Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How to Make a Living Without a Job

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 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.
One time when I was running a rummage sale for the music school a fellow came by with a huge truck and offered to haul away all of the leftovers. He made a living selling things on eBay and online, and many people were very happy to give him their garage or rummage sale leftovers for free if he'd haul it all away.

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.


  1. Replies
    1. That's sort of a scary thought actually... lazy ass woman inspires others to follow in her lazy footsteps...

      Seriously though, it actually makes me very happy to think that my blatherings might actually help someone.

  2. Cat - Thanks so much for the shout out! Maybe we'll get a crowd now!

    I have to say, whenever you mention your websites my nosiness alarm goes off. I totally understand why you wouldn't want to be specific though.

    I've made $200 over the last couple months doing some editing on the side. It wasn't anything I tried for, someone just asked if I could (it relates to the 8to5 gig). But I still feel like I'd have a hard time making enough to live on with freelance work. But maybe I need to stop thinking and just start doing and see what happens because I took Monday and Tuesday off and it was such heaven!!

    1. I am curious about the prevalence of images from

    2. Ha! No no, icanhazcheesburger is a HUGE site and that sort of thing would be WAY more work than I'm up for. I actually have some friends who have a site similar to the cheezburger site, it allows people to upload their own photos into cute little frames.

      They've been very successful... depending on how you define success. They have hundreds of servers, and have to have a bunch of employees just to keep it all running. So they're working their rear ends off and constantly stressing about this or that. NOT my idea of fun!

      I think you have to be careful lest your money making activities turn into a real job!

      Anyhow, here's one of my sites if you're curious:

      It was something I started during the MySpace craze... which is now over. But it still gets enough traffic to contribute a respectable chunk to my bottom line.

    3. AND... more to the point, Candi, I totally think you should explore the freelance stuff! I did all sorts of money making things on the side before I left the music school. I put all the extra money into savings and even though it made me WAY busier than I wanted to be, it really started helping me see how quitting my "day job" (which actually wasn't really a "day" job since we were open in the afternoons and evenings... but you know what I mean) might be possible.

  3. Cat, this post makes me feel so hopeful. My horrible marketing job has seemed especially horrible lately, and I realized on Friday when I played hooky and went for a hike how much it gets me down. My expenses are pretty low except for rent (hello, Silicon Valley!) and pottery...I think what I have more trouble with is not having a career and the stability (real health insurance, retirement fund) that comes with it. My family is very achievement oriented, and I'm painfully aware that I'm the black sheep. Still, I've been talking to my pottery teacher and wondering if I could swing a life filled with pottery and freelance writing.

    1. I totally hear you. My family still thinks that my life ended at the point I decided not to go to graduate school! My life got lots easier when I finally decided that I didn't care what they thought.

      But here's the thing... so much of that "stability" really isn't all that stable these days. I mean look at all the people who had pensions that literally vanished over night! And health insurance... well, I pay about $250/month through Kaiser, but it could be cheaper if I went with a bigger deductible plan... plus, I think the new health care law should make it at least a little easier within the next 5 years or so. And when you're self employed, you never have to worry about being laid off!

      But maybe you could start by just trying to make enough money through pottery to pay for your pottery "habit". That's basically what I did with one of my sites. I really wanted to buy a digital SLR camera, but had a hard time justifying the expense. So I started a "stock photography" site with the goal of making enough money to pay for the camera. I think it cost me about $500 for the camera, and it probably took 9 months to make that much from the site. But now that site is making about $500/month! Plus, if I decide to go out and buy a macro or telephoto lens (oh... how I want both) I can write them off as business expenses!

      And I bet you have amassed lots of marketing skills through your "real job" that you could put to work marketing your pottery or your skills as a writer...

  4. I've thought a lot about this lately! I do some pet-sitting on the side (which makes decent money...even better if the dog stays with us--no gas money!). However, when I've bought & re-sold items or had ads on another site, that's when the mental moral police stepped in. As for the re-selling of items, my brain could not grapple with it..."I got a bargain, but am now being skeevy and reselling to some schmuck for a lot more than what I paid for an item I didn't even need." If I actually had talent in fixing things, I don't think I would feel the same way, but just buying and re-selling makes my ick radar go off. As for advertising, it's again the ick radar going off..."Why would I willingly accept money advertising products I disagree with?!" How do you get around these things? Making some extra income would be fantastic (I'm drooling over DSLR's and a macro lens), but I also 1. don't want to compromise my morals and 2. hate asking friends for money on something I don't feel trained enough to teach. Thoughts?

