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Ask Slashdot: Money-Making Home-Based Tech Skills? 332

New submitter ThatGamerChick writes "I'm a stay-at-home mom, but I'd like to be a work-at-home mom. I've done a few writing gigs, but I'm not a really good writer and cannot charge the fees needed for it to be worth my time. I'm just looking for something that I can teach myself in a few months and start taking small projects and working my way up from there. I've found that PHP, HTML and CSS to be the most demanded skills on sites like Elance, but the talent pool is flooded with overseas workers and Americans with so much more experience than me. Even when I was offering writing and virtual admin services on Elance I was having a hard time against them. So I'm asking here, because I think most of you may have a good insight on this type of thing as an employer of freelancers or as the freelancer themselves." What success have you had, either working from home, or employing those who do?
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Ask Slashdot: Money-Making Home-Based Tech Skills?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:29PM (#38850185)

    Seems like the best way to me!

    • Production values (Score:5, Informative)

      by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:32PM (#38850201) Homepage Journal
      There's an article in Cracked about why homemade porn tends to fail []: good makeup, lighting, camera work, editing, writing of the frame story, and marketing all cost money.
      • by Timmmm ( 636430 )

        writing of the frame story

        Not sure about that one...

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by tacarat ( 696339 )
          Most people don't know that there were no pizza delivery boys before porn. After the first movie featuring that mythical job, there was suddenly demand for the position. That's why drivers can be paid relatively little.... they're waiting for those special customers (that may never appear).
          • I actually didn't know that (although in my country, there is little or no tradition of delivering pizza to people's homes). You've just changed my whole perception of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash!
    • by zerobeat ( 628744 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:15PM (#38850441) Homepage
      Why is it that just about every time a women posts something on the internet someone has to immediately turn the topic to sex???
      • by sourcerror ( 1718066 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:24PM (#38850481)

        I guess porn was mentioned here because there are actually no well paying work-from-home jobs that you can get in 2-3 months. If it can be done from home, it can be done from India as well.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by formfeed ( 703859 )

          ...there are actually no well paying work-from-home jobs that you can get in 2-3 months. If it can be done from home, it can be done from India as well.

          - Unless being local is either necessary or preferred.
          I would start with things I like to do and see if others are interested. Crafts, programming for kids, educational crafts, helping others with assembling technical home improvement projects, building water barrels, ..

          Parents might pay for something that is in between a daycare and technical home-schooling - especially if the class meets Saturday night occasionally.

        • Re:Home porn videos? (Score:5, Informative)

          by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @03:19PM (#38851051) Homepage

          For the most part, I agree. However, I can think of three things which can be done well, from home (possibly with a little training) in the tech/industry fields with which I've seen done.

          * Documentation writer. You mentioned you don't write well, but consider how poorly most documentation is written. I'm not talking about product sleeve documentation or anything like that, but more in the systems/development realm. Granted, you'd have to find an employer who is open to this non-traditional approach. This one has quite a few caveats, though: are you technically inclined? Can you read code well enough to tell what it does (having someone go through and double-check code for stupid mistakes while documenting is often useful, and doesn't necessarily take a lot of skill)?

          * Video production tasks - editing, conversion, and encoding. I have roughly 20 hours of video which I need to have taken from a raw DV format, edited, and converted into H264, and posted onto a public site roughly twice a month. We've got someone who does this on the side for us, at home. The video is for archival/educational/historic purposes. The only caveat is that you'd have to be able to be in close proximity to an operation similar to this and be able to follow detailed instructions on what needs to be done.

          * Medical coding/transcriptionist. I know this is a very common work-from-home job, though it requires a fair amount of relatively expensive training. It pays roughly as well as a junior level sysadmin job in many areas, I've noticed. You can work from home, usually at odd hours (doctors need their notes transcribed at all hours of the day), with a fair amount of flexibility for things like "the kids need dinner". You'd have to be able to type fairly quickly, know the coding of medications, and things like that. I'm not sure about the costs or time requirements associated with the training, however. Anywhere with a regional hospital nearby is going to need quite a few people to do this (a 100-workstation private practice I'm familiar with had 6+ doing this).

          • Re:Home porn videos? (Score:5, Informative)

            by keith_nt4 ( 612247 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @04:12PM (#38851305) Homepage Journal

            * Medical coding/transcriptionist. I know this is a very common work-from-home job, though it requires a fair amount of relatively expensive training. It pays roughly as well as a junior level sysadmin job in many areas, I've noticed. You can work from home, usually at odd hours (doctors need their notes transcribed at all hours of the day), with a fair amount of flexibility for things like "the kids need dinner". You'd have to be able to type fairly quickly, know the coding of medications, and things like that. I'm not sure about the costs or time requirements associated with the training, however. Anywhere with a regional hospital nearby is going to need quite a few people to do this (a 100-workstation private practice I'm familiar with had 6+ doing this).

