It may be time to get creative when it comes to making money.
If you are among the millions of Americans without work amid the coronavirus pandemic, you’re facing roadblocks not seen in years. With unemployment hitting post-World War II records and shelter-in-place restrictions ongoing, competition is fierce for the jobs that are available.
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That’s why experts suggest thinking outside the box, whether it is starting your own business or taking a part-time job to hold you over while you look for full-time employment.
To start, take stock of your skill set.
“Think about things that you have done that people have complimented,” said Barbara O’Neill, a distinguished professor emerita at Rutgers University and owner and CEO of Money Talk: Financial Planning Seminars.
You can also take an informal poll and ask people what they think you’d be good at, or take an online skills test. Also, think back to previous work situations and what you really enjoyed doing.
“When you think of all those things together, you’ll see where your skills and interest lie,” said Brie Weiler Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs.
Look at remote work
Remote jobs are becoming more common, with FlexJobs seeing a 7% growth in listings from March to April.
A part-time job may help you make ends meet while you search for a permanent gig.
In fact, part-time work is a “real option to bring in income fairly quickly” because the hiring process tends to be quicker than that of full-time jobs, Reynolds said.
That can mean anything from a few hours a week up to 30 hours a week. If you are on unemployment, check with your state on its policy on receiving partial benefits while working part-time.
FlexJobs has seen an increase for part-time work in customer services and sales, data entry, health-care and medical support, teaching and tutoring and bookkeeping.
Other types of jobs available that may tap into your creative side are digital stylists, writer and copy editors, photographers and graphic designers.
To search for a job, type in keywords rather than job titles to see what different jobs may be a fit for you. Also, beware of scams. If the jobs board doesn’t have a screening process, verify the job is legitimate.
Striking out on your own
You can also just try to make money on your own — and you don’t have to necessarily think about it as starting a business.
“Maybe what they are really just talking about is a bridge to get to the other side,” O’Neill said. “Everybody keeps talking about a light at the end of the tunnel.
“No one is saying how long the tunnel is.”
Once you identify what skill or hobby you want to use, think about how you can make money. That means researching what other people are charging, whether it is per item or by the hour. For example, how much are bakeries charging for a batch of cookies or what are landscapers charging for lawn work?
Create a plan on how to reach your customers. Perhaps start out small with family or friends, and take advantage of social media, she said. Engage with your followers and show samples of your work.
A ‘crazy idea’
When comedian Matt Levy was first laid off from his job as an assistant to the talent manager at a New York comedy club, he didn’t have any major direction. With clubs shut down, he also couldn’t do his stand-up routines.
Then, a few weeks ago, he had what he called a “crazy idea.”
He took to Twitter to see who would like a written profile about their career, comedy, skills or “whatever you want” for $25. He’d publish 1,000 words on Medium and the subject would get publicity.
“I felt like my greatest skill, even more so than just writing jokes, was writing about comedy as a fan in a really reverential way,” Levy said.
“I feel like that passion really shines through.”
He’s already written about 20 profiles, mainly of comics, directors and podcasters. Levy has now upped his price to $40 and may also eventually create an independent public relations company.
Starting a business
With the hurdles small businesses are now facing, it may seem counterintuitive to start your own company right now.
However, some of the most successful businesses have been started during times of economic downturn, said Ross Kimbarovsky, founder and CEO at crowdSPRING and Startup Foundry.
For one, people’s jobs and incomes are cut. Plus finding a job is difficult in this climate.
“They look inwardly and they think, ‘what can I do to make a living,’” he said.
To start, Kimbarovsky suggests assessing how you can make money from your hobby, which means doing your research. Also, create a strong brand identity, assess what it is you need to learn in order to be successful and tap into your social network to see who may offer guidance and who can help with referrals.
Lastly, commit to following through on your plan.
Just remember, you can’t start a business overnight. It could take one to two months to get everything in place, Kimbarovsky said.
“This is a chance for you to say, ‘What if I were to take a different path and invest my energy into starting a business?’” he said.
“You have a lot of successful businesses that were launched when times seemed bleak, by people who said, ’I have nothing to lose.″”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.
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