If you are in need of income right away, here are a few suggestions via the short version of our story.
In 2010 I lost my teaching job. We had no reserves, nothing but my last paycheck.
Caretaking (Ranches, etc.)
We took a few caretaking jobs. These jobs can be really rewarding if you can move. If you want to stay local, use Craigslist.org. Look in “jobs,” particularly in the “et cetera” category. You can also search using the term “caretaker”; however, be aware that a lot of people confuse the terms caregiver and caretaker. A caregiver is one who looks after the physical and/or companionship needs of, usually, either a disabled or elderly person. A caretaker is one who looks after property and performs various duties in exchange for free rent, and sometimes for a salary and/or stipend as well. These types of positions work best for someone who has handyman and/or maintenance skills. Some will involve animal skills. We found our first caretaker job using Craigslist, and our second one from Caretakerjobs.com. We primarily used these two resources over a couple of years to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a bit of money in our pockets.
U-Haul Customer Service
We decided after a while that we wanted to be more independent. My partner found work with UHaul, as a customer care representative, working from home. All he needed was a computer with a high-speed internet connection (we found out that cable was really the only thing fast enough), and a headset with a mic. He stayed with that for a year and a half, while I concentrated on other business possibilities. You don’t have to be a sales pro to do UHaul; an even-tempered personality, some smarts, and the ability to learn and adapt quickly is what it really takes. Their busy season generally starts in May, and runs anywhere from November to January. In the slower season, you’ll likely have to have something else to supplement. If you’re reading this in March, they will begin taking applications and gearing up for training soon.
A Setback & oDesk
When I broke my foot in 2012 and was laid up for several weeks, I finally decided that was the best time to figure out what I could do from home as well. Thanks to my long background of writing for publications as well as teaching, I knew that was one skill I could definitely market from my bed. Thus my freelance writing explorations began.
I struggled with oDesk.com, learning the ropes, with no how to’s other than their own contractor publications. I wasn’t making enough, so I tried some network marketing besides, but no matter how easy someone made network marketing for me, I couldn’t make a dime from it. After I had spent upwards of $500 without a single dollar in return, I decided I needed to find another way to supplement oDesk.
When UHaul’s busy season slacked off nearly two months earlier than we expected near the end of 2012 (it had lasted well into January the previous year), we were a bit panicked. We had had a short stint (3 months) as interim managers for a self-storage facility and found we liked it.
The Self-Storage Venture
We pored over every ad for self-storage we could find and applied for as many as we felt would suit us. The last one we applied for was still in Arizona. They interviewed us, and told us they had a position in Oregon, if we were willing to take it. That was a big decision for us. It meant leaving my son and his family behind.
We made the big trek. We were excited. We knew we liked the industry, and we thought it would stand us in good stead until retirement. Apparently, the Universe had different plans for us, because my partner had an accident on the job, and at the 90 day point, they bid us goodbye.
A Fortunate Setback & Landing in Paradise
They gave us three-week’s notice, so we started scouring the ads again. This time we would have our final check and a bit of a nest egg we had put back. We looked all the way to Western Washington, as far south as Bakersfield, CA and east to Reno, NV.
We were only about 25 miles from the California border, so we took a day trip to look at some rentals in the Mt. Shasta area. We found a place we felt would bring us some peace. I needed to heal from the shocking jolt of leaving my family behind only to find us adrift again such a short time later. We paid three months’ rent in advance in Northern CA and settled in.
That’s where we were able to get enough breathing room to decide to tackle the freelance biz together. This time, I created an agency on oDesk, and signed up for Elance as well. From this we built up to where we are today. Six months after moving to a scenic mountain village, we decided we had accomplished what we needed to, and we returned to Arizona to be near family.
Less is More!
I only make 2/3 of what I was making when I left my teaching job in 2010, but I have cut my living expenses in half, so what I make now goes farther than the larger salary did.
In summary, if you lose your income with no reserves, it need not be the end of the world. It can give you an opportunity to downsize, and to reassess what you really want to do. Flexibility is the key to making it work. Even though we floundered around a bit until we hit our stride, we don’t regret the experiences. We are using them to help others get on their feet and to navigate the world of freelance.