            I work for a relatively small hospital in a relatively rural area and we just got through outsourcing/cutting out our transcriptionists: some of them are still working for the hospital but now employed by an off-shore company while the doctors are apparently going to be using "Dragon Medical" speech dictation software. Point is this option's future my have a shelf life.

      • Re:Home porn videos? (Score:5, Informative)

        by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <`gro.derdnuheniwydnarb' `ta' `em'> on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:31PM (#38850515) Journal

        Because it's a stupid question that's offensive and lacks common sense. She thinks she can learn some magical wizard skill that is not location based, but will allow her to make money without overseas competition, or people that are way more skilled.

        I'd say camming is the best bet (it used to pay decent anyway).

        Competing locally on WordPress/drupal websites may work too, but the marketing is going to take significant out of house time. I'd suspect one could learn to make decent websites in a couple months, sell them for $600, half week's work, but again, you'll have to seek customers locally.

        Would you really want to pay anything to get PHP written by somebody that learned it in a few months?

        • Re:Home porn videos? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Glonoinha ( 587375 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @02:31PM (#38850817) Journal

          My mod points just ran out so I will just say it - that's the most informative and insightful thing I've read all week.
          As a professional software engineer with a masters degree in software engineering and twenty years of professional experience, the question literally offended me.

          Quick, Easy, Make a lot of money. Pick two.

        • Re:Home porn videos? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @02:57PM (#38850955) Homepage

          Would you really want to pay anything to get PHP written by somebody that learned it in a few months?

          Yes, if they're cheap (because they've just learned PHP) but good (because they've just learned PHP, now that it has namespaces and proper objects) and smart (enough to know what good code looks like rather than cheap mass-cut-and-paste crap from outsourced Indian code monkeys).

          After learning PHP for a few months with an appropriate eye toward best practices, the OP could produce code that's functional as a starting point for a new web-based business. Sure, it wouldn't be spectacular or particularly efficient, but it'd be enough to show investors the idea and eventually mold into a working system.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AvitarX ( 172628 )

            You appear to be talking about someone that already knows how to write web apps learning PHP, I don't think that's what the article writer is, and it's not really what I meant.

            • Not at all. I don't really care whether someone has already written several web apps, or not.

              I care more that the programmer recognized when learning that there are good and bad ways to write a program, and went to the effort to learn the differences. Simple things are obvious, yet make an enormous difference:

              • Don't pollute namespaces with your own functions, especially the default.
              • Give variables descriptive names when possible, and avoid unwarranted reuse
              • Include descriptive, well-worded comments for every
        • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @03:22PM (#38851065) Homepage

          She could probably also get on with one of the shady web scraping/placement operation/SEO, if she knew of any. I've met people with hardly any skill who make a fair amount of money doing this.

          At that point, pornography is more ethical.

          If you have scruples, you have a very linear, hard road to climb. Pay is proportional to skill and ability. The only time that seems to deviate is when gross ethical/moral misconduct is involved (whether the participants realize it or not).

      • by Lori_Flynn ( 2536754 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @04:04PM (#38851249)
        Yeah, that's why there are few women who post here, and even fewer who identify that they are women. The frat club atmosphere needs to change, and we need to be welcoming to women geeks here.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28, 2012 @06:52PM (#38852067)

          As a girl that came to read peoples views and their input on this women's situation I was offended to see that the very first comment was about sex. I had the feeling the topic would turn that direction when I saw she admitted to being a female, but i didn't realize it would be so immediate. I rarely post here, but the atmosphere really doesn't seem that women are treated with respect or equality. I thought this was the crowd of people that are usually accepting and above this behavior.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        It is just sickening the speed with which ogres immediately start talking about porn whenever a woman posts. Try a little respect!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lori_Flynn ( 2536754 )
      Way to make women feel really welcome in this space.... NOT. Few women post to here, and even fewer identify themselves as women. Wonder why?
      • Way to make women feel really welcome in this space.... NOT. Few women post to here, and even fewer identify themselves as women. Wonder why?

        It could hardly be the other way around, could it?

  • Do something local (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobbutts ( 927504 ) <> on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:30PM (#38850197)
    The cheaper internet competitors from other places cannot enter this market.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Very true.

      You can advertise is the local or regional papers.

      You have 3 advantages:

      1. You speak English as a native, and understand the culture.
      2. Talent overseas is not always a bag of chips and then some. Cut rate offers means you get what you pay for and it doesn't work right.
      3. The locals can spell and say your name.

      Conversely, if you were to compete with AsiaPAC talent in their home land, they have the advantage locally.

