SELF EMPLOYMENT FOR ANYONE
SELF EMPLOYMENT FOR ANYONE
By Kurt Saxon
There is something about working steadily for someone else that dulls the
human mind. Security is the main reason people give for fixed employment
but the unrealized drawback is dependence.
With fixed employment you have a measure of security only if the business
is growing. You may even advance, getting higher wages. But when the business
levels off, so does your pay. And as the pay scale becomes fixed, so does
the routine. So you are at a dead end and become just a part of the machinery.
A worker can go for years doing the same thing and getting the same pay.
Except for cost-of-living raises, which seldom make up for inflation's gain
in the same period, spendable income remains about the same.
When a business hits its peak and is serving as big a part of its market
as it can reach, it usually starts going downhill. This is because the market
has been saturated. There is no more room for development, no new money coming
Then, even cost-of-living raises are hard to come by. Then come the strikes.
Raises are given, prices of the products are raised, fewer people can buy
and less money comes in. As inflation eats into your strike-won raise, you
must strike again, get the prices raised, lose even more customers and on
That is the way it is getting to be all over the country. So if you work
for others and think you have security, you may be insane. You had better
check that out.
The main drawback of a fixed income is your dependence on things staying
as they are. Rising inflation and increasing bankruptcies are threats to
just about every wage-earner's livelihood.
My early career was wasted in wage-slaving. I was uneducated, unskilled,
unbalanced and a drifter from job to job. I could never keep a job long but
the worst times were when I had a job I could do and stuck at it for up to
a year. This was a waste of time as my savings never equaled the price of
When I was going to college, I worked part-time at a hospital doing kitchen
duties for $27.00 per week take-home. This was in 1960 and my rent was only
$6.00 per week for a room with a sink and a hot plate. I spent maybe $3.00
per week for food so I did not need much.
Just the same, the hours were from four to eight p.m. and I did not like
the work or the money. But a full-time job would have kept me out of college.
I was complaining to a wino name of Charles who lived in the same rooming
house. He was a house painter and suggested I get in the trade. I had never
painted but had seem him at it and figured if he could do it, anyone could.
I had watched him on a ladder once, hanging on with an elbow, with a fifth
of Thunderbird in one hand and a brush in the other. He fell often but worked
when he wanted to.
He wrote an ad for me: Painter: Fast, Reliable, Good References, $2.00 per
hour and the rooming house phone number and who to ask for. It cost me about
$3.00 to run it a week in the Work Wanted section of the local paper under
PAINTING. Then I quit my job and sat back. I had to because I would have
been at work when anybody called. It is dumb to quit one job before getting
another. So if you work, put in the ad the time you will be home to accept
That lying ad took effect the first afternoon it ran. I got a call from an
old lady with a tiny kitchen. I told her over the phone that for $2.00 per
hour I would supply the labor and the tools but she would have to buy the
paint. She had the paint ready and I stopped by the dime store and bought
a paint roller, pan, three different sized hand brushes and a plastic drop
I took this on the local bus and started my first paint job. The old lady
showed me into her dark red kitchen and pointed to the bright yellow paint
and went into her front room to watch TV.
I poured too much paint in the pan and just dipped in the roller, as the
pan was too full to allow rolling the roller on the pan's ramp. This does
not work and it was several tries before I got the idea of pouring some paint
back into the can and rolling off the excess paint on the pan's ramp before
rolling it on the ceiling.
You cannot imagine the mess at the beginning. I had paint on me and had a
totally yellow arm and a soaked torso through my shirt. If that sweet old
soul had not been in the front room watching TV, she would have fired me
in the first five minutes.
I am pretty smart so I got the hang of it in the first half hour. I did that
little kitchen in four and a half hours and got $9.00 and even compliments.
A few days later this pervert called me and asked if I would paint bare-chested.
I was pretty naive and did not understand and told him that I would not consider
painting bare-chested as I got enough paint on my chest as it was without
That first week I painted two kitchens, a garage and a bedroom. After awhile
I seldom had to put in an ad. I got a lot of repeat business and working
only when I wanted to, averaged $34.00 per week. that was not much, even
in those days. But it was more than I had gotten at the hospital and in fewer
hours and was sufficient for my needs. If I wanted something more, I would
just work another day or two. So even in this poor trade my income was not
fixed and I could choose my hours. I could have worked all the time if I
had wanted to.
