Work from home options – how can I make money from home?

Working woman from home on teleconference

I have researched and experimented with work from home options for over a decade and I’ve found that there are two primary ways to do it.  The first is to trade your time for money as either an employee or a freelancer. The second is to build a business and make money by selling some kind of product or service. Both categories have their positives and negatives, it just depends on what will match your needs best. Below is some more detailed information on the different work from home options:

Trading time for money

Positives: With this work from home option, you will typically have money coming in on a regular basis from when you gain an employee or client. It is a common path to take, with a lot of information available on how to do it.

Negatives: Your income is limited to the number of hours you can work. You often will have spent some or a lot of money on education to qualify for the work.

Just as a note – if what you really want to do is start a business, trading time for money can be a transitional way to bring money in while you are getting your business setup. By working from home, you are reducing your stress and getting your commute time back to focus on your business.

Work from home as an employee

There are more and more workplaces that provide a flexible work from home option for their employees. Often, this is only occasional working from home, but sometimes it is available full-time.  This can be either salaried or hourly work, but you are basically trading your time for money. Your pay will vary greatly depending on the position, starting from minimum wage to a six figure salary plus.

Positives: Being an employee can be nice in that you will generally have a steady paycheck. Your employer takes care of withholding taxes from your paycheck. They often spend quite a bit paying for benefits. I calculated that I was making 40-50% more in benefits above my salary when I was an employee. If you’re already an employee in a position that could work from home, it will be easier for you to transition your existing skills to a work from home job. Your cost to actually find and interview for a job is minimal.

Negatives: On the other hand, your income is limited by the number of hours you are allowed to work by your employer. You need to be able to convince your managers to give you promotions and raises to increase your income over time. Since you are dependent upon one source of income, if you get fired or laid off you won’t have any money coming in. You will usually still be expected to work the typical 9-5 schedule. If the job is a higher level job, you may have spent thousands of dollars on a college education to qualify for the job.

You can find more information about how to work from home as an employee in this post.

Work from home as a freelancer

Next, working from home as a freelancer is the second work from home option to trade your time for money. Your pay will vary greatly depending on the work, the client, your experience, and so forth. Pay can start at minimum wage to hundreds of dollars per hour for some very high demand freelancers.

Positives: This option provides a more flexible schedule and work location than an employee.  You can build up as few or as many hours of work as you’d like. With multiple clients, you will still get paid by other clients if work from one client stops. You can also build up more hours that you can realistically do and start subcontracting the work. This is a way to build up freelancing as more of a business and start getting some passive income.

Negatives: You’re not getting benefits, which can add up to 50% more than your actual hourly rate as an employee. Taxes are no longer taken out automatically, so you’ll need to figure that out and set the money aside. You have to find clients and convince them to hire you. Your income is limited to the number of hours you want to work unless you decide to start subcontracting work to other freelancers. There will probably be marketing costs to help find your clients. And you will probably some educational costs to figure out how to be a freelancer. That could be either a fairly inexpensive online course for hundreds of dollars, or a college education for thousands of dollars.

To become a freelancer you could work within your current field, even negotiating with your current employer to switch to a freelancing contract. But there are also a number of online courses available to learn how to become a bookkeeper, a proofreader, a transcriptionist, a virtual assistant, and more. You can find a list of some of these courses on the resource page.

Work from home as a business owner

Being as a business owner is the second category of work from home options. The type of business you can run varies greatly. Initially, you will be working for free. Over time, you can build a business that makes hundreds to thousands to millions of dollars a month. Generally, your business will either be selling products or services. Below, I’ve listed both physical product, digital product, and freelancer service businesses below. And I’ve focused on business you can run online. So not only can you work from home, but home can be anywhere in the world. Here are some positives and negatives of being a business owner:

Positives: Businesses have the potential to generate passive income. That is, you put in a lot of work and/or money up front to create and market a product, and then sales of that product or service afterward require very little to no ongoing work to bring in income. You can hire a manager to run the business for you after you get it running successfully. This income can also be scalable – that is, there can be little difference in the time/money to sell one product vs 1000 products, but the income difference is huge.

Negatives: There is a lot of up-front work, known as sweat equity, with no guarantee of a return on your time or money. You could easily lose a lot of money with a business. This makes it riskier than just trading time for money. When you are successfully running your business, there can be more variability in your revenue. Some months you could do very well, other months will see a dip in sales.

Selling physical products

There is a lot involved in the work from home option of selling a physical product. At a high level, you need to figure out what product to sell, then either buy your inventory or make it yourself. You’ll need a place to store your inventory, either a place you own/rent or by using a fulfillment service such as Amazon’s FBA. Then you need to find a place to sell it, such as Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, and/or your own website. After that, you’ll need to figure out the selling platform and set up the product, including product title, description, keywords, pricing, and photos. Then you need to market and advertise your product to drive sales. As the product sells, you’ll need to manage shipping, customer service, and inventory re-ordering.

You’ll also want to make sure and expand to other products, staying in touch with the market so you keep up with the customer’s needs.

Positives: You can get started anytime you want to without having to prove to an employer or a client that they should let you. Online courses are available to guide you through the process. If you use a fulfillment service, they will handle all the shipping and a certain amount of the customer service. This means that once you set up your product and start making sales you can make a lot of money without being limited by your own time and space to ship and store items.

Negatives: You’ll spend a lot of time getting this business setup, and a decent amount of money (easily thousands of dollars) buying inventory and advertising your product. It is high risk – you can spend a lot of time and money on it and have your product(s) completely fail.

Below are some more specific kinds of physical products:

Invent your own product

If you have a product in mind that solves some problem, and it just doesn’t exist yet, go ahead and invent it! You’d probably have to start out with your own money to build a prototype and do some testing to see if people like it. Kickstarter is a good service that can help you raise the money to do actually manufacture your product in bulk. It is a high-risk path but could be very profitable if you get a lot of people who really want/need your product.

