Recent posts out there on the blogosphere have gotten me to thinking. First Katy over at The Non-Consumer Advocate did a great post on how people are supplementing their incomes. There are tons of interesting ideas both in her post and in the comments section.
Then Candi over at Min Hus announced a YMOYL (Your Money or Your Life) book club... I highly recommend coming along for this ride especially if you've never read the book or done the program.
I am actually what you might call a YMOYL success story... although in truth I was fairly extreme in my frugality before I ever discovered the book. But the book really helped give me the nudge I needed. The basic program helps you figure out how to reduce your expenses and maximize your income, socking away money and working toward a time when you can retire and live off of the interest from your investments.
This is where my plan diverged a bit from the book. You see, the book was written in the 1990's and assumes that you can get 7-8% interest on your money... even the most recent info on their web page assumes 5.5%. But in today's economy... where the best you can hope for on a 30 year treasury is around 3%, and where essentials like health care cost WAY more than they did in the 1990's, I'm just not sure how reasonable it is to expect to be able to live off of interest.
I mean, even if you got your expenses down to about $12K/year (which is possible, but would certainly take some doing) you'd need at least 3 million dollars in treasuries... and that doesn't even account for paying taxes.
While I do have a good chunk of money socked away, it's NOTHING like 3 million dollars! And while I suppose it would be nice to be able to live off of interest, I'm just not sure I'd feel comfortable being so dependent on current interest rates, especially in today's economy.
So my plan involves making money without a job. Fortunately, since I've spent my entire adult life surrounded by hippies, artists, musicians and other free spirits, I've had many, MANY examples of how this can be done.
First of all, making ends meet without a job requires that you keep your expenses low. I'm not nearly as frugal as I could be, but I can get by quite comfortably on about $15-$20K annually. And once the mortgage gets paid off (which should be sometime next year) I'll need even less. So if you've gotta have $40-$50K just to pay your bills... you're gonna be fighting an uphill battle here.
But reducing expenses is a whole different topic, so for today, let's focus on the income side of the equation.
My current plan involves maintaining about a half a dozen web pages where I give away free graphics and photographs. I don't charge my users for the service, I just make money from ads on the sites. It really works for me because I enjoy graphic design and photography, and I'm enough of a geek to handle the technical side of all of it, including server management, php programming, SEO optimization and web/database page design.
But here's the thing... there are infinite ways to make money without a job, and this just happens to be something that fits my skill set and that I find to be really enjoyable. But I have seen people make money in all sorts of interesting ways, so here are some examples to further whet your whistle.
Now the most obvious way to earn money without employment is to become a consultant or contractor. This approach give you WAY more freedom than you have with a job, but it does require some skills in terms of managing clients etc. I've done a chunk of this sort of work... mostly as a computer programmer, but I know plenty of people who make their livings as grant writers, graphic designers, marketing consultants, database designers, geologists, piano tuners, financial consultants and pretty much any "professional" skill that you can think of.
But selling your services doesn't have to be limited to being a contractor who hires their services out to businesses. There are plenty of less "professional" skills that can be really valuable if you look at them the right way. Here are some examples...
I have one friend who ran a flower subscription service... she basically got fancy law firms, hotels and other businesses to pay her a monthly fee, and then she'd bring them fresh flowers for their lobbies each week.
I have had other friends who ran pet-sitting or dog walking businesses. And even one who was a "professional house sitter" for touring musicians - which allowed him to both make money and not have to maintain his own apartment.
Maybe you're a bicycling enthusiast. I've known several people who operated mobile bike services where they pick up your bike, take it to their garage or basement where they service it and then deliver it back to you when it's finished.
Are you a hipster who knows every cool hangout in town? I used to know a woman who made a living delivering fliers and hanging posters to every coffee house, bar and hangout in the area.
And then, of course, there are the musicians and artists. We're all familiar with the idea of musicians making money performing at concerts... but there are plenty of other ways for musicians to make ends meet. I've known musicians who made a living performing at funerals, or private parties, or at day care centers, or even just busking on the streets. And that doesn't even include the obvious one: music lessons.
But teaching doesn't have to be limited to music. I knew a woman once who hosted after school art classes in her garage, and I have another artist friend who hosts "painting soirees" where people with no artistic background pay $50 to come spend an evening in a guided painting session (which is more like a party) where they get to come home with a complete piece of art that they have created themselves.
And speaking of teaching... you can make money teaching people virtually ANY sort of skill. There are numerous community centers and free universities where you can sign up to host a class on virtually any topic, and if you don't want to go through an organization, you can always set something up on your own and teach people things in your back yard or living room.
If you're less sociable than that, you can always share your skills online and either charge people for the service or make money from internet ads like I do. The thing about internet ads, is that all you need is web traffic. So the sky is really the limit in this department. Perhaps you're a great cook... you could post your recipes online, or maybe you know how to refurbish antiques and could start a site with info on how to do that, or maybe you're a geek and have a pile of code snippets etc to give away.
Are you starting to get it? It's not about following some sort of program, it's about figuring out what skills you have and how you can make them work for you. I like taking photos... but I'm not real fond of dealing with people. But I have another photographer friend who just LOVES kids, so she started a business taking portraits of children & families. She's even got some tiny town in Alaska who loves her so much that they pay to fly her up there once a year to take portraits of everybody!
So what assets do you have that you might be able to make pay?
Maybe you're an empty nester with a bunch of extra space... how about renting out the basement or the spare room? Have a huge yard that takes forever to maintain? What about striking a deal with an apartment dweller who wants a garden. You could charge them for the space or even just work a swap for fresh vegetables. Are you a stay at home mom? How about running a small time day care or babysitting service?
Seriously folks, the list goes on and on. We haven't even touched on one of the more obvious money making ideas which is to sell stuff. I used to make a chunk of money selling used books through Amazon, eBay and Half.com... but there are infinite things to sell! Many of my musician friends pick up old damaged instruments, fix them up and sell them for a profit.
Maybe you're a fashion hound and know how to spot valuable stuff at the thrift stores that you can sell on Craigslist or eBay for a big profit. Or maybe you're the crafty sort who can make quilts, or clothes, or pottery, or who knows what! I've got a friend who makes stained glass, and she actually makes a chunk of money doing little stained glass light catchers for different breeds of dogs and cats. I even knew a fellow once who made a living as a bee keeper selling honey.
OK. I think you're getting my point here. There is really no limit to the things you can do to make money without a job.
But how do you make enough money, you might ask. Aside from keeping your expenses low, I think it's important to remember that small numbers add up, and you don't have to just do one thing.
I remember once when I was running the music school we had a stand up bass teacher, and at one point we just didn't have many students for her. I remember handing her a check for about $200 and apologizing that it was so small. But she said she didn't look at it that way. You make a few hundred bucks teaching, a few hundred gigging, a few hundred doing some studio work, a few hundred running sing-alongs at the library, a few hundred repairing instruments... and before you know it you've got several thousand dollars.
OK... so that's about it for my making money without a job brain dump. And these are just the things that people I know personally have done, or that came to mind while writing this post... there are literally zillions of other ways to earn some dough without having to become an employee.
So what about you? Do you support yourself without a job? How about making some money on the side? I'd love to hear your ideas on the whole concept of life beyond employment.