Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

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Matty
Posts: 78
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 4:47 am

Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by Matty »

I’ve been trying to think of short term jobs (3-6 months) that could easily be picked up each year in between 6-9 month periods of travel, adventure, hiking, bike touring etc. My target income each year would be around $15-20k to cover living/travelling expenses for the year plus a small contribution to net worth. I plan to also have $150-200k in savings which I will keep separate and let compounding do it’s magic.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has maintained this lifestyle and what kind of income source(s) you had. Self-employment would be good but seems like it would be tricky to manage. Anyone have experience running a business that completely shut down for 6+ months each year? The trouble seems to be losing a customer base over the shut-down period. Lawn maintenance or snow shovelling come to mind if you live in the right climate (I don’t).

Here’s some ideas I’ve thought of so far:
• Seasonal national parks firefighter
• Seasonal tax preparer
• Tour guiding, wilderness instructor, wilderness therapy
• Seasonal fruit picking or grain harvest
• Christmas casual retail work
• Seasonal gardening, nursery work
• Self employed tradie/handyman/gardener

GandK
Posts: 2018
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:00 pm

Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by GandK »

Theme parks, fairs and festivals in the northern half of the US
Summer tourism jobs in any US state with a beach or a big lake
Winter tourism jobs in skiing areas

susswein
Posts: 138
Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:00 pm

Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by susswein »

Besides fire fighting there are many seasonal ranger jobs in the national parks. If you can get hired on as a "permanent" seasonal you even get to collect unemployment during the 6 months you're off work.

Also lots of seasonal jobs in the hospitality industy (hotels, restaurants, etc). Many of these are located in/near national parks and include lodging and meals. Another option is to work at a ski resort.

None of these are great paying jobs, so I think $10K perseason is a lot more realistic than $15K to $20K.

IlliniDave
Posts: 2763
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:46 pm

Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by IlliniDave »

Unfortunately "seasonal" usually overlaps with the best time of year for travel/adventure because so much seasonal employment overlaps with the time when the weather is appropriate for everyone else to do those things.

$15-20K seems like a high bar for that type of work schedule unless you can do something semi-professional or work a lot of hours/wk. I'm thinking if I decide to pursue casual employment I'll be doing good to get half what you're targeting.

Where I'll be spending my summers there is a strong season employment market working for outfitters and the like.

For off-season I've thought about tax prep and holiday season retail (both of which you mention). Neither are alluring to me, but they both occur during the cold months and I'd prefer having more freedom during the warm months. I've also thought about looking into part-time instructor positions at community colleges. I don't know if they still exist, but when I was in college back in the 80s there were companies that specialized in filling part-time general labor needs. You sign up with them and they farm you out here or there for a few days or weeks at a time. I thought it might be a fun way to try a bunch of different things, keep from getting bored, and give myself some pocket money and additional access to tax-advantaged savings
Last edited by IlliniDave on Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:50 am, edited 2 times in total.

chenda
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by chenda »

You could join a temping agency and just do office work as and when you need it. Very flexible and easy. But the pay wont be great and I doubt you could get up to $20 0000 for 6 months generalist work. For that you'll need some more specialist, skilled work.

7Wannabe5
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Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I do already have something like this lifestyle, but still tweaking for details, and it's more like I work full time for around 3 months, part-time for around 6 months and not at all for around 3 months. The business I run, which I can and have shut down for months at a time beyond an hour or two of monthly bookkeeping, is scouting/dealing rare books (and some household goods and toys )on the internet and letting Amazon handle the fulfillment through their warehouse system. The flexible temporary work I do is substitute teaching, but could also be tutoring. I also plan on eventually earning some income through my permaculture project in which I am currently investing. Since these are all activities which I enjoy for reasons beyond income earning, and I only have a marginal desire for travel, which I would tend towards combining with some sort of other income earning activity (for instance, combine biking/camping in Florida in the winter with attendance at major book sale, or tutor math/esl in other country, or work/learn on somebody else's organic farm etc, etc,) and passive income from book sales keep rolling in even if I'm doing nothing else, I don't have to make quite so high of an hourly average wage as your model would require. Of course, this is partly due to the fact that the line between personal and business expenses can become very blurry if when you run businesses or make investments in alignment with what would already be your hobby or pleasure or community/social activities. That's why I joke about what I earn in barter when dating. I actually have to consider whether accepting a breakfast date with one of my lovers is worth the opportunity cost of the work-for-money-I-might-do-at-the-margin, because as a trader/scout, I always have work-for-money I might do at the margin, so it's natural for me to think "Hey, free bacon and eggs with the sex and conversation." just like I think "I can stop at that very good plant nursery on the way to that book sale." or "It would be fun to pick up a job at the elementary school today, because it is Halloween so there will be cupcakes and a parade." Every choice I make all day/year long in how I spend my time is a decision about income and fun and fulfillment and health etc. There is no big dividing line between this-is-how-I-make-my-money and this-is-how-I-enjoy/care-for-myself-and-my-habitat.

