Working at Home: Ways To Supplement Family Income

Working at Home: Ways To Supplement Family Income
Jay Levinson


(Furnishing room and board to pets) If you live in an area with enough space to furnish room, board, and love to pets while their owners are away, you can earn a fair amount of money. Inflation does not seem to be driving up the daily rates at pet hotels. The current $4 per day for cats and $5 per day for dogs (less for smaller dogs) isn’t too much more than we paid five years ago. Offer feeding, brushing, exercising, and enough room for roaming. Signs in pet stores, classified ads, plus a Yellow Pages listing will put the word out, but tender love will result in repeat business. You can’t rely too much on word-of-mouth, because barks and meows aren’t all that convincing. But you can provide such good care to the pets that their owners will spread the word for you. Don’t get into this earnway unless you have a sincere love for animals, for it is this love that will make you a success. (376)*


(Baking special cakes for special occasions) Use your imagination to dream up a variety of occasions: hirings, firings, promotions, sales, birthdays, anniversaries, confirmations, bar mitzvahs, engagements, plus all the legal holidays. Let your cake decorations, and even the shape of the cake itself, reflect the occasion. Customers may request unique cakes for their friends’ special celebrations – you can make a cake in any shape. Market your baking abilities with signs on bulletin boards, classified ads, even a small ad in the Yellow Pages. Are there restaurants in your town that could feature your cakes? It won’t be too hard to find enough customers. You can earn a profit of around $10 per cake. (384)

* The number at the end of each idea is that assigned to it in Levinson’s book.


(Being a free-lance typist) Many entrepreneurs, in their attempt to avoid unnecessary overhead, require free-lance typing. Where do they find a free-lance typist? From the mailings you send to them, from your classified ads in local newspapers, in a national writers’ magazine, from your listing in the Yellow Pages, from your posted bulletins, even from your circulars left in stationery stores, typewriter stores, and college stores. And you can do a mailing to all the businesses in your area, offering your service on an as-needed basis. Be sure to read Peggy Glenn’s How to Start and Run a Successful Home Typing Business. Charge by the page ($1 to $2) or by the hour ($6 to $12). With proper marketing, your Flying Fingers enterprise will get off to a flying start. (444)


(Repairing vinyl) It may sound pedestrian to go into the vinyl repair business, but according to those already doing it, it’s quite profitable. Seems that more things are made of vinyl these days than ever before, so there’s more vinyl that needs repairing. If you can repair it, at your home or the vinyl’s home, you can earn extra money. You might earn lots of it – many people report earnings of $20 per hour and more. Types of vinyl items that often need repairing include upholstery for theater seats, and restaurant booths.

As you can imagine, these can mean a high volume of work along with a high volume of money. Other things needing vinyl repair are home furnishings and automobile interiors. Market your services with letters and brochures aimed at the high-volume customers, with classified ads luring the rest. And consider a listing in the Yellow Pages under “Vinyl Repair Svce.” By the way, the repairing of vinyl requires training. Some companies claim they can teach you what you need to know in a matter of days. Learn more about the training and the opportunities by dropping a line requesting free facts to Vinyl Industrial Products, 2021 Montrose Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60618. You can even call them toll-free at 800-621-5809. (214)


(Making customized candles) Truly, the craft of candle making is also an art form. Having paid $15 for one candle, I know it is art. Why else would I shell out $15 for a candle? Believe me, there’s money in wax. It’s not too hard to learn how to make candles; you can even purchase kits. Look around your local gift or crafts store to study the types of candles available these days, or borrow ideas from work on display at flea markets and craft fairs. Once you get going you might even invent a new type of candle. Custom candles can be sold to retailers for resale, or can be sold directly to the public wherever crafts are sold. Normal media advertising is not warranted, but exposure at flea markets, fairs, swap meets, and open air markets is highly encouraged. Prices you can charge will vary, depending upon materials and time. (31)


(Giving sewing lessons) If you’re dexterous with needle and thread, or needle and yarn, consider giving sewing lessons. Give them to one person at a time, or give classes to groups. The more you know about sewing, the more students you can enroll with your classified ads, mailings and signs for women’s clubs, bulletins posted in Laundromats, Yellow Pages ads, display ads in church publications, and at sewing seminars. I emphasize teaching sewing because so many people know how to do it well, and so many others want to learn. Charge $10 per student per hour. At least that’s what local sewing experts charge. (139)

