I’m Jo. My husband Bob and I are both juniors in college, going full time, and taking part-time jobs. Bob is British and I was born in India; but we are both American citizens. Except for desperation, would have never considered doing a Sideline. I’m in Education and Bob in Forestry so “money-making” as a goal has never been on our radar screen.
But the more I understood the concept of Sidelines, I began to grasp and embrace how Sidelines relate to the “first law of money” – that if you enjoy what you do, you’re becoming good at it, and people want, money has to come your way.
So here’s our story. We really like cutting costs, and paying no rent to stay in someone’s home, nurturing plants and trees, and showing appreciation for senior citizens by doing something to help take care of them. These “enjoyments” alone hardly translate into money making. But at a party one night we overheard another student talking about “house sitting” for a professor out of town.
On the way home Bob and I locked onto the idea that our newfound sideline could be just that: house sitting for an older professor living near school, who needed someone to take care of his home and garden while on sabbatical. While this idea didn’t generate money in a strict sense, it might save us $1200 a month in rent that we would have to otherwise earn with more part-time jobs.
And we were right. We put together a hand-written [personal] flyer showing both of our pictures, a brief bio-sketch, and our desire to house sit at least 6 months for a professor on leave. We printed copies, and each went to 4 department secretaries, surmising they were the linchpins to professors that might be planning to travel and teach. We developed a 30-second pitch [Elevator speech] to present to the secretaries, before handing them the flyer. One secretary was downright nasty, another smirked with scolding eyes, but the rest actually said thank you and offered to pass on the flyer to possible interested faculty. In less than a week we had a telephone interview followed by an office visit, followed by reference checking us.
Two months later we were living in the Professor’s home, having full run of his house, and expected to only “watch after” his plants and vegetables. He asked us to “walk” his antique Jaguar car 2x a month, and to have a bottle of his homemade champagne 1x month. It almost seemed to good to be true – until we received an email that he and his wife would be coming back for a week to visit a sick relative. Darn – so we immediately responded by saying we would find other housing for that week – but didn’t mention we had no viable options we could afford. Instead he followed up with a note that we were not to move, and that they would be staying in a hotel; and would not be coming over unless to check up on things unless we requested it. Wow!
We stayed there 9 months, and it was perfect. At the 6 month mark we contacted the prof and asked that as the date got closer for our departure, if he might be willing to write a letter of recommendation that we could use to pursue another faculty house sitting opportunity. He immediately did just that, but said he had already been in contact with a colleague that was planning an upcoming sabbatical for half a year and had already recommended us. Our Sideline “house sitting” opportunity was fully launched, and saving us well over $1200 a month, even having to pay utilities at the home. We’ve now done this twice and want to expand this opportunity while still pursuing our academic training.
We had read in a magazine about VRBO and Airbnb, short-term rental opportunities, where 1-3 rooms of a larger house could be rented very short-term in a high desire neighborhood. Because we have become ‘experts’ at house sitting, enjoy it, have great references, we are now in the process of contacting owners of large rental homes near campus about the possibility of our becoming primary renter, and then operating the rest of the owner’s home as a short-stay rental through Airbnb. This might sound crazy but its not.
Let me explain. If the owner rents a 4-bedroom home with two separate floors that are fully functional on each floor – with complete kitchens and separate access to the units – each unit could be rented separately. If the unoccupied upstairs could be rented at $295/night and one of the two rooms downstairs could be rented at $175, and both spaces could be occupied 20 days a month, the gross revenue would be about $470 x 20 – $9,400 a month in rental income.
If the owner agreed to split the net revenue after utilities of perhaps $400/month, he would make $4500 in net revenue per month on a home that he had previously rented for about $2500 a month, or an increase of $24,000 a year for doing nothing more than he had previously done. We would agree to do all of the cleaning, and he would pay insurance and cost of all normal repairs. We think it will work, and can have free rent and make $24,000 a year giving us more time to explore another more enriching Sideline possibility.