Lazy Man wrote to me yesterday with a crisis from one of his readers.

I received this very distressing letter today:

“Hi Lazy man, tell me how do you create a blog to get help to pay my bills. I was recently layed off work because of budget cuts with a non profit organizations that I was working for and I just purchased a home, and would like to keep it.  I have been applying for job but have not be successful just yet need some help. Thanks.”

Obviously blogging for your home is probably not going to work — though it’s the kind of thing that newspapers could pick up and people could rally around.  I wrote back to her and went through the economics of blogging.  Short answer was that even if you were really, really good, it pays pennies an hour for probably the first year.  Do you have any advice?

There are two issues that must be addressed here: dispelling the notion that blogging is a quick path to wealth, and finding productive solutions to unemployment.

Blogging is not a path to quick riches
Unless you’re John Chow, blogging is no way to get rich quickly. It’s no way to generate immediate cash for bills. Income is uncertain and variable.

I am, at last, earning a decent income, but it’s only because I spend every spare hour sitting in front of a computer. I don’t have kids. I have an understanding wife who believes in this project. I’m working harder than I ever have in my life. Though the short-term financial rewards are minimal, I consider this labor an investment in the future.

I made $13,752.12 (before taxes) during the first twelve months of Get Rich Slowly. I expect to make about $30,000 in the coming year. This is not peanuts. However, it’s not great pay either. I spend several hours every day reading books, searching web sites, and exchanging e-mail. And I write. I spend more time each week working on this site than I do at my day job.

I believe Get Rich Slowly is an atypical example. More normal, I think, are the results at my other blogs. My six-year-old personal site gets about 1100 visitors each day. It earns me an average of $120/month. I also run several minor blogs. They earn me about $20/month combined.

Payment for blog income is generally delayed weeks or months. If I earn $20 from Google ads today, I will not see that money until the end of June. If I earn $20 from FeedBurner ads, I won’t see that money until the beginning of September.

Do not start a blog expecting it to pay your bills. Blogging can be an excellent way to make money from a hobby, a way to earn supplementary income. But blogging will not make you rich.

Coping with unemployment
What should Lazy Man‘s correspondent do? There aren’t any quick fixes. If I were in her position, I would:

  • Cut expenses to the bone: no cable television, no high-speed internet, no extra phones. I’d take public transportation when possible.
  • Take a job at a grocery store or a restaurant or someplace else with low qualifications. (Actually, I might try to get two jobs.) This is a stop-gap measure to bring in some small income while continuing to look for better work.
  • Seek the advice of a career counselor.
  • Tap my social network. I’d let my friends and family now about my situation. I’d even contact people at other companies and organizations with whom I’d had regular contact at my previous job.
  • Attend job fairs, scour want ads. Sign up at Yahoo! Jobs, Career Builder, and Monster.
  • Contact my creditors and explain the situation.
  • When I found a new job, I would be certain to bolster my emergency fund.

The University of Florida has an excellent guide explaining what to do if you lose our job, and The Simple Living Network just published a small piece on how to survive a layoff.

I’ve never experienced unemployment myself, but I have friends who’ve been through it. Those I’ve seen make a successful recovery are the ones who did not panic, and who took every opportunity they could find. Have you been in a similar situation? How did you cope? How did you meet your financial obligations?

Update: There are some great comments below. One of the best tips is to get work through a temporary agency. This is an excellent recommendation.