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What is Agile Work?

 
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Agile work* and the corresponding forum here on permies.com, is about earning income from anywhere.

Agile work is different from residual income streams in that you have to keep doing the work to keep getting money.  With residual income, one does the work once, and the money keeps on trickling in.  Agile work is a bit more like wage work, only without actually going to the workplace.



Let's talk about agile work and maybe brainstorm some ideas to make a great big list of possible jobs someone can do (like our giant residual income list)


*unrelated to the Agile project management methodology - which is something to do with computers, possibly.  
 
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My number one go-to would be a small plant nursery.  It's quiet, easy work that you can turn into a business if you would like to for little to no investment, and work as much or as little as you like.  You work at home, and while it takes some time to start generating income, the actual time spent working is minimal.  You have lots of "leisure" time while you are waiting for things to grow, or sprout, or develop roots, so you can work or play at other things.  Marketing is very simple.  A free Craigslist ad or a few signs on the street are as much advertising as you need to get started.  Everything about the business can be expanded if you wish.  You make your own hours, and you can have your dogs around for company while you work :)
 
r ranson
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Trace Oswald wrote:My number one go-to would be a small plant nursery.  It's quiet, easy work that you can turn into a business if you would like to for little to no investment, and work as much or as little as you like.  You work at home, and while it takes some time to start generating income, the actual time spent working is minimal.  You have lots of "leisure" time while you are waiting for things to grow, or sprout, or develop roots, so you can work or play at other things.  Marketing is very simple.  A free Craigslist ad or a few signs on the street are as much advertising as you need to get started.  Everything about the business can be expanded if you wish.  You make your own hours, and you can have your dogs around for company while you work :)



Great idea.  

I think this would fall under cottage industry.  

My understanding of agile work is that you can do it anywhere.  A bit like digital nomads only not necessarily that extreme.  
 
Trace Oswald
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r ranson wrote:

Trace Oswald wrote:My number one go-to would be a small plant nursery.  It's quiet, easy work that you can turn into a business if you would like to for little to no investment, and work as much or as little as you like.  You work at home, and while it takes some time to start generating income, the actual time spent working is minimal.  You have lots of "leisure" time while you are waiting for things to grow, or sprout, or develop roots, so you can work or play at other things.  Marketing is very simple.  A free Craigslist ad or a few signs on the street are as much advertising as you need to get started.  Everything about the business can be expanded if you wish.  You make your own hours, and you can have your dogs around for company while you work :)



Great idea.  

I think this would fall under cottage industry.  

My understanding of agile work is that you can do it anywhere.  A bit like digital nomads only not necessarily that extreme.  



Gotcha.  I misunderstood what the forum was for.
 
r ranson
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Gotcha.  I misunderstood what the forum was for.



Me too for the longest time.  I think that's why the forum is so empty.  No one knows what to post in it.  

This thread will help.  
 
r ranson
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I imagine it's like selling my labour.

I can make yarn from anywhere - but it's still making a product on spec and selling the product - so cottage industry?

But mending other people's clothes - that's selling my labour.  Would that count as agile work?

Just brainstorming ideas here.  I'm getting a general feel for what agile work is, but I don't feel like I have the complete picture yet.  
 
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Moderate other people's forums.

I think that if someone has cut their teeth on permies.com and really been involved in keeping this site "nice" and free of spam, they've developed a valuable skill that could be applied to any of a zillion other forums on the internet. It's just a question of finding one that has an income stream and can pay you. As well as obviously establishing trust with them so that they would want to pay you.

Would that qualify?
 
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Stuff like programming for raspberry pi applications?
Internet consulting?
 
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Agile work can mean a few things to different people - to Politicians it's usually a code for less full time work opportunities, more casual work, and a fractured workforce of underpaid people.

To business, it means more opportunities, efficiencies, and something resembling a work/life balance - no mandatory early starts and late finishes in an office ... need to take the kids to the dentist, no worries.

We work in an agile workspace with several offices and depots scattered throughout the city and the State.

