Raising a family is hard work. The greatest mistake a stay-at-home parent can make is to plan on a flexible schedule and tons of free time to run a home business.
But if you’re flexible and you manage your time cleverly, you can make extra money while your kids are asleep.
“On a perfect day, my youngest naps around 9 a.m. for an hour and then they both nap for about two hours in the afternoon,” says Ami Spencer Youngs, freelance writer and mother of one- and three-year-old boys.
“Some days it doesn’t work out,” she admits, “but when it does, it’s good found time to get some emails sent, invoicing done or some other administrative stuff that might take up time later when I could be focusing on billable work.”
Not every day will yield that glorious uninterrupted work time. Some days, you’ll have to squeeze in a few minutes of work during your child’s power nap, or after you’ve put your kids to bed.
Here’s how to make money from home, whether the kids are out for a few minutes or a few hours.
You’ve been running around all day, and your brain is fried. The baby is finally asleep.
But now you’ve only got 20 minutes before the rest of the kids come home from school — and the baby wakes up again.
Here are eight ways to make money during a short nap — with minimal brain power.
1. Take Online Surveys
Earning potential: $7-$8 per hour
Complete 10-20 surveys in your free minutes to earn an extra $50 per month.
2. Watch Videos
Earning potential: $20-$225
It won’t be quite like getting paid to watch Netflix, but sites like Swagbucks pay you to watch videos. Brands pay the company to get their clips in front of as many people as possible, and it passes some of those earnings on to you.
The videos cover everything from entertainment to travel, so you’re bound to find something you’ll enjoy.
And if you don’t want to actually pay attention, you don’t have to. This writer figured out how to make the videos run in the background — on mute.
3. Earn Sign-Up Bonuses
Earning potential: $100-$250 per bonus
Banks and credit card companies are always looking for new customers — and are willing to reward you for being one of them.
If you’re smart with your savings and credit, why not earn money for the financial services you’d be using anyway?
Here are some of our favorite bank offers. Some of them require you to actually leave the house, but you can open several of them online.
Once you’ve earned a bank account bonus, take a look at credit card sign-up bonuses.
Follow our guide to choose the cards with the best bonuses and how to ensure you’ll be able to meet spending requirements. Apply for the credit cards online, use them for your normal purchases to earn cash or travel rewards.
4. Sell Your Junk Mail
Earning potential: $20 every six to 10 weeks
SBK Center is a market research company that will pay you for your junk mail and email.
Start by applying to be a Consumer Panelist. Then forward your junk email to SBK, and send it your junk direct mail in the self-addressed, stamped envelopes it provides.
You’ll earn points for each piece of qualifying mail you send. Once you earn 2,000 points, you’ll receive a Visa gift card. These work just like debit cards, so you can spend the money you earn nearly everywhere.
Frequent users can earn up to $20 in points every six to 10 weeks. It’s not a huge source of income. But it’s easy, and you’re getting the junk mail, anyway — why not get paid for it?
5. Become a Mail Decoy
Earning potential: $100 per month
If you want to earn more money from your junk mail, consider signing up for additional mailing lists. The Hauser Group will pay you to tell it about the mail you receive.
Run out to the mailbox while your child’s asleep, and report when you receive mail from certain mailing lists, like specific catalogs and flyers.
The company will pay you 25 cents for each piece of decoy mail you report. Consistent reporting can boost the amount of mail you receive, so you could eventually start earning about an extra $100 per month.
6. See If You’ve Got Unclaimed Money
Earning potential: Varies
This woman got a check for $50,000 when she learned of a life insurance policy her brother had forgotten about. A payout that high isn’t common, but around $1,000 is. That makes a quick online search worth it, right?
Every U.S. state has unclaimed property programs, as do Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, Canada.
Here are some instances where you might have unclaimed money:
- Inactive bank accounts
- Contents of safe deposit boxes
- Utility security deposits
- Uncashed paychecks
- Uncashed dividend checks
- Unclaimed trust distributions
- Unclaimed refunds of mortgage insurance
- Forgotten retirement accounts
7. Browse Class-Action Settlements
Earning potential: Varies
Speaking of claiming surprise money, I recently submitted my information to claim $50 worth of free StarKist tuna from a class-action settlement. These opportunities pop up all the time, and most consumers have no idea they could qualify.
That’s because these cases often don’t make headlines. And you can’t be expected to search online for potential lawsuits for everything you purchase!
Instead, use your free minutes in the day to scan through Top Class Actions, which keeps updated listings of — you guessed it — top class-action lawsuits and settlements.
You won’t have to wade through legal jargon to understand what you’re owed. The site summarizes settlements clearly, and you can usually claim your money online pretty easily.
And don’t worry; not every settlement requires you to provide proof of purchase to claim your money. That could be tough, as they’re often for products you may have purchased more than a year ago.
If your kids are a little older or tend to take longer naps, you’ve got a bit more time to work with — sometimes an hour or more.
