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You're the Top
JOBS FOR THE CEO IN YOU
If you never thought it was possible to stay home, eat potato chips, watch TV, and get paid for it, guess again.
Being an apartment manager is perfect for couch potatoes, writers, artists, moms, seniors, or anyone who stays home a lot. Some building owners will even hire people who already have nine-to-five jobs as long as they carry beepers. I know many couples who worked as apartment managers for a number of years to save for down payments on homes. What a great idea!
Basically, an apartment manager is responsible for collecting rent, keeping the building and surrounding area clean, and knowing whom to call in an emergency. Some positions may even require light maintenance. The actual labor involved in this job will depend on your tenants and the size and quality of the complex. Most large complexes (over fifty to seventy-five units) have special maintenance crews. Typically a ten- to twenty-unit building is easiest to handle. Some building owners prefer couples, but this is not a requirement. The main attributes that apartment owners generally look for are honesty, common sense, good credit, stability, and an ability to fill vacancies.
Most large cities have apartment associations that offer certified resident manager training courses. For example, the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles offers a training course approximately twelve times a year. It costs between $450 and $500, and the placement rate is around 80 percent. After completing the course, you can place an ad in the Apartment Association's employment bulletin, an excellent way to get a job. Most courses are extremely informative and well respected among apartment building owners. Another option is to explore a course that is subsidized by the government in your city. Many community colleges will offer an apartment management course for a nominal fee. You can also try calling the local chamber of commerce regarding an apartment managing course.
Whether you receive free rent and utilities plus salary will depend on the building you are managing. Smaller units often offer only a rent reduction or free rent, while larger buildings pay a weekly salary as well. This is often negotiable depending on your experience. Some management companies even offer health benefits and profit sharing.
To find an apartment manager position, check the classified section of your newspaper, contact building owners and management firms directly, and network with other apartment managers. You will need to submit a current resume and a list of references. Also helpful is the Encyclopedia of Associations, which can be found at your local library: one for national associations and several volumes for different regions. The National Association of Residential Property Managers has local chapters in many states, and the National Apartment Association is in Washington, D.C.
*BENEFITS: Salary plus free rent and utilities or rent reduction; sometimes profit sharing and health benefits.
*PITFALLS: Overbearing owners and tenants; calls at all hours.
*SOURCES: Classified sections of newspapers. Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, 213-384-4131, www.aagla.org. Los Angeles City College Community Services, 323-669-1031, www.lacitycollege.edu/comsvcs. National Association of Residential Property Managers, 800-782-3452, www.narpm.org. National Apartment Association, 703-518-6141, www.naahq.org. Building owners and management firms.
*NEEDS: Prior experience; good credit; some basic maintenance ability.
Designing Greeting Cards and Postcards
The gift card industry is a thriving business. The average person receives about thirty cards a year. A neighborhood post office recently estimated that a third of all first-class mail consists of greeting cards. If you possess photographic, writing, or artistic abilities, you can become part of this booming industry.
Designing cards allows you to be creative and work at home on your own time. It also provides the excitement of seeing your work displayed. To be successful, marketing abilities are a must. If marketing is not your forte, consider hiring someone to help out.
You can turn anything into a postcard or gift card. I have seen beautiful cards with dried flower designs, twigs, and original artwork. Explore your designs, reproduce them, and test them out. To get started, go to an art store, library, or bookstore, and get a few books on card making; these can be found in the art technique section. The creative process comes next. If you are drawing or painting your cards, first draw a rough sketch, and then finish it in pen and ink. To save some money, go to a paper supply company that sells different kinds of paper wholesale. Such companies often can be found in industrial areas.
Next, you can silk-screen your design or go to a copy center and laser print the sketches. You can then paint the prints with dry pigments, pastel sticks, or other media. After coloring your cards, spray them with an acrylic paint for protection.
Marketing your prototypes is the next step, and there are many ways to go about doing this. Visit a variety of stores and gift shops with your portfolio, and meet with the card buyer. You may need to make an appointment, but oftentimes, if you have a professional and courteous manner, you can just walk in and be seen. Many small stores and specialty shops buy their cards from independent artists. If a store is interested, it will typically order a small amount first and pay you upon delivery. Another good way to sell your work is at craft bazaars and flea markets (see "Swap Meets and Flea Markets" in this chapter). You can find out about these through friends and newspapers and by networking with craftspeople.
You can also sell your designs through card distributors. They will buy the rights and produce the cards. To locate a distributor that is right for you, go to a store and see which cards are similar to yours. Look at the back of the card to see what company produces it, and write directly to the distributor or manufacturer, requesting its market list, catalog, and submission guidelines. Remember to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and be certain to copyright your material first. For more information on copyrighting your material, write to the Registrar of Copyrights, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 202-707-3000, or go to its Web site at www.loc.gov/copyright. Always put your name and phone number (preferably a service number) on your cards. You never know who will see your work and may want to contact you.
Submission procedures vary among greeting card publishers. Some prefer individual card ideas on 3-by-5 cards; others prefer receiving a number of complete ideas on 81U2-by-11 bond paper. The typical submission includes five to fifteen card ideas with a cover letter.
Income will vary, depending on how much of your work actually sells. Craft shows and flea markets usually charge a booth fee, and you keep all profits. Stores typically pay you half of what each card is sold for. If your work is put into the store on consignment, about 75 percent of the card price is a fair return for you. Greeting card companies and distributors offer individual payment plans, per card payments, and royalties.
