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How to use the Internet to quit your 9-to-5 job

Yes, you can use the Internet to make money -- real money, not pocket change. Here's how it works and which websites can help you pull in the dough.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 6, 2014 1:17PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyAt one time, Mike Lam was just your average New York City office worker, doing whatever programmers do at Goldman Sachs. Then, he needed to find someone to watch his dog and stumbled upon the website DogVacay, which hooks up owners with pet sitters and boarders.

Man with laptop © Image Source/SuperStock"I didn't want my dog in a kennel, and I didn't want to pay (hundreds) for a doggie hotel," Lam said in an interview. So he used the online service and was so smitten he signed up as a host himself. His very first client was someone jetting off to China for an extended trip.

Fast-forward and Lam was ready to move on from the world of high-finance firms to something new. While he certainly could have taken his programming skills elsewhere, Lam decided to focus on his DogVacay services.

"What sealed the deal was realizing how lucrative it can be," said Lam, who added that he makes about as much dog watching as he did at Goldman Sachs. "Plus, I'm not sitting in an office 10 to 12 hours a day. It's a much happier life."

Lam's story is the perfect example of how regular people can use the power of the Internet to quit their 9-to-5 jobs for a more enjoyable and fulfilling career path. Forget the blinking pop-ups and spammy ads promising thousands while you sit in your pajamas. Here's the real way to make the Internet your moneymaking machine.

Identify what you have that others don't

Start by figuring out what it is you can offer that others can't provide for themselves. For Lam, that was an apartment close to parks, animal-handling skills, and time to walk and watch dogs day or night. For me, as a freelance writer, it was an ability to string together sentences mixed with enough marketing knowledge to provide copy-writing services.

Maybe you can sew custom dresses or design business logos or speak multiple languages. Maybe you have a home in a desirable location or a car in an urban area. Take stock of your assets and talents and ask yourself: What do I have or what can I do that others would be willing to pay for.

Go ahead and write down all of your possibilities and then narrow them down to the one most promising prospect. Focus your energy there to start.

Find the right platform

Now that you know where your moneymaking potential lies, you need to find the right Internet site to help you market it to the world.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are several sites worth considering:

  • Airbnb lets you rent out rooms or your entire home to travelers. HomeAway helps you rent out your primary home or your second home to vacationers.
  • Elance, Guru and Freelancer. These are bidding sites in which buyers post jobs -- anything from writing to programming to legal services -- and providers bid for the project.
  • Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. If you have a car and are comfortable giving strangers a ride, these apps are for you.
  • Getaround, RelayRides and Boatbound. Take it one step further by renting your car out to a stranger on Getaround and RelayRides. You can use Boatbound to do the same with your watercraft.
  • DogVacay and Rover. Here are two sites that may be perfect for pet sitters and dog walkers.
  • Etsy, iCraft, UncommonGoods and ArtFire. For the crafty folks in the crowd, these are among the most popular places to sell handcrafted items.
  • Postmates, Instacart and TaskRabbit. These websites let you serve, respectively, as a courier, personal shopper or assistant to others. TaskRabbit also has categories for handyman, cleaning and moving help.
  • EBay and Craigslist. These sites can, of course, be used to sell just about anything under the sun. You can post services on Craigslist, but to maximize eBay’s potential, read our article on buying and selling for profit.

Can you guess which site is absent from this list? Why, yes, it's Fiverr . It's not that you can't make extra money on Fiverr, but I have a hard time imagining how someone makes a living off of $5 gigs, which are actually more like $4 gigs once Fiverr takes its portion. That said, some people may make it work for them, but call me a skeptic.

That brings us to the next point.

Charge what you're worth

On almost all of the above sites, you'll find people buying and selling services for a song. But if you want to live off of your talent, you need to charge enough to first, pay the bills, and second, make enough for it to be worthwhile.

Working 12-hour days for what amounts to minimum wage doesn't make much sense to me. It doesn’t make sense financially, and it doesn’t make sense emotionally. Sure, you get to make your own hours, but at what cost? Working yourself to the bone, even if it's doing something you love, is no way to make a living if you can make more and work less for an employer. After all, we want to work to live, not live to work, right?

