Part-Time Job-Shopping While Building Your Home Business
By Christopher Bachler
A new home-based business might not get off the ground so quickly. While you’re building and waiting, you might need to find some alternate ways to cover your costs. Even after your business takes off, you might still need additional income strategies for the slow times. In short, you might need to nail down part-time work, or add some home-based services in addition to your normal line of work.
For example, a person who normally works from home as a writer or editor for publishing houses might look at other available avenues when the publishing industry is sagging. She might look for alternative sources of work, such as for ad agencies, large corporations, or even small local businesses. She might even shift to such mundane work as handling business correspondence, or even seek any available part-time work, even outside her normal line of work.
These options are easier than ever since so many companies are hiring people to work part-time from home. The reasons are many, but they mainly relate to costs and difficulty in getting the right people to come into an office on a regular basis. In addition, technology now makes “telecommuting” a much easier option than it once was.
Try to pick something part-time that won’t conflict with your ordinary business. For example, if the work is much the same and you are good at it and don’t tire of it, fine. If, on the other hand, your ordinary work is creative, you might be wise to take on something that doesn’t overtax your creative faculties. Naturally your focus should be on getting something you can do at home. But that might not always be possible.
Also think about picking something part-time that might be useful to your home business. For instance, a woman who makes dresses from home might pick part-time work where she might meet potential customers, such as in a department store. Or a landscaper, during the off-seasons, might take work at an office complex where he might be able to pitch his services to the complex owners for the brighter months, or even line up individual customers among the people who work there.
The number of part-time jobs you could take at home is limitless. Just search the job sites or use your imagination. But it might be helpful to get a heads-up on some of the more popular or common positions of this kind. For example, an article published at the popular job site, CareerBuilder.com, listed 10 good jobs for home-based workers, including:
• Administrative assistant
• Advertising sales agent
• Computer software engineer
• Corporate event planner
• Copy editor
• Desktop publisher
• Data entry clerk
• Insurance underwriter
• Market research analyst
A few more good bets might include:
• Billing services
• Answering services
• Pet sitting
• Sales-related functions
• Computer programming
• Writing or editing
• Graphic design
• Web site design
• Customer service
• Bulk mailings
• Repair services
• Income tax work (for the IRS – seasonal)
• Packaging and packing
If you take on part-time work because business is slow, it might be best not to broadcast the fact. That doesn’t mean you need to go out of your way to hide the fact. But you don’t want clients or potential clients thinking that things are slow because you’re not very good. Such impressions, though false, can spread and damage your business reputation.
Where to Look
The Internet is the leading candidate, due to its ease of use, round-the-clock accessibility, and inexpensiveness. It’s also the place where most job searches are done these days. So start there. (See the sidebar on page 100 for specifics).
Don’t rule out the “Want Ads.” While thinner than ever, they still post opportunities that are overlooked by so many that are glued to the Net. Moreover, not every job listed in the papers is posted on the Net.
Your newspaper search shouldn’t stop with Want Ads. Good entrepreneurs habitually scour their local papers for various opportunities. For example, you might read about a huge corporation that will be moving to your area, or a competitor who is going out of business. Not only might you spot opportunities for part-time employment, but you might also spot leads for your home business.
Don’t limit yourself to posted jobs. Yes, that’s the place to start since you know there’s a need. But there’s also lots of competition for those jobs. Therefore, also pitch to employers who aren’t currently looking for help.
Also, don’t limit yourself to specific postings for part-time or home-based work. Check out the full-time listings in areas you might like to work, and offer to work for them from home on a part-time basis. You might also offer to fill in when their people are on vacation or out sick, or while they’re looking for full-time replacements. Nor should you limit your search to big companies. Because of their limited resources, the smaller firms will often offer better opportunities for someone like you.
Review job postings regularly, even when you’re not looking for work. This will give you an idea of what types of jobs are most in demand, and which industries and companies are in frequent need of help. So even if they’re not currently posting, contacting them might be fruitful because you’ll be first in line the next time they’re in need.
Networking is not only good for business, but it’s also useful for getting jobs these days. Employers are increasingly shy about advertising jobs, because they don’t want to be swamped with unqualified applicants. Consequently, they look for recruits through various back channels. Therefore, get to know more people, and keep in touch with them. (For more tips on effective networking, see upcoming issues of Home Business® Magazine).
