Nothing fuels that burning desire to become your own boss like a warm summer day spent inside a dark cubicle. But there's still time to break out of the 9-to-5 routine before the season is over.
Here are nine ideas for businesses — inspired by summer — that you can have up and running in no time.
Ice cream vendor
Summers mean ice cream, especially if you live near the shore. But even if you don't, hungry children and adults alike will be clamoring for a sweet, frozen treat on sweltering summer days.
If you're looking for a short-term seasonal gig, consider renting an ice cream truck and hitting the road for three months of ice cream cash. A rental truck usually costs a few hundred dollars a day plus the cost of ice cream, which is easily recouped in high-traffic, tourist areas; and the beauty of renting a truck is that you can go to wherever customers gather.
If the ice cream truck business is taking off and you think it's something you could make more permanent, there are some used trucks available to buy within the $7,000 to $15,000, though many are even as expensive as $35,000.
In summer tourist hotspots, many people own investment properties that see a high level of rapid turnover as tourists shuffle in and out during the season. Naturally, with all of those short-term tenants, the homeowners are going to need a reliable cleaning service to make sure everything is ready for the next visitors.
That's where you come in. A cleaning service is easy to start with little overhead. It takes transportation, cleaning supplies, and manpower. Once you have those three things, you're ready to start gathering clients. You can set a schedule of several clients a day and, hopefully, fill up the week with a few different stops. Certain days might be more busy than others depending on popular turnover days, but start out small and you'll quickly learn the ebbs and flows of your area. Set your schedule accordingly and travel from house to house, tidying them up and making sure they're each ready to give the next visitors a warm reception.
Summer barbecues are an American tradition, but no party host wants to spend hours slaving over a hot grill. A barbecue catering service is just the thing to solve that problem.
Starting your own barbecue catering service will require, first and foremost, a dedication to the art of grilling. Whether you're a Cajun-chicken aficionado or an authority on ribs, having a few tried-and-true recipes up your sleeve will help you cement yourself as a fixture on the summer barbecue circuit. But apart from being handy with a set of tongs, you'll also have to drum up a bit of startup capital to get your business off the ground. Grills large enough to feed the hungry hordes at a company picnic or family reunion can go for more than $3,000.
If you want to be just another guy or gal with a pole and a skimmer, go ahead and start a "pool-cleaning" business. But if you really want to stand out in the competitive world of pool maintenance, brand yourself as a "pool technician."
Take a page from the customer service manual of Willan Johnson, the CEO of pool management company Vivo Pools, and position yourself as a customer-focused, trend-savvy and technically knowledgeable authority in your field.
As Johnson told CNBC, "Most pool guys are like housecleaners. They should be part house cleaner, part mechanic."
In recent years, beaches everywhere — from the coast of Connecticut to the shores of the Great Lakes — have been inundated by a new breed of summertime tourist: the water-sport day tripper. For beach-town locals, these rookie athletes are typically viewed as a summertime nuisance, but for aspiring entrepreneurs, these paddle-brandishing out-of-towners represent a business opportunity.
If you're a surfer, kayaker, paddle-boarder, parasailer or other water-sport enthusiast, you have all the expertise you need to start making money as an aquatic athletic instructor. Of course, if you also happen to have a lifeguard certification, this summer side gig might have even more potential.
Before hitting the beach in search of clueless-looking clients, consider what people are looking for in a water-sport instructor. You'll need to be personable as well as knowledgeable about the sport at hand, systematic in your teaching methods and, perhaps most importantly, extremely patient. Most importantly, look into any necessary certifications you may need to become an instructor.
Summertime is high season for family vacations, and as such, many houses need to be looked after during the summer months. While many vacationers think leaving friends and family members in charge of their home when they head out on holiday is good enough, there's something to be said for having a professional do the job instead.
When approaching prospective clients about your vacation-liaison service, make it clear that you're more than just a housesitter. In addition to keeping burglars at bay, your services should include all the things homeowners want done in their absence but feel bad asking others to do for them.
These tasks include taking care of pets (even the gross stuff, like cleaning out the litter box); tending the lawn and flowerbeds; cleaning out the fridge when it starts to stink; checking the mailbox; and everything in between.
Sometimes, parents on summer vacation just need a break. Beachside babysitting, adventure-time child care, foreign language immersion nanny — these are all viable options for making your services stand out from the rest. Whether you plan to market your caregiving business to working parents whose kids are out of school for the summer or to stay-at-home parents looking for a little downtime in the heat of the day, you'll need to prove two things before you score any clients.
First, parents will want to know that you have what it takes to care for kids. CPR certification, lifeguard certification or teaching and tutoring experience will all look good on your resume. Second, parents want to know that their little ones aren't just sitting around the house all day, so use a creative marketing strategy to set their minds at ease.
Much like summertime babysitting, the summer months are a competitive time for tutors. Parents worried that their children's brains will turn to mush without routine instruction are eager to sign kids up to do the one thing they don't want to do over the summer — learn something.
To execute this summer gig successfully, you'll need to master two skills. First, you'll have to actually know something about a particular subject area. Good at math? Use that. Closet poet? Now is the time to share your way with words with today's youth. Once you've established what subjects you'll be promoting, it's time to focus on what's arguably the more important aspect of this job: being cool.
Plan fun activities for your prospective clients. Don't just meet them at the public library. Are you a Spanish tutor? Why not take your students to the local taco joint and spend some time translating the menu? If you're a science tutor, you've got it made: Hold your lessons in the great outdoors. Just remember: Summer school is cooler when it doesn't look or feel like regular school.
Selling old clothes and records at your local flea market might earn you a few bucks this summer, but actually organizing your own flea market is the better bet for those looking to make real cash. Flea-market organizing is an oft-overlooked profession, but it really exists, and with a little research, you could make it your own in no time.
Flea-market organizers are the people who rent the space needed to hold a flea market. They obtain the necessary permits for selling goods and food products, solicit vendors, and plan the details for these events.
While opening a flea-market business requires a bit of startup capital — some sites estimate that total costs can be as high as $10,000 — it's the kind of summer business that has a good chance of surviving past Labor Day, if you play your cards right.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Peterson.