    1. Hmmm... well I think there are different ways to look at it.

      When I used to sell used books online, I always set my price lower than everybody else... this was partially because they sold better, and partly because I just didn't see the need to try to "make a killing." And much of what I sold were books that were out of print, so people were generally thrilled to find a copy, and I actually felt like I was providing a valuable service.

      I think the same can be said for most re-sale things. You're providing a service by spending your time scouring the thrift stores in search of xyz item. So part of what the customer is paying for is the item, but partly it's your time in finding it. I mean think about it... how many hours would a person have to spend in order to find an xyz at a garage or thrift store?

      I totally understand the yuck factor when it comes to ads, but while there are plenty of ads for stuff that people don't really need, there are also ads for sites providing services and things that really are useful to my users. I've actually found some pretty valuable information through internet ads, and I even take out internet ads for some of my sites... come here and get free photos!

      I guess when it comes down to it, I don't believe advertising per se to be evil, it's just the massive "you're no good unless you buy our crap" stuff that bugs me. So I suppose you can look at it different ways. Plus, depending on your ad network, you can block any ads that you really have problems with.

      The other thing is, I figure that I'm providing a pretty valuable service by giving people free photos and graphics. I could ask them to pay for it instead... and there are plenty of sites that do that, but I just haven't wanted to "go there." I mean I guess it's like television. You get free entertainment, but you have to put up with some annoying ads too.

      In terms of asking for money when you're not an expert... well this is at least part of why I give my stuff away for free. But you shouldn't sell yourself short either. I mean I sort of take a dim view of the many "experts" that I see out there. And you don't have to market yourself as something you're not. If you don't feel like an expert, try charging half the going rate and being completely up front about your experience or lack thereof.

      OK... hope there's something useful in all that blathering!

    2. I agree with EcoCatLady, your time is worth something, so you should not feel at all guilty about profiting from things you re-sell.

      I'm consigning a lot of household items right now, just to get rid of clutter and excess around my house. Sometimes I don't have quite enough items of my own to justify making an appointment with the consigner, so I'll find decent things at thrift to round it out and meet the minimum. I typically make a decent profit on those items. It's sort of a prerequisite to being able to do business, so it doesn't bother me in the slightest!

      I'm a big fan of the "folk school" mentality. People have been doing great creative work for years, for which they're never compensated. There are more experts out there than you know! Give yourself more credit.

    3. I see your point, but isn't the person still spending a lot of time searching for that item you purchased? Thus I wonder if it's really a service to someone. I also have concerns that re-selling something because it's "worth more" just adds to all this consumerist BS. I feel like if we give into the idea that items hold this insane value, aren't we just taking advantage of it rather than trying to make a difference? Should an old record really cost $40 or $2? Things have the monetary value they do because we buy into it. Knowing that I would be doing that and making someone else do that by re-selling just is too icky for me. Thus the dilemma (even though I know it can bring in good a $3 Le Sportsac bag that sold for over $26 on Ebay). I figure if I wouldn't gauge a friend, then I shouldn't gauge a stranger. I guess the whole "do unto others" thing just plays in the back of my mind. LOL sorry for my long morality rant...I've been thinking about this a lot lately lol!

    4. Megyn,

      I totally get where you're coming from, and it may be that re-selling is just not your thing. I tend to agree that a lot of what gives things "value" is something absurd like the brand name. Personally, this whole area is one that I am so out of touch with that I really wouldn't have a clue (I've never heard of Le Sportsac).

      But on some level I think you have to look at things in terms of practical realities, and "relative damage" if you know what I mean. I bump up against "moral" issues day in and day out... Should I buy the $.39/pound cheap chicken or the $6.99/pound organic variety? And while I try to be "part of the solution" as much as possible, I also have to look at the relative impact of my decisions.

      For example... in order to be able to afford to buy the $6.99/pound chicken (and all other expensive but "better" options) I would need a lot more money than I currently have (and I'd also have to drive across town to get it as opposed to walking a few blocks to my corner store). In order to get more money, I'd probably have to go out and get a job. That job would certainly entail being part of the "capitalist machine"... I'd have to buy work appropriate clothing, I'd have to commute to and from work, I'd be using resources at work, I'd be an active participant in whatever the business at hand was selling.

