Create Your Own Summer Job: 6 Ways to Make Money This Summer

Funds in the sun

Reflective Sunglasses
Hats for sale are reflected in the sunglasses also on display at a sidewalk vendor's set-up in Brooklyn, NYC. Keith Getter / Getty Images

Summer's here, and opportunities for quick money abound. If you're a recent graduate, a teacher or student off for the summer, or anyone else looking for some quick cash, summer's a great time to start a business. With a little money, some hard work, and a lot of entrepreneurial spirit, you can start turning a profit immediately. And all of these ideas are things you can still walk away from in September if you want to.

Here are six ways you can be your own boss this summer:

1. Go where it's hot, and help people keep cool

There are plenty of public places that don't have snack bars, and even the convenience store's just not convenient enough. Bottled water, sports drinks, visors, cheap sunglasses, and battery-powered fans will sell anywhere there's sunshine. Try parks, the beach, baseball practice field, or even a busy street corner near popular summer destinations.

What you'll need: Transportation, a decent cooler (28 quart or larger), four bags of ice, two cases of bottled water, two cases of sports drinks, a half-dozen sunglasses, a half-dozen visors, and a half-dozen battery-powered fans.

Estimated startup cost: Under $100. Buy the sunglasses, visors, and fans at your local dollar store for starters.

How much you can make: Even buying at retail prices, you should be able to charge double or triple your cost, or even more for the bottled water.

At a good location, you should be able sell out every few hours, which comes out to $15-$30 per hour.

How to grow: Once you've figured out which products are moving best, you can order them wholesale at a fraction of the cost.

Things to watch out for: Check into your local sales tax requirements. Also, permits may be required at beaches, parks, and other public areas.

Best web resource: Wholesale411.com — Largest directory of wholesale general merchandise vendors on the Web.

2. Lawn and yard care

People who care for their own yard the rest of the year may not want to keep up with it in the summer, when it needs to be mowed every 1-2 weeks (at least where I live). And full-time professional yard maintenance services want to set up regular contracts. Offer a low price and don't try to push the ongoing contracts. Be opportunistic. Drive through neighborhoods looking for yards that need mowing and leave a flyer. It's hard work, but decent money if you control your costs.

What you'll need: A heavy-duty self-propelled mower, an edger/trimmer, blower, hedge clippers, a gas can, and something to transport them all in.

Estimated startup cost: $1,000 new, $500 used, or you can rent the equipment you need for about $100 a day to get you started.

How much you can make: About $25-$40 per yard, on average. It will take a couple of dollars of gas per yard, and figure another dollar or so for trimmer line, mower blades, etc.

If you don't have too much travel time, you should be able to do each yard in less than an hour.

How to grow: Own the equipment. Hire a friend to help. Offer additional services, such as weeding, planting, landscaping, etc.

Things to watch out for: Equipment maintenance can eat up all your profits very quickly. Keep it well-oiled, clean, and sharp. Also, don't chintz on the equipment. The right equipment will allow you to work twice as fast. The wrong equipment will make some yards impossible.

Best web resource: LawnServicing.com — Lots of books and other things for sale, but a great collection of free resources, too.

3. House sitting and pet sitting

Summer is family vacation time, and someone has to watch the pets and take the mail and newspaper in when everybody leaves for a week or two. If you can target your marketing to families, that will be most effective.

What you'll need: Flyers and a couple of classifieds in your local papers, insurance, transportation.

Estimated startup cost: $200-$300

How much you can make: The going rates on pet sitting and house sitting range from $5 to $15 per visit, depending on the number and type of pets, frequency of visit, and expectations (long walks, etc.).

How to grow: Offer additional services such as house cleaning and pet grooming that can be done while you're there.

Things to watch out for: Trust is everything in this business. Be prepared to provide personal references. Network with everyone you know to let them know you're looking for this kind of work. Referrals will be your best lead source.

Best web resource: How to Start a Pet Sitting Service — Detailed advice on marketing, operations, and startup costs.

4. Mobile car detailing

People love convenience, and the idea of having your car cleaned while it's already sitting there at their home or office sure beats the heck out of taking it someplace and having to wait on it. Luxury car owners may be reluctant to use machine washes, and especially owners of high-top vans and pick-up trucks may not even be able to.

What you'll need: Transportation, business cards to leave on windshields, portable vacuum, a bucket, sponges, chamois, cleaning supplies.

Estimated startup cost: Under $100 to offer basic car wash services, up to $1,000 or more to offer specialized services.

How much you can make: $20-$30 per car for basic wash and interior on up to $100 or so for complete detailing (engine cleaning, etc.)

How to grow: Reinvest some of your money in equipment to offer higher-end services like engine cleaning or upholstery steam cleaning, or other related services like dent removal and windshield chip repair.

Things to watch out for: Know the Environmental Protection Agency regulations on the chemicals you use and local water usage rules.

Best web resource: MobileWorks.com — Tons of articles, discussion forums, marketing tips, and more.

5. Summer nanny / babysitter

For working parents of school-age kids, summer presents a real challenge. Summer camp may take care of a few weeks, a family trip another week or two, but then what about the rest of the summer? Find two or three families, or one with several kids, and take care of the kids during the day.

What you'll need: Clean, reliable transportation, some classified ads, a love of kids.

Estimated startup cost: Under $50 for classified ads.

How much you can make:$8-$12 an hour, depending on the number of kids. It's less money than some of the other options, but it's generally easier work.

How to grow: Take in more kids and turn into a home day care. Or, charge more for added services, like pet care or light house cleaning.

Things to watch out for: Caring for multiple children not in the same family will generally require licensing and will require the facilities to meet certain requirements. There's a big step from watching 2-3 kids from 1-2 families in one of their homes to watching 4-5 kids in your own home. Some states have licensing requirements for nannies, as well.

Best web resource: International Nanny Association — A non-profit association dedicated to promoting quality in-home child care. Lots of free articles, plus information about government regulations for all U.S. states.

6. Tutoring and teaching

Opportunities abound for the entrepreneurially-minded person with knowledge to share. Some kids need help catching up on one or two subjects, homeschoolers usually school year 'round, and many parents put their kids in summer classes on a fun topic like science, drama, or creative writing. You can tutor individual kids, or put together a group workshop or week-long class.

What you'll need: Some advertising and a facility, if you want to do group classes.

Estimated startup cost: Under $100 for flyers and advertising. For a facility, check local community centers, YMCA, etc., where you can usually rent a room for $10-$30 for 60-90 minutes, or $30-$50 for a half day.

How much you can make: $10-$20 an hour for one-on-one tutoring, depending on your qualifications. Classes vary widely in price, but with even a small turn-out, you should be able to make $50-$100 per teaching hour, but that doesn't count marketing and preparation time.

How to grow: It takes the same amount of time to teach 20 kids as 10. Marketing & advertising is what will drive your growth.

Things to watch out for: Generally, teaching short classes that are not for credit doesn't require any kind of special licensing, but check your local regulations to make sure that you don't end up falling under the day care regulations if you have multiple kids.

All of the above business ideas can be started on a minimal budget and bootstrapped by reinvesting some of your profits. While they have a seasonal element to them, they also all offer the potential of growing into a full-time, year-round business if you choose, but they're all also things you can walk away from in the fall.​

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