The pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on the worldwide economy, with an impact that has the potential to affect society for years to come. The way the country goes to work and does its work has changed massively, with the gradual move to remote working becoming accelerated, and the demise of many businesses hastened.

The result for many people has been a change of working environment or the need to find a source of income from elsewhere, either to replace earnings for a job they no longer have or to supplement the earnings of their current job after a cut in hours or benefits.

This means that many people are now exploring the options of what is commonly known as a ‘side-hustle’ or a ‘side-gig’, which is a term used for any small business enterprise undertaken by an individual, usually working alone and from home, to earn extra money.

None of this income is guaranteed, and much of the early work in starting up a ‘side-hustle’ has little or no reward. Taking this into account, as well as the vast amount of choices available to anyone wishing to do their own thing, this post is going to examine four possibilities and discover the pros and cons of each one.

All of these possibilities were chosen due to the relatively low start-up costs, the ability to complete them without having to hire premises or staff, and how they suit somebody on a lower income with few savings.

The first possibility to be examined will be the one that is probably the easiest to start and involves the world’s largest online retailer.

1 – Amazon Reseller

The inevitable rise of online shopping has been hastened by the current pandemic. This has led to Amazon taking the lion’s share of the business, and in doing so, has opened up the opportunity for individuals to profit on their coattails. A great deal of what is sold on Amazon is not at all owned by Amazon but instead by small sellers who use the platform to sell their own goods in exchange for a commission, in much the same business model that eBay used successfully.

Amazon FBA

Where Amazon has taken this further, is with the introduction of their ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ service. This involves the smaller sellers sending their stock to be warehoused by Amazon, who will also pick, pack and ship all of the orders. This does of course, come at a price, which is offset by the lower postage costs and the fact that once warehoused, the stock qualifies for the ‘prime’ delivery service that is a deciding factor in so many online purchases.

FBA has no lower limit, and sellers are only charged for the space they take up in the warehouse. This business model has been used successfully by many individuals and small businesses who now owe their livelihoods to selling on Amazon.

Many of these sellers, however, import their goods by the container load, which is far beyond the means of the budding ‘homepreneur’. The possibility being examined here is where the individual sources stock using more everyday methods, without using an importer or wholesaler, and resells that item on Amazon for a profit after costs.

Reseller business model

In this model, the reseller targets the clearance lines found at major retailers. For example, a discontinued line of hair straighteners is being sold for $15. The reseller checks the price on Amazon (say $40), and if an acceptable profit margin is found, the reseller purchases all of the available straighteners at that price.

The products are then sent to Amazon FBA and the reseller lists the product on Amazon at their preferred price. When the product sells, the profit after costs is credited to the reseller. In this business model, the profit is frequently used to buy more stock, so the reseller will see little return for their effort in the initial phase.

Other drawbacks include having money tied up in stock for long periods if the products selected are slow sellers and that storage charges still apply while products are waiting to sell. This method is a very gradual way of making extra money.

In the plus column, however, the seller is creating a business and taking advantage of such heavyweight resources. Profit levels are quite high, and the time involved should not interfere too much with the rest of the reseller’s life, as the only involvement is at the purchasing stage.

2 – Mobile Home ‘Flipping’

With the FBA model, the process involved buying an item and then selling it on for a profit. This profit can then be banked or reinvested into the business model to increase the fund for the next purchase.

This next model to be examined works on a similar principle but the product in question is not a pair of hair straighteners or fragranced candle,  but instead a mobile home. This opportunity does involve leaving your home and even getting your hands dirty but has greater short term potential than Amazon FBA.

What is property flipping?

Property flipping is buying a residence with the sole purpose of adding value to it, then selling it to a buyer for a profit. This process has been popularized on many TV programs over the last decade, where it has been seen as a quick route to easy riches. This is not always the case and can lead to individuals having money tied up in a property they cannot afford to repair or a property that is slow to sell with interest payments on loans eating into any profits.

Again, the price of a home is going to be way beyond the limits of a budding ‘homepreneur’s’ budget. So, as with the FBA model, it is a case of scaling things back to make it work. In this case, the homes being flipped are not duplex or apartments but a mobile home.

Mobile home-flipping model

The process is much the same as is seen on ‘house-flipping’ TV programs; however, both the budgets and timescales are reduced to create flexibility for the smaller investor. A mobile property is appraised based on price and potential, taking into account the value that can be added for the smallest cost.

