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Earning a Living off-line

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I was talking with a friend on Saturday. He lives in a small town in Yorkshire and is a builder of many years standing. His expertise is brick laying and plastering. I very much doubt that he has any formal qualifications. He tells me that he is in such demand that customers must book him at least a year in advance. He is never without work and his earnings are limited by the amount of time he can keep his eyes open. He also does, he says, "a little plumbing, but mostly I have self-employed friends that I can call on to do the electrical wiring and joinery".

Electrical wiring is also in great demand. You have to pass the IEE exam part "P" in order to do that legally in the UK. Another friend of mine did that recently and he is now doing some subcontract work for several local companies who install conservatories. Plumbers are also in demand but you really need to do the Corgi exam in order to handle gas fittings legally.

All of these occupations will keep you employed and you'll make a reasonable living. But it's not "on-line" work and your earnings will always be "capped" by the need for sleep and the number of hours in a day. I guess a reasonable maximum will be £35 an hour for 7 hours a day, 7 days a week. 7 x 35 x 364 = £89,180 per annum. Deduct your various overheads (tools, van, consumables) and it's probably more like £70,000 before tax. That's your limit and assumes you only take Christmas day off! If you only do a 5 day week it's 7 x 35 x 260 = £63,700 which brings you to around £45,000 before tax.

Bear in mind these are absolute maximum figures, assuming you get £35 an hour for 7 hours each day. In practice you won't because you'll be driving around and doing other things (eating) for part of the 7 hours.

You also have to realise that you'll have unpaid time for injury and sickness.

Your outgoings will include:

  • Public liability insurance
  • Buying, insuring and maintaining vehicle
  • Fuel for vehicle
  • Tools and equipment (buy and/or hire)
  • Consumables (e.g. bricks, plaster, cement)
  • Personal pension and insurance including dental and health

This way of earning a living can be quite fulfilling for some people. Others find it tedious, boring and hard on the muscles and joints. You will never be rich unless you branch out into (for example) renovating and selling property. But you need capital to begin that and it's not as easy as it seems. There's a lot of competition.