How to Find Income When You’re Broke as Hell

Financial solutions to milk your own cash cow

Jackie Dana
Aug 16, 2019 · 8 min read
Woman holding empty wallet over her head
Woman holding empty wallet over her head
Source: Adobe Stock (licensed)

If you’re like most people, you might have a job but you live paycheck to paycheck. It’s possible you’re unemployed and discouraged by the lack of viable offers. Or maybe you’ve got your own business but cash flow isn’t flowing the right way for you.

Whatever your story is, you’re probably feeling the pinch of an economy that might be booming for the one-percenters but certainly isn’t for the rest of us.

I’ve been there with you. Throughout my career, I’ve had full-time jobs that didn’t pay enough to cover the bills, and needed credit cards to survive. I’ve spent months in ever-increasing desperation as job applications disappeared into a black hole. And with my business, I’ve experienced dry spells where I questioned whether or not I made the right decision to venture out on my own.

If you can relate, I’d like to try to help you out. This article isn’t going to offer empty platitudes—I’m no self-help guru who will promise that one day you’re going to live in the mansion on the hill. But I’m going to offer some ideas that might turn things around for you, doing things that have worked for me and my friends.

So no matter how dire your financial situation is, here are some suggestions on how you can take action and make it a little better.

You don’t deserve to be broke

Let’s not tiptoe around it. It sucks to never have any money. When you live paycheck to paycheck (if you’re lucky enough to get that paycheck in the first place) it can be hard to believe that it’s not your fault somehow, that you somehow deserve to be broke. You know, it’s the whole “starving artist” mentality. You look at people with money with longing, you lust after that fancy new car, but you tell yourself that you’ll never be that lucky.

It’s the whole philosophy of the ‘starving artist’ gone mainstream.

If you can relate to that (and I suspect that you can), join me on the first step to bringing in more money: change how you think about money in the first place.

Change your mindset

It’s important if you want to make more money that you approach the problem with the right mindset. If you open yourself up to success, you will be much more likely to find it. Here are a few tips.

  1. Stop thinking of yourself as undeserving, holding on to the belief that you’ll always be broke. That’s a self-limiting belief that holds you back. Instead, you have as much right as anyone to make enough money to take care of yourself and your family, no matter what kind of work you do.
  2. Don’t focus on scarcity. Instead, seek out abundance in your life wherever you go. Notice the abundance of clouds in the sky, dust bunnies under your bed, unread books by your bedside, cars at rush hour. Make it a point to find abundance everywhere you go.
  3. Visualize a more financially-secure life. Not what it would be like to be filthy rich, but just what it would be like if you had enough money each month to pay all your bills without having to juggle. What would you be able to do? How would it change things for you? You need to believe it’s possible before it can happen.
Woman sitting happily on sofa with a coffee mug
Woman sitting happily on sofa with a coffee mug
Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

When I did all of these things, it was pretty shocking just how quickly things started working out for me.

Is it magic? Maybe. But mostly it’s just changing your mindset. When you stop focusing on being broke and instead recalibrate your brain to look for opportunities, everything changes.

I know what you’re thinking. When you’ve been struggling for months (or years!), you really don’t want to hear someone preaching woo-woo stuff like ‘change your mindset.’ You just want a job. But I am living proof that it can actually work.

How to make extra money

So changing your mindset is all well and good, but it still doesn’t pay the rent.

Once you’ve opened yourself up to the possibility of bringing in extra money, how do you make it happen? Below I offer a bunch of tangible ideas to consider that can help you bring in more cash.

1. Work from home

Maybe you have transportation issues, a disability, or have to care for family members. There are some bonafide opportunities to make money in your pajamas.

  • Teach English online. If you have a bachelor’s degree, this can be a great way to bring in some cash. You can teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to adults or children, and pay is generally determined by your background. Teachaway offers a list of companies to check out.
  • Personal assistants. Lots of small business owners and freelancers could use a hand with administrative tasks (emails, data entry, bookkeeping) or errands like going to the post office, office supply store, or getting food for an event. The Personal Assistant Network is a great place to start.
  • Write for Medium. That’s right, you too can be the next hot blogger here on Medium. If you sign up for the Partner Program, you can get paid for writing articles. And while it’s not the fastest route to making money, it can be a great way to get a freelance writing career started (though as a writer, I might be just a bit biased here).

If you go this route, be smart: there are lots of ‘work from home’ scams out there. Always do your research and only accept opportunities from legitimate companies. You should never have to pay anyone or buy anything to get started. If it sounds too good to be true, RUN.

