Would you do a job you were too embarrassed to admit to?

No, I’m not going to admit what my new sideline is, but since it affects my income, I can’t really brush over the fact that I have one. After all, this is me being financially proactive before I need to get reactive – there’s no other way I’m going to make my whole life policy premium in August without a few changes.

I make my own hours, which can be anywhere on the clock…can be 2 hours a week or 102 hours a week, or anywhere in between. It’s 100% legal and has nothing to do with massage, and my flair for the written word is my greatest marketing tool. Actually, it’s partially because of that flair that I was able to slot right in at the top of the food chain. Anyway, because of all the writing I need to do to get this fully up and running, my blog posts will be fairly brief over the next two weeks – brief, but hopefully entertaining.

So, have you ever done a job that you were too embarrassed to admit to? I would love to hear about it – and the best part is, you can just mark yourself as anonymous when leaving a comment. So far, thanks to Twitter, I’ve found someone who…

– designed a BDSM website
– made lunch trays for a prison catering service that was likely running drugs
– stocked sex mag/toy vending machines (in Tokyo)

Care to add to the list…?

Helping a friend sublet

I have a semi-friend* who is normally an investment bank-based accountant but has been called out of the Reserves for a tour in Iraq. He’s been there since January, and isn’t sure when he’ll be back in NYC – sometime between October and February. The sublettor for his studio apartment on the upper eastside of Manhattan is leaving earlier than expected and he has asked for my help replacing him. I totally anticipated this request and have been prepared with an immediate “yes” when the request came, because while he may have other friends to help him out, I have the most experience in assessing strangers for situations involving a certain level of trust. However, there are a few things about this favor that will make it a bit more difficult than it has to be…

  1. The problem is, his apartment is a bit – how to put this gently – neglected. Admittedly, I’ve only ever been there once and that was 3 years ago, but I’d guess it hasn’t been painted since he moved in a decade ago. Lots of scuffing, and marks from old plumbing leaks. I’m tempted to treat him to a paint job by yours truly, but I think he has high-ish ceilings and likely no ladder. 
  2. He plans to sublet it unfurnished, which I think will be problematic – while there is a market for such an arrangement, it’s much smaller than the market for furnished ones. He is willing to pull his bed out of storage if necessary, but there will be nothing else. Not that there’s a whole lot of room for much else, but you need some kind of chair and a table/desk/bureau. I may try to solve this through Freecycle and Craigslist if the need arises, or perhaps through people I know who are moving away.
  3. One small point of stickiness: he describes his studio as “large”. It is not. It’s small. Not tiny by NYC standards, but you’d be hard-pressed to even classify it as medium. I’m planning to avoid this awkwardness by listing the square footage if he knows it, or the dimensions of the main living space (taken by yours truly) if he doesn’t.
  4. There is no working air conditioner, and summer is nearly upon us. I think this will put off the better tenants out there. If that’s going to be a point of contention, I’m going to suggest that he have the tenant make out half the security deposit to me so I can take care of this and any other little things that arise.

He is just looking to rent it for what it costs him (rent + electricity), and has offered that I can keep anything over and above that if I’m able to get it. If it is rented furnished, he can legally and legitimately charge more, and since I’d be taking care of the furniture situation, I think this is fair. And that half-month’s deposit I’d get would probably cover any cut I might earn for the 5-8 months of the sublet, so that’s convenient. Generally speaking, I’m not looking to make a profit off him, but he has in the past acted strangely “deserving” of me paying for things (like his taxis, and I don’t mean shared rides), so I’m glad his sense of decency in fiscal matters has returned.

Hm, I wonder if there’s a sideline to be created out of handling absent people’s subletting woes….

* Semi-friend = a male friend who would opportunistically jump my bones in a weak moment. A real friend wouldn’t.

$100 for a sleepover

Last month, I gave a massage to a new client in his hotel room. He’s a truck driver, normally sleeps in his cab, but hotel rates are half what they were 6 months ago so he treated himself. He texted me a couple of days ago to arrange a massage and offered me $100 to crash on my couch for the night – apparently rates are back up to pre-Depression prices for the holiday weekend. Normally, I wouldn’t hesitate 3 seconds to nix that idea, but money is tight and this was a (predictably) bad week of biz. I made a judgment call based on past behavior and agreed – but only if he took the bed and I took the couch. I told him it was because he was paying so much, but the real reason is that any time I let a guy sleep on the couch, he tries to crawl into bed with me. The couch is only built for one, hah.

I’m not sure what lesson I’ve just learned about men. I’ve lent my couch to a married bond broker, a single accountant and a single software biz owner as a favor – commuters who found themselves stuck in the city at a late hour and unable to get home – and they all tried to join me in the bed. But not the single, lonely truck driver. Could it be that he wasn’t attracted to me? Sure, but I know that wasn’t the case. Heck, even if there had been zero indication of interest, when you’re the only girl in the room you’re also the hottest girl in the room. So here’s what I’m having fun figuring out…

Do blue-collars behave better than white-collars?
Or did that $100 fee keep him in line?

