Work Under the Table
July 30, 2010 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Help me find under the table work in Seattle, preferably part-time.

I'm looking for part-time work in Seattle, and the only must is that it's under-the-table. I'm going to school full-time, which necessitates part-time work. I need to make around 700 a month, although less would certainly help a lot. I'll take anything I can get.

Skills: I'm great at housecleaning, have done phone support, retail, laptop refurbing, filing, receptionist, accounts payable (a loooong time ago), and the only job I've ever completely failed at was waiting tables, back when I was 18. I'm just not good at it. Everything else, well I'm a quick study and I work hard.

I don't really have time to develop my own side business, so I'd like to work for someone else. I'm willing to take less than the position usually makes for under-the-table work (although probably not substantially less).

As for housecleaning, that would be perfect, but I've tried putting ads on craigslist and answering ads (something that has worked great in the past), but in this economy nine billion people are willing to do that for minimum wage (I'm not), so I haven't gotten any bites.

Does anything spring to mind?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a car? IME, smaller restaurants which aren't part of national chains will often hire their delivery drivers under the table, and while the pay isn't much, you can get quite bit in tips.
posted by frobozz at 4:22 PM on July 30, 2010

Babysitting, which may or may not pay better than housecleaning.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:22 PM on July 30, 2010

The "Gigs" section of Seattle Craigslist is a good place to find things like that.
posted by batmonkey at 5:29 PM on July 30, 2010

(oh, wait, just parsed your CL

You'd need to read/ask to see if it's okay still, but folks used to post availability for housecleaning and the like on Seattle's LJ community. Just one other option, maybe.
posted by batmonkey at 5:36 PM on July 30, 2010

Someone I know often goes through online babysitting networks to find a babysitter...
posted by hannahelastic at 5:56 PM on July 30, 2010

There are a lot of ways to do this. (and by "under the table", I guess you mean, you don't want to be on a list of employees and want to control you own schedule, and not that you mean you want to avoid paying taxes, because that second thing would be - like, illegal, and we wouldn't do that, right?)

It works best when you can find the right people ('clients') rather than looking for jobs over and over again. If you kind find the people who are not fabulously wealthy but are close to it and feel they should be, and then get on there good side, they will give you money for all kinds of things. You want to become a part-time entourage or major domo for the people who want a full time one, but can't quite afford it. Pick up your dry cleaning for twenty bucks? No problem, Jim. Find an unusual piece of art for your mother-in-laws birthday? Sure, Meridith. Yeah, I'll wait at your house for the appliance repairman, Ms Adams-Jones.

And this works in bad economies as well as good ones. People who can't keep the maid until eight this year but could last year, well pay you to make them a family dinner once or twice a week (pot roast and tamale pies; they don't want chez sous doing this for them). And dog walking is always a nice thing to do for peeps who like to tip. (but never, never charge to drive their kids anywhere. Bad insurance karma! Do it for free, and the tip will be bigger for the next favor.)

This works, and it works for a lot of people I know, but you have to know, and you have to be and stay 'friends', with several upper-upper-middle class people. (I had this struggling messenger service with five bikes, see, and then....) It seems to work for people in places with two letter names (LA, NY,DC) than others, but their have to be some almost wealthy at Microsoft and Starbucks VPs in Seattle. Getting to know them is the hard part.
posted by Some1 at 6:40 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Catering might be an avenue to explore, although I hear in this economy it is pretty brutal landing regular gigs. However like most things it's tough to find competent people, and if you have a knack for cleaning you're halfway there (the other half being placesetting 100 tables). The money is fairly good, and since the jobs tend to be long long long, you don't need to dedicate many days a week to working.
posted by shownomercy at 7:31 PM on July 30, 2010

Occasional babysitting might work out, but I would advise against it unless you either a) have experience you're not telling about or b) really like kids. I know it's one of the top things that comes to mind when thinking of "under the table" work, but as someone who works in child-care professionally, it's not an easy gig and unless you specifically enjoy spending time with kids, you'll probably be happier doing something else.

Also, it might not work out for you if you're inexperienced and need $700/mo. Going rate is about $10/hr for an evening/weekend babysitter around here (New England. I don't know about your area.) - that is, if you're not hugely experienced. So, you would need to find something that gives you around 70hrs/mo, reliably. Maybe, maybe you can stretch that up to $12, but again, you'd need to get steady gigs with more than one family to make that work if you're really depending on this for income.

You could easily make this as a part-time nanny, but that pushes the ethics/legality of "under the table" work to the extreme, both for you and for the family. It's possible, sure, but I don't advise it unless you really like kids and are willing to take a huge gamble with the IRS.

