Discover how you can earn money with skills you already have or can learn at home.
I don’t know about you, but to me the COVID 19 quarantine seemed to come about suddenly, though that may have been my own lack of regard for what was about to hit us. I know for me, even after the virus had started to spread at the end of the first week of March, I still went out to exercise and to the grocery store afterwards without a thought of taking any precautions. To be fair when I’m writing full out and trying to get several things done at once, I don’t pay much attention to the news other than scanning it when I get up.
Over that weekend however, I came to my senses. Since it took me longer than it should have to get on board, by the time I thought about stocking up on anything, shelves were pretty bare. Next thing I knew we were all asked to “shelter in place,” a term I associated with school shootings, huge weather disturbances and terrorists on the loose. It was surreal. Suddenly everything was closing down and no one was going out.
Then something happened that I hadn’t anticipated. Two out of three of my private business clients contacted me saying that with everything up in the air there was a need to focus on figuring out how the company was going to function so they were suspending new content creation and shifting attention solely to advertising.
I also realized that with everyone being sent home, there would be a log of companies trying to reach potential customers through content marketing and those on unpaid leave who would decide it was time to follow their dream of writing for a living. This meant a lot more copy would be flooding the market. I hoped with all of the people now at home that would also mean more eyes, but I wasn’t certain of this.
There was no telling how long this outbreak would last or what it might mean for the writing industry. Even though I earn almost all of my income writing for a living, there are times I do other things to boost my income. I thought perhaps it would be best to try to add a bit more of these activities into my day. It would also make for some variety and when you’re stuck inside away from others for weeks at a time, I know this is important to ward off boredom and depression. Changing out my activities in the past also tends to make me more productive in my writing.
Sitting in front of my window, the barrier between me and a potentially sick world, I wondered how many of those other revenue streams I could still do. As I was thinking, I began to realize that there were probably a lot of other writers who were in a similar situation or were worse off as they were just getting started and hadn’t established a name for themselves yet. Then again I’ve never heard a writer say, “I’m making more than enough money. I don’t really don’t need to earn a penny more.”
With this in mind, I decided to put together a list of some other options that have been successful for me that you might want to try your hand at to earn some extra money during these uncertain times. You may even find a few you decide to continue after we’ve emerged from this crisis.
Finding new revenue streams during this crisis doesn’t have to be difficult, it just takes creativity. Think back to different times of war and the inspired ways people came up with to earn some extra money. Cottage industries that were begun during wartimes often made it possible for families to survive and this was often the start of businesses that continued to grow and prosper after peace was declared.
And times weren’t always that different from today. While there may not have been a quarantine, frequently curfews and air raids kept people separated from each other more often than not. Food and other necessities were rationed. People had to use ingenuity to come up with ideas to make a little money, and doing many small things each earning a bit replaced earning from a single income stream.
There are two keys to determining new revenue streams during these times. First, think about what things people can no longer do that they either want to do or need to do. Then think about what skills you have that you could use to fill these niches. With those things in mind, here are a few ideas to try out.
I wouldn’t recommend doing this if it means going out special, as you don’t want to put yourself at risk when you don’t have to do so. But if you are still doing your own shopping, on days you would be going out anyway, you can offer to pick up some items for others for a fee.
After I did this for a neighbor who had a broken ankle, others who found out about it approached me about doing their shopping for them. These people were all in good health and had no injuries but approached it as if it were a favor, asking if I could just pick up a few things if I was going out anyway. The first person who did this, slipped a list under my door with over 2 dozen items on it! That was when I decided to charge for the service.
I don’t charge a lot but depending on how much they want me to pick up I will charge $10 to $20 a trip, since I don’t have a car and do everything on foot, and have to carry the bags home while walking. Since it’s hard for me to do, as the store is about a mile and a half away and I have to carry back my own groceries and whatever else they want, if they think it’s too much, I don’t negotiate. This service isn’t something I’ve advertised, it just got around by word of mouth. It seems a bit like taking advantage of a bad situation to me, even though it’s a convenience which people pay for otherwise.
Even though email and texts are commonplace now, there are still a lot of people who send physical cards for special occasions. When people go to pick out cards, they often spend a lot of time searching for just the right one. I have only done this very small scale before, but the cards I created based on input from the person buying it which I designed the message around were quite popular. I used public domain images and designed them with Canva which was extremely easy as they have a number of free templates you can use. The basics for designing your own card are as follows:
- Select “Invitation” from design
- Choose from hundreds of professional layouts.
- Upload your own photos, drawings or choose from more than a million stock images that are part of the program
- Add your text
- Download and print
- Pair with a pretty envelope
You can also send this online by sharing it with the person ordering it or sending it directly to the recipient if they’d prefer.
