Freelance this and freelance that. Everyone wants to have a four-hour work week, kick back on Pattaya beach with a SingHa beer, follow their passions and their passive income. How would you like to get paid a hundred dollars an hour for relatively easy work? There are some side hustles out there that pay this much, but they’re likely to be out of reach for most people, especially urban residents.
Right, here we go.
Side Gig #1
A colleague promised to show me something custom-made that he had been waiting two years for. That’s two years, twenty four months. Being a well-to-do individual fairly high up in the company, I figured that he have commissioned an oil portrait of the whole family, with perhaps a hand-carved gilt frame.
Nope. It was two ducks. Two saddle-back ducks on a driftwood log, preening and posing. His guy was a taxidermist. Worked through word-of-mouth, and basically worked when he wanted to. Four hundred bucks for a little over four hours worth of work. This guy is so good though (I’m taking my friend’s word for this) that he can afford to work whenever he feels like making some extra cash, say to finance a hunting or fishing trip.
Side Gig #2
Finding a person to work on my old boat motor was more trouble that I thought it would be. The choices were either to pay through the nose for a large dealership – and then wait several months for a slot in the schedule – or buy a new motor. I simply could not find a small engine mechanic that wanted to take the trouble an old 1969 60-hp Mercury. I finally was recommended to a friend of a friend, now retired, who agreed to take the work on. He did a fantastic job, costing me about $700 for about seven or eight hours worth of work. He actually wanted to charge me less, but I insisted on a hefty tip since he did it quick against a deadline. When I asked him if he wanted more gigs (I knew other people with boat motor issues), he graciously but forcefully declined. He had too much fishing and golfing to get to, and only worked on small motors when he wanted to.
Side Gig #3
Take your kids fishing for a good time of togetherness and catching bluegill and bass. If you want to catch some serious poundage, though, recommend a fishing guide. I took our boys a couple of years ago on a sortie fishing for big catfish on Lake Keystone. We had to cut our day short as lightning started flashing (and an aluminum boat on a body of water is not the best place to be), but we still ended up with 75 pounds of fish. Our guide ended up with a cool $300. I admit that four bucks a pound for fresh catfish is a little steep, but then again, we had a short day. Our guide is semi-retired. He does a few times a week, and takes off for the hotter summer months.
Side Gig #4
I have a good friend who is a gifted woodworker. Scratch that, he’s an artist whose canvas is cherry, walnut, oak, exotic hardwoods and bamboo laminates. He can make a rocking chair with hand-turned hardwood spindles or repair damaged antiques. Gorgeous stuff.
We once made a deal to fix a damaged door from the antique or vintage buffet/server we use in our entry way for shoe storage. As you can see from the picture, the hinge side was beyond repair, or at least, beyond my own limited carpentry skills.
Let’s-call-him-Bill took one look at a picture of the door , and immediately started spouting woodwork jargon “yup, it looks like quarter-sawn white oak from the south side of the tree, cut on the third phase of the new moon. We’ll make a rabbet and get her in on the bias, blah blah “.
I traded for a couple of containers of good ragu’ sauce (my own barter-worthy skill), and in no time at all Bill had the door repaired with a new oak stile, indistinguishable from the original. His time invested? About an hour. Actual market price quoted from a local wood shop? About $75.
Side Gig #5
Being a gunsmith is one of those side gigs that is just that, a side gig. A gunplumber is basically a specialized machinist. The good ones have a waiting list, and regularly turn away work. Those foolish enough to give it a go as a career usually end up taking a pizza delivery job for the great benefits. Still, even a moderately skilled and above all, dependable smith can quickly develop a clientele through word of mouth.
Side Gig #6
Should you have a good 30 or 40 hp tractor and a brush hog attachment, you may also have to fight off prospective customers with a stick. I know of a couple of folks that are brushhoggers on the side. For anywhere from $40 to $75 an hour, depending on the cost of diesel (and inclination to work that weekend), they’ll come out and mow your acreage. The main thing is being dependable. From what I’ve heard from other people with land that needs mowing, the biggest problem is finding people that will show up when they promise to.
Why Most of Us Can’t Do This
So back to the premise of the title, that most of us are not qualified to do these side gigs. We’re not. Taxidermy, gunsmithing and especially woodworking require a special aptitude and years of practice to reach a reasonable skill level.
To be a good fishing guide likewise takes years of knowledge and experience, not to mention some specialized boating equipment. Tiny, our own catfishing guide, had some crazy mad skills at reading the $3,000 Hummingbird fish finder. He claimed he could actually distinguish catfish from other scaled fish by the “texture” of their color signature. I looked on the screen and all I could see was a bunch of colored dots.
The cool thing about a couple of these side hustles is how they’re targeted to wants. Waiting years for a pair of stuffed ducks is a serious want — one that I don’t get, but hey, it takes all kinds. Ordering a custom-made wood rocker is a want. Good fishing is definitely a want.
Getting a trigger job done on your pistol is need, a service, and probably the reason it doesn’t pay as well.
The last two, brushhoggers and small motor mechanic work could be defined as needs, but the capital cost and the scarcity of dependable people make these gigs highly sought after. These last two are actually not out of reach for many people. A good mid-size used tractor, attachments and trailer will set one back anywhere from $10 to $15 grand. Assuming weekend steady work through late spring and summer, not inconceivable that one could achieve a three year return on invested equipment. And driving a tractor doesn’t take years of practice. All one would need is a secure place to store it during the week. As for mechanic’s training, it’s not out of reach with a little schooling from a local vo-tech.
Readers, could anyone suggest other side work which are in high demand, are highly skilled, and where people actually turn down work? Thanks for reading and stopping by, and thanks in advance for subscribing via RSS Feed, Email or follow on Twitter.