50 Jobs over $50,000 – Without a Degree (Part 1)

Marquese Scott - world's best robot-like dancer

Marquese Scott – world’s best robot-like dancer

When people write to me for help, I’m often confronted with a dilemma. Many of them are hardworking and intelligent people who are making reasonable financial choices, but due to the non-negotiable nature of Math, not ending up with as large a monthly surplus of cash at the end of each month as their higher-income counterparts.

Even more troubling are letters from recent graduates in fields like liberal arts or even law.

“My degree was expensive”, they tell me, “But the jobs that are out there in my field don’t pay enough to get me out of this huge student loan debt hole.”

“How am I supposed to get a nice bushy ‘Stash, when we don’t have a six-figure household income like so many of the other MMM readers seem to have? I’m over 30 years old, and I only recently cracked $40,000 in income.”

The thing about earning money is this: nobody is going to pay you any more money than they have to. So if you want the benefit of a higher income, the first step is to make sure you’re not being complacent with your lower one.

In fact, why bother with a job that requires a degree at all, if it doesn’t pay accordingly?

In my current position of Man Who No Longer Needs a Job, I have the rare privilege of circulating around the country and meeting many people, then hearing about what they do for a living. And what I have learned has blown my mind. While our parents always told us that you need a degree to get anywhere in the job market, the reality has been flipped on its head in the last two decades.

There are all sorts of people out there quietly making a mint, in occupations that I thought were either nonexistent or low-paying. Some of them have questionable skills and you could easily outperform them in their own job. And yet, many of the university-educated job seekers are stuck on the other side of this easy money divide.

To help whet your alternative moneymaking whistle, here are a few of the ways I have recently learned that people make reasonable incomes, without any formal training. Since there are about 2000 work hours in a year, we can define a $50,000 job as one that pays over $25 per hour (or $200 per workday).

Good Old-Fashioned Manual Labor

While everyone streams through the university and competes for the office jobs, the traditional trades have seen a shortage of new arrivals for many years. As a result, wages have gone up. But to capture the good pay in this area, you generally need to run your own small business, rather than working for an existing company. The wage differential is often over 300%.

1: Carpenter – my perennial favorite. Once you have a good reputation in an area with nice houses and good incomes, it is easy to earn over $50 per hour building things – even things as simple as fences or decks. Kitchens and bathrooms generally pay even better. No formal training required, but it helps to work alongside another good carpenter for a year or two, or take classes at a community college.

2: Plumber – slightly more traditional and formal, in my area this job requires a two-year apprenticeship before you can get your own first level license. But that really just means you get paid $20-$30 per hour while learning, then you start your own business and start charging $80 (and hire your own apprentice to further increase profits).

3: Welder – I stumbled across this self-employment goldmine when I learned metalworking myself in 2005. In summary, rich people always need custom steelwork done on their houses. Not many people know how to do it. So it is easy to charge $50-$70 per hour for running your welder and grinder alongside some basic design skills.

4: Electrician – I recently quizzed an apprentice electrician working in my own area. He was a degree-holding geologist who ended up taking this job because it paid better. Two years of apprenticeship (or a shorter amount in community college), and you can write the test to get your first level license. His boss was billing him out at $65 per hour, and the boss’s time itself comes at $85.

5: Painter – Nobody does their own painting these days, and thus they often go searching for painting companies to handle it. But most of these companies are run by disorganized and occasionally rude owners who don’t know how to return an email. So YOUR company, with its polite and professional management, will have very little trouble carving out all the business it can handle. Once established, pay can be $25-$40 per hour depending on how wisely you bid; higher if you hire employees to work for $10-$15 to speed you up.

6: Tile Setter – An ideal combination with “Painter” above, because the same skills make you good at both. This pays a little higher, and you get to create fine bathrooms and kitchens. Bid out both tiling and painting, and watch the customers line up.

7: Landscape Company Owner – a little trickier because it requires knowledge of plants and design principles as well as heat tolerance, but in general a lucrative field if you work in a high-income area. Nobody does their own gardening these days.

8: Excavator – An oddball choice, but it can work if you like ultra-powerful machines and do the math right. You can rent a huge track-drive excavating machine, delivered, for $400 per day plus fuel. Or buy a used one for about $50,000. This qualifies you to dig foundations and other work (often under contract for local custom house builders or city governments), which yield about $1000-2000 per day of work. The guy I hired for my own housebuilding company was a former math major who found the excavating business to be more profitable. You might invest $200k into equipment if you have a dump truck, trailer, bobcat, and digger. But if that $200k is allowing you to make $100k per year more than you otherwise would, it is a huge ROI. Plus you are a hero to little boys all over town.

9: House Builder – although doing this professionally didn’t agree with my own temperament, the pay is good if you focus on building dream homes for rich people (as opposed to speculatively building houses to sell as I foolishly did). Builders get about 15-20% of construction costs, which works out to roughly $100k for a six-month project of full-time work. You must enjoy supervising other trades, however, which is like herding cats

10: Mechanic – once you know how to fix a car, all your friends and neighbors will want you to fix theirs. Even if you underbid the real garages, you can still earn over $50 per hour in your own garage.. then later expand to a real facility once the customer base grows.

The Internet

These occupations are exotic, because they are new and often silly-sounding. But they are real, as I am learning as I meet more of these people earning ludicrous amounts of money. The key to it is the size of the Internet: it’s effectively infinite, so you only need a tiny market share to be bigger than the big local tycoons of the olden days.

11: WordPress Developer: What do I use to write this blog? WordPress, just like everyone else with a blog. That means millions of people and companies need this system to work for them, and many thousands of them are depending on it to make a living. If you’re an expert at making it work, they will pay you – lots. Relatively simple programming and a high-level, open architecture make it one of the easier forms of software development to learn. With an established customer base, pay is $60-$100k+ per year.

12: Blogger: I thought this just involved occasionally typing some shit into the computer for a few laughs. But when attending last year’s “Financial Blogger Conference” in Denver, I saw over 400 bloggers gathering in a swanky hotel, with fancy sponsors and VIP treatment, some of them like Ramit Sethi now running entire organizations with millions of dollars in annual profit. Given interesting enough content, it’s not all that hard to build up a blog with the following of a small newspaper or magazine, and with some low-key sponsorship or advertising, that is good enough to make a living.

This blog, in case you are curious, now generates a six-figure income just under three years into its existence. And my income is on the very low side for sites of this size (5.4 million page views in February 2014).
(See article: How to Start a Blog)

13: Passive Income Guru: One of my internet heroes Pat Flynn has a radar-like mind for finding ways to create little “niche websites” that sell nicely-packaged information to people who search for it. These lodge themselves into search engines and start generating low-effort streams of money. I’ve noticed the same effect with my own articles on how to build a shower pan and the cheap mobile phone plan*- people show up every day from search engines looking for these topics. If I took the time to make a nice shower-building eBook or an ultimate phone plan guide, I could actually sell those for $5 each and make hundreds of dollars per day.

14: Interesting Ideas Guy/Girl: This is an elusive one, but Chris Guillebeau and Tim Ferriss are great examples. You learn about and do amazing things, and then teach others about what you learned. Eventually, you can write books about it, which people will buy. And, companies will hire you to be on their boards, just because of the amazing allure and buzz you have created. But it all starts with becoming an expert in something that everyone wishes they were an expert at.

Creative and Artistic

As manufactured items become more played out and commoditized, creative people are increasingly finding ways to get paid for their work. After all, Apple Computer is rich because of its mastery of design, not its technical sophistication.

15: Writer: the job that used to be thankless and underpaid (and still is if you work in the rank-and-file at a newspaper or magazine.)  But these days if you write an amazing novel and self-publish it on Amazon, you have a far better chance of paying for your groceries than the hapless “I got 75 rejections in the mail today” authors of yesteryear.

16: Techno Music Composer: just like writing, music has become an open meritocracy. Through Pandora streaming, I discovered the music of a youngster and fellow Canadian named Deadmau5. And he has made it huge, rocking stadiums full of people around the world whenever he likes – just because great dancy music pops into his head and he produces it using the awesome power of Ableton Live. This idea is close to my heart, as I made loads of music using older versions of the software throughout my youth, and now my 7-year-old son has become both a Deadmau5 fan and a composer himself, with over 30 cute catchy house songs under his belt. If the habit sticks, he could be on the turntables in front of stadiums before he even graduates from high school. Or the hobby might open other doors. Either way, there’s no bad reason to learn a new creative skill.

17: YouTube Channel Owner: With broadcast TV being obsolete, there are now millions of viewers available to watch anything you create. Some guy named Randall talked for two minutes about the Honey Badger, and it’s over 61 million views now – and he’s probably set for life. Marquese Scott happened to make himself into the most awesome dancer in the world, and is now paid appropriately for it after 91 million views on his Pumped Up Kicks recording. World-dominating fame, which he achieved by simply setting a camera on the ground and rocking out in front of a bank building for a few minutes – the efficiency is beautiful.

But YouTube is just not for freaky stuff that unpredictably goes viral. Much of the money being made there is meat-and-potatoes hard work stuff. Teenagers create hundreds of well-made Minecraft instructional videos with their own personal brand and style. Eric the Car Guy does well telling us how to fix our cars. Guitar and piano lessons, done well, earn their makers more than they would from teaching live students.

Like any of the jobs above, successful video production requires an attention to detail and conscientious bit of hard work. None of these jobs are easy get-rich-quick schemes – as far as I can tell, easy riches are not a reproducible model. But the point is, there’s more than one way to make a buck, if you keep your eyes open and step outside the conventional.


Well look at that – we’ve got a long article and we’re only getting warmed up. But the REAL story of entrepreneurial moneymaking is not the stuff that I think up off the top of my own head. It is the things that YOU dream up, and share with the rest of the world.

Because of this, I’ve requested Mrs. Money Mustache, Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology and World Domination Summit fame, and Treehouse founder Ryan Carson to help out with part two of this series. And I’d also like to recruit YOU.

Jump directly to Part 2 of 50 Jobs over $50k


In the comments section below, share your own ideas and experience in ways to make $50,000 or more annually in a field that does not necessarily require a university degree. I’ll incorporate some of them into the next article. The more ideas we dream up and share, the wealthier we all become. Stay tuned!


Also on MMM: An interview with Ryan Carson on higher education vs do-it-yourself technical training.

* note that just by linking to my own articles from this popular one, I build the search engine ranking of those other articles, furthering the cycle of people being able to find them in the sea of results. And in the passive income world, search ranking for good keywords is very important. Isn’t the Internet a bizarre place?

  • My Financial Independence Journey July 25, 2013, 11:15 am

    The income for the manual labor jobs sounds reasonable, but trying to make a living blogging or being a techno composer is not something I would recommend to someone wanting to make a reasonable wage. For every successful blogger or musician or youtuber there are thousands of people pulling in what accounts to beer money.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 25, 2013, 11:39 am

      Right.. but I’m sure glad I didn’t listen to advice like that before starting this blog!

      (or applying to engineering school, or moving to a new country, or asking my now-wife out for the first time, or….)

      Regarding the creative stuff – the key to success there is having the ability to write or create stuff that lots of people actually want to read or listen to.

      If you have it, success is almost guaranteed. If not, then your pessimism is justified. How do you know if you have it?

      • Free Money Minute July 25, 2013, 12:02 pm

        I love your can-do attitude about everything. It is so easy to make an excuse about everything. Most people who are successful have failed over and over and over and over and over again before finally succeeding. I am trying to move as quickly as I can through my failures so I can reach success. Thanks for the motivation MMM!

