Unemployed because of coronavirus? How to make money from home right away – USA TODAY

Jennifer Jolly
 |  Special to USA TODAY

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Telework tips: How to set up the best home office for remote work

If you’re working from home, here are some tips to stay productive and ensure your home office is optimized for working remotely.

If you know your way around a sewing machine, can quick-fix a washer/dryer, fridge, boat or car, have an eye for antiques or possess some other random – even quirky – expertise, you could make tens of thousands of dollars working from home within the next month or two. True story. 

Unemployment rates are at the highest peak in decades, and 1 of 6 people in America are out of work. Families are trying to figure out how to survive the pandemic and look for a new job. Here’s something very few of the newly unemployed realize: There’s work out there. A lot of it. And it might be just a few clicks away. 

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In-demand experts earn as much as $60K a month

A handful of experts at a website called JustAnswer – a site where people can ask questions that they need skilled professionals to help with – broke all kinds of records last month. The average payout to JustAnswer freelancers for the month of April was $2,700 – 23% higher than any previous month. Some of the most prolific experts, including lawyers, auto mechanics, and antique appraisers, made as much as $60,000 in one month.

Normally JustAnswer experts field questions around technical, legal, medical and other common topics. People who use the site say they don’t want to roll the dice with an answer through a Google search or YouTube tutorial and often need more personalized real-time help. For that service, site users pay $5 to $40 a month to save time, hassle and money versus going in-person to a lawyer, accountant or other pros.

“Question volume has more than doubled since the pandemic started, and we continue to see a meteoric rise in the number of people seeking expert advice,” JustAnswer CEO Andy Kurtzig said. “May is once again poised to eclipse April, which featured our highest question count in 16 years by a significant margin.” 

As a result, the site needs to fill expert spots – fast. 

JustAnswer signed on more than 800 freelance experts in April, and Kurtzig said May is on track to blow right past that figure. He said the site needs experts – with at least five years of experience – in DIY appliance repair, home improvement, sewing machines, veterinary medicine, mental health, boat and car mechanics, technology and personal effects appraisals. As long as applicants pass a stringent vetting process and background check, new experts can start earning money in less than two weeks after they apply. 

“We expected to see medical, health-related and finance questions skyrocket during this time, and they have,” Kurtzig said. “But it’s a surprise to see an 800% increase in questions around boat repairs, or get a few thousand more questions a week on how much an old family heirloom might be worth.” 

Apparently, the masses sheltering at home are having a tough time fixing appliances that go on the blink, setting up home offices without the help of the IT department and are desperate to make some real cash selling treasures they uncovered during spring cleaning. 

Grocery and meal delivery people go into the pandemic and provide their own car to make approximately $15 an hour. JustAnswer experts sit in front of a computer at home earning $2,000 to $60,000 a month. 

The freelance fix

JustAnswer isn’t the only company looking for more workers. There was a 24% increase in freelance jobs available from March to April, according to FlexJobs, a job search website that specializes in remote, part-time and freelance positions. 

“Although the pandemic has driven overall unemployment numbers up dramatically, that’s not the case with remote work,” FlexJobs Career Development Manager Brie Weiler Reynolds said. “Across the board, remote jobs are really strong. Freelancers let companies fill a need that may be temporary or project-specific, without having to take on the added expense of a long-term employee.”  

FlexJobs analyzed its database of more than 54,000 companies that offer remote work options to highlight the companies with the most job postings as of May. Reynolds said there’s a major hiring surge in customer service jobs, which are often a natural fit for people with experience in the pandemic-leveled travel and tourism industries.

“Those skills translate really well over to freelance customer service and sales work,” Reynolds said. “Those are two avenues for the unemployed to pursue immediately because they require similar communication skills, relationship-building and the ability to problem-solve.” 

Other sites that help you sell your skills and work from home include WFH Pad, which has vacancies for app testers, translators and online jurors. Anyone with fast fingers on a keyboard can earn money transcribing recorded conversations or adding captions to videos online at Rev.com

Upwork and PeoplePerHour match your skills with businesses and employers looking for them – and handle everything from your profile setup to making sure you get paid. Clickworker connects you with some jobs you can do from your smartphone, and massive job marketplace Indeed has plenty of work-from-home jobs as well. 

“A lot of people don’t realize that freelance salaries are often higher than full-time jobs,” Reynolds said. “Most of these entry-level positions right now are in the $12-$20-an-hour range and higher, depending on where you live.”

Sell your stuff

Another area where people are making money is by selling their unwanted stuff. A survey by tech resale sight Decluttr shows Americans are holding onto about $43 billion worth of old phones, DVDs and other unused old gadgets in their homes. According to the survey, the average person can make nearly $200 just ditching that trash for cash. 

“Americans lose money by sitting on so much dormant tech at home,” Decluttr CMO Liam Howley said via email. “We encourage people to go through their homes and round up their unwanted tech, as they’d be surprised how much cash they could get back by trading it in.”  