    • by halfaperson ( 1885704 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:47PM (#38850291) Homepage

      I agree on this. About a year ago I quit my job to try my luck as an independent web developer. Pretty naively I assumed that all I had to do was make sure I was visible online and people would find me. Nobody did. I started browsing various sites that offered contracts on a freelance-basis but just like the original poster, I was shocked to see pretty complex projects being sold for 1/10th of what I would have offered without even trying to make a profit! Would I have made a better job than them? Probably. Did they care? No. So what to do?

      After a couple of months I gave up on trying to outbid the competition and started calling some local companies. Turns out a lot of them needed help either with web related projects or IT in general, such as networking, small office servers, etc. While web development was what I was going for when I started, I've noticed I really like the variation in the tasks I'm assigned now. And I still get to do web development.

      So yeah, going local is good advice.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:46PM (#38850601)

        Based on what I've seen and heard the customers you'll find on Elance, rent-a-coder and similar are the ones you want to avoid like the plague. Seriously.

        Forget about learning PHP in a few months unless you want to deliver the crap that so many already are delivering (SQL injections, etc.). Also, PHP itself is not enough, you have to learn some things about Apache (web server), MySQL, etc.

        Start with HTML & CSS and read some good books on design, accessibly, and usability. A (female) friend of mine started several years back with providing accessible HTML and CSS coding services and she's now successful. Be prepared for at least 3 years of hard time.

        As for local: she works mostly (as far as I know) with customers overseas (UK).
        As for myself: I am a freelance Perl programmer -- type it in Google and you got me: SEO is a skill you should learn as well -- living in Mexico. I don't work local because the pay would be 6 times (or more) less and I don't speak Spanish (can understand it, though). So I have customers in the USA (yes, I am one of those curry lovers stealing your jobs :-D), Europe, even Japan. While local makes it possible to visit in person and hence break the ice and maybe sell yourself easier, I don't think it's really needed for my line of work, and maybe not for web design either. Personally, I think personal conversations (skype or in person) are a gigantic waste of time; email works way better (in my case and in my opinion).

        To summarize:

        * forget about PHP in a few months: that's long term and requires study of PHP and at least MySQL, Apache, and several other things.
        * make yourself visible on the Internet
        * forget about eLance and rent-a-coder: the customers you'll get there suck and you can't compete with the others
        * learn HTML, CSS, usability, accessibility and SEO: I would recommend at least 1 hour of study, 3 days a week. And don't learn
            those things from "learn online" sites. It's very hard to find ones that actually know what they are talking about (more so with PHP)
            get yourself 5 good books and read

        Good luck,

    • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:06PM (#38850389)

      Take a look at learning how to setup and "program" FileMaker Pro for small businesses. I am not claiming you can jump in and become an expert in 2-3 months. You need an organized mind and a desire to figure out effective business solutions. It will require a lot of FMPro training of one type or another and you might work with one of the certified developers in your area. Plenty of books exist on database development, so the core knowledge is out there.

      FileMaker is also entering the larger company markets, too, what with their iPad & iPhone apps connecting back to the FMPro on a server. [] []

    • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @02:45PM (#38850897) Homepage

      I admit, you might need to get a babysitter for those times when you're actually doing initial networking and later meeting with clients, but you might be able to find a high schooler in the afternoon, depending on when the local high school lets out. In the summer, it might be even easier.

      Anyway, the local chamber of commerce -- do your research first:

      • Get a list of the members, and what their businesses are.
      • Look over the websites of each of the businesses
      • Pick one or two smaller websites that you think could use major improvement.
      • Make a mock up / prototype showing how the site(s) could be improved (and 'improved' might even be simplifying -- if you find a flash-intensive site, show them how it doesn't work on smartphones or iPad)
      • Present it to the business owner(s)

      If you can get a job from that, then you use that (and their contacts) to build up more clients. (and you might want to join the Chamber of Commerce, too, once you're established). If you can't, then you go for other ways to build up your portfolio -- find business with no web presence, or you might check on what the local non-profits are in your area, or if there's a small municipality, or even just check 1-800-Volunteer [] to see if there are local groups that might need website work. (eg, I volunteer for the local Friends of the LIbrary, and our town's annual street festival, run through the local Recreation Council; both could use help, and maybe also a presence on social networking sites so we can do more 'push' of information).

      If none of those work out, I'd then look to see if you can help out with Code for America [] or any other open source group you feel passionately about, while still trying to network to find local work. You could even look to start up a local community website if there isn't one already (list local businesses, events, what's going on in local government, etc.).

      Basically, don't just look it as a way to make money -- look at is as a way to help local businesses/non-profits/government to improve ... making it easier for people to find important information (when do you open on Sunday? does the restaurant offer anything vegan/gluten free? What services do you offer? etc.), presenting the information in a better way (ie, the website is too disorganized; it might be how their business is organized, but the general public doesn't expect to find (x) under (y)), or helping them reach out via social networking or e-mail (eg, this week's specials; important upcoming events; etc.)

