How I found my niche… (it isn’t easy)

So, how do you think I ended up working from home?

Did I wake up one morning having literally dreamt of a way to make a good living from home?  No.

Did I pay someone to allow me to piggyback onto their system?  No, not that either.

Did someone come along and give me a brilliant lesson on what I should and shouldn’t do?  Sadly not.

There wasn’t a quick fix.  There still isn’t a quick fix.

The way I found the way to make money from home was by trying lots of things that didn’t work, finding out along the way what my strengths and weaknesses were, and getting used to the concept of trying to make money without visiting a defined place of work for a defined length of time and being paid a fixed amount in the process,  Meanwhile, I constantly worked at building a skillset that would allow me to do something that generated reasonable money and which was flexible in schedule and location.

“You’re 10 years too late!”

I had my critics, even back then.  Once, I was in a postgraduate statistics seminar and the lecturer asked each student why they were there.  All the other students were on a one-year taught MSc in Occupational Psychology, and they gave very worthy explanations expressing traditional career aspirations.  I was attending as a supplementary part of a research-based programme, and I explained that I was doing it as a means of building the skillset that would afford me the flexibility to work from home, so that I could look after my family and earn a living at the same time.  At the time, when I was 22, that meant looking after my increasingly frail grandmother, but I had a hazy vision of one day having a child, and figured it would be similar in terms of time demand.  The lecturer drew herself up to her full height and dismissively said “Well, you’re 10 years too late for that!”.  Interestingly, nearly 15 years later, here I am…

Opportunity knocks hard

“Opportunities” to work from home (and I use the word “opportunities” loosely) have always been advertised, but recently their prevalence on social media has reached record levels.  Years ago, companies sold directories of so-called opportunities and various suggestions for ways to earn money from home, which they would post to your house, for a fee.  I think I still have one somewhere.

Once, I responded to an “opportunity” in the local paper from a company offering home-based work assembling and packing items.  Participants had to drive to an industrial unit (some 5 miles from my house) in a vehicle large enough to accommodate a sufficient quantity of materials to make the process worthwhile.  No mileage allowance was payable for collection and delivery and payments were calculated per unit returned in a completed state.  This was before the introduction of the minimum wage, and I did two different sets of work for this company.  The first was assembling children’s drawing packs to include a pencil, ruler, paper pad, eraser, etc. in a clear plastic bag, with a cardboard hanger top stapled to keep everything in.  The second was assembling fancy two-layer greeting cards with an internal card section and a plastic exterior, held together with a fine double-sided tape, and packaged with a matching envelope.

Packing it in

The first set of work paid very badly, but I thought it was either just that I was slow on the first one, or just unfortunate that I had got a particularly bad job for the first one.  Having embarked upon a second piece of work, determined to make this “opportunity” work, I set up a well-organised production line on a large coffee table in the lounge and enlisted my grandmother to assist.  We built up a good speed of work, but after 8 solid hours we had completed enough to earn £16 between us – a total of £1 per hour each.  At the time, jobs that would now offer £7+ per hour under the minimum wage were paying around £3.50 per hour, so today’s equivalent earnings were £2 per hour, and the fuel to collect and deliver the work had to be paid out of that, and we were “self-employed” so no tax, National Insurance or pension contributions were made on our behalf.  I concluded that there was no “opportunity” there, returned the unused materials and the completed work, and drove off.

The important lessons I learned were that nobody was out to offer me a work-from-home “opportunity” that was going to be anywhere near as beneficial for me as it was for them.  I was going to have to find a way to do it for myself.


Next time…  Knowing the difference between grandma and the wolf

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