Five Weird Ways to Make Money
Steve Gillman is one of those people. Drawing from his wide-ranging experience with weird jobs -- such as playing chess for profit, assembling muffler brackets and selling toys at flea markets -- and from research and interviews with innovative entrepreneurs, he compiled the book 101 Weird Ways to Make Money: Cricket Farming, Repossessing Cars, and Other Jobs with Big Upside and Not Much Competition.
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From quirky jobs that earn small profits to businesses that earn people millions, the ideas (along with tips on getting started and real-life examples) are divided into several chapters, including "Fun Ways to Make Money" and "Dirty and Ugly Jobs." Here's a sample of some of the unusual jobs Gillman describes:
1. Golf-Course Bird Remover
In one day, a Canada goose can eat 3 pounds of grass and leave behind a pound of potentially disease-carrying droppings. Killing birds that plague golf courses and other properties is widely prohibited, so scaring them off can be big business.
Income Potential: Companies offering this service determine a price based on factors such as property size and the concentration of geese. For example, a St. Louis company advertises a goose-hazing plan for a property with 100 geese and numerous ponds that costs $695 for the first month -- that includes five visits per week. You can also sell bird repellents and train bird-chasing dogs.
Getting Started: Search "goose control company" online for local businesses -- experience may help you start your own business, and some companies offer franchises.
Alternative Job: Golf-ball recoverer is another job to consider if you like being outdoors.
2. Maker of Unusual Jewelry
There's more than one way to make money off birds. Gillman describes a company that got a lot of press some years ago by collecting bird droppings, encasing them in acrylic and selling them as jewelry. Other unusual materials popular with jewelry makers include doll parts, nuts and bolts, and random found objects.
Income Potential: Gross profit margins can be good with jewelry because materials rarely cost more than a fraction of the price of the finished product. You have to invest in tools, but your profit per piece is largely a question of the expense of selling.
Getting Started: Buy a few basic tools and supplies, and start finding your creative niche. Then think about setting up a small Web site and using a service like PayPal to process payments.
Alternative Job: Aromatherapy candle maker is another job to consider if you like being creative.
3. Unreal-Estate Agent
People who love online games like Second Life spend real-world money on virtual products -- so you can profit by speculating in game-based real estate. In Second Life: The Official Guide, co-author Catherine Winters said that "many Second Life people make it a permanent side occupation."
Income Potential: Wired.com recently reported on a virtual castle that sold for more than $2,000 in real money. And gamer Ailin Graef made the cover of BusinessWeek as the first person to become a real-world millionaire through an online avatar's activities.
Getting Started: All you need are Internet access and a credit card. Many online role-playing games offer free registration, but you'll need a premium account to do business properly.
Alternative Job: Domain-name buyer and seller is another job to consider if you're into the Internet.
4. Pet-Taxi Driver
Today's pampered pets have busy owners who don't always have time to pick them up from the kennel, drop them at the vet's office or take them to the groomer. If you're willing to be on call as a driver for last-minute requests, you can build a career as a chauffeur for people's furry friends.
Income Potential: Rates vary in this business, but Gillman describes pricing schemes such as $15 per hour plus fuel surcharges, with a minimum charge of $10 or $15. This business works well with other animal-care businesses, such as pet sitting or dog walking.
Getting Started: A van or any large car can be used. Add a couple of cat carriers and dog cages, since not every owner will have them. Magnetic signs on the side of your vehicle can help market your business.
Alternative Job: Dog breeder is another job to consider if you love animals.
5. Antique-Treasure Hunter
Sites like eBay make it easy for anyone with a good eye or knowledge about a certain type of collectible to scour rummage sales, thrift stores and flea markets for treasures that can be sold online at a profit.
Income Potential: Gillman reports that people who make a full-time living from antique dealing say that, to make this profitable, you need to consistently sell items for six times more than what you pay for them. Selling online and in a small store is also something to consider.
Getting Started: Take pictures of intriguing items at thrift stores or rummage sales, then see how much those items sell for online. When you're certain you can make a profit, take the plunge.
Alternative Job: Home-based seller of used books is another job to consider if you like buying and selling things.