Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 17:52 UK

Working from home to beat recession


The website's founder explains how it works

By Emma Simpson
Business correspondent, BBC News

Earning a bit of additional spending money used to be an optional extra for most people. But the recession has made it a necessity for thousands.

And a growing band of people are either boosting their salaries or replacing lost income by working from home.

During the last recession, most people had never heard of the internet. This time round, though, there is a lot more technology available - and it's helping lots of workers survive the downturn.

Edward Moss was made redundant last year. He managed to find a new job organising education material for schools. But he took a big drop in income.

During the week, he lives with his dad in Manchester, close to his work. He commutes home to Leeds at the weekend to see his family.

It's been a dramatic change in lifestyle.

And now, the work doesn't stop when he gets home from the office.

70% of the people who're now on our site have either been made redundant or are 'five to niners', working round the clock to enhance their income
PeoplePerHour founder Xenios Thrasyvoulou

After a quick bite to eat, Edward is usually on his laptop doing freelance marketing and research - work that he has found online to boost his wages.

"I usually work two to three hours a night, several nights a week at the moment," he says.

The work has been varied - from writing copy for an Audi dealership in London to researching foreign embassies for a tourism agency.

"I would say the extra money has probably contributed about 25% towards the overall bills, and that's been vital, given my drop in income's been so substantial."

Online marketplace

Edward found his work through PeoplePerHour, a website whose membership has soared in the past year.

Helen Castree
I think my only other option would have been doing a night shift in a local care home, which would have been extremely disruptive for all of us
Zoe Smith

It's an online marketplace where professionals like Edward can bid for one-off projects posted by companies who are keen to keep costs down by outsourcing work.

It's a bit like eBay, but for business. Its founder, Xenios Thrasyvoulou, says the idea developed over the past two years.

"I used to own a PA/concierge business, and we used to hire out personal assistants' time on a per hour basis. That got me thinking into scaling up the model and doing it online," says Mr Thrasyvoulou.

He then realised that the idea could work with a host of other sectors, such as IT, accountancy and marketing as well.

This past year, the website has seen a big shift in the kinds of people who are using PeoplePerHour. And the number of users has increased by more than 500%.

Geography doesn't matter, either. Helen Castree, from Shrewsbury, works by day as a clerk for her local council. In the evenings, she works on administration and secretarial projects around the UK.

"It allows me to access clients who I would otherwise miss out on," she says.

"The remote employment options I get have really helped, especially with the costs of food and petrol."

'Income supplement'

Workers like Helen and Edward now make up the majority of the professionals using PeoplePerHour.

"We've seen our site go from a community for people who've been freelancing all their lives, to a site where people who want to supplement their income, or who've been made redundant, are bidding for work because of the recession," says Mr Thrasyvoulou.

"Seventy per cent of the people who're now on our site have either been made redundant or are 'five-to-niners', working round the clock to enhance their income."

Zoe Smith is no typical five-to-niner, but the work she's found online has been a lifeline for her family.

Her husband, Peter, lost his job last year and had to take a big cut in pay when he found a new post. So Zoe is back at work after taking time off to be a mum. But this time, she is working from home.

"We sat down and worked the numbers, and there was a gap even if we cut everything back to a minimum. But it's worked out brilliantly, especially as I've been bidding for work that I know definitely exists," she says.

Zoe is doing telesales and marketing on her two laptops in her smart office at her home near High Wycombe.

"I think my only other option would have been doing a job at Tesco, or doing a night shift in a local care home, which would have been extremely disruptive for all of us. Because I can work from home, it makes it so much easier," she says.

There have been other benefits as well. Although the Smiths have seen their income fall, their quality of life has improved immeasurably. Peter, for instance, now gets to spend more time with his daughter, Hannah, because of a much easier commute.

For this family, something good has come from the recession.

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