It's the number one question I'm asked: How can I make money from home? Whether looking for full-time opportunities or a way to supplement their income, more people than ever are eager to bring in the cash without the commute.
I've spent several years reviewing legitimate home-based opportunities like the ones I feature on my website, and I'm thrilled when I discover new ones. (In fact, if you're involved in a successful home-based opportunity that you think I should know about, share it with me at Twitter.com/ToryJohnson or Facebook.com/Tory.)
Sell Ads on Your Blog: Last year stay-at-home mom Sarah Mae wanted to supplement her husband's income, so she started writing a blog, Like a Warm Cup of Coffee, where she's developed a small, but very loyal, following of women who share her values. She approached small businesses that advertised on other blogs, asking them to buy an ad on her site. Her initial rate: just $10 a month per ad, an offer they couldn't refuse. She gradually upped it, and now less than a year later has generated $5,000 of income.
The lesson: Start now and start small -- work on it every day to build an audience and increase your rates. Too often we say, "For just $10, why bother?" But you have to think long-term.
Sell Through the Open Sky Project: Since Mae had a loyal following of women, she signed up with Open Sky, a new, free service that connects people who make interesting products (suppliers) with people who have the ability to sell those products online (sellers).
As a seller, Mae chooses which products she wants to feature and promote. Her best seller: teeny rose bud earrings, handmade of resin by another mom, Ashley Steves in Baltimore. Determined to pay off her family's credit card debt and live a cash-only lifestyle, Steves realized she needed to move from selling randomly here and there to friends -- to reaching a wider audience online through Open Sky.
With the earrings priced at $10 a pair, Steves receives the $5 wholesale price, and the profit is then split between the seller and Open Sky. Steves has made more than $1,000 by selling through Open Sky -- and that initial success has given her the confidence to invest in more materials to expand her jewelry line next month. (Mae has earned more than $400 through Open Sky by promoting the earrings to her followers.)
On Open Sky, nobody makes money, nor are there fees of any kind, unless sales are made. So if you have something to sell that's really unique and not available at big box retailers -- beauty, nutrition, cooking and fashion are particularly popular categories -- or if you have a website or even a very active following on Facebook or Twitter of people who really trust you for advice and recommendations, then Open Sky could be an ideal opportunity to make money.
Sell for Others With Style: A new entry in the online selling arena is ReFINEstyle, which is an eBay-like auction site specifically for new and gently worn designer clothing and accessories. The site recruits and trains stylists to make money on its site. With no start-up fees, it's a great platform for someone with fashion style and sales savvy.
Sandy Stein is a former flight attendant who invented a gadget to prevent her keys from getting lost at the bottom of her bag. Several big distributors told her the Finders Key Purse would never sell, so she set out to build her own sales force made up mainly of stay-at-home moms and other women across the country who go door to door to their favorite gift shops and boutiques for wholesale orders. In the first year, more than a million pieces were sold. Visit the website to learn more about becoming a local rep in your area for this and the company's sister products.
And speaking of selling, direct sales remains a viable option if you select the right product category for you. The Direct Selling Association offers the most reputable advice on the industry, including a listing of hundreds of legitimate companies.
Sell and Serve: Last week Arise Virtual Solutions announced it would add 5,000 home-based agents over the next few months. Virtual customer service opportunities, which allow you to answer customer inquiries from home, can also be found through VIPDesk, LiveOps and Alpine Access.
Most companies require home-based agents to have an up-to-date computer, high speed Internet access, a dedicated phone line and a quiet workspace. Each operates differently -- from hiring employees to contracting with independent reps to requiring incorporation, so research all options, including mandatory start-up and training fees, before determining which (if any) may appeal to you.
Personal Concierge: At 56, Bill Doyle was laid off in October 2009 after working for five years at a popular Philadelphia performing arts center. Devastated by that pink slip -- losing the job was like losing a best friend, he said, Doyle wound up in the hospital for two weeks with chest pain. While on the mend, within a few months he realized what he loved most was serving people and solving problems, so he started Go2Guy, a personalized concierge service.
His services range from planning small dinner parties for a busy family, to running errands, waiting for repairman, you name it. And he's marketing himself to individuals who don't have enough time to get it all done and to companies whose employers don't have enough time to get it all done.
So far he's bringing in about $1,500 a month, but says it's picking up steadily as word spreads and he's very hopeful that it will soon out-pace his previous income, which is a good thing because Doyle told me, "I will never get that goodbye handshake from any boss again."
Resources: Triangle Concierge is run by one of the leading concierge experts and offers advice articles on the industry; At Your Service Atlanta is run by my friend Barbara Betti, whose website describes the range of services a concierge can offer.
Virtual Social Media Consultant: Lanae Paaverud in Minnesota recognized that so many small businesses didn't have a presence on Facebook or Twitter because they lacked time, knowledge and know-how. So just about a year ago, she dubbed herself the Social Networking Nanny and became determined to take care of the social media needs of small businesses.
For $150 she'll set up a Facebook page or a Twitter profile, and then for a reasonable hourly fee she updates the content, builds a following, and develops meaningful ways for the business owners to engage with their current and prospective clients and customers.
Look at what you're really passionate about, and perhaps have taken for granted, and explore if you can get paid to do it. Paaverud has been hooked on social media for years, and when she saw plenty of people didn't get it, she spotted a need and went for it.