Handmade products

Handmade earrings

This could be a work from home option for you if you’re already a crafter and you just want to be able to sell the items you currently make. Etsy is the largest selling platform for this. This option is pretty limited to the hours you have to create and ship items, though you can expand and get employees if you do well.

Print on demand products

Print on demand t-shirt

Printful and companies like it allow you to create graphic designs and then sell t-shirts, mugs, bags, and so on with the designs you made. You’ll want to make sure you don’t violate anyone’s copyright. It’s all on demand, so you don’t have to order any inventory up front. The company creates and ships each product as a customer orders it. You could use Amazon, Etsy, eBay or your own website to sell the products. You do need to have some graphic design skills to make the designs, or you can hire someone to do it for you. This is a nice, low-risk, low-cost option. Particularly if you have some good ideas for sayings or graphics that would make a good t-shirt. You can automate most of the order process once you’ve got your product setup.

Private label products

This work from home option is where you find a product that already exists and has demand. You’ll want to make sure that it is not patented. You work with a manufacturer to change the product a little bit to improve and differentiate it. Then you add your own branding to it, order inventory and put it for sale. Amazon is a typical marketplace for this kind of item, and using their fulfillment services allows you to not worry about managing inventory storage or shipments. Starting with an existing product is good because you know there is demand for it, but it can be risky if you accidentally copy a patented product. There can also be a lot of competition for this kind of private label product.

Resell branded products

To resell a branded product, you buy it at wholesale prices and sell it under its existing brand name. Large marketplaces for this would include Amazon and eBay. Typically your profit margins will be lower and your competition will be very high, as compared to private label products. You have no control over the brand company’s reputation or the quality of their products.

Selling digital products

Selling a digital product can be a simpler work from home option than selling a physical product. You don’t have to worry about inventory, shipping or quality inspections. Though you can do direct advertising for your product, often you will become an influencer and build an audience to sell your product to. Influencers include bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers. This can take a lot of work and time.

There are also a couple of options for the creation of the product. You can create it yourself, which is a lot more work up front. But it gives you control of the product’s contents and a larger share of the profit. Or you can recommend someone else’s product for a smaller percentage, which is called affiliate marketing.

If you create your own product, you will need to figure out a selling platform, often your own website. Then you’ll need to set up the product, including product title, description, keywords, pricing, and testimonials. You can easily have an automated system set up to order and deliver it once sales start.

You’ll also probably want to expand to other products, staying in touch with your audience and what they need.

Positives: You can get started anytime. Online courses are available to guide you through the process. There is no inventory management or costs.  You can get started as an influencer with very little money and grow organically for a low-cost approach. Or you can spend money to grow faster.

Negatives:  Becoming an influencer and growing an audience takes time. It can easily be months before you’re really making any money. Building content takes a lot of time and requires good writing, audio, video, and/or programming skills. Creating your own product is risky since you could spend a lot of time and/or money on it and then find out no one wants to buy it. There are ways to reduce the risk by testing out the idea of your product before you spend the time or money to create it.

Below are some more specific kinds of digital products:

Advertising

After you’ve built up an audience as an influencer, you can make money with advertising. Google ads are an easy way to include advertising, though they don’t pay as well. You can also sell advertising to companies to promote their product in an email, podcast episode, blog post or video.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing

With affiliate marketing, you recommend products that will meet your audience’s needs and receive a percentage of each sale made. You can recommend either digital or physical products. Examples of products you can recommend include physical products and eBooks with Amazon Associates, online courses, software, etc.

Applications

This type of product takes a lot of time and/or money to build. You can build it as a desktop installation, as an online web application, or as a mobile application. The skill to create it is rarer – programming – and therefore more valuable. You’ll need to either have programming skills yourself or hire someone to program it for you.

eBooks

An eBook just takes time, decent writing skills, and an interesting subject to create. You would probably use something like  Amazon’s publishing platform. Amazon has a huge audience and the potential to make a lot of sales if you can get your eBook noticed.

Information (documents)

Just like an eBook, writing a PDF to sell takes time, decent writing skills, and an interesting subject to create. You would typically sell this type of product on your own website. Your audience for this would probably be smaller and targeted to an influencer’s audience. The price can range from $5 to hundreds of dollars. I have also seen informational products sold on Etsy, such as how-to guides and crochet patterns.

Online courses

Online courses are usually a combination of video and written content, with required exercises to help someone learn the subject. It is a lot more work to create than just an eBook or PDF. There is often a mentoring or community aspect of the training that requires some additional time spent supporting your students. There is also a corresponding higher price tag and higher profit to go along with the additional work.

Selling services

This work from home option is basically the same as the freelancer option, except that you expand from selling just your own hours to hiring subcontractors to start doing some of the work. The passive income comes from the difference between what you charge the client and what you pay the subcontractor. You make money for every hour the subcontractor works.  Ths is both more and less work than being a freelancer limited to your own hours. Once you start subcontracting, you’ll probably be doing less work directly with clients. But you’ll be doing more work to bring on more clients and to train subcontractors on how to do the work.

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And that concludes my list of work from home options. The first work from home category is trading time for money as an employer or a freelancer. The second category is being a business owner and selling products or services. For products, you can focus on either physical or digital products. Examples of physical products include a new invention, handmade products, print-on-demand products, private label products, and reselling branded products. Examples of digital products include advertising, affiliate marketing, applications, eBooks, informational products, and online courses. Selling services was the final category, which is mostly an expanded version of being a freelancer.

how can I make money from home?

This post may contain affiliate links. I don’t recommend any product that I haven’t researched or tried personally.  You can learn more by reading my affiliate disclaimer.

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