Wondering how to earn money from home during the pandemic? Today we hear from Frugalwoods readers who are making it happen: from a circus act owner to a veterinarian, you all are working it from home. Join me to find out how.

Earlier this week, I discussed strategies for saving more money in (almost) every category of your budget. Today, I want to tackle the other end of the equation: earning more money. As we navigate this strange new world of life in a pandemic, a record number of people in the United States have filed for unemployment and still more are at risk of being laid off. Day 2 of the Uber Frugal Week series addresses the benefits available in light of the coronavirus; please go there to see a full list of relief and forbearance programs.

Since most of us are sheltered in place and under orders not to leave our homes, folks are getting creative with how to earn money from home. I turn to the best resource there is–the readers of Frugalwoods–for ideas on how to boost your income during these unprecedented times.

Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions.

How Frugalwoods Readers Earn Money From Home (Pandemic Edition)

Online Teaching

The Circus Stella dogs!

Jana shared, “My husband and I have our own circus show (Circus Stella). Since all our events have cancelled, we’re stuck hanging out on our trapeze in the backyard alone. Like many other performers and gig workers, we’ve started a patreon page offering exclusive behind-the-scenes content. We’re talking rehearsals, dog training, vintage footage, and even workouts. It hasn’t generated a ton of money, but it’s been wonderful at giving me a purpose. Making the bonus videos is a fun challenge, and our little page grows bit by bit.

This would be good for anyone who offers entertaining content. I’ve seen musicians, writers, poets, and lots of other variety performers like us adopting this platform when digital shows are still possible even as live ones are not. Here’s our page: www.patreon.com/circusstella

Liz shared, I teach for VIPKid, teaching English as a second language to kids in China. The hours are early morning or late at night, but you can work from home and make your own schedule. You just need an undergraduate degree to apply.”

Natalie wrote, “I had a home yoga studio business before so now I’m teaching on ZOOM at www.yogawithnatalie.net

Aimee is tutoring online and reports, “I teach singing, piano, musicianship, and music theory (have also offered to tutor Spanish but no-one’s taken me up on that so far). Generally there are a lot of bored people (and children) at home who have internet access.”

Making/Finding Stuff at Home; Selling it Online

Julie said, “Several years ago, I set up an Etsy business selling craft patterns (plastic canvas specifically). It’s a cool way to be creative and make a decent amount of money for your efforts because you only need to put the work in once but you continue to make money forever. Usually making crafts doesn’t pay very well because no one wants to pay you what it’s actually worth (if it took you 10 hours to make a scarf, I figure that scarf should be worth $100, but more likely people want to only pay $10). But with patterns, you make it once and you can sell it hundreds of times. I haven’t seen a dip in demand so far!”

Mr. FW sewing a hole in his pants. Don’t worry, we will NOT be monetizing our sewing skills anytime soon…

Brittany wrote, “We forge metal (kitchen, bushcraft, etc.) knives, coat hooks and more!”

Christine said, “I make jewelry out of recycled materials and sell them at gift and consignment shops. One shop has a huge online presence and is doing well but all the others are closed down. I am keeping that one shop well stocked.”

Stephanie wrote, “I work for a school so I am paid to work from home. But I also just moved in because Goodwill and Salvation Army are closed I was unable to take my donations in so I have been selling them on marketplace through Facebook.”

Tabitha said, “I sell on Amazon, and a little on eBay. Been doing this since Sept of last year, but have been rolling profits back in. However, I have been able to pull some money out here and there of we’ve needed it. Not self sustaining yet, but supplemental.
Oh, and now has been the perfect time to unload clothing and toys my son has grown out of on FB Marketplace.”

KH said, “I sew. I’ve donated almost 750 masks free to hospital staff, homeless outreach programs, and friends but am selling Crown Royal masks made from Crown Royal bags on eBay to cover the costs of the donated masks. Anything remaining will eventually be rolled into the household.”

Lisa wrote, “Last year I started a cloth pad group and that’s been doing fairly well. I also have been making cloth masks. I sell to those who ask, and am donating some.”

Online User Testing and Surveys

Tanya wrote, “I am doing user testing online. Mostly via UserTesting.com, but also a few other sites such as validately.com. It’s not big money, but a small side hustle to do when I have free time and I’m not home schooling / parenting!!”