        • Chris July 26, 2013, 7:47 am

          Yes, trying over and over is true, but not trying the same thing or the same ways over and over again, expecting success, that would be insanity as Einstein said, right?

          It is about trying something, failing maybe and then trying again with adjustments learned from previous mistakes. That’s what makes people successful!

          • Glen August 25, 2016, 8:43 pm

            I think it was some internet tool, not Einstein, who made up that fake definition of insanity. Trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is usually called “practice,” because most humans learn by doing things.

            • hillary August 17, 2017, 1:37 pm

              Maybe the defining insanity as “trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” is referring to the insanity of getting caught in habits that don’t contribute to your goals and wondering why you’re not achieving your goals.

            • D October 11, 2017, 9:47 am

              Einstein’s quote, as with many of his others, contained unstated “nested” propositions (connotations with the denotation, if you will). Practice is not doing the same thing over and over again in exactly the same way. Practice involves doing a slightly different version of the thing in a slightly improved way many times. In other words, you don’t get the AT&T plan a thousand times in a row and wonder why you have bad service with a bad company for an outrageous price. You try AT&T, you then go to other competitors, you keep trying until you find a service that works for a price that works. Technically you did the same thing (getting a phone plan) many times, but in fact you nuanced the doing and the thing. The same goes for writing and playing sonatas, baking bread, writing code, bodybuilding, lovemaking, public speaking, novel writing, and countless other fields of endeavor. Learning, adaptation, and plasticity of approach are keys here.

        • Darden July 27, 2013, 4:47 am

          few people learn from success. The real learning opportunities come from our failures

      • ABC July 25, 2013, 12:31 pm

        MrMM, you’re missing the point. On big lesson in life is to know when to quit. Too much time is wasted trying something you’re not skilled at or passionate about. Often passion isn’t enough. There are plenty of talent shows to illustrate “My Financial Independence Journey ” point. How about writing a post about 5 indicators that you’re not thriving in your profession. Or this sh!t ain’t for you son.

        • Mr. Money Mustache July 25, 2013, 12:40 pm

          That is a good point, alphabet. You need to know when you suck. But the Internet will tell you pretty quickly. But most objections to this type of optimism result in really good people never even getting started so they can surprise themselves.

          • Ali Baba July 26, 2013, 9:12 pm

            I recently read a fantastic book called “Mindset” by Carol Dweck which addresses this concern.
            Her hypothesis is that far too many people have what she calls a fixed mindset, believing that everyone has innate skills that can’t be developed (and often extrapolating this into the typical complainypants “Why bother trying? Things never get any better for meeee!”).
            To disprove this mindset, she cites many examples where someone considered awesomely naturally talented actually developed those skills through hard work and practice. She calls this the growth mindset, and it appeals to me by being both very egalitarian and much more optimistic.
            I don’t deny that some people start with more of an aptitude for certain things (such as composing music and writing blogs), but I had a real revelation reading this book that maybe they aren’t out of the reach of ordinary mortals after all, if they are willing to put in the effort.
            My first change is that instead of thinking of myself for my whole life as someone who “doesn’t have a sense of style” I’ve started researching into ways to use color and shape to flatter my figure, and actually thinking about how I put outfits together, which means I both get more compliments and am able to (very-Mustachian-ly) get much more use out of clothes I didn’t think I could wear and were languishing at the back of my closet.

            • Hadilly July 26, 2013, 10:09 pm

              Mindset is the best book! All mustachians should read it. It really transforms your sense of what you can accomplish and how to go about it.

              It is invaluable to parents too.

            • Michael Corayer December 15, 2013, 7:16 am

              Mindset is a fantastic book. You may notice many parallels to ideas from The Magic of Thinking Big (which I read recently, after finding this blog), though backed by academic research instead of just anecdotes. Mindset really had an impact on me and changed how I view myself and how I think about ability and natural talent. I highly recommend the book and if you’re interested in reading more than a comment-box worth of my thoughts on it, you can go here:

            • ryan July 29, 2013, 11:37 am

              My favorite is someone saying “I can’t draw,” when they’ve barely tried in their life. Drawing is a skill you have to develop and maintain just like physical fitness.

            • Mr. Minsc July 29, 2013, 12:45 pm

              Sounds like a good book, will have to add it to my library list.

              I could have listened to the part of my mind telling me I was a socially awkward person. It has taken many years, now I’m finally to the point where I can start introducing myself and chatting with random strangers. I still have a long way to go but my progress thus far feels great. Good thing I didn’t keep giving in to my inner monologue of such thoughts like “They don’t want to be bothered.”, “I can’t walk up to them.”, and so on and so on. ;)

            • CincyCat August 1, 2013, 1:07 pm

              That sounds like a great book! I’m checking my library now to see if it is available to download on my Kindle. :)

              I’m about half-way through “The Power of Habit” which talks about how making changes to our “routines” today can have a huge impact down the road. The body and mind are wired to crave routine for safety purposes. This means if you want to make meaningful changes in your life/lifestyle you must replace one habit with another, more constructive activity.

              Let’s apply this to Mustachian principles… I have a guilty pleasure of reading completely vapid historical romance novels. I used to belong to a subscription book service that would mail paperback books to my house every few weeks.

              When I started looking for ways to cut unnecessary spending from my budget, I did a little homework and discovered I could download the same books onto my Kindle (which was a gift) at a fraction of the cover price. THEN, I really wised up and realized that most of my favorite authors are available for download via my local library for free.

              The result? What was once a costly routine (waiting for books to arrive with zero effort on my part), was replaced with a free alternative that costs me only about 15 minutes of effort surfing my library’s online catalog on my lunch break.

        • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow July 27, 2013, 6:50 am

          @ABC While your point is valid it’s not a common problem most people figure out pretty quickly it doesn’t work and by focusing on the negative by which you are doing it only reinforces the idea it won’t work, quit before you start. I personally prefer MMMs optimism gun over a dose of reality dished out by well meaning friends!

          Secondly I’m a firm believer in everyone getting lucky breaks, sure my investing blog died a well deserved death but it doesn’t mean we won’t reach our goal of a comfortable retirement.

        • Freeyourchains July 29, 2013, 7:22 am

          With enough willpower, anyone can succeed at changing their weaknesses into strengths. No person should be modernizing the “Your don’t have king blood, thus you can never be a king” attitude. You have to have action for your optimism to break free of your chains, whether to evil dictators, evil governments and their “laws”, to kings who will kill you if you disobey like they own you or something, and to modern financial slavery systems.

        • John July 30, 2013, 8:43 am

          @ABC, that may or may not be a big lesson of life. As my current employer will tell you, sometimes succeeding is just being the guy who hangs on the longest. There is a lot to be said for perseverance, and nearly without exception, the longer you work at something, the better you will get.

        • KC December 14, 2014, 6:09 pm

          I guess American Idol comes to mind and I can tell you as amusing as it is to see the failures, many of the ones who get kicked off do so for the number one reason and that is that they have NO TRAINING! As a voice teacher and Opera singer, I can tell you that many singers including me had talent but certainly not enough to go on a national show looking for professional quality at a young age with little training. I studied voice for well over 17 years and only got my first professional Opera position after a good 6 years. Most people are looking for shortcuts and not doing nearly enough homework or studying to know if they will be successful. Yes some people can’t carry a tune and should not sing but many can sing very well after a few years of training whereas if they had auditioned without training they would have been turned down. I’m sure this is true in many fields.

          • Brad September 11, 2015, 4:23 pm

            I’m late to this party but I’ve studied a lot of successful people and I’ve also studied quite a lot of failures, as well as my personal failures and the main reasons one does not succeed are for lacking the following: acuity in terms of knowing when to adjust your methods/approach to the goal, tenacity and perseverance, intense level of willpower, and most of all, consistency. Majority of human beings are not consistent. Consistency creates the compound effect and with that you can become unstoppable.

            • Cate September 23, 2015, 1:32 pm

              Brad I agree wholeheartedly regarding consistency but another close 2nd is having support to help egg you on through the tough times, as there will be many! Joining a community of as we say, like-minded people, can be the difference maker!

      • John Dough July 25, 2013, 4:13 pm

        You sound just like my millionaire employer.
        He is constantly optimistic about getting stuff done, and meeting goals, and accomplishing the impossible.
        If he only listened to people with more practical sense, he would not own a company in NYC with mult-million dollar annual revenues.

      • Chucks July 25, 2013, 8:03 pm

        Well, you were financially independent by the time you started the blog. Without a second job or financial independence I have a tough time suggesting people try and become bloggers or musicians without having a steady income job on the side.Dare to dream big, but always have a backup plan.

        • Julia July 27, 2013, 11:29 am

          I am not trying to sound snippy (though I am sure I will)…I did not read anything in the post that indicated, “Hey, quit whatever you’re doing to make money and do this instead!” Quitting your job (or not looking for one if unemployed) in order to pursue blogging or becoming a musician as your sole source of income would be a foolhardy endeavor. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe that was the suggestion.

          • Goran January 31, 2023, 2:36 pm

            You were not wrong, Julia. Starting a blog without being tied to the financial result, would be advisable. You never know where the road might lead?.
            I’ve been telling myself that for 10 years.

            Now let’s start on that blog.. Ha!

      • Emily Allred July 26, 2013, 6:09 am

        I really appreciate this post, since I was one of the commenters wowed by the worth of your skills. There’s already one thing on the list that sounds doable for me (other than blogging, since I’m floundering through that currently).
        Looking forward to part two!

      • Dr. Janet Barber August 5, 2013, 1:15 pm

        RE: This comment is in reference to the pessimistic guy that you responded to above–

        Thank you, MMM. I have had so much pessimism in my work life that I certainly do not need to hear it (or rather read it) on such a wonderful, positive blog such as yours. I’m going for the creativity. I’ll let you (and the other positive readers and builders of wealth – life and money) know how I’m doing. Again, thanks!!

        p.s. My Website will be up soon.

      • Jason August 5, 2013, 5:15 pm

        I applaud the inclusion of music-making and creative fields in this list. Sure, there may be lots of failures, but these people are trying to do things that they would enjoy doing, and if they can overcome the failures they’ll be better in the end. That fits perfectly with the theme of this blog. Many people suck at money…until they adapt, and then they’re overjoyed at their accomplishment. It’s more satisfying to accomplish difficult things.

      • Larry Spears December 11, 2014, 10:55 am

        Okay… So, I have been telling my daughter bedtime stories since the moment my wife and I found out we were going to be blessed with her. And lately, the past year or so, I have been creating the stories each night in an ongoing series.

        While reading your page, I found the part about self publishing through Amazon something of interest and I just wanted to say thank you for the idea; I would have never thought about it otherwise.


        Larry Spears

        • Hess the Best June 9, 2020, 5:42 am

          Hey Larry
          I’m wondering if you did end up publishing your stories?
          I’d sure love to buy them!!!
          All the best,

      • EL March 3, 2015, 8:06 am

        That was a great response. I think many jobs are challenging, and it takes dedication to make it on the creative job side like blogging. I think if you focus on building skills when young, you have more options for 50K jobs. Also you have to network and market yourself like crazy.

      • RetiredToWin Alex April 23, 2015, 11:38 am

        “How do you know if you have it?” MMM, is that a trick question? My answer is TO TRY IT seriously and the results will tell you if you “have it.”

        One occupational anecdote from my own life has to do with grant writing. I’d never done it or been trained for it before I tried it. (Duh!) In fact, I’d never even IMAGINED that you could write up requests for funds and send them to organizations called foundations that would then — if you “had it” — respond by sending you checks for tens of thousands of dollars. But I spent about 2 weeks doing in-depth research on how to do it… and then I tried it. Over the following 10 years, I estimate I generated around $5 million or more in grants for the groups I did this for.

