SAN ANTONIO — Work-from-home, or WFH, exploded during the pandemic. People started working from home permanently or as a side hustle as they reprioritized life and rediscovered themselves.
"We certainly are seeing TikTok and Instagram, for example, really grow with the number of influencers," Dr. Teresa Harrison said. "And a lot of that was due to COVID-19 and everybody being at home and trying to maybe capitalize on a hobby that they had."
Harrison, an associate professor of management at the University of the Incarnate Word, is the co-director of the Beckendorf Family Center of Innovation and Global Entrepreneurship.
She said working from home is like jobs in the real world; it still takes determination, hard work, opportunity, and sometimes a bit of luck.
"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It actually does take work," she said.
Harrison teaches a senior-level entrepreneurship class where students build businesses online. They use the platform KANU to sell products to students across the country.
The students hustle from home and class as individuals and as group startup companies.
"In this class, we are creating the opportunities based on the problem that they're identifying," she said.
Harrison's students are working on the details for safety, digital convenience, mental health, and even hygiene products.
"I can probably say that our product is new to the market. We have it's a very competitive industry," Kaila Ramos said.
Ramos is a part of a group working on a unique personal hygiene item KENS 5 agreed not to reveal as they work on the prototype. Seniors Rhea Miles and Ashlin Koster are on the team with Ramos.
"It's a challenge, but it's also an opportunity for us to stick our foot in the door," Koster said.
The students learn the foundational lessons to help them sell and the ones that will collide with struggling.
"The idea is there's no get-rich-quick scheme," Harrison said. "When we call it a side hustle, there is a hustle part to that. You are going to have to do the work."
The students know employment ads that promise competitive and often enticing salaries to work from the comfort of home. Social media feeds get filled with people who point to wallet-filling jobs.
Online ads where, for instance, a chat manager could make over $40,000 a year. Other posts offer flexible hours with no experience required for opportunities paying $30-$50 an hour.
Some posts point to even more lucrative positions with insurance companies and nursing---all from home. The ad even names companies like CVS and Amazon.
"If it doesn't sound legitimate, if you can't find any reviews, then you probably don't want to do business with that company, " Harrison said.
The management professor said to do your homework on the posts.
Arthur Wildberger has a background in social media, and the 27-year-old is leveraging that to sell cars.
"I paid 12 different people on it," Wildberger said.
He works at R & L Certified Autogroup in San Antonio, where an existing company incentive is giving him the power to pay people to work for them.
"After I had the first person come in and say, hey, I seen you off a TikTok or I've seen one of your Facebook reels--that was really reassuring to make me keep on making content."
Wildberger pays $200 for each referral that turns into a car sale.
"One girl actually took advantage," he said. "She did it four times in one month. So we wrote her a check for $800, took care of her rent, and a car note."
Harrison said influencers are finding opportunities but work hard to create content pleasing to companies.
"We are seeing people do things like being a brand ambassador or getting sponsorships, and those things are great," she said. "You have to be able to create the content. You have to have the goods that you're selling."
For those who want to work from home or enjoy a side hustle, she asks, "What are your talents? What are you good at?" And can you monetize whatever that is?
Olivia Gonzales did. The UIW senior lives in Pearsall and sells Gonza Ranchera Salsa on the side. She won the class competition for top individual hustler.
"I'm a grand champion salsa maker," Gonzales said.
For bloggers, influencers, and content creators interested in a little holiday cash, Amazon shared its Amazon Associates Program.
Influencers can even get their storefront in the Amazon Influencer Program.
To begin qualifying for the influencer program, Amazon assesses each applicant.