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Ask HN: My wife needs something to do from home to make money...
233 points by mkelley on May 6, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 175 comments
My wife is a stay at home Mom and is bored - unfortunately she doesn't have the best formal education credentials but she is far from stupid. However this does heavily impact her ability to get a job that pays much more than minimum wage, usually labor intensive. She has a herniated bulging disc in her lower back, so I'd prefer her not do a lot of manual labor all day. I wanted to hear from you guys what sort of entrepreneurial endeavors she might embark on with my programming/web expertise and a little bit of cash backing her. The catch is, she needs to be able to do it from home. She doesn't need to get rich - even earning ~$1000/mo would be acceptable as long as the man(woman) hours to money earned ratio is reasonable. Ideas?

A younger, stupider me would have suggested writing for one of the freelancer sites. However, that seems to put her on a collision course with lots of not-so-savvy-but-they-don't-need-to-be folks who would be thrilled to make 1/4 of her reserve price.

Ignoring credentials for a moment, does your wife have any skill which is commercially valuable? Can she develop one? Many knowledge-worker things can get delivered over the Internet at fairly high price points.

For example, does she have a solid grasp of high school mathematics? Does she understand who cares about that and why? If so, that trivially supports $40+ an hour. (Customer: Tiger Mom in a high-achieving suburban school district.)

Does she have native proficiency in a foreign language? (n.b. English is a foreign language to lots of people who have money!) Tutoring goes from free to $10 to $40+ an hour. (Why the range? Customer selection. Think less "high school foreign exchange student" and more "executive recently transferred from Nomura Securities to their NYC office who feels his career growth will be stymied by his poor conversational English skills.")

Does she have a hobby which is common among upper middle class Americans and which carries social esteem? Can she teach it?

For more about this general topic, see Ramit Sethi.

> For example, does she have a solid grasp of high school mathematics? Does she understand who cares about that and why? If so, that trivially supports $40+ an hour. (Customer: Tiger Mom in a high-achieving suburban school district.)

Doing that in person is probably most lucrative. I know a physics grad in the Bay Area who does it as a regular job, full-time income for after school/evening/weekend work. But also worth checking out the new wave of online tutoring sites, that connect real tutors to real students. Tutorspree is the only one I can recall, but pretty sure there are a few others:


> "executive recently transferred from Nomura Securities to their NYC office who feels his career growth will be stymied by his poor conversational English skills."

Have paid double the top end of your range for lessons over skype. IME they also tend to be a lot easier to teach than students paying at the lower end.

> she doesn't have the best formal education credentials

Tiger Moms are sort of snobs about formal education, so they may not want to hire her.

Skype for the sick, create a service that does scheduled calls (ideally video calls) to the elderly and infirm for a fee.

I had this idea because my father suffers from Parkinsons disease and gets quite lonely in the house during the day. He lives in Florida and I life in California and I can't call him as much as I would like to given the time difference. I know he gets lonely and would love to just have a conversation with someone during the day. I would pay to have someone skype him for 20-30 minutes in the middle of the day just to provide some conversation.

I am guessing that there are many other people who are in my situation with sick or elderly relatives. I know I would pay for a service like this and you would be bringing happiness into peoples lives.

That's not only for the sick and elderly, but for all lonely people. I have actually thought about such a service a while ago, because I read about those online leeches who pretend to be poor girls from a developing country (actually they are mostly middle aged men). They keep in contact for years, urging their "host" to send them money to support them, and sometimes even help the host find a job when he is fired. The hosts readily send even huge sums just so they can connect to somebody emotionally. This clearly shows there is a lack of warmth and connection for people in our society, and I can think of better ways to help them than through online leeches.

Sadly my father has been a victim of this sort of thing. He has been transfixed by the idea that a Bank in Ghana has an $8 million dollar inheritance for him. I have had so many conversations with him about this being a scam but he won't believe me.

when I am an old man, I hope my family make more of an effort than to plan for strangers to call me. This seems more for your own guilt than helping them. That said, I would have loved the chance to skype with my grandad or tap into his "what I am doing" view.

Knowing how many older folk play crosswords, I think an async game you can play is far more meaningful.

I don't take offense to your comment, in fact I think you are partially correct but your view is to simplistic. I don't think you appreciate how difficult it can be to provide care for some one with old age/dementia or a neurally degenerative disease like Parkinsons or Alzheimer's. Caregivers need more tools and this would be one that would help for some people. It wouldn't replace all the other things that you need to do as a Caregiver, technology is just another tool that can be used.

You do feel a great guilt and sadness watching someone you love slowly wither away over years. You are always thinking of ways to help but the hard reality is that there isn't a lot you can do except provide companionship.

But what do you do when you need a job to pay for all the other care this loved one needs? These things compete for your time and ability to provide companionship 24hrs/day. If I quit my job and moved across the country to take care of my father their wouldn't be any money to pay for the nurse's, medicine, and doctors. Plus all the other complexities of life that this would create for my wife and our plans to have a family. Caring for a sick person is complex.

when I am an old man, I hope my family make more of an effort than to plan for strangers to call me.

