If you have ever been unemployed, you know how scary it can be. Trying to find a new job before your savings run out and figuring out how to make ends meet in the meantime is, in a word, stressful.
With such a high-degree of what-ifs and potential of losing so much when no income is coming in, it’s hard to imagine someone would willingly quit their job without another one lined up.
But, that’s exactly what I did.
Well, for one, the economy was terrible. So many people were being laid off and were desperate to find a job, any job, that it seemed, well, crazy for someone to walk away from a steady paycheck.
And, secondly, after being pressed about my intentions, I informed everyone that I was going to start a freelance writing career (mind you, I had no professional writing experience to speak of). That admission was met with one of two responses:
- Silence and the look
- A stifled laugh followed by, “Are you serious?”
I was serious. And never more sure about something than I had ever been before.
You see, while I had a good job, I wasn’t happy. I was terrible at office politics. I felt stir crazy sitting in an office environment up to 60 hours a week. I was not very committed to or very good at climbing the corporate ladder.
The whole song and dance was exhausting. And mind numbing. And tedious. And a few other things that I will omit here.
For me, there was no other option. I needed to take control of my career and create job security for myself at a time when everyone around me was getting laid off. But, more importantly, I needed to do what made me happy. So, I put in my two weeks’ notice and never looked back.
Spoiler Alert: It was the best decision of my life!
If you feel stifled in your career, are worn down making money for others while barely getting by, or feel the need to break free from corporate chains, know this: You can piece together a living online.
It’s not for the faint of heart. And certainly not something I recommend for everyone. But the strong willed, go-getters with a do-what-it-takes mindset can certainly find ways to make ends meet even if it means piecing together a living one gig at a time.
Where to Find Work
As a freelancer, I feel comfortable knowing that, should all of my clients drop off the face of the earth tomorrow, I could have just as many lined up within a week’s time. For me, that is what’s so appealing about freelancing and working on my own terms — I am not reliant on one paycheck and I will never be unemployed.
But, when you first start out, you won’t just have a list of clients flooding your inbox with work requests (for those who want to become a freelancer or solopreneur anyway). So, until you reach a point where you have a steady stream of work, you have to piece together a living.
Thankfully, there are no shortages of opportunities to find ways to quickly earn money from home.
I turned to so-called content mills in the beginning of my career. Specifically, I made the bulk of my earnings writing for Textbroker and BKA (Buy Keyword Articles). But those are just two in a long list of places that hire writers with no experience to churn out one article after another, after another, after another.
The pay isn’t great. But, you can work day or night, how much or little as you’d like since work is almost always available. Now, I know in the world of freelance writing most writers universally loathe content mills because they cheapen the industry as a whole by offering lower than standard industry rates.
However, content mills are a source of steady income and can offer much needed experience when trying to break into a competitive market. You do not have to spend the rest of your career writing for content mills, but they are a good jumping off point and a reliable source of work.
Plus, if you hope to become a freelance writer, writing for content mills can boost your confidence and teaches you how to take constructive criticism. The more you write for them, the better your writing becomes which eventually opens up better opportunities for you.
At the height of my content mill writing career, I would take home $300-$400 a week – and this was just for writing. I was also doing other things to earn money online each week (which I’ll discuss further down the article!)
If writing sounds perfect for you, you can’t go wrong with any number of content mills. In fact, the more you sign up with, the better chance you stand of bringing in a decent paycheck each month.
- The Content Authority
- Hire Writers
- Great Content
- Article Document
- BKA Content
Share Your Thoughts
I love usability testing. It pays well for just a short chunk of your time and is, in my opinion, actually fun to do. Plus, I figure I am going to use apps and visit websites, so I might as well get paid for it. That’s exactly what usability testing does.
Each company operates a bit differently but the general premise is the same: Visit an app or website, complete a set of tasks, speak your thoughts along the way, write a short summary of your experience.
On average, you can earn about $10 for each 10-20 minute test you complete. However, many usability testing companies are emerging that offer small pay for very short tasks. But there are still many more than offer between $8-$15 for your thoughts.
You stand the best chance of earning the most when you sign up for multiple usability testing companies. To this day, I’m an active tester for User Testing and can take home about $200 a month just for being a panelist for them.
- Erli Bird
- User Testing
- What Users Do
Help Improve Google and Bing
Search engines aren’t perfect (yet). So, the big-name search engine companies turn to humans to help improve the relevancy of search results. This is a popular way to earn money online called Search Engine Evaluation.
There are a few companies that frequently hire home-based evaluators. As a search engine evaluator, you will be given a search query and the corresponding search results. It is your job to rate the relevancy of those results as they relate to the query.
For example, if the query was Paris Hilton, but the search result was for Hilton Hotel reservations in Paris, you wouldn’t rate that as relevant because, chances are, the searcher was looking for more information about hotel heiress, Paris Hilton, and not making a reservation for a Hilton Hotel in Paris France.
You get a lot of these types of queries when working as a search engine evaluator. That’s why it is important to be up to date on pop culture and current events. Otherwise, you won’t be successful as an evaluator.
I worked for iSoftStone on a project and was able to earn about $250 a week working part-time. Search engine evaluation typically pays between $11 and $15 an hour. You can work when you want as long as you meet minimum weekly hours (usually somewhere between 10 and 30 per week depending which company you contract with).
There are initial exams you will have to pass before you can start working on projects. But once you get a feel for the process, it becomes second nature and a valuable piece in your home-based income puzzle.
I am always amazed by how many transcription companies there are out there. Seriously, there are hundreds of them many of which offer contract opportunities for typists with little to no experience.
