When Amanda Nicholls was laid off from her sales job last summer, she had to get creative.
The 34-year-old, who was bringing in about 75% of the family's income, pivoted to selling second-hand goods for local families on Facebook Marketplace and other sites for a commission.
"I turned my basement and garage into a warehouse, basically, and found clients through local moms groups," said Nicholls, who lives with her husband and four children in Olathe, Kansas.
"[I] was already selling stuff for my own family, so I just took it a step further."
There's no doubt many Americans need cash.
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More than half of U.S. adults, 53%, said the $600 stimulus check they'll get for every adult and child in the household won't last them a full month, a recent survey from Bankrate found. President Joe Biden has proposed an additional $1,400, but the plan still has to make it through Congress.
There are jobs out there — 82% of U.S. employers plan to hire this year, according to Monster's Future of Work report.
Yet, while the unemployment rate is recovering, many are still being left behind. For those on the bottom half of the earnings curve (making less than $27,000 a year), employment is still down 25% versus pre-pandemic levels, according to Opportunity Insights.
Here's what you can do to increase your earning potential and find new opportunities to make more money.
Look for 'quick wins'
Selling used items like toys and clothing, and even doing it for others for a cut of the sales, is an example of a "quick win," said Jamila Souffrant, creator of the financial education podcast, Journey To Launch.
Nicholls netted about $7,000 before she returned to full-time work.
To make money fast, think about what interests you and where your skills lie.
Do you like animals? Consider dog walking or pet sitting for friends and neighbors. If you are good at math or another subject, you can offer tutoring services, or you can babysit for families struggling with child-care needs.
Your gig can also be expanded into a bigger side hustle by creating a website, social media account or business cards, and offering your services to a larger audience, Souffrant pointed out.
That's how she started her business. Initially a blog about her desire to obtain financial independence and quit her job in commercial real estate, Journey to Launch eventually expanded into a media platform that included the podcast. During that time, Souffrant also obtained her financial education instructor certification and quit her day job.
Increasing your income at work
If you are an hourly worker, check to see if there are any opportunities for additional shifts.
Also consider getting additional educational certifications if your job offers more money for them, Souffrant said. That's what her husband, Woody, did to increase his teacher's salary. He also taught summer school and coached sports to earn more money.
Salaried employees can try to negotiate a raise, but will need to do some work first.
Research what you should be earning in terms of your skills and experience, said Monster career expert Vicki Salemi.
Then, gather evidence about what you've done for the company, whether it was improving sales, saving money or boosting morale. When you ask your boss to have a conversation, do it over a video or phone call, not email, and get an appointment on the calendar, she said.
Practice what you want to say ahead of time and go into the meeting with talking points.
Landing a new job
The best way to make more money is to get a new job. Even if you got part of your requested increase from your current employer, don't feel guilty about leaving.
"You can get promoted and get that increase and still look for a job externally and leave," Salemi said.
"You are not beholden to that pay increase."
In addition to researching your earning potential and collecting evidence of your past successes, ramp up your networking and start mock interviewing with friends or family, she advised.
When conducting online job searches, cast a wide net geographically, since many companies are hiring remote workers now. Tweak your resume for each job you apply for by using keywords from the job description and possibly reordering job description bullets.
Look for jobs in industries where there is a demand for workers, such as logistics, health care, occupational health and safety, and solar power and energy, Salemi said.
"You want to think about what ... your transferable skills [are]," she said. "The challenge of job seekers right now is not being as effective as they can be in marketing themselves."
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.