Businesses Someone Else Should Start

Somehow, almost two years have passed since Best Husband and I quit our tech jobs and achieved FIRE. Lately, we’ve been more self employed than FIRE, which is a problem we need to fix. In 2016, we accidentally earned $90k working incredibly part time, an average of 50 hours/month between the two of us.

Strangely, it doesn’t feel very part time, due to what I’ll call mental overhead. Even when we’re not actively working on and billing hours toward a thing for a client or a friend, we still know we owe a thing to a client or friend. Even when we’re off the clock, it’s difficult to prevent ourselves from mulling and noodling on a problem we’re trying to solve.

Since we still have more work than we want, then, I figured I would pass on some ideas for businesses that someone else should start. The below are either things we’re asked to do as paid work, or work that we know others need and do not want to do ourselves, and very much in the spirit of Mr. Money Mustache’s 50 Jobs Over $50,000 series.

  1. Intelligent, grammatically robust PR work – Now. I have never done PR work and have no connections in this field but, apparently, this matters not. I abhor business speak, write clearly, and can spell, and this is more than enough for many businesses. If this sounds like you, for the love of God, open a PR agency (or just start a side gig) and watch your business grow and grow and grow.

    Former colleagues, clients, and friends will send me something a PR agency wrote about their company, product, book, etc. with messages such as: “The one pager the PR people created is attached and will make you throw up in your mouth a little. PLEASE help!” and “The grammar on this is horrible, but I care so much less about the grammar than it just sounding like SOMEONE who understands computers POSSIBLY wrote it.”

    If you can write jargon-free marketing material that manages not to sound like every other terrible press release out there, go forth and be rich.

  2. Ghostwriting – This is a service in which people who either cannot, do not like to, or or do not have time to write something like a book, or even Medium posts, hire and pay someone else to do it for them. The writing is then published under that person’s name.

    Again, as an engineering director, this is not a skill I ever claimed to have or a service I ever claimed to provide, but just sort of happened because I write well enough. I was doing some technical writing for a client and, because I was already there, the client asked if I could ghostwrite a few blog posts. And then the client’s friends asked about “that amazing post on Medium” and the client gave that person my name, and it grew, and grew.

    Now, you could try to do Intelligent PR (feel free to name your business that, too) and ghostwriting, but I believe you will soon be too busy to do both. Best have a contractor lined up.

  3. Agricultural labor of various types: I did not grow up on a farm but my husband did and there are all sorts of outdoor agriculture jobs that need doing and pay a lot more than you might expect. Some of these may be specific to California, but I know for a fact that some of them are not. If you want a side gig to reach FIRE sooner, or are just sick to death of sitting in an office, you should consider some of these.

    A friend of ours also achieved FIRE about two years ago, and word of his hobby of fruit tree pruning and grafting has gotten around. He cannot keep up with demand. Apparently, all sorts of people need this, including people who are moving and want to take parts of the old house or farm with them. He says he could have another business devoted entirely to helping people identify what’s growing in their gardens, labeling it, and telling them how to take care of it. 

    Some friends-of-friends do what’s called contract grazing. They take their sheep to vineyards and orchards to graze weeds down (without more expensive use of mowers, fuel, and humans) and manage fire risk. They do not advertise, add 1,000 sheep/year, and turn down work. Everyone from wealthy folks with large acreage to park districts to farmers wants their services. There are infrastructure costs involved, like livestock trailers and animal shelter, but I believe you could easily start small, with just a few sheep. If you already have a big truck and like livestock, think about it.

    The same friends-of-friends tell us there is a serious shortage of people who shear sheep (they claim to know a woman who quit her day job to shear sheep, as she got 2-4 calls per day without advertising); even fewer people who shear alpacas and llamas; fewer people who trim the hooves of cattle and horses; and fewer people still who can shoe horses (farriers). These are all skilled trades, but achievable with limited, focused training and practice.

    4. Checking in on elders whose kids live out of town. This is a booming side gig and full-time job. There is a whole demographic of people who left home to attend college and grad school, and live elsewhere and make decent amounts of money. They live far away and cannot check in on their parents and/or grandparents as much as they’d like, but they are happy to pay someone else to do so.

    My dad knows a few retired men who do this, in their 60s. Some of them are Vietnam Vets. They, in particular, are very popular with elderly men (some of whom are also Vets). They chat and help out with whatever needs doing: errands, straightening up the house, etc.

    Also, there are terrible options for the delivery of nutritious, homemade food for seniors. If you can do this and do it well, at a reasonable price point, I think you could be very wealthy indeed. We tried to find decent options for my grandparents and none of them were very good at all.

    5. Maintaining grave sites. I could not make it up if I tried. I know a woman who became popular at doing this through a church community and, a few months later, was getting referrals from cemeteries themselves. Many people are elderly and cannot easily travel to or maintain the cemetery sites of loved ones themselves, and/or loved ones live far away and cannot do it themselves. You find out what dates are important to people and how much they want to spend on arrangements, make it happen, and send them photos to confirm. Even a lot of elderly folks have a way to get digital photos these days.