At-Home Careers in Chicken Farming, Photography, Quilting and More

These readers were inspired by MOTHER EARTH NEWS DIY projects to start at-home careers using the simple skills they love.


Quilting and tapestry-making are just two of many at-home career opportunities that allow you to go into business for yourself.


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Career in County Fair Photography

I recently read "Livestock Show Photography.” As a matter of coincidence, there happened to be a county fair in my area the very same week. So I made arrangements with the show superintendents, invested $4.32 in two rolls of 20-exposure Vericolor II film by Kodak, and hauled my workweary carcass to the fair.

Using my Minolta 35mm, I snapped off 32 shots the first day! And at a rate of $5.50 per shot, I made a NET profit of $153.68 overnight! Not bad, considering the absence of work.

I admit I was more than slightly surprised at my results. I even had repeat sales due to [a] the quality of the prints, and [b] overnight service. (Being a "camera bug", I had previously invested in my own darkroom supplies ... which enabled me to process my film faster, with less expense, and with more clarity of color.) By the end of the week, I had taken 150 shots for a net profit of $825!

Now I plan to travel to other fairs as well. And I owe it all to Ham McQueen and MOTHER EARTH NEWS! I strongly encourage anyone with an opportunity to go to a fair to invest in a reasonably good camera and some film. You'll be surprised at the results! Your investments should not exceed $200 If you don't already have a camera ... and you can expect to return a profit in one or two days. This is a great DIY at-home career opportunity. 

And the best part is that you don't have to be a technological genius ... all you need is a friendly personality, a little patience, and a relatively steady hand. All I can say is thank God for dear old MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

David Arne Stolz V
Staunton, Va.

Self-Sufficient Chicken Farming

This year my husband Alfie and I pulled up roots and moved to Papua, New Guinea . . . where we're living and working as volunteers on a mission hospital station. But — soon after our arrival here — we found ourselves confronted with two major problems: Extremely high food costs and nostalgia for our former homestead-type lifestyle. At first we set out to solve both problems — at least to some degree — by planting a large vegetable garden to supplement the native pineapples, bananas, and yams. But we also noticed that the price of chickens was extremely high in Papua (nearly $6.00 American for a three-pound bird) . . . and we soon decided that it would surely be profitable for us to raise the fowl ourselves.

Luckily, Alfie and I had literally memorized the Homestead Issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS and had depended upon the "Now Easy Way to Raise Tender Chicken" article the year before . . . when we'd raised 65 chickens in an abandoned school bus in Nashville, Tennessee. So we found a local source for baby chicks, at a cost of $45 per hundred delivered . . . invested another $30 in a supply of chicken wire . . . scrounged some discarded downspouting, bamboo, scrap lumber, and ordinary light bulbs . . . and set out to build a home for our fine feathered friends. Soon the chickens' feeding/housing equipment — and a separate brooding chamber — were constructed, and we'd spent another $150 for commercial feed . . . which brought our total initial investment to $225.

Then the fun began: The 10 weeks that followed involved little more than leisurely feeding chores while we watched the chicks grow (a real treat for our two-year-old child) . . . and before long it was time to reap the harvest. We dressed out all 100 of our homegrown chickens and sold every one of them — at well under store cost — for a total profit of $125 (a significant addition to our budget, above and beyond the added bonus of fresh chicken manure that we used to fertilize our garden).

Meanwhile . . . our second batch of growing chicks promises to bring in even better profits than the first: Our supplemental corn, soybean, and mung bean plantings — plus vegetable trimmings contributed by our pleased chicken recipients — have already helped cut our feed expenditure. And — as an added benefit — some of our native neighbors have begun to volunteer us their services at "harvest time" . . . in order to learn the "art" of chicken plucking themselves.

Though chicken farmers in the States these days face a market with lower profit potential than ours, most folks still agree that fresh food – raised on a healthy diet – is reason enough to homegrow chickens. For my family's new at-home career, MOTHER's guidance and a little "making do" have given us back the lifestyle that we've always loved: It's so nice having chickens around the yard again!

Lynn Thomas
Papua, New Guinea

Tapestry for Profit

My husband and I were in the process of saving some money to purchase land for a home in the country when the loss of my job put a roadblock in the path to that dream. So —during the first few months of my unsuccessful search for new employment — I started experimenting with the satin-stitch feature on my new Singer sewing machine (a Christmas present from my husband), in an attempt to learn machine applique.

My first creations were two simple wall hangings, a flower and a bowl of fruit ... birthday presents for my mother and aunt. But than a friend lent us a copy of MOTHER EARTH NEWS (so we could road the Plowboy Interview with Linus Pauling) . . . and — while flipping through the magazine — I came across an article with beautiful color pictures. It was a piece entitled "How to Make Padded Wall Hangings". . . and that article was just the push I needed!

I promptly assembled the necessary materials for my new-found project: 1-1/4 pounds – or 81 X 96 inches – of polyester fiberfill, at a cost of $3.98 (enough to do two large and a few small hangings) . . . some sewing and embroidery thread for finishing touches. . . fabric remnants (donated to me by my mother) . . . and a supply of wooden dowels and strips — for hanging the completed products — that I gleaned from my carpenter husband. Before I knew it I was on my way to a new crafts business.