  • Quality Assurance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:32PM (#38850203) Homepage

    Lots of software companies will either hire you on staff or contract with you as a freelancer to do remote quality assurance on their products.

    You can pitch your writing & communication skills as an asset here. Instead of saying: this doesn't work, you can write reasonable, reproducible, clear defect and quality reports.

    • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:53PM (#38850321) Homepage

      I'll second this. I have received many surprising compliments on my bug reports. It takes some time to get used to thinking in terms of a detailed report, but once it's natural, developers will greatly appreciate thorough and clear reports. If your writing is detailed enough, there are companies where the developers will actually look forward to having you test the product. As a developer myself, I have seen far too many terrible reports to count, where the procedure wasn't clear, text was inaccurate, or the "steps to reproduce" didn't actually reproduce the problem (even on the user's machine).

      High-quality QA is in demand, but many companies don't even realize it. They see their usual reports as "good enough" and spend countless extra hours trying to reproduce that one unwritten action that caused a problem.

      • High-quality QA is in demand, but many companies don't even realize it.

        I would agree with the parent completely. However for an even more complete skill set, consider investing some time in learning a build scripting language, continuous integration or unit testing framework. You may also need to learn a bit of programming (think jack of all trades here, knowing many languages well enough to get by), but generally not as much or as varied as the devs writing the software that you are testing. Someone who has these skills, even if they don't have a CS degree or lots of programm

    • Re:Quality Assurance (Score:4, Informative)

      by ubrgeek ( 679399 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:53PM (#38850323)
      I used to do tech editing for books like some of the Idiot's guides (). Pay was $2/page and very easy.
      • by c_sd_m ( 995261 )
        How did you get started doing tech editing?
        • by ubrgeek ( 679399 )
          I was an editor for a (now-defunct) "Geek news" site and someone there mentioned doing it. I emailed the publishing company and passed along my resume. They asked if I was interested in writing a book and I said it was too much effort. They came back and asked if I was interested in the tech editing and I said sure.
  • by TheSimkin ( 639033 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:33PM (#38850211)
    If you are good at video games and enjoy them you could make some money playing video games professionally, making walktrhoughs etc! [] is where i started, they have a lot of tips and tricks on how to get started and get more views quickly. good luck!!!
  • by DustPuppySnr ( 899790 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:38PM (#38850235)
    If you are interested in learning a web development language, use that skills to work on a idea for your own sites. When I started learning web development, I created a small on-line tool that people can use. Every time I learned a new language, I've re-written the web app in that particular language as an exercise. So my little webapp went from Perl, PHP, Python WSGI to the current Python Django. Now after a few years, I'm getting 1.5K visitors a day and earning about $300 a month for doing nothing. So instead of working for someone else at $100 per project, I starting on some new ideas and seeing if I can earn more recurring income while sipping on a beer. The only hard part is finding the idea to work on.
  • by dugjohnson ( 920519 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:43PM (#38850271) Homepage
    You'll find that your skills, assuming you can put together a decent website, will do fine if you work with a local organization.
    There are tons of organizations near you/anyone who need help with their web sites, but who would feel very uncomfortable working with an eLance or an overseas company...and they don't have the budget to really pay the costs of what most consulting firms would charge. This means you are going to have to get out and make some contacts. The easiest thing you can do, assuming you can present at all, is to put together a talk (approx 20 minutes) that you can give with power point and without on "Promoting your company on the web" and then offer it to your local chamber of commerce and Rotary and women in business organizations. The information has to be useful whether they hire you or not. But there will be leads that come from that and off you go.
  • by SomePgmr ( 2021234 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:45PM (#38850279) Homepage
    Little side jobs that I do often come from business contacts of friends, followed by word of mouth from those jobs.

    Real people like to deal with real people. Asking someone in India to do work for you feels like a bizarre gamble for your average business. That's your competitive advantage and you should use it.
    • Real people like to deal with real people. Asking someone in India to do work for you feels like a bizarre gamble for your average business. That's your competitive advantage and you should use it.

      Just to add to that, many small businesses want part-time/remote/on-call support, not a full time employee. Tell people you're a stay at home mom, that you may not respond right away, and that you're only interested in smaller projects. Combined with a cheap hourly rate and a sample portfolio, small business people will be happy to hire you. You can raise your rates with experience and contacts.

      Also, learning the basics is essential and the right way to start, but you should also learn how do an entire webs

  • I was a freelancer (Score:5, Informative)

    by zaydana ( 729943 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:46PM (#38850287)

    I haven't done any online projects recently, but for some years I used to work pretty much exclusively on projects from (now

    The way I got into it was by starting bidding low on small jobs, getting good feedback, and progressively moving onto larger jobs. You'll find that the people willing to pay a decent amount on these websites also want experience and good reviews.

