Very few South African school leavers are absorbed into the formal economy. In fact, every year, there is a smaller number of people who manage to find jobs. Not everyone has the money to go and study further. So what now?
The reality is that many youngsters simply end up sitting at home doing nothing. And unfortunately there is some truth in the old saying that the devil finds work for idle hands.
But there are quite a few other possibilities. One of them is creating a job for yourself. Right, but that’s easier said than done. Or is it?
The most important thing to remember is that you need to take a careful look at your community, or one close by and offer a service that people will support.
Offering to fix electrical appliances in an area where few people have electricity, or babysitting services in an area where most of the occupants are elderly, will both result in disaster.
Ideas on generating an income for yourself
Making beads. There are bead shops in all big cities in South Africa. The biggest one in Cape Town is called the Bead Shop and is in Long Street. It has a wholesale outlet two doors up of you want to buy in bulk, which is cheaper on the long run. There is also a branch in Mellville Johannesburg.
Here you can buy beads of every description at very cheap prices. In fact, if you spend R50 – R100, you can set up a small business. In the ship there are pamphlets to show you how to put clasps onto bracelets and necklaces and how to make earrings. A small string of beads which you can easily sell for R10, could cost you as little as R1,50 to put together.
They sell everything you would need to start your own small jewellery manufacturing business. Take a look at what your friends like and start production. Campuses and flea markets are good places to sell your products. Remember two things – don’t be shy and make what people want, even if you think purple and yellow don’t go well together.
Teach extra lessons. If there was a subject you were particularly good at in school, your services could be in demand. Teach extra lessons after school.
Keep your rates reasonable and get people to sign up and pay for a month or term in advance. Limit the size of the group to 4 or 5 otherwise individual attention could become a problem and after all, that is what people are paying for.
Start a carwashing or poolcleaning business. These are two jobs most people hate to do or simply don’t have the time, so would be prepared to pay others to do this.
You also don’t need any equipment of your own, apart from a cleaning agent, a bucket and a cloth to start off with this. Start with your neighbours and put pamphlets in postboxes for a few blocks around.
If you do a good job, people will tell their friends about you and business will start coming in by itself.
Become a dogwalker. Many people are too lazy or don’t have the time to walk their dogs, but they feel guilty about it – guilty enough that they will pay someone else to do it.
A number of dogs on leashes can be taken at the same time, so the job need not take up your entire day. Find a nice park or open piece of land where you can take them. Speak to a vet before you embark on this, as they will be able to give you handy tips on dealing with a group of dogs.
Give computer lessons. Many people have home computers with which they struggle. Not only do they not know how to do the basics, but they have not discovered the joys of the internet. If you know how, use this knowledge to make some money.
Advertise your services by means of photocopied pamphlets, library noticeboards and by word-of-mouth.
This will not cost you anything, because you will be working in peoples’ homes.
Babysitting and homework supervision. Combine these two services. If you could make this a regular thing, parents could be freed up to pursue some other activities while they know their kids are not only being looked after, but that their homework is being supervised.
Contact the local schools to advertise your services.
Candles and soap. Check on the Internet on how to make these. These, especially if they are original and attractive, are always in demand for presents.
Start small and check carefully what the market wants, before you invest more than R100 in equipment and materials.
Things to remember
Every single contact with a customer is important, as a satisfied customer is your best advertisement possible. Be polite and accommodating and remember that the customer is always right.
Don’t be shy. Push your product and take it to places where you think people might be interested.
Tell everyone you know about what you are doing.
Be nice to people like school secretaries and vet receptionists, as they could recommend your services. When they do, thank them – and take them a chocolate!
Never give credit to anyone, but insist on immediate cash payment, otherwise you could lose money.
Advertise your services on community noticeboards at supermarkets and in community newspapers.
Doing a job well is your passport to more opportunities. Nobody is going to recommend you if your work is shoddy, you are unreliable or unpunctual or you break your promises.
Many parents expect a contribution to the household once a child leaves school. If you are unable to pay rent, remember there are lots of things you can do around the house and garden which would actually save them money. Show your willingness and pitch in wherever you can. After all, they are paying for the roof over your head.
If you don’t have access to a landline, buy a secondhand cellphone and buy a pay-as-you-go card. Then people will be able to contact you if they want to use your services. Just beware of the high cost of making calls from a cellphone. Rather use a public phone to do this – it will cost you a quarter of the price.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)