        Another anecdote, this one from my current earlier-retired life, has to do with blog writing. Although I’m not trying to make any money off my blog, I’m certainly trying to write good articles for it and build up viewership. Does my blogging “have it?” Too early to tell. But to get that question answered I have TO TRY. Which I am.

        • Emily June 23, 2015, 5:15 pm

          Are you an animal lover? If so, we’d love your help!

      • John doe May 11, 2016, 3:25 pm

        Carnival ride supervisor also gets you $50k plus

      • Patrick Hood October 25, 2017, 10:34 am

        An overlooked avenue to making great money is running your own cleaning business, particularly window cleaning, eavestroughs cleaning, and power washing.

        In just residential work alone, you can average $40-$60 an hour which equates to $50,000 a year or more. Large business make in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather than a university education, this requires manual labour, salesmanship, and general management ability.

        I know this because I’ve run my own window cleaning business for 6 years now, even in spite of having a university education.

    • Jeff July 25, 2013, 11:40 am

      To be fair, beer money is also a potential sidehustle. These things are a lot of stuff that can be worked on outside of work hours as you build yourself up. Even if they never grow to big income streams, they’re still adding to the stache.

    • Mark July 25, 2013, 11:48 am

      I think that for most of these jobs there is a start-up capital vs. time-to-money curve (picture a supply-demand X-curve). If you want to do excavating, you need an expensive excavator, but you can drive it off the lot and start trenching (possibly not legal – not recommending this, just sayin’). If you’re getting into WordPress, blogging, or techno, you can spend $0 on it for a long time while you eat cat food and live in a studio where you sublet the kitchen. These low-entry-barrier jobs call for a strong dose of “don’t quit your day job”, which seems to be the gist of your comment.

      By contrast, the trades-related jobs (plumbing, HVAC, tile, carpentry) offer a balance, allowing modest capital outlays up front and (unless an apprenticeship is required) allowing you to accumulate skills during evenings and weekends. Once you find yourself turning away fun jobs in your new skillset because you “have to go to work”, maybe then you should quit your day job.

      Time is the key ingredient in all these cases. You have to want to spend your time well, and be willing to give up some pleasures (gaming, TV, etc.) to get where you want to go. That’s a familiar theme on this blog, though, (and yours, too, of course).

      • Anthony McDougle July 25, 2013, 5:00 pm

        Yes! This is exactly what I’m doing — building what will start out as a freelance programming and web design business in my spare time. I don’t have much time to do fun things during the week right now between the business and my real job (although I consider building this business fun!) but I’ve set the goal to make this profitable enough to quit my day job by the start of 2015.

        Read any success book — it’s all about not being afraid to fail. If I screw up, hey, I just keep at my day job until the next big idea comes along or until my ‘stache gets big enough. Although another part is just being optimistic — others have succeeded. What do they have that I don’t?!

        • Nick August 4, 2015, 1:37 pm

          Hi Anthony, have you been successful since this post in 2013?

    • Mr. Minsc July 29, 2013, 12:32 pm

      Without reading the rest of the comments:

      Could not the same be said for traditional business such as a plumbing company? Like anything, what ever you pursue has to be something you enjoy. It’s true, blogging may never become a viable source of income for most. I certainly would not quit what I’m doing at this very moment for it. Instead, if I ever had the calling, I would blog on the side and let my style and presence slowly build over time. While one may never break out, if one doesn’t keep trying the opportunity is guaranteed never to arrive.

  • The Shoestring Investor July 25, 2013, 11:20 am

    This article is right up my street. Many of these I am already trying, but lots I hadn’t thought of too. Not sure I’m quite ready to become king of dancing yet, but perhaps with practice…

    One thing I’ve started doing in my project is Dog Walking. I was absolutely blown away by how much you can make, and it’s so easy to get into. All you need is the ability to walk and not lose a dog. You can charge up to £10 ($15ish) per hour per dog, walk 4 at a time and that’s a seriously good wage. If you don’t mind me linking to my article about my experience, I’ll include it here. Feel free to delete that part if it’s against your policies :)


    • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies July 25, 2013, 11:55 am

      Along a similar theme, though perhaps more profitable: Professional Pooper Scooper.

      In every development my sister has lived in there has been a pooper scooper that many in the neighborhood hire to stop by once a week and pick up the dog poop in their backyard. Cost: $5 per week for about 5 minutes worth of effort.

      Get enough clients in the neighborhood and travel time between stops is pretty much nil, and you can easily get over $25/hour. Once you get enough clients, outsource the work as it really can be done by anyone.

      • The Shoestring Investor July 25, 2013, 12:30 pm

        Haha, I’ve never heard anything like it. Very enterprising. Not exactly glamorous but sounds like it brings in the cash!

      • Alex July 25, 2013, 1:13 pm

        You could also consider combining these two side hustles into one serious money making profession. Talk about vertical integration..

        • Matt K December 7, 2015, 1:55 pm

          This is the comment that almost gave away my sneaky reading of MMM on my 3rd monitor at work. Almost lost a mouthful of tea all over the keyboard. Imagine this, you “walk” the dogs around a specific neighborhood then send your employees to scoop the next day. For a full high tech solution, you could GPS mark the droppings and your employees could pre-map the most efficient route the next day :).

    • SZQ July 26, 2013, 5:16 pm

      I told my neighbor a few years ago to start pet-sitting! I knew she could make good money doing it because we paid our pet sitter good money and often would have a hard time finding someone. Well, she’s started dog sitting/walking and has more business than she can handle! And she’s loving it! Win-Win!

      • Fangs July 31, 2013, 5:39 pm

        Do have them know their market. I know plenty of people who tried petsitting–I am one–and no one can rely on it unless they are in a larger city. Rural areas such as where I live can’t support a petsitter. I am one of the few still around and jobs occur one every three-four months.

  • jlcollinsnh July 25, 2013, 11:21 am

    The last magazine I worked for served the HVAC industry. The biggest issue that industry faces? Finding enough skilled techs.

    The biggest issue 50 years ago? Finding skilled techs. And for every year in between.

    • Anne July 25, 2013, 11:32 am

      This is so true, my fiance is in HVAC on the engineering side and in the summers the techs can work as much overtime as they desire- there never seems to be a shortage of calls.

      • mike July 25, 2013, 3:51 pm

        Anne do you think, or could you ask your fiance, if any HVAC company would hire someone seasonally?

        I’ve often thought of learning HVAC and doing it as a side job seasonally but I’m not sure if its feasible.

        • Geek July 25, 2013, 6:38 pm

          Why aren’t these technicians paid more if the demand is so high? 50k is nothing to sneeze at though.

        • Steve Adams July 28, 2013, 2:05 pm

          I’ll hire you seasonally. Try air conditioning season. – offer preseason check outs for $20. Even a new guy can check the filters and see if the ac works. With a little training you can check the refrigerant. If there is a problem the experienced guy can come fix it before the crazy season starts for less then during the heat wave.

    • Keith October 6, 2016, 3:20 pm

      This seems to be accurate as I work for one of the big manufacturers in test engineering and our facility has 5-6 hvac tech openings open nearly year round. I can only imagine how busy the installation companies get in the early summer and winter.

  • Laura @ Frugal Newlyweds July 25, 2013, 11:22 am

    Definitely check your area first. Even living in a somewhat “resort” area most carpenter jobs pay $15 or less hour if you work for someone and $20-$30 hour if you are on your own once you figure in time to plan for the job. We do live in a more rural area though, so most of the locals try to do it themselves and don’t want to pay much for someone else to do it. If you live in a more urban area I believe it would be much easier to charge more and easily make $50,000.

    • Janette July 25, 2013, 2:41 pm

      Really? You can find a carpenter for under $20 an hour? My sister pays over $50 in Anthem. My brother in law bills himself as a handy man and charges a mere $35- but knows he can get much more in Idaho Falls. My nephews got through pharmacy school working for about $40 and hour in Salt Lake.
      I think you might find that people are definitely willing to pay for someone who has a reputation and finishes the job!

      • Kenoryn July 26, 2013, 7:49 am

        Agree, you can hire a “handyman” around here for $30/hour – but a carpenter you can expect to pay more for. I wouldn’t expect to hire anyone for less than $30.

      • Brian1975 July 26, 2013, 7:57 am

        In my area you can get a carpenter for 20/hr usually they don’t have the experience or the expertise that a more experienced carpenter would have with 15 or 20 yr’s experience. I spent 15 years as a self/employed carpenter and when I quit I was charging close to 40/hr. I was quite busy, I got tired of doing it (love to do it now on my own properties) and also witnessed a 65 yr old carpenter trying to keep up. Decided I should get into something a little less physically demanding before it’s too late. I joined the financial industry. I make roughly the same income with less damage to my body. Job is closer to my home and I don’t need to continually upgrade tools nor drive to far to jobs.

      • FT June 26, 2015, 2:40 pm

        I mentioned this in my comment on the “Part 2” page, but you can definitely gross $60/hour as a handyman, without too much marketing. It takes a few months of research to structure your business properly, and a good Craigslist ad with nice pictures, and living near a small city full of people who don’t do their own house repairs. (It won’t work as well in the country.)

        With better marketing, good networking skills, and a good reputation (i.e. you have to know what you’re doing and be honest) the sky is the limit.

        I’m married to a successful handyman, and he’s constantly throwing work out to people who are just as good as he is, but who don’t want to bother with marketing. He has so much work that he can turn down the crap jobs (like crawling around in attics) and take the nice ones (like changing door knobs).

        I will say that this is a very seasonal business. Nobody wants work at Christmastime, for example. There are ways to mitigate that, though.

  • David July 25, 2013, 11:25 am

    B-b-b-but MMM, what about my paaaassion!?!?


  • Per Diem July 25, 2013, 11:27 am

    Per Diem.
    Use your engineering degree to get a job in a field that offers temporary (1-3 year) field assignments and get paid Per Diem. Mining, Oil & Gas, Power Generation are the big industries I know. For me this works out to an additional 70K/year on top of my generous engineering salary. Tax free for the first 12 months. Unless you change locations and then the tax-free clock resets. Live like a gypsy and grow your ‘stache. Or if you have the manual trade skills and can get into the plant outage circuit (pipefitters, boilermakers, carpenters, welders, electricians, formworkers, etc… Often union workm, but not always), you can travel the country like this, site to site to site. (1-2 month stints at a time).

    • WageSlave July 25, 2013, 12:20 pm

      Per Diem – could you elaborate on this a bit? Sounds thrilling!

      • Per Diem July 25, 2013, 2:43 pm


        A lot of contract type work in the below mentioned industries will pay you Per Diem for field assignments, to cover living expenses while you are away from “home.” If you are mustachian, you rent your house (our sub-let your lease) and cook your own food in the rental at your assignment location (as opposed to staying in a hotel and eating out). Even if you can’t get someone to cover your rent/mortgage while you are gone a smart person will come out ahead, and if you follow the ‘Stache, you’ll come out WAY ahead.

        • cptacek July 25, 2013, 4:54 pm

          Be careful with the “sub-letting” part if contracting with the government. I knew three people get fired for this, after hundreds before them did it successfully. It was a shock and wasn’t really fair, but they just decided that practice wasn’t right, and bam, they were fired.

          • tallgirl1204 July 29, 2013, 4:28 pm

            I think that Per Diem is referring to subletting your own personal apartment, not subletting the apartment assigned to him/her at the worksite.

