How I make $24 an Hour Photographing Houses

As a freelance writer and WAHM, I am always looking for extra gigs, especially easy, creative ones that allow me to take my kiddo with me.

I recently found this ad on Craigslist looking for people to take real estate photos. I am not a photographer, but they said no experience was needed. I did some research to make sure it was a legit company, and it checked out

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No Experience Required 

Velocity REO’s is a company that contracts people to take photos for BPO’s (Broker Price Opinions) to find out the worth of a house. Most of the jobs are exterior only and don’t require any special permission because you take them from the street which is public property.

The application process was super easy. You basically just have to prove you can follow simple directions and take a “set” of photos of any house. I picked a house close by that was already vacant and took the set of 7 pictures with my iPhone. The upload process was quick and easy. Soon I was accepted and they started sending me work.

The work can be slow, depending on your area. According to their website, some people can make up to $980 a week, but I can’t imagine it being that busy. So far I have done about 6 house at $8 each. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’ll tell you how easy it is.

How It Works

I input my zip code and the local areas I want to work in. They suggest only working within 10 miles, but I went out a little further to some areas I already go to a lot.

When an order comes in via text or email, I get to accept or reject it. If I accept, it I have 30 hours to complete it. I go about my day, running errands etc, and stop by the house while I am out. It takes about 2 minutes to take the pictures from the street. I can leave my daughter in the car with it running while I step out and take pic with my phone right next to the car.

I upload the pictures, which I can do from my phone. It takes about 2 minutes. They approve it,  and I get paid weekly through paypal. Simple, and I don’t have to deal with people which my introvert self loves. 😉

Great Side Job for a Stay-at-Home Mama! 

All in all, the most 1 house takes is 15 minutes. On a good day, I had 3 in a row, so I spent about an hour total including driving time and got paid $24. Not bad!

Obviously, being a contract job there is no guarantee of anything. But, like mystery shopping it is a nice side gig. I can do it while I am already out, and best of all my toddler can come with me!

I know they service places all over the US, so hopefully this will help some mama out there make a little extra cash.

Peace and Creativity,

The Stay at Home Something

How To Avoid Scams When Looking for Work at Home

“Oh my God, he’s like, into weird fetishes!”  I said out loud as I re-read the email and realized what I had almost walked into.

No, this isn’t an online dating story gone wrong. This is me attempting to find an innocent special needs care job on Craigslist.

I have worked with people of different abilities and absolutely love it, so when I saw this Craigslist Ad, I didn’t think anything of it.

(This isn’t word for word, but you get the drift)

Baby Sitter Needed for Adult

Feed, sing, put him to bed, etc.

Will need to be ok with changing diapers.

$20 an hour.

Me, in my nativity, thought they must have special needs. I had taken care of a 20-something-year-old male with extreme disabilities full-time for several years, so the diaper part didn’t bother me. The pay was good, I just needed more information.

What followed was me asking normal questions in an email and him responding with some not so normal answers. Then it hit me. The man I was corresponding with did not, in fact, have a disabled loved one he needed care for. He was talking about himself… and there was nothing wrong with him… at least not physically.

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That wasn’t the only time I almost got duped on Craigslist. Once upon a time when I was living in the ghetto and working for a ministry, when I used to ride my bike to give plasma to have money to buy food, I decided to delve into the world of Mystery Shopping. I ended up answering an ad that sounded a little too good to be true, but I thought I’d test the waters anyways.

After getting a large check delivered in the mail which I was supposed to deposit and use some of the money to send a Western Union, I made the smart move of ripping it into shreds.

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Being a freelance writer (and someone with a random assortment of jobs in the past) I have become somewhat of an expert on weeding through sketchy jobs on Craigslist. I’ll admit, I am still sucked into those pesky click bait ads that love to target SAHMs. Mostly just to laugh at.

Here are some simple tips on how to avoid getting duped while looking for legit work.

1. If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, Run

I know. We all want to make thousands a day in our pajamas without any experience or skill, but not all of us can be the Kardashians.

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2.Don’t Trust Anyone With A Bad Website 

Bad could mean it looked like Geocities in 1998, or that pop-up ads threw up all over it. It could also mean there is no contact information anywhere.

3. Google (Company Name) Scam

It doesn’t always work if it’s new or they change the name all the time but it might save you some trouble.

4. Only Go with BBB Verified Companies 

It’s super easy to google. People love to post complaints. Look for them.

5. Avoid If It’s Super Vague

Correct me if I am wrong, but most legitimate companies will give some kind of description about what you’ll actually be doing.

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Ok, Kevin.

6. Please, please, PLEASE Meet In a Safe Area

So you find something that looks legit and you send them your resume and land an interview. If you are being hired by an individual and not a company, they won’t have an office space. Starbucks is your friend. Don’t ever agree to meet at their home or in a hotel. This seems like common sense, but sometimes if the money is good and we are desperate to land a gig, that goes out the window.