I haven’t done this personally but know people who have, and I’ve seen it on Fiverr where someone will compose a poem of your choice for as low as $5. My friends typically charged $20 — $25 per poem but both had sets of questions they had developed that made each poem personalized with small details embedded throughout so it took some work. Sometimes they received requests for funny rhyming poems that they were able to do fairly quickly and it wasn’t unusual that they were pulling in $500 to $1000 a month for around 5 hours work a week.
If you used a photo editing program like Canva to make an attractive presentation like printing the poem over a beautiful background you could likely charge more than that. Some people even go as far as to create plaques or wall hangings, and in one case, I saw someone stencil a poem on a home made baby blanket while someone else made a set of family t-shirts for the customer. There are all sorts of things that can be done with short poems in terms of where they can be printed.
If you are musically inclined you an also write songs, and potentially offer to provide a recording of you singing them. There are a number of apps and programs you can use to record your songs for free and you can provide a link for the customer.
Create gift sets for events that can’t be held currently Baby showers, wedding showers, and the birth of a baby are a few that come to mind but any occasion will do. People love bath sets and like other options mentioned here if you personalize these gifts they are likely to be popular. If you knit, crochet or sew this can be the basis of baby sets. If you don’t, you can order a host of items inexpensively online to put into gift baskets.
Turn your hobby into an income stream. Select one or two items that you can perfect and that aren’t sold in excess already. Jewelry is always popular, as are hand knitted items if your talent lies there. I’ve sold magnets made out of clear glass gems and necklaces made out of paper beads.
There’s no end to what you can craft and sell online. There are all sorts of crafts that involve repurposing such as magazine art. I’ve had a large vase shown at an art gallery made from rolled magazine pages glued together into an interesting shape. There are countless crafting tutorials on YouTube that can give you the basic skills as well as ideas.
A lot of people have asked me about whether I think coaching would be a good avenue for making money. It’s true that there are a lot of people out there who have a great deal of anxiety related to this health crisis. There are also a lot who live alone who may be feeling isolated and others dealing with a changed family situation as spouses and children are also home all day. There are job worries, and worries about family who live far away, perhaps in places where the rate of transmission seems high. Many of these people could use someone to talk to.
However, unless you have some kind of mental health or coaching training I would caution against this. There are plenty of people who decide they are good at offering advice and because of this would be a good life coach. Some decide to open a business and may even do pretty well, depending on what services they are offering and who their clients are. But in my opinion there are just too many things that can go wrong and if you aren’t trained in how to handle them or have adequate backup, they can end badly.
If you want to offer services as an online or phone coach, there are some online programs that can be done relatively quickly and inexpensively that will provide you with training. If you have other training depending on the legalities in your state or country, you might be able to hang out a shingle without the need for further training. But doing this can be a bit risky because you have to be very clear about what you can and can’t claim or offer as well as how you refer to yourself.
It’s easy to cross the line and address things that you really aren’t trained to deal with or take more serious cases that trained mental health professionals should treat. Make sure there is no major pathology or other significant problems that might be beyond your ability to handle. If you are working with someone and they start sharing symptoms that appear more related to a psychological disorder, you need to have people you can refer them to immediately.
It is critical that you understand potential laws and regulations associated with working with this type of clientele, even if you intend to take people who have no emotional problems and just need advice about their job, or basic coping skill to deal with a situation they are in such as the quarantine. But keep in mind that just because someone seems to be well adjusted on the outside doesn’t mean they really are and issues can come up down the road that weren’t disclosed initially.
Make sure you understand confidentiality and when you would be legally and ethically required to break it, and be sure to explain all this to anyone you work with. It’s important to also know.any requirements that may exist related to record keeping for both hard copies and storing them on the computer, including what they must entail, what you would have to turn over for a subpoena and how long you have to retain them after you stop working with someone.
Know any regulations and recommendations for working with people through whatever technology you are using, whether it’s the phone, skype, text, or email.
Some people may be fearful of going into post offices which is understandable. While it won’t prevent you from going out at all, one option I have considered is to just offer the same items or different versions of the same items so they would weigh the same. Any post office that has a self service area, will have a scale that you can weigh a sample package on.
After that, you just preprint shipping labels at home and call for a “no contact” package pickup and delivery which is not just safe but extra convenient as well. You schedule a pickup, tell them where you will leave your package and where they should deliver it on the other end and that’s it. They pick it up and leave it in a safe location for your customer.
As writers we have creativity to spare. If we apply this to the problems of today we can all likely come up with ideas to create enough income to supplement whatever we may have lost due to the crisis and ease our worries a bit as to how we will make ends meet in the weeks to come.