It’s not just tech and gadgets. The site sees a lot of people stumbling across hidden treasures. “People have a lot more time on their hands, and they’re finding really valuable things they didn’t even know they had,” said JustAnswer appraiser Judith Katz-Schwartz. “I’m also hearing from a lot of people who’ve lost their jobs and need to sell things in order to get by.” 

Katz-Schwartz said she fields a lot of questions about old pianos, costume jewelry and rare books. Other artifacts experts on the site see a massive uptick in queries about antique dolls, artwork and coins. Site moderator Josie Taylor fields most of the 4,000 appraisal questions coming in each week. She said she’s seen such treasures as a 17th-century “Old Masters” painting potentially worth $3 million and a rare book potentially worth $45,000. Both of the people who inquired about these goods were shocked. 

Depending on what you’re selling, Katz-Schwartz recommends a variety of online sites: Tradesy for designer clothing; Mercari, 1stDibs, Decluttr, Bonanza and eBay for just about everything else. Pamono and Chairish are great for selling vintage furniture and home goods. Online classifieds include VarageSale, letgo, Facebook Marketplace and 5miles. For fine china and more valuable collectibles, she recommends Ruby Lane, Replacements, Invaluable, LiveAuctioneers.com or AuctionZip.com, where she said to “search the directory for an auction house near you and consign to them.”

To help people get started selling online, eBay offers new sellers an extra 200 free listings per month through July. In an email, a site spokesperson said what’s really hot  are video games, puzzles and at-home training equipment. Searches for gaming consoles are up 365%, while demand for breadmaking machines rose nearly 800%, and there’s an almost 600% surge in swimming pool sales.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor. Email her at jj@techish.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.

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COVID-19: England goes back into lockdown as cases spike around Europe – Euronews

England has entered a second confinement period in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus.

People enjoyed a final night out in pubs, bars and restaurants on Wednesday, before the second lockdown came into force, with authorities hoping to stop the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.

Non-essential shops and businesses, such as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, clothes shops and cinemas have been forced to close until at least December 2.

Unlike in the spring lockdown, schools and universities in England will stay open, along with construction sites and factories.

Business owners have been airing their grievances over the decision, which comes ahead of the festive period, which the government has said it hopes to be able to open up again for.

England’s public health system has moved to its highest level of emergency preparedness from Thursday.

The UK has the highest death toll in Europe with nearly 48,000 deaths linked to the virus.

Curfews incoming elsewhere

England joins other European countries in rolling out a second tranche of strict measures to get a grip on the virus.

In Italy, prime minister Giuseppe Conte has signed off on a curfew throughout the country, which will come into force on Friday and last for a month.

People will have to stay in between 10pm and 5am. High schools will be closed and shopping centres will also have to close over the weekend.

The 20 regions of Italy will be divided into green, orange and red zones according to the seriousness of the epidemiological situation, in which more or less restrictive measures will be applied.

In Cyprus, where a night-time curfew throughout the country is in place from Thursday until 30 November, there is concern about the number of cases. “The daily increase in cases can reach uncontrollable proportions, threatening the health system, jobs and the well-being of all,” President Nicos Anastasiades warned on Wednesday.

In Portugal, where around 70% of the population have been affected since Wednesday by a more flexible reconfinement than that of the spring, the government could soon take stricter measures. The country’s daily death toll on Wednesday was its highest since the start of the health crisis, with 59 deaths and 7,497 new infections.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands has closed museums, cinemas, zoos, sex clubs for a fortnight; Austria has imposed a night curfew.

Poland has announced the closure of cinemas and most shops in shopping malls, as well as a complete switch to distance learning.

And in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has imposed the return of a state of emergency allowing him to govern by decree, saying he fears hospitals could be full by mid-December.

On Wednesday Russia recorded 19,768 new cases of new coronavirus and 389 deaths, beating records set a few days ago. But the authorities still say they do not plan any major containment measures in the country.

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As Amazon soars during the pandemic, publishers that rely on it now feel left behind – CNBC

After Amazon notified members of its affiliate program that it would be cutting their rates earlier this month, the founders of Income School posted a YouTube video titled “Amazon DECIMATES Affiliate Commissions on April 21, 2020.” 

“I’m trying to imagine what was happening at Amazon headquarters when they were like, boy, let’s see, there’s a worldwide pandemic, a recession looming around the world and publishers’ paychecks are getting slashed from lower ads and everything else happening in this crazy world right now,” co-founder Jim Harmer says into the camera.

“And so this is the time when the world and publishers are really hurting, the publishers that built Amazon’s affiliate program and really built the site to what it is today… It’s right at this moment that Amazon decided, let’s slash everybody’s paychecks 50%, while Amazon itself is skyrocketing. It’s ridiculous.” 

Harmer and Income School co-founder Ricky Kesler are some of the hundreds of thousands of members of Amazon’s affiliate program. The program pays online publishers, YouTube creators and other online businesses a percentage of sales for products they recommend and link to on Amazon. It’s also been important for large online publishers like BuzzFeed, The New York Times and Vox Media that publish buying guides that drive people to make purchases on Amazon.