That's a really rude statement. Also, you have no reason to think the parent commenter's father enjoys games, or even to think that an aged person with health problems is interested in puzzles over human interaction.

I stand by it, I dont think it is rude.

I think it highlights the focus we as technology advocates hold that technology can solve society based problems. Turn back the dial 50 years, we held our elders in far higher respect than we do today.

That said, I want to show you an example of something a bit more meaningful with skype and the older generation.


Clearly this is not for all people, yet I feel it is more interesting than just to ring up and hold a "30 minute" conversation because someone is paying you to do it. Not only that but I would bet it gives some of these ladies focus, purpose, still have something to give to society.

It's beyond rude. Saying something like that without knowing anything about the people involved, their relationship or what they do for each other is extremely nasty.

In the general case, I think you're not rude at all and is a valuable comment.

But if you're refering to a specific person to whom you don't know their individual circumstances, and you do it publicly, then it is extremely rude. For the record I'm from the UK in case this is a cultural thing.

Is there data for well elders were respected now and 50 years ago?

I think this is a common cultural misconception. Much like "Americans are getting dumber," is socially manufactured.

For one thing, nursing homes used to be unthinkable. You wouldn't kick elders out of the family home.

You could also expect them to die in a reasonable timeframe. Caring for someone for 6 months is a totally different thing from doing so for 6 years. It is a gift and a curse.

You should check out TAGLab at the University of Toronto. They are working on a very similar problem. One of their projects involves a touch-sensitive picture album where the patient can request interaction with a loved one. The patient taps a picture and a notification goes to the recipient, and on the other end the recipient can take a photo or write a note or record a video to send back.


The project: http://taglab.utoronto.ca/projects/technologies-combat-isola...

It's really a great idea to break elderly people isolation. My elderly relatives tend to use the phone, and I'm rarely available, so I really like the asynchronous nature of it. Make it as easy to use as a telephone and I could see me paying for such a service.

Super interesting! Thanks for posting this link.

I'm sorry about your dad having Parkinsons.

As a father and son, I can relate to how you feel. Your idea is good. Maybe someone will take up the offer.

Good luck and good health to both of you.

This is a great idea. Growing population of elderly. This could be a great way for adult children to gain piece of mind that their parents are ok.

iPads make video calls very simple even for people who are not computer savvy. Just configure the software once and it's always ready.

My girlfriend was doing medical transcription for a while before going back to school. It's boring, but it's a somewhat skilled position and thus the pay is decent (my girlfriend topped out around 2k per month). Your wife will have to get a medical transcription certification first, though.

Here's the company she worked for: http://www.nuance-nts.com/ - they're the same people that do Dragon Naturally Speaking and Siri. Kinda weird to be training algorithms that are replacing you.

Hey. Glad I ran into this post. My girlfriend likes paperwork, has been working as a nurse for four years, and is looking for a change for at least a bit. Can you tell me where your girlfriend got her transcription certification and how long it took?

She got her certification from http://www.careerstep.com/medical-transcription-editing

It's between a 4 month and 1 year course, depending on how much time you spend training. She finished it in about three months by working on it all the time.

Thank you!

Most community colleges with any sort of health programs (which are most) offer medical transcription programs. They're usually only a semester or two long and typically are very affordable. That said you may be able to find faster private/for profit certification programs.

Thanks very much. I will look into it.

just a wild, very wild and untested, idea. a mini-niche "mechanical turk" iphone(andorid) app.

i.e.: if your wife is called "gloria" the app is called "Ask Gloria"

  * user types in an question/request.
  * gloria (the real gloria) response.
the app is free(? or 0.99) with a 1 question package.

an additional question pack (of 5 questions) costs 10(?)$

the selling point is that not an anonymous person or siri-AI answers your stuff, but a real human being. the app can be pitched to techblogs and other stuff as an (funny and "slow life") alternative to siri & co.

it's the smallest niche i can think of. just a wild idea, would love if you give it a try and report back to HN.

There were at least two versions of this: Chacha and KGB. The former I used extensively - you'd just send a text to CHACHA with a question and a real person would answer it for you. Some of the responses I got were quite amusing :)

How about the niche "ask a mom"? This way new moms or parents in general can ask her about tips (i.e. Tips for traveling with a baby?). If it sticks, she can grow the network of possible moms to ask (which would "require" some kind of blog about parenthood etc).

It's what ChaCha was supposed to be, I guess they still are.

with Chacha you ask "a person" (maybe, if the question wasn't asked before), with Ask Gloria you ask Gloria. but yeah, the product has similarities, but the marketing and selling point would be different.

It's a really cool idea. I would worry about it interrupting normal life. If Gloria has limited availability (on lunch, sleeping, at a movie or otherwise living life) then the app is significantly less useful.

Use twilio to cache the calls. Charge for urgency of response.