Me + Littlewoods working together

Melinda reported, “I am making money💰(microscopically) online using Swagbucks. I have an old falling apart iPhone and I use the imoney app there. I registered to do mturk for Amazon.”

Sarah shared, “I registered and work on occasion for UserTesting.com. It’s a legit online opportunity to earn an extra $10+ bucks for about a 20-30 min session testing someones website. It’s actually been a great experience since I work on websites for my full time job – UserTesting.com helps me understand the kinds of things other companies are looking at with their websites. I made about $100 last year doing this about 1X per month (It’s more of a hobby for me). That included a $30 session where I did an interview with a company about their website. It was a great experience. You could easily make $10+/day if you were doing it regularly. It isn’t intended to replace a full-time job but is nice extra cash if you need it. Also, you get paid real money through Paypal instead of in gift cards like other sites. You do have to report the income on your taxes. I tried Swagbucks and a few other sites before this but found they were too spammy and didn’t justify the level of effort. UserTesting.com is worth the effort.”

Leverage Your Professional Expertise

Karla shared, “I am a nurse, so I am fortunately still working. Over the past year, I’ve also signed up for Medscape nurse surveys online. Some are funded by academic institutions and some are funded by pharmaceutical or medical device companies. I get a few surveys per month—you answer a few questions to see if you’re the target type of nurse or work with their type of product. If you aren’t, you’re entered into a survey for an amazon gift card. If you complete the survey, it’s an amazon gift card ranging from $10-$50, depending on how long the survey is.”

No one is going to hire me to bake cakes for them… know your strengths and play to them!

L earns money as an editor working through, “UpWork. The upside is that your payments/contracts are protected through UpWork, but the downside is that they take 20% of the payment for your first $500 with a client, which is a lot, but then it switches to 10% (and I just set my fees 10% higher than I normally would). It’s also easy to establish a steady client and then move off of the platform (avoiding fees altogether).”

Nicole said, “My spay/neuter clinics are temporarily closed. I’ve returned to my pre-vet school job of German to English medical translations. Best place to get started is with the American Translators Association (ATA). They offer certification exams. Although certification is not required for taking on translation work, it is a qualification sought by many translation agencies. I believe one can get listed in the ATA translation directory even without certification. I typically get assignments from translation agencies that I’ve been working with for many years (decades!), but the work flow has slowed down over the past couple weeks. I recently did a Google search of medical translation agencies and applied to a few through their online vendor applications. One responded with interest and asked me to complete a translation test.

For any interested linguists, I’d suggest doing the same in whatever specialty area your greatest knowledge lies – legal, patents, IT, etc. I do get several inquiries through my profile on proz.com, but they tend to be very low rates and I haven’t accepted a single one. By contrast, a new client just called this morning and we’ve just set up our first project together. Where did she find me? ATA!”

!!!Beware the MLMs and Pyramid Schemes!!!

I want to close with a reminder from Jessica who said, “Please be careful of multilevel marketing schemes, especially in these tough times. You should never have to pay money to sell a company’s product.” Beware the MLMs, people! More on MLMs in this John Oliver clip and in the excellent podcast, The Dream (season 1). The US Federal Trade Commission also offers this helpful explanation. There are legitimate ways to earn money from home, but please be wary of multilevel marketing schemes. Any company that requires you to buy their products in order to sell them is scamming you. Don’t do it.


One more Circus Stella pic because these dogs are SO CUTE

The best way to make money online is by doing what you’d do offline. This is why I earn money as a writer! I’m not very good at a lot of other things, so I capitalize on the best skill I have: writing. Examine your unique skills and consider how you could translate them into an online business.

Today we heard from a number of folks doing just that, including:

  • A nurse who makes money through online medical surveys
  • A veterinarian/linguist who gets paid to translate medical documents from German to English
  • A circus performer who offers online circus and workout classes
  • A yoga teacher teaching yoga online
  • Seamstresses sewing masks and selling patterns
  • Teachers offering tutoring and lessons online

Whatever your skills are, they’re probably going to be the best way for you to earn money. It isn’t easy to get started and you probably won’t make as much money as you did at your “regular” in-person job, but you might be able to make enough to get through this pandemic recession.