COMFY BED, DELICIOUS BREAKFAST (Providing food and lodging for overnight guests) More and more Americans every day are earning extra money by offering their spare rooms and cooking talents for “bed and breakfast,” an overnight accommodation. This has been a common earning method in England for many years. You can offer your spare room to travelers and cook breakfast for them – earning a pretty penny ($15 to $35 a night) in the process. You can attract business with a sign in front of your home, with classified ads, mailings to travel agents, and even signs around town proclaiming your professional hospitality. This is a modest and flexible undertaking – just one-night stands, no month-long commitments. No need to return to college and major in hotel and motel management. Just bone up on changing sheets and scrambling eggs. (285)


(Making doughnuts) There’s dough in doughnuts if you master the art. Perfect your recipe and sell them while they’re hot and fresh. You can do this if you make and sell them at the same place. A mall or amusement park comes to mind. So does a booth at a recreation area, zoo, flea market, or stadium. The best doughnuts I ever tasted were purchased fresh at an amusement park from a free-lance doughnut master. The only necessary marketing tool is a tasteful sign. Hungry buyers happily pay $.25 to $.60 per doughnut. In 1979, $1.5 billion was spent on doughnuts! With gross profit margins of 80 percent, it’s no wonder even absentee owners of doughnut shops gross in excess of $150,000 yearly. The American Entrepreneur Association (2311 Pontuis Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90064) tells us the average doughnut shop grosses a measly $100,000 yearly. And that’s for eight hours work per week. Learn more by requesting their manual number 126, Donut Shop. They talk about a shop – I’m talking about a part-time stand. Consider both. In either case, be careful you don’t eat up all the profits. (386)


(Running a wake-up and reminder service) Offer to phone people at agreed-upon times so that they can remember an anniversary, not be late for the ballet, pay that bill, collect that money, get up on time, or do any one of a host of tasks for which you will be paid to remind them. Charge a per call rate with a monthly minimum. The minimum should be around $15 to $25 with $.25 to $.50 per call as the standard rate. Just be sure your calls are always on time. Advertise your reliable ringing with small displays or classified ads in the newspaper, signs on bulletin boards, even a distribution of circulars. In addition to phoning, you’ll have to handle your own billing.

Other than that, this is a simple and effective business. I know a woman with ten regular clients; she spends about ten minutes per day awakening them by phone. In return, she receives $250 per month. She claims the only drawback to this earnway is an inability to sleep late. Quite true. (501)


(Making unique Christmas ornaments) Make unusual Christmas ornaments and sell them at Christmas fairs, to retail stores, and even door-to-door at Christmas time. You can market your unusual ornaments (which can be made out of virtually any materials – natural, artificial, old, new, baked . . .) with classified ads (start early in the season), and with publicity stories written by the reporters to whom you sent sample ornaments (clever you). Give some to the people who put up the community tree so that everyone can see how talented the president of the Christmas Company. is. If there’s a flea market in your area, that’s also a fine place to show and sell your creations. Selling them at Christmas tree lots would also be effective. Your simplest ornaments could sell for $1, with your fanciest going for as much as $25. One person I know turned this part-time earning endeavor into a gigantic company. Careful you don’t fall into the same trap or you’ll find yourself in a life with too much money and not enough free time. A good aspect of this business is that it can apply to many crafts, so be crafty and see if you can turn your talent into an ornament for Christmas. (28)


(Setting up a day-care center for children) When you set up a day-care center, be sure you comply with all the rules in your area (check with your county’s children’s services division). And be sure you provide the kids with proper supervision, fresh air and exercise, hard-to-break toys and games, wholesome food, and conscientious leaders. Then advertise your service with signs on bulletin boards, mailings to schools, a listing in the Yellow Pages, and circulars distributed to parents of young children. Don’t engage in this earnway unless you have a genuine love for children; it takes more than a profit motive to succeed with kids. You can establish your center at your home or in a rented space. Wherever, there is always a need for good day-care centers, and if yours falls into the category of good, it will provide you with income. A Connecticut woman started up such a service as an extra-money earning endeavor and it turned into a sole source of income. Quite a good income at that. Better yet – she delegated much of the work. She says she got all of her business by talking to parents at a PTA-type meeting, then calling them later. Figure on $5 to $10 per child per day. With enough kids, that’s income enough. (152)


