In a perfect work world, you would have the luxury to do what you loved or were good at—and would be paid for it without stepping out of the house. Nearly 15 million people in urban India are living this dream, according to the Freelancer Incomes Around the World Report 2018. They are selfpreneurs, also known as self-employed individuals running one-person businesses. They are a part of the growing tribe that is fuelling India’s gig economy.
Mumbai-based Jyoti Vora is one among them. She is monetising her passion for cooking by hosting unknown people to sumptuous Gujarati meals at home. This concept of social dining, also known as home pop-ups, has allowed the homemaker to earn well, even start a small catering business. “I make a profit of about Rs 12,000 per event from the catering business,” says the selfpreneur.
Much like Vora, other selfpreneurs are expanding at a fast pace. From virtual assistants to content writers, and translators to Web developers, they are finding a plethora of work opportunities online. According to a January 2018 PayPal study conducted among 500 Indians, 41% have witnessed a rapid growth within a year, with 80% working with international and domestic clients. Nearly 23% had an annual income of Rs 60 lakh.
Besides financial gains in the form of extra income, working from home offers other benefits like flexi-hours and not having to commute every day, a time-consuming tedium in metros. Delhi-based Kajal Sengupta realised this during an online teaching assignment in 2009. Soon after, she left her job as teacher and shifted to online tutoring. “I don’t have to commute, which allows me to take late-night classes. Also, my student base remains intact even if I move cities,” says the Physics teacher.
In this week’s cover story, we list eight such work options, with their earning potential and skill requirement. Remember, however, that these are not easy ways of making money. Like any other day job, these require you to dedicate a fixed number of hours, usually 5-6 per day, struggle with self-discipline and networking, even face trouble starting up. However, most of these options are available online. So you can find job listings on global freelancing platforms and career sites. Open a PayPal account and you are good to go.
- Pop up a meal storm
Average Earning: Rs 15,000-22,000 a month
How to get started
A cookout at home involves inviting 5-8 people to give them a taste of your region or speciality by serving an authentic, multi-course meal. To ensure an easier start, enlist on the websites of platforms like ‘Authenticook’ and ‘Eat With India’, which handle marketing and payments.
While the pricing decision rests with you, these platforms can help arrive at a figure. “We help the host determine the right price on the basis of the previous demand and feedback received from guests for similar meal experiences,” says Ameya Deshpande, Co-Founder, Authenticook. Vora has been hosting meals with Authenticook for four years now.
A standard meal with 5-6 items is priced above Rs 1,500, while a lighter meal with snacks is for Rs 600-800. Non-vegetarian options are more expensive by Rs 500 or more. Besides serving meals, you can host cooking lessons, which are priced at Rs 2,000-4,000 per head.
Cleaning and groceries will be the regular, key expenses, costing Rs 400-500 per head. The one-time expense of crockery and decorations of around Rs 6,000 will also be out of your pocket. The platforms charge a service fee to diners instead of the host. The host price is marked up by 15-25%, which is displayed as the final price on websites. After deducting costs and fees, you can earn over Rs 20,000 a month on an average, says Sonal Saxena, Co-Founder, Eat With India. “Earning for hosts varies according to location, menu and pricing,” she says.
Jyoti Vora, 58, Mumbai
Hosts pop up meals at home
Rs 25,000 per month
Self-employed for 4 years
Hosts 4 sessions a month; 2 days per session
Instead of serving the usual, homemade fare, create a brand image by serving dishes that are specific to your culture or region. Wearing a traditional dress will help enrich the experience.
- Click away for stock photo sites
Average Earning: Rs 2,000- 4,000 a month, for beginners
Up to Rs 35,000 a month, after two years
How to get started
Whether you click pictures as a hobby or are a professional photographer, there’s considerable money to be made by licensing photos on stock photography sites like Imagesbazaar.com, Shutterstock.com, Gettyimages.com, and Stock.adobe.com, among others.
The catch, however, is that the images and vector graphics should meet the sites’ criteria and standards, which are typically high. The photos should be at least 4-12 megapixels and in the JPEG format. The high standards also mean that your photos may be rejected initially. “We review photos on factors like lighting, focus and noise for photos and videos,” says Siobhan Aalders, Head of Global Communications, Shutterstock. Also check for copyright issues involving logos, labels and characters from cartoon and TV series.
If you are not a professional, learn the basics of photo editing on Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. Also, since your earning depends on the number of downloads, constantly keep adding new photos.
You will be paid a commission for each download, which varies for different sites and is more for those with exclusive rights. Gettyimages has the most stringent selection standard, but offers a modest commission of 20% on every download.
