Figure Out What's Next

101 Weird Ways to Make Money

amy bernstein entrepreneurship Mar 20, 2009

by Amy Bernstein

photo by Nicola Vetter

Steve Gillman is not as weird as the entrepreneurial ideas in his book 101 Weird Ways to Make Money: Cricket Farming, Repossessing Cars, and Other Jobs With Big Upside and Not Much Competition. In fact, he offers some very good and savvy advice. In his many years of surveying the business landscape around him, he has realized that there are lots of companies out there that compete in overcrowded markets. His solution: to find the unique, “niche” business in fields where there is little competition, but a solid stream of customers. He has come up with a list of 101 of these small businesses ideas (though there are, of course, many more that might fit his criteria). Among them are: Part-Time Magician, Foreclosure Cleaner, Survival Supplies Seller, Antique Treasure Hunter, Temporary Tattoo Painter, Aromatherapy Candlemaker, Mural Painter, Virtual Assistant, Mobile Homes Flipper, Environmentally Friendly Funeral Provider and Golf Course Bird Remover.
In each chapter he concentrates on a different small business, giving pointers on ways to enhance potential earnings, outlining the costs involved in getting started and providing at the end a helpful list of resources. He is very good at giving the pros and cons of each business and what they entail in terms of occupational hazards. For instance, he warns, retrieving golf balls from golf courses in some southern states may involve skirmishes with alligators and poisonous snakes!
Gillman’s proven strategy for success was to join a company as an employee and later become the boss of your own company, after learning everything he needed to know about the business on the job. He makes very clear that in most cases, investing in or starting your own business in an area with which you are familiar-and eventually hiring other employees to expand it- is in most cases the best way to leverage a job into a million-dollar business.
By devoting a chapter to each type of endeavor, with a description of its advantages and disadvantages, Gillman helps his readers decide what kind of work might be right for them, given their talents, training, personality and predisposition. With his breezy manner, he makes it all seem easy and even fun. And by his own account, at least, Gillman is very good at turning odd jobs into profit centers.
What gives the book a homey authenticity is that Gillman’s advice is often accompanied with personal anecdotes about his own firsthand experience of working in a particular field or spending time with someone who has, either as an auto repossession agent (which, he tells us, can get ugly)  blackjack dealer or makeup artist.
The life of the entrepreneur, however, is not for those with low energy levels. To read his book, it seems as if Gillman spends every hour of every day thinking of ways to make money. But the beauty of his book is that he helps the reader understand that there is money to be made in places where you might little expect it, and that small profits from small or part-time enterprises in often very unglamorous fields can quickly add up to a tidy fortune.



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