            • cptacek July 30, 2013, 10:10 am

              Yeah, I know. These people had apartments in Dallas (or surrounding area) and were sent to D.C. for a year. They let someone else move in to their apartment, had them pay rent, and the movers had apartments in D.C. and got per diem. More like thousands of people had done that previously, and the company decided it was a bad practice, and bam, fired.

    • Greg July 25, 2013, 2:09 pm

      Yes, could you elaborate what you mean by “for me this works out to an additional 70K/year on top of my generous engineering salary.” Do you mean that you get paid up to 70K more than you would if you were on salary, or that this per diem is somehow additional work to your salaried job?

      • Per Diem July 27, 2013, 10:01 am

        Greg, While on long-term field assignment, if I was staying in a hotel and eating at restaurants, 70k would barely cover my additional expenses. However since I’m not, and able to rent my house, it’s effectively extra salary. Also the experience gained on field assignment is highly looked upon in the above mentioned industries and leads to more responsibilities and promotion.

  • Debt Blag July 25, 2013, 11:30 am

    This is so great. Sure, a college education is the right path for plenty of people, but it’s so important to think outside of the box and understand all of your options. This is very much in line with what I did. Thanks so much.

  • Done by Forty July 25, 2013, 11:32 am

    I think the timing of this article is great, especially coming off the recent complaint-a-palooza in those Yahoo comments re: MMM’s salary. It’s great to see a list of realistic options that are out there for go-getters.

    Personally, ever since seeing Community’s 2nd season again recently, I’ve been considering following in Troy Barnes’ footsteps and becoming a part time plumber. It seems to make sense on some level: pipes and water and whatnot.

  • Edward July 25, 2013, 11:33 am

    Along the lines of Wordpress, *lots* of people clamouring around for SharePoint gurus. Heck, you don’t even have to be a “guru”. If you have a few years of general computer, IIS, SQL, and web experience it’s a pretty easy thing to get setup and get working. A lot of places have had SharePoint setup for them but have nobody to support it. I have a steady 9-5 government job and I’m always being asked if I could help outside places with their SharePoints. …Which I’m not too thrilled about, because as a programmer it’s about as challenging as being a physician but making the majority of your bread and butter by walking around putting Band-Aids on scraped knees and elbows. I can’t imagine how much I’d make if I put an ad in the phone book. Which most MMM’s readers would probably say I should do, but I value my free time (away from computers) too much to be sticking my nose in them every evening and weekend,

    • Elkbark July 25, 2013, 12:58 pm

      You can still make money without giving up your free time. Find someone (or create someone) else that can do the work and contract it out. Take a % off the top as your finder’s fee.

  • Debt Blag July 25, 2013, 11:33 am

    And to add one thought, the one that doesn’t require a degree or even a diploma is running your own small business. All it takes is a good idea, and lots (and lots and lots) of work. Can be a great path for some willing to put in the hours.

  • Anne July 25, 2013, 11:36 am

    MMM I think you suggested driving a semi-truck to the fast-food worker who wrote some time back. One of my cousins does this and I believe he cracks that number pretty readily.

  • Shelby July 25, 2013, 11:39 am

    Yeah, these days I’d definitely have to think twice about recommending college. I think you can do much better in the trades unless you can land one of those $100k jobs right out of college. My diploma does look nice hanging on the wall in my office though, haha!

  • Joy July 25, 2013, 11:40 am

    I’m new to the Mustache’s, I started following after the Washington Post article and I am delighted to have found such a wonderful group of folks.
    I made a career change in 2012 from being an independent film producer to a business manager. I do not have a four year degree. I have a two year associates degree in Film and Television Production. I managed film budgets from 75K to 1.5M for nearly ten years but I kept finding myself broke and desperate for my next job. I decided this wasn’t a healthy way to live any longer and used my money managing skills to get in to the 9 to 5 workforce. It worked. I have been happily employed for a year and a half with no end in sight.
    However, I see the need for indie films and small companies to have someone who is consulting and managing the money and just the books of the project/company for reports and tax purposes. I am now combining my producer money skills with my business management skills and starting my own small consulting firm for companies generating 1.5M or less per year. It’s my starting point. I have my first two clients already and if all goes well I plan to be self-employed by 2015. I’m using all of my contacts as resources and offering them a great deal on my services if they spread the word about my company to others. Smaller companies have smaller staffs and the owners and managers can be overwhelmed with the daily grind so having someone who is doing your books, monthly, QRTRLY & yearly reports as well as your taxes for a small fee is something I’ve noticed most small companies want and need. I’m just getting started. We’ll see how it goes. I’m excited about it.

    • sydney July 26, 2013, 5:11 am

      congrats, Joy! You filled a need and found a niche.

  • Matt Becker July 25, 2013, 11:42 am

    I’m pretty new to this blogging thing but the opportunities are pretty cool. There certainly isn’t easy money, but as simple an investment as time you can start to build a pretty solid stream of traffic to your site. As your multiple examples demonstrate, from there it’s a matter of what you want to do with that traffic. The trades examples are great too. For the most part those are skills that most anybody could learn and use to make a good living, without the 4+ years and thousands of dollars of tuition. I’m not really sure why those kinds of professions aren’t talked about more.

  • JessicaG July 25, 2013, 11:43 am

    I wanted to share my business that makes over $50k a year with no degree. In fact I didn’t even bother finishing high school. I started a dog walking company, built my own website (before the days of drop and drag btw so I actually learned HTML and CSS), and off I went. Within a year I was earning over $70k, at one point I had several employees and earning well over 100k but I found the extra work of managing others not worth it and downsized back to just working for myself. If you love dogs and are capable of actually learning about animal behaviour and training AND you are good at new client meetings this is an extremely easy industry to profit from. I did it for about 8 years and have just recently quit to pursue other things.

    • cptacek July 25, 2013, 4:23 pm

      I believe you, but this just freaking blows my mind!

    • Holly@ClubThrifty July 30, 2013, 10:08 am

      That’s awesome and it doesn’t surprise me. There are quite a few dog walkers in my area and they look like they are serious about it. What’s especially cool is that you could get your work out in at the same time that you were “working” if you logged in enough miles. You could maybe even jog instead of walk if you had few enough dogs at the time (and they were cooperative!)

  • Jessica July 25, 2013, 11:45 am

    I went to college to become an aerospace engineer at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. This is a career that pays around $50k starting out and 5 years in I was making $140k per year but that’s not the point. I had a classmate friend who was also my roommate and was really into music. He had hundreds of cd’s. for extra money, he worked at one of the many local resorts doing different things but one of those things was the kids club and hosting karaoke. Then he would DJ on their pool deck. Eventually he had a bunch of his own equipment and started DJ’ing for private events (weddings, graduation parties) then the local water park and clubs started offering him regular gigs. Needless to say he graduated with his degree in aerospace engineering but was already making 6 figures so he kept DJ’ing and had an AE degree as a FALLBACK. Crazy but now he has made it into his own entertainment company and has several people working for him and it sure looks like his job is more fun than mine was although I sincerely enjoyed my job while I worked it ;).

    • Marcia July 25, 2013, 12:00 pm

      shit, I went into the wrong kind of engineering.

    • Trevor August 5, 2013, 7:11 pm

      I think this highlights a key idea of these lesser-known businesses: there are lots of small, unglamorous jobs that people want with frequency, that don’t require much experience.

      Like doing X for weddings, be it music (live or DJ), photography, cakes, center pieces, planning, invitations, whatever.

      Or doing anything for busy home owners who haven’t read MMM’s article on insourcing (all the trades/landscaping listed in MMM’s article), and also dog walking, in-home computer setup/debugging, AV installation, interior decorating, party catering, nannying (better than babysitting since you can watch multiple kids at once, more like the dog walking business model), etc.

      Or doing something for starups/small businesses that don’t have dedicated business/accounting people, like keeping their books/paying their bills/managing their accounts, developing their web presence, designing logos/slogans/ads, …

      Or doing the same things you’d do for a wedding for a medium/large business for their Christmas/whatever parties.

      Small, unglamorous jobs that people take for granted need to be done by someon. And a lot of these jobs are compatible with most people’s 9-5 schedules.

      • Matt August 15, 2013, 3:33 pm

        This is essentially what I am doing more and more of right now. A friend of mine is the race director for an “extreme” racing company in the upper midwest, and we started working together to plan some races. The thing is, I’m a little more able to get computer things done in a timely manner than he is, and I don’t find it that difficult. Now I’m making several hundred dollars a year being his support–answering racer emails, dealing with registration problems, and building and updating the online content, all on my own schedule for the most part. It could be secretarial work, but I’m cheap, I know his style of race direction, and I’m actually interested in racing, so it’s enjoyable.

    • Redeyedtreefr0g August 8, 2013, 2:44 pm

      I was trying to become an airline pilot in Aeronautical Science, right out of high school, and was too stubborn to quit when life kept throwing hurdle after hurdle at me. I ended up not being able to complete the flight portion of the program, swapped my major from that to Aeronautics, and instead of a single Aviation Safety minor, I wound up with those specialized classes becoming a second minor in Aeronautical Studies.

      Basically that’s a detailed way of saying I failed at life. I DID get the Bachelor’s Degree, but I had no idea what to do with it.

      Now I’m something like $287k in debt.

      I drive a school bus, now. I’m happy doing this (I love it, actually), but it will never be able to cover all the bills, much less even begin to pay any of that back…

  • Elizabeth July 25, 2013, 11:45 am

    It depends on where you live but if your in a major urban centre where day care costs can reach $1,000 a month per kid a stay at home parent could bring in a good chunk of change with 4 kids a day. Of course this all depends on what the price of child care in your area is.

  • Josh July 25, 2013, 11:48 am

    First, a suggestion for a $50,000 job – programming. I know programming is typically considered a job for college grads, but more and more I’m seeing businesses who value experience far more than education in this field. They’ll hire someone who’s been doing it as a hobby or freelance worker for a couple of years over someone with a four year degree any day of the week. And as you well know, programming can pay quite well.

    Second, a word of caution on the writing option. The vast majority of independent authors are either barely scraping by or are doing it just for fun and maybe to make a little on the side. (I’m part of the second group – you can see more about my work on my website, click my name for the link) VERY few people become popular enough to make a living off of it, let alone a $50,000+ living. Those that do typically make a ton, though. (Think 50 Shades of Grey) If you try this route, don’t quit your day job. Wait until you have evidence of your success to take that leap.

    • Brenton July 25, 2013, 2:21 pm

      While its true you can learn programming without a degree, its tough to make much working for yourself unless you find the right obscure technology. Unix, sharepoint(as someone mentioned earlier), etc… Or unless you happen to have good connections and can run a pseudo-consulting service for advanced but short-term project needs.

      Unless you are a genius, you probably wont get many gigs without experience or a degree.

      Another idea is owner/operator of a delivery route. Basically a company will pay you to deliver to obscure locations that they dont want to hire a regular driver to go to. Because its remote/obscure you can usually charge a higher than normal rate. Over time you could build a successful business.

      • Eric Finlay July 25, 2013, 3:11 pm

        That’s a mighty pre-defeated attitude you have there about programming. The great thing about it is that all you need is a computer and an internet connection to make something from scratch – and that IS experience. If you did a good job and made something of value, that’s your ticket in.

        • Jamesqf July 25, 2013, 3:41 pm

          This all depends on what sort/level of programming you’re doing. Simple business/phone apps, where most of the effort goes into designing & testing a UI, maybe doing some database lookup or displaying info from web mashups… Yes, you probably could do that without degree-level learning. Stuff that for instance is maybe computationally-intensive, so that knowing about underlying mechanisms & algorithms means the difference between getting a result in hours, or in months,

          The problem here is that you need to learn enough to know what you don’t know.

