What's a great service business?
April 25, 2010 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I need some "just-lost-my-job midlife-career-change" advice. Specifically, what is a great service business? Lots of details inside.

I'll try to make this as short--yet full of info--as possible:
I'm a 41 year old husband and father of six. We live in a midwestern town with a population of about 100,000. Bought a house last year, lost my job this year. The house part is significant because we get a pretty fat check from the IRS this year, so besides unemployment, we've got a little bit of cash to keep things going.

I have a masters in one of the counseling professions, but have been away from that field for about 8 years (and really never worked in the field professionally). I always thought I'd get back into it, but now I don't know if I can do it, even if I can get someone to hire me (or even just let me volunteer to get back into the swing of things).

I guess I'm looking for career advice. I really have no marketable skills, at least none that I can demonstrate with work history. (My most recent job was with the USPS.) I've been applying for jobs and I'm finding that anything I might be able to get is paying in the low $30s at most. With my oldest about to start college, and the house payment outlasting (by 29 years) my tax refund, I need to get serious about providing for my family.

What should I do? I was thinking that starting my own service business might be the way to go, but what are some good service businesses (besides the Entrepreneur magazine list of things like dog walking, resume service or party planning)?

Advice besides service business ideas is welcome as well.

I know I might not have given enough specifics for the one perfect answer. I think I just need a jolt of mefi-goodness. Throwaway email account is: whatdoido@workmail.com
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want to pursue your counseling career? It sounds like you are preemptively deciding that you are not viable in that field, but do you know for sure this is true? I would encourage you to network, apply for available jobs, apply for volunteer work, and then see how it goes before declaring that you have no marketable skills. After all, you say that you don't know if you can get back into the field. That's understandable. But why not try, and find out?
posted by Wordwoman at 8:44 AM on April 25, 2010

Service industry jobs I feel will be limited in a town of 100,000... Its hard to scale in a place like that.

Have you thought about teaching?
posted by crewshell at 9:18 AM on April 25, 2010

Starting a business sounds like a pretty risky proposition. With 6 children and a brand new mortgage, are you sure you want to be taking on much risk at the moment?

Teaching could be good if you have the resources to go back and get your teaching certification.

What did you do with the USPS? What skills did you use there and how could they transfer to the private sector? You may have to go to a larger city to work and commute back to see your family at weekends if you're not able to find something in your town quickly enough.

If you definitely do want to start a service business, you'll probably need to acquire some marketable skills in order to stand a chance. Things such as carpentry or plumbing could work depending on whether or not there are already too many people doing those things in your town but you'd need training. Or maybe you could buy a tow truck (if you can afford one) and offer towing services, again depending on how much competition there is.
posted by hazyjane at 9:53 AM on April 25, 2010

Medical services, like being a respiratory therapist or occupational therapist, are often in demand. Services where you care for the elderly are likely to continue in demand. Could you get into medical counseling of some kind? Genetic counseling? Drug-abuse counseling? Is there a big hospital near you?

You might be able to take one of those lower-paying jobs to pay the mortgage while you do a short training course.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2010

Adding to LobsterMitten, elderly care is always going to have a demand. Friend with a college background in social work provided transition assistance for individuals and families moving into assisted living/retirement communities. This is project management of a sort except that she literally helps them sort through their belongs and 'scale' down what to take, arrange for movers, storage, etc. Another friend quit his job and began an animal shipping company that literally helps to coordinate moves of people's pets around the globe. (Surprisingly, this has a huge demand.) I think if you want to do something service oriented, there's a lot out there - just think entrepreneurial and truly beyond your zip code.

Check out internships too, though you may have to battle other high school and college aged kids in your area. Nonprofits typically have dire need for help and can provide excellent networking opportunities.

I would definitely avoid where I've seen some others go: buying websites in hopes of making them profitable.
posted by lostinsupermarket at 3:06 PM on April 25, 2010

Delivery driver for UPS? I've heard it pays pretty well, I imagine it's pretty physically demanding, tho.
posted by Bron at 4:13 PM on April 25, 2010

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