      I mean it's great to want to change the world... and I DO want to change the world. But to live completely outside the system really isn't possible in this day and age. And if you hold yourself to an impossible standard, you're really only going to succeed in making your life miserable. I think one could make the argument that the Prius driving, all local organic vegan eating, solar voltaic owning, natural product buying greenie might actually have a bigger impact than someone living a smaller, cheaper life. And I think the same holds true for being part of the capitalist machine. That's my take anyhow.

    5. I totally see what you're saying! I like to call this the moral hierarchy. While re-selling items may be high on my morality hierarchy, it may fall way lower on someone else's. I think it's hard because on some level we want people to adhere to our important values, but the truth is we all come with different sets of values...making things like this different. I think you make a great point that this may just not be for me, but can be okay for another. Just like how I buy more packaged foods than I *should* because of convenience (and the kids will ACTUALLY eat...important with a very underweight kiddo). The Zero Waste Home would scoff at that, but that area of my morality hierarchy falls much lower. If only we could just all be perfect for one another, sheesh! ;)

  5. This is some great information... thanks for sharing! (And the 'hedge fund'... so cute!)

    1. I know... soooo adorable. I've actually never seen a hedge hog and had no idea they were so tiny! Glad you found something useful in my blathering!

    2. Grown-up hedgehogs are much bigger, that one's a baby. I guess they're about the same size as a squirrel. We see them trundling around our driveway sometimes, but I never can persuade them to come into the garden and eat all the slugs.

      In all this interesting discussion, this is the only point where I can think of something worth saying!

    3. Actually, that's interesting. I was under the impression that a hedgehog was some sort of exotic creature found in the wilds of Africa or something... I had no idea it was something one could find trundling around in the garden!

  6. Really cool post... it's got me thinking. And thanks for pointing out the limitations of YMOYL in light of current realities -- especially the cost of health care.

    I'm a CPA (even though I work for a private company now), but will probably always have options to help people with taxes or work seasonally for a small firm. But the rub for me is the whole issue of client management -- BLECH! I'm not sure how much patience I'd have with people who show up on my doorstep with receipts in a shoebox, if you know what I mean. The tax preparer now takes on a great deal more liability than they did a few years ago, and so having clients who are forthcoming and organized is a bigger deal.

    But, I have other skills -- cooking, gardening, landscaping... and anyone can run errands! As society ages I think there will be more of a need for personal assistant people who can do shopping and errands for people -- especially when children and family live at a distance. Believe it or not, there are still people who do not want to buy stuff online and want to pay cash for everything.

    My retired mother (former elementary school teacher) is not trained as a designer, but has some talent in the area. She got connected with a local realtor and helps people "stage" their houses for resale and gets paid by the job.

    I've sold thousands of dollars of books and CDs online. I'm merely partially recovering my investment, but it's been a good way to declutter and has broken me of my book purchasing habit (I now largely use the library). I've also had good luck consigning household items and from time to time find things at thrift stores that I can make a profit on, but that's not really my focus.

    I will say that when you're in the mode of getting rid of your excess it does reap other benefits. I'm MUCH less likely to acquire new things, because I'm often reminded of how much I have that I don't need.

    I don't live a life of extreme frugality (we still like to travel abroad, which costs a bit), but we pretty much manage to live on one income and sock the rest away for retirement and to have a healthy "buffer." My husband's 9 years older than I am, so we're figuring out how his early retirement might be possible in about 10 years, and how I can transition to a much less stressful job. I don't have that answer yet, but we feel better saving a lot in the meantime.

    1. Hey Janeen,

      I totally understand the desire to avoid "client management." I went through one or two really ugly experiences back when I was doing computer programming as a consultant. But I wonder if there isn't some way to make those skills work for you in a different way... like offering a class on basic tax skills or something like that. I wonder what sort of legal issues you might bump into.

      But I think you make a really good point that you don't necessarily need a bunch of skills to be valuable. And congratulations on living on one income... having that money socked away will give you sooooo much freedom and peace of mind!

  7. Fascinating post, however, I have absolutely no marketable skills/telents & I hate paperwork. About the only thing I could come up with is tutoring kids in math & science.

    I can't imagine having to keep track of my income & report it to the IRS. And at 62, I'm looking forward to retiring PERIOD. Hopefully all of my debts - except the mortgage - will be paid off in the next couple of years & I'll be able to live on next to nothing. Sorry, I"m definitely feeling tired, worn out & generally crappy today. I admire your energy & creativity.

