101 Ways to Make a Living was first published in the September 2011 edition of the South African magazine, ZA Difference. 101 Ways to Make a Living’s authors are myself (Teresa Schultz), Ann Juli James (a writer / researcher at ZA Difference), and Theresa Muller (the CEO and Editor of ZA Difference magazine).
101 Ways to Make a Living
To make a life…
…When there are no jobs
The majority of South Africans are either out of work or severely limited in their ability to generate a decent enough income to support themselves and their families. And while there are no easy answers to the crisis facing us, it is clear that being employed is not the only way to earn a living. It IS possible to create an income for yourself. The ideas in this list of 101 ways to make a living could get you started: or could spark an idea that does.
Teresa Schultz is a mom who has been working from home since 2008.
Ann Juli James is a writer / researcher at ZA Difference.
Theresa Muller is the CEO and Editor of ZA Difference.
Find things to sell. Sell your time, skills, expertise or things bought, found or made. Sell them on the streets, from your garage or back yard, at flea markets, at farmer’s markets, to shop owners, to people who work in offices, to neighbours who need what you have to offer, or online. Advertise your services on a sign in your front yard, in the local newspaper or in school and church newsletters, on supermarket, school, church or community bulletin boards, and tell everyone you know! Don’t just do what everyone else is doing, i.e. sell Niknaks and bananas on the street corner. Where there is a need, there is money to be made. Try different things until you find something that earns a predictable income for you on a regular basis.
Ways to Make a Living – Collect and sell things from nature
The ingredients are free, just waiting for your creative touch. Here are some ideas:
Make brooms from grasses and reeds.
Cut lengths of strong tall grasses or young riverreeds into approximate equal lengths, bunch them together and attach them to a stick or broomstick with wire. Trim the reeds or grasses so that they all touch the floor when the broom is held upright. Make miniature ones too, to sell as ornaments or toys.
Make musical instruments from natural objects.
Use large seedpods or bamboo to make fun musical instruments like shakers, drums, flutes and xylophones.
Use interesting natural objects like pebbles, shells, seedpods, dried twigs and pieces of driftwood to create wall hangings, ornaments or wind chimes.
Live close to a river or stream? Take the kids on an outing to collect round stones. Rinse and sell them to the local florist, nursery or gardening service.
Dried grasses and weeds
People often admire flowering weeds and tall grasses in the countryside, but rarely stop to pick them. Make the effort to stop, pick, bunch and sell them. Important note: it is illegal in South Africa to pick just any wild flowers and grasses in the countryside. Go through the South African rules and regulations first, to find out what is okay to pick. If you are nervous to stop alongside the road in the countryside, consider asking a farm owner if you can pick the flowering weeds or grasses on his property.
Collect and sell seeds.
When flowers or plants in your garden start to die or drop seed, collect the seeds. Put a few seeds in envelopes and decorate the envelopes appropriately, naming the plant or flower and explaining what it needs to grow.
Feed your family and sell the surplus to your neighbours, to the shop on the corner or, on a regular basis, to a restaurant near you. Important note: you may need a fishing licence.
Ways to Make a Living – Grow things and sell them
Even if you have little space, you can grow things in pots and containers. Here are some ideas:
Just about everyone uses herbs in their cooking. And just about any herb grows well indoors – just do your research first about which herbs grow well together. (Some will hog water, for example, and leave the others dried out). The safest way is to grow different herbs in different containers. You can sell herb seedlings, individual herb plants in pots, bunches of fresh herbs, dried herbs and herbal teas from this hobby.
Growing sprouts is not difficult and does not take up much time or space. They are increasingly in demand by health-conscious buyers.
Grow and sell flowers.
Grow long stemmed flowers in your garden or even in large containers indoors in an airy and sunny spot. Pick them early in the morning. Tie string around bunches of flowers and place them in a bucket of water to sell. If you’re clever with creating floral arrangements, you could sell that as an additional service to churches, offices, etc.
Grow your own vegetables and sell the surplus.
At least your own family will not go hungry when you grow your own food, even if you eat all of it yourselves.
Grow and sell seedlings
Starter plants to help others start their own gardens.
Sell the eggs.
Ways to Make a Living – Resell things discarded by others
Look for useful things that have been thrown away that could make you some money. Here are some ideas:
Second-hand clothes, toys, bicycles, household utensils, equipment, etc.
Check the classifieds of the local paper for garage sales and church fairs. Look for things that people will find useful. Buy only small items if you use public transport. Don’t buy electrical appliances unless you are able to fix them. Insist on testing them first. People like to save money and will buy second hand things they need, provided that it’s in good condition.
