"Debt is the worst poverty." - Thomas Fuller

Don’t Sell Yourself Short. Think Bigger.

By , March 8th, 2011 | 7 Comments »

I visit a number of finance-related forums. On many of these boards I hang out on, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “How can I make some extra money from home?” The question is usually asked by women who are home with kids. They want to contribute to the family income, but aren’t at liberty to take on part- or full-time work outside of the home. The answers given to this question always bother me. Usually people toss out ideas like take surveys, do mystery shopping, sell stuff on eBay, work for a site like ChaCha, or write for a content mill like eHow or TextBroker. There’s nothing really wrong with this sort of work. It does pay money and it can be done from home, so in that sense it can be helpful.

However, what bothers me is that most of this type of work pays you pennies for a lot of effort. You may spend thirty minutes on a survey and get seventy-five cents. You may spend an hour on ChaCha and make a dollar. You may churn out a three hundred word article for TextBroker and get $3.00 (a penny per word or is a standard rate at the content mills). If it took you an hour, that’s not even close to minimum wage. This type of work isn’t going to make anyone any serious money and, unless you have a real passion for surveys or answering other people’s questions, isn’t all that fun or fulfilling. After a while, it gets demoralizing to realize that you’re putting out so much of your effort for so little money. On top of that, you’re not really building anything for yourself.

It depresses me to see people so willing to work for so little. (It’s also bad for everyone because when a large number of people are willing to work for free or close to it, many companies stop seeing a need to pay fair wages for the work. They figure they can get it cheaper somewhere else, so why pay professional rates for a writer or artist.) Many people are willing to sell themselves short and don’t even try to reach for something bigger.

I don’t know whether it’s fear or laziness that keeps people from trying to create meaningful work for themselves. Why people choose to spend hours plugging away at surveys or other repetitive, low paying tasks when they could spend those hours developing a business that suits their passions and abilities mystifies me. Which is better: To spend forty hours a week taking surveys that pay a dollar, or to spend that forty hours launching a business that you love, will provide income for years, and that will actually pay you a living wage?

When I see people who want to make money from home, my first question is, “What interests you?” Whatever your passion, there’s a way to monetize it. It may not be immediately obvious, but there is something out there for everyone. You may have to get creative and there will probably be some trial and error. Many businesses can be started with very little money, so it’s not like you’ll have to shell out your life’s savings to try to create something bigger. Thanks to the Internet, almost any kind of work can be done from home and there are plenty of free online resources to help you get started. You only have to want to try.

Sure, you may not make a lot of money in the beginning. You may even have to do some jobs for free to build up your reputation. But it’s far better to take low paying work in the pursuit of something bigger than it is make a “career” out of surveys or other low paying online work. There are tons of things you can do from home that will actually make you happy and match your interests. You just have to be willing to stop selling yourself short and put your business idea out there. Think about what you’d love to do and then find a way to do it. Put your effort into creating something for yourself, not fattening the coffers of some company that doesn’t want to pay you a fair wage for your work.

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  • Alex says:

    Jennifer absolutely brings up several valid points for those of us who are under the mistaken notion that working for small pay is a good use of our precious extra time. Investing that time in creating your own business — or training or an education — makes a lot more sense. Thank you, Jennifer; you’ve given me a whole new perspective on earning extra money.

  • Jesse says:

    Working on something that you are passionate about not only enriches your life, but makes success more likely since you will be more willing to put effort into something you care about and weather whatever storms may threaten.

  • Josh says:

    I agree, and the main excuse I hear from people who do surveys, etc… is that “they are just filling down time” or something similar. I disagree with that, they aren’t filling down time but just choosing to completely waste their time instead, and like you say, selling themselves short.

  • Kim says:

    Two actually three ideas that worked for me over the years when I stayed home were: Day care for others. Not a full fledged day care but one or two children or an infant. This can bring in 400-1000 a month where I live. Or sewing and mending for others. This skill and I say skill is so valuable. I still run a shop that makes most of my families extra money. Clean banks and other buildings in the evenings. I have always had a small contract. One to one and a half hours 5 nights a week. This can bring in an additional 4-600 a month. It is possible to stay home and earn money but you have to work and have inconvenience and practice a skill.

  • Gail says:

    We sell sewing patterns on ecrater. It started small and has built up into a fairly large business. I often see new sellers on the discussion board lamenting the fact that nothing is selling and what are they doing wrong? Well lots of things actually. If I had time I could probably make a full-time living consulting with people who are trying to set up an online store or selling online. My head is full of ideas and I just don’t have enough time and physical health to put them all into action.

    The first thing you have to think about when you want to make extra money is, what is your passion, what do you care about, and how can you use your life experiences and turn them into cash? Not every job can go along with your passions at first, but that should be your ultimate goal>>>to find something to do that you love so much that you would do it whether or not you would make money doing it, something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning, something that pays well because you have determined that you are worth the time you put into it.

  • Lori says:

    bravo. i have a friend who was investigating doing some proofreading through an online freelance outfit. i explained to her how she could make three or four times as much money by working directly for clients. she was impressed/amazed .. but then said that would require more work that she didn’t want to do (cold calling people, hanging flyers at the university, etc.). if people are lazy or afraid/intimidated, someone stands ready to skim a lot of profit off the middleman part of the job that they are avoiding.

  • Great post. I have been writing for others for several months to supplement my business income and to get more established in the freelance writing world, but I have been definitely selling myself short. I recently created a few pages on my own website to sell my writing and now I will begin marketing that several hours a day.

    I am going to pull the plug on my other account asap, and concentrate solely on my own wares.

    Thanks for this inspiring post.


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