Matty
Posts: 78
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 4:47 am

Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by Matty »

Thanks for the replies guys. I should have mentioned my figures were in AUD so $15-20k is more like $10-15k USD at the moment which might sound a bit more realistic. Also the minimum wage in Australia is AU$34k per year (AU$17k for 6 months) so a lot of the jobs mentioned would meet my requirements over here. For example the firefighting roles are AU$25k for 6 month contracts.

7Wannabe5 your lifestyle sounds similar to what I aim to achieve. Flexibility in income with the option to shut off completely if desired.

I’m particularly interested to hear from people about intermittent self-employment. A good example I can think of would be a carpenter who only offers his services for 6 months each year. The challenges would be somewhat starting from scratch with customers and reputation each year (and maintaining all yours tools). I guess that isn’t too different to having to find a new seasonal job each year. Any particular trades/skills that lend themselves to intermittent work?

OldPro
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by OldPro »

Well you don't say if you are single or married; own a home or rent; insist on staying in Australia or not.

If you look at the Lonely Planet forum for example under the 'Long Haul' branch which is about living and working abroad, you might get some other ideas and other perspectives.

For example, many tourist resort areas only work a 6 month season and many of the people involved have to make their year's income during that period and live off it for the 6 months of the 'off season'. When I lived on a Greek island, that was the norm. The same applies in many other places. The point being, instead of looking at working part of the year and then travelling part of the year, you can work in a different place and eliminate having to travel in a manner of speaking.

The advantage to that is that living and working on a Greek island for 6 months does not cost you the same amount of money that travelling as a 'tourist' for 6 months does. If your goal is to travel and experience other countries, then focus on the goal, not on ONE way of doing that which has come to your mind. ie. work half a year to fund the other half year of travel.

Of course, this alternative is not easy. You do have to have some skills, ability, qualifications, etc. to offer and you do have to be realistic about what you can expect. Bartending on a Greek island pays just about enough to survive on, it doesn't pay enough to save from generally speaking. But it does give you 6 months of living there and experiencing the country and culture.

You also have to be able to work legally in a country as well. An Australian with a European parent or grandparent who can qualify for a passport from an EU country through ancestry for example has no problem then working anywhere in the EU. One N. Hemisphere summer working in Europe and S. Hemisphere summer back in Australia working on a beach. Just one long, endless summer of beaches, babes and booze.

This is just an example but I would encourage you to back up a step and look at the real goal without adding a pre-assumed method of attaining the goal. State the goal in one short sentence and see how it looks.

'To experience the world' is quite different from, 'to find jobs for part of the year to fund travel for the rest of the year.' The first focuses on 'experience' and the second focuses on 'jobs'.

OldPro
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by OldPro »

I'm reminded of when I first retired myself and ended up on a Greek island. During my first winter there, some local Greek friends asked me what I planned to do when the 'season' started up. I said I had no plans to do anything, I was retired and did not need to work for a living.

They said, 'oh no, you can't do nothing. You will end up sitting in the bars, drinking, chasing women, sleeping late every day, going to the beach, generally being a bum. You have to get a job to give your life some structure and purpose.' I couldn't see what was so bad about that description they gave but eventually I said ok, what kind of job can I get that let's me sit in a bar, have a drink, meet women and sleep late every day and go to the beach.

The question was, what was the goal. To just get a job or to get a job that allowed me to do all of the above but still provided some 'structure and purpose'. The answer was to open my own bar. Since the bar was only open from 8pm to 2am, that left all day free for whatever. It also meant I would spend my time in a bar, having a drink (I'm not talking excessive here) and meeting women. It let me sleep in late and spend time at the beach if I wanted to. What's more, it was a 6 month seasonal thing where you earn the money in the season to pay your expenses in the off season. Got all the bases covered really.

Sometimes, you actually can have your cake and eat it too.

JL13
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by JL13 »

7Wannabe5 wrote:There is no big dividing line between this-is-how-I-make-my-money and this-is-how-I-enjoy/care-for-myself-and-my-habitat.
This is pretty much the ERE thesis, isn't it?

Funny you mention dating, as I've noticed that even with new dates I'm looking to get something out of it other than just the romantic/physical aspect. Potentially an activity partner or networking opportunity. Someone interesting, in other words, but not necessarily for the traditional reasons (to increase attractiveness or mating potential).

