I love the stuff 3-year-olds say. I love my son’s quotable quotes most of all. Of course I do. He’s my son. The greatest little guy in the world.
The other day, this little amateur Seinfeld tested his material on me while taking his sweet time getting ready for bed. He looked me right in the eye with a straight face and said, “My face is made of doughnuts.”
Home run! I rolled on the floor. Ridiculous. Random. Perfectly timed.
Like a seasoned professional, he played to his crowd and pushed it right to the edge…
“My face is made of blankets. My face is made of bears. My face is made of fishies.”
Stop. Stop! I can’t take it!
… then he went right over the cliff. “My face is made of… poopy!”
“Time to get your jammies on, buddy.”
He’s still got some things to learn. Potty words aren’t funny.
The Many Flavors of Doughnut Face
I don’t have too much of a reason for going that deep into the darndest things my kid says other than it’s Father’s Day and I wanted to show off how hilariously bright he is. Also, I wanted a good excuse to draw up a Doughnut Face to circle ’round the blogosphere.
And one of the first thoughts that came to mind after my son’s little stand-up set was, Hmmm. A face made of doughnuts. That’s a fun graphic for a t-shirt. I could sell that t-shirt. I’m always looking for cool ideas for t-shirts.
That naturally lead me to thinking about all the other ideas I’ve had over the years for making money on the side. So, I thought I’d share some of the weirdest, with Doughnut Face as kind of a metaphor for the whole thing.
This is the great thing about blogs, they don’t really have to make sense. Especially mine. They can be kind of just train-of-thought and hopefully a little entertaining by the time you get to the end.
So here are half-a-dozen of the most ridiculous side-hustle/hobbies/business ideas I’ve actually given serious thought to. It’s just a little peek into my million-dollar mind. Maybe you’ll find an inspirational nugget in here somewhere to help you start your own side thing:
1. “Sigil” Registry Webmaster And Social Media Mogul
Who’s got 2 thumbs, 3 flayed fingers, and is crazy for Game of Thrones?… This guy!
I’m actually one of the relative few who has read the books too. I’m a geek for fantasy and I was thrilled when they decided to make George R. R. Martin’s unfinished epic into a TV series. Then, something great happened. They didn’t f- it up! In fact, in many ways, they made the story much better (Sorry Mr. Martin, but sometimes you veer into too many tangents).
I’m also a big fan of anything that has to do with royalty, thrones and lineage. So, I latched right on to the strong symbolism that Martin weaves into stories. You know, the “sigils” and such that he created for all the great houses of Westeros. The Lannister lion, the Targaryen dragon… Oooh, I hate the Boltons and their stupid flayed man.
Here in the real world, I’ve always been jealous of anyone who can trace their lineage directly back to the Third Marquis of Sauceny or some other fancy noble like that and has a cool coat of arms to hang in the entry of their suburban split-level.
So, right around the third season of Game of Thrones, when my wife and I were expecting the first-born heir to our great family, I actually designed our very own family sigil.
No. I really did…
Maybe other people want a cool sigil like me. I thought. Why not create a cool website around the idea?
Something like this U.S. Heraldic Registry, but much better. A site where people can design and officially register their own made-up family sigils to be symbols of their family’s heritage for years to come.
Mine could be a social site. A place for people to share out all the accomplishments of their proud “house”. Like Facebook, but with much more weight behind posts:
Sally, the Young Scorpion, won her regional semi-final
Phil, our Fierce Firefly, got an A- on his social studies test
I’d make money from advertising, of course. And I’d sell you stuff in a marketplace. Cool schwag with your sigil all over it.
Every great family needs a symbol of their great power flying on flag poles, sewn into sport coats and on keychains, coasters and coffee mugs. The Brits already have all this. But this is something most Americans are missing in their lives, I think.
2. Bonsai Breeder
I wanted to be a bonsai breeder that specialized in tiny apple trees with full-sized fruit that grow well indoors.