As with larger properties, the biggest profits are possible where only cosmetic work is required, and no major fixtures and fittings need to be replaced. Properties to be avoided are the ones that are low in price, but the amount of repair work involved would be too costly or would take too long.

Pitfalls in this model are numerous for the unwary, especially those who are unskilled in home maintenance or decorating. Buyers trying to do all of the work themselves to save money is a precarious choice if the individual does not have time or the skills to do a good enough job. 

Attending a course

Unlike FBA, a grounding in the principles can be a necessary step for mobile home flipping and can be learned either by attending courses on home maintenance or a mobile home wholesale course to explain the principles involved. Examples of successful flips are homes bought, for $1200, with a similar amount investing in remodeling and a sale price of around $7000.

Timescales for this model will vary at anything from a week to a month, depending on the level of contractor involvement and amount of work needed to improve the property.

3 – Virtual Assistant

While both of the previous models involved some sort of outlay and followed a business model where an item was sold, this possibility for earning extra money does not need any outlay at all and involves a straightforward time for money arrangement.

What does a virtual assistant do?

The image of virtual assistants is one of an online version of an old-school ‘secretary,’ but the truth is that the modern role involves doing pretty much whatever somebody else doesn’t have time to (or doesn’t want to) do themselves.

This can include scheduling social media posts or building and maintaining websites as well as the usual answering of emails. The hours involved can be suited to both full and part-time commitments, and hours can be flexible and worked around other commitments.

The level of involvement can vary according to the individual’s skill base, where having minimal skills will involve lower-paid ad hoc tasks, and an experienced administrator would undertake more involved tasks. This model works with much of the equipment already in most homes, such as a laptop and internet connection, although additional backup for files and software to keep data secure.

Can it replace a full-time income?

Many virtual assistants (or VA’s) will juggle several clients at once depending on workload. The initial drawback with this is the VA is working to somebody else’s schedule just like their day job, and earnings are restricted by how many hours the VA can dedicate to their new venture.

On the plus side, the returns are instant, and the cash tied up in the business model is next to nothing. The potential to replace a full-time income with a better one is a possibility as skills and experience is gained from working with clients.

4 – Online language teacher

As with the Virtual Assistant role, an online teacher’s role is another simple time-for-money exchange. It is also a work from home position with limited start-up costs using equipment already in most homes, like a laptop and existing internet connection.

The flexibility for this role is not as great as for the VA position, as the hours involved can interfere with other aspects of daily routines. However, the only extra skill potentially needed by an online language teacher is the ability to speak their native language.

Opportunities for native language speakers

The reason behind this opportunity is a simple one. Parents in other nations are keen for their children to speak English (especially American English), and despite the hundreds of online language speaking courses and apps, some pupils will always respond best to one to one teaching.

So, as each child will need the attention of an individual tutor, the need for tutors has grown massively in the last few years. It is not hard to imagine the many pitfalls that could occur while performing this task, so online language teachers almost exclusively work via an agency.

These agencies will connect pupils with potential teachers for online lessons at a given time. The biggest growth area for this is with Chinese pupils, so depending on where in the country the individual lives, this is potentially late evening work that can be completed after a day job.

Income replacement possibilities

As with the VA role, this has the potential to replace a full-time income for lower-paid individuals. However, some form of certification is necessary, and the higher paid jobs go to those with experience and who receive good feedback from parents.

This role is not to be taken lightly by those who have little experience with children or have trouble keeping appointments, as any venture into this field for those people is likely to be short-lived. Also, the late nights can have a negative effect on the individual’s other employment if they have any.

In conclusion

The range of possibilities for the budding ‘homepreneur’ is varied as these four examples show and covers all the bases from those who simply would like an upgrade from their day job to those who are future property tycoons. The ability to work from home has given extra flexibility to those undertaking the work and allows those who have caring responsibilities to have a stronger placement in the job market.

Also, there is a greater possibility than before to create an income from multiple streams so that an individual is not just reliant on one source of income or the demand of a single industry. For instance, an individual could divide their time between all four of the examples outlined in this post, creating a situation that would see an income of one type or another coming in regardless of what is happening in the outside world.

This is something that, in the current crisis and the expected fallout for the economy in the near future, it is not hard to see the benefits of.