(Making and delivering hot meals on a regular basis) A good many people just plain never do their own cooking. Either they eat out, or they buy stuff to go, or they eat frozen foods all the time. Whatever the reason, whether they are too busy or too tired or just unkitcheny, they won’t cook. And they need hot meals regularly. All this is good news for you. What you’ve got to do now is make and deliver their hot dinners to them. Obtain customers for your tasty earnway by posting signs on bulletin boards (especially in apartment buildings), classified ads in newspapers, a listing in the Yellow Pages, circulars handed out at apartment complexes, even samplings of your cooking at shows or fairs. Because you will be operating from a limited menu, there will be very little waste and very big profits. Someone else can handle the cooking, delivery, billing and collecting if you’d like – if you’re willing to part with some of the profits. (Go ahead, be willing). If you take this idea and develop it so that you have a regular dinner list, you can make money from this one idea for a gloriously long time. You should understand proper nutrition along with meal preparation to succeed at this. And you can earn about $25 to $50 weekly per regular customer (dinners only). So get yourself a whole lot of customers. And do a whole lot of delegating. (397)


(Running an answering service) Earn extra money by starting up an answering service. You can handle the answering yourself and do it from home. Or you can delegate the answering to
someone else and do your earning away from home. Attract business by listing your service in the Yellow Pages, by running small classified ads, and by phoning businesses and individuals that ought to employ your answering service. Although telephone answering devices are increasingly popular, many people will have nothing to do with them. That’s why your answering service can prove to be a success for years to come. The best way to make this business work is to sign up customers at extremely low introductory rates, then keep them as you raise your rates (because your service is so friendly, accurate, and on the ball). The International Entrepreneurs Association (see address in idea 8) tells us that a typical one-office operation grosses about $200,000 annually and takes home 35 percent net profits. They tell even more in their manual number 148, Telephone Answering Service. Do not fall into the “apathy trap” after the initial sale. Always maintain enthusiasm and friendliness, and you’ll earn real money as an answering service. (529)


(Providing nursing care in your home) Find out the local rules, then if you’re able to comply you can use that spare room or rooms in your home to provide nursing care. Perhaps one of the rooms may be given for free to a person who will do all the work for your residents: meal preparation, room cleaning, shopping, companionship. Yellow Pages listings, signs on bulletin boards, mailings to certain organizations, and yes, classified ads will get you the residents you need. Following a couple months of preparation (including personal observation of several successful homes along with interviews with the staff and the residents), your nursing care (not necessarily a full-time, live-in offering) should provide you with the extra money you seek. You must be people oriented to succeed, and you’ll need quick access to medical help, should your residents ever require it. Earnings can range from $250 to $500 per month per resident (but for that money, meals should be served). I figure that for most budding earners one resident will do, maybe two. A fancy local home I know of charges $1,500 monthly, but what they offer cannot be accomplished by anyone on a part-time basis. (174)


(Addressing and stuffing envelopes) If enough people know that you will always be available for addressing and stuffing envelopes, enough people will sign up for your services and you’ll end up with a small but appreciable income. The way to spread the word is to mail circulars to printing firms, direct-mail houses and businesses in your community that engage in direct mailings. Because direct mail is a marketing tool that is best when used regularly, you can count on regular income if you let it be known that you provide these services regularly. The work can be done from your home, requires little concentration, and is something hardly anyone likes to do. That’s why you’ll be an appreciated member of your community while earning your appreciable income. Beware of those ads that promise big money stuffing envelopes at home. Those are usually mail-order schemes that provide big money for the people offering them, and not for you. But by charging, say, $.03 per envelope addressed and stuffed, the 2,500 envelopes you’ll work on will net you a real $75. (470)


(Taking kids to events) Take kids on trips to museums, circuses, sporting events, zoos and other such attractions. Provide the transportation, the overseeing, the love and the care. In return, receive money from each parent based upon the amount of time you spend with the kids. The current rate is $1.50 per hour, just as with baby-sitting, but with six kids in tow, it comes to $9 hourly for you. At a three-hour circus with a one-hour round-trip ride, that amounts to $36 for your efforts. But make no mistake – taking kids to the circus is not a small effort. Attract parents who can use your services with circulars distributed where parents gather, with classified ads, with mailings to nursery schools, and with the inevitable signs on bulletin boards. Ads in local church publications will also help. You will require a chauffeur’s license if much driving is involved, and an ability to get along with a gang of kids. (Gangs of kids are far more unruly than individual kids.)

