Buying in bulk, online tutoring: A freelancer's plan for managing money after a layoff

Jenn Bussell with dog her, Roo.
Photo by Jenn Bussell

Jenn Bussell is nervous about her financial prospects in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, but she has a plan. Bussell, 50, is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Washington, D.C., and has been looking for work for the past two years after being laid off from a full-time job at a Boston-based creative agency in 2018.

Many other Americans will soon be coping with unemployment: Widespread layoffs are already underway, and forecasts for U.S. job losses in April range from 500,000 to as many as 5 million

Bussell is conscious that she has only a few hundred dollars left in her bank account. Here are the ways she plans to save money and earn more.

The savings strategy: Buy in bulk with neighbors

Bussell lives in a condominium complex and has considered coordinating with neighbors to buy essentials in bulk together. 

"For apartment and condo dwellers tight on storage and funds," she says, "buy in bulk essential home supplies that can be shared or distributed equally such as toilet paper, paper towels, boxed tissues, air and surface sanitizing cleaners and wipes."

A 6-pack of Charmin Ultra Soft Toilet Paper Mega rolls is $6.99 at Target, or $1.17 per roll. But if you buy the 24-pack, it's only $1 per roll. That's a 15% discount per roll.

The earning strategy: Start a new online business

Bussell knows finding a job now could be even harder, so she's decided to try something different, career-wise. She's starting an online tutoring service covering topics like reading, spelling, and grammar for elementary school kids and English composition for middle and high schoolers. 

"My thinking is some parents of school-age children are most likely facing their own dilemma of how best to manage a new work-from-home career with the newfound pressures of being an at-home educator," she says.

She plans to charge $19 to $25 per hour and has begun posting her services on sites like LinkedIn and Nextdoor. She's also created a profile on Care.com.

Jenn Bussell's Nextdoor tutoring post.
Courtesy of Jenn Bussell

Nationwide, online tutors make an average of $21 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter. Online tutoring service Varsity Tutors "is actually seeing an increase in demand during this coronavirus pandemic," according to PR representative Pete Bahrenburg.

For inspiration on pivoting careers and exploring side hustles, Bussell also follows experts like Chris Guillebeau on Twitter. And she's thinking creatively.

In looking for some extra income while she builds her business, Bussell is considering reaching out to neighbors to see if they need help with gardening, dog walking, or grocery pick up and delivery. Gardeners make an average of $15 per hour, dog walkers make an average of $14 per hour, and grocery deliverers make an average of $22 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter.

Make sure that if you pick up work, you still follow health and safety regulations like washing your hands regularly and keeping significant distance between you and other people. Instead of handling cash, ask to get paid virtually using tools like Venmo or PayPal.

For apartment and condo dwellers tight on storage and funds ... buy in bulk essential home supplies that can be shared or distributed equally.
Jenn Bussell
Freelance writer

As a last resort: Barter

Bussell's roommate recently traded a visitor sitting in their condo complex a bottle of alcohol for a tub of Clorox disinfectant wipes. Bussell realized, if finances get truly strained, she'd make a list of barter-able items and reach out to neighbors via Nextdoor or Facebook to see what they'd be willing to trade. 

"If things get super tight financially," she says, "I am a big believer in old-school bartering. You need sanitizing wipes and have paper towels. Your neighbor has sanitizing wipes and needs paper towels. Barter system." 

Ultimately, she says, "I feel oddly fortunate." Bussell has had to make a lot of financial sacrifices recently, and being financially thrifty is something she's used to. "I've spent the last two years preparing for this, not knowing it was coming."

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