A question I asked on LinkedIn Wednesday prompted this post. See the question and great answers here: 101 Alternatives to a Real Job: What pitfalls are there to starting your own business?
I am writing a really fun book titled 101 Alternatives to a Real Job. I have submitted 41 of the 101 to my editor, and have about 10 more that are out to people doing it for quotes.
More than just a list of ideas, with blabbering by me, this book includes quotes and tips from people who have actually done these things. I’ve come to believe that the reason this book will be so awesome is because of what others are contributing, not what I’m writing. I’m excited to see it evolve, although I sometimes wish I would have titled it 47 Alternatives to a Real Job, since I’d pretty much be done by now :p Oh well, onward!
Anyway, a few circumstances lined up just the right way and I decided I needed to try one of these out for myself. I am a believer of the idea that so-called experts need experience in what they talk about, or in my case, write about. So I finally picked one that seemed easy to start, easy to do, and easy to bring in the money.
I bought a kit so I could paint numbers on curbs. Supposedly you can make $20 to $60 an hour. I know many of the people in my audience, whether you are reading it here or at one of my presentations, would welcome the chance to earn anywhere in that range.
I proposed the idea to my kids and set up a cool and so-far very effective system: they sell and I paint.
They bring in the money, I deliver on the service.
Easy, efficient, and a money machine, right?
EXACTLY! The first night, in two hours, they collected $65. Not bad at all. The second night, in two hours, they collected $100. In four hours they sold $165, which is about $41/hour. That is really good money, especially for an eight and eleven year old, don’t you think?
Here are a few points where this business is a pain:
- I have to get a solicitors licence from the city. It only cost me $30, but it took a good hour because of drive time and the time I had to fill out the form, etc. This is honestly a pain. And it’s kind-of-almost embarrassing. After all, what’s a smart successful guy like me doing getting a door-to-door solicitors license for??? Shouldn’t I do something productive with my MBA? Yes, definitely a pride issue.
- In order to get a solicitors license, I had to go to the state Bureau of Criminal Affairs and get a background check. That’s what I was told. In fact, they call it a “Criminal History Record.” I took some of my kids and their friends, and walked into what seemed to be a big jail cell with a bunch of bad guys waiting to do their own paperwork. My littlest was 2, the oldest was 11. I suddenly felt worried that I brought these sweet, cute kids into a place that would make a bartender nervous. Oh yeah, it took another hour or two to get this done. This was much further away from my house than the city building.
- I rolled this business under my existing business (JibberJobber LLC). That means I am already licensed with the city (a pain and a seemingly waste of money, since the city doesn’t do anything for me), and I have a Federal Tax ID (another pain). I did this about six years ago (and have kept current), so it was easy to put that in, but I thought if I didn’t have this, it could easily be a barrier to entry. I remember the three days it took to do all the business set-up a few years ago, thinking how much I hated that part of it, and that that alone was enough to make people start businesses illegally, without registering with the different levels of government.
- Along those lines, I should mention you should have a business checking account, which is actually not just another bank account, but a certain type of bank account. Not fun or fast!
That’s most of the administrative, bureacratic pain. Technically, I wasn’t even supposed to have made a buck yet! Here are the things that cause me pain in actually doing this type of easy-money business:
- Knocking on doors. This is not in most people’s comfort zone. In fact, I am not looking forward to the time when my kids aren’t doing it (because of other activities), and I do it. I know I need to… I need to get over it, but door-to-door is just not my favorite thing.
- Delivery. So my sales team sold a bunch of stuff. Now someone (me) has to deliver! And delivery will take time – twenty or thirty minutes per sale. The more they sell, the more work I have to do (remember, this isn’t my day job!). I like how I can do it whenever I want, but it’s still weighing on me until I finish delivery.
- Weather. This week we’ve been rained out I think three times. No sales, no painting, NO MONEY. It’s a great idea, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate you are stuck.
Why am I doing this? For various reason. I’ll outline the good stuff in another post. But I thought I share my thoughts on “barriers to entry” for a business that seems to not have any.
Oh yeah, I read yesterday a college kid was making about $80k/year doing curb paintings.
Read the LinkedIn question and answers here: 101 Alternatives to a Real Job: What pitfalls are there to starting your own business?