Ultimate Side Hustle, Become a Millionaire

TroyBiltIn the years leading up to 2002, I was working for a small consulting firm that did on-shoring right here in a small town in Minnesota.  Times were a bit tough, especially right after 9/11/2001….  I knew I had to get some side hustle money flowing.

The large Fortune 500 Company that hired the consulting company that I worked for was planning on severing their ties with us.  It was not my consulting firm, I just worked for them.  Our company told all of the ~10 employees that they would be laid off in 90 days.  They also said that they did not have any work for us to do, and should look for work.  As luck would have it, the day after I was to be laid off was day before opening day of archery deer season, so life was looking good.  As it turned out, this was a short lived dream, as I will get to later in this story.

After the year 2000 layoffs, I knew several people that moved into different careers, lost their homes, or had to move out of state.  I also knew many friends that were able to find new jobs, and keep going in the same career field.  I helped several people actually find work, and probably could have been an employment coach.

Knowing that I was going to be laid off, and also knowing that I was not going to lose my home if I could help it, I started to think about what I could do to make things better than I had.

The time to start to think about starting a business is before you get laid off or immediately after.  If you burn up all of your resources, and all of the unemployment checks trying to continue your current career path, it is too late.  You do not have enough capital to start a new business.  You are emotionally beaten down so thoroughly, that you do not even have the confidence to start anything.  So I started the process as soon as I found out, which was in the middle of June.

When I owned a small bar and restaurant, new menu items were always being created.  The best menu item was something that used our existing inventory, mixed it up a bit, and created something new.  A hamburger becomes a cheeseburger, a bacon cheeseburger, a California burger, etc.

So I started to think, what do I do now, or have the tools and skills to do now, that people will pay me for.  I could have went to school for nine months (and actually started a 9-month on-line class) and burned up a ton of capital, and still not found a job.  If I start something right away, and have a minimal investment, I may be able to keep the “ball in the air” for a long while until I find something permanent.

So I looked at my mower and my 13 HP Troy-Bilt Horse rototiller (made in the USA), and went to work.  I ordered a magnetic sign to put on my 1988 Ford Ranger that said “Lawn Mowing/Rototilling 651-555-1212”.  My girlfriend did not even want to ride in the truck with the signs at first, as she didn’t want to be dating a lawn mowing guy.

I live on a 4-lane road, so there is always traffic.  I received a few calls on the truck signs, so it was a great first step.  I passed out a few flyers and posted some flyers at Home Depot.  I signed up for ServiceMagic.com.  It was not long and I had ~10 customers.  I signed up these customers with just a few hours of work, and minimal dollars, in advertising.  I have an MBA in marketing, so I knew if I got 10 customers with minimal effort, getting 100 would certainly be possible to do.   If you want to work, people will hire you.

It was not a lot of money at first, but it was also not that many hours.  It was also not much investment.  With my 52” belt-drive (yuck) walk-behind mower (double yuck), I could make about $40 per hour without too much effort.  With only 10 lawns, it worked out to be a decent days pay.  It was also a bit of exercise; I think I walked easily over 10 miles a day behind the mower.

I picked up a few rototilling jobs too.  Soon I was able to invest in a couple of larger mowers (hydro, with a sulky), and other peripheral equipment.  The next year, I had even more customers.  Once you have a customer base, it is a sound business model to offer additional services to those same customers.  You can recommend and provide many services that they want and need.  You are their trusted worker; they will look to you first.  This is true even if you are not the lowest price.

I mowed grass for quite a few years, and began to subcontract out the work.  Fertilizer was the first to be subcontracted.   I had purchased a Ryan aerator early on, but it was a tool that was too much work to do all day, so I started to subcontract that work out too.  Then I began to subcontract out the mowing.  At times, I would think there are not too many millionaires out there that are cutting grass for money, but I happily went along and mowed the grass. I did it even in the hot humid days that were not fit for a dog to be out in.