Because maybe when I let guys take the couch, I should insist on a “good behavior deposit” – refundable only if they don’t make a move.

Topfeeding off the housing market

forsaleAfter my “buy their debt and take their house” bottomfeeding post from a couple of days ago, I think y’all need to see a more morally upstanding side of MoneyMateKate….

I know people who have come up with some not-so-obvious ways to make money servicing the current residential housing market. If you have either of these skills plus the time and interest to develop a lucrative sideline, feel free to poach their ideas for your area.

Real Estate Signage Posts

You know those (usually) wood posts or semi-frames you see stuck in someone’s lawn with the realtor’s “For Sale” sign on it? In a market with a lot of houses for sale or a fast turnover, agencies run out of posts. A friend of mine who knows how to drive a drill better than most went into business for 18 months making these posts, and for agencies who wanted a more comprehensive service, would service the signage once a week – putting them in, removing them, sticking a “sold” banner on them. This was a short-term opportunity, only viable in unusually hectic markets, and he just kind of stumbled across this service gap, when he heard more than one homeowner friend complain about going weeks without signage and missing out on the drive-by interest.
Start-up costs: $100 worth of wood and hardware
Suitable for:  Very hot and very cold suburban housing markets

Indoor Photography

Every week or two, my brother emails links to the half-dozen or so properties in Baltimore that meet his criteria. The one he put an offer in on a month ago (and lost based on desired closing date) had generated very little interest because of their unbelievably lousy online photos – sadly, the link no longer works or else I’d include them. My favorites were the “laundry area” – which showed a corner of the floor with a plug, the master bath – which was a picture of the toilet but apparently it had a massive 6-headed steam shower worth highlighting, and the other bathroom – literally, a picture of the shower drain. So while the house got two bids, they were both for 10% below asking when the Baltimore market usually sells much closer to the listing price (or so I’ve been told). My brother’s agent reckons that, had they put up better pictures, more interest would have been generated and they’d have easily gotten $10-15K more. While discussing this with my mom…okay, not so much discussing as laughing my ass off over the pictures of a drain and a wall socket…she told me that one of my sister’s friends just started up her own business doing photography and videography for the Aspen real estate market. Think: $10-20m mansions.

So if you’re good with a camera, good with perspective and lighting and all that good stuff, consider offering to do it for free for 2-3 people so you have some Their Pics v. My Pics comparisons to show agents and potential customers. Get in good with agents and agencies, make it clear what their piece of the pie will be (finder’s fee, percentage, etc), which they should especially appreciate in this buyers’ market, create a nice free website/blog and get some cheap business cards from Vistaprint.
Start-up costs:  $25 for domain name and business cards, coffee meetings with agents
Suitable for:  Apparently most places, though videography for virtual tours would only be at the high end

4 Ways to Put Your Home to Work

By the time most of us reach an age that begins with “3”, we’ve outgrown our willingness to share our living space with a roommate, unless it’s the romantic co-habitating type. However, most of us haven’t outgrown our student loans or credit card debt generated during our Roaring 20s, and unshared rent can be a bigger burden than we’re comfortable shouldering.

There are a number of ways you can use your home to make a little extra dough with minimal impact on your life. Of course, a lot of this depends on where you live (urban is easier) and what your tolerance is for space invasion, but here’s a list of some unusual options, some of which I’ve tried from one side of the equation or the other. Oh, and you can find most of these arrangements on Craigslist (“Sublet/Temporary” or “Share”).

Short/Fixed-term Roommate
A lot of people have short-term needs for any number of reasons, often for 1-3 months. Examples are law students on a summer internship, foreign adults on a homestay language program, marital break-up where the person moving out isn’t able to make a 12-month decision, someone undergoing major home renovation/repair, etc. This way if you don’t like them or their habits, the end is in sight and not at all awkward.

Home office away from home
A surprising number of people can’t concentrate on their work when they’re at home, but don’t want the expense of a full-time office. They usually have very specific hours in mind, and either want their own quiet room or the whole place to themselves (bear in mind that I live in Manhattan, where the two are often one and the same!). This is how I started my massage biz before moving into Manhattan and taking on a long-term lease – I became a “daytime-only roommate” from 12pm-8pm on weekdays for someone who worked a normal job and then took acting and yoga classes most evenings. If I was going to finish earlier (I was usually done by 6:30pm), I just texted her that she was free to come home early. I paid a weekly fee plus 2 massages a month, and the arrangement lasted for 10 weeks. Most people looking to borrow space are writers – a pretty easy bunch to please as long as your hours are compatible.

