Need side job advice for lacking income
January 30, 2008 11:04 AM   Subscribe

What can my wife and I do to supplement our lacking income?

We're newly married college students and I'm unemployed. She has a job as a tutor but it's still not the greatest pay. My wife and I are trying to think of something that I/she/we can do on the side to maybe earn a bit of extra income at least until I can get a decent full-time job, maybe even after, possibly one day turning it into a sort of small business. We're having trouble thinking of what we could do, though.

I love computers (I plan on studying computer science this upcoming fall semester), although I'm not too terribly skilled at the moment. I am studying up, though, and try to tinker around when I can, and study C++ and some basic web design as much as possible. I also love languages, and learned Tagalog (Filipino) fluently as a missionary living in the Philippines. I also like cooking. I like playing games but that doesn't really help me earn a living so I try to avoid it lately. ;)

She likes doing crochet and knitting as a hobby, but she's not really passionate about anything that I can think of, except maybe reading. She loves to read.

It's not anything that is ultra-crucial to happen right this instant, we're not starving by any means, I just would like some ideas to help us know where to focus our attention and get something going. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
posted by macsigler to Work & Money (37 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Where do you live?
posted by desjardins at 11:07 AM on January 30, 2008

Get Rich Slowly has some suggestions on this matter, today
posted by seawallrunner at 11:14 AM on January 30, 2008 [5 favorites]

Depending upon how Mormon you are, there's always pornography.

Other things you can do: I had a pal in high school who made fair cash by tutoring Filipinos in English—that you know Tagalog is a huge advantage there. She charged $35 per two-hour session, and it was enough for some extra walking around money.

There are also usually campus jobs you can look for. I know that my college paper was ALWAYS looking for reliable writers, and was willing to train folks. You might also be able to do web design or IT support.
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 AM on January 30, 2008

Do either of you play a musical instrument? Music lessons are always a good extra source of income, if you have the knowledge to pass along...
posted by LN at 11:15 AM on January 30, 2008

Babysitting? As a parent I much prefer young grown-ups to teenagers. Spread the word among the faculty in your department if you're interested.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 11:18 AM on January 30, 2008

Love computers? Love learning languages? Then ride the outsource wave to India because that's where all the IT jobs are heading. Seriously, "computer science" and "decent full-time job" are becoming increasingly mutually exclusive terms. If you're not too far along in your education, I would seriously reconsider a computer science degree unless you intend to follow through with a masters and either teach or become some hot shot consultant or engineer.

As far as working for yourself... you and your wife can either provide a service or a manufactured good. Regardless, it needs to be something that is desired in your community and for which there isn't already a competitor. Maybe this means you become tour guides, or you make high end cheese, or your open a haberdashery. There are finite opportunities out there so it really comes down to a process of elimination.
posted by wfrgms at 11:20 AM on January 30, 2008

Donate plasma.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:22 AM on January 30, 2008

I was going to also suggest babysitting. From what I hear it's a killer deal these days. The parents I know tell me that so few kids are willing to sit that parents end up paying a big premium. The fact that your wife is an adult will probably help her command an even higher rate. She could tie the tutoring in with that maybe.

Also, she could sell her crafts on I haven't had any experience with it but I hear it's the eBay of handmade goods, or something like that.

You could prepare meals for people for a fee. For example, you charge them for the food and the cooking (or they buy the food you tell them what to get) and you go to their houses and cook a week's worth of meals and they store and eat them.
posted by ml98tu at 11:32 AM on January 30, 2008

In a lot of states you can take a really easy test and then get an emergency teaching credential that will allow you to substitute teach. The pay isn't amazing, but you its about as flexible a job as you are going to get, which allows you to go on interviews and start a new job at the drop of a hat.
posted by whoaali at 11:35 AM on January 30, 2008

Depending upon how Mormon you are, there's always pornography.

This is completely unhelpful. Which way would Mormonism cut?

More seriously, I understand that part-time telemarketing can be a flexible way of earning additional money. I say this despite holding telemarketers in lower esteem than I do pornographers.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:41 AM on January 30, 2008

I would work the language angle, depending on where you live at. So many businesses look for folks who can speak to their customers in their customers' languages.
posted by cashman at 11:45 AM on January 30, 2008

She could open up a store on etsy and sell her handicrafts there.
posted by arnicae at 11:45 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

You mention that your wife knits and crochets. Speaking as a crafter myself, man, don't even think about selling handknit/crocheted stuff. It will burn you out so fast, and if you want to cover more than just materials and labor, you're going to have to put prices pretty high, since enough good quality yarn for a sweater can easily run $60-100.