    Once you have the reputation to even be considered, you need to make sure you bid on the right projects. That means finding projects that don't have a huge number of bids, and projects which match your previous experience. You need a portfolio. If you have spare time, spend it working on something which you can show off to prospective bidders. I'm pretty sure a little javascript asteroids clone I wrote 5 years back got me more work than any other reasons I gave people to hire me.

    It also helps to concentrate on projects which are the latest big craze - when I was working, this was javascript. Not many people knew how to use it properly, so there were fewer bidders and you could charge higher prices. Of course, everybody "knows" javascript now days - I imagine phone apps is where it is at.

    However you approach it, don't be discouraged when you don't win projects. It takes a while to get into the game. And regardless of how well you do, remember that you'd still make more money by working for locals (which is why I quit). Unless you enjoy it, theres probably better ways of making money.

    Good luck!

    • by Courageous ( 228506 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:09PM (#38850409)

      Pay particular attention to zaydana's recommendation to do a significant pet project. Tangible, proven skills even in an otherwise toy problem are one aspect of breaking into the software business, no matter where you ultimately work.

      Conversely, if one doesn't have the personal inclination or passion to actually come up with such a project, one perhaps should consider something other than a life in software.

      • I'll second this. I started coding before finishing high school, and got my first "real" (summer-long, paid hourly and a damn good rate for a credential-less 18-year-old) job before starting university. The reason? A hobby project I'd developed, and could quickly describe to the manager. That let me break into the world of paid summer internships, which ended up paying for my entire education without requiring me to work during the school year (not an easy task, in the US).

        Now, I'm looking to switch jobs or

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      Writing/selling mobile games or other apps is a reasonable way to get started. Even if your app doesn't sell it gives you some experience; and you'll have more credibility if you can point to a few things in the store of your choice that have your name on them. You'll also get a better idea of how many hours are involved in a project to help with the bidding.

      All that said, if all you want to do is write code you will have to compete with third world developers. Given your background in writing you might

    • by jafo ( 11982 )

      The way I got into it was by starting bidding low on small jobs, [...]

      Forget it, the original poster already said they tried this on writing. If she can't go into something and immediately have it be "worth my time", ... not interested!

      Sorry to break it to you, but if you have no experience and no reputation and no references, chances are you are going to make no money. If you aren't willing to take some no money jobs to get reputation and experience and references, you are setting yourself up for failure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:51PM (#38850309)

    I've tried what you've tried. I was on Rent A Coder, Moonlighter, Guru, and a few others.

    First of all, with a '0' zero score, it will be extrememely difficult to get work - even if you offer your services for $1 or whatever the minimum is these days. Those sites are saturated with people. And many folks posting jobs actually have geographical restrictions: if you're not in a Third World country, you can't even bid.

    Local business?

    Again. Depending are on where you are matters, but here in Metro Atlanta, things are saturated. There have been a large amount of lay-offs and many folks are trying to do what you're doing out of desperation. Every Tom, Dick, Harry, Larry and Mary are in web development, support and PC repair. And contrary to the opinion here, they're not all screw-ups or mediocre - there are quite a few talented people out of work. Many of them had real jobs doing those things and got canned during economic meltdown. I constantly see signs on the side of the road from folks trying to get web design, coding, PC repair, and support work.


    Good luck. Without paid experience it is also very hard. Folks want to talk to previous clients and see what other work you have done. And even then ... Out of desperaton, I tried putting up my own websites under different company names to use as "references" but my measely two websites werent' enough or I just sucked - I don't know because I never got feedback from people who mattered. Sure, all my friends said they looked great but apparently they weren't good enough.

    I do know someone who did do well - as a graphic artist. She had a following at her old job and when she quit, the folks who liked her recommended her and when they changed jobs, they hired her - that way she didn't get into trouble for poaching people.

    tl;dr Starting in this day and age as a freelancer is extremely difficult. All the folks I know who are making a living as freelancers were doing it since the 90's early '00s.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @12:59PM (#38850345) Journal

    If you can work from home, you can work from Bangalore. And people working from Bangalore are cheaper.

    • If you can work from home, you can work from Bangalore. And people working from Bangalore are cheaper.

      That's incorrect for anything where the language barrier might be an issue, the hours might be a problem, or there are any security restrictions around the data at all.

      The best bet is probably non-technical. I've seen work at home jobs for secretaries, and call-center type work that anyone can do, wouldn't take full-day effort, and is not outsourcable. Of course if you're looking for decent wages, workin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The real home money is in BotNet herding. You can read all about this great money making opportunity in this PDF. ;)

  • In my ongoing research into digital nomads, I stumbled across the idea of a "virtual assistant" — whether or not this would be up your street, I've no idea, but mentioning it just in case.

