Going out to work can be both expensive and impractical if you're a parent, but direct selling can be one way to bring in a bit of extra income without incurring extra costs.
According to the Family and Childcare Trust's 2015 annual Childcare Costs survey, over the last parliament, the cost of a part-time nursery place for a child under two has increased by 32.8% to over £6,000 a year. The average cost of part-time care from a childminder has risen by 4.3% in one year, and now costs £104.06 per week or £5,411 a year.
As a result many parents have little choice to stay at home rather than go out to work.
Here, we look at some of the ways stay-at-home mums or dads can bring in a bit of extra cash by direct selling.
How it works
As the name suggests, direct selling involves selling products from someone else's company direct to customers. You typically earn commission on everything you sell, and may receive further commission on the sales of anyone you recruit.
Often direct selling takes place in the evenings, which can make it easier to arrange childcare if you have a partner who only works during the daytime.
According to the Direct Selling Association, around 120,000 of the estimated 400,000 direct sellers in the UK are stay-at-home mothers.
Popular schemes include selling cosmetics as an Avon or Body Shop at Home representative, or a wider range of beauty brands through MyShowcase (NB no space between 'My' and 'Showcase'). Other direct selling schemes include Pampered Chef cooking equipment, Usborne Books, Phoenix Trading stationery and Stella & Dot jewellery.
Always check commission rates carefully before signing up, as they can vary widely depending on the scheme, and you'll usually have to put in a lot of hours to earn a substantial income.
There may also be a small initial outlay to sign up to one of these schemes and you may have to commit to hosting a set number of events. For example, if you want to become a Body Shop 'At Home' consultant, you must and agree to buy a 'Pamper Kit' costing £45, which contains products and catalogues.
Once you have bought a Pamper Kit you must have a minimum of four parties over a four-week period. You earn between 25% and 30% commission on sales.
There is no joining fee to become an Avon representative, but there is a start-up fee of £16 which includes brochures worth around £11. This will only be charged after you have placed your first order and will be split into £10 in your first order and £6 in your second order.
Once you are appointed a representative you can register online and place orders on behalf of your customers. You will earn commission from ranging from 20% to 25% on items you sell.
As a direct seller you are generally considered to be self-employed. This means that it is up to you to tell HMRC about what you earn and to calculate and pay your own tax.
Sally de Souza, 40, from Balham, South London, got involved in direct selling beauty company MyShowcase three years ago, because it gives her the flexibility to look after her children and work when she is able to.
Mrs de Souza, who worked as a headhunter for eight years prior to having children, said; "Part of the appeal of direct selling is that you don't have to go it alone. If you were setting up your own business you'd have all the start-up costs whereas with direct selling the brand is already in place and there is plenty of support available."
She aims to run one to two MyShowcase events a week, and also works for Phoenix Trading, another direct selling scheme, selling greeting cards, gift wrap and other stationery. She said; "I'd say I earn around £200 to £300 a month on average through direct selling, but in the run up to Christmas and during busier periods, it can be about £500 or £600 a month. The biggest bonus is you can fit it in around looking after your children."