Don’t Give Up Your Search

There are a lot of scams out there, but there are also a lot of legitimate work-from-home jobs too if you know where to look. When I tell people I mystery shop, half the time people respond that they thought that was all a scam. Don’t let a few con men ruin the opportunity to do what you love and set your own schedule. I’ve found some great gigs online and I still visit Craiglist daily.

Soon I’ll be posting about how to find great, creative jobs you can do from home. But for now, stay safe and avoid the creepers.

Peace & Creativity to you,

The Stay-at-Home-Something

How I Eat Out For Free

Some days, being on a tight budget sucks. Sometimes it’s fun and I can see it as an adventure. One thing is for sure: it forces me to be creative! I want to share with ya’ll some fun ways I’ve found to save money. This is my current favorite.

I eat out at restaurants for free. Sometimes I even get paid to do it. 

This is for real. I know, there are a lot of scams out there, I’ve been duped a few times by “work from home” opportunities. But I got smart! Now my family and I are eating out for free at least once a week. I’ve been doing it for several months now, and it’s easy.

We’ve had anything from anything from cheap burgers to fancy sushi. When I get home, I fill out a simple survey then a few weeks later I get reimbursed what I spent, plus sometimes a little extra. (So in that case, I am getting PAID to eat good food!) 

I’ve also scored free food from a grocery store and a free oil change, and next week I’ll get free gas. Twice last month I spent about 20 minutes touring a day care with A.C. (my 1.5-year-old daughter) pretending like I was interested in sending her there, and got paid $50 for my time. 

This is the magic of Mystery Shopping! 

Let me tell you, I am seriously addicted!  If you want to start, here are some tips.

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1. Make Sure You Find a Good Company

Mystery Shopping gets a bad rep, probably because there are too many fake companies out there that will try to con you by asking you to send them a money order or something. Don’t do that.

Be smart. Make sure they are accredited with the Better Business Bureau. Do a simple search of the company’s name plus “scam” to see what comes up. There shouldn’t be a signup fee or anything. My general rule of thumb with any company is this: if the website looks like it was made when Angelfire and Geocities pages were a thing, don’t trust them.

I use Market Force which has mostly fast food and casual restaurants. Another favorite company is A Closer Look which tends to have nicer restaurants, as well as hotels and other businesses.

One of my favorite money-saving blogs, The Penny Hoarder, has a great list of the best mystery shop companies to work for.

Like any job, you have to apply. Depending on the type of shop,  you may need to read a manual and take a test to qualify. The first shop always takes the longest, but once you start it’s pretty simple.

2. Plan Ahead

For someone who is spontaneous, this is a challenge.  But hey, FREE FOOD. Usually, this doesn’t work if you do it last-minute. So, every few days I log on the websites to see what new shops are up.

Next I pull out my calendar and coordinate. I look at other appointments to see where I’ll be in relation to the shops that need filling, and go from there. It’s a great chance to grab lunch after the chiropractor.

Just make sure you double-check your availability as most companies don’t like when you have to frequently reschedule or cancel.

3. It’s All In the Details

Before you do a mystery shop, make sure you read through all the paperwork and know what’s required of you. With fast food, some shops are drive-thru and some are dine-In. I’ve found drive-thrus are bit better to do when A.C. is teething and cranky.

Make sure you pay attention to small details like the name of the employee who serves you and whether or not there are fingerprint smudges on the windows. Memorize what you need to know ahead of time so you won’t be stressed and forget important things.

4. Be Normal! 

Mystery shopping is fun because you get to feel like a secret agent! (Or maybe that is just me…)  On that note, never let the employees know you are anything but a regular customer. Don’t bring the paperwork in, instead type notes on your phone discreetly. You’ll probably need to take pictures of your food, which is fine because everyone does it to post on Instagram.

5. Fill Out the Report ASAP

If I have time, I try to do the survey as soon as I get home so the details won’t be lost. Usually, you have to turn them in within 12 hours, and if my day has been particularly busy I end up staying up late trying to remember what happened. Sometimes when my husband is with me he’ll help me remember stuff.

Mystery shopping has changed my life!

I am a super nerd about saving money and I LOVE food. Mystery shopping has been amazing because I get to go out to eat without feeling guilty if it’s not in our budget. My husband and I have even incorporated some of the nicer restaurants into our date nights. We make a game out of noticing the details…. like we’re spies .;)

Also, it’s been amazing to do a side job with A.C. in tow. She USUALLY behaves. 😉

My cute foodie enjoying some sushi
My cute foodie enjoying some sushi

As a writer, it’s a great way to exercise my creativity and it’s fun to write details about the food and service.  I love having the freedom to pick shops that work with my schedule when we’re tight on cash.

Do you mystery shop? Tell me all about it!