You can consult a number of sources for information on the greeting card industry. The book Writer's Market 2003 contains a listing of greeting card companies and their requirements; the Greeting Cards Industry Directory lists names, addresses, and product lines of all exhibitors at the National Stationery Show. Try local bookstores or www.Amazon.com. Trade magazines, such as Progressive Greetings and Party & Paper Retailer, may be helpful.
*BENEFITS: Working at home; creative outlet; excitement of seeing your work produced.
*PITFALLS: Income varies.
*SOURCES: Network with craftspeople. Go to card stores, specialty stores, and craft stores. Contact companies listed in Writer's Market 2003. Read trade magazines, such as Progressive Greetings, 309 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016, www.greetingsmagazine.com; and Party & Paper Retailer, www.partypaper.com. For more information, write to Greeting Card Creative Network at 1200 G Street NW, Suite 760, Washington, DC 20005, and the Greeting Card Association, 1350 New York Avenue NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20005, 202-393-1778, www.greetingcard.org.
*NEEDS: Artistic or photographic talent and vision; marketing ability.
*IDEAS: Writing prose for greeting cards is another possibility. If you have the talent, contact card companies with writing samples, using the information above. Check out the book Sell the Fun Stuff: Writers' and Artists' Market Guidelines for Greeting Cards, Posters, Rubber Stamps, T-shirts, Aprons, Bumper Stickers, Doormats, and More! by Jenna Glatzer. Try local bookstores or www.Amazon.com.
Designing or Refinishing Furniture
Last year I bought a beautiful, distressed wooden coffee table from a soap opera star who started to make and sell furniture after his character had been killed off on his show. What started as a hobby and a way to bring in some extra cash eventually became a lucrative side business. Distressed finishes and colorful, creatively painted furniture are extremely popular right now, and plenty of people and stores alike love to buy custom-made furniture at wholesale prices.
Making or refinishing furniture is fun and creative and challenges your artistic abilities. As a self-employed artist you can create as many or as few pieces as you like or as many as needed to supplement your income. You can sell your own designs or take custom orders, and most important, your schedule is your own.
You need two basic things: a place to work and furniture. The place could be your own backyard, a garage, or a studio. Pieces of furniture are easy to come by and can be gathered from garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores, or even the city dump. I have seen old doorframes turned into desktops and coffee table tops, old school desks stripped and shellacked over with colorful stamps or comic strips, and discarded bathroom furniture pieces painted with vibrant colors and brought back to life. It is exciting to see what one can do with a little imagination and some paint.
The next step of course will be to market the items. Remember, if marketing is not your strength, think about hiring someone to do it for a percentage of the profit. There are a number of ways to sell your furniture: Set up shop right in front of your home on the weekends, and advertise with neighborhood flyers and by word of mouth, or sell your work at flea markets and furniture or craft stores. After you complete a few attractive pieces, have some quality photographs taken, and create a portfolio of your work to show to independent stores. I have seen furniture sellers bring a few of their pieces to flea markets (see "Swap Meets and Flea Markets," this chapter) along with their portfolios and take custom-made orders on the spot. Have business cards handy to pass out to potential customers at these markets.
Another way to sell your work independently (and probably at a higher profit than a store can offer) is by spreading the news among friends. This is exactly how I got my coffee table. The actor who made it traded his work for headshots. I noticed his work at my friend's house and asked for his number. Trade furniture pieces for services or classes, sell discounted pieces to well-connected friends, advertise in local papers, and place flyers on cars. Get your work noticed, and receive a fair price for it.
Your income will depend on how many pieces you sell and your profit margin (including time and material costs). Price similar items at stores, figure out your minimum hourly wage, and negotiate from there.
*BENEFITS: Creative outlet; challenging work; self-employment.
*PITFALLS: Unsteady salary; time spent gathering wood or furniture.
*SOURCES: Flea markets listed in the yellow pages or classifieds under "Swap Meets" and "Flea Markets" or local newspaper weekend calendar sections. Thrift stores. Garage sales. Garbage receptacles.
*NEEDS: Artistic talent; patience; tools and paint; woodworking skills.
Most people are unaware of many untapped business opportunities. Being a factory go-between is one of them. This is a rep for an established factory or company who sells merchandise for the factory and makes a profit on each item. For example, two law students in New York connected with a factory in the Midwest that manufactures in-line skates and accessories. They negotiated a deal with the factory owners to get merchandise at or below wholesale cost (irregulars and last season's merchandise). They then papered the town and schools with flyers that advertised the names and prices of popular skates and provided a phone number for orders. This concept can be applied to most items (clothing, electronics, and flatware, to name a few) as long as a factory is willing to supply the product.
Working as a factory go-between takes little effort once you get set up and organized. You have no overhead, you spend little time taking orders, and once the factory receives the order, you are out of the picture. The customer pays you, you pay the factory, and the factory sends the merchandise with your logo or label directly to the customer. Make sure you have a clear understanding with the factory that all products must be quality- or size-guaranteed.
Wages are totally dependent on your profit margin (how much more you charge per item than the factory) and your advertising efforts. Consider selling your item at flea markets (see "Swap Meets and Flea Markets," this chapter).
To hook up with a wholesale distributor or manufacturer, you may need to do some research. Look through various magazines, mail-order ads, newspapers, and the yellow pages for companies selling a product of interest, and then contact the owners, expressing your interest in being a rep.
*BENEFITS: Having your own business; little overhead.
*PITFALLS: Income varies, depending on product and marketing.
*SOURCES: Contacting manufacturers or businesses listed in various magazines. Mail-order ads, newspapers, and the yellow pages.
*NEEDS: Marketing ability; product to sell.