Editor's note: Excerpted from Keep Your Paycheck, Live Your Passion. Copyright (c) 2005. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Adams Media.
If you lie awake at night racking your brain for a fall-back plan or second-income generator, find a movement, trend or something that works in a big way, and then drum up a way to tweak it for a specialized audience. The key to turning a unique idea, skill or talent into a steady side gig is to pay attention in life--ideas are all around you.
For example, more women are looking for ways to get out of the house. Hosting book club, wine-tasting, jewelry or lingerie parties are just a few fun activities with moneymaking potential.
Or how about teaching a new, high-tech, or specific skill? Almost everyone has a piece of knowledge that they can sell to someone else. Community continuing education centers are great outlets for you to market your expertise.
Here are some more ideas for where to look as you try to find the niche that suits you best:
Personal services. Can you save someone else time? Running errands for seniors, preparing someone's tax returns or walking your neighbors' dogs are examples of valuable services to offer.
Gardening and landscaping. Consider the growing garden trade. Homeowners who lack the time or desire to plant and prune still recognize the importance of curb appeal today. Landscape design, maintenance and retail gardening businesses are hot now. If you enjoy working in nice weather around nature, the field of horticulture covers a wide range of professional specialties. You can be an arborist, look after commercial greenhouses, and care for golf courses or large private estates. With a formal education, you'll learn about jet stream patterns and their effect on which plants grow best in certain regions.
Outdoor recreation work. For some folks, there's no separation between work and play. Such types are reluctant to punch a clock or limit themselves to an indoor office cubicle to earn their living. If you're a wilderness buff, perhaps you're ready to strike out on your own and take Mother Nature on as a business partner. Business ideas include kayaking/white-water rafting outfitter; guided mountain biking, photo trekking, backpacking, or rock climbing tour operator; or opportunities within the state park system.
Pet services. Could your business be going to the dogs? Upscale pet-related services and merchandise are bringing home the bacon--to the tune of $30 billion a year in the United States today, according to a recent research study from Unity Marketing. Pet foods, doggie daycare, shampoos and even "pet pampering" spas and hotels are just a few of the products and services that make up the industry. If you have a knack for dog handling, dog obedience is another hot extra-income generator.
Workplace design. You could be a creator of the workplace of the future. As industries evolve, tomorrow's offices will entice us through hip, ergonomically correct furnishings, the use of color, and innovative lighting. The need for experts who can implement ergonomically correct conditions is rising. Areas of specialization include industrial workplaces, occupational safety, furniture design, computer hardware, human-computer interaction, product liability, consumer products and virtual environments.
Feng shui consulting. Interest in feng shui has risen in recent years as more people seek greater levels of satisfaction and productivity in their careers, businesses and lifestyles. This ancient art promotes spiritual and material well being by devising the best way to lay out your house or office. Certified experts are hired to do "readings" for both residential and commercial space. Consultants can charge between $235 and $1,000 for a two-hour consultation, depending on the size of a property. Some businesses will pay upwards of $25,000 for large-scale projects. Field certification costs upwards of $3,500 and includes class time, mentoring and field training.
Alternative health services. As our health-care system becomes more prevention-oriented, Americans are increasingly more accepting of alternative, holistic health, and wellness practices. Healing arts such as massage therapy, reflexology, acupuncture and yoga are in demand by private and corporate clientele. Food items or eateries offering organic edibles free of processed ingredients, preservatives and sugars are sought after by the health-conscious.
Grooming services. Thanks to the popularity of TV shoes such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, men are becoming more upfront about wanting to look and feel good about themselves. For these so-called metrosexuals, a new wave of relaxation havens specially designated for men are cropping up. Today's hottest services include facial bronzing, stone massage, organic facials, reflexology and seaweed wraps.
Spiritual work. Spiritually minded people make humanity their life's work. Today, there are plenty of creative job paths you can pursue if you feel inspiring others is your life mission. For example, religious craftspeople and artists (think of all the Judaic and Catholic supply shops, candleholders, jewelry charms, trinket boxes, decorative nativity art and collectibles there are); church camp/counselor/director; religious writers and authors (even for religious greeting cards); and spiritual retreat leaders. These last folks lead trips to destinations with biblical/historical significance.
Senior-focused services. Don't forget the lucrative aging baby boomers. The fifty-plus population is an intelligent, active group. They need products, services and information providers to meet their entertainment, education and lifestyle needs. Today, there are senior-focused book authors; website developers; travel, insurance and real-estate companies; and computer-training firms reaping profits from the older Americans they serve.
Business writing and services. If your skill is putting it in writing, hire yourself out as a business plan writer. Too many businesses lose out on new contracts, funding or clients because they don't know how to communicate their message on paper. Businesses today have a need for marketing, strategy, lobbying and proposal writing services. Also, the demand for freelance writers with specialties in grant writing, bio met, IT, economic development and general business is high. Project work includes requests for proposals (RFPs), corporate training guides, computer documentation, white papers, government licensing applications, legislative memos and executive bios. Fees typically start at $100 per hour, or between $30,000 and $60,000 a year.
Home design and services. These days, home is where the art is. Thanks to baby boomers with discretionary income and a nationwide "cocooning" trend, interior decorating and design services are in demand. From guesthouses to second homes, vacation retreats to master bathrooms, those cashing in on the thriving home-fixings craze include architects, interior designers, landscape architects and pool builders. Other jobs include project management professionals for furniture companies or corporate facilities, and designers of hotels, healthcare institutions, retirement communities and nursing homes.
Culinary services. By the same token, staying in is the new going out and people are entertaining in their homes more than ever. Dinner parties have made a big comeback. If you have culinary skills, you're in demand. Aside from catering, you may decide to give one-on-one cooking lessons, help prepare menus or conduct demonstrations in your own home. For the many people trying to eat well, both for health and epicurean reasons, you can hire yourself out as a personal chef or nutritionist.