The Austerity Diaries: If You Don’t Have a Job, Make One Up

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With unemployment rates skyrocketing, going out and finding a new job can be nigh on to impossible these days. This is only going to get trickier as the government continues to force businesses to increase the minimum wage. Workloads that used to provide employment to two people are now forced onto one. The work performed gets shoddier as the one employed person struggles to keep up, and the number of people who are employed gets lower.

If you don’t have a job, consider making one up

Actually, you might be better to make up several, considering the current economy and how difficult it can be to start a business these days. If you are in the midst of a personal economic collapse, you just might be able to change your course be creating your own streams of income instead of relying on an employer to pay you a living wage.

Let me explain what I mean.

There are a lot of little jobs a person can do, that individually don’t pay the bills. However, an organized and industrious person can group a bunch of small jobs into a full-time income if they schedule carefully, work hard, and stay organized. I know, because I’ve done it.

Once upon a time, I did home day care on the weekends, tended bar on Monday and Tuesday nights, did dog-walking and pet-sitting during the week, cleaned house for a person one afternoon per week, and did the shopping and cooking for an elderly neighbor. At the time, I didn’t have a car, so all of this was done on foot.

Twenty years ago, the $400-500 a week I made from doing all of these little odd jobs paid the bills and left me with time for other things.

After that I got a “real” job and spent years in the work force. However, I eventually got “down-sized” at which point I began to revisit this type of money-making system. These days, I have my own website, I am a staff writer for another site, I do some freelance editing and writing, and I do other web-based projects as well.

Again, I make enough to pay for all of our needs and some of our wants, so I’m quite happy with this arrangement.

Set up multiple streams of income

The key to success with this is to have multiple streams of income. Don’t put all of your financial eggs in one basket, because if that should dry up, you’ll be left “unemployed” yet again.  As well, it really helps with budgeting if you are able to say, “This task pays my rent, this task pays my utilities, this task pays for groceries.”

Obviously we all know that living frugally is like making money, but that is a topic for another article. The fact remains there are some things we need money for, so this article is focused on acquiring that cash.

Some of us have specialized skills that make this easier – for example, I am a writer and editor, so I focus my money-earning on those two skills.   Others might be particularly handy, so they might focus their skills on doing home repairs.

You don’t need a skill set to bring in multiple streams of income

You simply have to be willing to do small jobs that may or may not be short term. Here are some ideas to get you started. This list, of course, is by no means comprehensive.

  • Cleaning houses
  • Cleaning out vacated rental properties (as a perk, sometimes you get to keep items that have been abandoned, and you can sell them on Craigslist or make use of them yourself)
  • Yard-work: raking, mowing, gardening
  • Trimming trees
  • Cleaning out gutters
  • Repairing items: home repairs, small appliance repairs – whatever you’re good at fixing, there is likely a person who needs that item fixed
  • Cooking for those too busy to cook for themselves
  • Babysitting
  • Before and after school childcare (It can be really tough for working parents to find someone willing to drive their children to school and pick them up)
  • Weekend or overnight childcare
  • Pet-sitting
  • Dog walking
  • Laundry service (I recommend doing this at a laundromat instead of running up your own utility bills – you can build the price of the coin operated machines into your fee)
  • Run errands – some folks are working during regular business hours and don’t have the time to do those little errands like stopping by the dry cleaner, going to the grocery store, etc.
  • Shovel snow
  • Help people move – if you have a strong back, you can be the hired muscle
  • Wash cars
  • Do a paper route (it’s not just for kids anymore)
  • Recycle aluminum or plastic
  • Recycle scrap metal – if you have a truck, run an ad offering to pick up used appliances, etc.  Most people are thrilled to have someone haul off their old junk.
  • Pick up poop – a friend I used to know made a LOT of money from his willingness to pick up dog poop in people’s back yard on a weekly basis
  • Make and sell…something. Maybe you make jewelry, knit scarves, carve duck decoys – whatever.  Find a venue to sell your handmade items, like Etsy, craft sales, EBay, or the local paper.
  • Rent out a room in your home – you can get big dollars if you live near a college.
  • Sell excess garden goodies from a stand in your front yard
  • If you have a really good eye, you can make money buying cool vintage stuff at yard sales and online, cleaning it up, then reselling it to an antique shop.  Be careful though – you can just as easily lose money doing this.
  • Do you sew? You can make money doing mending and alterations – many tailors charge up to $20 to hem a pair of pants.