(Full disclosure: I'm a nanny who pays taxes. I would never advise someone to work under the table, just trying to help the OP.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:52 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some1, I think OP wants to get paid under the table so they can continue getting the same financial aid package the currently get. The idea at most schools is that the amount of financial aid you get is tied to your income, he wants to make more money, but not lose the aid that would then go to someone else who makes less money now then the OP.

(Or, yes, he thinks that paying taxes is something the rest of the country should do.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:40 AM on July 31, 2010

I think working for someone else under the table could put them in an awkward position, legally and ethically, and I also think (as a student) that developing an independent sideline is actually pretty convenient. If you strike the right target, it's actually easier and most importantly, more flexible, than looking for/working for an employer. No running between campus and hospital on your lunch break. Not that I would know anything about that.

Don't limit yourself to Craigslist, or even just the internet as a whole, when advertising your services. Lots of people who REALLY NEED the services you can offer don't read Craigslist and may not be internet savvy, or just aren't in the habit of looking for hired help that way. Older folks who need help around the house & yard, or basic computer servicing, or even dog walking, are going to respond to ads in the paper classifieds, a posted sign at the market, or even a sign on a streetlight pole.

It sounds low-tech and ridiculous, maybe, but I live in a very large city, and believe me, people make money doing this. Lots of them, apparently.
posted by Ouisch at 7:26 AM on July 31, 2010

Bar work is very often under the table. So, bar backing might be ideal.
posted by josher71 at 11:52 AM on July 31, 2010

If you only make like $700/mo, you probably won't risk changing your aid package that substantially. I made about $25k the year before I went back to school, and my "expected family contribution" was still nearly 0 (I didn't have to list my parents because I'm old enough).
posted by ishotjr at 2:45 PM on July 31, 2010

(and this was on the FAFSA, not school-specific)
posted by ishotjr at 2:45 PM on July 31, 2010

If I lived in the Seattle area and needed to start my own business, I'd offer to run errands for Microsofties. Pick up and drop off dry cleaning & laundry, prescriptions, return things, wait for repairpeople, pet checking-on (just short of, say, dog walking, but the emergency 'i'll walk your pet on the one-off when you end up having to stay late to make a deadline' is very attractive to people). I'd avoid anything that has to do with kids. You can market yourself by making fliers and hanging them in businesses near campus (fred meyer, 7-11, uwajimaya, etc.) and of course on CL. the whole "I'm a student who needs to make extra cash" would appeal to people, a lot.
posted by micawber at 8:31 PM on July 31, 2010

Thanks guys, there are some good suggestions here. I need to start posting fliers, first and foremost. Craigslist business is down for everyone, and I suspect that fliers might help bridge the gap.

Bar backing sounds like something I could do, but I've never seen a bar back job advertised. Guess I could call up a few places and ask, and also ask if they know any place else that's hiring.

Babysitting is a great idea for filling in the gaps, and kids tend to like me, but I feel awkward around them, so I'll save the babysitting for friends, I think. Catering sounds AWESOME. I've helped set up for and take down events as a volunteer, and I already know I'm good at it. Again though, I'll have to investigate how to find those jobs.

And last, I wanted to tell the commenters that this has nothing to do with wanting to "screw the system," and nothing, even, to do with keeping financial aid for school. I have a printout hanging on my fridge right now, from my old pharmacy. The amount of the bill for that one month was almost three grand. That's what my monthly medications cost. $3000 a month or $36,000 a year.

If I drop out of school, I will never have a stable, secure job, and, stable, secure health insurance. Right now I get charity care from a local hospital. If I work, even part time, I lose that. I want to live. So I am going to. Live, finish school, and pay a buttload of taxes.

I know I won't change anyone's mind, because the type of folks who spoke out are the types who think you somehow deserve bad genetics, or illness, or bad luck. But I wanted to explain, for those of you who kindly suggested that I could still get financial aid for school. You're right, I can, but my reasons are a bit different that what everyone guessed at.
posted by thelastcamel at 12:31 AM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

Thelastcamel, thank you for clarifying that. I can absolutely understand the issue with your Rx situation--I take expensive medications myself.

I'm curious, have you checked your school's student health center to see if you can get your prescriptions there? You might be able to save some money that way. also, if you go to the university doctor as a new patient, he/she might set you up with a month or so of samples to get you going when he writes the prescriptions, which can also really help out!
posted by misha at 10:46 AM on August 1, 2010

That's what my monthly medications cost. $3000 a month or $36,000 a year.

I know this goes a bit beyond your question, but assuming you can handle this and your other bills through to when you graduate (I hope you can / do), when you start job-searching, you should consider looking into other countries. I don't ever want to live in the US again if I have any kind of serious medical condition develop in my future.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:25 AM on August 2, 2010

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