Visit garage sales, church fairs, auctions and charity shops for cheap second hand books. Start with just a few and then use some of the profit you make to buy more. You can sometimes get the books for a song by offering to buy everything instead of just a few. You may get hundreds of books at 50 cents a piece, instead of a few at R20 a piece. Just ask. You never know how many years they’ve been storing the books, trying to sell them at the same annual fair.
Recycle discarded paper, metal, glass, cardboard, tin cans, plastic, old printer cartridges and broken or outdated electrical gadgets.
Do it yourself or mobilise and support the small army of people who dig into rubbish bins on rubbish removal days in your neighbourhood. You could also make an arrangement with an office park to collect all their wasted or shredded paper.
Ways to Make a Living – Buy products to re-sell at a profit or on commission
Here are some ideas:
Buy balloons and twist them into funny shapes.
Ask permission from management, then sell your balloons at the mall.
Buy and sell fruit and vegetables.
Buy fresh produce in bulk at a market. Re-sell at a price just below what the stores charge.
Cupboard doors, window frames as picture frames
Go to second hand shops and buy old frames, cupboard doors, window frames, etc. Clean them up and use some paint techniques to create an old, distressed look. Sell them as unusual picture frames to florists, interior decorators, etc.
Ways to Make a Living – Make your own things to sell
Find a book on arts and crafts at your local library. Or start with these:
Hand-weave chunky mats from strips of scrap material or from plastic grocery bags and sell them. Don’t worry about many knots as the chunkiness adds to the unique appeal.
Knit or crochet small items.
Even though you can sell larger items like jerseys and blankets for more money, smaller items are quicker to knit or crochet, so start with beanies, scarves, bed socks and baby booties and blankets.
Turn old coffee tins and bean cans into lanterns or candlestick holders. Use a hammer and different diameter nails to nail a pattern into each tin can. Let the tins rust for a natural, rustic look.
Weave baskets and bags.
Go to your library and get a book on how to make a basket. Use reeds, vines or green grasses.
Homemade greeting cards
Make tiny or large homemade greeting cards. Make square, round ones or triangular ones. Write fun greetings or leave them blank. Decorate with natural objects or recycled materials.
Gift bags and gift-wrap
Simple cheap brown paper bags can be turned into really attractive gift bags by adding decorations such as glitter, sisal, coloured string, ribbon, coloured card, twigs or dried flowers. For gift-wrap, use the same decorations on plain brown paper.
Teenagers love inexpensive brightly coloured beaded jewellery. Create your jewellery range from inexpensive glass beads.
A wide variety of things can be used to weave flat wrist or ankle bracelets: embroidery cotton, string, raffia, old shoelaces, strips of leather, etc.
Stylish bookmarks are always popular. Make bookmarks from cloth, leather, bamboo, wood, paper or wire.
Cloth books for toddlers
Buy cheap cloth or baby blankets with words and pictures on them. Cut equal size rectangles or squares and sew along one end to create a book.
Handmade hair accessories
Buy plain hair clips and alice bands cheaply and glue ribbons and pretty buttons or sequins onto them.
Gift baskets and hampers
Make gift baskets and hampers for birthdays, patients, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s day, Father’s day or Valentine’s day. Include items like sweets, chocolates, biltong, dry wors, fresh fruit, dried fruit and a small bottle of champagne or wine. Buy the contents in bulk and at sales.
Ever popular as functional decor items, cushions are quick, simple and inexpensive to make. Make a basic cushion that needs a cover and also sell a range of covers in trendy patterns and designs.
Create paper Mache decorations.
Mix one part flour with three parts water. Stir until it becomes a paste. Dip torn pieces of newspaper into the paste so that the pieces of newspaper are thoroughly drenched in the paste. Layer these strips of paper over the basic shape you want to create, i.e. an old cardboard box or a balloon or simply squeeze and pinch the paper mache into the shapes you want to create. Paint the item once it is thoroughly dry. You can use paper mache to make items like bowls, jewellery boxes, business card holders and, once you get the hang of it, more sophisticated things like masks.
Ever tried to ignore the little sweets and snacks at the checkout point in any shop? Those tasty temptations could be yours: homemade fudge, coconut ice, Turkish delight or peanut brittle. If it’s good, it will sell and store-owners will want it.
Ways to Make a Living – Things to provide from the comfort of your home
Here are some ideas:
Prepare school lunches.
