You've probably heard that self-employment is the best path to financial freedom. I started out believing that too. That was how my father made enough money to move my mom, sister and me out of a Bronx tenement and into a middle-class neighborhood. In addition, I've seen that most employers pay employees as little as they can get away with; some even replacing workers with interns and volunteers so that they can avoid the minimum-wage law.
Also, it helps to have the knack of acquiring things at very low cost, for example, convincing someone to let you share space for free. In addition, in a tiny business, there's no support structure: no IT department, no accounting dept. It's all on you, and if you hire people to do all that, it's difficult to net a decent income. That's especially so if you have to pay an individual not group rate for health insurance.
- Spacemaker: Clean out basements, garages, and attics and then install shelves and cabinets. Many people will pay serious money to convert a space from unusable to valuable.
- Run people's garage, yard, or estate sales for a percentage of the take.
- Tutor: Some make over $100 an hour, especially working with learning disabled or autism-spectrum students.
- Relationship ad coach: You help people create their dating website profile. That work is well-suited to counselor types who also could develop the ability to take photos that capture the person's essence.
- Fundraising auction planner: An auction can raise big bucks for a nonprofit but that's a complicated project, so nonprofits might gladly outsource it to you. Event-planner types could do well at it.
- Job agent: You help people land a job by making those initial inquiries that many job hunters hate. You're like the agents that represent performers and authors. Job requirement: You're good at cold-contacting.
- ·Class-project broker: Ask corporate and nonprofit managers if they have a project they'd like a classful of top MBA students to tackle. For example, if a company is planning to introduce a new product, each student in a marketing class could, instead of a term paper, develop a marketing plan for that product. To buy that much expertise would otherwise cost the company a fortune but you offer to have it done for, say, $10,000...all of which you get to keep. Then pitch instructors of a marketing course at prestigious universities: "Your students will get to do a project of real-world value and that they can put on their resume, unlike a term paper, which just goes into the ether." A cart at a busy bus or train station, at which you sell gifts such as scarves, ties, candy, flowers, or fancy soaps.
But what about high-tech businesses? Most people will more likely succeed in the businesses above. For example, countless people have tried to earn a living by creating an app. But for an app to sell, it must be and stay among the world's best because a Google search easily enables customers to find world-best apps, including those that may cost $0. In contrast, if you're, for example, selling flowers from a cart at a train station, they needn't be world-class. They just need to be good and the best at that station. And unlike with an app, you won't have to worry that a competitor at the station is selling flowers for $0.
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