    There are loads of results to a simple Google search, but the Wikipedia entry [] is probably the best starting point.

  • With the increase in tools like LogMeIn, could you provide remote technical support to home users, who might appreciate a more personal touch than the likes of PC World?

    Starting in the local area, perhaps, to build up a reputation, then expanding? You "kill what you eat," but would need to be available at the times which suited those paying you, unlike, say, documentation writing, which would likely be more flexible on you.

    • Indeed, worked for large multinational corps the past decade+ doing tech support and implementation. Typically you do need to work in an office for a while before they'll let you work from home, but those types of jobs are out there.
  • If you are a geek, chances are you either worked hard, or else found computing easy, I'd have thought? In either case, you likely have a lot of knowledge which you could share, and charge for doing so? Whether running weekly classes in a local community hall, perhaps even library, or teaching remotely over the Internet (which is obviously easier to tailor to individual needs), I would have thought that there would people looking to learn from someone who does not sound like a corporate drone but comes acro

  • by j-stroy ( 640921 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:20PM (#38850461)
    Everyone knows someone with computer trouble and often its not that hard to resolve. Especially if you can do it as a house-call.

    Additionally, people with computers are often trying to do things with them.. websites, imagery, newsletters, blogs, etc. and many folks don't know how.

    Setting them up document templates, blogs, and other workflow in addition to good free software, and advising on purchases is a good way to go for someone with even modest experience.

    Computer experience is a "culture" of knowledge that many people aren't connected to. By having face-time with your clients you can know them well enough to do remote desktop or phone support from home on their projects as they do them. They will recommend you to everyone they know if they are happy and that can lead to bigger contracts. In home-based you need both the big and the small contracts.

    This can also lead to doing contra with any local businesses you are a customer of. woohoo!
  • by slk ( 2510 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:22PM (#38850469)

    What you are asking for is not possible due to the way markets work.

    If there is a skill that takes only a few months to learn, doesn't require formal background, and then you can do meaningful projects, that skill is not worth much because just about anybody can learn it.

    Pick something that is more than a simple skill (i.e. artistic aptitude, something unique), find a niche, find something that's still widely used but "out of fashion", go local (works better in a relatively "low-tech" locale), find somebody who will take on an apprentice / mentee in some area deeper than a "2-3 month learning curve".

    Also, if you're already writing, they way to get better at writing is to keep writing. Start a blog or two, volunteer to write documentation for a non-profit or open source project or similar, use that as a portfolio to find better paying writing work.

    Speaking of non-profits - volunteering with one is a great way to network, find somebody who might pay you for the skills you're using as a volunteer, etc.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      You can do it if you use the skill to address a gap in the market. I did that and accidentally turned it into a little side business.

      A few years back a friend wanted to connect some old Spectrum/Atari/Amiga joysticks to his PC. We mucked about with some adapter plans we found on the internet but eventually I just made my own USB one using my knowledge of electronics and microcontroller programming. I started getting lots of emails about it so made a few for people, had some PCBs done in China (Seeed Studio)

      • by slk ( 2510 )
        @AniMoJo - that's exactly what I'm suggesting - find a niche. Don't go after a commodity market; commodity markets get commodity pricing.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:30PM (#38850507) Homepage

    If you are not an expert in something, don't think you are going to learn it easily and do it at home. "At home" means you get paid 1/10th the pay for 5X the work. if you are ok with working from 7am to 7pm every day and getting basically $1.00-$2.00 an hour, then go for it.

    honestly you need to be a seasoned expert that is highly skilled and knowledgeable in a field to make any real money at home. My wife is a CPA with 22 years of experience and does taxes at home for small businesses.

    You can look up medical transcription, but you have to be a stellar typist that has a very high accuracy and speed to make it. But you can make a good wage (for home based, entry level wage for a go to work based)

    your best bet, find a regular job. Your kids will be fine with daycare, and honestly it's healthy for you to get away from them for periods of time.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:44PM (#38850587) Journal

    The kind of customer who uses $1 dollar an hour coders is not the kind of customer you want to be working for. They have no idea about price vs quality or how an economy is supposed to work.

    I have in the past had to deal with more then my fair share of companies and individuals who had let their software or website be developed by either outsourcing or paying some kid a below minimum wage rate. Eventually it turns out that this doesn't result in even good enough code and then they came searching for someone to fix it all. And geesh, often they had spend their entire budget and more on the promises of "it will be fixed in the next version if you pay me now" and now they had nothing left but an average and outdated idea, useless code and a lesson not learned. The lucky ones can loan some more money but now have to start in debt with a website that has to be rebuild from scratch and is now last to market.

    I have seen everything from sites where order lines were overwritten with new orders by the same person, to simple exchange rate errors on the financial report which the IRS does NOT find half as amusing as you might think to programs that load everything from the database and then search through it in memory. Works perfect for a demo with 5 products, enter your 50.000 and you need a super computer.