This is a pretty cool idea, but it could easily go out of control if even one news outlet picks the story up. I'd raise the price by a lot (like $9.99 a question), in order to keep volume reasonable.

pot. solution: pinboard inspired pricing - the more questions are in the queue (or the more question packages sold), the higher the - in app purchase - price.

Would anyone actually pay $10 a question?

People will pay for anything :)

Yes, but how do you get them to do that?

(Serious question. Not kidding.)

Have you tried asking yet?

Yes. But apparently extremely badly...or something.

Vodafone in Australia (not sure about everywhere else) once had a similar service which they pitched as being able to find the answer to anything. I only used it once or twice, often while trying to prove something in a bar.

Pretty handy service however I think you'd want to be able to call in your question as there might be a bit of forwards and backs in trying to work out exactly what you're trying to get the answer to.

There were quite a few of these globally, but Google on mobile killed them I think.

IMHO, If you have an income stream that supports it, then the answer is not "a side business". It's "go to school for something she wants to do better". And if taking care of the kid doesn't give her a chance to leave the house, the answer is "online classes and night classes when you're home to take care of the kid".

(If the thing she wants to do better is "draw" then here are some super awesome free drawing lessons from a master animator: http://johnkcurriculum.blogspot.com/2009/12/preston-blair-le... )

QA, testing web sites in late development and logging bugs.

Most developers hate doing this, & PM's are not good at anything.

I usually pay $40/hr for this, however it only takes a few hours, and that rate means the bug report is reported in a way that it's easy to read and recreate without having to have a conversation about it.

We have actually used this service to test our ecommerce websites. http://www.usertesting.com/be-a-user-tester

The pitch is "Be a User Tester and Earn $10 per Website".

I'd love to get into doing this on the side, but 99% of QA jobs I've seen require solid knowledge of programming. Is this not the case?

I had a p/t QA job testing games for IBM and other local ISVs. I was a highschool student at the time and the only requirement was knowing how to use a computer and writing detailed descriptions of what happened and what you did to cause it.

I can't imagine how programming has anything to do with assurance (the A in QA). Though I have seen job descriptions confuse QA with analytics and analytics definitely requires programming expertise. I usually chalk this up to HR not knowing what the hell they are talking about.

At all of my past companies (the current is notably different), and the majority of companies where my programmer friends work, QA requires no meaningful knowledge of programming, just knowledge of

    the product
    how programmers (the people) think, and how to cope with them

That said, it's not at all clear to me how this is a work-from-home job.

Check out http://99tests.com it's crowdsourcing based testing service.

My little world of web apps there are 2 types of testers, both valuable.

1) Programmer testers that write reusable, and automated tests, as well as encourage & assist the dev team to write their own tests. These folks work through the entire project , usually on product type projects.

2) Manual Testers (there must be a better name) These folks are good communicators that focus primarily on the client perspective. Developers, and their tests, tend to evaluate code in a rigid & consistent way that may not reflect the end user experience. These testers are also used on products but more commonly on turn-and-burn projects for Agencies or startup MVP's that are not huge yet.

If you did want to get into programming I do think that QA is an outstanding way to bootstrap a web dev career. I've laid out a plan here http://www.robertspeer.com/blog/no-degree-no-problem-some-ha...

It's not how I got got into making web apps but I think it's a solid way to get into a well paying career.

It's so ridiculous that people always want QA testers to be programmers. My fiance is a fantastic QA tester but has no interest in programming. She interviewed at Twitter, which at the time did not have a single manual QA tester keeping an eye on their products, and they just asked her a bunch of questions about coding. They should have sat her down and asked her to find bugs. No programmer I know has the patience to do what she does manually. She works with a team that makes extensive use of automated testing. But things still slip through, and it's worth it to have a human being looking for issues. Doing everything with manual QA is obviously stupid. But I think the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction as well. Having no manual QA whatsoever seems like a big waste of time for teams that are large enough to afford it.

I would also love to get into this. I am teaching myself programming but I'm far off from making a career out of it.

I believe I can usually communicate well with programmers, but is there anything else I can do to make myself qualified for this type of job?

Also, are there any recommended sites or places to look for these types of job postings besides the 99tests one mentioned? Thank you.

Also, as runamok mentioned above, there's http://www.usertesting.com/be-a-user-tester

There's also uTest - http://www.utest.com

Is this still available??I would love to do it,for both the money and the experience.ephan17 [@] gmail.com ..I can show you my background and a site I have done.

What is your wife interested in? It's much easier to run a small business when you are genuinely interested in the field.

(A) Customers respond to someone who knows what they're talking about

(B) In any case you're happier doing something you enjoy

Suggest some possibilities!

She could be a virtual personal assistant and work from home on Zirtual: http://zirtual.com/

Maybe drop shipping? You have to make an effort in finding a !crowded niche but there's money to be made if you got your act together. Check out this Reddit IAmA http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/se78n/i_make_over_100k...

Hi Arkitaip, there was a thread exposing this guys posting as dishonest. I can't find it on Reddit any longer, but I did find this:


The gist was the links he posted to the PPC/SEO companies were actually his own (and this was his true purpose).