Buy healthy, natural ingredients to make sandwiches for schoolchildren in your neighbourhood or at your child’s school. Add a fruit, yogurt and a healthy snack to the box. Provide options, i.e. wholewheat or white bread.
Bake bread, cakes and things.
There is always a market for freshly baked breads, delicious homemade cakes, cupcakes and biscuits.
Many people just don’t have the time to do everything that needs to be done. Make it possible for them to drop off and pick up their clean laundry on a once-weekly basis. Charge per item or per load.
Many professionals would love to get home after a long day at work and simply open a delicious, nutritious, homecooked meal – at least a couple of times a week. If you know your food is good, then you don’t have to go out of your way to create fancy menus and many options. Just offer what you make for your own family. Make it a rule that if the order is in by 10 am, then the food will be ready for collection by 5.30 pm on the same day. Work against advance payment. As soon as the deposit is depleted, let the person top up. This will allow you to buy the ingredients you need without having to wait for payment at the end of the week or month.
Ways to Make a Living – Provide a useful service where it is needed
Many services are available at businesses that offer them. Many people would be willing to pay extra for the same service if it is delivered where they are. Here are some ideas:
If you love animals and know that you can handle even the fiercest of dogs, then advertise that you can come to people’s homes to wash their dogs, trim their nails and treat them for ticks and fleas. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to pay for such a service, because they simply don’t have the time to do it themselves or to take their dogs to a place where the service is offered.
If you’re good at cutting or styling hair, or if you are an unemployed hairdresser, offer to go to your customers’ homes.
Wash and wax cars where they are.
Go to your client’s work place and clean their car while they’re at work … or wherever is convenient for them. Your service could be a simple wash and dry or as extensive as wash, dry, polish and detail.
Do you know how to fix cars or trucks? Do you have the tools to do so? Have you done work for people who are willing to give you references? Yes? Then get word out that you are available any day of the week, at any hour. You will get business.
Ways to Make a Living – Services for the elderly or the very rich
Here are some ideas:
Single and without fixed abode? Let people know that you are available to house-sit while they’re away on holiday. You may be required to move in for anything from a few days to a few weeks or months. If you organise this well and develop a good reputation, you may not have to pay rent for months on end, and live in the lap of luxury while doing so. You will need character as well as job references to do this one. Beware: one slip up and the doors to this opportunity will close.
You may be required to visit the house only once or twice a day, to feed the pets, water the plants, empty the post box and turn some lights on and off.
Many mothers want to relax and enjoy their child’s birthday party too. They can, if you take care of the food, entertainment, games and little gifts or prizes, all within the party theme.
Grocery shopping and errand running
Advertise that you are available to do shopping and errands on specific days for people who are too busy to do it for themselves. If you stay close to some shops, you can even do this on foot. Charge a flat fee for the service.
Walk the dogs.
Busy or elderly people may not be able to get out to give their dogs much needed exercise. Walk their dogs for them. Wear plastic gloves and put an inside-out plastic bag over your hand. Grip the mess through the plastic then turn the packet in on itself so it’s no longer inside out and the mess is inside the packet. Use a shovel for messier messes.
Ways to Make a Living – Useful services
Know how to do something for yourself and how to do it well? There are many people out there who wish they could do it for themselves, too. Offer to do it for them. Here are some ideas:
Can you sew, knit, crochet or do anything of the sort?
Many people have no idea how to replace a zip, sew on buttons, put in a hem, extend a pair of jeans, re-size a school uniform so that it can be used for many years of growth, or fix rips and tears – especially university and college students who are away from home for the first time. Advertise on the campus bulletin boards and in the neighbourhood that you are a “mom away from mom.”
Homeowners and business owners often neglect window cleaning. Offer a monthly cleaning service.
A little knowledge and regular maintenance can turn a nuisance pool into an item of pride and joy.
Sell your abilities to change plugs and light bulbs, fix leaking taps, clean gutters, repair washing machines, put up shelves or replace broken windows.
Are you an out-of-job builder? Do you know others with different building skills? Offer building maintenance contracts to small and medium-sized businesses.
Remove doggy-pooh from lawns.
Make yourself available one or two days a week in a particular neighbourhood. All you need is a poop-scoop and plastic bags … and a clever way to market yourself.
You will need experience and the tools of the trade. Be creative: offer your services to petrol stations and businesses with shoddy gardens. Go one step further: convince the owners to allow you to plant edible things: fruit-trees, granadilla vines and other ornamental plants that can feed hungry passers-by.
