Typing at Home for Profit

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Top quality materials, such as erasable bond, save time and money in the long run.
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Even with children underfoot, Marsha Strong made more money typing at home and had more time for her family.

If you’re a young mother who’s struggling to make ends meet by holding down an outside office job, I have news for you: There’s a better way to go.

Anyone who can type well enough to get a job in an office can type well enough to do the same work right in her own home. Where—if that’s you—you’ll have more time, more peace of mind, and far more control of your frazzled life. And even though you may earn less typing at home in your own business, especially at first, you’ll keep much more of what you earn and thus come out way ahead in dollars, too.

My experience proves it. By transplanting my skills from an outside job to my own desk, I’ve multiplied my “keep-home pay” by seven times in less than two years!

If that sounds too good to be true, I suggest you start where I did: by taking a cold, logical look at what you’re actually earning at that outside job.

A couple of years ago my husband and I had reached the point where his typical paycheck just wasn’t enough to support our typical family. So, like millions of other women, I tried to help by leaving our two preschool children in the care of a babysitter while I took a full-time job as a clerk typist.

That wasn’t a good idea. Even with the assistance of a capable sitter plus housekeeping help a few hours a week, I felt split down the middle and never stopped running. Worse, despite the fact that I was grossing $540 a month, my salary didn’t seem to be doing very much to ease our financial pinch. Finally I sat down and figured out why.

Here, I soon discovered, is the amount of money it was costing me every month to earn that $540:

Taxes and other off-the-top deductions    $110
Babysitter                                 160
Housekeeper                                80
Transportation (gas, car wear-and-tear)     50
Lunches (modest)                            25
Office-type clothes (modest)                15
TOTAL                                     $420

So much for the two-income myth. For $540 minus $420—an ego-shattering $120 per month—I was knocking myself out 44 hours a week. In short, I was selling my services (and buying full-time misery) for the magnificent rate of 70 cents an hour, $6.35 a day!

With those figures in front of us, my husband and I came to the conclusion that the outside job just had to go. But the basic problem remained. We still needed extra money.

Okay, I had a marketable skill. I was a fast, accurate typist and owned a good portable electric typewriter. So I bought about $30 worth of materials, put a $4.50 ad in the local paper, and went into business. I had done a little home typing before, but now I was determined to make it pay. And I did.

Remember that 70 cents an hour I was clearing on the job? Well, here’s how the economics have worked out at home.

I charge competitive rates. In my area, that’s 86 cents for a typical page of typing. My out-of-pocket cost for producing each one of those pages is about five cents, which leaves me a net of 80 cents. When I started, I was typing approximately eight pages per hour (for an hourly net of $6.40). And, at first, I averaged only about 15 hours of work per week (giving me a monthly income of roughly $415).

Now I’ll admit that in my first year of business the money worked out to less than the gross from my outside job. But take a look at what has happened to all those other coats:

[1] There are no off-the-top deductions from what I earn. Further, my income taxes are minimal because I get all the tax breaks of a home-based business. (For a rundown on those very substantial benefits, ask your local IRS to send you Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home.)

[2] I’m home with my children. They’re happy about it and I’m happy about it. Babysitter cost: zero.

[3] I no longer need a regular housekeeper. If work piles up unexpectedly, I call one in. Cost since I switched to a home business: $15 total.

[4] I pick up and deliver for some customers, but it’s nothing like commuting. Cost: about $3 a month, tax deductible.

[5] Lunches are always at home. Extra cost: zero.

[6] Cost of special clothes: zero. My customers often see me barefoot and blue-jeaned. Nobody minds.

[7] And nobody docks me when I need to spend time with my family. Sometimes I work nights and sometimes days, but the choice is always mine. Not long ago, for instance, I gave birth to my third child and I can breast-feed her and do clerical work at the same time (no easy trick at an eight-to-five job).

In short, the cost of working at home is near zero. So even at $415 per month that first year, I was way ahead: My keep home pay had more than tripled! And now, in my second year, the numbers are even better. My typing speed is up to 10 pages an hour and business has increased to an average of 25 hours per week. Which means I’m earning $8 an hour—about $875 per month—practically all of it “keepin’ money.” That’s seven times what I cleared on the outside job, for about half the working hours!