A few keys to success

It’s important to make a good impression on your customers. Handle these small jobs just like you would a corporate job and follow these key steps.

  • Be professional.
  • Arrive promptly.
  • Be courteous – the customer is always right.
  • Be tidy in your appearance
  • Work hard
  • Try to exceed the person’s expectations

Keep these principles in mind and you will never be lacking jobs. Word of mouth is the very best form of advertising.

Don’t forget about the barter system

Don’t limit yourself to only doing jobs for money. Is there a good or service that you want? Sometimes you can approach people and offer them a barter, particularly if they are in business for themselves. For example, I used to clean house for the person who cut my family’s hair.

Once I was hired to clean up a person’s yard and I politely asked if we could keep the walnuts that had fallen off their tree. They didn’t mind at all, as they had just asked me to rake everything up and bag it, and it gave us a nice little bonus of a winter’s worth of delicious black walnuts for a weekend’s work.

The website is all about the approach of the barter system should our current economy totally collapse. They state that their website “exists to facilitate networking, local community action, and the exchange of knowledge and ideas. We promote decentralization, localism, and the de-globalization of human economic systems. We aim to work with and support local economies, markets, barter networks, and farmers cooperatives; and to promote alternative currencies and monetary systems.”

Don’t be afraid to approach people about the potential of bartering – the worst thing that can happen is that they say no.

Get the word out

Sometimes you can find work through people you know – maybe they expressed a need to have someone walk Fido partway through the day. Other times, you will need to search a little harder to find customers for your services.

  • Put an ad on Craigslist
  • Find some local message boards online and post your services there
  • Make flyers and hand them out in your neighborhood (be sure to respect the wishes of those homes that say “no flyers”)
  • Post flyers on telephone poles if that is allowed in your area
  • Put a sign in your front yard – I used to advertise “Daycare Space Available” at my home
  • Put an ad in the classified section of your local paper
  • Put a sign up on grocery store or other community bulletin boards

What about you?

Have you ever tried earning a living without a traditional job? Do you have any ideas that you can share in the comments section below?

Note:  Thanks to reader MM for the comment that inspired this article!

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughters and an ever-growing menagerie. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Find a niche where you think you could fit in. Volunteer to work a week or so for free, no strings attached. Follow Daisy’s 6 ‘Keys to Success’ (always) and you may land a job directly or by referral.

  • Have you ever tried earning a living without a traditional job?

    A word of caution though, if you are like me it will foster a sense of independence that will make it almost impossible to work a normal 9-5 for someone else ever again!

  • I have tutored for $20/hr. If my MA degree were in math instead of English, I could command more $$$.

    I held craft camps for children for a week in the summer at at Civic Center. Craft shows take vendors of many skills. I did this for years.

    I sewed for people until I got tired of people. Then, I bought fabric, made my own patterns and sold to a boutique.

    One day, I wanted a $2 chair at a yard sale. I traded a dozen organic eggs for the chair. SCORE! My hens gave me plenty, but not enough to sell regularly.

  • I have earned money through my skills, mostly art and art related ventures, but also other skills, on and off, as opportunities are dropped into my lap by the Hand of God. Not an all inclusive list my any means, I have done well with art from concept work for patent holders, posters for a small opera company, to an art summer program. I also ran a small business via crafts/vendor that did well years ago.

    We sell products from our small farm such as eggs.

    My husband is very skilled in his area, and has been able to earn money when we have needed it.

    My son who is going to school for something totally unrelated, buys and repairs cars to sell.

    My niece does a great cake business having gone to school for pastry, and sits dogs/houses.

    My daughter alters clothing/clothing/general sewing repair when a job shows up.

    None of the above enables any of us to earn enough money to live on. Starting a business is a slow go, and not everyone is willing to pay for the true value of the skill. The hours will be longer and the pay more sporadic.

    If the work turns into a business, then the long arm of government reaches into your pocket. Government is not kind to small businesses, not even to our small farm. Maybe this is only in the northeast compared to other areas of the country, but it is ever present. If you earn it, they will take it from you in part or in whole.

    As an aside, I do not barter. In concept, it is a great idea, but there are tax laws concerning this. I use an alternate idea that is definitely not barter.

    Reducing expenditures is the same as cash, but few agree. Last year I saved a good chunk of money making birthday and Christmas presents for the G’kids. I subtracted what I paid for supplies from the amount that I would have paid for a present for that event. It was a hefty savings. It is unrealistic to count the time.

    I admire you fortitude in your field of expertise and consider you a great example! Having had more than one person advise who aught to know and not flatter, (there was no need either time) I am now looking at art as a business rather than a “butter and egg” income.