GandK
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by GandK »

Matty wrote:Any particular trades/skills that lend themselves to intermittent work?
Software development does, assuming you can keep a client base going during your off times. Most businesses, regardless of size, need development work of some kind... web sites, database work, etc. But most small businesses don't need a dedicated full-time developer. There was a point early in my career as a developer when I was picking up between $15k and $20k a year of work from 3 small companies, in addition to doing some teaching work. I developed relationships with those companies, and they called me for whatever their hardware/network guy didn't know how to provide.

The good news with dev work is that, assuming Internet access, you can do it all remotely. The bad news is that because of the "speed of technology" issue, people tend to always want tech work done RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE. So the appropriateness of this as a career path for you would depend 100% on your ability to build those relationships and to manage expectations.

JL13
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Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 7:47 am

Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by JL13 »

OldPro wrote:the bar was only open from 8pm to 2am, that left all day free for whatever.
That's fascinating! I've always felt the Pareto rule applied to most businesses, in this case, 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of the hours! No sense being open from 11am or even 5pm!

I'm guessing thee location was used as a restaurant during the day by another tenant?

dalralmi
Posts: 81
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by dalralmi »

I've done toys r us now for three years for Christmas. Some seasons are better than others it really just depends on how many people quit before Christmas. Usually I can pick up 3-4k doing this at 30 hours a week although other specialties in retail do pay more. I've also done Home Depot in the spring which is also seasonal.

I've sometimes done a testing center near me which has a seasonal grader job available. You work limited hours over the course of a couple months just grading multiple choice tests that students have taken. The more years your work there the higher the income if you keep coming back.

I've nannied for temp jobs as well closer to the holidays when people don't want to pay full time for daycare since they don't need it for the full week or day most of the time trough holidays and also I've been able to make decent money baby sitting so parents can Santa shop. All of those have been fairly steady income every year.

OldPro
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by OldPro »

No other tenant JL13. Most of the bars on that street (it is called 'bar street' as almost every building is a bar) are only open in the evening.

Think about a beach tourism environment. Beach bars are open during the day but bars in town would do very little business during the day if they were open. Everyone is at the beach or out exploring the area attractions etc. Many restaurants that re located in town and catering to tourists, are also only open in the evening.

Understanding how a business works is just like having knowledge of anything else. That's why a lot of small businesses fail, because someone thought they understood something that in fact they had no experience of doing. I saw a lot of people come to the island and open a business. Like most small businesses in most places, most failed.

Just because you have eaten in a restaurant or bought a drink in a bar does not mean you understand that business. I opened my bar with a local Greek partner who had spent about 20 years in the bar business before we partnered. He worked in his family's bar but did not have the capital to open his own. So in the beginning, my capital and his experience were a good combination. Then he TAUGHT me the bar business. Our bar was successful and in fact he is still there today. I sold out my half to him after 3 years. The first year was fun, the second year was ok and the in the third year it just became work. Time to change. That is part of what FIRE is really all about. When you don't HAVE TO earn a living, when it ain't fun any more you move on.

A couple of simple examples of the differences having someone with local knowledge of the business makes. It took us 8 weeks to get a bar license. It took an English guy starting at the same time, 2 years to get his license. My partner convinced me we had to pay a 'fixer' who had the connections to make it happen. I was reluctant until I saw the results.

Even more enlightening was the case of Playboy who decided to open a casino on the island. After 2 years of renovation of a historic and architecturally beautiful classic hotel, they were several millions in the hole and could not even get answers as to where the money had gone. They gave up and sold out to a group of Greek investors from Athens. Those investors opened the casino in 6 months.

I like the story of the two guys who meet at a bar while on vacation. One says to the other, 'so what do you do for a living?' The second guy responds, 'I'm a writer.' The first guy says, 'you know, I've always thought I'd like to write a book after I retire.' The second guy then says, 'really, so what do you do for a living?' The first guy says, 'I'm a heart surgeon.' The second guy then responds, 'you know, I've always thought I'd like to dabble in heart surgery after I retire.'

The point being obviously, that it is no easier to do one thing than any other. You still need knowledge, experience, etc. of the job or business you are looking at becoming involved in. With some jobs, as an employee, there is no real risk to you involved. Fail as a Walmart greeter or ToysRUs shelf stacker and it's no big loss but lose your investment in a new business and it can hurt quite a bit. Dabble in heart surgery and ............

Crazylemon
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by Crazylemon »

Having an in demand skill is probably the way to go.

My plan is once FIRE I will still probably want to do doctoring. The bit I hate is the paperwork and having to be a slave to a rota. I will just end up picking up locum shifts. Work when I want, minimal paperwork and spending the time seeing patients. How the job should be normally!

Obviously not viable for most but learning some sort of in demand labour should be.