With a VPN (Virtual Private Network), I’m able to connect the laptop almost anywhere and do work - in multiple offices, construction work sites, at home, even in the car.

Couple the CADD compliant laptop with a smart phone and we have some incredibly powerful tools – Skype for remote conferences, real time presentations and approvals (electronic signatures) via a suite of software packages, etc.

It makes work life a lot more functional – working from home when desired, the office when required, the car when needed. Though I do admit it does blur the lines between traditional work and home spaces.

Now I’m accustomed to it, it’s something that can be transitioned to life on the Permie Farm via a WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) e.g. immediate cataloguing of plant and animal wellbeing, research on an array of things like plant diseases/deficiencies, ordering stuff from the produce store, whatever.

It can be a huge time and money saver for a relatively small outlay. Many outback Farmers have been using similar setups for decades to check remote stock water troughs and gate accesses – CCTV camera network and sensors so windmills can be switched on to fill troughs, open gates to move stock, etc. Otherwise it would mean several hundred kilometres of driving on rough tracks, or unnecessary wear & tear on their planes/helicopters.

 
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Dave de Basque wrote:Moderate other people's forums.

I think that if someone has cut their teeth on permies.com and really been involved in keeping this site "nice" and free of spam, they've developed a valuable skill that could be applied to any of a zillion other forums on the internet. It's just a question of finding one that has an income stream and can pay you. As well as obviously establishing trust with them so that they would want to pay you.

Would that qualify?



Wow, I had no idea people would pay money for moderators.  

ModSquad



Neat!

Pretty high stress job.  Not sure I could do it if there was a pay cheque riding on it.  I used to do simular work for a living, but the constant security checks and bomb scares were a nuisance.  I decided that it wasn't paying enough.  
 
r ranson
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Wow, most of these moderating freelance companies require a BA or other university degree.  

Don't tell Paul, I lack the standard moderator requirements :)
 
Timothy Markus
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r ranson wrote:Wow, most of these moderating freelance companies require a BA or other university degree.  

Don't tell Paul, I lack the standard moderator requirements :)



I think you could fake a Bossy Attitude if you had to!
 
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Nicole Alderman
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Tee-hee, "Bossy Attitude"/BA has all new meanings when applied to moderating. I'm pretty sure people think we have bossy attitudes even when we're not trying!
 
Timothy Markus
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Tee-hee, "Bossy Attitude"/BA has all new meanings when applied to moderating. I'm pretty sure people think we have bossy attitudes even when we're not trying!



Not the mods here, that's for sure.

Raven's post seems to have disappeared, as has mine.

edit: Nevermind, I'm confused...
 
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So, would like to help brainstorm on this, but want to make sure I understand the ask.

Agile has a meaning in the software and project management world, but that is not the context here.

Agile refers to, when you have non honesteading time, use what you have and what you know where you are to supplement income.

Would upcycling fit.the definition for agile work?

Collect free pallets. Construct pallet furniture.
Sell it on craigslist or at flea market?

If so, seems to me there are many possibilities where free, scavanged, foraged, or cheap materials could be transformed into something someone would pay for. If one had a market nearby..

Those way out in the sticks might not find this viable.
 
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right now permies runs in the red and nobody is paid.   I don't see how other sites pull it off.

I do know that i have seen some really cool sites, and they had paid staff, but they suddenly went off line, never to return.  My guess is that their funding ran out.   We pay zero people and we run in the red, so if they paid even one person, part time, then the owner had better super duper love the content and the community.
 
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I attended a course a few years ago and there was a guy teaching college courses via his laptop.   He told me he could travel the world and do fun stuff as long as he had good internet from 9 to 10 every morning.   Super agile.

Software engineering.

