Looking to earn extra cash this holiday season? Working from home can be a great alternative to a traditional second job as it usually offers a great deal of flexibility and the ability to work as much or as little as you want. For those willing to work hard and get a little creative in their approach, there are a variety of opportunities.
Some people make a business of buying cheap and reselling high, but the easiest way to make money on eBay is to look around your house and auction off items you already own. During the holiday season people are online looking for deals on unique gift items so you'll probably have the best luck selling things that are in very good or new condition, are limited edition, stocking stuffer-sized, signed, or very unique.
2. Pet sitting
More pet owners are seeking the personal and individualized attention of private sitters over kenneling, especially during the holidays when people want the freedom to travel without feeling guilty. Whether you check on the pet at scheduled intervals at the owner's home or have the pet come and stay with you, expect to work mostly on the weekends and over the holidays when people usually travel. Sittercity and your local craigslist are good places to get started.
3. Virtual call center
Many companies outsource their holiday call center needs to home-based workers -- and if you have the makings of a dedicated home office and don't mind spending a lot of time on the phone, you might be fit for a position taking phone orders or making sales. Requirements and pay vary, with some positions preferring sales experience or insurance certification and others just asking for dedication and a pleasant phone personality, but almost all require that you have a quiet office space (background noises like barking dogs and doorbells are a no-no), a dedicated phone line, and a computer with high-speed Internet access. If interested check out Alpine Access, LiveOps, and VIPDesk.
4. Handmade crafts
If you're crafty and creative you can take advantage of the holiday shopping season by selling handmade gifts on Etsy or at craft shows and holiday bazaars. The possibilities are endless in terms of what you can make, from pottery to handsewn dolls and clothing to jewelry or decor items; just make sure your product is unique and of high quality for the best results. It's completely free to set up a shop on Etsy, and product listing fees are nominal (about $0.20 for most items).
5. Mystery shopper
The holidays are the busiest time of the year for many retailers. Depending on where you eat, shop, and live, Mystery Shopping can be a great way to make a few extra bucks. Payment can vary anywhere from $5 to $100 per assignment and may or may not include an allowance for expenses like ordering food in a restaurant or buying something in a store. Check out Mystery Guest and out Service Intelligence Experience Exchange for more information.
6. Gift wrapping
Finding time to buy gifts can be hard enough for some people, let alone wrapping them. If you're neat, organized, and have just a little creative flair, you can start a gift-wrapping service to take that stress off people's minds. Market yourself by passing out fliers at the mall and posting them on community bulletin boards, and target the most lucrative client base by leaving a sample (an empty gift-wrapped box) along with a small stack of business cards at large office buildings in your downtown area. Talk about setting up a time to come in once or twice a week to wrap gifts on site or offer a pick-up/drop-off service to maximize convenience.
7. Santa letters
Lots of kids send letters off to Santa, but how many get a letter back? You can make children feel special this Christmas and make a few extra dollars by writing letters to kids from Santa. Volume is key with a gig like this -- so network, network, network. Offer your services at local day cares and preschools, as well as to family, friends, and neighbors and encourage satisfied customers to spread the word. Make your letters authentic, special, and kid-proof by getting them all a North Pole Postmark.
8. Gourmet gift baskets/Care packages
Lots of companies, corporate executives, and individuals send out gift baskets and care packages during the holidays but don't have the time to put them together from scratch themselves. Competition can be steep -- there are lots of places online to buy gift baskets -- so make your creations personalized and unique in order to stand out from the crowd. Marketing gift baskets is much the same as that for gift wrapping services: leave a sample or a beautifully photographed brochure at office buildings and businesses in your area along with your contact info (and stress that you're a local small business -- people love that).
9. Baked goods
If you love to bake the holidays love you. You can put together gift baskets like those mentioned above, make custom cakes for holiday parties (think mini dessert-catering business) or try your hand at something very holiday-specific like custom-made gingerbread houses. Market them to local businesses as a festive lobby display or employee holiday raffle prize, or target real-estate agents and pitch the gingerbread homes as holiday house-warming gifts and throw in free delivery to sweeten the deal.
10. Freelance online
If you have experience in marketing, writing/editing, or technical areas like coding or Web design you can market yourself online and find work on a temporary, contract, or per project basis. Pay varies and you can expect to start low until you've established yourself, but the work is flexible and can usually be done at your own pace. AOL Seed and Demand Media are good places for writers with specific areas of expertise to start, while Elance and oDesk both offer a wide variety of pay-per-assignment opportunities covering everything from data entry to Web research to commissioned art and illustrations.
Next: 101 Ways to Make Extra Cash for the Holidays
Rigel Celeste is a freelance writer and artist living in a small city in the middle of Midwest farming country. In her free time she enjoys gardening, hiking and playing with her dog, and drinking coffee while staring out the window.