Adobe Stock pays 33% and Shutterstock initially pays a flat fee of Rs 17 per download. This is raised to Rs 23, Rs 25 and Rs 26 per download as your total earnings reach Rs 34,400, Rs 2 lakh and Rs 6.8 lakh, respectively. Other sites like Alamy, Stocksy and Shutterpoint dish out 35-80% commissions. Imagesbazaar.com, an Indian stock photo website, is the most rewarding, offering a 50% commission. “Our average download price per image is about Rs 4,000-5,000,” says Deepak Verma, a senior official with Imagesbazaar.
Upload photos to 4-5 sites with high traffic, instead of selling exclusive rights to one. Also, use appropriate keywords with each uploaded photo to increase visibility.
- Virtual assistance
Average earning: Rs 250 an hour, for beginners
Rs 800 per hour for over two years’ work experience
How to get started
Virtual assistants provide administrative support to companies from a remote location. Their tasks include data entry, managing projects, scheduling appointments, maintaining websites and blogs, providing customer service, creating presentations from data, among others.
To be a virtual assistant, you should have good communication skills, know the basics of MS Office, Excel and PowerPoint, and be a multitasker to deal with several clients. While the job does not require any specific qualification, you can go for certification and training programs to establish credibility in the market. Start by finding job listings on LinkedIn, career sites and freelancing websites like UpWork.com and Freelancer.com. As you gain experience, create your own website and market your work through social media to expand the network.
You will be paid according to the services you offer. For simple tasks like data entry or scheduling appointments, you will get Rs 200-350 per hour. This can go up to Rs 1,000 if you offer services like social media campaigning, writing for blogs or creating presentations.
Identify what you do best, specialise in it and look for clients in need of those services. Having a niche can make you the go-to person in that particular industry. Keep upskilling to increase your earnings.
- Content is the king
Average income: Rs 5,000-8,000 a month, for beginners
Rs 40,000 a month, after two years’ work experience
How to get started
Businesses require good quality Web content to garner traffic on their sites, which has raised the demand for content writers. The best bit? You do not need any qualification. Take Chayanika Deka, a postgraduate in biotechnology, who is writing promotional content for tech firms. “I was not satisfied as a biotech junior research fellow, so I shifted to content writing,” says the 31-year-old, who also pens her own blog, TechSule.
You should have good grasp of grammar and be able to write on different topics. For Web content, knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO) and HTML will give you a leg up. The time taken by each project will depend on its length and the subject. “Initially, I faced rejections as there was a lack of trust. I also got low paying clients and was scammed,” says Deka. Six years on, she is taking up to 30 assignments a month and earns around Rs 40,000.
Chayanika Deka, 31, Guwahati
Freelance tech content writer
Rs 35,000 per month; Charges Rs 1-2 per word
Qualification/ training: M.Sc in Biotechnology; no training or certification for content writing
Self-employed for 6 years
Up to 2 hours for a 400-word Web post
No dedicated holidays, lean periods
Writing and proofreading jobs are mostly paid by the word and, sometimes, by the project. Promotional content gets Rs 1-3 per word, while specialised content helps earn Rs 8-10 per word. For ghost writing, where the writer does not take credit, you can get up to Rs 5 extra per word.
Global freelance platforms like PeoplePerHour, Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr pay more than the Indian sites. An experience of over two years can fetch rs 1,030-1,300 per hour or a fixed price of up to Rs 15,000 for a one-month project. These sites charge a service fee of 5-20% on the total earnings per project.
Increase your visibility on social media to get recommendations for your work. In the initial phase, don’t hesitate to make cold calls.
- Lesson in online tutoring
Average income: Rs 20,000 a month, for beginners
Rs 50,000 a month, for experienced teachers
How to get started
A computer with high-quality Web camera and expertise in a subject are all you need to teach online. Vedantu, BharatTutor and Tutor India are some of the online teaching platforms that connect Indian teachers and students. On other websites like Eduwizards.com, Tutorvista.com, Chegg. com, Myschoolpage.com, and Amazetutors. com, you can teach students based in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia.
While such sites require advanced degrees in various subjects, they also pay more. This is the reason Sengupta, who has a master’s degree in Applied Physics and over 20 years of experience, has more foreign students. Even college students or non-teaching professionals with expertise can sign up on these sites.
After a series of tests, mock sessions and screening, and on gaining approval, most sites provide training on the usage of virtual whiteboard and other basics of video conferencing. As each platform requires at least two hours a day, don’t sign up on more than three sites.