Matty
Posts: 78
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 4:47 am

Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by Matty »

@OldPro - Over the short-medium term my goal starting sometime next year is to not work for a while, ride my bike across a few states/countries, surf and rockclimb. My goal over the long term is no more than “maintain flexibility to allow me to pursue whatever I may be interested in at the time”. My methods for keeping on track with that goal are to not touch my initial seed savings (let them compound), keep adding wealth over time no matter how small and approach potential flexibility destroying decisions with much consideration. There’s too many factors external and internal (I change my mind a lot) to define that goal any further. Hence I’m really just brainstorming some different ways to earn money. Who knows what I will want to do work or leisure wise in 2 years time.

OldPro
Posts: 298
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by OldPro »

That's all fine Matty. One of the things I learned early on in my own retirement is that others cannot see what you see when you are retired. There is a saying, 'you can't see there from here' which is a version of another well known saying, 'you can't get there from here'.

Trying to explain the difference between a 'normal' life of working vs. life when you are FI is something like trying to explain colours to a blind person. With that in mind, trying to ask about what kind of jobs might suit you after you achieve FI is kinda pointless.

For example, if you had asked me before I FIREd, if I had considered opening a bar, I would have thought you were crazy. I found that I pretty much fell into the things I have done since I FIREd and the bar was only one of those things. After I sold out my share of the bar, I told my landlord I was going to have to move to a cheaper place to live as I would not have that supplement to my income the bar provided. HIs response was to ask me if I was interested in spending 2 hours a day helping him around the property with various maintenance chores. In return, he would let me stay rent free. I paid no rent for the next 5 years.

Another friend who owned a bar asked me if I was interested in coming to his bar during the evenings, in season, to mix with the tourists, play pool with them (and let them win), answer questions for them about places of interest on the island and in general just keep them happy and returning. A kind of public relations job. In return, he gave me my drinks free and a small payment (pocket money). So I got paid to socialize rather than paying to do it.

I met a woman and started a relationship with her and she moved in with me. She gave private English lessons and made a decent income doing it. She bought the groceries, etc.

So for all those years, I lived rent free, had pocket money, food to eat, etc. without having to spend much of my income at all really. You could say without exaggeration that I had zero living expenses.

One year during this same time, I went to a birthday party for a friend who was Australian. Since I could not find an English language birthday card on the island, I printed one using a desktop publishing program on my computer. She was very impressed with it and asked if I could design and print menus for her hotel bar and restaurant. One menu led to another by word of mouth alone and before you knew it I was in the menu business once each year for about a 6-8 week period before the season started. In the last year of doing menus, I earned around $6-8k doing it. The limitation was how many pages my printer could print.

Leaving Greece and moving to Scotland, I was in a hardware store one day and got talking to a guy. The subject turned to backyard decks which were a relatively new thing in the UK at the time. Next thing I know, the guy is asking me if I could design and sell decks for his decking company. I said yes but I was not interested in paying taxes and other deductions and becoming an employee as such. So he agreed to pay me a cash percentage of each sale I made.

You may or may not know that a decent 'closing rate' for that kind of thing might be 2 or 3 out of 5. My closing rate was around 2 out of 3. So for spending around 10 hours per week, I was earning around 1500 US at today's exchange rate per month.

None of those examples are things I would ever have considered doing while I still had to work for a living. None of them would have paid enough for me to do them. But when you are FI, you do not need to do things that earn a 'living'. Nor can you predict what opportunities will turn up out of the blue simply because you are in a position not only to take those opportunities, but to SEE those opportunities.

So we are back to the saying Matty. YOU can't see there from here. The only difference I would say is that you want to try and set out to do what I fell into doing repeatedly. That is, to find a way to not need to spend the income you have. I would suggest that instead, you just set out to live within the income you have when you FIRE and let the rest take care of itself. Who knows what you will find to fall into. The key is being in a position to SEE the opportunities and I can't stress too much that you can't anticipate them from where you are now.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Seasonal and intermittent jobs during semi-ERE

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

You might want to consider using some "riskable" part of your cash reserve to invest in your own turnkey business or businesses. Simple example would be buy 10 decent snowblowers, rent 10 storage units, hire 10 people to be on-call part-time snowblowers for your business, place 10 ads on Craigslist. There are a billion different things you can rent following basically the same model as suggested in "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" for rental housing. I have no clue what the profit margin or simple oversight management time required for any of these might be, but it could possibly be worth investigating. There are (at least) two reasons why you will be able to find 10 people whose labor you can leverage in this manner. The first is some of them will not have enough money to buy a snowblower and rent a storage unit. The second is that one person's job is another person's business and vice-versa is true for the same reason as one person's trash is another person's treasure (how you make/save money on the discard market.)

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