    1. Ha! Well if you're that close to retirement then I'd agree there's not much point... and I had to chuckle at the idea that this is born out of energy and creativity... to me it's always seemed more like lazy rebelliousness!

      But I scoff at the notion that you have no marketable skills! Pet-sitting anyone?

    2. p.s. Doing your own taxes isn't nearly as daunting as it seems. The schedule C is just another form with its own set of instructions... plus you get to write off WAY more stuff than you ever could as an employee! Making quarterly payments is a pain in the ass though, I'll give you that!

  8. I guess I've been trying follow a similar lifestyle as yours, although I'm not doing so well with it. I manage to keep my expenses at about $1000/month, but I don't own a home or have health insurance. Although I consider myself to very quite frugal (with a decent, healthy lifestyle), I still have to come up with that $1000 every month. I quit my "professional" job 5 years ago and tried being a self-employed carpenter and painter. For the last 2 1/2 years I've been a self-employed baby and pet sitter. I enjoy the flexibility and freedom of being self-employed, but babysitting is HARD work. Its not at all satisfying being a 30-year-old babysitter; its quite pathetic, really. Petsitting in this area pays crap compared to Maine, plus its more time, energy, and responsibility than one would imagine. So, in other words, I don't feel like I'm making money without a job. I definitely have a job and it sucks.

    I don't know what else I could do in order to continue living my alternative, "jobless" lifestyle. I don't socialize well, I hate self-promotion, and I can't think of any skills that I have that are marketable. Any ideas (other than ditching it all and living under an over-pass)?

    1. Ha! Well, the overpass doesn't sound like a very good plan!

      You know, one of the things reading YMOYL taught me was the importance of having money in the bank. In a funny way the "earn to save" paradigm sort of gave me a reason to value my earning potential where the whole "earn to spend" dynamic never did. So I guess my first suggestion would be to try to build up a nest egg if you don't already have one.

      In terms of how to do that... well... here are a few thoughts...

      For several years right out of college, I spent my summers working at a summer camp. It worked really well for me at the time because it was a 3 month commitment, but it included all room and board. So I basically had no living expenses while I was there, which allowed me to save the entire stipend. I think I generally left with a few thousand bucks in my pocket, which really gave me a cushion throughout the rest of the year, and allowed me to actually save some money at a time in my life when I otherwise wouldn't have been able to.

      There are plenty of other types of seasonal employment... I've got friends who work on the ski patrol or for the park service... or even for the post office at Christmas. I even spent a week as a "helper" grading ACT tests - which basically meant that I carried stacks of papers around for a week, but I left with about a thousand bucks in my pocket. I'm sure there are other sorts of short term things that might allow you to earn a chunk of money without having to sell your soul to the 9 to 5 world.

      I've also thought that landing some sort of a caretaker gig would be a great option for someone with some sort of carpentry skills. Maybe you could find someone who had a summer house or a winter ski place and wanted somebody to live there during the off season to do upkeep etc. Live-in positions like that can really give you a leg up because you get both money and free rent, which allows you to save more. I suppose you could always try out a live-in nanny position for a while, although that sort of sounds like hell on earth to me.

      You also might want to consider looking into getting some sort of certification(s) that would allow you to make better money when you do work. I'm thinking of things like EMT certification, which would make it really easy to land a gig in any sort of outdoors/camp/guide kind of setting, or maybe electrical or plumbing since you seem to like that sort of thing.

      I recently had a door replaced on my house, and decided to hire out the work because... well... I figured I could probably do it, but I wasn't sure I could do it in one day, and I REALLY didn't like the idea of not having a door on the house for a few days while I figured it out. Anyhow, there are new federal regulations in place now that stipulate that all contractors must test for lead based paint, and if they find it, there are all sorts of rules they have to follow. Soooo, they found lead paint and therefore had to have one of the installers who was "lead paint certified" come and do the work (which cost about $300 more than it otherwise would have.) Anyhow, my point is that I'm sure there are all sorts of little certifications and things like that which wouldn't be too costly or difficult to acquire, but which would up your earning potential significantly.

      OK, I'll stop blathering now. I hope something in there helps!


    2. Just thought of another one... I had a friend who spent one summer working as an intern on an organic farm. I believe it included room & board as well as a stipend. Anyhow, here's a web page that lists thousands of farm internships:

  9. Thanks for the brainstorming, Cat! I live with my partner, who is trying to establish his own business (he also works from home), so moving around wouldn't really work for us. I'd be neat to make money from the internet like you do. More brainstorming is in order for me... Especially now that the woman that I nanny for is on maternity leave and I'm pretty much out of work. If only I got paid to play KenKen and exercise. I'd be rich!