[Edit, found the link!]

Thank you for bringing this up. I've read that thread a couple of times but this has completely escaped my attention.

I still think there's business in drop shipping as long as you do your home work and apply common sense.

Thanks for the note, although we probably shouldn't write off the whole post as misinformation. I think most of the info was really useful for people looking to get into the business.

Drop shipping can be harder than it looks, you need a quiet diverse skill set. You need to be across marketing, seo etc. You need to have a site (or ebay or something) that works well and keeps current with your suppliers products and their stock levels. You need to accept payments and deal with fraud.

You need to field questions from your customers as the merchant, without generally being able to have access to the products you are selling. You need to deal with shipping companies and angry customers questioning the legitimacy of your products. (Because they are cheap and coming from another country and they were slightly different to the last one they brought.... they must be fake).

Affiliate marketing is a lot easier place to start, you send s customer, get a commission and don't have to deal with the rest of the process. In terms of products I think the greater opportunities are in drop shipping, as long as you can do everything mentioned. There are people though making a fortune on leads without having to worry about everything else.

Buying shit on Cragslist (or Gumtree in the UK) and selling on eBay and vice versa. My better half manages 500-800GBP a month with this quite happily. Persuaded some muppet to sell her a Korg Triton for 80GBP and got 580GBP on ebay for it :)

Unfortunately it got converted to clothes and shoes pretty quickly :(

let me translate what you just said:

"Persuaded some muppet": she gained her mark's confidence.

"to sell her a Korg Triton for 80GBP": she ripped her mark off.

"and got 580GBP on ebay for it": and then she profited from the rip-off.

in some circles, that is referred to as grifting.

It was knocked down from 120 from someone who hadn't done their pricing research so it's fair game :)

Taking from idiots is an evolutionary step. Look at VC funding!

Ignorance =/= idiocy.

No but idiocy is directly proportional to ignorance.

who the fk sold it for that price - beaker? ;-)

Not far off :)

Thanks for all the replies, I actually wasn't expecting so much of a response - maybe there are a lot more people out there in a similar situation. I like the medical transcriptionist suggestion, as well as the ebay & craigslist buy & resell though I'm not sure she or I know the best type of items to focus on. As for a niche site selling x-type of items... that sounds alright and one I've thought of - but what's a good niche market where the google ad words prices aren't astronomical? Anyone?

If she's going to dip her toes into ecommerce there is no point in developing a site and trying to build up traffic. Thats a losing battle. Start with a platform that has a built in network where the marketplace and infrastructure is already there for you like eBay stores or Etsy. If she nails it on eBay then you build a site and drive sales to her site.

If she's willing to put in the work and knows a market pretty well it shouldn't be hard to acquire things for below their value, pretty them up and flip them on eBay. My girlfriend made a few bucks buying shoes at sample sales and selling them on eBay, but she knows the market pretty well.

Back in the day I used to snipe music gear auctions with bad listings on eBay for below value, clean them up and take some nice photos and flip it back on eBay. Bigger ticket items mean good margins.

I would also have her take a look at some of the types of gigs on ODesk or one of the personal assistant micro task sites (FancyHands, TaskRabbit, Zaarly etc), she might be able to build up a skillset out of random virtual gigs

Usborne Books is a major distributor of childrn's books. Sales are robust, it's big enough to have real influence & support but individual sellers can make good in their own region. Pretty much a "make as much as you want to" (with proportial effort). Worth looking into. http://www.myubam.com/ecommerce/opportunity.asp?sid=H3967...

Does she have a good grasp of written English? (I'm not pulling your leg. Many people struggle to type readable, grammatically correct sentences.)

People have already mentioned SEO, but there's a broader demand for 'article writers' and even people who can write summaries of Web pages, produce ledes for online news services, do proof reading of text, etc.

unfortunately she doesn't have the best formal education credentials but she is far from stupid.

Could she not use the time to improve her credentials?

Is all manual labor off the table? Does your wife have any crafting skills?

On Etsy, I've seen a lot of people making things that don't seem like they would be labor intensive beyond the occasional shifting and arranging of raw materials.

If she's capable of making things that would do well on that website, count me among the jealous :)

Good luck.

My partner spent the last couple of years travelling around a lot between countries and couldn't maintain a normal job. She ended up finding an academic essay editing/proofing service that would send her jobs to do. They gave her some training via skype to start with, and she's enjoyed the work. Look here: http://www.uni-edit.net/

Undermine kids education while taking their money and cheating their peers. Nice.

My wife was in the same position. She found some work pretty quickly networking at startup meetups. She ended overseeing a technical project, and doing some lite database work. She had a few opportunities; but picked the one that had the fewest hours.

If she has some skills, or can even pretend to have them, there are people that are desperate to give work to other people they meet at meetups.

I'm getting ready to start an online forum, but I don't relish the prospect of having to monitor it for spam/abuse. It seems like having one person casually scan 10, 20, 50? forums throughout the day could easily keep the spam at bay, and each of those forums owners would probably be quite happy to pay $100+? per month to keep their forum spam free.