Clearly, fellow mothers, the rewards are there. If you can type, why not work for yourself instead of for Uncle Sam and the sitters? And if you do decide to give it a try, these tips from my own experience in home typing should help you get off to a good start:

USE ONLY THE BEST MATERIALS. Many customers are glad to provide their own paper. If it has a special letterhead or logo, I let them. Otherwise, I provide the stationery. Not because I have to, but because I want to. Why? Because by using top-quality paper that erases without a trace, I can produce a perfect, fully professional product with minimum time and effort. I buy the best 20-weight erasable bond in boxes of 520 sheets. It costs $14.50 (compared to maybe $7 for ordinary typing paper), but it’s worth every penny. In everything you use, go for quality: It saves time and makes money in the long run.

LEARN TO SPECIALIZE IN THE WORK MOST AVAILABLE IN YOUR AREA. If you live in the city, you could specialize in business, legal, or industrial typing. In the affluent suburbs, it’s hard to go wrong with medical work. I live in a relatively rural area, so though I type a lot of address labels for business mailings, most of my work isn’t from business firms.

The jobs I get range from do-it-yourself divorce papers to the transcription of dream sequences for a local psychologist. But authors are unusually plentiful in this area, so manuscripts make up at least 75 percent of my work. And to take best advantage of the situation, I’ve trained myself to correct, edit and even “critique” rough manuscripts. Which brings us to the next tip:

CHARGE EXTRA FOR EXTRA WORK. The first two times I edited book manuscripts I tossed the service in for the price of the typing. In other words, I did it free. That was a mistake. First, because the work is time-consuming and, second, because work isn’t appreciated when you give it away. When I started charging for the service, I made more money and the customers realized it was valuable, too. The moral: charge for any extra work beyond straight typing.

AVOID QUOTING PRICES OVER THE PHONE. When you quote 85 cents a page (for a standard page), some customers expect the same price for legal-sized pages. Others expect you to transcribe from illegible, chicken-track handwriting at your standard rates. You can’t afford to do that. Try to see the work before you name a price.

ADVERTISE IN THE YELLOW PAGES. I’m embarrassed to say that this didn’t occur to me until recently. The new phone book (the first one I’ve tried) has only been out for six weeks, and my tiny $14 ad has already drawn $100 worth of business … with the promise of $600 more! I also invested $13 in 1000 business cards recently and I’m sure that will pay off too.

CHECK LOCAL LAWS. A home typing business seldom causes problems with zoning officials, but it pays to check all the legal details. When I placed my Yellow Pages ad, for example, I needed a business name and chose “Home Typing Service” off the top of my head. Then I found that, in my county, any business name that doesn’t include your own name is regarded as “fictitious” and that you have to pay to get your “fictitious name statement” published in a local newspaper. If I’d checked in advance, I would have used “Strong’s Home Typing Service” instead, and avoided the cost and inconvenience.

FINALLY, BE PREPARED TO HANDLE SUCCESS. The fact is that it’s actually pretty easy for a good typist to succeed in the typing business. When you’re working at home, with no expensive overhead, it’s no trick to charge competitively and no trick to get repeat and word-of-mouth business. The trick is to keep the whole thing under your control.

Recently, for instance, I’ve started getting more business than I can handle by myself, and I’ve had to decide whether or not to hire employees. For now, my decision is no. Instead, I farm my excess work out to other typists who, like me, work as independent contractors, in business for themselves. That way I don’t have to deal with their withholding taxes and all the other paperwork involved in hiring regular employees. The simpler the paper work, in short, the simpler the business—and the simpler your life will be.

And that, of course, is what I set out to do in the first place: simplify my life while making some decent money. So far, I’ve succeeded. And I believe you can too.

Marsha Strong’s Price Scale

TYPE OF WORK                                                      PRICE   

Single-spaced page, 8 1/2" x 11"             $1.25
Double-spaced page, 8 1/2" x 11"             0.85
Single-spaced page, 8 1/2" x 14"              1.75
Double-spaced page, 8 1/2" x 14"              1.50
Business letter page, 8 1/2" x 11"          1.00
Statistical page                              1.50
Carbon copy, 8 1/2" x 11"                     0.10
Carbon copy, 8 1/2" x 14"                     0.15
Envelope                                      0.10
Address labels (10)                           0.35
Editing: double-spaced page, 8 1/2" x 11"     1.00
Criticism: double-spaced page, 8 1/2" x 11"   0.75

Minimum job charge                            1.00
Maximum page charge                           1.75

(No pickup and delivery on any job under $5.00)
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