Olof - the guy that made the cool images for the wheaton eco scale, he did all that, and other work, while traveling through asia.  
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:My number one go-to would be a small plant nursery.  It's quiet, easy work that you can turn into a business if you would like to for little to no investment, and work as much or as little as you like.  You work at home, and while it takes some time to start generating income, the actual time spent working is minimal.  You have lots of "leisure" time while you are waiting for things to grow, or sprout, or develop roots, so you can work or play at other things.  Marketing is very simple.  A free Craigslist ad or a few signs on the street are as much advertising as you need to get started.  Everything about the business can be expanded if you wish.  You make your own hours, and you can have your dogs around for company while you work :)



Yes that is a great idea and it works! I sell herbs, veggies, etc., in the farmers market and began to also offer young plants, either cullings from the strawberry patch, or aloe vera which was divided... it all sells quite well.

Be careful with the state regulators because to sell a live plant in most states a nursery license is required. I've avoided this since I'm selling relatively few plants and nobody has noticed... yet.
 
Victor Skaggs
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J Davis wrote:So, would like to help brainstorm on this, but want to make sure I understand the ask.

Agile has a meaning in the software and project management world, but that is not the context here.

Agile refers to, when you have non honesteading time, use what you have and what you know where you are to supplement income.

Would upcycling fit.the definition for agile work?

Collect free pallets. Construct pallet furniture.
Sell it on craigslist or at flea market?

If so, seems to me there are many possibilities where free, scavanged, foraged, or cheap materials could be transformed into something someone would pay for. If one had a market nearby..

Those way out in the sticks might not find this viable.



For those on some land attempting self-sufficiency, etc., I think agile work could be called intelligent assessment... of what is available and what people will pay for. I was surprised to discover how many wild things can be sold! And products from the garden/field which might not be seen as commercial products by most.

Example... we wove "Imbolc crosses", or "Bridget crosses" out of the tall and tough grass we were mowing in the back lot, and after I hung one on my farmers market stand as decoration, I began to get requests for them! And so, yes, essentially I am now selling mowed grass...

There are many possibilities, especially for plants with herbal applications, which can be everything from pine sap to sweet clover.
 
r ranson
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I'm interested in exploring where the (blury) line between cottage industry and agile work is.
 
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r ranson wrote:I'm interested in exploring where the (blury) line between cottage industry and agile work is.



Maybe collecting seeds while traveling?  

I suppose anything you can harvest or create and then sell on-line would work.
 
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I cant find it now, but there was a company buying, processing, and reselling autumn olive berries for nutritional supplement.

Here is a site selling them that has contact info on the page: http://www.nutragreenbio.com/product/autumn-olive-elaeagnus-umbellata-extract

But generally speaking, many foraged goods are valuable in seed or fruit form if you can get it to shelf stable and find a market.
 
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I've heard of someone with no job or spouse garden in other people's yards with only a bike and a couple hand tools. It provided a nice income for her and her kids. Is that agile?
 
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paul wheaton wrote:right now permies runs in the red and nobody is paid.   I don't see how other sites pull it off.

I do know that i have seen some really cool sites, and they had paid staff, but they suddenly went off line, never to return.  My guess is that their funding ran out.   We pay zero people and we run in the red, so if they paid even one person, part time, then the owner had better super duper love the content and the community.



Other sites use:
1) extensive ADS and pop ups and all types of ways to monetize their participants/audience.
2) subscription (freemium) model where base layer content is free and polished info is for a fee
3) targeting users with money that are easiest to monetize (a challenge when many of your audience's intend to limit their spending/consumption/footprint)

I think the easiest way to monetize permies without destroying the user loyalty would be
1) sell ad placement directly where you feature farming products that are consistent with permie methods and which will last a lifetime
2) sell sponsorships to the dailyish/weeklyish newsletters
3) become a publishing portal where quality content can benefit the authors socially and monetarily (Daron would be a good example of someone who might have kept his content on this site instead of having his own site if it were a platform site: for example of another site that does this see naturalnews.com)
4) solicit donations and/or link donations to apples to give away (if you give $10 month, you get 2 apples a day to give away) , highlight posts which got most apples in dailyish email (to work would require content neutrality, which might be challenging)
5) product sales (most benefit from products that people buy more than once (books/ videos only sell once), supplements, etc)

Anywho, that's a 5 minute brainstorm session. We all want to see this site remain and we want you to monetize us in ways that don't drive us crazy :-)  
 
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https://permies.com/wiki/27826/advertising-permies

https://permies.com/t/61482/Thread-Boost-feature

https://permies.com/wiki/pie

https://permies.com/c/29

Paul is very generous with his affiliate and sharing monies and other sources of income that benefit permies.  Someone with marketing experience could make some pretty decent coin improving permies income streams.  There are some great systems already in place, but the problem seems to be that the income that person would get is directly related to how much work and time they can put into this.  The first few months would be working on spec.  But after about a year, I think there could be a decent income for someone willing to give it a go.  