          • GP July 26, 2013, 6:24 am

            The point is you don’t need to blow a ton of money on a degree to get ‘degree-level learning’. Everything you’re going to need to learn is out there on youtube/udacity/coursera etc.

          • Ticktock February 12, 2015, 8:15 am

            My daughter was slogging through community college and not really enjoying it. She couldn’t believe I had to pay $500.00 for an elective class like piano. She interned at a local tech firm and they pointed her to our local coding school. The schooling was 2 months. Two months after graduation she was offered a position in a local tech firm for $50k+, great benefits and tuition reimbursement. School debt: $10,000. It was definitely worth it.
            She is 19. I am pushing her to this site so she can retire at 35.

            • win February 12, 2015, 7:45 pm

              What is the website of your local coding school? I’d like to see their curriculum.

            • Ticktock February 13, 2015, 10:38 am

        • Brenton July 29, 2013, 2:01 pm

          The problem is the level of competition from outside the United States. Anyone doing anything other than top quality professional work is going to be undercut in price. A company would hire you if you are local and can produce better quality than what they could find via one of the multitude of freelance site. However, convincing some company to hire you when you have no programming experience and no degree is going to be difficult. Its not impossible, but the competition for short term programming gigs is pretty intense. You cant be just OK at programming to make $50K doing freelance stuff, you have to be very, very good with the ability to prove it to clients.

      • Evan July 28, 2013, 11:32 am

        I couldn’t disagree with you more when it comes to programming. I had done some programming back in high school 15 years ago but not that much really. When I decided to get back into it I spent 3-4 months self-studying web development and landed a job making $62,000 for a 32-35 hour work week. The demand is so high for tech workers right now that I see people getting hired mostly on potential…

        Some of these jobs on the list seem a bit out there in terms of probability of success but to me tech is one area where you really don’t need a degree to get a decent job…

    • prosaic July 26, 2013, 5:12 pm

      Yes on the writing. I’ve already hit 6 figures from novel writing in 2013. Like anything, you have to research it and find your market, but with self-publishing (like blogging), if you combine research, creativity, and luck, you can really hit it big.

  • La July 25, 2013, 11:50 am

    New to the Honey Badger video ~ thanks very much for the hilarious short.

    Some of my friends and I make money singing and playing music. If you find the right gig it can be very lucrative (60s Pop, weddings, tribute/party band for example). In the past I’ve made quite a bit of cash (on the down low) watching dogs in my home. Tax free, of course, is best if you can swing it :)

  • Stephanie July 25, 2013, 11:53 am

    My hairstylist regularly cracks $100K, you can ‘rent’ a booth for $200/week (more or less depending on region) and that’s your first cut and color (yes, at a high end salon) that pays your rent. The rest is to you and taxes. AND everyone not ninja enough to cut their own hair is a potential client.

    • Carolina on My Mind July 25, 2013, 8:29 pm

      Having just come from getting my hair cut, this was my very first thought: I’m sure the woman who cuts my hair must make close to six figures. Hairstylists, beauticians, masseuses can all clear more than $50K a year if they’re good.

    • Alicia July 26, 2013, 6:44 am

      My hairdresser used to work at a high-end salon and I was paying big bucks for it (this was in the pre-budgeting days). After she worked there a few years, she opened her own salon in her basement (very nice, didn’t feel basement-like) and charged half of what she did at the salon! We talked about it a few times and she said she was still coming out much farther ahead even with the cheaper prices because the salon owner wasn’t taking a huge chunk off the top and charging for renting a chair, etc. We never got into the exact numbers, but I know she is doing very well, just by doing a little bit of quick math.

  • Dom July 25, 2013, 11:54 am

    There’s always the unpopular but incredibly effective decision to move away from where you were born.

    I moved across the country and more than doubled my comfortable engineering salary by working an industrial site job. Company pays for my living expenses and flights home on top of inflating my salary.

    • Per Diem July 25, 2013, 12:06 pm

      Gotta love Per Diem!

  • tori July 25, 2013, 12:00 pm

    My husband makes $50 an hour teaching private voice lessons. This can also be achieved for piano, guitar, violin, etc. People seem to be charging a lot for fancy gym classes – so opening a hot yoga studio or a crossfit gym is probably a big money maker.

    I’m sure Mrs. MMM will have this covered, but getting a real estate license is another way to make $50k+ without going to college.

    • Trevor August 5, 2013, 7:20 pm

      Tutoring can crack $50/hr in urban centres, too. Math tutoring is one of my side rackets. Once the first test comes home in September, there’s more work than I can handle.

      Ideally, you’ll have connections in private schools or public schools in upper-middle-class neighbourhoods.

  • Free Money Minute July 25, 2013, 12:01 pm

    I have an obvious one to add to the list that anyone can do. Mowing lawns. I know it doesn’t sound glamorous and it is hot and dirty, etc, but you can make big money on it with just a trailer load of equipment. Just a small lawn can bring $50 per visit and with a crew of just a few, you can be in an out in 15-20 minutes and onto the next one. This doesn’t even count the lawns that may being $200/visit that only take an hour to complete. Sounds like the place to go for someone who has the work ethic and doesn’t want to pile up debt hoping they get a corporate office job. (by the way, an office job is not that great)

    • rory July 26, 2013, 7:58 am

      This would be very location specific. My family owned a lawncare/landscaping business back in the 90’s and early 00’s, and made fat cash on the lawncare end of it. Around 2000 and the tech-bust suddenly people were laid off, mowing their own lawns, and/or looking for that ‘side hustle, almost retired’ job.

      Lawn care was it. Suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harry had a Reece hitch installed on the back of thier Buick’s, and were pulling the riding mowers around the neighborhood, undercutting the competition. I remember vividly a 1.5 acre lawn that I was giving had underbit considerably, and by my cost accounting was actually a net money loser. After mowing for 3 years I went to renew the contract one spring; he said he appreciated my attention to detail over the years, and that I always did a great job, but that he was going to go with a new company for half the price.

      We shut the business down the next year; couldn’t justify prices. It was good while it lasted, paid my college, but the dream is over.

      • Joe Average March 17, 2015, 3:56 pm

        I did this for several years during college. Did the low cost version that you described during the late 90s/early 2000s. Our faithful CR-V did all the towing duties and thus the source of my admiration of the clutch life.

        By the fourth year it had grown so much I needed a helper but didn’t want to get that far invested in it. I was turning away excessively picky customers though and a couple of customers who liked to let the grass get six inches deep before they called me. The first guy wanted me to mow his yard with a 22 inch push mower, the second variety wanted me to rake the yard by hand for the same money as the mowing price. Uh no, that’s extra ma’am.

        My Briggs & Stratton powered Sears tractor was a mess after three seasons. The engine and transmission lived on happily but the steering and the mower deck needed constant repair – lots of welding too as the steel cracked. Did all that work myself. Gave it to a friend afterwards. I think he patched it up and mowed his own yard for several years. It was just too light duty for the level of work I was using it for. (Buy quality). No quality in the deck hangers and steering joints was the main problem. Mowing a single suburban yard? It would last for years. On the yard mowing circuit? Like I said – maybe three years.

        Seriously considered adding greasable heim joints all over the tractor but that was about the time I was moving on to greener pastures that would help me flush out my professional resume.

  • Dan July 25, 2013, 12:01 pm

    For the person that enjoys extreme flexibility and learning to fix just about anything I legitimately think you could make 50k plus with the following methods
    1. Buying high end broken durable goods on craigslist (Tools, Lawnmowers, boat motors, vehicles) Generally anything that is A. High quality B. Repairable (which high quality goods generally are) C. With a large potential customer base. Fixing them and selling them back on craigslist, or if conveniently shipped on ebay or amazon.
    2. Selling other peoples stuff and taking a commission. I started doing this a year or so ago for people that just do not understand that craiglist is full of normal people and am now turning people away because I just do not have time to deal with all of the volume.

    • JessicaG July 25, 2013, 12:05 pm

      I actually pick up free stuff off Kijiji (Canada Craigslist) every week and resell it. People are always just throwing away things you clean up and sell!!

  • Lucas July 25, 2013, 12:02 pm

    A couple jobs that i have seen in my area that seem to pay decently well:

    1) Cable / FIOS internet installer – Talking with the guy who installed ours when we moved back they make pretty good money, and can get a lot of overtime.

    2) Salesmen jobs – mostly commission based but can make way over $50k if you are good at it.

    3) Realestate – this one take some time to get into (as you and Mrs. MMM know) and it helps if the homes in your area are expensive. But in DC area you would only need to do ~5 houses a year to break the 50k boundry.

    4) Semi Driver – the average for these guys is right around 50k. The further you go from home the more you make though.

  • David July 25, 2013, 12:07 pm

    Be careful with the mechanic thing. In most US cities, it’s illegal to work on cars that don’t belong to you in your own garage. That’s to prevent exactly what you’re talking about – a start-up mechanic doing business out of his house, with all the corresponding noise and traffic that would entail.

    I do love the list of hands-on jobs that make good money, though. It’s got me and every office worker daydreaming about leaving the desk job behind.

    • lecodecivil July 25, 2013, 8:52 pm

      Not to mention the liability issues if you screw up the work. Professional mechanics have loads of insurance. Screw up someone’s brakes working out of your garage and you just might lose the whole house. Not saying you can’t do this, just that you really need to know what you’re doing AND be adequately protected.

  • gestalt162 July 25, 2013, 12:07 pm

    My soon-to-be brother in law has made substantial money as an over-the-phone debt collector.

    Granted, it’s not for everyone. It’s highly commission-based, can require long weeks and working weekends, you have to deal with more than the usual share of idiot coworkers, and of course, you have to hassle (often angry) people for money over the phone.

    However, it doesn’t require a degree- my BIL holds a GED, and has completed a few unrelated courses at the local community college. He was great at his job, and was rewarded with mountains of gift cards to area retailers at work, plus staggering bonuses that put his annual pay in the $70K range, if not higher. He made more as a debt collector with no degree than I do as a software engineer with a 4-year computer engineering degree from a selective private school, working for one of the best companies in my area. Now granted, he had one of the worst spending habits I have ever seen, but that’s another story.

    He has since moved from being a rank-and-file collector into management at the agency- his salary is slightly lower, but much more stable and less commission-based, and still probably higher than mine.

    • Alicia July 26, 2013, 6:46 am

      you would think as a debt collector he would be very aware of how not to spend his money.

  • Stephen @ SE July 25, 2013, 12:07 pm

    I think my favorite is the ole craigslist/ebay flipper. If you combine that with a little bit of repair knowledge (learned on YouTube) it is not extremely difficult to make $1k a week (if you have the time). It is pretty easy to score cheap simi-broken things on craigslist without too much hassle. Especially if you buy/sell smaller, shipable items like cell phones, or computers. I’ve been doing this part time for fun for years and used the income to pay for about 1/4 of our house.

    • win July 26, 2013, 2:41 pm

      Can you tell us some details? What are common repairs for phones and computers? Do you have an ad that requests broken equipment?

  • CincyCat July 25, 2013, 12:08 pm

    In the Creative category: Cake or cupcake decorating. A friend of mine was able to quit her day job after a couple of years of making birthday & special occasion treats for friends & family. Word got around, and now she has to turn customers away.

    You don’t have a consulting category, but you really don’t need a fancy degree to be a consultant. Companies large & small routinely bring in people to tell them how to do something that they don’t know how to do. Non-profit consulting in particular is huge right now. This is because most non-profit boards consist of volunteers with a passion for the mission, who may or may not have had any experience with organizational management or strategic planning. If you have real-world experience with this, believe me, there is a non-profit organization who is ready to hire you.