  • Great article!

    An idea a very Old guy I know of, he buys old trucks and tears them apart and sells off the parts and makes decent money.

    As I read this article I kept thinking how this falls in line with what FerFal said about going through the economic collapse in Argentina. Something, is better than nothing.
    It might be the difference between a light at the end of the tunnel that’s Not a train, and the downward spiral of despair and …

    Anyway, I guess people are fearful of doing things on their own. [I know I am sometimes.] Afterall, there’s more red tape in the unitedstate than there is in China.

    Imho, Fear, and perhaps a sense of self-preservation or lack of trust, are the only reasons why someone might say, “As an aside, I do not barter. In concept, it is a great idea, but there are tax laws concerning this.”

    On the one hand I understand, on the other…

    And then I wonder, what could possibly be, “an alternate idea that is definitely not barter.”??? Is that like saying, a rose is not a rose, by any other name?

    The rulers of our city do not charge homeowers to have garage sales in our city. I know it’s a bit silly, but it makes my heart swell every time I see a Garage Sale sign or a Yard Sale sign when I’m out and about.
    They’re not dead yet. …And no gunvernment need apply.

    • It is possible that I am a bit more “cautious” about government interference due to the state in which I live. When people move here from another state, I tell them in jest, “If it was legal where you live, it is illegal here.” It is not far from the truth.

      I do not barter because it has limiting applications. An even swap may work, but if you are bartering skills, you are approaching uneven territory. We live in an increasingly deskilled society. With both of us having a rather large skills base, there is very little that the average person could effectively barter with us unless you are talking about raw material. FerFAL is not a proponent of barter. For us, a small business works, and hubs has been self employed for many years. The government is not a friend of small businesses. The small business owner is required to jump through many hoops as well as burdensome financial requirements.

      Our town requires a permit for having a garage/yard sale as well as a laundry list of other permits. If you decide to go forward with your home improvement without the required permit in any part of this state, and then try to sell the house, well, good luck. It ain’t gonna happen.

      • I did not mean to imply that FerFal was a proponent of barter, merely that I have read him say that having – any – job, even if it’s a small part-time job with little income, is better than having No job or income at all when the SHTF or times are tough.

        I have also read how he described the barter ‘clubs’ and marketplaces in Argentina and how they have huge flaws, especially in their use of their very own scripts.
        It works for some, I suppose. But like you said, “you are approaching uneven territory”.

        ‘Me’ wrote, “Our town requires a permit for having a garage/yard sale as well as a laundry list of other permits.”

        Wow. That’s sad. A person learns who really owns your stuff.

        …Just another day in a police state at the foot of the empire, I guess?

        Anyway, thanks for the reply.

  • I have cancer and so my health is not consistently good nor is my energy. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might add to my family’s income with very low energy (fatigue) and intermittent work hours? Any realistic thoughts would be appreciated. 🙂

  • Depending on your skills and tools available, old single-speed bicycles are easy to repair. Collect a few of them and you’ll probably be able to build one good one, for yourself at first. Next (for the sake of this effort too) drive every possible errands with it. At the same time you may seek better replacement parts if needed or happen to come across.

    Depending on your location you’ll probably see better what is going on near you in the real world by a bicycle. You’ll manage to enter places where motoring isn’t allowed or feasible. It won’t be sustainable buying and having a car and gasoline to enable dumpster diving and other treasure hunting. Not that a car wouldn’t be ever feasible at all. Just evaluate and streamline your economics like your boss did.

    Next, keep on collecting bicycle wrecks. Most likely every unit contains something usable for your next bike to sell, trade, barter or whatever. This may apply to just plain spare parts, if not for metal collecting.

    At my location a stream of seemingly repairable Briggs & Stratton powered garden machines get thrown away often for the lack of repair skills or just by plain lazyness. Investigate if this or other similar might be sustainable in the previous sense. Besides completing a sellable unit you might offer service with your equipment that required little or no investment to cover.

    Have your revenge to the system by managing by yourself and not by those who seldom lose their jobs of poorly taking care of your life. You can afford to hand out your share of that to someone more in need which may have an unselfish approach too. Even better would be forcing people realize this and keep themselves out of the lines of mere mismanagement.

    Even a king is hardly any ruler without subjects to rule. If a law dictates a government to have consent from people it is hardly in a ruling position based on the same law without consent. Withdraw your consent and challenge your representative by building bicycles while it is still legal.

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