Families find unconventional ways to make ends meet
BY joy Davis For The Beacon-News February 8, 2013 2:57PM
Aurora resident Erica Campbell, 28, learned three years ago that she had an aptitude for face painting. Campbell stumbled upon this skill, after she successfully painted the faces of her three children. | Submitted
Updated: March 11, 2013 6:27AM
With the tough economy, many who have found themselves unemployed have figured out interesting ways to make money.
Heather Jarmusz of Naperville and Ingrid Johnson of Aurora both found success on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods. Both are stay-at-home moms with young children.
Jarmusz, 34, crochets, and Johnson 35, sells personalized products.
“This past month, I broke my sales record for all of last year, so business is definitely picking up,” Jarmusz said.
Her Etsy store, Ham and Eggs, was originally started to raise money for an adoption, but an unexpected pregnancy turned the store into a source of supplemental income.
Johnson’s Etsy store, Tin Tree Gifts, has exceeded expectations, averaging 500 sales per month.
“It took a lot of hard work, from both my husband and myself, on very little sleep to get to a place where a steady income was possible, but we have maintained a steady flow of sales and income,” Johnson said.
Both are part of a growing group of workers who have had to earn money in new ways. With a January unemployment rate of 9.4 percent in the Chicago area, a rate almost 2 percent higher than the national average, finding a 9-to-5 job can be almost impossible or not flexible enough for families with children.
For Jarmusz and Johnson, the freedom and flexibility of creating a product on their own time allows them to contribute to their household income while still parenting full time. For them selling handmade products could be a lucrative business. Etsy grossed $895 million in 2012.
Aurora resident Jessica Murray found herself in a similar situation after the birth of her third child. Murray, 29, left her job as a high school math teacher to stay home with her children, but still felt passionate about teaching.
This past year, Murray began tutoring students throughout Naperville and Aurora. This allows Murray to create a flexible schedule that corresponds to the needs of her family, but she is still able to tutor 10 to 12 hours a week.
“While tutoring has been a reliable source of income, the greatest reward is seeing my students succeed,” Murray said.
Others have found ways to use their talents to offer a unique service.
Naperville resident Mike Curran has been teaching drumming for the past five years. Curran, 24, has been drumming for almost half of his life and teaching seemed a natural option. Every year, this income becomes more reliable for Curran.
“I had a great teacher growing up, and it always felt good to give back what I’ve learned to my younger cousins,” Curran said. “So naturally, I started teaching.”
Curran finds work in other endeavors, including his work as a session drummer at Studio Chicago and performing gigs throughout Chicagoland.
Aurora resident Erica Campbell, 28, discovered three years ago that she was pretty good at face painting. Campbell stumbled upon the skill after she painted her three children’s faces.
“I taught myself how to paint after realizing I had a hidden talent for it,” she said. “I had never picked up a brush before.”
A year ago, Campbell launched The Funny Face Painter, which keeps Campbell busy with one to two gigs per weekend. They range from private birthday parties to festivals. Although Campbell has a day job, The Funny Face Painter has allowed Campbell to earn extra money.
Being paid to do something enjoyable is enviable, but an immense amount of drive and hard work is involved in providing a good or service. Just ask Johnson who says getting to the profitable mark was no easy task.
But with an industrious attitude and a sharpened talent or skill like those mentioned here, making money through unconventional endeavors is not only possible but profitable — just give it time.