5 Quick-Start Jobs For The Suddenly Unemployed

Although the U.S. economy has supposedly been in recovery for years, you wouldn’t know by the millions of people who are seeking employment. There’s a good chance that you’ve found yourself suddenly unemployed with nowhere to turn for cashflow. You may need to think outside the box to keep money coming in.

If you have a financial cushion to draw from while you get your entrepreneurial venture up and running, great! But if you’re like most people, you’ll need some of the suggestions listed below to help you start making money tomorrow.

1. Get Hustling On Craigslist and Etsy

Ebay Selling

This one isn’t easy, and only those who really work at it do well, but it becoming a successful seller on Craigslist or Ebay is possible. Do people love getting your crochet or knit projects as gifts? Do you have an amazing comic book collection? Perhaps you have an eye for priceless antiques disguised as flea market junk. If you have reliable access to tangible items that people are willing to buy, you have the foundation for a work-from-home business that has the potential to generate full-time income. The advantage of using platforms like eBay, Etsy or Craigslist is that you have little or no upfront costs. By sticking to selling items that you’re knowledgeable about, you spare yourself from having to deal with a learning curve that requires valuable time that you may not have.

2. Freelance Writers Make Bank

Job Scams

While you may need considerable lead time to generate some of the best-paying gigs (think business-to-business or top-tier magazine assignments), you do NOT have to resign yourself to writing for pennies-per-word content mills to start making money right away as a freelance writer. Instead, seek out your local or regional newspaper, chamber of commerce or reputable online content providers for potential clients.

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Other sources for leads include blogs like ProBlogger and Freelance Switch, and a subscription to WritersMarket.com is definitely a worthwhile investment. You’ll need at least a few published writing samples (online samples are fine) and you must be willing to promote pitches to editors and other potential clients.

While earning a full time income by writing is totally possible, be on the look out for these work at home job scams.

3. Personal / Virtual Assistant

Personal Assistant

Photo: Marissa Brassfield

Establishing yourself as a professional virtual assistant requires a fair amount of lead time, but you can get started right away by offering your services for scheduling appointments and booking travel arrangements to your overworked friends or professional colleagues. Don’t have those kind of friends? The same freelance websites (think Elance and oDesk) that can link you up with writing opportunities are teeming with virtual assistant jobs. You’ll likely only need an internet connection and a reliable phone line.

4. Computer/Tech Troubleshooting

Computer Repair

Photo: PCTechNotes

If everyone always calls on you to rid their computers of viruses or coax sound out of silent stereo speakers, you may be able to sell your services for good money. While you may not want to charge Grandma for setting up her mobile phone, there’s nothing wrong with letting casual acquaintances know that you’re setting up shop as a paid troubleshooter. Advertising your services via online ads or via social media can also help kick-start your client base.

5. Snow Plowing/Yardwork/Maintenance

Snow Plowing

Photo: Cars.com

In most areas of the country, the winter of 2013-2014 was one for the books. Along with bitter-cold temps and biting winds there was snow, snow and more snow. Anyone offering the services of their snow plows or chain saws to clean up debris undoubtedly raked in major cash. The Farmers Almanac predicts that the summer of 2014 will be similarly adventuresome, with sticky-hot conditions and precipitous precipitation. With a truck, toolbox, yard tools, and word-of-mouth, you should be swimming in work.

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If You’re Collecting Unemployment Insurance

If you’re collecting unemployment insurance, you will also need to check out the regulations in your state on part-time work and self-employment before proceeding to avoid jeopardizing your benefits. Depending on where you live, you may be able to collect benefits while establishing yourself as a self-employed worker through the Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP). If you qualify, you will be excused from the requirement to look for paid wage jobs while retaining your unemployment benefits.

While several of the above suggestions will allow you to begin earning money fairly quickly, none represent get-rich quick schemes. You must be prepared to promote your services and of course, to perform the work for which you are being paid. Even with these caveats, you may discover that you are perfectly suited for self employment. After all, it is often cheaper to work from home and ditch the traditional job altogether.


  • Good tips–and love the virtual assistant photo!

  • Great ideas, although I’m not sure my friends would pay me to organize their lives…they might pay me to stop though…

  • Definitely feasible ideas… and as for freelance writing, it’s almost always easier to start by writing for your local paper or local magazine, which quickly helps you gain real clips and experience–but is also a great way to network in your community for a new job!

  • PB

    Wish this article had been around when I was unemployed. Love it!

  • Audrey Henderson

    LOL @Andrew. Thanks all. I included options that I have tried myself or that have been feasible for real people. I love the visuals also, but I can’t take any credit for those!