Etsy's been mentioned; if she's interested in dyeing her own yarn, there are a lot of indie yarn dyers doing pretty well on Etsy (and some go from there to being carried in yarn shops), and a lot of knitters who adore indie hand-dyed yarn. I've dyed my own stuff before and it's fairly quick and easy. I have no idea how much money it would pull in, especially considering there are so many dyers already out there and there are the start-up costs of getting a bunch of undyed yarn, dyes, etc. There are tons of dyers on Ravelry if it's something you're interested in; talking to them might give you a better idea of what it involves.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:47 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is either of you good at proofreading/editing? A teacher friend of mine was between jobs and started her own editing/proofreading business.

If you do this, just make sure to charge enough--it's very time consuming, much more so than one might think. In my opinion--as someone who has done proofreading and editing--$25/hr is the minimum you should charge. You'll be working hard for it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:51 AM on January 30, 2008

Temp agencies & telemarketing.
For good benefits, there's always Starbucks at only 20 hours/week. Might not bring in the big bucks, but it can save money depending on your wife's health insurance status.
Look around and for entry-level IT positions. Particularly help desk jobs because of the entry-level connotation. You might get lucky and find a decent gig to start out a computer career.
Web site consulting & design. I don't know much about this field, but I've heard there's a few bucks to be made independently.
OTOH, depending on your tinkering skills, you can always undercut bigtime repair shops for like $25/hour and make some money that way.
posted by jmd82 at 12:13 PM on January 30, 2008

Response by poster: Pornography is out. Just no.
We live in Rexburg, Idaho, and we attend Brigham Young University-Idaho. I'm not a full-time student until Fall, though, so I can't get an on-campus job.
I could deal with another telemarketing job but I hate it so it's an absolute last-ditch option. :P
I sing, my wife can play oboe and flute.
posted by macsigler at 12:32 PM on January 30, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, also, the sad thing is that there's almost no demand for Tagalog speakers here. It's all about Spanish. :(
posted by macsigler at 12:33 PM on January 30, 2008

I have no idea if this is viable, but could you perform music at weddings - during that time before the ceremony starts? Background music basically.
posted by ml98tu at 12:35 PM on January 30, 2008

Find computer work you could do at home on eLance.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:36 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

some medical testing pays really well!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 12:42 PM on January 30, 2008

I sell computers. I look for really good deals, buy then, then mark them up about $100 on craigslist. I just started but this month so far I have made over $300. I sell them brand new in the box unopened, with warranty still. I wish I had better volume but $300 a month covers a car payment!
posted by thilmony at 1:06 PM on January 30, 2008

The "etc" category on craigslist often has some interesting one-shot deals for employment, stuff like manning a booth at a grocery store for a day for $12-$15 an hour or something similar. It isn't consistent employment but some of it can be fairly lucrative when you compare it to the average McJob.
posted by 45moore45 at 1:19 PM on January 30, 2008

I don't know if BYU-I does a lot of research, but research labs pay well for research monkeys. Might check your local paper for ads like "Do you have allergies? We're testing a new medication. Try it for a month and we'll pay you $300."

My former roommate did it. Didn't even take the medication. A check for $300 was cut for her. Seems like pretty easy money.
posted by General Malaise at 1:27 PM on January 30, 2008

To expand upon my earlier comment, donating plasma is completely viable and can be quite lucrative. Where I live, your first "donation" nets you $35, then you get $55 the second time, and $25 every time after that. You can donate 2 or 3 times a week. This can add up to a couple hundred bucks a month extra, and all you have to do is sit in a chair for a half hour and read a book.
I did this in college because there was a Biomat center right next to campus.
Bonus: after you get your precious bodily fluids sucked out of you by whatever evil corporation actually collects plasma, you can drink at the bar on the cheap! Because, you know, one beer and you're done for the night.
My good friend's mom helped pay for part of their wedding by selling plasma.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:37 PM on January 30, 2008

Also, I would recommend substitute teaching.

Once, also in college, I had a really awesome gig working for a major leasing company that ran apartment complexes - I was a secret shopper (so to speak) - apparently, leasing companies do this a lot. You get some location assignments in the mail, then you go out there and pretend like you're going to rent an apartment, check the place out, then you write a review of the leasing agent and boom! Check for $70 comes in the mail.
You do it on your own time, as much as you want. It was great. I would sometimes take friends (male and female) with me to act as my SO. Loads of fun.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:39 PM on January 30, 2008

I always recommend test prep teaching with Princeton Review or Kaplan. I did it for years, in college and med school, and it was a great deal. Pay was good (I started at $16/hr or so, and this was years ago), and it's infinitely flexible. Plus it's sort of fun. The requirements are really basic...if you didn't do well enough on your SATs in high school, you can take one of their practice tests to qualify.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 1:59 PM on January 30, 2008

When our kids were young and we didn't want to pay for daycare, one thing Mrs. Doohickie did was sell Pampered Chef kitchen gadgets. She made enough to pay our mortgage at the time, working nights and weekends. It only costs $155 to get started, which in the grand scheme of in-home shows is pretty much nothing at all.