    1. Ha! Sorry... I sort of got carried away on the live-in options brainstorm.

      Maybe you could get certified as a personal trainer?

      I personally LOVE my internet ads system. You could always start by activating ads on your blog. It probably wouldn't earn a bunch of money, but it would be a good way to learn about it.

      When I first started, I just set up a random web page and filled it with anything and everything I could think of. And most of the other web pages I've started have been off shoots from there... I basically built on the things that worked and ignored the rest. I still have that first web page, and to be honest, I haven't even looked at it in years, but it still earns about $10/month. Nothing to write home about, but every little bit helps!

  10. So, I'm sitting at my desk in my office at 10:30 on a Tuesday night, after having also ben in several hours on Sunday and working long days. It's not really working for me and as you can see that's eating away at my productivity, hence, me finding your blog. I've got the corner office and over 20 people report to me, and somehow I never manage to save enough $$ and I think I'm (subconsciously? Semi consciously?) punishing myself for not doing work I care about. Amazing to be here and want nothing but OUT. I thought I'd suck it up for 5 more years and downshift into semi retirement, but I'm not going to make it 5 years, with all these 50+ hour weeks. I'm not sure how to do it, but I'm trying to plan the leap. Thanks for a useful and inspiring blog with WAAAAYYYY to many awesome pics. You can just call me . . . . future petsitter (I do have some real niche skills there, I know how to do subQ fluids for cats with kidney failure and test diabetic pets blood sugar and administer insulin . . . so I think these skills might help me carve a special niche. I hope)

    1. You have my deepest sympathies on the job thing... My advice is don't jump without a plan, but start making a plan! Pet sitting on the side would be a much better use of your time than being chained to your desk weekends and evenings.

      I'm sure your special kitty nursing skills would give you a niche market, but I'm also sad that you've had to develop those skills because it probably means you've had some sick kitties, and the thought of sick kitties just makes me sad. :(

  11. When I was in my late 20s I was a single mother. Friends loved how I had fixed up my apartment and began to ask me for advice, it was something I could take my children with me to do and I loved the little extra money I earned from these jobs. My sister found out what I was doing and complained about how her apartment was so plain but she couldn't afford to do any thing with it. I knew it only needed a few touches and told her I could redo her entire apartment for less than $50. She dared me to prove it and make it a Christmas present.

    The whole job came in under $50 and she loved it. Her friends began to ask who did her place and I got more business.

    As time went on, I joined the rat race to support my children better and hated every minute of it. I missed the decorating but with a disability I figured I could no longer do this. I was so wrong.

    I moved into a studio apartment last year and fixed up the apartment with free finds and my own art pieces, neighbors , and their friends, noticed and wanted help with their apartments. For places I can't get into they send me pictures and I help them to do the job themselves. Others help me to physically get up the stairs or tackle other obstacles.

    I don't make a lot, but then I don't need a lot having reduced my total expenses to just under $600 per month. I enjoy the new challenges and the ability to make my own hours.

    I don't work for wealthy people who can afford a professional, that never attracted me, I do jobs for people who want to live simpler and want to use as much free or inexpensive items in their designs. I pick up discarded items (yep, dumpster diving), yard sales, consignment shops,and more then work them into my designs.

    I also pick up things left at the curb that need some loving care, I restore them outside my front door. I have no use for these other than to keep them out of the landfills, but it never ceases to amaze me how I will have someone offering me a few dollars to buy the item before it's even finished.

    Using my self-taught decorating skills this year I won't be spending money on my adult children for Christmas, instead I will be updating my one son's kitchen for him and his wife and my oldest son has asked me to redo his children's bedrooms in their new home. I see it as a win-win. I get to do something creative, keep physically active, not have the time to get frustrated with my recent limitations, and I have the free time to give of myself for my children. My children are thankful for my assistance and make themselves available for any thing I need a little help with.

    With my time being my own, I live stress free and therefore have an appreciation for doing things slower, as a result, my 3 year old grand children have asked to help paint, sand, garden...I enjoy letting them assist and surprisingly they are very talented with a paint brush.

    Until a year ago I had given up on my dream of having a decorating career because of my limitations, but when you have something to offer another that they can't do for themselves they will gladly work with you to accomplish the task.