Forum spam is a generally solved problem. And a non-issue for a forum with no traffic.

If you are ever getting hit with xrumer blasts, you just need to rotate your "What is 5+5?"-type registration questions because someone hard-coded your registration process into xrumer.

Beyond that, if you have any users at all, you'll be able to cultivate an armada of volunteer moderators to help you out.

Most of the forums I've seen have a "report spam" feature that could be made more prominent, but human moderators are also valuable.

Along the same lines, I know there are independent product developers (iOS apps, Android apps, web apps, etc.) who are tired of doing email support themselves, but find it hard to find competent contractors to do thoughtful first-level support for them. This usually doesn't require advanced technical skills, mostly just being able to interpret vague descriptions, escalate important reports, and respond with polite standard English. I imagine building up a good reputation on a public Q&A site (the Apple discussion forums or something) could be a helpful first step for this, and then using connections to get an initial client or two who can vouch for you.

Where are you located? My startup is looking for customer service reps.

The lowest stress, highest paying per hour job I can think of is tutoring high school students. $50 an hour is normal, $100 is possible in affluent neighborhoods if you have a good pitch about why you're worth it; I have even heard of $500 an hour, but that was a math PhD student who found a remarkably rich Manhattan family.

Please forgive the self promotion, but in an effort to teach myself something about code, and to help people I know in a similar situation as you described, I have been building out a Website with resources for making a little bit of extra money that I think you might find helpful.


Personally, I would suggest taking a look at both LeapForce and LionBridge, because they offer 10-20 hours a week working from home at $15/hour evaluating Google's search results and doing other online tasks. They have an application/approval process to go through, but it could be a good fit for what you are looking for.

Side note: I know the site isn't really polished yet, but I'd love some constructive feedback if you have any.

I was looking for something similar for my girlfriend. I was thinking she could market/translate Western apps/websites for the Chinese market since she is Chinese and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese. Not sure how to get her started though. Would you pay for such a service?

I have seen on Cosplay branch of 4chan many people trying to buy things on Taobao, they had hard time messing with the messy Chinese interface, she could target them.

she could sign up to be a translator on mygengo: http://mygengo.com/

I would (for the text of an app), but I have no real clue where one goes (other than a search) to find / advertise that type of service.

http://www.icanlocalize.com/ has been very good for iPhone apps.

What is she good at? What are her interests? What would she like to spend 24/7 doing?

We wrote up a post last month - http://sparknlaunch.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/step-1-where-to...

Essentially if you want to go down the path of a real business (ie one that generates $1k per month) you really need to be pursuing something you believe in and are willing to commit 110% towards.

While all these online ventures being suggested here are noble and probably relevant. You have to ask the basic questions first.

My sister is a stay at home mom as well; I got her onto oDesk and she's having a good time and making more than $1000 the first month working part time while nurturing her daughter at home.

Mkelley – Drop shipping has been mentioned a few time, and I wanted to give you my thoughts on the business model.

I've had a lot of success with drop shipping eCommerce and have been doing it full-time for more than 4 years. Robryan is right to some extent - it can be harder than it looks - but with some dedication and a good niche, it's a great way to create online income. A few tips from my own experience:

- Picking a niche where you can add value is crucial. The more complex niches are often best as these are the ones where you can create the most educational content related to your products. If you aren't able to offer some kind of value-added information, you have to compete on price. And I don't recommend that.

- Finding good supplier(s) is really important, and I highly recommend only getting into a market if you have TWO suppliers. As Robryan alluded to, it can be difficult to keep warehouse inventory synced up with your website, which is why I ALWAYS use multiple suppliers with overlapping product lines. The vast majority of the time Supplier A doesn't have an item, I can get it shipped from Supplier B.

- Multiple suppliers prevents you from being totally dependent on one source of inventory. It also gives you geographic diversity, allowing you to save on shipping costs - and reduce transit time - by routing orders through the warehouse closest to your customer.

- Not seeing the physical products you sell CAN be a challenge, and it's often a good idea to order a few of your best sellers. However, I can tell you from personal experience it's possible to become an expert for a line of products that you've never touched. With the wealth of product pictures, reviews and information online you really don't have to touch something to know a lot about it. As your business grows, you'll quickly learn the ins-and-outs of the niche through your customers experiences, opinions and problems.

- You WILL need to be be good at - or willing to learn - marketing and SEO. PPC advertising has gotten so expensive that you won't be able to make much of a profit using that as your primary traffic driver. PPC is a great tool early on to drive some traffic and make sure it's converting at a reasonable level, but long-term you'll need to build organic traffic if you want to make any serious money.

- One of my favorite aspects of eCommerce is that it's a great model for automated, passive income. If you invest a LOT of time up-front in building an information rich-store and market it well, the operations side of the business (fulfilling orders, dealing with returns, solving customer problems) is fairly simple to outsource. I recently took a 7 month working vacation to travel around-the-world while my team back home managed the business. Did it require a lot of up-front work? Absolutely. But I believe the long-term ROI (return on investment) with eCommerce beats many other business models.

