Start up Careers for Anyone

by Sandy L on February 8, 2011

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about what could a person do if they diverted their 401K savings into some other investment source, specifically some kind of side gig.  I used a rental property as an example, but that’s not for everyone.

So today, I’ll explore some other ideas with low/medium start up costs.  In my little dream, this is a little side gig that a person starts when they are getting closer to retirement and want to invest in something that will give them some pocket money, provided they are in good health.  My criteria is that the side gig has to be able to make more money than you’d get being a Walmart Greeter or the like.

Most of these ideas will require some kind of sales and/or advertising that needs to be done to spread the word, but you have to start somewhere right?

For The Handyman

Unfortunately, a lot of the handymen, carpenters and contractors I know are horrible at budgeting.   I had one guy who used my down payment money for my bathrooms (to buy the tub, fixtures, etc) at Foxwoods Casino. He blew it all, but his credit cards were already maxed so he had to work other jobs to earn back the money to finish my job.  It took months of nagging and threatening to get the work finished and it was a disaster.  Besides nasty tenants, hiring contractors remotely while not being able to babysit them was also a nightmare.

I’m convinced that if you want to be a handyman or handy woman and you do nothing more than charge a fair price, return phone calls and show up every day to the job, you’ll beat out 99% of the doofus’s out there.

  1. Buy a Pickup Truck – use it to haul trash, move things, etc.
  2. If you live in a snow belt, you could Buy a plow –  For an investment of $1000-$5000, you can start plowing on the side. I think the per hour rate ends up being pretty good because you can plow out someone’s driveway in 10 minutes and it’s usually like $20 minimum around here.
  3. Get a Tile-Saw.  For $200 you can have a tile saw and tile people’s bathrooms on the weekend. It’s a relatively easy thing to learn and if you’ve done a few rooms in your house you should be good to go. Most people quote by the job and the per hour rate really depends on how much practice you have.  It took me 4 weekends to tile my bathroom, but it was my first tile job. Each job, you should get a little faster and eventually you can make good money at it.  Having just tiled my mom’s bathroom floor this weekend, I’ll say this isn’t something that will be so easy to do once you’re nearing retirement. Man, did my knees and back hurt after 1/2 day on the floor.

For the Chef

  1. Pick a product and rent space in a commercial kitchen.  Make it and sell it at farmer’s markets, go around to the local supermarkets and pitch it.  It’s how a lot of people start..if you’re making great local ice cream like the folks at Maple Valley, you bring some for people to try.  Don’t be afraid, most people like eating free food.

For the Gardener

  1. Build a little greenhouse and start seedlings in flats.  Sell them on craigslist or at a flea market.
  2. Pot some of your extra perennials and sell them.
  3. Barter your veggies for other things you need. If you’re on a busy road you can always build a little veggie stand out side of your house.
  4. Grow, Dry and Sell Herbs and Teas. (they last longer than fresh veggies).

For the Artist and/or Computer Person

  1. Buy and Learn Photoshop.
  2. Make Art and Sell on Etsy
  3. Build People’s Blogs and/or Websites.
  4. Monetize a Blog.
  5. Distribute someone’s product.
  6. There are literally hundreds of things you can try with just the investment of a computer.

For the Person with a big hunk of land

  1. Plant a christmas tree farm
  2. Buy some bees, make honey
  3. Rent out your space to some animals to graze
  4. Build a Kennel.
  5. Thin out your forest and sell some wood.
  6. Get Chickens

For the Jack of All Trades

  1. Buy Vending Machines and grow as you start making more money.
  2. Buy a Limo and drive people to the airport. (A lot of retirees do this around my parts.)
  3. Take a course on fixing computers and become a computer repair person.
  4. Clean People’s Houses.
  5. If you live near a rich neighborhood, you can become a caretaker or personal shopper. We have a lot of second homes in this area. I can totally see a service where someone calls you up and you stock their fridge for them so that things are all set when they arrive in from the city.
  6. If you don’t want to do the leg work, buy someone else’s business from a site like this one or just browse through it for more ideas.

For the outdoorsy person

Another one of my friends had a variety of little side businesses. She had a health food store, a bike shop and I forget what else. She said her bike rental business was actually very profitable (I do live in an area that sees a lot of NYC tourists in the summer).

  1. Rent Sporting Equipment. You’d actually need a little shop to do this though.
  2. Be a Tour Guide. Take people cross country skiing or hiking or fishing. Turn your hobby into a business.
  3. Get Yoga or Physical Trainer Certified.

These are just a few ideas that don’t require a ton of capital to start up. I would love to hear what other ideas I may have missed. I really don’t know what I’d like to do in my golden years.  My problem is that I want to try them all.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly On Money February 8, 2011 at 8:17 AM

We are just waiting temperatures to rise a bit so we can get started on raising up our meat chickens! (Thanks for the link). I think I’ve done most things on your list and was just on Etsy last night to see if anyone is selling honey. I was surprised to see people selling baked goods and even organic vegetables!
I was a painting/tile contractor and based my business having great service (showing up, returning calls, etc…) My referral business wasn’t bad but I was surprised how many people would just pick the first contractor in the book without asking any questions.


