Thursday, April 20, 2017

guest article-post 2 of 2 today

GUEST ARTICLE- post 2 of 2 today
So you're looking for a side job to make a little extra money.

For the last twenty plus years, my husband and I have lived on our off-grid homestead and have looked for ways to make a little extra money on the side.  Something that didn't take too much time but would provide a little needed cash to supplement what we produce for ourselves.  Disclaimer:  Hubby does work part time for 9 months of the year driving school bus.  Doesn't pay much, but it is some steady money we can count on to pay our basic bills and keep our kids in shoes.  Side work and odd jobs help round out the budget.

Some ground rules that we go by: 

 A) Needs little or no money to get started.

 B) It's may be something we are doing anyways but we have a little left over. We don't believe in specializing or doing a lot of one thing.  We have found it is better to do a variety of stuff for ourselves and then if there is a little left over to sell and help cover our cost, great.  That way if the market changes for some reason, we can absorb the excess into our household.  No down side that way.  Plus the more you do for yourself, the less money you need and the less taxes you pay.  

C) Be willing to do the little jobs that no one else wants to do.  

D) Remember the law.  Don't do anything that requires a permit/professional license or has a high degree of risk/liability.  For example:  we don't do roofs, wire houses, work on cars, etc. 

E) Have several streams of income.  That way if one slows down, you have options. 

F) Be dependable and super honest.  Cut people a good deal whenever you can.  This is your best form of advertisement. Let people know what you can or cannot do.  Don't get in over your head. 

G) If someone wants to give you something nice always say yes, even if you can't use it.  Be the "go-to-person".  If we can't use it, I'll call around and find someone who can. You can earn a lot of good will by doing that.  I can't even begin to list all the free stuff we have been given over the years:  leather couch and love seat, 1,000 sq ft of solid hickory flooring, queen size bed, lamps, tables, clothes, sinks, tile, lumber, cut and split firewood, dishwashers, food, canning jars...... 

In no particular order, here are 10 side jobs we have tried in the past or are currently doing:

1) Sell farm fresh eggs.  

Profitable? Somewhat. 

Comments:  This doesn't really make us any extra money, but it does cover all our expenses so the eggs we eat are basically free.  In other words, we supply all the labor and knowledge and our customers' money pays all the bills. As an added bonus, I get the chicken manure for my garden, knowledge on how to raise chickens, and I know that my eggs are from happy chickens.

2) Sell extra garden produce.

Profitable? Again the answer is: somewhat.

Comments: I don't really do this to make  money.  I garden to feed my family.  I like to sell my excess to cover my out-of-pocket cost (seeds, plant starts, garden tools, etc.)  That way I am basically eating for free in exchange for my labor. I did a farmer's market for a while but I didn't like the time commitment of manning a booth. Plus, it seems you either brought too much or not enough.  I much prefer to pre-sell to a select group of people and only harvest what is needed.   

3) Contract out Hubby with the Woodmizer Sawmill.

Profitable?  Yeah, but contracting out at someone's place can be time consuming (commuting time) and people can be a pain to work with.  

Comments:  Our used, basic (no hydraulics) Woodmizer has more than paid for itself by providing lumber for our homestead's building needs.  We've contracted out before but some folks have an unrealistic expectation on what "rough-cut" lumber is.  They expect kiln dried, perfect dimension lumber at a fraction of Home Depot price. In the future, we are looking at cutting and stockpiling lumber to sell by the board foot and advertise by putting up ads around town. 

4) Make wooden boxes, stools, shelves, toys, tables, etc. to sell at Medieval fairs.

Profitable?  Yes.

Comments:  We did well at this but eventually got tired of all the traveling.  The whole point of our homestead is to live on it.

5) Odd jobs for widowed ladies.

Profitable?  Very much so.  

Comments:  We do all the little things around the house that they don't/can't do:  change electrical outlets, fix the toilet flappers, move furniture, paint walls, basic repairs,  plant trees, start their gardens, dig holes/trenches, hang drywall, dog/farm animal sitting, wash windows, basically whatever they need.  It may not be steady work (40 hours a week) but once people realize that you are an honest, good worker who shows up when you say you will, your name will get around and you'll get calls.  Don't forget to charge enough to cover your travel time.  Even charging $15-$35 an hour (depending on the job/hassle/travel), you'll still be cheaper than if they needed to call a company.  However, don't do any job that the state requires a professional license or permit. 

6) Lawn mowing and yard maintenance.

Profitable?  Yes

Comments:  We started with buying all our own equipment and getting a lot of contracts.  Years went by and our equipment was starting to get old and needed to be replaced.  We had some other things that we wanted to do around our place and not be so busy working for others.  So we went to our clients and asked them who would be willing to buy their own equipment/fuel and we would supply the labor.  Several took us up on the offer.  Now we just have a few lawns but we have none of our own money invested in it.

7) Raise broiler chickens.

Profitable? Yes.  If you don't count your labor/time, you can double your money in 2 months.

Comments:  This required that we built up a clientele list, but once word got around, that wasn't a problem.  To make sure we were legal, we would technically sell you the live bird and then butcher it for free.  We stopped doing this because I wanted more free time in the summer to do fun stuff like going to the lake.  We also tried selling butcher lambs, pigs and rabbits but this wasn't as profitable for us.  A neighbor had a milk cow and this was very profitable but it is quite a commitment. 

8) Cutting firewood.

Profitable?  Yes.

