How do I earn some a small steady income in an area with little employment to be found?
February 1, 2009 12:13 AM   Subscribe

Living in an area with literally no jobs to be found. What things can I do to even earn a bit of cash?

I'm living in probably the worst area possible to be looking for work. Last I checked, Michigan had the highest unemployment rate, and my area has the highest unemployment rate in my state. I've used up all my savings from my previous job just trying to find a new job. My relatives are going as far as relocating to other states to work for short periods of time, and I'd really like to avoid doing that.

I'd like to find some way to make some money, but I'm really stretched for ideas. I've been fixing up people's computers here and there, but frankly those calls have died down to nothing in the past few months. Craigslist had a few listings for internet related work you could do from home, but the information is always so vague and I'm not sure I can trust it.

I'm not even looking for much, even $300 a month would cover my half of the rent if I were to get a place with my friend, and that's all we're waiting on.

Anyone have any ideas? Ideally I'd like something I could get into quickly, but if it takes a bit of self-teaching I'm still game. (I've been looking into being a scribe for the local hospital, and that'll require me to add a lot to my vocabulary and might take a while to get into.)
posted by jrdnbaade to Work & Money (37 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Got a car?

- Deliver pizza
- Offer a personal taxi to people in the neighborhood - charge them .45 per mile plus the price of gas to drive them there or some other fair price
- Deliver flyers to an upscale (or more upscale) neighborhood to be a dogwalker/petsitter

Get your resume together and take it to local stores, buildings downtown (doorman and security), supermarkets, and restaurants

Get EMT training and become an EMT
posted by zia at 12:23 AM on February 1, 2009

First of all the CL "work from home" deals are all scams.

I'm guessing you don't have any trade skills (welding, carpentry, etc) but if you have the least bit aptitude, these things tend to be easy to pick up.

If you can hammer a nail straight you can probably find a day's worth of work by showing up at your local Home Despot at 6am. The fact that you speak English is a huge bonus, then again, you're going to be stuck doing hard labor for whatever they pay the undocumented workers. Plus it's winter.

Can you wait tables? No? Good, you're perfect for the job. Restaurants are always hiring owing to high turnover. You don't need experience, you just need to be able to lie on your resume and in person. Restaurants never follow up with references and if they do, so what? Go to the place next door and try again.

Likewise certain sales jobs are easy to fake your way into and require no ability whatsoever other than being able to shoot the shit... car dealerships maybe out of your league, but anything else might work.

Are there lots of religious people in your town? Have some business cards printed up advertising your "expert PC repair" with a Jesus Fish and your favorite bible verse (just the book and section, not the actual verse) ... Church types are always suckers for helping out other churchies... you can drop these off at church offices, the YMCA, etc. Sign all your emails with, "Walking HIS walk," or, "In HIS service..." Get a haircut and shave, btw. Scruff will blow your cover.

I guess if I was going to close with a bigger point it would be this: Go off grid to look for work. Anything you see advertised online, on CL, unemployment websites and the like are going to be saturated by applications... you need to be knocking on doors, going out into the sticks, asking around town, picking up odd jobs of the sort which aren't advertised online.

Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 1:45 AM on February 1, 2009 [36 favorites]

When I was on the dole I was an escourt and a cam girl. Sex always sells.
posted by Neonshock at 2:17 AM on February 1, 2009

Uh, no, don't impersonate a Christian. We can sniff out impostors, on one hand, and on the other, many of us who have been Christians for a while have learned, sadly, that many who use their Christianity to advertise their services...aren't the best at their work.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:02 AM on February 1, 2009

Mod note: impersonating a Christian idea is in MeTa, please do not debate it here, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:16 AM on February 1, 2009

Since the economy in Michigan is down, maybe you should focus your efforts to the internet. Do you have skills to make something that could be sold online via etsy?

Do you have mountains of stuff that could be sold on Amazon or Ebay?

Even if your stuff is running low I would imagine that a lot of people in Michigan are trying to part with their excess. Maybe you could sell stuff for people on ebay.

Are these cliched answers as this point? Probably, but they would at least get you out of the Michigancentric market. I doubt many people are contracting out for home repairs right now.
posted by aetg at 6:32 AM on February 1, 2009

I'm in MI as we speak, and you're not exaggerating the economic climate. I'm sorry! I'm just visiting here, but one thing I've noticed people need is snow removal. It's heavy, early, hard work, but your startup costs would be negligible (a shovel!) at least.