Sandy L February 8, 2011 at 6:30 PM

Molly – why did you get away from contracting? Was it the lack of benefits. Yes, you pretty much do it all it seems.


Money Reasons February 8, 2011 at 12:16 PM

There is always ebay! If you can find a source that you can markup, you can sell that product on ebay. This is what I tried out with my son for 1 year, it was fun…

I would like to try the suggestion “Buy Vending Machines and grow as you start making more money.” that you list above with my son some day.

Great list!


Sandy L February 8, 2011 at 6:31 PM

Money Reasons – you’re right. There is a whole gaggle of people around here who troll yard sales with their iphones to see how much the yard sale books and electronics are selling on amazon or ebay. Good Add.


Little House February 8, 2011 at 1:35 PM

These are all great ideas. I’d also add be a tutor for the younger generation or a driver for the folks in your community who have given up driving.

I personally love the idea of owning a bike rental business in a tourist community. Or give bike tours. Ooohhh… you have me thinking!


Sandy L February 8, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Little House – Duh. I was a math tutor in college. I don’t know how I missed that one. Bike Tours…well be prepared for having a lot of people who don’t know what they are doing. Usually experienced bikers can do their own thing, it’s the novices that need the help.


Lindy Mint February 8, 2011 at 2:47 PM

These are great ideas. I recently found out that a co-worker of mine owns a few vending machines and makes bank on them. He only has to stock and service them twice a month! Something to consider.

I have a friend who was recently unemployed, so she started a concierge business for the elderly – driving them to appointments, going grocery shopping and the like.

It goes to show that if you really put your mind to it, there are many ways to make a buck with very little overhead.


Sandy L February 8, 2011 at 6:36 PM

Lindy – As I was researching for this article, I ran across a guy selling his vending machine business about an hour from me. The payback time for the equipment was less than a year. It really is easy money if you have good locations. I like your old lady taxi idea and it can also be coupled with the airport limo business.


Linda February 8, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Raising chickens in your backyard is pretty hot right now, and here in Chicago we’ve had two new businesses launch that cater to folks doing this. One is an urban chicken consultant: this person provides one-on-one help with common issues, help setting up a coop, teaching people how to do a health check on their chickens, etc. She’s raised poultry since she was a little girl, so her help is very practical.

The other business is chicken and pet supply home deliveries. The guy that started this business has done pretty well; costs for products are competitive with other stores and he delivers to your door with a minimum $20 order. I’ve ordered dog food from him and it’s nice not having to sling big bags of food around myself. Once I get chickens again, I’ll be ordering from him for food, bedding, etc.

When it comes to thinking up independent employment opportunities, my main concern is health care. Unless one qualifies for Medicare, isn’t this an issue? Or maybe I’m making too big of an issue of this in my mind. I’d love to work as an independent, but health care concerns hold me back.


Sandy L February 8, 2011 at 6:43 PM

Linda – yeah, I do have good benefits right now, but I still pay a small fortune out of pocket every month for health and life insurance (I don’t remember exactly but I think it’s around $600/mo for a family of 4). I’m not sure it would be a deal breaker for me as I already pay quite a bit with my “good” employer plan.

There is a guy around here who raises and mail orders birds. I’ve seen him at the post office before. I think they were doves. The number of niche industries out there is really amazing and inspiring.


101 Centavos February 8, 2011 at 9:26 PM

Here’s a story of entrepreneurship, fresh off the office grist mill. Son of a friend of a friend, 18 year old kid, drove up to Springfield to buy a snow blower, in advance of last week’s big storm in Oklahoma. Spent about $800 in gas, lodging and the cost of the blower. Made over $5000 clearing people’s driveways. Nice return on investment.


Sandy L February 9, 2011 at 4:42 AM

101 – I love stories like that.


Everyday Tips February 8, 2011 at 11:03 PM

Great ideas first gen!

I sell on Amazon for extra cash, and it is kind of fun too. My daughter tutors. Oh, I blog…

It seems like there are so many low start-up ways to make extra cash if you have some creativity and willingness to work! Babci could sell her special tomato stakes…


Sandy L February 9, 2011 at 4:44 AM

Everyday Tips – you love that tomato stake story don’t you. Babci just gives things away. I’m sure she’d give you a stake if you want one.


Laura February 9, 2011 at 6:07 AM

Some great ideas here! What a good idea to rent bikes/do bike tours if you live in a touristy area.

When we live in Portugal I like the idea of renting out a room, if we don’t go down the B&B route, through AirBnB. Not a start up career, but a little side hustle 🙂


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