Rent out your storage space
This works well in NYC, where older buildings have non-existent closet space. I realize this can be a little risky if you don’t know the person, don’t know what’s being stored, don’t know if they’ll accuse you of taking their stuff, etc…but my favorite posting on craigslist to rent a closet was from a cross-dresser who wanted to keep his fetish a secret – just wanted a place to store his girl wardrobe. Others are looking for garage space for projects or motorcycle protection. If I take a gap between apartments, I have a client across the bridge in northern NJ who has offered up his garage. He doesn’t need or want money for it, but I intend to give him a free 90-min massage when I return. I know, look at me, always working the barter angle.

Vacation/Weekend subletting
If you live in an area that experiences a lot of tourism, consider renting out your whole home while you’re away on vacation, or even just a weekend. Craigslist is a good, free option and VRBO is not free and probably only worth it if you plan to do it repeatedly. By the way, even if you don’t live in a popular touristy area, there still might be the occasional opportunity. My mom lives in a part of NJ near a racetrack that sometimes? always? (not sure) hosts The Breeders’ Cup. There aren’t a lot of hotels in the area, and people who come in for this are a pretty glitzy crowd. A friend of my mom’s vacated his 5-bedroom suburban home in a wealthy town for one week, removing all personal effects (photos, dishes, everything but the furniture), to “sublet” it to a large, filthy rich Saudi family for … drumroll please … $25,000. I imagine a lot of people who live within a 90-minute commute of Washington DC are going to make most of their month’s rent in a 3-night sublet later this month.

Feel free to leave a Comment with your own experiences and ideas!

Christmas Sideline? I wish!

One of my favorite things about Christmas time is wrapping lots and lots of presents. Back when there were more of us under one roof and I had easier access to aunts and uncles, I used to spend hours doing all of their wrapping – everything from jewelry to M&Ms to surfboards(!). I usually got “paid” with lunch (cheap-ass extended family), but I didn’t mind because I was doing something that made me happy.

I wish there was a way to make money doing this that didn’t involve a minimum wage job at a mall. I’d even do it as a charity fundraiser if there was no way to turn a real profit (I’ll work cheap for charity, but not for myself…I know, what odd values I have). What’s standing in my way? New York City and its suspicious, litigious residents…

As someone needing a wrapper, would you trust a stranger with all your Christmas presents, i.e. drop them off and have them actually be there when you picked them up? Would you worry that she might take the goodies out of the box and just wrap the packaging? As a wrapper, I’d be worried that someone would claim they gave me stuff they didn’t (I could mitigate the chances of that though). Or claim that I wrapped an empty box and stole the iPod or whatever. So is the only way to make this happen to do it while they watch? Not realistic.

I’m tempted to offer it for charity $ within my apartment building (220 units), but I’m afraid it will sound really weird to the neighbors. Sometimes my ability to judge how things like this are perceived is a little off, and I don’t want to creep anyone out (I did that recently to a fellow blogger and still feel like an ass about it). Perhaps my best bet is to contact charities that do toy drives and ask if they need help with the wrapping.

Darn…I have such great ideas for wrapping – from gold-sponged brown paper tied up with either twine or ribbon, to tags made from last year’s Christmas cards and package toppers made from pieces of unwanted Christmas decorations. Can you tell how much I love this stuff?? I just can’t see a way to market it successfully as a sideline in this city.

eBay: Not Just for Unwanted Stuff

Let me start off by saying I’m not an eBay seller, but I do aspire to it. Perhaps what I’m about to describe is common knowledge for most of you out there, but I consider it a shortlist of things that work well as a sideline – at least, they do for the folks I personally know who are doing it.

Are You Crafty?
Do you like making Christmas ornaments, personalized artsy pillowcases, organic scented soaps? Set up an eBay storefront with a selection of your work.

Love Flea Markets & Yard Sales?
Figure out what sells for $2 at a flea market but $10+ on eBay. I know a Brit who does this with antique silver spoons, and a man(!) who hunts the markets for a selection of things he knows will sell well online. It helps if you’re already a fan or collector of something that you know a lot about, but it’s not necessary.

Prefer Something Home/Computer-based?
Provide eBay selling services to your friends, family, community. If you’re pretty familiar with how to optimize an eBay listing or like the idea of figuring it out, there are a LOT of people who are too intimidated by the posting/pricing/photographing/customer service/type-of-auction/mailing process to bother for just a few things they want to get rid of. You’re the logistics gal/guy, you only accept things that will sell for more than $XX, and you take a commission.

The Best Use of $20
Buy a domain name and some business cards from VistaPrint for a barebones professional image. If it works out for you, you can always upgrade and add on. And if it stumbles at the starting gate, hey, you’ve wasted $20 on dumber stuff than a prospective moneymaker, right?