Don’t ask me how I would actually do it without any formal training in biology or plant genetics, or really any knowledge of how to grow and train bonsai, but like any red-blooded Gen Xer I gave it a half-assed go.
I harvested about 20 seeds from my favorite kind of apple, Haralson (juicy, crispy, mildly tart, mmmm), and grew them into little seedlings. To my wife’s dismay, this little science experiment took up most of our living room bay window sill for the better part of a year. Bless her.
I expected most of them to die off. But the two or three that did the best in this harsh environment would be used to breed a stronger new generation, and so forth. Artificially delicious natural selection at it’s finest.
I think where I ran into trouble was when I realized even if the first generation survived they’d probably have trouble bearing any fruit. And you need fruit for seeds. And don’t I need birds and/or bees somewhere? And even if I did somehow succeed, it would take decades for my super genetically-enhanced indoor apple-bearing bonsai to finally be ready for the masses. Not to mention the market is probably pretty niche.
Oh well. One little guy survived long enough to be transferred out to my front yard. He likes it much better out there.
3. Pumpkin Taxidermist And Gourmet Pumpkin Seed Roaster
I’m not sure why so many of my great ideas have to do with plants. I’ve killed every kind of house plant and I hate yard work. The plant ideas just keep coming, though. It must be my family’s farming heritage.
This idea came to me back when I was thinking deep thoughts about permaculture and stacking functions. My idea was to grow a big patch of pumpkins in my yard… on our sprawling one-tenth acre suburban estate (My poor wife).
I’d harvest the pumpkins then hollow them out for people and sell ready-to-carve pumpkins at local farmers markets around Halloween. The least best thing about carving a pumpkin is getting the guts out, right? So, I’d do it for you! Brilliant!
This is where the permaculture part comes in. I’d harvest the seeds from the guts that would have otherwise gone to waste. I’d season the pumpkin seeds and roast them and sell them as a delicious and healthy gourmet snack. Double-brilliant!
4. Penny Arbitrageur
It all started when I found an old wheat cent in the handful of pennies left in the coin tray of my new cubicle at work. I used to collect coins as a kid, so I’ve got a habit of checking the dates on the coins in my spare change. Good thing too. This time, I found a keeper.
I thought it was the “no D” version of a 1922 penny at first (read up about the cool history of the “no D” 1922 penny here).
Holy crap! That’s a rare error worth hundreds! Wait. What’s that? There’s a little schmutz on the front right there by the date. I’ll just rub that right off and… Drats!
After rubbing and squinting for a while, I could barely make out a “weak D” on the front of the coin. A 1922 “weak D” penny is not worth hundreds of dollars.
It is still worth a little bit, though. So, I quickly sold it on eBay for a cool $4.25. A 42,500% markup over face value! That was easy!
That close call and easy sale was enough for my long-dormant coin-collecting bug to reemerge from deep within, and I got excited. But, I was excited for all the wrong reasons.
This wasn’t about my love for coins, it was about churning through as many pennies as possible to cherry-pick anything worth more than 25 cents and turn right around and sell it online. Penny arbitrage. No one’s thought of this before.
That very week, about three decades too late, I trotted down to my local TCF Bank and slapped $5 on the counter for ten rolls of pennies with high hopes of finding more eBay-worthy gems lost in circulation.
I had no luck with that first batch. Just a couple throw-away “wheaties” worth less than a nickel. This isn’t so easy. And my eyes hurt.
Meh. Doing that for a living probably isn’t the best plan. Maybe I’ll pick up a roll or two every now and then to look through as a fun hobby to share with my son while he grows up. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll find that ultra-rare coin that hasn’t been strip-mined out of circulation yet. And then we’ll keep it… in a collection with other coins… because it means something.
5. eBay ACEO Card Master Artist
Okay, pennies aren’t the golden ticket. I could sell my artwork on eBay, though. What’s the quickest and easiest way to do that? ACEO, you say? Do tell.