As to the greater idea of marketing your services (computer and other), I think it makes perfect sense to look to the communities you are a part of. Shared values is definitely one thing that affects who individuals hire.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:41 AM on February 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies so far.

I can't stress enough that going out and applying to places is a dead end. I've spent the last year and a half doing this, and I'm getting to the point where I have no money left and if I let my car go to the gutter driving around every day, then I'm going to be stuck without that also. I can assure you that I'm no slouch, and yet no amount of returned calls and interview butt kissing I do seem to matter.

Businesses are closing down.. on a weekly basis. I really wish instead of spending all that dough on gas this past year I would have just saved it. There are some insane price cuts at a lot of these places that are going out of business.

The shoveling snow idea is a good one, but I'm afraid hundreds of people beat me to it. Look outside my window for a good half an hour and you're likely to see 5 different trucks drive by with snow plows attached. If I could afford a new truck and a plow I'd definitely be out there trying to compete. Living in a rural area doesn't really help either.

I also like the idea of helping people sell their stuff on eBay. I'll have to make up some fliers to hang up around the local businesses and see if I can get some bites that way.
posted by jrdnbaade at 7:27 AM on February 1, 2009

It may be too low but check out amazon mechanical turk,
posted by sammyo at 7:39 AM on February 1, 2009

Join an organization that helps its own people. The Mormon church springs to mind, and the Masons. Both those organizations are said throw jobs and orders to members when possible.
posted by RussHy at 8:00 AM on February 1, 2009

If there's a college nearby you could post flyers (or forum ads?) offering proofreading services or something along those lines. If you think you can tutor children or college students in a given subject you can try advertising near the school or in areas where parents hang out.

Other services I can think of are house cleaning, grocery delivery, cooking, and babysitting. House cleaning pays relatively well. I think I saw an ad once offering help with Ikea furniture construction.

It's hard to find clients but on the other hand since you don't need to make much you can offer lower prices, or alternatively spend a little more on appearing professional than you might otherwise.

For finding online work, people here keep suggesting forums for stay-at-home parents. I don't know any specific ones, but it's been covered here a lot.
posted by trig at 8:01 AM on February 1, 2009

Along the Ikea lines: there's a guy I know who posts flyers for very basic handyman services - stuff like screwing things into walls or anything that might require a power tool or two, or physical strength, that lots of people don't have. That's something that's actually useful and potentially cost effective for people who would otherwise need to purchase equipment.
posted by trig at 8:06 AM on February 1, 2009

Seconding Etsy, and adding that you can go there and find crafting ideas, patterns and materials. I've heard that a down economy is a good time to start your own business because people who used to have satisfactory relationships with their vendors start looking for other, cheaper options. That option could be you. Maybe think about past jobs you've had and whether you can offer your services cheaper direct to the kinds of customers your past companies have served. Also see if you can get hired as a temp at a place if they have a hiring freeze - temps could be counted differently from permanent hires and this can allow a department to get the help they need while satisfying their higher-ups that they haven't hired any new permanent people. I know someone who did this years ago during a previous down cycle.
posted by lorrer at 8:10 AM on February 1, 2009

ChaCha is an SMS/chat messaging job. The pay sounds much too low for it to be the only thing you do, but the AskMe thread was interesting. I'd never heard of it before, and haven't tried it.
posted by juliplease at 8:21 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm from Michigan myself, and I understand the economy. I know you'd rather not, but honestly, the only thing I could recommend is moving. It took me a few years out of the state where I grew up to realize that, whoa, the rest of the country isn't like this.
posted by electric_counterpoint at 8:39 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Work from home" ads are almost always not as good as advertised, or a scam. However, you can make money over the internet if you have some sort of IT skill that can be performed online (I'm guessing you might since you said you fix computers, even something like data entry could earn some cash). Try Googling for "freelance jobs" or similar, you'll find tons of sites where you can find short-term jobs, and you can get work anywhere in the world and usually get paid via PayPal or similar. Some sites like ODesk and GetAFreelancer offer protection to guarantee you get payment for the work. If you find jobs through a site that doesn't offer protection, you might want to use a service like to make sure you don't get ripped off by anyone contracting your services. Personally, I run a home-based web development business, and while my main clients are local, I get work all the time from people interstate and international via the net.
posted by Eastgate at 9:39 AM on February 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

Try selling stock photography on microstock sites. It's pocket money, really, but theoretically you could earn the sum you mentioned on a monthly basis if you invest time into it.
posted by leigh1 at 9:54 AM on February 1, 2009

