As traditional working patterns break down, middle class families are boosting income in some unusual ways
Mother of two Cherry Forrest is part of a growing army of workers embracing a shift in the economy. The 39-year-old can earn more than £1,000 a month by working as a local editor for the social networking website Mumsnet.
Her story is one that’s increasingly common among British households as traditional working patterns break down and the internet provides new opportunities for more flexible employment.
Mrs Forrest found her Mumsnet role, developing listings and advertising from home for her local area, when she was made redundant from her job in marketing 18 months ago.
Pictured with Rose, 18 months, and three-year-old Elsie, she said that although the role was “frightening at first” she has managed to work from home in Kingston Upon Thames in between her children’s naps, and some months can replace her salary entirely, without having to pay childcare costs.
“It is so relevant to my life stage,” she said. “I don’t have to feel apologetic for having children. Rose has come to interviews with me and sat on my lap while I have had online conversations.”
Mrs Forrest works two days a week, as well as evenings once the children have gone to bed. “I try to stay focused when I work,” she said. “Each moment I do it is a moment away from my girls, so I have to make it count.” She is paid more than £1,000 in some months, allowing her to meet her mortgage and bills.
Cuts to child benefit for parents earning £60,000 or more, coupled with rising fuel and food prices, have increased the pressure on parents to take on second jobs or rent out spare rooms to raise extra cash.
Flexible working website workingmums.co.uk said 57pc of its visitors are considering starting a businesses. Others are looking for second jobs.
“There’s definitely a trend towards people taking on more than one job,” said Mandy Garner, the website’s editor. “I see more and more people setting up businesses during their maternity leave, or working part-time and running their own business on the side.”
Ms Garner said while some second jobs are a necessity, other users were hoping in the future to give up their salaried jobs and concentrate on their own companies.
“One woman has two children, a full-time job as a lawyer and is just opening her second retail outlet in Bluewater,” she said.
Other families are renting out a room. The Rent a Room Scheme allows investors to earn up to £4,250 a year from a lodger without paying tax on the money.
MondaytoFriday.com, which advertises rooms available for part of the week so that families can have the space back at weekends, said this tax break has sparked interest among parents with older children.
Here are some other ideas for families who do not have a business idea or a spare room.
Run a children’s class
Extracurricular classes for children are popular. While you can set yourself up as a one-man band, it is also possible to buy a franchise for art, music or language classes for preschoolers, such as Monkey Music, Caterpillar (TLO: CAT-U.TI - news) Music, La Jolie Ronde or Creation Station.
For an initial outlay, from around £12,450 plus VAT for Monkey Music to £500 plus VAT for language class La Jolie Ronde, you benefit from training, lesson plans and national advertising. In some cases you also have to pay royalties to your franchise partner.
The amount you can charge depends on your location. For those who live in London, for example, prices for a 40-minute class vary from £7.95 to £10, although classes tend to be cheaper outside the capital.
Become a party consultant
You don’t have to sell Tupperware. Many parents work demonstrating products to party hosts and guests because it is flexible and can be done in the evenings while their partner babysits the children. An advantage of setting up as a party consultant is that the start-up costs are low, whether you choose to sell cookware, books or beauty products.
For example, if you set up as a consultant selling Usborne Books, you pay £38 for the starter kit, while with the Body Shop you pay £45 or £120 if you choose to sell Jamie at Home kitchen products. You get a percentage of the sales 25pc at both Usborne and the Body Shop and at least 20pc at Jamie at Home.
Make the most of time online
Online forums are crying out for those with local knowledge to liaise with local advertisers and users.
Parents are at an advantage in some cases, thanks to their knowledge of the services available for children in local areas.
“We think there is a great opportunity to partner locally with some brilliant women who are not ready to re-enter the conventional workforce but who are vastly underutilised,” said Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet.
If you have a specific skill, you may be able to utilise this working from home online. For example, Dict8 allows experienced medical secretaries to transcribe medical documents from home. Administrators and personal assistants could consider becoming virtual assistants, working from home. Agencies such as virtualassistants.co.uk or freelancer.co.uk are good places to look for this type of work.
=Avoid the pitfalls when topping up family income =
The taxman doesn’t frown on families making extra money provided you stick to the rules.
- Tell the taxman. If you’ve got self-employed income, you must register with the HMRC Helpline for the Newly Self Employed on 08459 154515 by the end of the third calendar month after you started.
- Understand your allowances. You can earn up to £4,250 a year from letting out a spare room tax-free. If you earn more than the threshold you must complete a tax return.
- Make the most of maternity. If you are on maternity leave and receiving statutory maternity pay, but also gain income from self-employment, you can continue to do your self-employed work and keep the statutory pay. However, if you are self-employed and claim maternity allowance (which is payable to those who are not entitled to statutory maternity pay), you cannot work for more than 10 days. See moneyadviceservice.org.uk .