Looking at it from where I am, the big problem with permies running in the red is that Paul's goal in life is to promote permaculture.  To that end, he has a lot of stuff going on.  If he only had permies, then he could focus all his attention on growing the site.  But as it is, permies is more or less self-managing if not self-funding.
 
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r ranson wrote: Someone with marketing experience could make some pretty decent coin improving permies income streams.  



That person would have to have a good grasp of what permies is about and what our audience likes.  Daron is a good example of that.  He shares his exciting content here and much of his own work references back to permies and permies helps promote his stuff.  His focus is on building his empire while helping permies.  If we had 100 more people like him, then permaculture would be a household name.

If someone wanted to focus their energy on harvesting coins from the systems we have set up on permies, I suspect they would need to learn what those systems are.  Maybe work with one of the staff to get to know how the buttons work.  But most of the staff here aren't in it for the money so we wouldn't be much help in actually going and fetching the coin for the person.  The person would have to bring that skill with them.
 
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r ranson wrote:I'm interested in exploring where the (blury) line between cottage industry and agile work is.



I think maybe it has to do with the portability of the work/product? A portable tool kit? Availability of materials? (Especially for a physical product.) A true "cottage industry" is tied to the cottage, no? Where space, equipment, materials supply demand/or are tied to a dedicated location, possibly a dedicated customer base?

Handcrafts such as knitting or crochet, which require only a small bag to carry your project, and can be picked up/put down at will. Progress is made incrementally, but otherwise idle time is used.
Itinerant work, such as portrait painting? Private chef?
One could find the materials, customers, and places to work anywhere.

Maybe with maker-spaces, a business of making physical objects could be "agile". Go to a new city, sign up for a membership/day passes at a maker space, and build a thing, sell/deliver it, and move on...
 
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Trace Oswald wrote:My number one go-to would be a small plant nursery.  It's quiet, easy work that you can turn into a business if you would like to for little to no investment, and work as much or as little as you like.  You work at home, and while it takes some time to start generating income, the actual time spent working is minimal.  You have lots of "leisure" time while you are waiting for things to grow, or sprout, or develop roots, so you can work or play at other things.  Marketing is very simple.  A free Craigslist ad or a few signs on the street are as much advertising as you need to get started.  Everything about the business can be expanded if you wish.  You make your own hours, and you can have your dogs around for company while you work :)



You are describing my business!  And fairly accurately, too.  It takes forethought and planning, and understanding the different timelines/schedules for each nursery crop, but once I had that down it became very leisurely, and I can work on an extremely flexible schedule, as long as something is getting done every day.  I do  this in my backyard (which is not large by any means) and I've got hundreds of plants growing and well over 50 varieties, from fruit trees to pollinators to perennial veggies.  All of which I grow in my food forest for my own benefit as well as for propagation material.  The line between "work" and home life has a lot of overlap, but not in a stressful way as some other businesses run from home might be.  I sometimes have visitors come, but I also sell plants from the local farmer's market, and I do installation jobs for people.  I just planted two fig trees at a customer's place this morning and made $150.  I can put as much (or as little) time as I want into this business, and can expand or contract depending on that.  So it definitely fits the definition of agile work- as I drive around town, I might spot a cashew tree, stop and collect some nuts, plant them, and 6 months later sell the trees for $20 each.  Costs me next to nothing in money or time, just a few minutes of attention here and there.  As you said, marketing is very simple.  I make about half my income doing this and I haven't even incorporated or gotten certified yet.  Eventually the momentum will push me to that point, but as a side venture which has no significant possible losses, I can take my time expanding it as I develop the skill more.  I'd recommend it to anyone with the resources, which are extremely minimal at the beginning.