So, by the time I got to the week I was laid off, I had enough money to pay most my mortgage payment in side hustle money.  I bought my Ford F350 after I signed up ~6 of my customers for snow plowing, even though at the time I did not have a ‘real’ job lined up.  Get the contracts, and then get the equipment and learn how to use it.  I would not recommend buying a $40K+ truck when you do not have a job, but it all worked out.

As it eventually turned out, I got another IT job.  I was only out for the weekend; I did not miss a day of work.  I was unable to go deer hunting.  But I liked the side hustle money so well, that I stuck with it.  I worked days, evenings and weekends. It has since dwindled a bit, as I no longer solicit new business.

I did not actually become a millionaire because of mowing grass, but I did start to think like a millionaire.  One of the first steps to becoming a millionaire, is to develop the mindset that you need to have to become one.

So, looking back, I can say this with 100% confidence.  Anyone here in America, that has the drive, determination, perseverance and ambition, can be a millionaire.  There is no doubt in my mind.  You may have to break a sweat, or take jobs that you may think are beneath you, but you can do it.

Do you have any friends that became millionaires?  Do you think it is possible?  Do you think it is possible for you?

15 Replies to “Ultimate Side Hustle, Become a Millionaire”

  1. This is a really inspirational story, mainly because people think there isn’t work out there! As far as lawn care goes it seems like the sky is the limit as far as how many services you can charge for. You could even move into some bigger jobs like building retaining walls (a side hustle my friend and I are seriously considering). Losing a job is a scary prospect, but if you are willing to hustle you can pay the bills and, who knows, maybe become a miillionaire while you’re at it?

  2. I agree with David: inspirational stuff there. I think there are a lot of opportunities to start a microbusiness without much upfront capital. Selling labor is one of the best ways to diversify your income without a ton of risk.

  3. Man I love this story, especially the part about your GF not wanting to ride in the truck with you haha!

    Like you say, the best time to start a side hustle is right now, before you get laid off. Some people are good when their back is up against the wall, but the average person is not. I also liked that you picked something you were good at, sort of liked and didn’t have a high start-up cost.

    I actually just did a podcast on all the ways I’m making money right now and your story reminded me of my Lyft story. A lot of people find it funny that I drive for Lyft(peer to peer rideshareing) even though I have a full time gig as an engineer(they don’t even know about my online empire). But it’s easy, it’s fun, low startup cost since I already have a car and I make more than I do at my day job if I drive during peak times…who gives a crap what other people think haha?


  4. Thanks for the great info here. I am learning more and more to think like a millionaire and learn how to increase my side hustle money, and your story shows that it does work. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. It does indeed. I did not make a million mowing grass, but I created a bit of seed money that I used to invest in some Real Estate adventures. That money, combined with savings, created the down payment that is almost 100% necessary.

      There are no-money down options, but they are always a bit sketchy, in my mind. Making a cash offer is easier, and a better deal in the long run.

    1. If you do not have a plan, or are not into working hard, it doesn’t work. There are people that make a million by the tome they are 20, and others take longer, but if you have an idea, and ambition, it can succeed.

  5. What a neat story! I hope that it inspires many others to do the same and start earning some side income. I think almost everybody has the possibility to become a millionaire, and it’s importantant to think like one to get there eventually, as you mentioned. Kudos!

    1. Thank you for the comment.

      Yes, if you can take as many hours as you can, and swap them for dollars, that gives you the start of a capital fund. Once you have the capital, you can start to build other streams of income, hire out some of the work, or just save what you can.

      “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” Newt Gingrich

  6. That’s awesome. So many people just stick their heads in the sand when a job ends. You miss all the opportunities that way for sure.

  7. What a great work ethic you have NNL! Are you sure you want to retire like your side bar says? LOL I like the idea of doing things with little capital investment, at least initially.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I will probably still do a few things, manage property, and sell a few houses to my tenants when they move out. I might even pick up some side income from this blog (lol). I do like the competition of business, but I like to be able to get out of MN for the winter too!

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