Comments:  This made us money (especially since we already have all the equipment for our own needs) but it's labor intensive.  I think there are a lot of easier ways to make money.  Plus when the housing bubble burst, everyone and their dog started cutting firewood and the bottom fell out of the market for a couple of years. It's a fall-back plan, but remember, it's EVERYONE'S fall-back plan.

9) Selling bait worms.

Profitable? Somewhat.

Comments.  This was actually kind of fun. (Yeah, I need to get out more, LOL.)  We did this back when we lived in town.  In the summer, we would take a walk over to the local high school while the sprinklers were running.  Hubby would hold the flashlight and I would pick up the night crawlers.  We would sell them by the dozen to a fishing/bait shop.  Didn't make a lot of money, but it didn't take any investment or a lot of time either. 

10) Rent out rooms/AirBnB.

Profitable? Yes.

Comments.  We did this when we still lived in town twenty years ago (before kids).  We had 3 extra bedrooms and rented them out to college students.  The money coming in was more than enough to pay ALL our expenses (mortgage, electric, oil heat, phone, water, etc.)  We basically lived for free.  This enabled us to save all our money to buy some acreage outright and build our cabin debt-free.  Now of days, there is AirBnB.  If you have the room and like people, this is a fairly simple way to make money.

Idaho Homesteader


  1. Thanks. That was like reading a back issue of the old "mother earth news", before it went all preppy. The comment on firewood demand was interesting. We have a local who has mechanized the whole process. He loads a full tree which is then cut split and loaded in a truck automatically. He sells just below market value. After gas and fees my time would be about five an hour. He has to get a very large portion of the work to cover expences. He competes with tree removal companies that get paid to remove trees. Stiff competition.

  2. Firewood for us can be rather time consuming. Because we only use our mid-sized trees (usually 4 to 8" in diameter), it takes a lot of cutting to make a cord. Though, we don't have to do much splitting ;)

    The larger trees we save for the Woodmizer to make lumber for our various homestead projects. We're finishing up a little cabin for our newly married daughter and son-in-law as a place to stay during their college summer break, working on a new boat house, we need siding for an outhouse, and next year, hubby wants to start an octagonal cabin / man cave.

    Right now, we are using our lumber scraps to make old style fruit packing boxes to sell. We'll see if there is any demand. We're also trying to talk son-in-law into making a cedar blanket chest for his new bride. Hubby has a full woodworking shop and can help S.I.L. learn how to work with wood.

    Branches and small trees we thin out (3" or less in diameter) are chipped and used on forest trails and as mulch in the garden.

    Nothing goes to waste.

    Idaho Homesteader

    1. Pricing the Wood-Mizer at the cheapest $4k, I wonder how big your house has to be to pay for itself. Let alone as a business expense. Of course, I suppose if you bought it twenty years ago the cost was probably one quarter of that since everything is overly inflated now. I just look at the basic stick cost of a room at $300 and can't see the economics of your own lumber. Unless I'm missing something. If you got it for $1k, and with kids you have far more than a three room cabin, plus work areas, it makes sense. But today's price?

    2. Well, there are a couple of ways to look at it.

      We bought it used almost twenty years ago for $10 grand. Even at that price over twenty years ago, it has more than paid for itself. Now of days, there are other companies making bandsaw mills so you can get a cheaper one. Though, I have been EXTREMELY impressed with the Woodmizer company. They are great to work with if you have a question or problem.

      *We've made some cash money doing milling for others.

      *We've used it to mill beams, siding, lumber, flooring, etc. for twenty years of construction projects around our place. Cabin, an addition for 3 extra bedrooms and a second bathroom, (our completed home is around 2,400 sq ft.), woodshed, barn, boat shed, my little cabin in the woods, greenhouse, raised garden bed sides, various outbuildings, porches. The biggest savings have been in milling our own siding. Siding is expensive at the stores.

      *Our biggest benefit is for the lumber needed for making furniture. Hubby has a nice hobby woodworking shop set up. Most times, the lumber you buy at the store is crap - lots of knots, wane, warped, overall it's the stuff that would have been thrown out 100 years ago. He has made captain style beds for the kids, my kitchen cupboards, inside house trim, cedar chest, shelves, boxes, nightstands, bathroom vanities, etc.

      *Plus, we still have the value of the mill itself and could sell it to recoup some of our initial cost.

      We had the money and paid cash. I guess I could have buried the money and saved it. But between sitting on the cash or buying something we could use, I have been very happy with our purchase.

      Idaho Homesteader

    3. I didn't realize you had constructed an entire compound :)

  3. Avoid the *hourly* concept of charging for your services. It's dishonest all the way around. When you charge by the hour you tend to drag things out to earn more money. If you tell a customer a realistic hourly fee they will be scared off.

    In my 30+ years of self employment I have never once charged an hourly fee. I look at the project, determine what I want and that's it. Sometimes I under bid the thing but most of the time I make in excess of $50/hour, cash money. Why? Because I stated an exact amount and the faster I get it done the sooner I get on to the next thing. If I told the customer up front that I wanted $50/hr they would have told me to hit the road. That's the way the human mind works. Besides, it's no one else's business how much you make per hour and it's a distorted dynamic to boot.

    Stay small, stay cash only, and be honest in all things, and being very friendly and helpful will pay back in the long haul. Throw in a few freebies too.

    1. "Stay small, stay cash only, and be honest in all things, and being very friendly and helpful will pay back in the long haul. Throw in a few freebies too."

      That right there is better advice than most 4 year college degrees in business.

      Idaho Homesteader

    2. Damn respectable, and seems like damn good advice. Awesome article, too.