Another example would be if you own a truck with a large bed (I do), and you use it occasionally to help someone move or clean out a house.  It's pretty easy to load up a truck bed and drive a pile of old mattresses to the landfill, and make some quick cash doing it.  I think agile work can be defined as something you can choose to do to make money when you have the time to do it, but you can also choose not to if you have something else going on.  It allows you to control your own schedule, which is probably the biggest benefit of all.
 
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Kenneth Elwell wrote:

r ranson wrote:I'm interested in exploring where the (blury) line between cottage industry and agile work is.



I think maybe it has to do with the portability of the work/product? A portable tool kit? Availability of materials? (Especially for a physical product.) A true "cottage industry" is tied to the cottage, no? Where space, equipment, materials supply demand/or are tied to a dedicated location, possibly a dedicated customer base?

Handcrafts such as knitting or crochet, which require only a small bag to carry your project, and can be picked up/put down at will. Progress is made incrementally, but otherwise idle time is used.
Itinerant work, such as portrait painting? Private chef?
One could find the materials, customers, and places to work anywhere.

Maybe with maker-spaces, a business of making physical objects could be "agile". Go to a new city, sign up for a membership/day passes at a maker space, and build a thing, sell/deliver it, and move on...



With making objects, we have to have somewhere to store them and the supplies while we wait for them to sell. Even though knitting is portable, it is still tied to a location (where my stuff is).   That's why I'm getting confused..

On the other hand, knitting on demand means the item is sold before it is begun.  The supplies are bought specifically for that project.  
 
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In my mind, agile work is a type of work you can do from anywhere, or maybe anywhere with a phone line or internet.  So it's the same job if you're doing it in Minnesota or South Africa.  I'm imagining this is primarily things like teaching, consulting, engineering, designing, writing, editing, advertising, etc.

I'm picturing cottage work as physical things you sell.  It can also be done anywhere as long as the materials are available but it's probably easier to do from the same place.  I'm thinking things like a plant nursery, home made goods, knitting, pallet furniture, wood working, upcycling for cash, repairing things, maple syrup, farmers market growing.

The blurry edge could be things that are physical and sold online and don't require much equipment.  So you can do them from anywhere as long as you have your bag of supplies, an internet connection and a UPS drop box.  Or another blurry one could be a youtuber.  Making videos could be done from anywhere if that's your style or it could need to be based on your location.  IE travel tuber could be agile while homesteading youtuber could be cottage industry.  Maybe...

Again, this is just how my brain differentiates the two.
 
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What do you all think about blogging and running an online business based around the blog? I run Wild Homesteading and it is interesting because some of the income I earn through that business falls in the residual income category but I think the business itself is in the agile work category. I can technically run the business from anywhere as long as I have an internet connection and the scope of the business is ultimately up to me. I can potentially grow it to make $30k a year, or $60k or even $100k or more. I can do live launches where I'm actively promoting the product/service or I can turn those into evergreen launches that run themselves. It all depends on the type of business I ultimately want to end up running and how much time I want it to take up on a day to day basis.

But right now I'm still stuck in a day job in order to pay the bills... but hopefully that will be changing over the next couple years! As back up I'm working to negotiate a better position that I will enjoy more and that will be more focused
 
Mike Haasl
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Sounds pretty agile to me.  If it was really tied to your property, maybe it would have more of a cottage work element to it (in my mind) since it isn't as transferable.
 
Nicole Alderman
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In my mind, I think of agile work as something you do for someone else. Commission work. I make fairies and dragons. I store a lot of my supplies, but to make a dragon I just need two colors of roving, a needle or two, and some pipecleaners. It's really easy to transport. It's as easy--or easier--than transporting a computer. In fact, I often shove some roving in my pocket and felt while I take my kids for a walk! So, if someone wants a blue and green fairy, I can carry those felt with me anywhere and work on it on the go, and then ship it to them.

