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How To Make A Living At Home A comprehensive guide, by Mandy J Bennett

Working for yourself from home always seems like the most attractive of work options, save winning the lottery. It has the allure of a short commute (from bed to desk), relaxed uniform policy (dress down Monday to Friday) and spontaneous days off (sunny day = park). Many of us dream of leaving the weekly grind behind for a while and trying out working from home. Certainly it can seem a liberating experience when you become your own boss. No one to answer to but yourself, you get to choose what work you do and when you take time off. As the Internet has evolved and matured it has broadened the scope of what is possible in terms of work. Here are a few options to consider.

Freelancing This is one of the most realistic ways of making a living from home and one that is becoming increasingly popular for individuals. There are around 8.5 million freelancers in the European Union and the number increased by 82 percent between 2000 and 2011. In the UK there are around 1.6 million freelancers or 5 percent of the total workforce. Freelancing can be a great way to make money from home and it has the advantage of needing zero upfront investment. According to research by Elance based on 3,000 respondents, 69 percent of freelancers are happier working as a freelancer and 79 percent feel more productive. If you have skills in design, programming, writing, translating or a range of other areas it is possible to earn an income without leaving the house. Be warned though, it can be tough starting out when you have yet to build up a portfolio of work and are just beginning to build up a client base. Initially you may find yourself having to bid ultra-competitively (i.e. at low levels) in order to win jobs. However, once you start completing assignments you will build up positive client feedback that will strengthen subsequent bids and allow you to raise your rates. Most freelancers join one or more websites and bid for jobs that clients post. You can improve your chances of winning work by crafting a profile that concentrates on your key skill areas. It can be tempting to take a ‘spray and pray’ approach, racking your brains and including everything you could try your hand at but this can result in an overly broad profile that clients skip over and disregard because it lacks the focus of a specialist. By all means include a picture that looks professional and gives the right impression. Clients will form assessments of you based on your picture so choose one in a work setting that conveys you will get the job done. When bidding for jobs it is worth spending time on your proposal. Too many freelancers cobble one together and send it out to as many jobs as they can click on. Avoid this - it’s better to send one three well-crafted proposals that address the client’s post than twenty that are irrelevant. I use one basic template that I then adapt according to the assignment. It has worked well and one client even hired me even though their job had finished - they decided to use my services for subsequent work, in part because of the original proposal. Consulting Cafe is a useful site that is mainly for consultants but also has useful advice for freelancers in general. Freelancing websites: Elance: One of the biggest and most established sites for freelancers with approximately 2.5 million registered. Although it is a good site for designers and writers, its popularity means assignments can be competitively fought over, often resulting in low rates. According to the site 48 percent of freelancers won their first job within two weeks of joining, so you may not be waiting too long Photo: before you win an assignment. People Per Hour: A newer site than Elance, it has developed a client base in the UK because of its base there. Good for writers and providers of business services. As a result of its UK base there are fewer bids from freelancers in developing countries and this Photo: helps to keep rates at more reasonable levels. PPH has a ‘Buy now’ feature known as ‘Hourlies’, where clients can buy a particular skill, such as a press release, info graphic or anything else directly from freelancers.

99designs: A great site for designers, this one is competition based. Clients pay a fee to post a project and designers send drafts in response. Clients like it because they see a range of designs and freelancers usually get quite decent rates. Photo:


oDesk: Another very established freelancing site, this one covers a broad range of skills, from writers and recruiters to IT and business services professionals. oDesk has a good time log feature, which works well for jobs paid on an hourly rate, as payments are processed automatically without any quibbling about time spent. Photo:


Freelancer: A fairly large site, it attracts individuals particularly from developing countries with the result that rates are often quite low. There is limited support for freelancers in the event of issues arising and the site maintains that it only as an introducer. Any problems later and you are on your own. GetACoder: For programmers and web designers with a strong global presence.


Playing Poker If you have good card sense and are comfortable around figures you might consider playing poker as a way of making a living at home. Online poker has been going since the late 1990s and really gained credibility in 2003 when an online player, Chris Moneymaker, qualified to play in the 2003 World Series of Poker, subsequently winning the competition. Today there are around 5.5 million players with just under 250,000 in the UK. Online gambling in the UK generated around ÂŁ300 million in 2012, an increase of c.80 percent since 2008. With the continuing rise in popularity of mobile devices it looks likely that this number will rise consistently in the next few years. The biggest online players routinely win (and lose) considerable sums of money. This year alone the three biggest winners, Ben Tollerene, Niklas Heinecker and Alex Kostritsyn have won $8.27 million dollars between them, while the three biggest losers lost $12.26 million, according to High Stakes Database. Good players can realistically make a living from playing poker online but in order to make money you need to be disciplined and treat it as a job, not necessarily in the hours you play but in terms of spending the time on the game and taking it seriously. Online games usually turn around much more frequently than traditional games, potentially hundreds of hands per hour rather than the thirty hands an hour or so in a regular game. If you are winning this can be lucrative, even if you are a conservative player, because you can rack up chips fairly regularly. Another feature of online play is the ability to work several tables at once. Some players try their luck on up to two dozen tables at a time, partly because poker websites sometimes offer bonuses every time a player plays a certain number of hands. Playing many games also means that small, frequent wins will result in good earnings. An interesting feature of online games is that the bonuses can mean that if you break even you will come out on top. Like any form of gambling poker can be a losing bet and players have to be careful to stay within their limits. To counter this some online poker sites have ‘fail safe’ betting limits to allow players to impose restrictions on their stakes. Poker offers advantages over other online games because you are playing against other players, rather than against a company, in the way of sports betting. This means that you do not have to beat the house, just other players. It is sensible to choose a table where a

