7 Ways to Earn Money When You’re Unemployed

Man looking for work on phone

 Getty Images/PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson

Depending on your skillset and the schedule you’re able to work, there are various options for earning money. Even though some industries are in decline or in a state of flux, others are gaining jobs.

The gig economy continues to grow. In its “Freelance Forward: 2020” study, remote work site Upwork found that 59 million people in the U.S. worked as freelancers over the past year. According to the study, this represents 36% of the U.S. workforce, or 2 million freelancers, since 2019. 

Here are some ways you can quickly start generating income to help you get by.

Check Out “Easily Apply” and “Urgently Hiring” Jobs

Your next job doesn’t have to be your dream job. It could be a stopgap position to tide you over while you continue your job search—there are some companies with positions that hire quickly. In some cases, you won’t even need a resume to apply. 

How to Find the Jobs

One of the best ways to find a job quickly is to use the job sites that have flagged jobs available for immediate hire. For example, Indeed notes on job postings when companies are urgently hiring and when you can easily apply through the site.

If you’re collecting unemployment benefits, it’s essential to understand the rules and regulations and how they impact what you can earn before checking out job options. 

Using advanced search options is another way to narrow your search to generate lists of quick-fill positions. Use terms like “hiring now” or “immediate opening” to find listings.

Available for Work Option

Let employers know that you’re available so you can find your next job faster. Indeed’s Ready to Work option shows employers that you can start work immediately. All you need to do is check the box so hiring managers can find you. 

LinkedIn’s Open to Work feature is another way to show recruiters that you’re open to new job opportunities and available to work right away. LinkedIn reports that job seekers who selected Open to Work on their profile doubled their likelihood of getting a message from a recruiter. Additionally, members who added an Open to Work frame to their profile picture were 40% more likely to receive InMails from recruiters.

Get a Part-Time or Temporary Job

A part-time, temporary or seasonal job can generate income while leaving you time to search for a full-time permanent role. Again, check to see how working part-time could impact your unemployment benefits when you’re deciding how many hours you’re available to work. Some sites you can use are: 

  • Bluecrew: Find hourly short-term (or longer-term) jobs that fit your location, schedule and skills. You’ll only need to fill out one application to apply, and then you’ll be able to use the app to select jobs and shifts you’re available to work.
  • SnagAJob: Find listings that are urgently hiring within a range of your ZIP code. Add a profile to the site, and you’ll be able to apply with a click of a button.
  • FlexJobs: List of 30 companies that are hiring now for part-time work-at-home positions.

Find a Remote Job

If working onsite is an issue because of childcare, family, or other issues there are flexible remote jobs you can get hired for quickly:

  • Search Indeed and Monster using terms such as “remote” and “work from home” to find virtual employment. 
  • FlexJobs has also vetted opportunities for flexible and remote work. There’s a fee, but there are often discounts available. 
  • Use CareerOneStop’s Find a Remote Job portal to search for positions where you don’t need to commute or work onsite every day.

Market Your Skills

The growth of the gig economy provides an opportunity to freelance and market the skills you may already have. Use the skills you have from the job you’ve lost or check out gigs that require a different skill set to get started freelancing:

  • Upwork and Freelancer are two of the largest platforms for finding freelance work. 
  • Facebook Groups often have job postings for group members. 
  • Craigslist has work posted—use caution as these are not vetted opportunities. Check job boards by searching for keyword terms such as “freelance” or “contract” and your job preferences. 
  • Tap your career network, family, and friends to let them know that you’re available for projects.

Use an App to Get Gigs

Gig work is an option if you’re seeking a flexible work schedule and a way to monetize your time. Many app-based gig jobs pay immediately, and you can work on demand without committing to a set schedule. Some of the options for gig work include:

  • Caregiving 
  • Cleaning 
  • Fixing and Repairing 
  • Pet Sitting
  • Renting Space
  • Shopping and Delivering 
  • Task Work
  • Transportation
  • Tutoring and Teaching

Sell Your Unnecessary Items 

One way to get cash quickly is to sell the stuff you don’t need. Amazon accepts trade-ins on devices, electronics and video games. There are many sites and apps you can use to sell clothes and household items.

Additionally, local sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace or online garage sales are other good ways to sell what you don’t need and generate some quick cash. 

Check Your State’s Guidelines

Check on the benefits you’re entitled to (you may be eligible for extended benefits if you’ve used all your regular benefits) and on how your extra earnings can impact your unemployment compensation. Guidelines vary from state to state, and you’ll need to meet your state’s eligibility requirements for collecting on a weekly and annual basis. 

How Your Earnings Impact Unemployment

The wages you earn while you’re employed may reduce your unemployment benefits. Because there are no national guidelines for unemployment eligibility, the effect of your stopgap earnings will vary from state to state.

The earnings limit may be a dollar amount or a percentage of your earnings. Continued eligibility depends on your state's regulations—it might be based on the number of hours or days you work in a week. If you earn or work over the limit, then you won’t be eligible for benefits for that period.

Use CareerOneStop’s Unemployment Eligibility Finder to learn about eligibility, benefits, filing in your location and find answers to any questions you may have about your claim.

For example, in New York, if you work fewer than four days a week and earn under $504, you may receive partial benefits. Each day or part of a day you work causes your weekly benefit rate to drop by one-quarter.

In California, if you earn $100 or less a week, any amount you earn over $25 is subtracted from your weekly benefit amount. You receive the difference if there is any. 

Reporting Your Income

First, check to be sure that you’re collecting all the benefits you’re entitled to. Next, find out how and when to report your income so you know how to handle your pay. Then, review options for earning money while you’re unemployed.

To continue to collect unemployment benefits, you must file weekly or biweekly claims and report any earnings from work you had during the week(s).

If you need financial support, CareerOneStop’s Economic Recovery Portal can direct you to federal, state, and local resources for assistance with housing, finances, food, and health care.

Use CareerOneStop’s State Resource Finder to access state agencies, nonprofits, and other assistance providers for employment, health care, housing, food, and more.

Article Sources

  1.  Upwork. "New Upwork Study Finds 36% of the U.S. Workforce Freelance Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic." Accessed Dec. 2, 2020.

  2. LinkedIn. "To Find Your Next Job More Quickly, Tell Your Community You’re Open to Work." Accessed Dec. 2, 2020.

  3. New York State Department of Labor. "Before You Apply For Unemployment: Frequently Asked Questions." Accessed Dec. 2, 2020.

  4. State of California, Employment Development Department. "Reporting Work and Wages FAQs." What will I be paid if I report wages?" Accessed Dec. 2, 2020.