I'm not sure if eCommerce would be the right path for your wife, but I hope it is helpful! If you're interested in learning more, I blog about building eCommerce stores and would recommend a post detailing how I got started:


I also spent the last week working on a 50+ page eBook that covers how I pick a niche, find suppliers and evaluate market demand and competition. It's a free resource I'll be giving away on the blog in the next few weeks, and would be happy to send you a copy if you're interested. Feel free to email me, or reply here in the comments.

Best of luck!

Another way to differentiate yourself from the plethora of eCommerce sites around is to have really good customer service and delivery. I once setup a small online shop selling one particular hot form of consumer electronics at the time, and what gave me the edge over drop-shipped competitors was overnight delivery to anywhere in the country. We always had stock on hand. People are willing to pay extra for good service and certainty, especially when they need something quick.

The way the business worked was that I was working full time in an unrelated s/w development job. My wife would pack the orders in the morning and the courier would pick up from our home location every afternoon. I looked after the invoicing etc. at night; but with an automated process it really didn't take up much extra time. I did try drop-shipping as well but it didn't work out as well for us, although of course drop-shipping would probably enable you to have a larger sales capacity.

You're exactly right - outstanding service is a GREAT way to differentiate yourself. And it's often some of the best marketing you can do, too.

I'm constantly amazed at how many companies will make you send something back to get a refund / replacement, even if it only costs a few bucks.

If our customers receive a defective item that costs less than $20, we simply ship them a new item immediately, without asking them to return the old one. It only costs us a few bucks, saves the customer up to 2 weeks of wait time, save us having to process the return and usually earns us a life-long customer and vocal advocate. It's a no-brainer, and I don't understand why more companies don't do it.

Does no one send faulty item back to the manufacturer so they can prevent the same fault from happening again?

If the defect is recurring, or on a really expensive item - yes. It will go back to the manufacturer. But many defective items aren't indicative of a mass problem, but rather a one-off slip up.

If it costs $10 to ship a product from the customer to the wholesale, and then another $10 so ship it back to the manufacturer for a refund, it just doesn't make sense to do for inexpensive items each time a defective one is discovered.

Very true - and it becomes a self-fulfulling mission to maintain that high level of service. Its hugely rewarding to get positive emails and testimonials from customers every day.

Due to the large number of people contacting me I wanted to post a link to my (now available) free eBook on eCommerce and drop shipping:


Hope you find it useful!

That's very interesting. Congrats on your success. I've been interested in understanding the whole dropshipping process, so I'd like a copy, if you don't mind (email in profile). Thanks.

VoiceBunny perhaps? http://voicebunny.com/

I'm making this suggestion because I would personally use this service and I know several others who would as well. I've recently been obsessed with spring cleaning and getting rid of my excess things, but here's the problem: I would love to make some profit off of the stuff I'm already planning to get rid of, but I don't want to put in the time/effort to individually list and ship each item on eBay, Craigslist, Copious, etc. I would love to have someone else do all of this for me and keep 40% or more of the profit. This is kind of like eBay/Craigslist flipping, except your wife wouldn't have to buy the items initially.

If she's tech-minded she might be able to learn how to do some SEO work for local businesses. She can literally call up every restaurant in town and see if they want help with their website or their Yelp page, etc.

I recently started using concierge services available to some credit cards.

Basically, concierge workers are similar to personal assistants and will fulfill requests such as book concert tickets, make phone calls for reservations, do some google research regarding one topic or another.

I found out that most concierge workers actually work from home. If she's ok with that kind of work, it might be worth looking into. Here's a reference: http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/VIPdesk-com-Reviews-E29813....

This might be right up her alley:


It's not HN-ey, but I can see it working for her.

Best of luck!

This site promotes horrible spammy paractices such as "article spinning" (automated word substitution) and cross-posting the same (spun) article to numerous sites to with links to the niche site to enhance google-rank. Every link here is an affiliate link for another marketing site in the dense web of self-referential marketing guru sites. Not HN-ey is one way to put it!

True, this kind of thing still works though. Google updates are slowly trending towards hitting low quality stuff like spun articles though.

Sadly yes some of this does work, but you have to buy the tools and resources promoted by these sorts of sites, most of which would only seem to have experience using them to market SEO tools to other wannabee web marketers. The search engines are getting smarter though as you say, and depending on these sorts of techniques is asking for trouble.

Same with buying links from private blog networks and similar, Google is cracking down on this but people are still using links from vast blog networks and ranking well today.

So are there better resources you would recommend?


Sure. Check out SEOmoz.com. These guys provide great tools for SEO intelligence, and are not afraid to advocate doing things "the hard way", which will pay real dividends in the long term. If the tools are too pricey for the stage you're at, the blog is still invaluable.


I like that site overall, but some of the practices are spammy and unnecessary. I make a few thousand dollars a year from a video game site I created years ago as a hobby. As an experiment to see if I could do it again, I created another site and also made money. So with enough time, it's possible to scale.