    • Aaron July 26, 2013, 3:34 pm

      I’m curious about the cake/cupcake decorating and how it turned out so profitable for her. My wife had a baking business for two years and got rid of it at the end of 2012 because it simply wasn’t making enough money. There was so much competition out there. Some customers would find it worth it, but many were expecting her to do it for the price of what a Sam’s club cake would cost them.

      Not to mention the strain on her arms and how long it takes to make the flowers and everything that go on a cake. She basically decided that while she loved the creative side of things, she didn’t like becoming the cookie/cake factory that it was turning into (always making the same stuff over and over).

      • Abby July 27, 2013, 6:39 am

        One option for these “creative” type service jobs is to jack your prices way up. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but for the cake baking, you can move from the folks whose alternative is a Sam’s club cake to folks who want a cake that is special/exclusive/elite and have no way of telling the difference except for price. Of course, you want everything to conform to that image — you need a classy website, professional looking invoices, etc — but it can keep the volume manageable, creativity high, and income flowing in.

  • Nedwin July 25, 2013, 12:11 pm

    One that was not under the manual labor section – Oil and gas laborer. From roughneck to truck driver to whatever else, these generally pay a good wage. I personally know of one man earning $120k/year doing cement work for oil/gas wells. I am quite sure he does not have beyond a high school education, other than any training provided by his employer. The work is very hard, may be in inhospitable areas, and may have odd work schedules (like two weeks on/two off), but the pay can be high and the benefits good.

    • Matt August 16, 2013, 9:25 am

      It’s good to keep in mind that in the boom areas like western North Dakota right now, price of living is going up as well. So if your employer isn’t covering food and/or lodging, you need to take that into account.

  • Flofli July 25, 2013, 12:11 pm

    My husband learned title insurance from helping his dad during high school. Once he graduated @1980 he started working for a law firm instead of going to college. In @1986 he started working for a national title insurance company at @30K per year. That is how much some people with degrees were making at the call center I worked in because they could not find other work. You do have to be licensed and take a few hours of continuing education courses every other year which his company pays for. After 25 years with the same company he has specialized and just now squeaked over 100K. Not bad for someone with no degree :)

  • No Waste July 25, 2013, 12:22 pm

    If you can handle it, you can make a boatload of cash working in oil fields, or out on offshore oil platforms.

    You put in a whole lot of time but then typically take a couple weeks off in between stints.

    A whole lot of hidden wealth was built this way.

    • ABC July 25, 2013, 12:48 pm

      It’s not just about “If you can handle it”. You need to know that secret handshake. Just look at Norway and Brazil. Thousands of workers would love to do that. Pays great, but getting your foot in the door in that area is very, very, very tough.

      • Alicia July 26, 2013, 6:52 am

        Depending on where you are, it’s not hard to get into at all. I’m thinking of Western Canada, but honestly there are so many positions open in the oil fields that they fly people in from the East Coast for three weeks (five hour flight if direct) and then send them home. there are flights just full of oil workers because there is such a demand and not enough people in Alberta to work the positions. Hard work (and schedule) but great money.

  • Sarah July 25, 2013, 12:23 pm

    Hey MMM,
    A couple of thoughts. First a mechanic actually makes about $25 an hour because of the cost of buying all his tools. Over 50% of his income goes into tools to fix your car. I know it’s crazy, but since I’m married to the Tool Dealer I happen to know this is true. You might be able to do basic car repairs, but all those cars are built to need a computer to read them, and the computers need $1000 updates once a year. True, you could use a cheap tool – but when that puppy breaks in the middle of the bid job, and you have to go buy another one – all your profit is gone in time.

    That brings me to one job you don’t know about that makes big bucks. Sales. Most people cringe. This job is so easy. First off, a Tool Dealer is a sales guy. He shows up to shops where the guys need to buy his tools (best on the market). It’s not like Cold Calling. Think of it this way – when you walk into Walmart you are there because you want their crap – but they still “sell to you”. The guys come out to the truck because they need the tools – just some times they don’t know they needed the tools. Ha ha. If you are a crappy tool rep you should clear about $50k a year.

    The Food industry. Before my husband became a Tool Dealer, he was paid good money to hold people’s hands. Let me explain. First there are two main food suppliers for restaurants. You don’t need a degree to be a rep (in fact I’ll tell you when you do need one). You are going into restaurants that need food and selling them food. Easy. This averages around $60k a year. If you suck at your job. Feels too much like cold calling? Ok, be the middle guy. After the first guy goes in and the resturant confirms they want orange juice he calls the juice rep – now the second guy goes in and finds out exactly what kind of orange juice (yep there are different kinds), orders what they need and basically keeps them calm (yes, buying juice is stressful). My husband made about $65k a year. That was the low pay because he had no experiance. A person with experiance makes around $80k a year PLUS bonuses. There is the last person in this chain of sales. They work directly for the manager and try to keep the second person pushing their juice onto the customer. So they will go into the resturant to offer special deals, or insentives for the second guy. This guy needs a collage education and works for the big wigs like Nestle, Coke a Cola, Smuckers…ect. Oh wait, if you have the experiance they will over look a collage degree… but your base pay will suck at $70k starting instead of $90k. Rats. What do you need a collage degree in? What ever. They don’t care.

    Food not your thing? These reps exsist for anything you buy. Just thought I would mention it. Now, you’ll get lots of food reps/ tool dealers complaining they don’t make that much. Tell them to be better at their jobs. :) There is no reason you should make less than $50k – even if you suck.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 25, 2013, 12:44 pm

      I like your sales idea, but disagree about the cost of mechanic tools. These are dirt-cheap these days, last many years, are often available used, and you don’t nee that many of them (and you can always specialize in repairs that work with the tools you do have – how about brakes?). My description of the craft is based on real friends who own garages of their own. There’s no way you “consume” $50.00 of tools per hour and shrink your $75 to $25, unless you only do one job.

      I have more expensive stuff for my carpentry business than some mechanics have for the cars, and even then tools are a negligible line item for me over time.

      • Insourcelife July 29, 2013, 10:12 am

        I’ve been able to do about 80% of car maintenance and repair over the last 10 years with the tools listed in one of the DIY articles on my site: http://insourcelife.com/recommended-tools-for-a-diy-auto-mechanic/

        Besides those, I did have to buy a couple of specialized tools but that’s rare. An example would be a rear trailing arm bushing puller. Here is the cool part – I bought it for $100 and since then rented it out several times to people who needed the tool but did not want to buy it for what is usually a one time job. I actually made money on this puller now.

        As far as the special tools that deal with complicated electronics – I bought cables and software on eBay for different electronic-filled cars (BMW, MB, Mini…) and used my netbook to troubleshoot issues, reset engine lights, turn on/off features on these cars with very little hassle. I spent probably less than $200 on that equipment and was able to save thousands off what a dealer would charge if they were going to use their $10,000 shop computers to do the same work. And don’t forget that I can sell/rent these tools to recoup the costs.

    • Sid Zorbo July 26, 2013, 9:47 pm

      Being a food rep usually is the next step for burnt out chefs, which is basically a travelling salesman to the Food Services Industry. They make decent money 50 to 100K. But, I wouldn’t sell my soul to sling low quality Sysco pre-made, pre-processed crap which takes the fun of the job of the chef away in the first place, which is making the food. Each week these guys come in with somebody who has a product that is going to make my restaurant extremely more profitable, and is usually some sort of cannibalized chicken nugget product, or new wing sauce with 80 ingredients. I know a lot of these guys personally, and are typically men who try to befriend the debauched chefs with alcohol and other kickbacks to buy more of their product to raise their commission or standing as salesman within the company(at least the restaurants, not sure exactly how it works for large cafeteria operation sales). I don’t view these positions as important to the greater goal of Mustachianism. Add to that the ever-encroaching automated buying systems that the larger suppliers have switched to which are eliminating rep positions (ex. tracsdirect from Reinhart).

      However, I would suggest a different growing trend regarding the food services industry. Pop-up dinners, when done well and marketed to the right clientele base in heavily populated areas can be extremely profitable. You can make 1K per night with probably 8 to 10 hours prep time. I made $300 last one I did, which was an in-home dinner celebration. Basically, it is a catering gig. If you do in-home ones for 10 to 20 ppl three to five days a week, 50K is doable. Add a couple weddings or bah mitzvahs and you got yourself a decent paying job. The downside is working most weekends, learning health code laws, and the general rigamarole of running a biz that follows governmental guidelines while being a good enough cook to pull it off.

    • Joe Average March 18, 2015, 8:21 am

      Nah, I have a garage full of tools and a machine shop that I manage at work full of tools. Treated well, some tools last decades. Many of my tools are very cheap tools and pushing 30 years old. And if a person did have a tool failure, he or she could pick up a replacement quickly and in town. Might not be the quality of the tool truck tools but it would last a long time.

      Yes there would be some technology to keep up to date but your shop rate ought to cover that.

  • Ms. Must-stash July 25, 2013, 12:24 pm

    A friend of mine gets Paleo prepared lunches & dinners (10 per week, 5 lunches and 5 dinners, for around $100). He picks them up at his local Crossfit gym.

    If you get a good customer base that is easily $50k+ a year.

  • CityGirlCountryBloke July 25, 2013, 12:26 pm

    I was just talking about this to my carpool buddy this morning. There are so many alternatives and skills that are available to everyone that anyone can learn and make good money too. My hubby worked construction when he first got to this country and he was paid $20/hour by a mate of his for carpentry work. Another one of my friends has started her own business through motivational speeches for sexually traumatized civilians and vets after she suffered through a sexual assault when she was in the military. She also puts together travel retreats and gets her trip paid for and is paid for each person she brings. There are so many opportunities outside the box but you just have to have the courage to step out of it!

  • James Petzke July 25, 2013, 12:28 pm

    Motivational speaking. This is what I’m just starting out in. It is possible to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even millions, if you are an entertaining and inspiring teacher.
    I personally am focusing on the youth market. I will be speaking at various conferences and school assemblies, sometimes making as much as $5,000 for a single one hour speech. Do one of those a week and you are set. And it definitely doesn’t require a degree, just talent and hard work.
    For a few examples, look up Josh Shipp and Grant Baldwin. Shipp runs a 7 figure business off of his speaking.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 25, 2013, 12:41 pm

      Yeah! I forgot about that one. One of my old rental house tenants did this, and was making loads of cash at it. Public speaking is a rare skill, hard to learn, and highly paid once you are good at it. (Hell, I’d like to get good at it, even putting aside the money issue).

      • Geek July 25, 2013, 6:42 pm

        That would be so cool. I would like to get into public speaking/motivational speaking it seems kind of fun.

      • Debbie M July 25, 2013, 6:47 pm

        One word: Toastmasters.

        • James Petzke July 28, 2013, 9:01 am

          I’m going to disagree with you on this. Toastmasters teaches you how to be a robotic speaker and do things like wedding toasts, but to be a motivational speaker you have to be extremely authentic. Audiences get bored if you just stand up there and talk while taking exactly three steps to the left followed by three steps to the right.

          • Karen Pickles May 11, 2016, 11:41 am

            I tried Toastmasters…..big YUCK! Not the kind of speaking to the public I was looking for!

            • Jason Brady September 20, 2017, 6:06 pm

              I’m going to disagree with both of you. I spent five years in Toastmasters, as a member and leader (Club President, Area and Division Governor).