Once a business such as this gets established, it can be part of your community for a long time. And as it prospers, you prosper. (168)


(Writing real estate ads) Most newspaper real estate ads are uncreative and incredibly similar. You can make real estate ads stand out from the ordinary if you write them with the same care you might apply to writing advertising for many mass-marketed products. If you have this ability, offer it to real estate companies and to house sellers. You can charge a fee for your writing ability, and once your ads start selling houses, you’ll find a lot of business heading your way. Anywhere from $10 to $100 seems a fair price to charge for a great classified ad. Just read the ads in this Sunday’s paper and you’ll see the dire need for your originality. Attract business by advertising in real estate trade publications (find them in your Standard Rate and Data Business Publication Rates and Data at your library), and by running classified ads in the real estate section, claiming that you can write better ads than anyone else. If you really can, you will prosper. (5)


(Telling bedtime stories by phone) Not surprisingly, Once-Upon-A-Phone is the name of a service that tells bedtime stories to kids by telephone. Once-Upon-A-Phone charges monthly fees, and for those fees, tells wonderfully-spun yarns that transfix kids and peacefully put them to sleep. How many yarns per month? Depends upon the fee. You can do the storytelling live or on tape . . . or with a mixture of both. You should be able to offer your services successfully with classified ads in the newspaper, bulletins in toy stores, and circulars mailed or distributed to parents. Mailings to schools won’t hurt either. Charge to attain the hourly earnings you desire. If you spend fifteen minutes telling a story, and you’re aiming for $20 per hour, charge $5. That means you’d charge the family $40 a month for two stories a week. Get eight families signed up, and by working two hours a night, two nights a week, you’ll earn $320 extra each month, just by telling stories. For more information, consult Fables by Aesop, or Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm. (100)


(Stripping furniture) The antique craze has made furniture stripping a money-making business. Few people know how to do this work properly without training. So get trained, and then be prepared for a lot of extra work and money. The demand is so great for furniture strippers that you have to delegate some of the work. Obtain business with posted signs, Yellow Pages ads, bulletins in equipment rental shops, classified ads (under antiques), and mailings to antique-store owners. Distribute circulars to flea marketers. In this earnway, although you can charge up to $25 per hour, you can’t cut corners with time since furniture stripping is by its nature time-consuming. On the other hand, maybe you’ll enjoy doing it. (205)


(Writing personalized poems) Place classified ads in newspapers throughout the country to announce that you write personalized poetry. The ads should request that the customer write to you with details about the poem (enclosing a check). Then, you send back a professional, sensitive, beautiful, soul-stroking poem. You can offer the same service with a song instead of a poem. But you’d be tempted to charge more. I guess a poem is worth about $50, and a song about $100. You can even make out well charging half that amount. Be sure you know how to write a proper poem or song before offering your services. I once saw a truck in San Francisco with a sign on it: Fresh Poems $1.00. Charge more than that. (8)


(Tutoring in any subject) If you know a subject well, consider tutoring. Almost any topic has both experts and those who wish to become experts. If you’re in the former category, you can tutor people in the latter category. Find them with bulletin postings, classified ads, circulars, even ads in the Yellow Pages. You’ll gain more students if you tutor common topics such as English, math, cooking, auto repair, art, piano, guitar, French, Spanish, basic computers, and home repairs. But you can also tutor uncommon topics if you’re an expert and others covet your expertise. Naturally, you must know your subject inside and out (though not necessarily with any special degrees). You should be a good explainer and enjoy explaining things to people. It also helps (your students) if you are patient and conscientious. Charge an hourly rate per student. The going rate these days in my part of the planet seems to be $12 per hour. Tutoring is the only source of income for one of our friends in Denver, but most people use it simply as an extra income producer. (128)


