Machine Design

Options for the Unemployed

Your “forced retirement” or separation pay won’t let you live in the style to which you’ve become accustomed, and you need more income. A gig as a Wal-Mart greeter or Starbucks barista won’t quite do it. Here are some options:

If finding another job in your profession is your goal, focus on that. Get your LinkedIn profile up to date. Network locally. Many synagogues and churches have groups to encourage and help job seekers.

Set up as a consultant. Many companies that are laying people off are hiring consultants. The work still needs to be done, and paying a consultant involves no long-term commitment or benefits. Consultants get paid per day, per hour, or per project.

Offer your professional services online. Boards such as,, and make it easy to bid on different jobs. And don’t overlook

Another idea: Sell your old stuff on eBay. In fact, you can shop garage sales and flea markets for things to sell on eBay. If you have a cell phone with Web access, you can check the listings for items similar to those you are considering buying to find out their going rate. Several garage-sale and flea-market junkies I know have turned selling on eBay into a lucrative income stream

Also explore other Internet marketing opportunities. Here are a few suggested directions:

Affiliate marketing. Find other people’s products and promote them. Best reliable sources of “how-to” info: “The Super Affiliate Handbook,” by Rosalind Gardner ($47); James Martell’s “Affiliate Marketers Handbook,” book & video ($167); and free information found at

Create and market your own ebooks or recordings. There is a lot to learn, but here are some places to start:, and “The Official Get-Rich Guide to Information Marketing,” by uber-guru Dan Kennedy ($16.47 on

Open an online store, via,, and others. You can actually build a store without inventorying any products or doing any shipping — many vendors drop-ship for you. This option leaves a lot to learn, but it is potentially quite profitable and much less expensive than opening a brick-and-mortar store or franchise.

Organize and teach local or telephone-based classes. With a group, you can charge low prices, yet still make a decent return on your time. What do you know that others would pay for? Use a free service such as or for the conference call. Then record it and market it as a CD, DVD, or MP3.

Unlike what you may read on many marketing sites, I don’t believe it’s easy to “get rich quick” with any of these methods. However, with suitable study and effort, you can earn some income which, with diligent work, can grow over time.

Note that there is also a danger in exploring Internet marketing opportunities. You will be reading the best copywriters on the Web. The content is designed to get your emotions working, and you can find yourself getting excited. You might then be tempted to buy lots of stuff. Resist. Take a practical, project-like approach. Allocate a limited amount of time to evaluate different opportunities. If you do buy a plan or product, mark the “refund by” date on your calendar so you can return it if it doesn’t work for you.

And don’t head off in multiple directions. Pick one thing and stick with it. Give it at least 30 days before you determine whether it’s worth your time and money.

— Joel Orr

A page on my Web site at includes more details on resources for engineers to explore different ways to generate income.

Edited by Leslie Gordon

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