              Toastmasters doesn’t just teach people how to be a “robotic” speaker for wedding toasts. It teaches valuable skills on how to prepare and deliver a variety of speeches and think on one’s feet. It’s a positive and supportive place for people to overcome their fear of speaking in front of an audience, and to develop public speaking skills for work and personal pursuits. At a cost of less than $100/year, it fits right in with Mustacianism.

              Oh, and an entire leadership training track to learn how to inspire and lead teams, but that’s another subject.

              @James – Not sure what you experienced but authenticity is the cornerstone of any personal interaction. I know of nothing in the Toastmasters program that teaches the replacement of authenticity with boring steps to the left and right.

              @Karen, not sure what you were looking for, but sorry Toastmasters didn’t meet your particular needs. There certainly are other training programs out there. Still, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater for the vast majority of regular people like us who are terrified of speaking in front of others and want a safe place to overcome that fear. One of the best things I ever did for my own personal growth.

        • Kai M February 18, 2020, 12:05 pm

          Jordan Harbinger (Jordan Harbinger Show podcast) gave very good reasons NOT to go the Toastmasters route. To become very good at public speaking, go with the professionals teaching that; his recommendation, based on experience, was Michael Port (Steal the Show).

          • Kai M February 18, 2020, 7:40 pm

            …and reading one of the Paul Graham’s essays on How to Disagree, I understand, I have given a very low level form of disagreement.

            I cannot exactly quote what JH said, but it was in the sense that Toastmasters is good for someone to work on their stage fright and basic speaking skills. Almost everyone around you has also little or no experience and they are not able to pinpoint your mistakes. To be a really captivating speaker, you need a mentor or learn from the greatest if your goal is to excel. Breaking previously acquired bad habits is more difficult than not have them in the first place.

      • James Petzke July 28, 2013, 8:59 am

        It’s definitely something that takes practice to get good at, but once you are, it’s one of the best jobs out there!

    • Margarita August 4, 2013, 11:08 pm

      Hi. Can you explain how you get into that industry? How do you sell yourself as a motivational speaker? In our church we have lots of opportunities for public speaking, and it is something I love and have dreamed about doing more often, whether in church or out, but I wonder how you are going about selling yourself. I would love any advice you can offer. Thanks!

  • Albert July 25, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Some manual trades related to gas and oil industry, shipping and mining make great money. I know a guy who is a trained mechanic, worked with ships on shore for couple of years and now works on oil exploration platforms. He is in his 30-ties and makes up to 12,000$ per month doing it. He can live anywhere he wants while doing it. Of course there are downsides as well (dangerous, 3 month stints on the job without seeing family, only paid while on the platform).

    By the way most of the non-degree jobs mentioned so far are typical male occupations. I wonder what would MMM recommend for our female readers?

    • IAmNotABartender June 20, 2016, 2:24 pm

      I’m not MMM, but I would recommend women readers use the optimism gun to remind themselves that they can do anything that men can do (and, as readers of this blog, better than 95% of the men out there).

  • Early Retirement Extreme July 25, 2013, 12:37 pm

    I think the key criterion here is “run your own business”/”be famous in your niche”!

    However, those capable of running their own business would very likely also reach $50k+ being quickly promoted into management/sales working for corporate in the time (3-5 years) it takes to get a business up and running fast enough to work 2000 hours/year… similarly, employees who are smart/hard working enough to dominate a niche (being known outside their company) will be able to quickly rise above 50k in compensation inside of 5 years or so. Granted, not in all fields, but in many.

    So the salary cap is not so much due to being in the wrong field (white vs blue) but in lacking leadership or specialist potential. To wit, someone who is a white collar employee who shows up on time but doesn’t demonstrate any leadership potential will probably turn out to be a carpenter employee making 1/3 of the boss should the switch.

    Being well-known is an even worse proposal since things like blogging/youtubing, etc. is a winner-takes-all. By far the most bloggers/e-book sellers/youtubers/etc. make less than $100/month.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 25, 2013, 3:23 pm

      Your points are well taken Jacob, and I actually had an imaginary YOU in my head when I was writing this, cautioning me not to be overly optimistic in my portrayal.

      But here’s where I’d differ with you a bit: Sure, a competent office worker may often get promoted nicely – unless he/she is in the wrong field, where salaries are just plain low. These people need to realize that “organized, conscientious person” is a universal skill compatible with all industries and rare in all of them. So go do it where it pays well! Self-employment is one place where you can do it with no degree.

      As for blogging/YouTube – it’s not nearly as winner-takes-all as you might think. How many bloggers or small-time product sellers make $50k from their sites? Thousands, at least. At Fincon, I was shocked to hear that many bloggers with traffic one tenth that of this site were making more than that amount (even while I chose to make less).

      It was supposedly winner-take all when I started this site, but then this one slowly grew, the winners shuffled aside slightly to make room, and the audience for everyone continued to grow. And even now, more of these not-so-rare blogs are moving up and joining the crowd like a bunch of helium balloons at a party.

      As for the Tube – you don’t have to make the honeybadger or the dubstep moves – you can also build up a good, solid training course that slowly gets reasonable viewership. I’ve heard from people who do this with Minecraft and Ableton instructional videos, then there’s Eric the Car Guy, guitar instructors, and zillions of other categories. (Just updated the article to add those ideas- thanks for the prompt).

      So it’s not so much “winner takes all” as “thousands of mini-winners take a reasonable amount in each of their tiny niches”.

      • Dogs or Dollars July 25, 2013, 7:26 pm

        Moral of the story: Be competent. In whatever you do I’ve got a measly 2 year generic degree. Currently, I make lots in IT. Go me! I’m not even a geek. i just play one at work. I’ve also made sub 50k in something I like a bunch more, with a much lower over all earning potential. Because I had basic communication skills, showed up for work, gave a shit and was generally likeable, even that industry treated me well. I left because I’d never make as much a I did in IT, for much harder work. That’s not to say I didn’t have opportunities to rise to the top of the heap and quickly. I dont doubt my ability to push 50k in an industry and even position that doesnt usually go there. In my experience, there is such a lack of “good employees” in any field, if you are the shining star, doors open. Perhaps doors that don’t even traditionally exist.

        • Elihu P Thompson February 27, 2017, 3:48 am

          I Agree , I was a supervisor with school board , over many shops and I brought in great money , I was also a very talented carpenter and cabinet maker , and I and a hand for of my great hard-working men that did great work stood out . So we did side work in the afternoons and weekends earning 40.00 per hour and sometimes making as much as 5000 $ in a week on a special skilled job ! If you stand out ,you should be noticed and doors should open for you ! If they don’t in a reasonable length of time , sometimes many years , then change what your doing for the better ! But don’t quit before you find that and are earning what you need !

      • Mr. Minsc July 30, 2013, 7:55 am

        My plan currently is to make dairy farming my main source of income with plumbing as a secondary income. Once receiving my red seal I jumped in to world of business ownership nearly blind. There was no plan, it has been learn as I go, and in hindsight money was spent which didn’t need to be. Too many times I’ve been on the brink of quitting. Here’s the kind of things which would roll through my head.

        -I don’t want to put in the effort required to make this work.
        -I don’t have the time to balance this, farming, and having a life.
        -I sinking money in with no return.
        -I should go back working with another plumbing company and gain more experience.
        -I don’t have the money to properly advertise.
        -My truck is not fancy enough, I need a full sized cargo van.
        -I want to play Minecraft.
        -And blah, blah, blah, so on and so on.

        Then there’s the lack of verbal support from family members. I know they mean well but telling a person they you should wait and gain more experience through another employer isn’t what a person who is about to give up needs, or wants, to hear.

        How I’ve kept myself going is beyond me at times. All it takes is receiving one phone call for a job and I’m recharged. I get out and do the job and enjoy it. Now my focus is less on what I don’t know and more on what I can learn. The money I’ve spent thus far is not a loss, it’s the cost of education. It’s an investment towards expanding my skills and knowledge. At the end of the day I’m still further ahead than the person who is swimming in student loan debt. Any debt I do have is on the way down. Learning to run a business is becoming easier, the fear of the unknown continues to slip away. I may not be where I want to be with the business yet I haven’t given up. As I keep taking steps forward my goal becomes ever more clearer.

        Plumbing is a traditional and accepted form of job. Any of my elders who have achieved what I plan to will no doubt see a greener version of themselves in my posting. Blogging on the other hand is only in it’s in it’s infancy yet people are already saying the market is too over saturated to get a foot in the door. If that were the case wouldn’t the same be true for plumbing? This trade is much older and could be called saturated yet it doesn’t keep people like me from walking down the path to self employment.

      • La Toya November 29, 2016, 2:15 pm

        Hi. I love this article. I think everything you said is very realistic. My question is, how do you make money off of these niche sites like yours that you posted? I see them all the time on Pinterest, but can’t really figure out how to warm an income with them.

    • chris July 27, 2013, 6:23 am

      Very well put. Sometimes the best way to make more money is to do avery good job of whatever you are doing and either advance where you are or look for a position with more advancement potential.

  • WageSlave July 25, 2013, 12:40 pm

    I love this post because I’m nearing FI and already daydreaming about what I’ll do when I leave my office job. So that’s another spin on this article: even if you have a college degree and/or are a burned-out from the standard workaday office/corporate job, this list is literally a goldmine. These ideas are not just for people who *need* work, but also for people who either want a change or a post-FI “hobby job”. I suppose the key is their accessibility.

    Since a number of these jobs are of the manual labor sort, many readers might be interested in Matthew Crawford’s book “Shopcraft as Soulcraft”. Or, he has a very condensed article version, “The Case for Working With Your Hands”, on NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html?pagewanted=all

  • WageSlave July 25, 2013, 12:49 pm

    Another random idea, although it requires some start-up capital: tax lien investing. The idea is this: property tax delinquencies are generally auctioned by interest rate. So as an investor, you effectively pay someone’s taxes, and now they owe you that amount plus whatever interest rate you “won” at auction. If they still don’t pay, you may have a claim to their property.

    Big disclaimer: I’ve never done this, only read about it. I just thought it sounded kind of fun. The challenge is researching which properties to bid on: you obviously don’t want something in the ghetto or that is falling apart or has too big of a mortgage (if you become the owner of the property, you also inherit the mortgage). Also, the rules and procedures vary state to state. But apparently, something like 95% of delinquents pay, so typically all you do is collect interest on short-term loans.

    • Elkbark July 25, 2013, 2:37 pm

      I’m not aware of any county where the mortgage holder still has a claim on the property if they are foolish enough to allow a tax lien certificate holder to take possession.

      • Saving mom July 26, 2013, 6:22 pm

        Depends on the jurisdiction and the redemption process provided by statute. Most of the time the mortgage holder will cure the delinquent taxes and the purchaser at the certificate sale will get a nice return.

        • elkbark July 30, 2013, 7:54 pm

          I agree, that is the reason a certificate buyer rarely takes ownership of a property…

          It is almost always favorable for the property owner or one of their lesser lien-holders(mortgage holder) to cure the tax lien within a couple years, else they risk a total loss on their investment.

          Likewise, since most mortgage holders require an escrow arrangement for tax payments, it shouldn’t be a surprise if the taxes aren’t paid.

  • ABC July 25, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Regarding “Good Old-Fashioned Manual Labor” add prostitution.

    Once you have a good reputation in an area with nice houses and good incomes, it is easy to earn over $1000 per session. Eliot Spitzer payed more than $10k. No formal training required, but it helps to work alongside another good sex worker for a year or two..

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 25, 2013, 3:45 pm

      There have been some neat books and NYT articles on this subject recently. I was surprised to learn that it’s not a universally unpleasant and demeaning job, to those who go into it willingly.

