Kelsey Freeman, 28, has a plan for covering her holiday expenses: She's going to earn more money by selling photos online. The substitute teacher and freelance designer and photographer earns about $15,000 a year and her budget often gets even tighter around the holidays, since winter school breaks mean less substitute teaching. "I'd like to earn an extra $200 or so, because I had to delay buying gifts for some key friends and family last year, and it made me feel terrible," says Freeman, who lives in Alexandria, Va.
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Freeman is among the half a million people who find ways to temporarily boost their income over the holidays. Many of them do so by working in retail, but others, like Freeman, create their own sources of income by selling products and services online. Payment methods such as e-junkie and PayPal make it easier than ever to sell online, and social media provides an easy (and free) way to reach potential customers. Here are five more ways to generate extra cash this month:
Sell a wacky service. For those interested in a more unusual approach, the innovative website fiverr.com allows users to sell (and buy) services for $5. Current offerings include sketching a stylized portrait, writing a name on a grain of rice, and digitally restoring a photograph. It's one of the trendiest ways to make a quick buck for the Internet-savvy; dozens of videos, websites, and blogs offer advice on how to earn money off the site. The best advice? Since you're only going to make $5 a pop, sell a service that you can provide easily and quickly.
Monetize your skills. Whether your expertise lies in social networking, editing, or Web development, several new websites can help you find potential clients who are willing to pay for your work. Elance.com, Odesk.com, and freelancer.com make it easy to advertise your skills and find work, which you can do from the comfort of your home at all hours of the night. To get started, explore the websites to see what might be a good fit. You can also stick with a more traditional approach and use Craigslist.org, which allows users to post advertising for their services, ranging from household labor to music lessons.
Design T-shirts. Companies such as CafePress.com allow people to design and sell T-shirts for a cut of the profits. According to the company's website, some users earn more than $100,000 a year. But it's not always easy: Jen Goode, who earns enough through CafePress to pay her mortgage each month, found success after a year and a half of long, sometimes 16-hour days. Her time is spent creating designs and then uploading them.
Goode has uploaded about 2,500 designs, many of which are cartoon-oriented, including the popular penguin series. For her, she says, the secret has been to make many different images that are steady sellers, as opposed to creating one or two mega-hits. Now, she says she doesn't need to put as much time into her shop because she has such a large inventory of designs.
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Launch a coaching business. All you need is a blog and your first client, and you're in business. If friends and family members are constantly asking for your advice on a topic you know a lot about, such as how to fix customer-service problems or negotiate work conflicts, why not see if there's a larger market for your expertise? People earn money by coaching clients on everything from how to be more assertive to how to use social media.
Hold a virtual garage sale. Clear out your garage and basement and sell your goodies online. Be sure to write appealing product descriptions and take high-quality photos to increase the chances of sales. Ebay is easy to use, but you can also stick with Craigslist or other local sites.
As for Freeman, she'll be setting up her photos for sale through the photo site SmugMug, which she'll advertise through her personal website, driftingfocus.com. Last year, she sold custom website header design work for a 25 percent discount, which resulted in more orders than she expected. This year, she hopes her photo sale will bring in cash while leaving her plenty of time to enjoy the holiday season.
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