Of course, unless you have a rock star resume, you'll probably need to offer reduced rates to start. However, once you begin to develop a positive reputation, don't be afraid to charge more. Yes, you'll lose some customers, but you’ll probably gain others if you market yourself right. Remember, bargain-basement prices may be a turnoff for consumers and clients seeking quality.

Don't forget about taxes and insurance

Part of the reason you need to charge what you're worth is you’ll have a lot of expenses that aren’t normally part of a 9-to-5 job. The $50 made creating a spreadsheet as an independent contractor is not the same as the $50 made doing the same thing as an employee.

For starters, you need to pay a self-employment tax of 15.3 percent. This is the money that gets paid into Social Security and Medicare. If you have a regular job, your boss will split this tax with you. When you work for yourself, you're on the hook for the whole kit and caboodle and will be responsible for paying estimated taxes quarterly.

Plus, there is health insurance, retirement savings and all those others perks that often come as part of a compensation package.

On the flip side, you may be able to deduct certain expenses, such a home office or your vehicle. However, you must meet certain eligibility criteria. For example, your home office needs to be a dedicated space used only for your business. That means you can't claim your living room as the office simply because you sometimes check email from the couch.

I don't say this to discourage you from working for yourself. I say it so you'll go into self-employment with your eyes wide open. Figure in all these extras when deciding whether your Internet idea will make the money you need.

Check out local and state laws

Before you get too deep into your endeavor, you'll also want to make sure your idea doesn't run afoul of local or state laws.

For example, you might need a kennel license to board dogs, and some cities are considering ordinances to regulate services like Uber and Lyft. If you're using Airbnb or a similar service, check your state's tenancy laws well or you could be hosting guests who never want to say goodbye.

It's still a job even if you work it on the Internet

Finally, an Internet platform doesn’t eliminate the need to work hard. This isn't "Field of Dreams." You don’t get to build a user profile and watch the customers come. You need to market yourself, offer customer service and, ultimately, do a darn good job at whatever service you're providing or product you're making.

"It's kind of a 24/7 career," Lam admitted about his new occupation. Then he added, "You're taking care of dogs. It's fun." As if, duh, why would you want to be stuck in an office when you could spend your days taking walks and playing fetch in the park.

Using the Internet to make a living may seem unconventional, but it's totally doable. "(Have) the realization of how possible it is," Lam said when asked his advice for others.

So many websites offer a simple way for would-be entrepreneurs to test-drive their business idea with little risk and virtually no capital invested. There is no need to hire a programmer, build your own website or create a marketing plan from the ground up. These sites do most of the heavy lifting for you.

"It offers a platform for the everyday person to have a business," Lam said about DogVacay. The same could be said for the scores of other Web-based business platforms available.

Having an Internet-based business isn't for everyone, just as building houses and working on computers isn’t for everyone. However, if you have a desire to quit your 9-to-5 job and work on your own schedule, don't let anyone tell you it can't happen.

It works for Lam. It works for me. It can work for you.

Correction: This post was edited to clarify that HomeAway facilitates rentals of houses, rather than rooms.

More from Money Talks News

Aug 9, 2014 10:09PM
To Kachina ; To increase your revenue by marketing yourself, you must speak well of those that do business purchases from you, not speak badly....look at it this way - if one of your customers read your post on this article because they WERE trying to better themselves to get ahead (YOU know NOT what each of them has gone through), and see on here that you say "....spewing out babies" (God's gifts to us all) and the "Their  life choices may not get them ahead...." comments, YOU could very well LOOSE the customer, revenue/money and credibility to your name, and if customer shows their family and friends this post of yours then YOU WON'T 'get ahead', you loose, Praying for you, and all God's children - of all ages! :-)
Aug 10, 2014 8:57AM
The problem is, these are not skill based incomes. If they do pay fairly well, eventually, the competition will be fierce. Because anyone can do these things. Go learn a skill. Something that takes some education. That way you will be of value. Not just anyone can provide the service your an expert in. They will have to come to you. 
Aug 10, 2014 11:44AM
Self-employment is achievable.  I know because my wife and I are both self-employed.  It takes years to get there and lots of really hard work.  It's not easy, but it's definitely better working for yourself than for someone else. 
Aug 10, 2014 9:24AM
I would look into making or baking doggie snacks like my
favorite Milkbones with the knubs, or something similar...