I happen to think ACEO cards are one of the coolest new art phenomenons. Art Cards, Editions and Originals is what it stands for, if that helps. Originally devised as a way to easily trade art between artists, people soon started selling them too.
The basic idea is to create little pieces of art the size of a standard bubble-gum trading card (2.5 inches X 3.5 inches). I like trading cards. I like art.
They are a fun way to collect fine art for people who don’t have a lot of money, And they are easy for artists to create, store and ship. Perfect for eBay. And perfect for someone with the attention span of a fruit fly, like me.
I sold this little ACEO sketch of the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland, at eBay auction to one lucky bidder for one dollar. After fees, buying the paper, protective plastic sleeve, envelope and stamp, I think I netted 9 cents. Not bad.
6. Face-Cloaking Cap Inventor
My idea for the face-cloaking cap was going to be my billion-dollar Shark Tank product. And it would’ve been a big a facepalm to “Big Brother”, too. Our overbearing older sibling deserves it, I think. Even if he ultimately wins the world.
There are cameras everywhere, man! And more added every day. Cameras on the top of every stop light at every intersection, inside and outside of every store, on our phones and laptops, buzzing above us on drones, on body cameras, sunglasses, security pads in our house, in our thermostats, smoke alarms, doorbells, in our refrigerators… Anyone else think the refrigerator camera is a little much?
What if you could get back just a little bit of your privacy and anonymity? It’s something that will be in very short supply in the future. What if there was a cap you could wear that cloaks your face somehow in pictures and video but looks just like any other cap?
I thought there might be a way to trick cameras. Maybe using the glare of lens flares? If there were a way to strategically place mirrors or prisms around the bill of a cap, most cameras might pick up on that extra little light reflection or refraction and it might create a big enough lens flare to cover your face in pictures. We (the scientists and I) would calibrate the cap to not bother the naked eye.
That flare would follow your face in pictures and videos when you’re out in public. Perfect for when you don’t really feel like being auto-“tagged” in the background of someone else’s “selfie”. At the very least, the cap would be a top-seller for A-list actors looking to stymie the paparazzi.
Is this even possible?
I admit. I don’t know enough about cameras or light or reflections or sciencey stuff.
Alas. It’s probably not possible.
Digital cameras nowadays are probably already way too good at reducing glare and shadows. Way too high-def.
But, who knows? I only spent about a half-day on R&D, a couple hours here and there and a couple bucks on hot glue and an oversized novelty diamond from Michaels to “test” my “theory”, before giving up and ordering a large pizza from Papa Johns.
I guess what I’m getting at is I won’t have my face-cloaking technology out on the market any time soon. Homer Simpson got way further with his make-up gun and easy-chair toilet. I don’t even have a prototype!
Bummer, because the world does need more privacy tech, I think. And I could use a billion dollars.
Bonus: If all else fails, there’s always the Amazon Mechanical Turk
Score one for man over machine! It turns out humans are still useful to Jeff Bezos, after all. And that’s all the matters, really.
Bezos came up with the concept of the “Mechanical Turk” to harness the brainpower of millions of people online who want to do work from the comfort of their own underwear. Sign me up!
In the Turk, people power through mind-numbing work that machines just can’t do yet (or can’t do as cheaply as us. Weird role-reversal, huh?). Carbon-based machines all over the world get paid pennies to do “human intelligence tasks” (HIT)s, like extracting details from a postcard, validating YouTube links, or stalking other humans on social media.
Jeremy Wilson from “The Kernal” described it as, “humans behaving like machines behaving like humans”. He got a lot further on the job than I did, earning many more pennies. I got bored with it pretty quick and didn’t finish a task.
I’ll keep this one in my back pocket as a last resort, though. Even though I didn’t come up with it, it’s still one of my favorite weird side-hustle inventions ever. Thanks, Jeff!
I think it’s worth giving even the most ridiculous ideas some serious thought. You never know what could turn into a little cash flow, especially nowadays. So, what are some of your weird ideas for making money? Share ’em if you dare in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!