How do you earn money from home? What advice can you add to this list?

The Uber Frugal Week Pandemic series returns with Day 4 next week! If you’d like to get an email letting you know when it’s published, sign-up for my email list in the box below:

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  1. I teach for VIPKid too! It’s a great way to earn extra cash. I’m happy to answer questions for anyone and help them apply.

      1. Hi Jen. No, you do not have to have a teaching degree. You just need to have a Bachelor’s in something and some experience with kids. Your experience can be informal. I said that I spend a lot of time with my best friend’s kiddo reading books, etc. and that was enough to get me in. It seems to be easiest if you have a current teacher refer you, but you can also just apply on your own. Let me know if you have other questions. 🙂

        1. This was not my experience. I tried applying for VIPkid last year and they rejected me stating I had no teaching experience. I have a masters degree in social work and work with children full time.

      2. Yes, same here! I’ve been teaching for almost 3 years on VIPKid- I bring in around $1000 a month just work a bit in the mornings before my full-time job!

        1. I’ve had interest in VIP Kid before, but haven’t had the chance to apply yet. I guess I’ve always wondered how much prep work goes into it, like lesson planning, etc. Does VIP Kid provide you with any type of syllabus to follow or is entirely created by you?

          Do you literally spend the whole lesson talking or is there also helping the kids read through a book for example? Would like to know what materials I’d be responsible for providing and purchasing myself as well.


          1. Maddie, there’s extremely little prep work involved. The lessons are all pre-created by VIPKid as part of their curriculum. You’re mostly just executing the lesson, which consists of a slideshow with different exercises in it. I’ve been teaching VIPKId for about a year, and at this point I spend about 5 minutes skimming through the slides and pulling out relevant props beforehand. When I first started out, I spent closer to 15-20 minutes reading the slides and thinking about the lesson, but it’s simpler once you know the format.

            I have purchased a felt map to use as a background, a set of index cards to turn into alphabet flashcards, a small whiteboard, and a medium-quality headset. I don’t think I have spent more than $50 total, the headset being the most expensive item. VIPKid definitely encourages you to use lots of props, but most teachers find that they already have lots of things that will work. For example, when I teach a lesson on the 5 senses, I get out a pair of colorful socks, “smell” them, and pretend that they are really stinky.

            Email me at the address listed above if you have more questions.

  2. THANK YOU for this list, and especially for this: “Any company that requires you to buy their products in order to sell them is scamming you. Don’t do it.” You should put that at the top of the post too!

    1. Yes, thank you for including the disclaimer about MLM’s! I have had so many people approach me about selling things, like Norwex or Rodan & Fields, in the past. It’s such a rip-off!

    1. I’ve been doing surveys/focus groups for L&E also. While not something you can depend on its great for extra money. The last survey I did paid $260!

  3. Lots of folks are turning to homesteading during these difficult times. Starting and selling plant starts; building a small roadside stand for selling eggs, extra garden harvests, fresh bread, or other products; starting an apiary and selling honey. Those with abundant land may be selling firewood. If you live in a redemption state and go on walks/hate litter, bring a garbage bag with you and turn in those cans & bottles, 5-15 cents a pop can really add up.

    Some places are also hiring (banks, road crews, painting, construction, and landscaping companies).

  4. Am I the only one who noticed that all these side hustles are not replacement sources of income? Seems like almost everyone gave a caveat of “I only earn a little” or “its more of a hobby”… I think this post should be renamed “how to stay busy and earn a small amount of money from home” since these won’t actually increase income significantly.

    1. To be fair… the title of the post is “How To Earn Money From Home”, and not “How To Earn a Full Time Salary From Home”. I’m VERY thankful to have a job that allows me to work remotely (we relocated from CA to AZ in late February, which in hindsight, was perfect timing) — but if I didn’t, I’ve be grateful for any extra income to bridge the gap, and get through these weird/uncertain times.

    2. Yes, and the well-paying ones are almost exclusively accessible to white-collar workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher. They don’t do much for the average blue-collar worker or laid-off service industry worker. But the reality is that there isn’t much available for those folks right now.