    BUT the customers using these rent-a-coder site still think you can rent a coder for a dollar and get quality because obviously quality coders have no other options. Region matters less then they think, if it is no problem getting a coder in a low wage region to work for you, then it is no problem for that worker to get work for higher wages from your region... open borders work both ways. Here is the sting with outsourcing, the capable people in outsourcing regions don't want to work for your wages AND will work on their OWN ideas so THEY get the big bucks.

    If the customer is only interested in low price, then you are racing to the bottom trying to compete. There is currently a big market for anyone who can setup a Magento webshop. But there are a LOT of bidders out there thinking they can do it for less and less money. Sure, you might try to persuade that YOU can do it better, make it more efficient, not have pages load in under 1 minute and be proud of it but you would be surprised just how few companies that want to start a web shop have either the know-how or the budget to do it right. You are setting yourself up for despair.

    In many ways, getting a cleaning job pays better. People might not appreciate the work of a web developer but they do appreciate the work of the person that stops their toilets from becoming alive. The bottom end of web development is not a place to look for an income. To many competitors, not enough employers who know that quality costs money. Hell, the OP is part of problem, someone who doesn't need to make a real living from it undercutting those who do. How can you make a wage if there are people doing it for tips? Plenty of university girls make a living as a hooker, not so many boys do. How can you sell what so many are willing to give away for free or the cost of a beer?

    Same deal.

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Saturday January 28, 2012 @01:54PM (#38850631)

    1st -> Find the free open source web content management system used most in your area/country in the professional field. In Germany that'd be Typo3, in your case (I'm guessing you're a US resident) that would probably be EZ Publish, Drupal or something like that.

    2nd -> Learn that system and learn it well. Do this in the following order (timeframes mentioned are basic estimates based on my experience in 13 years of web development):

            a) 6 months: Editing and Management, understanding the systems structure principles, Backend/Admin Interface Navigation, core system functions and features. (Coverd with User Maunals and User Books on your CMS) --> take on first jobs as an editor for installations and websites using said system.

            b) 4 months: Markup stuff. Templating, HTML, CSS, minor changes and adjustments at that level, look into mobile templates aswell, everything is going mobile, you want to be on top of that when doing markup stuff (covered with HTML and CSS books)

            c) After about a year: Installing and maintaining, DB structure, MySQL DB Management (I'm presuming it uses a MySQL DB, since they all do), low-level maintainance, basic admining and maintainance at shell access level (Unix/Linux/OS X type stuff), DB and media directory backup, versioning ... Here is where 3rd party tools come into play and will become an important asset. FTP GUI tool, Versioning GUIs, DB Tools, editors, etc. As for versioning my hint: Go with Git right away, the tools awailable now are foolproof and if you start versioning with the distributed paradigm right away you won't have problems understanding it later on. (covered with DB adming, Shell navigation, Linux, Apache and Books on Versioning ... you're entering solid OReilly territory here)

            d)1,5 - 2 years into your new field: Programming, internal framework structure, maybe some PL basics before hand (more specialist tools, perhaps an IDE of some sort, maybe your own remote system) (covered with books on the programming language the system is implemented in ... most of them are built with PHP, Ajax / JavaScript would be the other end)

    If you really want to make this your job, *do* focus on one system and one system/framework only! Pick the one most people are using or the one with which you get your first big-time paying customer. And don't be fooled, even then getting good money won't be easy at first. Proper editor level maintainace of a non-trivial web CMS requires experience, as does handling whiny customers and keeping your cool when the system goes offline for some odd reason you'll be researching for the next 30 hours :-) . You'll gain experience on the way, but also some grey hairs, so I expect anyway.

    Start with maintaining your own test system and your own site running said system. Offer yourself up for editorial and maintainance work. Take it from there going into low-level maintainance and programming This will become interessting after 12-18 months into your new job.

    Bottom line:
    Popular system, start of as an editor, take it from there.
    Good luck.

    My 2 cents.

  • First, to repeat what others have said - think local and network like crazy.

    There are a lot of small-mid sized corporations that have a small (1-4 person) IT team but have an infrastructure that needs 24/7 monitoring. And if there's one thing that's universally despised by overworked sysadmins, it's being force to carry "the pager".

    No matter how well you set up your Nagios/Cacti monitoring, there is inevitably a high number of Flaps going to the pager "WARNING!!! Agg!! I can't ping Server Z! Panic!
  • I assume your experience is in writing fiction or somesuch. Have you considered technical writing, i.e. creating user manuals, etc.? The skill set overlaps somewhat, but if it's the creative aspects of writing that were the problem, this may be an option.