reasonable proportion of players have a lower skill level than you, if possible - you can see this by the statistics that appear on the screen. Most likely there will be a mix of skill levels as other players may have the same idea but if one-third of players are of a low skill level then it is a good start. Also, try and sit to the right of experienced players. This will ensure that they will play before you do, giving you some protection in a game by Photo: allowing you to wait and see how they are going to play. Another popular strategy that has proven effective is to bet against the style of the table. This means that if a number of aggressive or manic players are on the table to play cautiously and vice versa. It will often result in playing strong hands against bluffs or intimidating players who have hands that are not very strong into folding. Some players have done quite well by playing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, when other players may well be under the effects of alcohol. Playing against alcohol impaired opponents is almost unfairly easy and can be lucrative, although it obviously requires you to stay off the booze and keep a clear head. Remember what I mentioned about treating playing poker as a job? If you are interested in playing poker online try it on a free forum to begin with. This way you can gain experience without actually risking any real money. Make sure you know know good and bad hands inside out so that you can evaluate instantly when you should fold, bet or call. Do this until you are comfortable with the scenario and the environment and are consistently winning. Then once you are ready to step up try one of the ring games or tournaments. Many of these have the option of a free buy-in so you can minimise your risk. A lot of poker sites also offer new players bonuses and freebies to get started so take advantage of these. A typical example would be for players to receive 20 percent on the first deposit (or 100 percent in some cases), so a £50 deposit will give you £60 to play with. Some sites also offer bonuses for topping up accounts, known as reload bonuses, or for playing for specified lengths of time. If you work it properly you can rotate around a few sites, racking up bonuses as you go. VIP rooms or membership levels are also common, where websites reward regular players.

As a side benefit, online poker has the advantage that if you have an expressive face you don’t have to worry about letting your facial expressions give the game away. Your avatar will not look excited when you have a good hand or sweat when you are bluffing. Selling your wares If you can make products that are unique and catch the eye then there are plenty of websites that can help you get your products out there and into the shopping baskets of customers. One of the biggest sites, Etsy, says that it had 800,000 active sellers in 2011 and sales of £328m. Sellers include students, stay-at-home parents, as well as full-time producers. Arts and crafts creations are very popular because they offer people something that is unique and will not be found anywhere else. So, if you have an artistic side why not think of making products that will offer people something a bit different. Most of the dedicated craft retail sites allow users to create a shop window so you can present your products in an attractive setting.


Etsy: Probably the biggest craft site at the moment, it is dominated by US sellers but is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. Very easy to set up, it offers a shopfront for makers of everything from statement rings to decorative pillows and chopping boards. Cafe press: A merchandising.


site for print


of clothes


Folksy: This is similar to Etsy but based in the UK. It does a nice line in wedding gifts and handmade bags and clothing. Photo:

Zazzle: One of the better sites for designs on clothing and it also does custom made wrapping paper, birthday cards and a range of other products. Spread Shirt: Similar to Zazzle but focused on t-shirts, long sleeves and hoodies. All you need to do is submit your design to the site and then you will earn money every time an item with your design is sold, which is a great way to earn passive income. In addition, the site also allows you to open a virtual shop.


Facebook: Not forgetting the old reliable, (if being founded in 2004 is considered old), this is the daddy of social media. Because it is so prevalent it allows excellent opportunities to promote your Facebook page and sell your wares. You can co direct to friends and ask them to share your page, hopefully resulting in more followers and sales. To keep your page relevant you will need to create memorable posts and update regularly so that people know who you are and keep coming back to your page. Photo:

Survey taking This is probably not one to leave your day job for but it can be a good option for making a little extra cash on the side. Think of it as something to do occasionally at weekends or in the evenings. Some sites are better than others - these are some of the most popular ones in the UK.

Photo: m

YouGov: Reputable site whose survey findings are often quoted in the mainstream media. Earnings are small (25p to £1 per survey) but the site will pay for every one you take. In contrast other sites often ask a series of qualifying questions that eventually discount your participation. Payouts with YouGov are made in cash after you have reached £50.

NewVista: Rewards are reasonable but the site often rejects participants after they have answered a number of qualifying questions, which can be frustrating. Rewards pay out after £25. Photo:


Valued Opinions: Payments are on a par with the better survey companies and they arrange payouts after you reach £10. These are in vouchers (e.g. Amazon, Boots, John Lewis) rather than cash. You may find yourself starting but not finishing surveys due to the qualifying criteria.


How To Make A Living At Home  

Working for yourself from home always seems like the most attractive of work options, save winning the lottery. It has th...

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