Just in case you might want to try this, here are a few tips. Get a book
on decorating and study the painting section. The go to a paint store and
have a clerk tell you what you will need. Your ideal start would be to paint
as much of your own home as you can for practice. A couple of days painting
your own quarters would get most of the bugs out of your technique.
Charge about a third of what a union painter gets. Do not worry about union
interference. People who hire bargain painters want bargains. They will not
pay union rates and so do not really expect union skill. Union painters would
not be interested in such jobs anyway.
Three dollars an hour for non-professional work is fine, especially since
you do not have to declare it for taxes. It is all yours unless you want
to pay taxes on it. Most of the guys I knew in the trade never declared their
income because there was no way the Feds could check.
No matter what, do as good a job as you can and be extremely honest. I was
never asked for a reference but those who I would have used as references
hired me for one job after another. These were mainly landlords who hired
me to redo vacant apartments.
After a time, I charged $2.50 per hour and could have gotten more had I become
Never work for a non-union contractor. You will not be fast enough to make
a profit for him and he will fire you. If you are fast enough, you might
as well be a contractor yourself.
Contracting is where you give an estimate and accept a set fee for the job.
When people asked for an estimate I would say I needed a license to be a
contractor so I just charged by the hour with no estimates. I did not have
the kind of mind where I could examine a job and tell how long it would take.
Contracting is more profitable and I am not sure about the license, but when
you make an estimate, you are stuck with it. If you estimate a job will take
eight hours and it drags out to sixteen, you would be better off working
by the hour.
I worked this way, off and on, for years. I was temperamentally unsuited
for steady work. But I could be charming and polite to anybody for a few
days, which kept me a fine fellow through most of my bigger jobs. Most of
my customers were very nice and liked my work, although I was never really
If I could do it, you can, too. You would be surprised how much work goes
begging because unskilled people do not know they could do it and skilled
workers price themselves beyond the property owner's means.
Work in painting, home repairs, etc. is all over the place and you will learn
this if you will put in an ad. One place I was painting at, there was this
young moron also doing painting on a picket fence. He did not even scrape
off the old, loose paint.
I noticed he had wet his pants and asked the lady how such a nebbish could
get work from anybody. She said he only charged $1.50 an hour and did all
sorts of little odd jobs. This was mainly for old people who simply could
not handle any sort of labor and preferred a mental defective to no one at
I met many other odd jobs men. They started out just as people who could
do something, or were willing to try. They simply advertised that they could
do a certain job and they had been busy ever since.
It does not matter what you do. Painting, hauling, odd jobs, home repair,
carpentry, electrical work, typing, babysitting; a few lines in your local
paper will keep you busy. An old fellow who was going with my mom had been
a painter. He told me he had worked my system all during the depression and
had always lived well.
It is not all roses. You will get an occasional griping, abusive customer
you cannot please. Then there are those who will want you to be licensed,
bonded, insured and all that. If you do your best at say, $3.00 an hour,
they are getting a good deal. If they do not appreciate that and give you
a hard time, to hell with them. They are stupid. But this type is rare. Most
of your customers will be just good poor people who need a bargain and have
sense enough not to give a bargain like you a hard time.
If you happen to be a professional and a union tradesman, this sort of work
would be moonlighting. I knew professionals who cut their pay by a third
to be independent. A union painter or electrician would contact apartment
house owners and be on call all the time. No need to worry about licenses.
If you are giving a landlord a bargain, he is not going to turn you in to
the union or the licensing place or the IRS or anybody.
So if you are temperamentally unsuited for steady work or have been laid
off or fired, put in an ad. Even if you are in fine shape and just need some
extra income, put in an ad. If employed, you can tell a caller you will be
free on the weekend or at night. They do not care when you work if it is
convenient for them.
You try getting work this way, even if you have a job, and you will be surprised
how needed you really are. You will never be worried about unemployment again
and the worse the economy gets, the more secure you will be. Places have
to be kept up and if money is tight, union workers stay home.
Another good point is that while you are working on such jobs you are still
free to follow up leads on better opportunities. You can also go to school
or work on some home business that you do not expect to make money on for
a while. So if you are too young for steady work, retired, slightly handicapped,
a dingbat, have a rotten work record, or whatever, you are still highly
employable in this field.