Darwin is the author of Darwin’s Money where he takes an evolutionary approach to money. In this rapidly changing world, there are always new opportunities to save money, make more money and expand your horizons.
If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly thinking about different business ideas and models that could work out. Through either addressing an unmet need or making something better or inventing the next Facebook, you could be deriving a nice side-income outside your routine day job and have an eventual payday down the road when you want to quit or move on to the next thing. I just watched The Social Network the other night and it put me in the mood to start thinking more about business startups again. I’ve split out a few ideas and ventures I’m involved in by “Old Economy” and “New Economy”. They can both earn you a handsome income and even turn into a full-time gig. The New Economy ventures tend to be more “Scalable” though.
Old Economy Side Businesses
Real Estate - This is one of the most common side-gigs people employ to diversify their assets and income. We all know someone who owns rental real estate somewhere. Some of my co-workers just own a single dwelling, while another friend of mine has blown up into multiple apartment complexes on a college campus. It’s worked out quite well for him since the competition is limited, price increases are virtually guaranteed and protected from recessions, and he pays a property management company to handle everything from tenants to repairs.
One of my financial regrets is that I’ve never gotten around to buying a rental property. I entertained it a few times, but always became distracted or it was a bad time. If something landed in my lap and I had the liquid cash, I’d consider it. For now, I’m focusing my time on some of the new economy ventures below.
MLM – You’ve probably heard the jokes about Amway, or you’ve been approached by a friend or co-worker with an “incredible business opportunity” to get in on the ground floor of a revolutionary new business model. This is called multi-level marketing where one sucker has to sign up more suckers beneath them in order to keep the pyramid going. In some cases, they’re actually selling something with some value, albeit at an inflated price (to pay associates and run money up the pyramid).
I’ve known probably a dozen people now that have joined the likes of ACN, ShopToEarn, Amway and other outfits. To date, none of them are active any more. The income dried up and I suspect they grew tired of harassing their friends and family to sign up for scammy conferences at the local Howard Johnson. We do have one friend who sells jewelry through Lia Sophia. She actually makes a few grand a month. She pretty much hosts shows every weekend and is constantly trying to sign new people up and book new shows. She works hhard at it – selling overpriced fake jewelry. I’d have to say she’s the only “success” story of the bunch. But she seems to be the exception rather than the rule. I dunno. I could never do it. If you have it in you to make selling a scammy product or service your life, then more power to ya. MLMs have been around for decades and they always will be. But like drug-dealers and musicians, there are millions chasing the big-time, but only a couple ever make it to the top.
You’ve Got Skills - Surely, over your lifetime you’ve accumulated some sort of trade or skills that could earn you extra money on the side, right? This could be anything from playing piano at weddings to photography to computer repair. This isn’t an optimal, scalable way to make money on the side since your income will ALWAYS be proportional to the amount of your personal time you spend on jobs. But if you need additional income, it’s a means to an end.
New Economy Side Businesses
Blogging – You’re Already Doing It! Just about everyone’s blogging these days. You might not even know it. By simply using your Facebook profile to share your opinions and life experiences, you’re micro-blogging. Sometimes, I see people using their Facebook profile to share tips and links like a Hot Groupon deal or pushing their scammy MLM business (argh). Now they’re monetizing. The next phase is what I do – blogging routinely via a formal blogging platform like WordPress. My blogs have led to some freelance gigs and now I have friends referring me to help others out with starting a website and SEO. See that progression? What might have seemed like a “nobody makes any money” boring blogging venture has fanned out into all sorts of additional income opportunities. My primary constraint really, is just time!
Outsourcing - With US costs at 5-10 times what developing world costing is for equivalent quality and talent, why would anyone pay US wages unless they really had to? Companies are moving more and more in this direction and the web has virtually guaranteed all services will eventually be sourced to the most efficient locale. The problems have often been time zones, poor quality, lack of visibility and complacency. But companies are under pressure now to continually reduce costs.
My friend and I recognized this need. He’s a Civil Engineer with a PE and I can run a site and attract traffic. He happens to have cousins overseas who actually do great CAD work (Computer Aided Design). So we brainstormed and came up with what we feel is a brilliant business model. We’ve started a CAD Outsourcing venture. Basically, instead of paying $50-$70 to a US-based engineer, simple CAD services can be sourced through our outfit for a fraction of the price – around $12 starting. Everyone wins! They get to work through a licenses professional engineer in the US to get the job quoted, we then send the info to our group of engineers in the Philippines, they do the work, we provide the content back tot he customer and everyone wins! The engineers are making more with us than they were at their old jobs, the US firms are paying a quarter or less for their services, and we collect the spread between our costs and income.
These same concepts could be applied to dozens of business ideas that are probably spinning around in your head right now.
What’s Your New Biz Venture?