    1. That is such an utterly fabulous story, and so inspiring. You are my hero! I especially LOVE how you're finding ways to work around your physical limitations. The truth is that we've ALL got limitations, some just aren't as visible as others. And my experience is that once people understand, they're really willing to work with you on it.

      Me, for example... My job at the music school often involved social gatherings, meetings and receptions where we were supposed to "wine and dine" potential donors. With all of my food allergies, it was a real challenge. I finally learned that I just had to eat before I went and then act like I was on some sort of a crazy diet!

      CatMan has some pretty significant physical limitations as well. He was in a serious mountaineering accident eons ago which left him with back and neck problems as well as some nerve damage. He thought his career was pretty much over (he's an engineer) because he couldn't travel, can't bend over, has to have special chairs etc. He finally found a company that really needed his specific skill set so he works as a contractor for them. They actually come to his house for meetings and have made all sorts of accommodations for him.

      I think once you broaden your definition of "work" all sorts of doors open up, and things that seem impossible in the world of "let's all cram ourselves into society's pre-made mold" suddenly become very doable.

    2. How funny that your mentioned everyone having limitations, that was exactly what I told my children when they were little and asked questions. I feel I have been very fortunate in some ways as I was born with this so had my whole life to sort of know what was in store for me down the road. Although, not really. What doctors told me and my family never came true, I was told I would be dead by age 14, and here I am at 49 so it's all new territory!. When I turned 40 my boys decided to celebrate with all kinds of jokes about being over the hill.

      I can't imagine what CatMan has had to go through, I think it's harder to suddenly find yourself trying to live with a whole new set of limitations you had never imagined you would need to face.

    3. Well, I dunno. I don't really think one can draw comparisons with this sort of thing. I can't imagine being told I would only live to be 14.

      But I do know that CatMan is a daily source of inspiration for me. The man can barely walk, yet with a few modifications to his bicycle he's able to ride me into the ground. I think it's a real lesson in celebrating what you do have, rather than bemoaning what you don't.

  12. I'm what I call a "covert hippie" (I still work for The Man). I have a basically finished website (just need to flush it out) with some ads, but my domain name expired b/c I kindof gave up on it ever bringing in revenue. Practically speaking, how much money per month does your most successful website bring in? Your least successful? Thanks for being an awesome guide in this area.

    1. Hi Peggy,

      Well, in its heyday I had a site that brought in nearly $10,000 per month, and I have other sites that sometimes struggle to bring in even a dollar. It totally depends on how much traffic you get, which in turn is dependent on how much content you've got, and how you're ranked in various search engines etc. In my experience you sorta just have to try a bunch of things and when you find something that starts to work, go in the direction of what's working.

      Best of luck in your endeavors!

  13. I am trying really really hard to make a living without getting a real job! I crochet and sell on etsy but no one buys my stuff :( I also sell antiques at antique faires. I pick things up at yard sales and estate sales and then take all of it to the Antique Faire. I have never felt sleezy about making a profit on it, like a previous poster. I spend every weekend going to sales, scouring through people's stuff to find a great piece to sell. If everyone wanted super cheap prices they would do what I do. But sometimes people are willing to pay more for convenience.

    I'm thinking of starting a worm farm and selling honey. I live on a pretty large piece of property so I might be able to swing those things.

    Thanks for all of your suggestions on how to not have a job!

    1. I think that hand-crafts like crochet are often difficult to make money on because the materials are so expensive to begin with, plus we live in a society that's inundated with such cheap goods that it's hard to find people who value the time and energy that went into making it by hand. But have you considered teaching crochet classes or something like that?

      I LOVE the worms and honey ideas! I know a fellow who used to support himself completely by raising bees and selling honey until his bee colony collapsed. Of course, he does live on only about $2K/year so it didn't take much. But I think there really is a big market for local honey because some people think it helps allergies, plus the world really does need more bees.

  14. Great tips! Living without a job really depends on how much your expenses are monthly like you mentioned. These days in the US people can't even live with a job. The best idea is to keep a job and have a passive income on the side such as blogging. Yes, you will still need to keep your expenses down monthly and say hi to frugality.

  15. Hi EcoCat! I went searching all around your blog for more info on how you escaped the Rat Race...just love, love, love this post (and all the comments!) Fascinating reading and so much creativity and energy (no matter what you say about lazy-inspiration!!) Thank you, just wonderful to read.

    1. Awwww... what a nice comment. In fact, I sorta needed this inspiration today as I'm sitting here fighting with a custom Wordpress theme that I'm trying to write. :-)


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