  5. From the consumer side of the equation – we’re both teleworking with kids in the home. Their schools are closed and have not transitioned well to online. I see a market for tutoring/lessons/or teaching a new skill. Our spending has gone way down but we are still working and need help keeping our children engaged and off screens.

      1. I know this is a screen suggestion, and might require using a VPN to access depending on where you are, but RTE has begun broadcasting a home school program every weekday for primary school aged children. It was intended to help serve families who may not have internet access in Ireland. And for parents who can’t share their tech at the moment! Maybe there are television broadcasters where you are who are doing something similar?


  6. I teach online college accounting courses from home as an adjunct instructor. Net pay is about $800/month per class for spring/summer course and $1,200 per class for summer semester.

    I also do online tutoring in reading and writing for 2nd-12th grade and college students for Brainfuse. Pay is $14/hour. I make roughly $150-$200/month.

    I do Amazon Mturk and make about $60-$80/month.

    My daughter makes soap at home and sells the bars for $5-$6 each. She has a website and FB page set up for selling her soap.

    1. I also did some online transcription for Rev Transcription (https://www.rev.com/), but haven’t done enough of it to get really good at it yet. You don’t need any special equipment, just your computer, but I use headphones to make it easier to hear the recordings.

      1. Not able to edit my original post, but the summer classes I teach online pay $1,200 per month (not per class).

  7. a great and wonderful read, and I cannot wait to look into some of these new ideas!!!. I don’t have a monthly income right now, so any income is a help. I rely on Child support but my ex husband may not be able to provide that , So i am working to become independent from that source of income!!!

  8. For anyone with extra time on their hands, take a look at UPwork.com—— this website is for freelance work of all types and helps employers find workers for gigs, and vice versa. You may discover that you CAN work from home and make some decent money. It may start as a hobby but turn into a full-time job! You never know…anything is possible! I am a retired physician (husband still works) and am now doing professional proofreading part-time from home, sipping coffee in my pajamas! It’s da bomb!

  9. I’m a freelance writer and have been making enough income to supplement my husband’s greater salary, pay off debt and bank a bit for extras. I like UPwork since they changed their model a few years ago but my go-to was WriterAccess. Decent pay, interesting jobs and I could earn over $1,000/month on the site. Over time and unrelated to WA, I grew my own set of clients and make the same amount or more each month but without the tight deadlines of other online sites. Both of these sites are great places to go and really earn bankable money.

  10. I teach English as a Second Language through two online companies (Whales English and QKids) and really enjoy it. The kids are fun and it’s a great way to get in some extra interaction, especially during this time. I taught ESL in person prior to this while living abroad and really enjoyed it- I think that when the pandemic is lifted, I may do private tutoring. With the financial hit of this time, I can’t imagine I’ll be able to travel in the next year or so, so this is a good way for me to teach someone a skill and hopefully learn a little about their culture (which is an aspect I miss about traveling).

  11. I make about $100/year doing online surveys for Prolific Academic. Been doing this for a while, and while the payments are low, payment is very reliable through PayPal. There are lots of surveys up lately about people’s perceptions of coronavirus that are paying $1-2 for 10 minutes.