    (tech writer)

  • My girlfriend is deaf, and traditional office environments have typically been hard for her. At some point she decided to start working from home so most of her interactions would be over email. She had experience working for non-profits and picked up some SQL and knowledge of some of the databases backed financial systems that those non-profits use (notably Raiser's Edge). She found a decent amount of work on E-lance doing financial reports for non-profits using Crystal Reports and SQL Server Reporting

  • First of all, get experience and knowledge in many different systems (e.g.: MS, Unix, Linux, Cisco, Mac, etc.) and learn how to make them work together. Use your house LAN and your free time now to interconnect them in ways that would be useful to potential LOCAL clients. Combining free Linux applications (installed on cast-off computers your customer has in a closet) with local licensed applications can often save a small LOCAL company a lot of money.

    Secondly, make a business... I suggest an LLC or an S-Co

  • I wish I could put a couple months of effort into something and make a reasonable income on it too, that way I could spend as little as I possibly could and reap the greatest benefits

    God bless America

  • by kawabago ( 551139 )
    A lay at home Mom.
  • I've been freelancing for a little under a year (I'm a work-at-home dad ;)), and so far have had overwhelming success using some of the sites previously mentioned (,, etc), so here's my two cents...

    First of all, don't let the fact that you have to compete with dozens of other bidders take you down, as most of these are just low-quality unprofessional washouts or even outright scammers.

    If you put some effort into your proposals (like sending the employer a private message letting the

  • Leverage what you've got: kids, time, a local network. Many have walked this route, but I don't see the market saturating any time soon. []

  • Thanks! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThatGamerChick ( 1128457 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @03:01PM (#38850971)
    Hi, OP here. I would also like to thank everyone for the tips and suggestions. I'm still doing my own research, and this thread has given me more to think about. I just wanted to address a few things. I know I'm not going to be a complete master at the end of 2-3 months. I was hoping that, like some other fields, you can learn a bit and then start working. Like programming scripts to automate tedious tasks, or gather info from the web, etc. I figured that I could offer something small and reasonably priced. At first, I thought about learning a piece of specialized software like ACT for real estate agents, or how to set up and write scripts for Ubot. There's just so much out there, I'm not sure where to focus on. Also, I am and will always be a full-time Mom. They come first and is the main reason I'm staying at home. But the household does need a few extra bucks a month. I'm not looking for the equivalent of a full-time job. So, thanks again for all the comments :)
    • Re:Thanks! (Score:4, Informative)

      by r00t ( 33219 ) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @04:46PM (#38859405) Journal

      You might effectively earn more income by doing things to make your husband more employable. A good breakfast (hot, with protein and vegetables) would help. You could pack a nutritious lunch for him. You could encourage him to get plenty of sleep: mild excercise a few hours prior, a decent meal, then calmness and avoidance of bluish light as bedtime approaches.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Saturday January 28, 2012 @03:37PM (#38851123) Homepage Journal

    Cherish the good friends you make over the years, because like you, they're rising in their careers, and some day they might have a contract or job bid to throw your way.

    Never be afraid to meet people, hand out your business cards, and introduce yourself and your business. Even if they're not interested, give them TWO cards and ask them to pass one along to a friend (you'd be surprised how often they end up in the hand of a friend who's looking for such services.)

    You can not win the game of life playing roulette with every other schmuck on the planet who thinks slinging code == programming. It's not. Programming is a broad-based skillset of analysis, debugging, design, and coming up with unorthodox ideas to solve everyday problems. A coder is a dime a dozen; a PROGRAMMER is a special breed.

  • You say you aren't a good writer, and presumably you don't know PHP etc.[1] since you specified a skill you can learn quickly.

    What skills do you have? I'd say that's the place to start.

    [1] When you reply to a post crapdot shows it above the editing area, but when you reply to TFA it doesn't.

  • No experience is required, and local positions, e.g., city council member, do not require large campaign budgets. Go to your local democrat/republican party chair and find out what's available. Then go to some prominent business people and let them know that you can be bought. The rest should be easy (except the part when you have to bend over and take it from your donors).
  • One thing you could try to improve work is to focus on web development specialized to mobile devices.

    That way you could also create jobs by going to places around you who have a web site that does not work well for mobile devices, and tell them how you could improve the site to provide extra features for mobile users or just better usability.

    Another possible side niche is accessibility, you could specialize in that and overhaul sites to add accessible features. Again a demonstration of how a disabled user

  • The best and easiest remote job I had was 'typesetting' a manuscript ready for printing.
    Most authors use a word processing program and submit their work to a publisher. The manuscript often is really badly formatted, inconsistent as authors dress up their work to make it look pretty, which is totally useless when it comes to the print stage.
    The publisher then needs to convert the text into a format that the printer can read by adding and
    The process is something like this:
    * Convert to plain text or RTF if

Only God can make random selections.