My first effort was a 2-1/2- by 3-foot picture of my family's dream house in the country . . . complete with swing, well, vegetable, flower garden, and a rainbow. Then I turned out a few smaller pieces, and — plucking up my courage — took them down to our village gift shop. The owners of the establishment snapped my creations right up . . . and —within a week — had sold my large wall hanging for a whopping $100! Now I'm selling on a steady basis . . . and investing in exotic fabrics — such as satins — to increase the value of my work. (And before long, I intend to do away with my current 40/60 percent consignment arrangement. . . in order to sell my work directly to my customers.)

The earnings from my business are sure to speed the purchase of my family's future homestead in the country . . . but the biggest bonus of all is that this home business can keep on bringing in cash when my family finally does make its long-awaited move back to the land!

Susan Dworkin
Cohasset, Mass.

At-Home Blacksmith Workshop

Years ago, my husband and I decided that we wanted a more health-conscious, energy-saving, self-sufficient way of life . . . so we subscribed to MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Throughout the years MOTHER has given us countless invaluable ideas . . . one of which recently resulted in a moneymaking venture.

My husband had been working at a local furniture plant doing welding, tinsmithing, and apprenticing under a millwright who did some blacksmith work. . . when he came upon two articles: "How to Build Your Own Forge" and "Toole of the Blacksmith.” Brent was so inspired by what he read that we soon found ourselves searching the shops of rural Vermont for old-time blacksmithing tools.

As luck would have it, we came upon a forge and a blower for $75 . . . and had soon paid another $225 at various farm auctions for other authentic smithing implements. Then we built a structure for Brent to start work in, and the business began. Brent's first projects were small . . . forging plant brackets and the like, but he was not satisfied with the results of his work.

Once again, MOTHER to the rescue . . . with an ad for courses given by a master blacksmith not more than two hours away from us in New Hampshire. With such expert instruction Brent soon learned the secrets of this vanishing trade (as well as an essential bit of artistry) . . . and has been slowly working his way into full-time blacksmithing since. A local sign painter makes use of Brent's forged iron brackets to support his placards . . . and neighbors come to Brent for all their metal repairs. (Moreover, our home — a 100-year-old restored and converted schoolhouse — is quickly filling up with many beautiful metal, ornamental "firsts.”)

So far the business has brought in over $800 in only three months of weekend earnings: Not a bad supplement to our current income . . . and not a bad start toward a full-time enterprise!

Brent & Carol Shafer
Barton, Vt.

Independent SaverShower Sales Representative

For some time now, I've been watching for that one business idea that would fulfill my need to help solve our world's ecological problems . . . and — at the same time – provide me with a satisfactory income. Then, while reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS, found the answer in a sidebar called "The Incredible 'SaverShower' Water and Energy Saver."

As I read Buck Vaile's claims for the amazing water- and energy-saving powers of the SaverShower head . . . I realized that this was what I had been waiting for. So, I called the manufacturer and asked if I could see the product. Not only was I convinced that the SaverShower worked . . . but I was sure that I could convince others as well, if only I could show them firsthand.

My first stop was to borrow a car from a heaven-sent friend . . . and then I took the big step: a $1,500 investment in SaverShower products ($1,300 of which went toward salable stock . . . an average one-week supply). And with my 15 years of sales and sales-management experience, I was soon in business with a $2,390 gross return.

Of late I spend about three days a week selling . . . and devote the remainder of my time working toward the expansion of my enterprise. My average income has been $125 per day . . . with a record "worst day" of $50, and several record "best days" of $1,000.

But, my business has been going so well that I can no longer cover the territory alone. The SaverShower needs local representatives . . . and so I'm writing to you, MOTHER. Since last June I've saved my state in excess of 20 million gallons of water . . . half of it heated. Is anyone out there interested in doing the same for his or her locale? If so, I can help! I'm anxiously waiting to set you up in a business that can provide a good living and — at the same time — save some of our earth's valuable resources!

Wayne A. Biszick
The Energy Man Co. 

Quilting for Profit

When my second child was born I decided there was no way to continue my full-time job and take care of a pair of youngsters under two years old. But my husband and I needed every penny we could save if we were ever to accumulate enough money to purchase a homestead in the country, so I wracked my brain for a solution that would allow me to work at home (with a limited amount of outside "running around") and set my own hours.

I turned to MOTHER for inspiration, and — while thumbing through a pile of back issues — I came across an article entitled "Quilts Are Worth the Effort.” I had always admired my grandmother's homemade quilts . . . and I enjoyed choosing fabrics and piecing patterns together. I was aware, too, that there was a growing market for old-time crafts . . . but I knew from past experience that people just won't pay enough to justify the time involved in hand needlework.

And so I settled upon a compromise: I would sew homemade quilts from a quick and easy log cabin pattern that could be pieced together in just one easy stop . . . and I would do it by machine! Since I already owned a Singer, my initial investment was relatively small. The fabric, backing, batting, and thread that were necessary came to a total of $27.80 per quilt.

My first creations were quickly sold to friends . . . and soon I had placed my crafts on consignment at the local tourist and gift shops with a price tag of $110 (a fairly competitive price), from which I receive $66. Since each piece involves about 15 hours of work, I clear approximately $2.50 per hour . . . a fair wage — I feel for work that I can do at home and at any time I please.

Since my first quilting efforts, I've developed a variety of different patterns which can be joined and quilted by machine in one step. And I've learned to incorporate fabric scraps (which would otherwise go to waste) into my pieces as well. Quilting has provided me with a means of keeping my creative juices flowing . . . and — though it is currently only a part-time venture — in years to come (when the children are grown) the potential for expansion is always there!

Kathleen McKean-Shields
Springfield, Mo.