Aug 10, 2014 9:22PM
Nope not for me. Not renting my car to anybody and so on....
Aug 10, 2014 11:27AM
My nephew started walking dogs for the neighborhood single moms and for payment he gives them the bone. Everyone involved is happy! MSN is so full of great ideas!
Aug 11, 2014 12:20AM
The glitz and prospects of self-employment seems like the Great Adventure.  This article does a good job of pointing out some of the ins and outs of starting and running your own business.  A word of caution to those who do not have the knack for the freedom of self-employment.  First of all there is the bright star that holds your attention - the reason you want to do what you want to do.  However, that can quickly get clouded over by the humdrum, mundane tasks that come along with self-employment.  Doing what you want is great, but you also have to manage - manage your time, manage your clients, manage your tasks, manage your money, manage your expenses, manage your accounts receivable and payable, - and, the list goes on.  For many, it is exciting pursuing what they really enjoy doing, but the fun is taken out of the doing when they have to deal with logs, billing, inventory, collecting, etc., etc., etc.  It requires self-discipline, self-perseverance and self- motivation.  Otherwise, what starts out as your dream of dreams may turn into a nightmare.  A dream job in self-employment may stir visions of unlimited time to do what YOU want can turn into a 24/7 prison.  My advice?  If you are wanting to try what this article suggests, start part-time and see if it is something you want to give up your "day-job" for.  I know a fellow who has the motto: "Work smarter, not harder."  And, he is jumping from job to job with one excuse or another that doesn't fulfill his expectations for he should have to do for his employer.  My advice to him?  If you are "smart" you will work "harder", and make a living.  My point?  Some people get caught up and stuck in the search for the "dream job", only to find they aren't satisfied with anything that requires work and perseverance.  To these people it is always the other person's fault they couldn't make it.  When you work for yourself, the only person you can blame for your failures is yourself.  So, if you can't handle occasional, or even frequent, failure, don't try anything stated in this article. 
I make customized baby quilts and matching changing pads. I live in a semi-rural county, full of girls who keep spewing out babies. It's the sort of impulse purchase that mothers-to-be and their friends can't resist. Their life choices may not get them ahead, but they get me ahead. Thank you!
Aug 10, 2014 12:22PM
Use the profits to buy precious metals: Wars and rumors of wars. The sea to turn blood-red (a huge area now in the Gulf of Mexico). Huge numbers of Christian martyrs being beheaded in Iraq. The Antichrist on the seat of power in America (refusing to help the martyrs). Plagues upon the populations (Ebola,AIDS,TB). You are witness to it. ISIS is the "cat's paw" of the Antichrist.
This is idiotic, sure you can do good on ebay and etsy but it's very hard to make a living off it and all the other ideas just sound downright like bad ideas.
Aug 10, 2014 9:24PM
Flipping cars on is the best way to make money online.
Aug 10, 2014 3:22PM

If the internet can provide a second income fine!  But it is not just about money, it is about making your life mean something.  We are suppose it add value, make things a little better because we were there. Selling hand-made quilts, vintage clothing or DVDs online, is not making the world better.

Aug 10, 2014 8:53AM
I quieted my job cuz I found out that I culd make moree $$money$ for rolling up good tight doobies for my friends, neibghbors and relatives's. 
I learnedid the technique in 1st grade when we be to rolling papers round our fingerers;s. So contact your local drug pusher er ahem I mean medical marawana sellerer and see if you can pre roll doobie s 's for him but let him know up front you only roll the 'good bush' why waist your time on the crumby bad bush or ordinary bush.   right?
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