Well, see, it's like this...
I work almost full time at a job (social work type) I love, but it doesn't really pay enough to live on (varies, around $2000/mo, with healthcare for me, but not my kids). Currently, I am also paid $1200/month to care for my mom. She is 95, and we are fairly certain she won't live forever. So that chunk of my income will disappear. We are getting by on the current income, but things would be easier if we had a bit more. There isn't too much room to cut back our expenses - unfortunately, I have a car payment (almost $300, counting the increased insurance required), and our rent is $1200. That's average for a 3 bedroom house in my area. I could probably find an apartment for a bit less, but between the expense of moving, and the need to stay in this school district for YoungSon's last 2 years of high school, the choices are pretty limited. We have no cable or landline, and utilities are pretty much fixed. Our food is pretty basic - little to no processed foods, but nothing organic or fancy either. Mainly fresh produce, meat, dairy, and bread. Occasional sweet treats, usually home made by BigGirl. Gas costs about $400, because I drive a lot for work. My house has a spare room - a converted 2-car garage, heated and carpeted, intended as a rec room.
I applied for a new job in my agency (with a significant pay raise), but that fell through. I was planning to become a therapeutic foster home again, but that fell through too. I really am trying to get something in place before Mom dies - I will be upset enough, and don't need a financial panic at the same time. BigGirl is 18, and is looking for a job. She will start community college next term. I will ask her to contribute once she is working, but she also will be saving for college, so it won't be much.
I have had various home businesses over the years, and I know that my weakest link is anything to do with sales. I have a near phobia of presenting myself to strangers in this sort of situation. Here are the avenues I have considered, based on my skills, resources, experience, etc.:
ESL - I have an advanced certificate to teach English as a second language, but not a master's degree. I have volunteered teaching through the community college, but never had a paid position. I would enjoy tutoring, general English to adults, or English for medical professionals (I have enough medical background), but I am having a hard time with marketing and sales. I would love to lead an English conversation group for immigrant women, but can't quite see how I could get paid for this. Online tutoring is another possibility, but I don't know how to get started. Or I should say I know how, but can't seem to get motivated to take the first steps.
Parrots - I have had a home business raising and training baby parrots, that tanked in the recent economic mess. Although I work well with birds, and love it, I don't see the economic situation in my area as strong enough to support a business based on VERY expensive pets. And again, marketing and sales are not my strength. Plus, it would take a substantial investment to get going again. On the plus side, it would be a very practical use for this spare room, and could be pretty profitable, if it got going full swing. Although it takes a lot of time, it is pleasant for me to handfeed and play with baby birds. I don't like the cleaning up aspects (a huge part of it) so much, but I guess I could get over that. It would take some time to establish myself in the bird community.
Overnight childcare - A friend did this and I thought it was brilliant. She cared for infants and kids for working families for the graveyard shift. This could work for me - set up the spare room with cribs, beds, etc. My regular job is flexible enough that I could arrange my hours to start late if I anticipated not getting too much sleep. There is a fair sized hospital a few blocks away, and I imagine there are shift workers who need this service, The main obstacles are: my fear (hatred) of state licencing and inspections,and the necessity of keeping the house clean all the time (dishes and vacuuming don't always get done on a daily basis around here). Also, I fear I would burn out pretty quickly, as I would nearly never have any real off-duty time between my job daily and babies all night. But, investment would be minimal, and BigGirl is enthusiastic to participate in this. She is great with babies and kids, and uber-responsible.The state licensing would allow up to 6 kids, although I don't guess it is realistic to think that getting 6 kids and babies to sleep in one room is likely.
Respite - I am licensed to do respite care through the state department of developmental disabilities. It pays about $10/hour, so for a full 20 hour overnight (for some reason, the state seems to offer most families 20 hours/month), it is $200. If I could line up 8 or 10 regular kids, one or two at a time, for a monthly overnight, I could make as much money as I need. Little to no investment, as I am already licensed and have a spare room (I would move into the rec room, and have the bedroom for respite kids, as logistically it would work out better). Marketing would be fairly simple, as I have a personal friend in the dept who would happily recommend me. The downside is that although I do this pretty well, I don't really enjoy it. The kids are high needs, and it would be pretty exhausting to spend my every weekend at this intensity. Also, YoungSon is special needs himself, and doesn't do too well with the constant comings and goings (different than a daycare, because it would be older, higher needs kids).
Elder care - although I have the experience and skills, without the love I have for my mother, I would not have the patience. Besides, it really doesn't pay well enough to make the difference. 2 or 3 hours per evening is all I could handle after work, and I couldn't make ends meet with typical rates (I think $10/hour is average).
Renting out a room - pretty much ruled this out. My house only has 1 bathroom. Probably, that is enough reason. The rec room would be the best one to rent, but access to the laundry room is through there. Awkward. I had a roommate for much of last year, and it left a bad taste in my mouth for a variety of reasons. None of them insurmountable, but the going rate for a room is about $350 around here - not enough to work for me anyway.
Sewing - I have years of experience sewing commercially. For years, I made custom motorcycle racing leathers. Then I had a business making Hawaiian print baby clothes, and selling on the national craft circuit. That evolved into baby clothes upcycled from used adult clothes. My city has a pretty fantastic year-round craft market, and I have sold my stuff there. I never got going online (neither my own website nor Etsy-type sales), but probably could if I tried. I enjoy production sewing, and my kids and I enjoy the atmosphere at the craft market. They could be counted on to help with market sales, and online sales. The rec room could be a great workshop/office/warehouse for a small business. I don't have a particular product in mind, but could either revive my old designs (only 3 or 4 years ago), or come up with something new. Besides baby clothes, I have made slings, diapers, and fabric toys - many possibilities.I sort of miss the creative side of things. The downsides are: large initial investment. My workshop was destroyed in a fire, so I have no machines. Also, materials for an initial inventory would be $$$. And it is a bit of a crap shoot if I could make much money from this.
Parenting classes/support groups - I teach parenting of high needs kids in my job, and also volunteer teach a class through another agency. It is possible that I could set up a sort of free lance, paid version of this for families that aren't hooked up through either agency. Not impossible, but it would take time to get going, and pretty high energy in the development stage. Could work into advocacy in IEP meetings, with insurance providers, systems navigation help, and more. I just question if I have it in me to begin such a project right now. Also, since I already spend 5 days a week doing this work, I think I might burn out if I got too much more intensely involved in the special needs families community.
OK- that is all I can think of tonight. Writing all this out has helped me think it through, but I would welcome any input - insights on these or any other directions I might go. When the new job and the foster parenting fell through on the same day, I felt sort of panicky - definitely time for a new plan. I didn't write out my whole budget, but trust me that we are pretty close to the edge with recurring monthly expenses that are non-negotiable. I feel that time is running out for me to set something up - I have the extra income from my Mom right now, but it is hard to predict how long that will last.