      • CL July 25, 2013, 5:09 pm

        Yeah, it’s a mixed bag. Your caveat at the end is spot-on – it’s totally fine for people who go into it willingly. With the way that our laws are set up, prostitutes who are unwilling and willing alike are reluctant to get some sunshine on what they are doing. Nick Kristof, one of my heroes and a great writer at the NYT, totally made a crazy argument about prostitution. He said that legalizing prostitution in the Netherlands resulted in black markets with the stuff that would never be legal, like child prostitutes and other taboo areas. I think that he got the cause-effect wrong. Those areas always exist and by legalizing prostitution, you can shine some light on what is ACTUALLY happening. There are some sex workers who are happy doing what they are doing and I’ve read a bit from a sex worker who is in the ERE forums and she sounds totally fine. The stuff in the media tends to be about the awful times.

        • Jamesqf July 25, 2013, 11:52 pm

          The basic problem here (as with some some other suggestions, but even more so) is that it’s not something just anyone can go into with an expectation of success. Your earning potential is going to depend on your physical attractiveness, so you are not likely to get that $1K/session unless you are in the upper few percent in that respect. And of course the opportunities for straight males are really limited :-)

          • Kenoryn July 26, 2013, 8:23 am

            I remember reading an article a few years ago about a male escort company in Montreal. They had a staff of good looking, friendly, well-spoken men, reputable people backed by a company, not hired for sex, but as dates – for the executive to bring to the company party, weddings, etc. I think they were mostly guys with a day job who did this on the side. No idea how much they made, but the woman running the company said there was a lot of demand.

  • WageSlave July 25, 2013, 1:01 pm

    Regarding #13: Passive Income Guru. Technology blogger Robert X Cringely wrote a whole article about this back in 2009, “Parrot Secrets”:

    The teaser: guy writes simple ebook, pulls in over $400k/year.

  • Tim McAleenan July 25, 2013, 1:02 pm

    I think your life starts to change when you realize that a dollar is a dollar, and they all spend equally.

    I’ve honestly encountered people who are more “impressed” because relative X is a doctor making $75,000 compared to relative Y who is a plumber making $125,000 per year.

    That is nuts! Additionally, the one who is a plumber owns his own business, which means when he is ready to retire, he’ll be able to sell his plumbing business for about 5x annual pre-tax profits as a nice little farewell present when he is done doing his work. When the doctor stops working, the income stream is over. There’s no capitalized earnings there. Yet because of bullshit judgment standards, “society” is more impressed by the doctor. Screw that.

    We see it with stockpicking, too. People would rather make 100% owning something sexy like Apple compared to a company like Waste Management. Guess what–a $5,000 investment that turns into $10,000 spends the same way.

    Money is amoral. If you buy a $150,000 house in cash, it doesn’t matter whether that money came from selling dishwashers door to door or comes from working at a white-shoe law firm.

    A dollar is a dollar is a dollar. When you try to dress some of them up and begin to think that some dollars are more sexy than others, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment because it is, by definition, irrational.

    That’s my long way of saying, “Great Job, MMM, you nailed it.”

    • CincyCat July 25, 2013, 3:31 pm

      Hear, hear! If you make $50K plunging toilets, that is still $50K lining your pockets! Personally, whenever I see a cabling or electrician’s bill cross my desk at work, I am reminded that I’m in the wrong line of work…

    • Mariana July 25, 2013, 6:26 pm

      If money is the only thing that impresses you then, yes, someone working as a plumber making more than someone working as a doctor should be more impressive. Though I am super impressed at the hard work and commitment doctors have to apply to their schooling and residency–it takes years and is no walk in the park.
      Interestingly enough, though, a plumber probably does more to maintain good health than most doctors. Imagine the illnesses we’d all have if we had no functioning sewage system!

    • Joe Bleaux July 27, 2013, 8:54 pm

      Doctors can also sell their practices for $millions, so don’t think that their income just disappears when they retire. Some of them also own the real estate in which they practice, which also gives them good ROI.

    • Christine July 28, 2013, 10:59 am

      I’m actually pretty surprised how many people think that the only way to make good money is to get a degree. In their line of thinking even if someone worked really hard learning all the same knowledge of programming but never got a degree, they do not deserve to get paid like some who went to University. It’s very elitist and I do not agree with it. And if trades pays.. well trades pay! Who cares! A dollar is a dollar! Our economy needs it. You need to pay attention to what the economy needs and fill the need. Good for those that listened and went into trades!

      I know people who complain about how they have a degree but they don’t get paid enough for it. Yet they never enhance their skill set and push paper all day. I also know those that have no degree and keep working on different projects, sharpening their skill set. They get great job offers and get to move to the States to work for top companies.

      Should what you did for 4 years dictate your wage for the rest of your life? Especially in a fast moving industry where skills need to be updated constantly?

      • OhYongHao March 17, 2015, 4:10 pm

        I never went to college but have worked in the software industry for 10 years. I make $85k a year now, still no degree. Could I be making more if I had a degree? Maybe, who knows? I’m going to be FI before any of my coworkers, then I might think about a degree, or maybe some alternatives, but not in software.

  • Andrew July 25, 2013, 1:06 pm

    I have been doing private-tutoring on the side just to bring in extra income. It has come to a halt during the summer as I’ve mostly been tutoring high school math subjects (Algebra, Geometry, etc.). I was only making about $20 an hour at it (I know that’s WAY low for a private tutor but I was building my client base). At my busiest I pulled in about $300 a month. That’s AFTER I got home from my day job as a Civil Engineer. I was nowhere near full schedule though. I easily could have taken on 5 or 6 more clients. I quit trying to find new clients because they kept finding me. I also built a sweet sandbox for my little guy w/ a lid that folds out into seats. I got so many positive comments on it that I decided to build and sell them. I’ve now sold 4 for $200 each. They cost around $100 and 3-4 hours of time to build and make the sale by myself. (About $25 an hour) I got a buddy to help last time. We split the profit and spent 2 hours building it (I was teaching him. With practice, we could probably do it in an hour.), I made the sale and he delivered it. Still $25 an hour, but could be as much as $50 with practice.

    • Alicia July 26, 2013, 7:29 am

      I’ve gone the tutoring route as well. Made $25/hr, but could have easily charged double than that (there are many who do), but I felt that $25 was decent enough as it was.

      • Kenoryn July 26, 2013, 8:32 am

        Tutoring helped me to pay my expenses in university. I only charged $15 which seemed pretty good to me at the time! I found it rewarding to see a student ‘get it’ and their grades start to go up.

        • Abby July 27, 2013, 6:51 am

          I do test prep tutoring on the side (for grad school level standardized exams — GMAT, LSAT, GRE). I charge $150/hr, which is probably too low for the market. The big companies bill out 3 or 4 times that much to students, but pass on less to their teachers.

  • asphyxia July 25, 2013, 1:11 pm

    I work as a production assistant on films and tv shows. The work is not always consistent and the pay is low (and the hours are nuts — at least 70/week), but PAs work to become assistant directors. ADs average between $150k and $500k/year. Right now, I supplement my income with freelance writing on a site called Squidoo, which is an awesome source of passive income once my pages start bringing in traffic and affiliate sales.

    • win July 29, 2013, 10:24 am

      How did you become a production assistant? Are you in Los Angeles?

  • Christine Wilson July 25, 2013, 1:22 pm

    I went to college (associate’s for Americans) for Advertising and took one class which taught me Photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc. I then became interested in web design and did a 1 year course in it. Web design has now evolved to web development. I largely taught myself all these skills at home. To make good money you need to figure out which skills are most in demand (hint: check job postings with big salaries!). Then pick up a book, or find a web tutorial and keep at it!

    I also create websites other people can use like: http://mybestapartments.ca Which is an apartment rentals website in Canada.

    My husband does IT support for a mining company and that pays well too.

    $80K salaries in web design and development are attainable in Toronto area. They are higher in some states, like San Francisco, Colorado, etc. And lower in others like Florida.

  • Hilda July 25, 2013, 1:34 pm

    During the university I used to teach english (does not require a degree if you are a private tutor). It is possible for engineers to teach math, for example.
    People with manual skill like sewing and knitting can sell what they make in Etsy. I myself sew and knit when I have to give a gift to a friend or relative. It does not create money, but it saves me some money as a present bought at a store would be much more expensive.
    People can also sell these things in local markets.
    There are people who pay you to walk with their dogs (they do not have the time). Here in Brazil we have something called “taxi dog”, in case you need someone to pick up your pet for you at the vet, or if you need to send them to some place for any reason. Taxi dogs charge A LOT.
    Another option is to take care of elderly people, or children. It is possible to charge a lot of money for the service if you work for rich customers.
    One more option: be a hairdresser. It does not require an university degree, just the course and some training, and it is possible to make good money. The hours are flexible and one can work on weekends. Here in Brazil there is a service of going to somebody’s house or office for manicure, so the person does not have to drive to the beauty parlor. Tons of money to provide this service.

  • Eric Finlay July 25, 2013, 1:34 pm

    I’d say the western world is getting better for people who want to take the path less travelled. People are getting worse at things and losing what used to be basic knowledge (this plant is dying…what do I do?). There’s so much room for people to create a niche solving tiny problems that have developed from this ignorance.

    I’ve taken a different route, I graduated from Engineering, got a job, left the job and am now working on a startup. Going for the moonshot!

  • Johnny Aloha July 25, 2013, 1:39 pm

    I have 2 friends who are carpenters / builders. I think they earn well over $50/hr since they are under 40 and quite successful. One has a paid off house (value ~$750k) and enjoys nice long, frequent vacations.

    They have done well by following a couple VERY simple rules: communicate well with the client even when there are delays and problems, and do quality work even if it takes longer. They have built good reputations and have a 1 year backlog for work! They also pick clients and only work in exclusive neighborhoods.

    • Dave July 25, 2013, 2:57 pm

      I concur on the customer service aspect of all service businesses. Having attempted to hire some work done recently: 2 contractors didn’t return the initial voice messages, 1 gave a quote for the wrong thing and then disappeared, and 1 didn’t give the quote after having a look around.

      • Susan July 30, 2013, 11:20 am

        I have to agree with this, too. There is a dearth of skilled, hard-working, available carpenters, roofers, handy-people in my area. I had to call around to several places just to get someone to provide an estimate for work I needed done, and in the end, only two people actually showed up to do the estimate.

  • Ryan July 25, 2013, 2:00 pm

    I’ll add one to this list: IT System Administrator. Me and a friend of mine are both in the same field, I started ahead of him but was slowed down in college. He didn’t go to college (barely graduated HS), and accelerated in the field faster than me and is now making $130k. I’m catching up but it definitely makes me second guess my decision to go to college.

    • CincyCat July 25, 2013, 3:42 pm

      I agree completely! All you have to do is get the certificate, and you can hang up a shingle as a “certified” system administrator for XYZ piece of technology.

    • Christine Wilson July 26, 2013, 12:50 pm

      I agree with this one too. I had a friend who took less than a year of school and then went into IT admin to make $80K in 1 or 2 years. My husband did all the certificates and is now starting with that salary. Granted I’ve also heard of people making lower than this as an IT admin too. So not all people make this money. But you can make great money with very little education. I am a web developer and it took more years to get up to that level.

    • Eldred December 20, 2013, 11:14 pm

      Does your friend work for someone else, or run his own business? I do desktop support, but I got laid off in 2012 from a $74K position. After being unemployed for 13 months, I finally got another job, but had to take a cut down to $55K, and now I see a way to increase that anytime soon. I’d *love* to make $100K(even if only for a few years), but I don’t know how to do that yet…


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