But last month, Amazon rolled out steep rate cuts to its affiliate program, putting those business models at risk. Those rate cuts meant publishers now make a 1% commission rate for grocery products instead of 5%, or 3% of furniture and home improvement product sales instead of 8%, for example.

Those changes mean less income for creators who are part of Amazon’s program, some of whom told CNBC they were upset the news of the cuts came around the same time as Amazon’s stock reached new all-time highs and a market cap over $1 trillion thanks to increased demand for online shopping during the coronavirus lockdown.

Others said the changes are a stark reminder that diversification of revenue streams for content creators is crucial, so as not to be dependent on the whims of tech giants and their policies. And some were thinking about giving other affiliate programs more attention. More than 18,200 people have signed a Change.org petition called “Amazon Affiliates Want Their Rates Back.” 

Amazon declined to comment on feedback from members of its affiliate program about its timing. A company spokesperson last month declined to comment on whether the decision was a result of the pandemic, and said Amazon regularly evaluates its program offerings to ensure it’s competing with the broader industry and that such rate evaluations are a standard industry practice.

Though the changes went into effect in April, members won’t see the impact immediately. Payments are made monthly, and fees paid out for April, for example, aren’t made until late June.

The changes have prompted some affiliate marketers to think beyond Amazon: Videos on YouTube quickly popped up featuring alternative programs, like those from Target, Walmart or B&H Photo Video. 

Income School’s founders told CNBC many of those alternative affiliate programs don’t have the same robust catalog of products as an Amazon. For example, whereas a boating site can list its picks of oil filters on Amazon, the options might not be available on different sites. 

Doug Cunnington, an affiliate marketer and YouTuber, said he would be considering other affiliate programs, like eBay‘s, since Amazon’s cuts will result in a “pretty big impact” for himself and his business. Cunnington started making affiliate sites in areas like outdoor and home appliances, back in 2013. Then in 2015 he began doing it full-time. He estimates about 50% of his income from the last few years has come from Amazon affiliate program. He also sells a course teaching people how to use the program. 

“It’s definitely a double whammy for me,” Cunnington said. He said he’s trying to view this as an opportunity to branch out. Aside from trying new affiliate programs, he said he’ll likely lean more heavily in teaching about other skills, like YouTube, email marketing or podcasting.

“A lot of folks are devastated,” Cunnington said. But he said as long as sites have traffic, they’ll figure out a way forward. “If someone has a website and they have traffic, they will figure out how to monetize. If you have traffic, you have an asset.”

Erin Nogueira, a content creator for YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, has been doing affiliate marketing for products like beauty and fashion for more than two years. She said she’s found the real money doesn’t come from the social media company themselves, but the affiliate commissions.

“Their stock is at an all-time high,” she said. “They have no reason to take money out of our pocket, and they’re already making so much.” 

She said it isn’t unlike Instagram or YouTube’s changed algorithms and their effects on creators. In the past, social networks have tweaked their algorithms that determine what shows up in a user’s news feed, which has caused declines in views and web traffic. Nogueira said she’ll have to work five times as hard to generate the income she once did after promoting products on Amazon.

Sean Cannell, the Las Vegas-based founder of Think Media, said his first affiliate check from Amazon was just over $2. Now, he estimates his company makes $30,000 in profit from Amazon each month. He frequently posts about which cameras and equipment to buy for those interested in making YouTube videos. 

He said Think Media is part of more than 30 affiliate programs, but that Amazon is the most lucrative. He said Think is fortunate in that it has multiple revenue streams, from affiliate marketing to YouTube to products and educational programs. Cannell said he now expects his revenue from Amazon affiliate to fall by as much as 20%.

But for those who might rely on Amazon’s affiliate program more, he said this is a wake-up call for those who use this as a side hustle or who were leaning on this as a means of quitting a full-time job. For others, “it’s kind of like your business is being destroyed overnight.” 

A co-founder of a lifestyle publication (who requested anonymity because of ongoing legal conversations having to do with affiliate partnerships) said this will impact on online publishers, but that the extent of the impact will depend on the types of products the business normally highlights — with areas like sporting equipment, for instance, seeing less of an impact than categories like furniture.

“I don’t think this is a wake-up call for companies as much as it is a reckoning,” they said. “Any business that’s relied exclusively on Amazon’s affiliate program for revenue has feared this day would come. Now we’re going to see which leaders have effectively prepped for the moment with backup plans.”

They said Amazon’s “generic and arguably cold messaging” didn’t try to tie the rate decrease to any reason or event, which they said left people likely frustrated especially amid all the uncertainty during the pandemic. They said they believed Amazon’s leadership framing the move around concerns would appear tone-deaf. 

“I personally appreciate that Amazon didn’t attempt to justify the decision as a wartime reaction to the COVID-19 crisis,” they said. “I’m sure that pandemic factors had at least some influence on the timing of Amazon’s move. It’s speculation, but perhaps the company is aiming to reduce customer flow in hopes of getting a better handle on the surge in online shopping right now.”

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