Ideas for Self-Employment

With the recession biting hard and many people being laid off, self-employment beckons. It's better than sitting at home doing nothing.

However, what type of self-employment? Some fields are saturated. Other fields require capital and qualifications to enter. Here are some ideas of what types of self-employment to try:

Consulting

If you've just been laid off, chances are that you could get some work for the company you've just been laid off by, on a self-employed "consultant" basis. This works particularly well for those in the white-collar professions - accountancy, law, IT, actuarial. Often this means that you are doing exactly the same work as before, but on a piecemeal basis, and the company doesn't have to worry about long-term contracts. The company concerned usually still has work they need done, and the benefit of using an ex-employee is that you are a known quantity and also don't need training.

One friend of mine used to work for a big insurer maintaining their legacy IT systems. She got laid off, but within weeks got a phone-call from the managers asking her to come back. It turned out that no-one else in the department knew much about the legacy systems (they were all working on the newer systems), so they needed her badly - they had laid off the wrong person! She did go back, but decided to go back as a consultant, not an employee, and charged them a good bit more than they were paying her before. (As an aside why did they lay her off in the first place - the truth is that she was a very quiet employee and didn't go to the pub with the others every Friday, which meant that the management didn't really know her or what she did (as she wasn't around blowing her trumpet). They only realised her worth after she left. This happens more often than you would think.)

How to get this type of work: contacts are very important, as well as reputation. You need to let all the managers at your firm know that you are happy to come back to work as a temp or self-employed consultant. You need to leave on a good note. No matter how bitter you are at being laid off, be professional and resist the temptation to tell them exactly what you think. Don't even bad-mouth the company to colleagues - it's curious how information gets from colleagues to the management. Keep your thoughts to yourself and save it for when you get home (the only persons it is safe to vent to are your spouse and your parents).

Freelance writing and writing for Adsense

The internet means that you can earn some money online by writing articles. There are two ways to go about this: the first is where you write for other people on a freelance basis, and get paid either up-front, or a tiny amount per page view. Sites like Helium, Associated Content and Textbroker all require writers to fill their sites with content, and will pay you small amounts to do so.

The downside for this type of writing is that the payments are very low - the bulk of the profit is kept by the site itself. You will have to write tons to make a living this way.

You can also write on a per piece basis on sites like iwriter, where someone will commission an article and pay you a set fee.

The second way is to write on your own sites and monetize your pages with Adsense. In a sense that's what the sites like Helium and Associated Content are doing - they have Adsense on their sites, and make their money from readers clicking the ads. And they are clearly making enough money to pay their overheads, pay the writers and make a profit. Setting up your own website or blog with Adsense just means you cut out the middleman and keep all the profits.

You can set up a free blog with Blogger.com, or sign up free with Hubpages to publish your material. You will also need to learn search engine optimization in order to get your pages to be found in the search results, and make no mistake, this can be tough. But the earnings can be substantial if you put in the effort to learn it.

Internet Marketing

Internet Marketing (also known as affiliate marketing) is where you have a website which you use to direct traffic to an online retailer such as Amazon, who then pay you an introduction fee or commission for every sale they make from someone you've directed to them.

The good news about this is that there are no barriers to entry - you won't have to put up any capital, buy any stock or spend any money. You just need a landing page, and can set one up free on sites such as Squidoo, and you will also need to choose an affiliate network to register with.

The downside is that competition is fierce, it's tough to get your page to the top of the search engine results, you will need to put in a great deal of time and effort learning and implementing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). But if you've been laid off, time is something you have, so you might as well use it. See the articles on the right, which should help you get started.

It's now also possible to earn money by making helpful videos showing people how to do small things - jump-start the car etc - and build up a following on youtube.

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