Ways to Make a Living – Unusual services.
Here are some ideas:
Create stencilled pavement house numbers.
Use old x-ray plates to create large stencils for the numbers 0 to 9 – all in the same size. Stencil your house number on the small ramp between the road and the driveway to your house. Take a photo of this and then go market your product in a neighbourhood where there are no street numbers on the sidewalk.
Sorting / cleaning service
Anyone with a garage, Wendy-house or a spare room knows what a chore it is to sort the stuff that accumulates in it, and clean it out. If your garage is spick-and-span, with designated spaces for tools and things, offer to do this for others. Resell or recycle the items they don’t want.
Ways to Make a Living – Use what you know to make money
Here are some ideas:
Teach your own language.
Many people would pay to learn how to communicate in your mother tongue. Offer conversational classes in your language to high-school kids, university students or embassy staff.
You may know one or many of the languages of our multilingual nation of ours. Register your freelance services with businesses that offer translations, transcription and secretarial services.
After-school and holiday classes for children
Teach children what you know, i.e. bake a cake, set a table, send an email, cook an omelette… Parents will appreciate the afterschool care combined with skills development – especially during school holidays.
Know how to sing or play a musical instrument?
Do a gig at a restaurant or pub in exchange for a meal. Arrange that if the patrons like it, you must get paid for subsequent performances. Offer lessons.
Coach a sport.
If you know the how and what of a particular sport, i.e. cricket, rugby, soccer, netball, tennis, swimming, etc. offer your coaching services to schools in your vicinity or become a private coach to rich kids.
Teach your artistry.
to aspiring performers or coach professionals wanting to get better at what they do. Teach business professionals who are scared to speak and perform in front of their peers. Many varsity students have the time and will to learn dancing. Offer one-on-one lessons at a reasonable cost.
Train the corporate world.
Don’t limit yourself to training individuals or private groups of people. Polish up your act and cash in on the billion Rand corporate training market.
Mass produce your advice.
Selling your product or service one-on-one limits the amount of money you can earn to the number of people you can personally see. To increase your profits without significantly increasing your work, consider turning your expertise into booklets, books, computer programs, MP3s and DVDs that you can market in quantity.
Sell your recipes.
Collect your own and your family’s favourite recipes in a laser-printed booklet which you can also sell in PDF format online.
Typing, transcription and data-entry
Offer your fast and efficient typing skills on an “as-needed” basis to businesses that need or offer this kind of service, or to journalists who need to transcribe voice recordings of interviews. Advertise your service in the “smalls” of the local newspaper. Many people may need the service on an ad-hoc basis, but not often enough to warrant employing someone. Beware of online data-entry jobs, especially if you are required to pay a fee before you can start work.
Sell your information and knowledge on the web.
If you have access to the Internet, know how to create a website and use email, you could multiply your income for many of the above information-based services. Be warned, that the learning curve is long and tough.
Become an industry consultant.
Have you been retrenched or ousted because of BBEE requirements or economic downturn? Go back to your former employer and offer your services on an ad-hoc consultancy basis. They get the benefit of trained personnel without having to pay payroll taxes and benefits.
Ways to Make a Living – Use what you have to make money
Here are some ideas:
Rent out a room in your house.
Make sure you have a contract with house-rules ready and get a copy of the renter’s ID before you give them the keys.
Rent out space in your garden.
Allow other people who need to earn an income to grow produce in your garden.
Rent out the wall in front of your house as advertising space.
Does your property face a busy street? Is the wall prominent? Then go offer advertising space on the wall to businesses in your town. Find out what billboard companies charge and calculate what your size space would amount to at about 50% of the going rate. It’s a win-win.
Offer a secure space in your home for school kids to do their homework in after school.
Many working parents are worried sick about what their unsupervised children are doing at home, but don’t know what to do about it. You could augment this service with transport from school, a healthy afternoon snack, help with homework, extra lessons, swimming lessons… and even a ready-made supper to be picked up by the parent when they come to get their child. Do find out if you need a license to do this.
Do you have wheels?
If so, why not offer your services to transfer people from hospital or airport to hotel, to move items bought at a department or second hand store to people’s homes, or to deliver anything on an “as per availability” basis?
Do you have an email address, a postal address and a phone?
Become an “admin office” for others: taking messages, collecting their mail, getting email for them.
© Copyright myself (Teresa Schultz), Ann Juli James (a writer / researcher at ZA Difference), and Theresa Muller (the CEO and Editor of ZA Difference magazine).