Best answer: I do SupportSpace. Since you say you have computer skills, this may be up your alley. You fix people's computers remotely and get paid for it. I've been a certified expert for a 1+ years. Here's my profile.
posted by ThirstyEar2 at 9:58 AM on February 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, Crossloop has it's own marketplace for something similar to SupportSpace, but I haven't used it much.
posted by ThirstyEar2 at 10:00 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm from Michigan myself, and I understand the economy. I know you'd rather not, but honestly, the only thing I could recommend is moving. It took me a few years out of the state where I grew up to realize that, whoa, the rest of the country isn't like this.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with this. I left Southern Michigan in '92 (I grew up in the Jackson area) due to the utter lack of jobs. And, as far as I can tell, it never got any better. That's 17 years - and it's still a disaster. When I moved to the San Francisco Bay area, I laughed out loud when I opened the newspaper - there were nearly 10 pages of want ads. I walked out the door and got a job the first day. Yes, other parts of the country are being affected by the downturn, but you really do need to get out of Dodge for a while and see what else is available - believe me, it's going to be hard to go wrong - there's not many places in the country worse off than where you are right now. Good luck to you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:03 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another job that can be done remotely online, if you have the skills for it, is tutoring. (The outfit in that link isn't the only one; it's just the first to pop up when I googled "online tutoring.")
posted by Orinda at 10:24 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: In regards to moving out of state.. frankly I'd love to but I don't have the means to do so right now. After I win back my gal and save up some money I'm gonna be out of here asap.

I do SupportSpace. Since you say you have computer skills, this may be up your alley. You fix people's computers remotely and get paid for it. I've been a certified expert for a 1+ years. Here's my profile.

I wish I knew about something like this sooner. This is something I could really get into. Thanks a lot. :)
posted by jrdnbaade at 10:27 AM on February 1, 2009

Can you wait tables? No? Good, you're perfect for the job. Restaurants are always hiring owing to high turnover. You don't need experience, you just need to be able to lie on your resume and in person. Restaurants never follow up with references and if they do, so what? Go to the place next door and try again.

I think restaurants are losing a lot of business right now (and this time of year is already the lowest point for the industry.) I wouldn't recommend it. If you get in at a place with high turnover, chances are the last ten people who quit did so because they werent making jack sh*t. that's why i quit my last waitressing job, six months ago.

i turned to CL (which i described in this thread here.) i think the reason that facepainting works for me is because the type of people who are interested in throwing a big, elaborate bash for Little Precious appear to be those less affected by the economy. Half my clients are doctors, and I've found they also give me the best word-of-mouth type references. also, like i said in that post, try replying to ads even if you aren't fully qualified for what they want. If you're willing to learn, and the only person who expresses interest, who knows? I replied to an ad looking for a poker dealer even though I don't know how to deal poker. but apparently the guy thought i was witty and cute enough for the job. of course, i'm going to have to learn to deal poker now, but if i can make money then it's worth it. and then if i get good at it, i can start branching out maybe get more jobs doing it!

dont spend all your time trying to figure out how to get people to buy what you have to offer. instead try to figure out what services people want, then see whether you could adjust to become the person to offer them.
posted by lblair at 10:29 AM on February 1, 2009

for clarity in the above post- i didn't lie and said i knew how to deal poker, either. i was totally upfront, told the guy 'i have never done it but i bet i could learn. plus i'm awesome.' included the most flattering pic i could scrounge up. done. sell yourself and showcase your best assets! i realize you're not a chick but the idea is the same.
posted by lblair at 10:33 AM on February 1, 2009

I live here too, and the only thing I can say is that you should think about moving. I plan to do it as soon as my degree is all sewn up, barring some kind of miracle.
posted by pullayup at 10:42 AM on February 1, 2009

Michigan Civil Service Commission has listings for jobs by County. Main page.
posted by mlis at 10:46 AM on February 1, 2009

Be sure to keep your hand in on the computer stuff, too. I heard a story on NPR the other day where a computer fixit dude was talking about how his calls have dried up because people try to fix their computers themselves, but then they screw things up and end up calling him anyway, and he gets twice the money sorting out what they did. Increase your advertising, maybe consider slashing your rates.
posted by cabingirl at 10:59 AM on February 1, 2009

You could look at the local school districts. Subbing is probably out because that's what many other people are doing because of the economy, but you might be able to get in as a bus driver, food server or instructional or playground aide.
posted by lemonwheel at 11:29 AM on February 1, 2009

I'm originally from Flint so I feel you big time. My parents still live there, but luckily for them they are retired.

