Income for my mother?
July 5, 2011 6:44 AM   Subscribe

What might be a good source of income for my independent mother?

My single mother is currently doing a few things to make ends meet but is looking for a steady source of income into the future. She's very small-business spirited though doesn't have much marketable experience, with recent past experience limited to managing a horse farm, making personal sales on ebay, and distributing health juice (monavie).

She would much prefer to work for herself rather than laboring a 9-5 job, and would do well working out of the house I think. She has the personal drive and has learned a great deal about managing money in recent years, but does not yet have a direction. Might you be able to recommend small-business ideas / other ideas that could provide a steady source of income?

Many thanks!
posted by masters2010 to Work & Money (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How old is she? A forty-something woman is probably going to have more options at her disposal than a seventy-something woman.

A lot of local maid services are hiring almost constantly, as it's hard to find reliable people with legitimate work papers who are willing to do that kind of thing. Money isn't great, but it's something, and it does involve working out of the house and away from an office.
posted by valkyryn at 6:58 AM on July 5, 2011

Response by poster: She's just above 50 years old. While she would theoretically be able to do something like a local maid service I think she would much prefer something where she is working for herself and where she isn't on her feet all day laboring for an hourly wage.
posted by masters2010 at 7:07 AM on July 5, 2011

If she has experience with horses and might be interested in some out-of-the box ideas for horse-related businesses, I know that in our area there are, for example, saddle fitters and equine massage specialists who are able to make a decent living. If I've correctly assumed her location to be New England, there should be a good market for these sorts of equine-related niche services in her area as well. The training/certification for these careers is not too expensive or time consuming, as far as those sorts of things go.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 7:54 AM on July 5, 2011

How can we answer this question? We know nothing about your mother--her background, skills, interests, locations, etc.

I think you need to provide us with a hell of a lot more information before any answer is anything other than a random suggestion.
posted by dfriedman at 8:24 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well here's the thing: "work" is basically the process of turning resources into money. Economists identify four basic kinds of resources: "Land" includes all natural resources, both real property and the physical goods mined or grown on real property. "Labor" is just that: work, skilled and unskilled. "Capital" is financial resources. "Entrepreneurship" is a little harder to define clearly, but generally means accepting risk with respect to the other three kinds of resource with the hope of reaping a reward.

Your mom is going to need to exploit some or all of these if she wants to make money, and having an entrepreneurial spirit isn't actually worth all that much if it isn't coupled with at least one of the other kinds of resource. Sounds to me like she's going to need to be entrepreneurial with her labor, as she doesn't seem to have any "land" or capital to speak of.

Working with the maid idea, she might decide to start her own cleaning business. This is not terribly uncommon, and though it doesn't eliminate the "on her feet all day" part, it does mean she'd be working for herself and getting paid by the job, not on the clock.

Here's the thing though: the reason that's a viable idea isn't because it's unique, but because it's unpleasant. Small business development corps all over the country are looking for unique ideas for making money, as most of the obvious ones are known and either 1) being exploited for all they're worth, or 2) being avoided because they're some combination of risky and/or unpleasant. If you're looking for unique ideas, you and your mom would probably be well-served by going to some local small business development networking/brainstorming sessions. Check out your local SCORE chapter and economic development outfits.
posted by valkyryn at 8:25 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

She has management experience, but it's pretty specific. Being a juice distributor, esp. if it's MultiLevel Marketing, is okay experience for sales. Selling on eBay shows motivation and business savvy, and a surprising number of people have made that into a successful job.

But realistically, I think you Mom would do well to get trained in a skill, and get a job. Especially if she needs health insurance, pension contribution, etc. Real estate is probably not a good plan at this time, but Certified Financial Planner might be. Many sales jobs have flexibility, and she has some good sales experience.
posted by theora55 at 9:26 AM on July 5, 2011

Best answer: I know a few people who exploit specialist knowledge to buy things on ebay, fix them up or improve them in some way and relist them with a much better listing (better photos, better spelling) at a higher price.

For example, if she knows how to restore old battered horse gear maybe that would work.

If market for something is seasonal, so much the better; buy at the end of the season and resell at the start of the next season.

Of course, this requires some storage space; the larger the item the more hassle and the more storage space you need.
posted by emilyw at 9:53 AM on July 5, 2011

A specific idea regarding specialized/seasonal ebay sales: if she lives in a college town and has skills/space, she can scrounge through the stuff left outside the dorms at the end of the semester (furniture, refrigerators, luggage, books), store it over the summer, fix it up if needed, and then resell it at the beginning of the next semester.
posted by CathyG at 7:45 PM on July 5, 2011

Best answer: As a p/t eBayer I want to suggest she just turn herself into a f/t eBayer. This newsletter is a good source of ideas and sources and inspiration for people interested in making it a full-time gig; she will have to do some work to figure out what 'niche market' she'd be best at and perhaps gain some skills to do better with that (like, learn some shoe repair, sell higher-end used and fixed-up shoes; learn to repair small appliances, sell vintage blenders, etc), but, really, that's a viable way to go and probably a good one if she's bent that way already.
posted by kmennie at 7:56 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is there anything she would be qualified to tutor? My 65-year-old mother makes a fairly good side income to top up her pension by tutoring children in reading. She took an online course to give her a qualification, but basically money-rich time-poor parents will pay for someone to sit and read with their young kids, helping them practise what they are learning in school.

Alternatively, if she is knowledgable about horses, what about helping people locate horses and horse gear to purchase? I'm imagining someone contacts her and says they need a new saddle or they are looking for a pony for their kid, or something, and your mother does the leg-work of calling around potential sources, investigating price points, and weighing up options to provide them with one or two best choices.
posted by lollusc at 9:09 PM on July 5, 2011

Response by poster: Many great ideas, thank you everyone, I will pass these along to her and I think they may be of use. Keep the ideas coming if you have an idea that has not yet been mentioned!
posted by masters2010 at 1:28 AM on July 6, 2011

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