Even for workers who are employed full-time, an economic slowdown can mean lowered commissions, reduced hours and an end to overtime. That leads many to find second jobs or alternative sources of income to compensate for the loss.
Among the possible avenues to pursue:
Freelance work. Figure out how many hours per week you can devote to freelance work, as well as the skills you can offer to prospective companies, and post a free profile on both Odesk.com and Elance.com.
Odesk connects skilled professionals such as software developers, graphic designers, copywriters and sales reps with businesses that are eager to hire freelancers for project-based and hourly work. Odesk says it has seen a 16 percent increase over last month of new freelancers looking for 15 hours of work or less per week.
Elance.com, another platform to connect freelancers with companies of all sizes, saw a record number of jobs posted on its site: 22,000 new jobs were added in September 2008 compared with 13,000 in September 2007. Craigslist.com and Guru.com also offer access to opportunities.
Seasonal work. Hundreds of thousands of workers typically rely on holiday help to bring in extra cash at year's end. This year, hiring is expected to be lower among retailers, shippers and restaurants, but that doesn't mean it's coming to a halt. Don't wait until Thanksgiving to hit the mall to apply; start now by going into stores and restaurants. Be ready to interview (dress appropriately) and talk to managers who can give you the lowdown on their expected hiring needs. Ask when you should check back. That face-to-face connection is more powerful than simply applying online. SnagAJob.com is devoted exclusively to hourly work.
Explore direct sales. The Direct Selling Association says many of its member companies are seeing an increase in the number of Americans becoming independent representatives to generate some extra cash. DSA.org has a list of opportunities to pursue.
Turn a hobby into cash. Challenging economic times often make way for creativity. Like baking? Offer small group baking lessons for kids. Play tennis? Offer private and small group lessons for teens and adults. Into pets? Put up fliers to start a dog walking business.
Look at health care. This is the one industry that's expanding because of an aging population. Nonmedical companions perform hourly work on a flexible schedule. They typically prepare meals, assist with errands, arrange appointments for elderly persons who aren't able to do these things on their own. SeniorHelpers.com, HomeInstead.com, and local visiting companion services are resources to explore. Also use Craigslist.com to promote your availability and to respond to ads.
Finally, don't allow fear of freelancing -- driven by a concern that you won't know how to handle a 1099 on your tax return -- keep you from pursuing opportunities to bring in cash. It's better to generate some income (even if it means getting tax help) on a full-time or freelance basis than to hold out for the perfect staff opportunity. Try to pursue both simultaneously: Go after part-time and full-time work, because you don't know which will come faster.
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Visit her Web site at www.womenforhire.com.