How far are you from Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, or suburban Detroit? I would bet that the unemployment rate is a bit lower in those areas, especially A2. If you can stand commuting, you might want to look into those areas. A2 has the university, Lansing has the government, E. Lansing has the other university, GR had a slightly better outlook than other areas in the west last time I checked. And Southfield, Dearborn, and such areas have always seemed a bit better than average.

It's pretty bad all over the country, unfortunately. I wish you luck!
posted by xenophile at 12:14 PM on February 1, 2009

This is not meant to be snarky, but shave and get a traditional/conservative haircut. Facial hair on a young dude gives a stoner-ish impression on some people.

This might be a good time to go back to school and learn a trade. If you can get financial aid, it might be the solution here.
posted by k8t at 12:54 PM on February 1, 2009

How far are you from Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, or suburban Detroit? I would bet that the unemployment rate is a bit lower in those areas, especially A2.

I lived in A2 before I moved to California - there used to be a joke that Ann Arbor had more PHDs flipping burgers than any other city in the country. It can be pitifully difficult to get a job there - the city just ain't that big and the competition is fierce! Lansing might be a better bet - but there's still going to be a pretty large amount of applicants for just about any job.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:56 PM on February 1, 2009

Looks like you live on the west side of the state. REALLY get a haircut and a shave.
posted by k8t at 1:56 PM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'd have to agree about Ann Arbor.. pretty small compared to the rest of your suggestions. However I live in East Muskegon so I'm pretty darn close to Grand Rapids. I've had a few leads out there through a temp agency but they were looking for more software development experience rather then web development.

College is something I really want to get back into, but my first experience turned me off. I was going for Web Development, and had a lot of trouble with the financial department in getting one of my grants through in time to pay. I ended up getting stuck with a bunch of loans I didn't want in the first place. No no, I shouldn't use it as an excuse.. but after seeing how bad a choice Web Development was for job security I've kind of been afraid to find something new.

Again, thank all of you for your suggestions. I'm starting to feel a little better about my situation.
posted by jrdnbaade at 2:04 PM on February 1, 2009

Dude, I sent you Mefi mail.
posted by amtho at 2:08 PM on February 1, 2009

Since you have a car, you should have a shot at working for the US Census. Competition for these jobs is likely to be fierce, though, where unemployment is high.

I live in an area that has the highest unemployment in the state. A lot of people are starting to get worried. At this point there is still work for most skilled trades, except anything in construction. Every category of business is hurting, though,and closing/layoff rumors are rampant.

It does sound like you have family around also in the same boat, so networking through them isn't likely to help as it might in better times. I would still consider moving, as there are parts of the country still doing fairly well. Keep a little nest egg just in case.

Employment is presumed to remain high in cities where government, insurance, health care, and other recession-resistant industries are important employers. Avoid university towns, as they'll be swamped with college grads with no money and no way out.
posted by dhartung at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2009

I would suggest sticking with the computer repair angle. People freak when their computer snafus, and the only option is to get it fixed or buy a new one, and if everyone is as broke as you say, buying a new one isn't an option.
I would maybe ramp up your marketing. Since money is an issue for everyone, offer a flat rate, one price fixes all (minus any necessary parts, of course). I don't know, $50 computer repair-make it less than whatever the going rate in your area is. Do in-home computer repair for people. Offer a 30 day fix it free warranty. Have your references/ background info ready so that you sound professional about it. Post your ad on CL at least once a day. Flyer the local campuses, markets, etc. Throw up a simple website.
At the very least posting the ad is free, and it can't hurt to try making some $$ until something more solid comes along.
posted by newpotato at 5:50 PM on February 1, 2009

Look outside my window for a good half an hour and you're likely to see 5 different trucks drive by with snow plows attached.

I'll just point out here that in a lot of more suburban/urban areas plows don't help with snow removal because you need to move a lot of the snow before you can clear the driveway with the plow.

If you don't mind a day's hard work, spend some time now finding an area near you that has a high population of elderly folks (as they are more likley to be unable to do this themselves) and that has sidewalks, no garages, and short driveways. This is the neighborhood that will need "by hand" snow removal. Next snowstorm, go to that neighborhood and start knocking on doors. Last week my husband paid some guy $30 to do our sidewalks (we're on the corner, so we have a lot of sidewalks) and to shovel out the end of the driveway, and from watching that same guy go up and down our neighborhood I wouldn't be at all surprised if this one guy and his shovel cleared $300 doing sidewalks and walkways in that one afternoon.
posted by anastasiav at 7:54 PM on February 1, 2009

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