This is not a gender-specific thing; either one of you could do it. One of the more successful "kitchen consultants" my wife knew was a guy.
posted by Doohickie at 2:23 PM on January 30, 2008

Mod note: a few comments removed - take mormon derails to email or MeTa
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:25 PM on January 30, 2008

The Idaho Job Bank has two web design jobs available in Rexburg. I can't link to them, but I think you'll find them. One is a web marketing job, really. But, the other is for a part-time web designer. Good luck!
posted by parmanparman at 2:47 PM on January 30, 2008

Well, it's not glamorous, but there's always waiting tables or bussing. It will make you cash. I have a pretty nice job at a local coffee-shop, I don't get enough hours to pay the bills but it's something.
posted by Anonymous at 2:57 PM on January 30, 2008

Do you have outdoorsy skills? I lived in Bozeman (attended MSU) and it was a typical college-student thing to be a fishing/hiking/rafting guide for all the damn tourists that showed up every spring/summer. If you're really into it, eventually you could have your own business. Or just do it on the weekends, whatever. I knew people that did rafting trips one day a week and made a good amount of money. Also, you live near Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Can you get a summer job there?
posted by desjardins at 4:11 PM on January 30, 2008

Don't limit yourself to local work. For example, you know a unique language. Maybe you can bill yourself as a Tagalog tutor through one of the language-teaching sites. With Skype the calls are free; you just need to figure out a payment system (Paypal?).

Or maybe you could help a Philippine contact set up an ethical outsourcing firm in the Philippines, or offer to help an existing Philippine firm with translation. You could do that over the internet, too. Or how about a fair trade business selling Philippine crafts to North Americans?
posted by PatoPata at 4:17 PM on January 30, 2008

Are you fluent enough to be a translator/transcriber? My Japanese roommate gets a few side jobs from an editor once in a while. Contact any websites/publications that target the Tagalog-speaking audience, including governmental agencies, tourism sites, etc. Good luck!
posted by lychee at 5:37 PM on January 30, 2008

1. Babysitting - I make $15 an hour babysitting for a couple in my neighborhood. I live in the city and the couple is pretty wealthy so that might be on the high end, but it's still easy money - especially since most of the time the kid is asleep.

2. Craigslist - I have gotten some weird, easy jobs on Craiglist, including helping a guy create a dictionary for his invented language. Seriously. It paid $10 an hour and I did it at home in front of the TV.

3. Nonprofits - Check out the websites for some local nonprofits. Sure, they're always looking for volunteers, but many organizations also hire part-time or temp workers to help out with a special event, fund drive, etc. Once you get involved with one non-profit, they'll be calling you all of the time to come help out.

4. Substitute Teaching - You probably won't be able to do this without a college degree, but it's a great part-time job. Most school districts use an on-line system and you can pick the days and classes you're willing to cover.
posted by jrichards at 7:22 AM on January 31, 2008

If either of you are good with animals, consider pet-sitting for friends and neighbors (or coworkers once you land that full-time job) when they go out of town. $10-20 a day to play with a kitty or doggie!
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:52 AM on January 31, 2008

Response by poster: I'm getting a bit discouraged. :(
Since I'm not a full-time student, I can't get any on-campus jobs. I like doing computer stuff, but I don't really know how to do any technician-type stuff, I'm not that great at Photoshop and I could maybe make websites but have nothing really to put in as content. I've got no ideas. :P
Oh, and I hate needles, so I'm really not wanting to do plasma. And telemarketing is a last-ditch effort. I'd rather fast for 48 hours straight than have to go back.
It's a small college town so there really isn't much out here except maybe a bunch of restaurants and things. I might have to go get a job as a dishwasher or cook, assuming anyone's hiring.
I can't find anything online I can do with Tagalog, either, that doesn't require some kind of certification or stuff like that.
posted by macsigler at 12:04 PM on February 1, 2008

How old are you and your wife? Being older severly limits what you can do.

Being a waiter is how my cousin put himself through grad school. If your wife is pretty, being a waitress at a decent restaurant is likely to pay far better than tutoring. The main job requirements for each is being presentable [in speech and appearance], polite, and reliable [showing up on time, every time].
posted by rr at 11:26 AM on January 10, 2009

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