Job security might be out, but freelance, contract, and temporary work is in, which makes it easier than ever to moonlight as a graphic designer while you spend your days as a public relations rep. Slimmer staffs mean companies often need the extra help, and new websites offer free tools match potential employers with workers. And earning extra money beyond your steady paycheck, if you’re lucky enough to have one, can provide a big boost to your financial security.
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Here are seven ways to make extra money off the new economy in 2011:
Launch a brand. When Kimberly Seals-Allers, former senior editor at Essence magazine, was expecting her first child, she discovered that black women face higher risks during childbirth and pregnancy. "I realized we were a special group, and I wanted to write a book about everything in black women's lives. Not just pregnancy, but money, men, and myths in our community… [I wanted] to create a new way forward."
Her first book, The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy, turned into a series as well as an online magazine, maternity line, and consultancy. Seals-Allers also licensed use of the Mocha Manual name to create an instructional DVD sold at Walmart and supermarkets.
Start a blog. The anonymous blogger behind Lazy Man and Money defies his site’s name. He works about 14 hours a day on weekdays and then puts in nine hours on Saturday and Sunday. But his hard work is paying off—his blog earns him enough to support his lifestyle; back in 2008, he estimated his annual earnings at around $30,000. But it’s tough for part-time bloggers with full-time jobs to keep up with all the demands of a lucrative blog. "There's simply a lot more [to do] than what the average reader sees," he says.
Even if the blog itself doesn’t generation a six-figure salary, it can lead to other money-making opportunities, such as consulting or speaking gigs. Silicon Valley Blogger at The Digerati Life has carved out a successful niche as the expert on personal finance and technology in Silicon Valley. While she says she didn't earn much during the first six months of her blog's life, she received her first $100 check from Google AdSense shortly after that point, when she was getting around 600 unique visitors a day. She now earns money from her blog-related consulting, as well.
Sell your skills. Whether your expertise lies in social networking, editing, or web development, several new websites can help you find potential clients willing to pay you for your work. Elance.com, Odesk.com, and Guru.com make it easy to advertise your skills and find work, which you can do from the comfort of your home at all hours of the night. To get started, explore the websites to see what might be a good fit. You can also stick with a more traditional approach and use Craigslist.org, which allows users to post advertising for their services, ranging from household labor to music lessons.
Sell a wacky service. For those interested in a more unusual approach, the innovative website fiverr.com allows users to sell (and buy) services for $5. Current offerings include sketching a stylized portrait, writing a name on a grain of rice, and digitally restoring a photograph. It’s one of the trendiest ways to make a quick buck for the internet-savvy; dozens of videos, websites, and blogs offer advice on how best to earn money off the site. The best advice? Since you’re only going to make $5 a pop, sell a service that you can do easily and quickly.
Talk and teach. Colleges, organizations, and companies are constantly on the lookout for new experts that can inspire an audience. If you’ve built up an expertise on a subject, perhaps through your blog, then consider branching out with some speaking gigs. Offer to talk for free at first to build up your reputation, and then a speakers’ bureau can help connect you to paying gigs (for a cut of your fee).
[For more money-saving tips, visit the U.S. News Alpha Consumer blog.]
Design t-shirts. Companies such as CafePress.com allow people to design and sell their T-shirts for a cut of the profits. According to the company's website, some users earn over $100,000 a year. But it's not always easy: Jen Goode, who earns enough through CafePress to pay her mortgage each month, found success after a year and a half of long, sometimes 16-hour days. Her time is spent creating designs and then uploading them. She has uploaded about 2,500 designs, many of which are cartoon oriented, including the popular penguin-series. For her, she says, the secret has been to make many different images that are steady sellers, as opposed to creating one or two megahits. Now, she says she doesn't need to put as much time into her shop because she has such a large inventory of designs.
Sell other people's products. Make-up companies such as Avon and Mary Kay are always looking for new sales representatives, as are other companies such as kitchen products seller Pampered Chef. "If you don't have to make a big investment to get into it, it's probably not a bad idea," says Marcia Brixey, author of The Money Therapist. But she warns people to stay away from businesses that require sellers to make significant up-front purchases that they might not be able to unload.
The bottom line: The new economy offers plenty of creative ways to earn extra money; to find the best fit for you, consider your skills, lifestyle, and ambitions.
Kimberly Palmer is the author of the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.