It is extremely hard for women of gentle birth and upbringing who are suddenly left in difficulties, or girls who have been brought up without special training, to set to work to earn their own living. The outlook is so hopeless that even the most willing do not know where or how to begin. This series of articles, therefore, is intended to point out ways which are easily accessible and can be approached without a capital outlay.
There are several ways which bring immediate results to those content with small but certain earnings.
There are always other people's clothes and household linen to be mended, and, except in the rich household where a maid is kept to do this work, there is an opening for women who are handy with their needle in the ordinary way.
Who does not know an overworked mother who would be only too thankful to know of some nice woman of her own class who could come and sit with her and help her mend and renovate, say, once a week, or once a fortnight?
Let it be known amongst your own friends that you would do this for a morning, afternoon, or whole day, at the rate of sixpence per hour. The hours could be from ten o'clock to one, and from two to five. Thus, one would do six hours' work, and still have plenty of time for other work and living one's own life.
This has been tried, and when the scheme was made known through friends, the demand became so great that the worker had each day of the week filled up at different houses. Some clients wanted her for the whole day, some just for the morning or afternoon. Of course, in the case of distances, if beyond a penny fare, travelling expenses must be asked for.
When working from ten to five-with the break of an hour mid-day-a mid-day meal would be expected, and in many houses luncheon or tea would be given as a matter of course when working for half a day. All this helps a woman who has to keep herself.
The first step is to tell your friends-if you can afford it, put a little advertisement in a local paper-your charges and hours, and keep to them. When it is necessary to work overtime, charge at the same rate.
Having arranged for your first day or half day, be punctual, begin work at once, and remember always that people do not like paying workers of any description who put down their tools to talk. Acquire the habit of working and talking at the same time if you find conversation is expected, but " silence is golden " in most cases.
Do your best with whatever comes along, from darning stockings to mending silk dresses. Never say you cannot do anything, but if you are doubtful ask your employer to show you how she would like it done. Most people would rather take the trouble to do this than let a novice spoil the work by experimenting.
Do not " be above" doing anything that could possibly be wanted in an ordinary family's mending. To be obliging and willing in these small matters will increase your value tremendously. Remember your duty will be to take the place-with the work-basket-of the mother or daughter of the house, and do whatever they would do themselves, if they had the time or energy.
Always be careful to take your own thimble, scissors, and needles with you.
A girl who has been accustomed to making any of her own clothes, dresses, blouses, or underclothes, and could cut-out, and do these things, either with the assistance of her employer or without, will have no lack of work when it becomes known, and could add to her income by taking some home to do in her slack hours; but many girls with this amount of knowledge might think it better to work at home and charge more. However, it must be well considered, for there is much more competition in home work. The demand for the worker who will go out soon increases. In the winter fire and light, moreover, to say nothing of the mid-day meal, count for something.
Do not talk of your own worries and troubles when out working. Try to be cheerful and sympathetic. Success does not depend only upon work; one's personality has a great deal to do with it. Most people would rather pay for conscientious, cheerful work than for better work done by a disagreeable, disobliging, or depressing person.
It will thus be seen that, without any outlay, and working only six hours a day, it is possible to earn eighteen shillings a week and still be left with several hours of freedom.
How to earn more money and enjoy the little home that can be run on this income will be shown in future articles.