Want to earn a bit of much-need cash in these times of hardship? Consultant Susan Hayes shows 10 (less common) ways you can do so, without needing a VAT number
A common misconception is that, to generate income from a source other than your salary, you need to be either very resourceful or a business owner. Not so. Being enterprising has nothing to do with having a company registration number or a VAT number. You can simply declare additional income as a means of self-employment, by contacting www.revenue.ie about filling out Form 11 in your next tax assessment.
Too many people still believe that to generate income you need to be in business, and in order to be in business you need a bricks-and-mortar premises, employees, suppliers, a huge amount of capital (that you will have to raise by wooing investors and being up to your eyes in debt) and what not.
Whereas what you truly need is: a product or service to sell, people willing to pay for it, and a way to tell those people that you have what they want. At the intersection of those three things is income-generating potential. You absolutely need all three, and then all that's left is your own action behind making them come together.
Take the example of my first "self-employment opportunity", mentoring people to invest in the stock market: it almost crept up on me. I hadn't realised I was in business until I already was. A customer of the company I was working for at the time called me to ask a few questions about using an online trading account to implement the investing strategy he had learned at our seminar. As answering the questions over the phone proved complicated, I offered to meet him in person. I spent one hour with him as we went through each of his difficulties until they were resolved. He was delighted.
My employer suggested that it was a service above and beyond the call of duty: why didn't I charge for it? When the next person called with more stock market practicalities questions, I told them I could meet them to go over each point with them – for a fee. They immediately agreed, saying this was just what they'd been looking for. And it turned out they were not alone.
As you read through the following list, remember that it's important to choose the income-generating strategy that you will enjoy doing. There is an abundance of ways to make more money, and choosing the one (or several) that you like is the way to succeed. The best income generation idea is the one you actually carry through.
Here are 10 ideas to increase your income on the side. Before you think it's too much work, please bear in mind: you could start with a resolution of just spending one hour on each, looking up more information and leads on the internet. Why not devote one hour a day over the next 10 days to explore each idea? And then commit to trying out one to start with. Don't despair that you couldn't possibly pursue them all: you could do very well out of just doing one. I know for a fact that each of these ideas works: in each case, either I have used that strategy (in the past or even now), or I am working on using it as an element of my own New Year's resolutions.
1 This one might sound too good to be true, but believe me, it is very lucrative. Connect Ireland has made it its objective to attract foreign companies to Ireland. Say you know someone working as a receptionist in an office in Sydney or a member of your family has recently had to emigrate to Canada and is working in a multinational. The company has been discussing creating a new office in Europe. You could suggest they talk to Connect Ireland about opening an Irish base as a springboard into the largest market in the world. If this is successful, Connect Ireland will pay you €1,500 per job. On average each project brings 35 jobs into the economy, which works out at €52,500 (and tax-free, if you're an Irish resident). All you need to do is send an email or make a call to everybody that you know working in a company outside the country, which could turn into a significant financial reward, as well as helping Ireland get back on its feet!
2 Invest in your pension. By choosing to put your money into such a "vehicle", you get the tax back on the amount you invest. If you are in the 41 per cent tax band, an investment of just €5,900 can create a €10,000 savings and, similarly, if you're within the 20pc tax bracket, an investment of €8,000 generates €10,000.
A lot of people will object that pension funds are expensive, or have not done very well in the past and why not use a normal savings account. While these are very justified views, if you simply put the money into a low-cost savings product, within the wrapper of a pension, you can still avail of the tax benefit. This is free money the State is willing to give you. If you put the money into a normal savings account, you miss out on the benefit and have to pay DIRT (Deposit Interest Retention Tax).
Visit www.pensionsboard.ie for lots of useful guides and calculators.
3Are you prone to "wasting" time on social media? Guess what, it's also something a lot of companies are willing to pay for. Look up the social media profiles of businesses in your area (geographical or area of expertise) and select those that look abandoned or clumsy and in need of some TLC. Contact the businesses and offer to take control of their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest in exchange for a fee. You may very well turn a source of distraction into a source of revenue.
4If you like the online world, you might consider becoming an "affiliate". Go to www.clickbank.com and look for information products you are interested in. Download an ebook or course, test it, and if you really like it, think it has value and would feel comfortable recommending it to others, you could make a commission via sales. You would be provided with your own website and then, as you blog about the product, promote it on social media, build backlinks, hone your SEO etc, you then pocket the commission generated by sales through your website.
5Mystery shopping comes in many guises. The basic principle is that you go through an experience and are then paid to write a review of it. If you Google "mystery shopping", you will see the plethora of companies seeking people to critique a product or service. You might approach a newspaper or magazine about writing product reviews for them. How about going on a cruise and writing about your experience? Or offering usability critiques for company websites?
6Get paid to give your opinion. Market research companies want to find out everything about the target market of their clients and they're willing to pay for it. Google "money for opinions" and then you fill out your profile. The company then emails you and invites you to answer a survey about the mobile phone usage of your demographic in exchange for €x. I used to do this between lectures when I was at college and this is probably the easiest option on this list! Do this for an hour a day and you'll be surprised at how it adds up.
7This can be a touchy subject, but you might have received some, how shall I put it, "puzzling" Christmas gifts recently. How about selling them online, on donedeal.ie or eBay? This extends to all the items that add to the clutter in your home. What things haven't you used in more than six months? Gather everything that is in good condition, take some good quality pictures, upload the product details and photos online and then turn them into money! You can also go to a clothes exchange to swap items that no longer fit your size and style for a new look for a new year.
8 This one might not strike you as a direct way to make money, but it is an extremely effective strategy that I use all the time. Meet every single person who can help you with your finances. Talk to your bank manager, your stockbroker, your financial adviser, your insurance agent. Talk to the career service where you went to college. Spend time on LinkedIn and join relevant groups. Is there a way they could bring down the cost or increase the value they're giving you? Most people never review their contracts again once they've signed them. Look at every single service provider that you have and ensure that you're getting the best deal on offer.
9 Another golden opportunity too few people know about is the European programme Erasmus for Entrepreneurs. If you have a business idea or have been in business less than three years, the European Commission can fund you to work at a foreign company, for between one and six months. The programme finds a partner company in another European country for you and takes care of all the details, while you get paid to learn from a more established business, in exchange for some fresh entrepreneurial energy. This programme is an all-round win as it facilitates the transfer of know-how and information within the EU, increasing our competitive advantage; and the young entrepreneur can buy some time for their budding business, get some really good ideas and precious contacts. If things go well, there could be further opportunities for international trade and your chaperone might become your first exports contact. Speaking of exports, you might like to download my free ebook on the topic when you sign up for my newsletter at thepositiveeconomist.com.
10 Educate yourself on the stock market, this is another income-generating opportunity that suffers from common misconceptions. Most people confuse investing with speculating, whereas the two have little in common. Speculating is high-risk whereas investing is stacking the odds in your favour to make money over the medium term. Educate yourself about ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds) with high yields (a yield is the rate of return you get on an annual basis).
An ETF is a fund that tracks an index. It is an easy-to-understand, low-cost way to diversify your investments and possibly generate some income along the way. It is much cheaper than a traditional fund as it doesn't require the expertise of a fund manager: For example, I bought the iShares High Yield Corporate Bond ETF which is currently offering 6.37pc and I keep my costs low by buying through an online broker (which takes about a minute to learn how to do).
I hope this list has sparked your creativity and your curiosity. For more income-generating ideas and a repeatable system to earn your first €100 – and the next, my new book has just been published.
'The Savvy Woman's Guide to Financial Freedom' (Penguin), €12.99, was published last week. www.savvywomenonline.com