Thursday, December 8, 2011

Seasonal Self-Employment

© Sam Szapucki
The holiday season is approaching and with it comes the spirit of giving, often disguised as that incredible urge to buy things for those we love, even if we can’t afford it. Many people blow their budget and feel the pain of their overspending when the credit card bills arrive in January; however, seasonal self-employment could be the answer. This is when you provide a service or product temporarily for the holiday season to help you bring in a certain amount of money. Although it’s a great way to bring in some extra cash to keep the holidays affordable and the bank account healthy, what opportunities are really our there?

Tap into your hidden skills, some self-employment ideas are:
  • Shoveling snow in the neighbourhood
  • Delivering flyers for local companies
  • Cleaning houses or providing a laundry service
  • Providing personal Christmas shopping
  • Babysitting hours that no one else wants (e.g., evenings and weekends) so the parents can attend holiday parties, finish Christmas shopping, etc.
  • Selling your unwanted things online through Kijiji, Craiglist or other forums
  • Working as a delivery driver (i.e., they are in high demand at this time of year)
  • Taking what you do for full-time work and picking up some extra jobs (e.g. hairdressing, personal training, writing resumes, small engine repair)
  • Baking Christmas treats
  • Making/Selling crafts (i.e., although enjoyable, be realistic, these often take more time than the income they bring in)
  • Decorating for the holidays or hanging up Christmas Lights
  • Planning Christmas/Birthday parties
  • Writing Christmas cards
  • Organizing and de-cluttering to get homes ready for holiday parties
  • Providing virtual admin assistant/data entry services
  • House sitting or pet sitting
Think about what products or services people need around the holiday season. Do some research online (e.g., Kijiji, Craigslist) to see what other types of temporary self-employment ideas that may work for you, and how much the going rate is in your area.

Having a money-making idea is just the start. Next you need a short business plan to help you accomplish what you intend (informal is fine). This should include:
  • Your income goal: It is best to start with the end in mind (e.g., if you need to make an extra $1000 to make it through the holidays you would need to find 8 houses in the neighbourhood to shovel for the month, or do a combination of jobs).
  • The time you will have to give to self-employment: How many hours (e.g., 10 hours a week) and when (e.g., evenings)?
  • Your target customers and how will you market to them: Keep it simple and your overhead costs low by trying free online sites such as Kijiji and Craigslist, or create your own free website through blogging platforms such as Wordpress, Blogger or Google Sites. Harness the power of your personal network face-to-face or through Facebook, local forums or meet-ups. If they don’t need your service or product ask them if they know someone who may. Think about where your potential customers hang out and meet them there.
  • The resources you will need to start: Keep your costs low, but do keep your receipts so you can calculate what you have really made. Instead of purchasing equipment, see if you can borrow or rent it for the season.
  • Licensing, registration, and insurance: If you keep your business simple and under a certain income you may not need to register it. Check with local bylaws to see what regulations are in your area, as well as the Canada Revenue Agency for the current allowable income. Ask your insurance agent if you need additional insurance for your activities. It’s also a good idea to write a simple contract of what customers can expect from you and what you expect from them in return.
  • Your budget: Keep track of your earnings on a simple spreadsheet so you will know how much you made after expenses (e.g., who, when, what, how much you brought in and supply costs).  This is also important to know if you plan to do it again in the future.
  • Who will support you: You will need your family’s support, and possibly friends as well. Depending on your skills and equipment, you may need to reach out to others for help.
The holiday season isn’t the only time of year for seasonal self-employment: summer, spring break, and anytime that you need to make some extra cash may be the time to take on some extra work. I’d love to chat with you about the ideas you are considering? Please leave me a comment or get in touch with me through my contact information below.

Miranda Vande Kuyt is a self-employed project and communications consultant. She is the facilitator of the "Look Before You Leap: Self-Employment Survival Strategies" online course through Life Strategies.