There is no guarantee of success by being an infopreneur, and it can take a long time before you start seeing real money from it. I have a friend who made $10,000 in her first year with two sites, and I think her success is far above average. She now makes $50,000 with three sites.

It's harder nowadays than ever before though, because there's more competition and there's only one #1 spot on Google. And there's no guarantee of money. Some people could spend hundreds of hours and only make a few dollars.

For a wife who may not know anything about technology and wants to get started as an infopreneur, SiteBuildIt.com is a good service. They look terribly outdated but their information is solid. I checked them out for a month and saw their information is all the same stuff I learned from experience.

Writing useful content on a web site is what matters for a real business. Not spammy link practices.

Do your accounts, chase invoices, quarterly returns etc.. pay her a salary reduces corp. tax liability and enfranchises her into your startup.. it's working out for us both.. so far

Let her make and sell stock photography. Maybe it's not usually a good way to make money but it's lots of fun and seeing even small bits of passive income is very pleasant.

Does she enjoy being around kids? Considering the severity of her herniated disc, she may be able to successfully start an at-home day care for children in your neighbourhood. My aunt does this and she is making reasonably good money. I don't know the numbers off the top of my head, but it's definitely more than minimum wage. IIRC, she takes care of about 12 kids scheduled at different times through out the week. Usually no more than 4-6 at a time though.

SEO consulting - it can be learned relatively quickly, is not that technical for the basics, and is a great complement to your programming/web expertise for your projects

I know a couple of different businessmen who got a hard pitch over the phone from YellowBook to buy their SEO services, one a plumber and the other water damage restoration. The latter was conned into buying a $600/month premium contract for six months! Its essentially fraud..

Do you have any recommended resources?

SEOmoz ties in with a lot of the most high profile SEO resource points.

AirBNB hires at home customer service reps or at least they used to anyways not sure if they still do.

A lot of companies hire people to manage social media too.

Do you have any good links/references/experience with 'managing social media'? My wife has been offered a social media position with a small local company but neither of them know 'what to do' beyond managing facebook and she really wants to do well at the job (she's excited!) so is looking for ideas.

I've done some research into the area. Email me and we can chat.

Some random thoughts: Prepare food and sell it or help tourists out. Create a website about living with a hernia.

Or get a discectomy and get the hernia fixed? :)

Elance, textbroker, mechanical turk, etc?

Mechanical Turk has a terrible person hours:revenue ratio if you live in a developed country. Not as familiar with the others, but I think Elance tends to pay pretty poorly too.

From what I gather, it depends in part on the person. I never figured out elance but at one time was making over $200/week on textbroker. Yes, I felt the ratio amounted to slave labor but I was also clear a lot of the difficulties were on my end, not theirs. I am currently trying to develop my own sites, which have never made anywhere near $200/week. I remain torn between going back to those slave wages and continuing to gamble my time on a possible pay off somewhere down the road while, in the mean time, there is no income.

Contract programming? Try advertising on Kijiji/Craigstlist. There's always people out there who will pay you to make a website. Takes away the risk of not making anything from the site.

I don't happen to be a programmer. I have skills at doing things the world says cannot be done. There appears to be no money in either doing the impossible nor in trying to share information on how to do so.

But thanks anyway.

You made me curious (about your skills at doing things the world says cannot be done). Can you elaborate?

Oh, sure. I'm talented at solving certain kinds of "personal" and social problems. Doing so tends to leave no evidence, thus I get called a teller of tall tales. Some issues I have addressed:

Recovery from child sexual abuse. I talk about that sort of/some on a blog called November West.

Raising and effectively educating very challenging children. I talk about that on a site called Kids Like Mine.

Getting well when doctors say it cannot be done. I talk about that on a site called Health Gazelle.

I don't know how to get traffic or effectively monetize any of them, in spite of the big reaction it often gets out of the handful of people that read them.

Last I was on (which was a couple of years ago) you could get a good hourly rate (>$20/hr) if you knew how to sort the HITs properly. There were a lot of tasks where the payoff per task was very low, and if you believed their estimate of how much time it took per task the hourly rate was very low, but the task was actually much quicker than they estimated.

For example, a "which of these things is not like the other ones" type task might be estimated as taking 15 seconds, but if you're in the zone you can do them in 5 seconds, netting you 3x the hourly rate.

Earning the credentials to have a satisfying career once the kid no longer benefits from a stay-at-home mom is more useful than earning side income doing something boring.

After 10-15 years of being a stay-at-home mom, she will be even more bored if she can't find a job and no longer has children to care for.

She could offer lessons on Craigslist. Depending on the subject, you can usually earn 20-40$ an hour.

What is her current skill set?

can she market childrens apps? its very difficult to get your app exposure. i personally would pay for something like that. today the main option is review sites but theyre super saturated.

Not programming related, but a good way would be ebay. Just have her buy/sell in an area she's familiar with and it's pretty easy to make money while enjoying a hobby at the same time.

