then you may be delighted to know that it does not have to be a hopeless situation.
What can you do?
First of all, sit down and list all your skills. Include everything that you have turned your hand to: from bookkeeping, freelance writing, handyman work, secretarial skills. If you have no formal training and do not think that you have any skills, consider whether you would be able to do something like babysitting or pet-sitting, cake baking or decorating, dog walking or grooming, photography, work as an extra on a television or film set. Other work that can be done from home, during hours that you specify, includes being a virtual assistant, or running a messaging service.
Obviously, for some of these jobs you will need some kind of experience: bookkeeping cannot be picked up as you go, and DIY work needs some carpentry or similar skills! Being a virtual assistant is essentially being a secretary from the comfort of your own home, chasing enquiries, making appointments, even placing orders – doing all the things a good personal assistant or secretary does, without needing to leave your home. Messaging services are similar – you work from home, accepting phone calls on behalf of your clients, who forward their calls to you when they want to be undisturbed. If you get the calls forwarded to your mobile phone, you can even go out and about while you work – but this will depend on your clients’ preferences as any confidential information should not be spoken of while in public.
Doing your research
Once you have your list of possible skills, do a little research. Most people have internet access, these days, but if you are one of the few who does not, most towns have libraries that have computers that you can use for up to an hour (sometimes longer, if it is quiet!) for free. Run searches to find out what people want that you can provide, in short, look for the gap in the market that is suited to you.
Start off small. Find one or two customers and put your efforts into meeting their requirements. This will help you understand the logistics of your way of working: are the children noisier than you expected when you are on the phone for your client? Are your bookkeeping skills rustier than you had realised? Does your laptop or computer need to be upgraded to a newer model before you can format your writing or photographs to the standard required?
Get the word out
Once you have ironed out any issues, it will be time for the next step. Set up a website and get your name and service offering out there. You might have to invest a small sum to get your click through rate up to where it needs to be, but it will be worth it when the work starts coming in.
Once you are certain that you have enough clients to become self-supporting, you can begin to do without the security of salaried work.
Until you are making enough money from your website, keep your day job, no matter how poorly paid it is, and also maintain any other income streams that you have for as long as possible. Once you are certain that you have enough clients to become entirely self-supporting, you can begin to do without the security of your salaried work. Of course, you do not have to give up any work at all – you might be happy running your site to earn just a little extra. It all depends on your needs and wants.
Useful advice when seeking work
Some final pieces of advice: get the most professional-looking website that you can, even if you have to pay for it. The free websites can do the job, but you have little in the way of support should any problems arise, and they do tend to look as though they have been cut and pasted together, rather than working seamlessly. Keep an eye on your analytics, as analytics are your friend. This sounds complicated, but simply means to keep an eye on how many visitors the page gets, and the times when it is busiest. This information can be key as to when you should release a new product or update information. Finally, do not sell yourself short. Undercutting all the competition is fine but you will ultimately, prevent yourself from making a decent living – which is the opposite intention of running your own online business!