But, if I make a ton of dragons and list each for sale individually, then I have to store all those dragons until--hopefully--someone buys it. I think that's more cottage industry.

I would think that tailoring someone else's clothes would be agile work. It's a transferable skill that you can do anywhere. But, if you make a bunch of clothes and list them on etsy, that's cottage work.

If someone pays you to cook them food, I'd consider that agile work. If you make and sell jam, that'd be cottage industry.

If you're a carver, setting up a booth to sell your cutting boards would be cottage industry. But, if you sell custom-order carved spoons that are made-to-order, that might be agile work?

But, maybe agile work is just internet work? Like designing webpages or graphics or doing accounting or editing or some such?

I'm rather confused, too.

It's made even more confusing for me when I think about the PEP for "permculture labor." Someone ordered custom fairies. I used wool and cotton and made a child a natural, low-impact toy. Is that permaculture labor? Was that agile work? When I made a custom order dragon, was that agile work? But, my listing for the Paul and Jocelyn Action Figures would have been cottage industry? Are they agile work if they were commissioned, rather than stored? Are they permaculture labor because I made them to order and they are made from renewable/recycled and natural materials?

I see lots of confusing, blurry areas here!
 
pollinator
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Ok, so after reading through the other posts here I THINK I understand.

As a dog trainer I can either use lots of gear and materials to do intensive/specific training (cottage industry, they have to come to me) or I can do basics, in-home lessons, on-site assessments with little to no gear (Agile work, I can do this wherever).

Am I getting it right?
 
pioneer
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With so many families homeschooling all of a sudden now, teaching children online may be a great agile work that many people can do.

I have a friend who got up to $1,500 a month teaching at https://outschool.com/ just in about 4 months time.

The way Out School works is you would plan and give a lesson to children who sign up through their site, all that's required is that you come prepared to actually give a well thought out lesson and that the students can follow along on their computer. These lessons don't need to be a typical text-book lesson often seen in public schools, you can walk the student through a craft or some other activity. Really, all that's required is you have to make something that is interesting enough for kids to want to sign up for and educational enough for parents to pay for. But even then, the education part is questionable... My friend's most popular 'lesson' is a painting to classical music activity with very young children (ages 4-7).

Once you build up your reputation on the site, parents would be willing to sign their kids up for courses that take weeks or months to complete (and of course they're more $$$). In these courses I imagine you could even do something like teach teenagers how to build a hugelkultur bed.

So, not only is this great agile work but you ALSO have a great opportunity to teach kids about permaculture! After all, the future of permaculture truly lies in the youth's hands.

For anyone interested, the way to play the system is to develop one simple, short (30-60 min), and most importantly interesting lesson to get your first few customers. (This may take a few attempts) Once you've got the hang of how the site works, how to create a class, and how to get customers, continue offering your first class you created but also work on creating more classes so you can offer 1-5 different ones at any given time. As you get more positive reviews, of course more customers will come. Now that your repertoire is built sufficiently and you have raving reviews, start working on a class that lasts more than 1 day, say meet twice a week for 2-4 weeks. This allows you to really focus on your passion, make superb quality classes (with the first lesson being particularly riveting so students will want to continue), and you get to do a lot more with your students since you can send them off to do homework in between lessons. (As is typical with any kid, there are no guarantees homework would be done. But if a kid is really truly interested you know they will do it!)

You won't be making the big bucks on your short, one day lessons. Those lessons are simply a funnel into your larger classes! Introduce the kids to your teaching and the cool stuff you have to show them, then they'll be hooked and want to continue into your more advanced classes. Of course, don't forget to implement typical marketing strategies (because, despite the fact that you are teaching children, you ARE running a business), so be sure to talk up your larger, more expensive courses in your short classes.

Note: I have not taught on Out School before, but spoke extensively about it with my friend. I'm interested in trying it out one day but for now am working on building a real estate investment business. I'd much rather start the passive real estate income!
 
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