The Austerity Diaries: If You Don’t Have a Job, Make One Up

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With unemployment rates skyrocketing, going out and finding a new job can be nigh on to impossible these days.  This is only going to get trickier as the government continues to force businesses to increase the minimum wage. Workloads that used to provide employment to two people are now forced onto one. The work performed gets shoddier as the one employed person struggles to keep up, and the number of people who are employed gets lower.

If you don’t have a job, consider making one up. Actually, you might be better to make up several, considering the current economy and how difficult it can be to start a business these days. If you are in the midst of a personal economic collapse, you just might be able to change your course be creating your own streams of income instead of relying on an employer to pay you a living wage.

Let me explain what I mean.

There are a lot of little jobs a person can do, that individually don’t pay the bills.  However, an organized and industrious person can group a bunch of small jobs into a full-time income if they schedule carefully, work hard, and stay organized. I know, because I’ve done it.

Once upon a time, I did home day care on the weekends, tended bar on Monday and Tuesday nights, did dog-walking and pet-sitting during the week, cleaned house for a person one afternoon per week, and did the shopping and cooking for an elderly neighbor. At the time, I didn’t have a car, so all of this was done on foot.  Twenty years ago, the $400-500 a week I made from doing all of these little odd jobs paid the bills and left me with time for other things.

After that I got a “real” job and spent years in the work force. However, I eventually got “down-sized” at which point I began to revisit this type of money-making system.  These days, I have my own website, I am a staff writer for another site, I do some freelance editing and writing, and I do other web-based projects as well.  Again, I make enough to pay for all of our needs and some of our wants, so I’m quite happy with this arrangement.

Set up multiple streams of income

The key to success with this is to have multiple streams of income. Don’t put all of your financial eggs in one basket, because if that should dry up, you’ll be left “unemployed” yet again.  As well, it really helps with budgeting if you are able to say, “This task pays my rent, this task pays my utilities, this task pays for groceries.”

Obviously we all know that living frugally is like making money, but that is a topic for another article. The fact remains there are some things we need money for, so this article is focused on acquiring that cash.

Some of us have specialized skills that make this easier – for example, I am a writer and editor, so I focus my money-earning on those two skills.   Others might be particularly handy, so they might focus their skills on doing home repairs.

But it isn’t necessary to have a skill set to bring in multiple streams of income. You simply have to be willing to do small jobs that may or may not be short term.  Here are some ideas to get you started.  This list, of course, is  by no means comprehensive.

  • Cleaning houses
  • Cleaning out vacated rental properties (as a perk, sometimes you get to keep items that have been abandoned, and you can sell them on Craigslist or make use of them yourself)
  • Yardwork: raking, mowing, gardening
  • Trimming trees
  • Cleaning out gutters
  • Repairing items: home repairs, small appliance repairs – whatever you’re good at fixing, there is likely a person who needs that item fixed
  • Cooking for those too busy to cook for themselves
  • Babysitting
  • Before and after school childcare (It can be really tough for working parents to find someone willing to drive their children to school and pick them up)
  • Weekend or overnight childcare
  • Pet-sitting
  • Dog walking
  • Laundry service (I recommend doing this at a laundromat instead of running up your own utility bills – you can build the price of the coin operated machines into your fee)
  • Run errands – some folks are working during regular business hours and don’t have the time to do those little errands like stopping by the dry cleaner, going to the grocery store, etc.
  • Shovel snow
  • Help people move – if you have a strong back, you can be the hired muscle
  • Wash cars
  • Do a paper route (it’s not just for kids anymore)
  • Recycle aluminum or plastic
  • Recycle scrap metal – if you have a truck, run an ad offering to pick up used appliances, etc.  Most people are thrilled to have someone haul off their old junk.
  • Pick up poop – a friend I used to know made a LOT of money from his willingness to pick up dog poop in people’s back yard on a weekly basis
  • Make and sell…something.  Maybe you make jewelry, knit scarves, carve duck decoys – whatever.  Find a venue to sell your handmade items, like Etsy, craft sales, EBay, or the local paper.
  • Rent out a room in your home – you can get big dollars if you live near a college.
  • Sell excess garden goodies from a stand in your front yard
  • If you have a really good eye, you can make money buying cool vintage stuff at yard sales and online, cleaning it up, then reselling it to an antique shop.  Be careful though – you can just as easily lose money doing this.
  • Do you sew? You can make money doing mending and alterations – many tailors charge up to $20 to hem a pair of pants.

A few keys to success

It’s important to make a good impression on your customers.  Handle these small jobs just like you would a corporate job and follow these key steps.

  • Be professional.
  • Arrive promptly.
  • Be courteous – the customer is always right.
  • Be tidy in your appearance
  • Work hard
  • Try to exceed the person’s expectations

Keep these principles in mind and you will never be lacking jobs. Word of mouth is the very best form of advertising.

Don’t forget about the barter system

Don’t limit yourself to only doing jobs for money. Is there a good or service that you want? Sometimes you can approach people and offer them a barter, particularly if they are in business for themselves.  For example, I used to clean house for the person who cut my family’s hair.  Once I was hired to clean up a person’s yard and I politely asked if we could keep the walnuts that had fallen off their tree. They didn’t mind at all, as they had just asked me to rake everything up and bag it, and it gave us a nice little bonus of a winter’s worth of delicious black walnuts for a weekend’s work.

The website Alt-Market.com is all about the approach of the barter system should our current economy totally collapse. They state that their website “exists to facilitate networking, local community action, and the exchange of knowledge and ideas. We promote decentralization, localism, and the de-globalization of human economic systems. We aim to work with and support local economies, markets, barter networks, and farmers cooperatives; and to promote alternative currencies and monetary systems.”  Check it out HERE – you will find some great ideas!

Don’t be afraid to approach people about the potential of bartering – the worst thing that can happen is that they say no.

Get the word out

Sometimes you can find work through people you know – maybe they expressed a need to have someone walk Fido partway through the day. Other times, you will need to search a little harder to find customers for your services.

  • Put an ad on Craigslist
  • Find some local message boards online and post your services there
  • Make flyers and hand them out in your neighborhood (be sure to respect the wishes of those homes that say “no flyers”)
  • Post flyers on telephone poles if that is allowed in your area
  • Put a sign in your front yard – I used to advertise “Daycare Space Available” at my home
  • Put an ad in the classified section of your local paper
  • Put a sign up on grocery store or other community bulletin boards

Reprinted with permission from The Organic Prepper.

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