July 14, 2010

Investigating Side jobs and Alternate Incomes

Over the 4th of July weekend I saw a relative of a relative who was at the lake with the rest of my family.  I'll call him Bob for the sake of this article.  As far as I know Bob doesn't have a traditional job.  I know he owns 1-2 rental properties but other than that I wasn't clear of how he made money.   I asked my Dad and he said that Bob had gotten licensed as a home inspector.   Plus I'd also heard that he made some additional money by parting out cars.   Bob has at least three sources of income.    The 3 'jobs' that Bob has are  very flexible and allow him to mostly set his own hours.  At the same time he has money coming from 3 directions.  So if business is poor in one area he can shift his efforts to another and he's not dependent on just one income source.

This seemed like a good setup to me.    Actually it sounded great to me.  I'd love to have financial freedom so that I had multiple sources of income so that I wasn't dependent primarily on a traditional day job.   I'd also like the flexibility of not working a standard 40 hour a week type job.   Looking at our finances right now my wife and I actually already have 3 different significant income streams.   My day job is our primary source of income but we also have money coming from our rental properties and my wife's home based business.   We also make a small amount of money from interest on our savings and a little money from this blog but neither of those two are very significant as a % of the whole.  

Currently our income sources and their rough % of total income are :
Day job salary - 85%
Rental property income - 7%
Wife's home business - 6%
Investment returns - 1%
Blogging - 1%

If I quit my day job then we would not be able to pay our bills on just our rental property and my wife's business.   If we used most of our savings to pay off a mortgage or two then we wouldn't be too far from squeaking by but we really wouldn't have enough to live very comfortably even after drastically slashing our spending.   So if I were to get to the position that Bob is in then I'd have to add more income sources.    If I could add 1-2 other solid income streams then we'd be a lot closer to being able to support ourselves without the salary of my day job.

I figured I'd brainstorm some ideas on other ways I could make income.   So here's my quick brainstorming list:

Other potential incomes
Computer repair and service
House painting
Selling things on ebay
Programming software
Writing novels
Writing and selling materials for games

I've done some of these things professionally and some I've done for fun.    Most of these things I've thought about doing for money over the past few years.   Looking at each a little closer...

Computer repair and service  : I've got professional experience doing computer service and I've worked over a decade as a technical support engineer for a fortune 500 company.  I have professional resume and skills in this area and its got solid demands.   I feel this business would give me a pretty good chance of making an income.   Pay on an hourly basis can be fairly good.  I see quotes from providers on Craigslist that are in the $30-100 / hr range.    I would probably have to train myself a little more to focus my skills on home computer repair and I would likely need to buy some materials.

House painting :  I've done a lot of home painting over the years both interior and exterior.   I'm a pretty competent painter.   Painting is seasonal and the hourly rates based on what I see on Craigslist is closer to $20/hr.   I would need to buy materials and get licensed as a contractor in my state.   I don't currently own a truck and it would be hard to run a house painting business without a truck so that is a major hurdle for this one.

Selling things on ebay : I have no experience selling things on ebay.  I've bought a lot of things on ebay but never sold anything.  The problem with this is I don't have a good idea on lucrative items to buy and sell.   I've got a couple ideas on things but I don't really think I'd be able to make a lot of money with them.   There shouldn't be much start up cost and this idea would be easy to add to my wifes home based business.

Programming software : I have a computer science degree and have written software in the past.  I've considered writing shareware for PCs or maybe even apps for iphone or ipad.   However while I have a degree in the area I don't have professional experience writing commercial level software.  This would be a lot of work and potentially zero pay off.

Writing books : This idea is more of a dream of mine that I've had for many years.   I like the idea of writing fiction and am interested in pursuing it.  I'm not trained in writing past high school English class and I don't think that getting a novel published would be an easy task.  However I might be able to pursue self publishing via Amazon.   Writing would be a lot of work and the pay off is unknown.

Creating materials for games : I've played role playing games off and on since I was a teen.  I also play board games.   There are a lot of accessory products for games that could be created and sold by an individual.   While this is a fun hobby for me I have no special experience or training in the field.  

Computer repair and home painting are most likely to pay well on an hourly basis.   The income potential for these isn't huge for a single individual but I could potentially make a living doing them.  On the other hand both would require some spending on capital and they aren't things I could do as flexibly on my own time.

Selling items on ebay has some potential for income though not likely a large income.   However it is something I could do flexibly with little initial out of pocket costs.

Creating software, writing books or creating gaming materials are all easily to do in my spare time with high flexibility but none of them have much assurance of paying off well.

Given that I currently have a day job with a good salary I don't plan  to pursue any moonlighting business ventures that would conflict with my day job or be too inflexible.   That rules out doing computer repair or house painting in any serious way for the time being.   If I'm going to pursue any of these then I will stick to the ones that are flexible and low cost for the moment.   Selling products on ebay seems to have the best potential to make money right away.   But it also wouldn't hurt to spend some spare time working on writing or preparing and educating myself  for independent computer repair work.

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