After networking, direct mail is probably the best way to make contact with potential employers, because it’s the least intrusive method of contact, most likely to be seen by the person you want to reach, and allows you to include the most material. So start there, and begin with a background research of the company (on the Web), and determine which individual you should contact. Send your material in a large 9 x 12 envelope so it will stand out among all those smaller envelopes that most applicants send. Large envelopes are almost irresistible to open.
To “make the sale,” enclose more than the standard resume and cover letter. Besides, you need an “excuse” for sending that big, noticeable envelope. Anything you add that will impress the recipient will give you an edge. You might include publicity clips, something you’ve written, copies of certifications or awards, or anything else that would impress the employer with your skills and background. (Also include a separate sheet that highlights the services you are qualified to offer.)
If you have nothing else, a clip of an interesting article that makes some relevant point in your favor might be a useful sales tool. A person looking for home-based work might send an article clip that stresses the growing advantages for employers to hire people like them.
Absolutely enclose a good photograph, if you have one. That will give you a personalized edge over all those “faceless” competitors who are sending their bland resumes, in those plain envelopes.
If you do include enclosures, indicated it on the outside of the envelope by writing in red “ENCLOSURES.” It’s no cheap trick, but a good way to ensure that your mailer gets attention.
Opportunities are routinely missed for want of follow up. Just sending your resume and waiting for them to contact you is a formula for wasted time. Instead, give your mailers about a week, and then call your targets. Be sure to ask for the decision-maker.
When you make contact, don’t just ask: “Did you get my resume?” Instead, introduce yourself and your purpose in one concise sentence, and mention your correspondence. Then make your case by clarifying the benefit to the other person. Rather than say, “I’m looking for part-time accounting work, and wondered if you need someone,” you might say, “I can handle part-time or temporary accounting work for companies that want to save on full-time employment costs, benefits, and office costs, and I wanted you to know that I’m available, should you ever have need.”
While on the phone, or during your initial meeting, you might be wise to mention your experience as an entrepreneur, and that you can appreciate the problems that businesspeople face. Even if you’re just looking for part-time work, your experience and empathy might interest an employer who has probably had his hands full with employees who think employers have it easy, and have no understanding of the headaches of running a business.
If permissible, follow up by e-mail or fax. Find out which is preferred when you make contact by phone.
Some of the fastest-growing industries in the country are home services, which include cleaning and repairs, landscaping, running errands, dog sitting, and even providing various personal services for people. Lots of home-based entrepreneurs have built successful full-time home service businesses, and many even arrange to do such work on a part-time or temporary basis. Home services are also easy to promote, usually through such channels as church bulletins, personal referral, door-to-door leafleting, and leaving business cards in stores.
Other easy options — at least for starters — is temporary employment agencies. As the demand for temporary workers continues to climb, temporary services are hiring people for all kinds of work, including highly-skilled and professional services. What’s more, it can provide you with an opportunity to meet all kinds of people and spot various opportunities that can be useful for your home business. Perhaps best of all, it can give you the flexibility you need to accommodate the demands of your business.
Juggling Two Jobs
Suppose there’s a conflict between your part-time job and you’re home business. If you’re serious about your home business, give that side priority. Most likely you can always get another part-time job. But you might not so easily restart the business when it founders.
Also allow extra time for both positions. You can’t treat a business like a nine-to-five job. If you don’t factor in a willingness to work nights and weekends, you may not have time for both positions.
In some cases, you might be able to farm out some of the business you can’t handle when you get caught in the middle. (Try to do this with your secondary work since your primary work is more important). If you do, make sure the person you tap is good and reliable, and someone who is not likely to steal the account from you. Sometimes it might be necessary since neglecting a client altogether would be disastrous. But there’s always a chance that when you pass work on to someone else, you might not get it back.
If possible, it might be wise to get used to your home business operation before you take on other work. That way you’ll better know what to expect and how to make any necessary adjustments. HBM
Christopher J. Bachler is a 20+-year veteran business writer and editor, based in Drexel Hill, PA.