  12. Also, Instacart is hiring! I imagine you’d have no trouble getting a lot of hours from them right now.

  13. I work in bank security and am former police officer. I’d like to help Frugalwoods readers keep possession of their hard earned cash by avoiding fraud scams. Since the Covid crisis started, we’ve seen online and phone scams Increase exponentially. These go on all the time but have been worse over the last month as people become more vulnerable during these challenging economic times. I’m not trying to be condescending with this list of scams. The number I investigate every week is truly exhausting. Once your money is gone, it’s gone forever.
    So please be careful:
    – Don’t click any online links you receive via text or email saying your bank account, Amazon account, EBay account, etc. has been compromised. Call the bank yourself to confirm the info is real or contact the company directly for more info. If you click on the link, fraudsters will secretly download malware on your mobile device, collect your bank card number/password, log in to your online banking and steal your money.
    -Is your cable company offering you a refund of $104.34 and you need to click on a link to collect? No! It’s not your cable company…delete the text. (See above re: secret malware).
    -Monitor your bank accounts and credit card statements every month for unauthorized transactions. Do this every month forever, not just during the pandemic.
    -The IRS and CRA (in Canada) will not call you and threaten to send you to jail if you don’t immediately send them $500 via Western Union. The IRS and CRA would never ask you to buy gift cards either. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to this kind of scam.
    -Beware of job scams requiring you to move money through your bank account for a fee. You may not know it, but they’re using you for money laundering.
    – Beware of online jobs where you have send in all your confidential info up front to apply (date of birth, SSN). The is a recipe for you becoming a victim of identity theft.
    -Beware of investment/gold/real estate opportunities with a “guaranteed rate of return”…even if a favourite brother in law recommends it (this is how Ponzi schemes start).
    -If you’re selling something online for $100 and the purchaser “accidentally” sends you a check for a $1000, don’t cash the check. This is an Advance Fee Fraud. The fraudsters want you to cash a fake check and send them $900 back. You’ll be on the hook for this $1000 when the check gets returned to your bank account because it’s counterfeit.
    – If you’re going to donate to a charity through a website, make sure it’s legit and not a fake version of the Red Cross, Hospital, Orphanage, etc.
    -If a special person you’ve met through an online chat room needs money for surgery, a plane ticket to see you, a sudden family emergency, etc….he or she Isn’t real. The story they’ve told you isn’t real. If they say they’re in the military to tug at your heart strings, they’re still not real. If they send you a picture of a themselves in uniform, they’ve stolen this picture off some poor person’s website. Please don’t send them any money!
    -Please take extra special care of your lonely, elderly relatives. They’re particularly vulnerable to lottery, sweepstakes and inheritance scams. They’ll give away their life savings before anyone finds out what’s happening.
    Hope this info helps everyone protect themselves. 😊

  14. I was an actor in Mumbai before the pandemic, but corona brought the Indian film industry to a halt and we are under a complete lockdown. Only pharmacies, groceries, and hospitals are operating. I have started teaching German and English online via Skype. The site I have started with is TeacherOn.com. The rates can be quite low, but I see them increasing as I am getting more experience and more students. There are a lot of tutoring sites that hire people from the US or Cannada with only a BA, you just need to do a Google search.

    I am doing proofreading and German-English translations on freelancer.com and upwork.com. These sites have a lot of work that can be done online or remotely. Since there is a review system, you can see the employers that are trustworthy. I have seen posts looking for virtual assistants increase. There is a lot of competition now and every job post has around 50 applications, but you can find some very interesting jobs there.

    Good luck!

  15. I like the idea of starting some business at home. Of course, it’s not going to make you money if you start just because there is nothing else to do, you will have to commit for years. That is why people say if you start a business putting money before the idea, it will not work. And as pointed out, it may not provide you with the same income as a job.

  16. My husband and I have done focus groups. I recently received $500 for letting an energy specialist look at my furnace. Most pay between $150-300 depending on what they require, at least in Chicago. Google “focus groups (name of your city or town).“ Right now they are only doing them via Skype or FaceTime. You do have to give them information about yourself so make sure you research each company you sign up with. You also need to fill out surveys when you get them. For every 6-10 surveys, you might get one focus group. Still worth it for us.

  17. Just subscribed to Circus Stella. Amazing value but I am a little sad to see so few Patreon supporters so far. If you like what they do, and you have a few dollars, subscribe! I just cancelled Amazon Prime to cover it so I’m sure I will save money! And Jana’s workout videos look great.

  18. I didn’t know about the Medscape nursing surveys, so thank you! I’ll try to earn a few bucks through it. Nice list! I’ve also had patients who’ve taught on VIPKid and loved it. I plan to try it at some point, but my start time is too early just now for work to work with their hours.

  19. I went through my scuba diving gear. I decided I could sell a thin wetsuit meant for tropical diving that I’ve only used in the pool a few times since I dive cold water. Posted it in a couple of scuba gear groups on FB. Every little bit helps since I got permanently laid off a month ago.

  20. hi, i can’t find a ‘search’ on this website. Didn’t I read here about a place you can put designs and get a commission when people choose the design for a t-shirt? If not here, oh where?

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