The 4 best ways to make money from home

Tutor Ivonne Pinera explains a section of math problem in Spanish to the students preparing for the test to earn their GED in Ohio.
Tutor Ivonne Pinera explains a section of math problem in Spanish to the students preparing for the test to earn their GED in Ohio.Chris Langer / for NBC News / Today

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
By Benjamin Feldman

Have you seen those ads that seem to be all over the Internet these days? They say something like "make $1,000 per week from the comfort of your own home." Now it should go without saying that such schemes are not very reliable and should be avoided in most cases. But that still leaves the question: Can you really make money from home?

The truth is, you actually can. But you first have to understand what your skills are and how to market them effectively.

With the economy still struggling and many people faced with underemployment or unemployment, it's understandable that many would show an interest in building an income on their own terms. And even those who currently have work would often prefer to create a career that would allow them to work from home.

[Related Article: 5 Ways to Get Out of Debt: Which Will Work for You?]

So for anyone in those circumstances, here are four of the best ways to make money from home:

1. Become a virtual assistant

What does "virtual assistant" mean? Well, it can refer to any person hired part-time or full-time to provide remote assistance -- usually in a role similar to a traditional administrative assistant. Often, you will work for one person who is very busy -- too busy to handle it all on their own.

And that's where the opportunity is for you. The tasks of a virtual assistant will often include things like screening your boss's e-mail, booking travel, making appointments and phone calls on behalf of your boss, managing his or her calendar, and taking care of other things that come up.

This is a field that is growing surprisingly quickly, and there are many websites where you can find work as a virtual assistant, including Indeed, WAHM and Elance. In most cases, you will need to present a resume and/or show some experience that would prove your ability to handle these types of tasks well.

2. Tap into your creative strengths

Many people enjoy some type of creative outlet, and with the wide availability of opportunities on the Internet, you can frequently turn your creative streak into a source of income. For example, if you like to make crafts then you can use Etsy to build a devoted audience of customers who are willing to pay for your handmade items.

Another obvious option is for people who enjoy writing. There are countless requests on sites like Elance for all different types of writing. Polish your writing ability and then start bidding on some of these writing jobs. At first, you'll be doing this a few hours a week, but over time, you can build up a dedicated clientele and make a full-time living off your writing.

There are some really unexpected ways you can use your creativity to make money from home. One of the more surprising ways to make money would be to look for work as a voice actor -- meaning that you would lend your voice to narrate videos, radio ads, or any other type of media. These freelance jobs can actually pay pretty well. And there are countless other surprising ones like these listed at the sites above.

[Related Article: 3 People Who Dug Out of Deep Debt]

3. Share your skills locally

Sometimes it is necessary to change your perspective in order to see all the skills that you truly have. Do you play an instrument? If so, you could no doubt teach music lessons to young people (or anyone) in your community. All you'd need to do beforehand is a bit of lesson planning. You can even offer a discount for the first 10 people who sign up in order to get your name out there and help spread the word.

Along the same lines, if you have patience and basic knowledge of high school math, science or literature, you could easily work as a tutor for students in your community. If so, that can be a great way to make money from home. And remember, you can always get the textbook and brush up a little before you do your tutoring!

4. Use the assets you have

This last possibility will seem like the easiest or the hardest way to make money from home, depending on your particular circumstances. Do you have things laying around your house that you no longer need? If so, then you can make extra money by selling them on eBay!

And these days, it has become much easier to make money by renting out a spare room in your house -- or even renting out your car. If you want to rent a room, AirBnB is probably the first place you'll want to start. And Getaround is a great site for renting your car, although it's only available in certain cities right now. Of course, there is always some risk with letting a stranger stay in your house (or use your car) but if you are looking to build your income from home, this is one of the quickest ways.

No matter what you decide to try, give it some time and ask for advice from people who have some experience with it. And if you want more insights, check out our Career Tips resource center. Good luck!

More from