I have dabbled in home-based typing positions from time to time. Depending on the company you contract with, the nature of work can be quite interesting. You get to listen in on things like interview, sermons, lectures, financial calls, meetings, and market research focus groups as you type what is being said.
But keep in mind, it’s not as easy as it sounds. A lot of skill is required to simultaneously listen to audio and type out what is being said. To do this well and make it worth your time, you need to type quickly and accurately.
Most transcription opportunities pay per audio hour. Remember, an audio hour and an actual hour are two very different things. So, when you see an advertised pay rate for a transcription job as $35 per hour, it is actually $35 for every hour of audio hour you transcribe.
As a general rule, it will take you about four hours to transcribe every hour of audio. So, when the pay is $35 for each audio hour, that amounts to roughly $8.75 per real hour.
Of course, the quicker you type the more you can make. It also depends on how clear your audio is. Most transcription companies that hire beginners do not require any special equipment to get started. However, to make your life easier you should at least invest in a decent pair of headphones specifically meant for transcribing. These will produce a better sound quality than standard headphones making it easier for you to transcribe what is being said and, in doing so, increasing your earning capacity.
- Accutran Global
- Birch Creek Communications
- Daily Transcription
- Get Transcribed
- GMR Transcription
- Neal R. Gross
- RNK Transcription
- Transcriptions ‘N’ Translations
- Verbal Ink
- 3Play Media
Become a Virtual Assistant
The virtual assistant scene has exploded in popularity in recent years. This is a good thing for those who want to put their administrative skills to use without toiling away at a front desk in an office environment.
There are a number of companies who contract with individuals to provide help to businesses and busy entrepreneurs with things like social media, marketing, content creation, and calendaring. The nature of your responsibilities will depend on which company you contract with and the clients you are assigned to work with.
I worked as a Virtual Assistant (VA) for Fancy Hands. Fancy Hands works on a crowdsourced platform. Clients submit requests to get things done and these requests make their way on a dashboard that all VAs have access to. Tasks are claimed on a first-come-first-served basis. Each task is worth a set dollar amount (typically between $2-$7). The pay rate is based on the complexity of the task. Keep in mind, all tasks should take no more than 20 minutes to complete!
Fancy Hands pays via Dwolla every two weeks. For about a six-month stretch, I used Fancy Hands as my primary source of income after I was burned out from freelance writing. I was able to earn a decent part-time living while I was taking a much-needed break.
All in all, I would work as a Fancy Hands VA again if need be. It was great being able to log in and work on tasks any time day or night – there was almost always work available, even at 4:00 a.m.
There are other companies that hire VAs, too. However, none of them are quite as flexible or autonomous as Fancy Hands.
You can ease your way into freelancing by signing up with one of the several popular freelancers’ marketplaces. There are thousands of jobs to be found here. The competition with your fellow freelancer can be fierce, but there are ways to increase your chances of getting awarded jobs.
In general, clients post jobs on these sites and freelancers submit bids/proposals outlining how why they are a good fit for the gig and how much they will charge to get it done. Then the client selects the freelancer they want to work with. Most of these sites are free to use. You pay a percentage of your earnings to the freelance site.
The way to get more jobs is all in your proposals. Most freelancers approach the proposal process all wrong by talking about themselves the entire time. For example, let’s say a client posts a gig needing a weekly blog post. You will see an overwhelming number of proposals from freelancers that read like this:
As an experienced writer and blogger, I have the skills and expertise needed to get the job done. I have a degree in English from ABC University and over ten years of experience writing content for Big Name Company and XYZ Corporation. I have also been featured in the Gotham Gazette and Better Homes Than Yours.
These pitches are often discarded by clients before they are even fully read. Why? Because they are all about the freelancer and are, quite frankly, boring. The client wants to know what you can do for them first and foremost. Once they understand how you can help them, then they consider credentials and experience.So, instead of writing a pitch that reads as me, me, me, take the time to tell the client what you can do for them.
I started freelancing on Elance, but that is winding down operations to become part of the mecca of all freelance marketplaces known as Upwork.
Upwork is free to use. You get 60 connects per month for the free plan. If you use more than that, you will need to pay. In all my months freelancing, I have never had to pay for connects (connects = submitted proposals). When I have a lull in work from my standard clients, I always turn to Upwork. There are tons of gigs available and you can be a bit picky when deciding which ones to pitch for.
Plenty of clients offer terrible wages, but many more offer very fair and reasonable rates. So, if a job is listed at a far too low rate, don’t apply to it. Reserve your connects for jobs you are interested in and pay fair wages.
Piecing it All Together
If you are still with me at this point, you may be wondering, “How on earth do you make it work doing so many things at once?”
Well, there’s no set answer. How much success you have depends on how bad you want to succeed. I was so determined to earn a living on my own terms that I was willing to do whatever it took to make ends meet. If you have the same mindset, you too can piece together a living entirely online.
You have to make the commitment to work every day. If you have small children or other caretaker responsibilities, this may mean waking up early or staying up later. Just remember, you are entirely in charge of your earning capacity.
The things I’ve mentioned above, are all ways I pieced together a living at various times without having a traditional job. I was able to comfortably make a living which, to me, meant being able to cover all of my bills and put away a little extra each and every month.
There are plenty of others ways to earn a living online too, many of which involve securing a home-based job. These are actual employee-based positions with set schedules, pay, benefits — just like being in an office, but at home. If those are the sort of positions you think you may best be suited for, check out these articles:
If you like the idea of working from home, but aren’t quite ready to commit to an independent-earning lifestyle, check out the Moonlighter’s Guide to Working from Home for ideas how to earn from home without quitting your day job.
Looking for more? Read up on the Top 10 Ways to Make Money Online and learn what it takes to be your own boss while working from home.
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