(Painting commemorative plates) There’s a man in Florida who hangs out in maternity ward waiting rooms. He offers to paint commemorative plates for brand-new fathers. Paints the name of the baby, the birthdate, and the birth weight. Think those new fathers buy his plates? You bet your bootees they do. All that he can paint. Next to stamps and coins, plates are the most collected objects in America. You can use your artistic talents, add to the joy of parenthood, and enrich your coffers by painting commemorative plates. And don’t limit your commemorations to births. People also wish to remember marriages, graduations, confirmations, pennants, Super Bowl victories, raises, promotions and more. You barely need to market this endeavor. But you can attract customers with classified ads and small newspaper display cards. Charge from $25 to $100 per plate, depending upon your painting ability. Of course, that charge should also cover the plate itself. You can learn more about commemorative plates by checking out The Bradford Book of Collector’s Plates (The Bradford Exchange, Niles, Chicago, IL 60611). (12)


(Finding articles for clipping services) Go to the library. Get about fifty out-of-town phone directories, Yellow Pages sections. Then, make a list of all the clipping bureaus. This will take at least a day. Big deal. Next, write to all the clipping bureaus, offering to clip articles from the newspapers in your hometown. If they already have a clipping service in your town, you’re out of luck. But if they don’t or if the current clipper is a loser, they’ll pay you to read the local newspaper and clip articles from it, articles that pertain to specific topics. If you’re really lucky, all the clipping bureaus will want your services. You’ll be paid about $.50 per clipping, so you’ll have to clip hard. You’ve got to be a good, fast reader, and know how to scan a newspaper efficiently. (330)


(Baby-sitting for plants) People who take extended holidays or business trips often need their plants taken care of. The easiest way is to collect their plants, bring them to a place where they can thrive, and baby-sit for them, making sure all of their needs (light, fresh air and water) are met. Find customers by running classified ads, posting signs in plant stores, and putting up as many signs on high-traffic bulletin boards as you can. Then, direct your attention to making the plants healthier than when you first got them. You can also be a plant sitter by just visiting the home where the plants live, rather than bringing them to your place. Charge a daily rate – $5 to $10 – for your services. Not a whole lot of experience is required, but you must be tuned in to plants and know by sight or touch when they need more or less water and/or sunlight. (343)


(Making and repairing dolls) You probably knew from the name that Dolly Doctor repairs broken dolls. But did you realize that the good doctor also makes dolls, too? Dolls may be made with many types of materials. If you’re good at making and/or fixing dollies, then hang out your shingle with classified ads, signs in toy stores (with the owner’s permission), circulars distributed to doll-owning-age-kids’ parents (find them in the park near the swings, teeter-totters, monkey bars and slides), and with dolls for sale at fairs and crafts shows. Charge as little as $5 for a simple rag doll. Charge as much as $100 for a complex art-type doll. Want to learn more? Read The Doll by Carl Fox (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1973). (47)


1. What licenses or zoning regulations are required for your business? Most endeavors that involve sales require a sales permit. Check with your local Board of Equalization. Some businesses may violate your local zoning regulations. Be sure to check with your county clerk.

2. Is there a market for your business? Make a list of people you think would want your service. Be specific. Then conduct a phone or door-to-door survey of your area to make sure there are enough customers to support your business.

3. How can you attract potential customers? Consider the people you listed above as potential customers. How will you contact them about your business? Post ads on shopping center and church bulletin boards, or announce your services through the classified section of your local newspaper. If you have a small number of potential clients, you could call them personally to explain your service.

4. How can you function in a business-like manner? It is essential that you keep accurate financial records for income tax purposes. You will be required to pay income tax as well as fees for social security benefits. However, your business will also provide you with various tax deductions. Consult a local accountant to determine what your specific deductions will be, and what you should set aside periodically for income tax. In addition, the local library has many books that can help you with the details of establishing a small business.

The above article, “Working at Home: Ways to Supplement Family Income” is written by Jay Levinson. The article was excerpted from a pamphlet published by Focus on the Family in 1992.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.