Education is going to be vital. Don't expect her to become an autodidact overnight. Get her enrolled in some online courses. A lot of community colleges have day cares, as well.

How about get her blogging (if she has neat viewpoint on something) and some adsense. It would take a while to reach $1K per month though.

Agreed - you probably won't reach anywhere near $1K per month unless you are in the 300k hits per day territory, which is pretty much impossible for most bloggers. Just extrapolating my own blog figures from adsense - I've made maybe $50 in adsense so far, from half a million views (over the past several months). While blogging is technically easy to monetize, it is very difficult to make decent money from it.

If you are making only 1k per month from 300k hits per day that means you are either not presenting the adsense in the correct way or you are blogging about a subject that does not have any competition for the niche that advertisers are willing to pay for clicks other than a few pennies. As an example I have a site that makes around $400.00 per month that only get 150-300 hits per day.

With proper research and the way you setup the blog you can potentially create a great income stream even without hitting huge amounts of traffic. It is all in what you blog about and the amount of people who may be interested.

In Canada a major pizza chain uses stay at home people to take telephone orders. Needs a good Internet connection from what I hear.

If she chooses to start a small (micro) business I will do the marketing stuff for her. No charge.

No strings attached. Just paying it forward.

craigslist/ebay flipping - find stuff that seems to be underpriced, badly described/advertised, or worth more than the seller is asking because of some feature that you have special knowledge of but they don't, buy it, then turn around and sell it for a profit (hopefully!)

Not HN-ish but has she considered Avon?

My wife sells Avon and it's a not half-bad way to make some income on the side.

Avon is not only a pyramid scheme but a terrible way to make money.

My wife does Avon with reasonable success. For her time she probably earns about minimum wage but she enjoys it because of all the walking.

That said, I don't think it's a good choice for the OP simply because of all the travel and sorting boxes, etc, involved.

Not quite a pyramid scheme but it is something one of my old highschool friends spams everyone about all the time.

a terrible way to make money.

Depends on one's situation. As the poster described his wife, it sounds - to me - like a valid opportunity.

Avon is not only a pyramid scheme

No, it's not.

try trada.com amazon mechanical turk, odesk.com elance.com

Placenta encapsulation

Ooooook. My wife makes hundreds of dollars a month doing this; it was a serious comment.

Intriguing - women send your wife their babies placenta and she makes it in to capsules for them??

Is she good at making things? She could set up an Etsy shop. Know a couple of stay at home moms who make a few thousand dollars a month selling art or crocheted things.


A one-hour old account with negative karma. Sounds like HN needs an auto-delete algorithm.

Actually, that's Butthead's laugh.

live cam stripping. enjoy.

Am waiting on a new HN submission, "Tell HN: My husband needs to get off of HN and start working so I don't have to pick up after his sorry ass, and BTW- I don't need your help. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."

Someone's gotta make the cam joke, and I guess it's going to be me.

On TV they always do this phone sex thing :-)

Not the most appropriate response to a husband. This isn't Reddit.

On TV these wives are usually shown doing the laundry or changing diapers while talking on the phone. Last I saw was a movie with Anne Hathaway doing that job while dating her new boyfriend or working her boring job as a secretary. In the end her boss from her "proper" job takes over the phone customers for her. Sorry if I did offend, judging by all those movies I didn't think it was such a big deal. No idea if it would be a viable job thing (reality is probably different from TV after all).

Why does noone on HN have a sense of humor?

Because it keeps the signal to noise ratio high. I got thoroughly downvoted for making a few wisecracks when I first arrived here and didn't get why.

After being here a while I appreciate being able to read comment threads that are centered around useful conversation from people who know what they're talking about and not a contest to see who can crack the funniest joke. If you like that, Reddit's good.

I think, like me, you're from the UK? Most HN readers are American and different cultures usually have different senses of humor and taboos.

Doing sex phone work is a bit "ooh, naughty" here but as a topic for general conversation is far less offensive than in the US. We even get light hearted documentaries about sex phone operators on TV (http://steverogerson.suite101.com/my-phone-sex-secrets-chann...) featuring students and grannies who've decided to give it a crack to earn a few quid, but when set amongst US norms your suggestion is barely better than suggesting she walk the streets.

tl;dr - When in Rome..

While I appreciate cultural differences, especially with our brothers across the pond, on HN it's just noise, not signal, no matter where you're from. Plenty of lad mags and subreddits for that stuff, but it just clogs up the bitstream here.

We do have one but there are other sites for this.

When it's pointed toward someone's real wife, in a sincere thread about something important - well, sex worker jokes aren't funny in that situation. Particularly given the guy isn't a friend of yours, nor is the wife.

Suggestion: never try that anywhere but a web forum.

Phone sex is about the same as telemarketng-- more ethical, even. Don't degrade the people who do it by insinuating that it is bad work.

I never said it was bad work. Don't misrepresent what I actually said. I said it's a sex worker job. Which it is. I'd love to see an explanation for how getting paid to perform phone sex is not a sex worker job.

Well you're not sticking the phone inside yourself are you?

I got your back.

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