Some sites allow direct transactions with students, which means you can fix your own rate. Others like Vedantu have fixed pay structures. “We pay a monthly salary to full-time tutors, while part-time teachers are paid per lecture,” says Vamsi Krishna, CEO and Co-Founder, Vedantu.
Most platforms have fixed hourly rates ranging from Rs 200-2,000, but also charge a service fee of 10-15% per session. Hourly fees depend on experience, subject and class level. For over five years of experience, the fee is around Rs 550 an hour. It rises to Rs 900 for foreign students. For college courses, the fee is higher by Rs 250-300 per session. Math, science and computer science fetch the highest fees.
Market your profile by opting for the premium pack on teaching websites. You will be listed at the top and be more visible to students.
Kajal Sengupta, 63, Delhi
Online physics tutor
Rs 30,000 per month; charges a minimum of Rs 500 per hour
M.Sc in Physics; certified international online teacher
Self-employed for 10 years
3 hours a day, 6 days a week (for two websites)
Difficult to find students online
- Gain in translation
Average earning: Rs 10,000 a month, for beginners
Rs 40,000 a month, for professionals
How to get started
International companies require professionals for translating technical documents, websites, mobile applications and academic papers. To freelance as a translator, you need to be fluent in more than one language. Employers typically ask for a bachelor’s degree or work experience, but in the absence of both, you can either take an online course offered by colleges, or start small by interning with a professional translator or working for a non-profit organisation.
An advanced degree or certification in languages that are in high demand, such as Chinese and Japanese, will increase your earning potential. Translators in local Indian languages like Telugu, Punjabi and Kannada are also sought after. Other opportunities for multilingual skills include transcribing, proofreading, online teaching and work in call centres.
Translation of Web applications and proofreading assignments are priced around Rs 800 and take 6-7 hours. Bigger assignments like translation of lectures, academic manuscripts, websites, transcribing of interviews and subtitling are priced between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,500. These projects can take up to three days. If you specialise in a technical field or client’s language, you can charge up to Rs 3,000 per hour. For instance, Pune-based Tabitha Mishra is a civil engineer and has been working on a freelance website for the past five years. She charges Rs 2,700 per hour for translating engineering lectures, real estate sites and brochures.
There is a high demand for translations into regional Indian languages. Such candidates don’t even have to take courses to prove their proficiency.
- Wake up to Web development
Average earning: Rs 1.68 lakh a month
How to get started
Businesses and companies are increasingly outsourcing jobs to freelancers instead of hiring full-time employees for one-off projects, in order to save costs on employee benefits. Web developers and graphic designers are the most sought after and paid the highest due to a growing need for mobile applications for user engagement. In fact, switching to freelancing after three years of work experience can be more rewarding than working full-time. It will also give you the liberty to negotiate for a better package after every project.
Unlike other freelancing options, such as content writing, a college degree in computer science or related field is a must to be a Web developer. If you don’t have a formal degree, an online course can help you start. However, your earning potential will be lower compared to that for people with a bachelor’s degree. As you gain work experience, you will be able to charge competitive rates for your services.
One-off projects can help you earn Rs 1.5-2 lakh for a month-long assignment. For ongoing support, you will be paid by the hour. You can find thousands of graphic designing, mobile and Web development projects on freelance websites, LinkedIn and other career sites. On freelance websites, professionals with 3-5 years of experience charge Rs 1,000-1,700 per hour, while those with 6-9 years of experience charge between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,500 per hour.
Learn about both front-end (user interface designing) and back-end (database and server) development, even if you specialise in one. Full stack developers are more sought after compared to specialists.
- Manage the social media
Average earning: Rs 1.1 lakh a month
How to get started
Growth in online advertising and marketing is fuelling demand for people who can manage the social media presence for businesses. Social media management is much more than just posting content on social media sites for a company.
It involves developing online marketing strategies, monitoring presence on social media by using analytical tools, researching target audience by analysing data points, running social media campaigns and ads, adapting marketing strategies to changing trends and brand building. If you are a problem solver, skilled in SEO writing and equipped with marketing tools, then this job is for you. If you have no prior experience, take an online course on social media management offered by several instructional websites like Udemy.com, Lynda.com, and Edx.org to learn the basics.
The payment is either by the hour or fixed as per the project. The hourly model pays Rs 350-2,000, depending on the scope of task and value addition. Fixed payment budgets are arrived at by considering your hourly fee. Negotiate hard for fixed payment models as they take up a lot of time, leaving less scope for taking on other projects.
Since the social media landscape is changing constantly, upskill and hone your marketing skills to keep up with the dynamic platforms.