2. Driving and delivery services

Do you have a decent car and a clean driving record? If so, there are all kinds of opportunities for you, and you can jam out to your favorite tunes between stops.

Photo by JESHOOTS.com from Pexels
  • Take people where they need to go. You can drive for Lyft or other ridesharing companies. Though there are reasons why you might give Uber a pass.
  • Deliver food from local restaurants. Check out DoorDash, GrubHub, or other services in your area.
  • Grocery shop for people. There are lots of opportunities to work for Instacart, Amazon Prime Now, Shipt, or other grocery store delivery services.
  • Deliver packages for Amazon. In many areas, Amazon doesn’t rely on traditional package delivery services but instead hires drivers through Amazon Flex.

3. Physical work

If you’re more of a hands-on or active person, there are opportunities for you as well.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels
  • Product assembly. If you dream in Ikea diagrams, this is perfect for you! Many people look for help assembling their new purchases through TaskRabbit (also a great place to find other kinds of one-off gigs!)
  • Lawn mowing. Let people in your neighborhood groups on Facebook and Nextdoor know that you’re available to take care of their lawns. If you can also do weeding, brush removal, and other landscaping chores, you’ll never be short of clients!
  • House cleaning. You can hook up with maid services or just build your own clientele on your own. Your personal network is a great place to start, and once you impress a few people, referrals will keep the calls coming.
  • Helping out with pets. Do you like animals? Consider applying to Wag or Rover to be part of their network of pet sitters and dog walkers. Or let your neighbors know you’re available to lend a hand.
  • Secret shoppers. Did you know you could get paid to go shopping? Secret (or mystery) shoppers visit different stores and rate the shopping experience.

What’s your personal cash cow?

If none of the ideas above resonated with you, this is where you need to get creative.

Everyone is really good at something. It might not seem like much to you, but that one thing you can do could bring in a bit of cash.

But what’s your personal cash cow? What would other people be willing to pay you to do?

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

If you have a truck, perhaps you could offer to move furniture for people who buy it online. If you’re good at music, why not offer lessons? If you love crafty things, maybe offer to crochet custom hats and scarves for holiday gifts, or do alterations. Could you fix people’s websites or replace the cracked screens on their cell phones? Maybe you could tutor high school Spanish or math. Or perhaps you make the world’s best cupcakes for your kid’s bake sale — could you do that for local birthday parties?

To get started with a lot of these things, you don’t have to do a lot. Post in neighborhood groups as well as on Craigslist or Facebook. Put up flyers at grocery stores and coffee houses. Tell your friends and ask them to pass it along to others. Make up cheap business cards at an office supply store and leave them in places where your potential customers/clients hang out.

Non-work ideas to make extra cash

If you’re already maxed out on hours at your jobby-job, what else can you do to help make ends meet? Here are a few ideas.

  • Sell stuff you never use. Craigslist is one place, but lots of people now are turning to Facebook Marketplace. You might also look for neighborhood groups on social media that allow for selling your unwanted fondue set and Santa candlesticks.
  • Small business owners who have a PayPal Business account and use the service for the majority of their invoicing can qualify for loans through their program Working Capital.
  • Sell photos on Shutterstock or other stock photo sites. Not super lucrative until you have a sizable library, but every penny counts!
  • Rent out a room via AirBnB or Vrbo, or offer up your extra car via Turo.
  • Check out a list of other passive income strategies for more ideas

Don’t ever give up

It’s tough out there for the 99% of us who don’t have trust funds and cushy bank accounts. But no matter your circumstances, you can climb out of the hole if you really want to do it.

And I’m not just blowing smoke. I’ve known at least one person who has done every single thing I’ve listed in the article above. Some of those people even turned their side gigs into full-fledged businesses and were able to quit their jobs.

If you’re willing to work hard, all of these options can turn out to be good, regular sources of income if you want them to be. And when you recognize that you can be successful, and that you deserve to make money as much as anyone else, it can happen for you.

And it all starts when you stop telling yourself that you’ll always be broke.

Jackie Dana is a freelance writer, editor, and novelist based in St. Louis. Although she has eclectic interests, her focus is on articles designed to help people find their way through an uncertain world. She published her first novel in 2015. In addition to writing, Jackie might be brewing herbal potions or reading a great YA novel.

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Jackie Dana

Written by

Freelance writer, editor, & author who believes in the power of dreams. Loves cheese, gardening, & fairies. Former academic advisor. Find me at jackiedana.com.

The Startup

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