With just 2 weeks left to go in the year, that's my latest and most accurate calculation of my gross income this year, from all sources.
Gone are the days when I could count on my salary for 100% of my income. As an underemployed soul, I scratch and claw for my income from a wide variety of sources.
About 52% of my income in 2011 came from rapidly dwindling unemployment benefits. The remaining 48% was what I earned from a piecemeal, crazy quilt collection of often unusual income sources, ranked here from greatest to least:
1. Freelance writing: About $6,000
2. Contract job #1 (April-May), @ 6 weeks at $25/hr for a total of $4,475. Mostly work at home.
3. Investment dividends and capital gains: $2,189
4. Contract job #2 (Nov-Dec), @ 3 weeks at $15/hr. Grossed about $1,500. Mostly work at home.
5. Online surveys: $919
6. Academic research studies, $550
7. Credit card rewards: $425
8. Market research focus groups: $375
9. Product testing: $245
Let's take a closer look at each line item.
Freelance writing: When I'm working for my normal, longtime real estate clients, I make very good money, around $50 an hour. But there are some clients where I make much less and it's difficult to pin down just what exactly I'm making since the book editing and the email editing gigs are things I do whenever I have free time and I have not tracked time too closely. I had 8 clients this year; I really need to make finding new clients a central goal.
Contract work: The contract jobs netted some nice chunk sums becus they were assignments lasting several weeks. Finding more contract work should also be a key focus for 2012.
Online surveys: While $919 seems an impressive sum for the online survey income, keep in mind this is a year-long, indeed, daily effort that probably works out to about $1.26 to $1.68 an hour! I do online surveys when I have nothing else to do and I'm guessing I may spend 1.5 to 2 hours a day doing them. So I averaged $76 a month in income; butt that's based on 45 to 60 hours of my time. I will continue doing this but need to remind myself it should come dead last on the priority list.
One thing I DO like about it is that 1. I don't have to drive anywhere so no extra costs involved, and 2. I can do it anytime, even 3 am if I feel like it.
You might say that since giving up my cable TV last summer, my newly found free time in the evenings is now largely spent doing these surveys (or watching Hulu).
Academic studies: It was nice to earn $550 from academic research studies this year (largely UConn) but that also involved a fair amount of driving, either 40 minutes and back (at least 4 trips) to a meeting point to exchange supplies and logs or 1.5 hours and back to UConn itself (4 trips total), for testing. So even with a fuel-efficient car, I figure I netted about $390.
Credit card rewards: This was the easiest $425 I ever earned. There was no additional gas/driving involved as there was for the various focus groups and academic studies I've done, so this was 100% profit. I may be running out of cards to pick from that give cash back rewards in the $150 or $200 range. I'll keep doing it, though, as long as my credit score remains unaffected.
Focus groups, product testing: This didn't account for huge sums of money and did involve driving to various locations up to an hour away, but I will still continue to do it.
In another week or two, I'll have a complete breakdown of my 2011 expenses. Oh, boy!
An early sneak peak at my 2011 income