“I’ve been known to try to make these magical hours happen by putting the boys in the car after lunch and going for a drive,” says Youngs.
“If all goes well, I can park, pull out my Surface and my lap desk that I keep in the vehicle, and get an hour to 90 minutes of focused work done before anyone wakes up.”
These options are a little more involved than the ones above, but you’ll still be able to accomplish a fair amount of work during your child’s hour-long nap.
8. Fulfillment by Amazon
Earning potential: $400 to $9,000+ a month
Through Fulfillment by Amazon, you buy items you’d like to resell, then send them to Amazon — which handles the rest of the selling process, from storage to shipping to customer satisfaction.
Choose to sell anything you want (that fits Amazon’s categories), ideally something you know well. The Penny Hoarder founder Kyle Taylor sells toys, and he made $10,000 through FBA in November and December 2014.
FBA offers a great opportunity to do a little bit of work during each nap. One day, you might research buying opportunities — sales or promotions where you can buy your inventory at a discount.
The next, you might upload your items to Amazon and package them for shipping to the distribution center. Amazon has a partnership with UPS, so you might be able to ship directly from your house.
9. Find and Sell Unused Gift Cards
Earning potential: Varies; in 2014, a study estimated $750 million in gift cards went unredeemed.
The last time you received a gift card, did you spend it right away, or tuck it in your wallet for later?
Chances are, you’ve got a few gift cards lying around — so turn them into cash.
Take a few minutes to go through your wallet, purse, dresser, junk drawer or anywhere else you might have tossed a gift card. Then check sites like Raise, Gift Card Granny, CardCash or even eBay to see which one will help you sell your card for the most money.
For example, right now on Raise, one seller is asking $49.59 for a $52.68 Target gift card. So you won’t quite make back the card’s full value, but hey, you’re getting paid for something you weren’t using!
10. Sell Stock Photos
Earning potential: $1 per photo
You may have tons of untapped money-earning potential in your daily life. Pull out your camera while walking the dog, playing at the park, grocery shopping or just playing with blocks in the living room.
These are all valuable moments — and people are willing to pay for photos of them.
To get started, check out our beginner’s guide to selling stock photography. Then use naptime to edit, upload and list photos for sale on microstock sites.
You don’t even have to invest in a professional camera to get into the stock photography game! Download an app called Foap to sell photos directly from your iPhone.
11. Find Short-Term Freelance Gigs
Earning potential: $5-$50 per gig
Hammering out an online task or two each afternoon could help pay for a much-needed date night next weekend.
What you’ll do varies wildly.
If you’re able to wake up before your kids a few days a week, or otherwise carve out a few uninterrupted hours while they’re down for the count, you’ll probably find it easier to work on these earning opportunities than you would in short power-nap bursts.
They might not be quick money-makers, but these options can help you lay the foundation for future growth — for example, something you might want to pursue once your kids are in school.
12. Start a Freelance Business
Earning potential: limitless!
However, you can still start a freelance business while your kids sleep — if you’re strategic about it.
“If only my youngest is napping, I focus on short tasks like responding to emails, updating and sending out invoices, and writing notes and doing research for blog posts,” says Spencer.
But she takes advantage of the longer, quieter periods to do the bulk of her creative work.
“When I have more time and both boys are sleeping, I’ll flesh out those blog posts, work on document creation and editing for clients, and do other more focused tasks.”
Dipping your toes in the freelance waters? Try some of these in-demand virtual assistant services, like formatting blog posts in WordPress or curating content for social media.
13. Find or Create a Product to Sell
Earning potential: up to you!
Can you sew adorable Halloween costumes?
What about cute holiday ornaments and decorations?
If you prefer to work with a keyboard over a glue gun, why not create a fun Helvetica T-shirt or package your experience as an ebook or digital course? Or find a generic product to sell under your own private brand?
You’re probably not going to turn a profit in a weekend, but a few long naps or post-bedtime work nights could help you lay the foundation for your new business.
14. Start a Blog
Earning potential: up to you!
It’s definitely not a quick way to make money, but starting a blog can eventually help you earn some cash.
“It was very slow at first, and I used to only receive one email from advertisers every month or two.”
“Now, I field emails every day, and in the last three months, I’ve made a full-time income from my website after only making pocket change for several years.”
Here’s our step-by-step guide to starting a blog, from coming up with an idea to figuring out how to make money from it.
How Will You Make Money While Your Kids Sleep?
Whether you have 10 minutes or two hours, you can earn extra money while your kids are asleep. It might not be enough to cover your mortgage payment (yet!) but every little bit helps.
Your Turn: Do you make extra money while your kids are napping or after they go to bed? Share your stories in the comments!
Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!
Heather van der Hoop is senior editor of The Penny Hoarder. When she’s not reading, you can usually find her playing along with Jeopardy! or climbing rocks, mountains and trees.