FRIDAY INCOME & CASH FLOW FORUM
Working a part time job or side business in combination with a full time situation can be a tough juggling act, especially over the long haul. Some people can manage it, but probably most can’t, at least not for extended periods. It’s called having a life!
But sometimes you just need a little bit of extra money. Maybe you need to build up some cash in your emergency fund, clean up some bills, cover some repairs or a major purchase, or maybe for an upcoming holiday or special event. You aren’t looking for a lifetime arrangement, just a short term burst of extra income to clean up your finances.
Seasonal jobs offer an opportunity to tap into such a short term source of cash. At virtually every time of the year, one or more businesses are going through their busy season, and are often desperate for extra help. Since they may not be in a position to offer year round employment, it can be hard to fill positions. If you’re a homemaker, a retiree or a business owner or full time employee looking to supplement income on a short term basis, this could be the way to go.
Another plus: if a business is at it’s peak season, there’s a far better chance of negotiating a higher rate of pay, especially if you have even some experience in that business. Some part time seasonal arrangements can earn thousands of extra dollars for a season lasting just a couple of months. Others will just provide a few dollars working at something fun and close to home.
If you’re running your own business, it’s also very likely that you have an “off season”, a time when your business is especially slow. Supplementing your income with a job or side line in an in-season business may be a way to bring balance to your cash flow.
Some seasonal favorites
Income tax preparation. With my accounting background, this is a seasonal business that I participate in myself, but you don’t necessarily have to be an accountant to do it. Even if you’ve never prepared income taxes, you can still find a place in the field. Tax preparation courses are offered by a number of companies, including H&R Block and Liberty Tax Service, as well as work situations upon course completion.
However you don’t necessarily have to prepare income taxes to enter the field. Staffers are needed in support roles in accounting firms and other businesses, to handle collating, customer contact, document gathering, telephone duty and other pre- and post-preparation services. The season generally runs from late January to mid-April, but can extend beyond April 15th since many returns are put on extension for later filing.
Yard and garden centers. My first job was at a local, independently owned hardware store. Far and away, the biggest season was spring. This is the time when homeowners plant, seed and fertilize. It’s also high time for gutter cleaning, painting and general repair work. Any business engaged in these areas is a very likely to be in need of additional help during the spring season. Even if you aren’t into the obvious physical aspect of this type of work, there’s always a corresponding need for people in inside support roles. And of course, the seasonal side business opportunities are substantial if you have the skills and desire.
Real estate sales. In many markets, peak home selling/buying time runs from late winter, through spring and into early summer. This is the time of the year that’s after the winter freeze but also before summer vacation season, the start of school, and the late year holiday season, so it makes sense. This isn’t to say that you need to get into real estate sales or to work for a builder—which you certainly can—but you can also participate in other ways. For example, appraisal firms, real estate attorneys, moving companies and furniture sales tend to run with home sales.
Travel. The annual summer vacation has become something of a fixture in many households, even during recessions. There are a number of ways to play this, such as by working in hotels or at local resorts, but there are others that aren’t so obvious. Pet sitting/dog walking and yard maintenance are often in demand when people are away, and these present an opportunity for a seasonal side business.
Recreation. Even if you don’t live near a popular summer resort, there may be income opportunities closer to home. Theme parks and swimming pools in your local area will also be in need of seasonal help. I know an ambitious young man, a full time teacher, who spends his summers working as a lifeguard at a local community swimming pool. Summer is also the obvious time when pool maintenance services will be in high demand.
Late summer/early fall…
Back to school retailers. This can begin as early as July 4th weekend and run through the end of September, depending upon when school starts in your area. You can work in retail clothing outlets or any stores selling school supplies, but it doesn’t end there. Stores selling musical instruments are typically in a busy way around the start of school as this is peak season for budding student musicians to acquire their first instruments, or to trade up to new ones.
Fall festivals. Labor Day weekend begins a steady flow of festivals and celebrations, often well into the holiday season, in a kind of cornucopia of many things. Fall festivals spring up in many communities, selling everything from handcrafts to the late season harvest bounty. Entire communities sometimes exist primarily for this season. There can be both employment and side business opportunities attached to these festivals and celebrations, especially if you have a related product line to sell.
The holiday season. Most people think primarily of Christmas here, but this season starts with Halloween and runs straight through New Years Day, with little recovery time in between. For Halloween, temporary costume shops open in formerly abandoned spaces in shopping centers all over town—usually on or just after Labor Day—and all of them need staff! For some permanent establishments, like Party City, Halloween is the peak season.
Most people think of toys and retail for Christmas, but the Thanksgiving to New Years period is also the peak season for restaurants and liquor stores. New Years Eve is often THE biggest day in many restaurants. And once again, you don’t have to work this on the front lines, in this case being a bartender or waiter. Back office and support functions also need to be filled.
With any seasonal business, it pays to look beyond the obvious, to the less heralded businesses and support functions which benefit from the surge. Since they aren’t as well known or understood, they can be especially good opportunities.
For many seasonal businesses, the easiest route to extra cash in is to work for an established business. However if you have the skills and experience, you may also consider establishing a seasonal business of your own.
At virtually every time during the year, one or more businesses are experiencing their busy season. What seasonal opportunities are you aware of, or have you worked in?
If you’re a salaried worker, retiree or a homemaker, what are you doing to find new sources of income? If you’re a business owner, or in some capacity responsible for bringing business in the door, what is it you’re doing to attract customers and cash flow in this economy? What ideas have you heard about or know others to be doing? What’s working, what’s not?