Whether you're trying to make this month's rent, or maybe just have some extra time on your hands, these eight opportunities are a great way to pad your wallet. The best part? You can do each from the comfort of your own home.
Today, thanks to high-powered laptop computers, hand-held devices and the Internet, the ability to provide for your family while staying in the comfort of your own home isn't science fiction -- it's a daily reality for millions of people.
1) Freelance Writer or Editor
The migration of readers to the Internet has put enormous pressure on newspapers, magazines and newsletters, as subscription and advertising revenue at print publications dries up. Journalism hasn't simply downsized; it has imploded. Scores of journalists have been laid off -- a trend that benefits freelance writers and editors. It's a lot cheaper for a media employer to pay a writer or editor as an independent contractor, under a 1099 tax status, rather than hire one full-time and pay benefits.
If you like to write and you're good at it, there are many publications and websites that would be willing to hire you as a freelancer. Determine your area of expertise and then go online to find titles that cater to your niche. Contact the managing editor and make your services available. Typically, publications pay by the word; the scale varies greatly, from a few cents a word all the way up to $1.00/word or more.
2) Social Media Content Provider
Many companies, and not just media firms, need someone with writing proficiency and relevant opinions to share, for various social media activities. Whether it's blogging, "tweeting," or handling the company's Facebook page, you could provide a steady stream of content that serves your employer's interests.
3) Completing Surveys
Market research is crucial to corporations; they often ask people to fill out surveys, so they can base their strategic decisions on the feedback. Go online and look for companies that are seeking respondents for questionnaires; these companies will either email the questions to you or direct you to a website where you can answer the questions online. The company will pay you for every survey you complete. Some firms pay as much as $50 per survey.
4) Data Entry
This type of job is older than the computer industry itself, but the Internet has made it even more relevant -- and easier. Not all data entry is outsourced to cheap data entry sweatshops in India. Companies are willing to pay people in the United States to enter reams of data, such as for searchable databases. The task can seem relatively mindless but it often pays more than minimum wage.
5) Virtual Assistants
Many small business owners need people to serve as secretaries, schedulers, researchers, typists -- you name it. There's no reason that these tasks can't be accomplished from your home. This job is customizable, depending on what the business CEO needs done. To function as a virtual administrative assistant, you don't need to commute every day to an office. The world of bricks-and-mortar is increasingly giving way to cyberspace.
Likewise, you don't have to officially work in the newsroom of a newspaper or offices of a magazine to function in the capacity of a reporter. Companies and individuals often hire articulate people to conduct interviews for them over the telephone. These interviews can include market research or political polling. Think of it as "dialing for dollars." The pay ranges from minimum wage to $20/hour and above.
7) Product Assembly
During the bad old days of the early industrial Revolution, factory and mill owners often sent hideously underpaid employees home with "piece work," which meant that these employees were never off the clock, even at night in their tenements. This practice typically occurred in the garment industry and exploited young women. Around the turn of the last century, laws went into effect banning the practice.
However, nowadays, it's a perfectly acceptable, legal and humane practice. Companies will hire people to put together toys, machines, electronics, and an entire host of products that need to be assembled. The tools required are basic, such as screwdrivers, hammers, nails, and glue. And the money tends to be good, often amounting to several hundred dollars a week. What used to be a sweatshop practice is now a legitimate pursuit for middle-class people who want to work at home.
8) Web Design and Development
This job requires specialized skills. However, if you have expertise in writing code and designing web sites, you can set up a lucrative home business. Web design and development is in enormous demand; millions of new websites are created every day. If you don't have these skills but you're interested in this sort of work, consider taking courses at your local community college.
During your search, stay on the lookout for "work-at-home schemes." Signs of work-at-home scams include unreasonable pay for the type of work, and requiring recruits to pay a fee prior to starting employment. Remember, there are many genuine work-at-home opportunities online, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
You can find these legitimate opportunities by searching the Internet -- here's a great (and safe) place to start. Another tip for finding authentic listings: Include the keyword "telecommute" or "telecommuting" in your search.