Side Hustle, the Seed of Certainty
Years ago, Jim Carrey was explaining his search for what his audience wanted during an interview. One evening it him — certainty. He realized that people want to feel certain about life, and humor was an easy way to feel certain. Carrey’s humor may relate to our search for certainty — whether by laughter or employment.
Before the pandemic, many US workers defined employment with a sense of certainty. Stable employment seemed better than misplaced or even low-pay employment. It appears the pandemic changed this, however. As US workers sheltered in, many became aware that the time away from their everyday job was worth more than the certainty it provided. Granted, stimulus checks helped, but workers were given the time to reevaluate their circumstances.
Many didn’t return to work, and instead sought out side hustles to keep that freedom alive. From teaching English online to food delivery, the entrepreneurial spirit revitalized many workers to pursue other means of income on their time, not someone else’s.
My first taste of freedom
It was a Tuesday morning around 10:00 AM in the parking lot of a Kroger that I realized leaving my job was the right decision. I was doing what I wanted to do instead of watching the clock at my job, a regional bank. While that moment was over a decade ago, many US workers felt exactly as I did when standing in that parking lot — the freedom to control our time.
While working at the bank I planned to open a coffee shop, but the cost seemed too much for my risk level. I didn’t have the confidence in my ability to be self-employed, so I looked into inexpensive businesses to get my feet wet.
As my confidence grew I left the bank and bought a foreclosed condo in a sketchy part of Nashville. It wasn’t my first choice of lifestyle, but I knew self-employment would require reducing my debt for the best chance of, well, certainty.
My first failed business
Banks, and offices in general, are filthy places. My working with money, credit cards, and ATM’s showed me how much grime builds up on common areas. From that, I started a side hustle, a hygienic janitorial service that would reduce germs and allergens at the workplace.
My pitch — or value proposition — was to reduce employee sickness by keeping the offices hygienically clean. I noticed janitorial services rarely ever cleaned the common touch points like light switches and phones, nor did they thoroughly vacuum surfaces containing dust and allergens. I was sure I was on the right track, so eventually left the bank to go it alone.
There I sat in my $28,000 second floor condo with a chain smoker in the unit below me. I set up my laptop and dug in. I did the only thing that felt natural — cold-calling businesses. Oddly enough — it worked.
I had people asking for quotes and landed a few contracts, but my message wasn’t getting across. My hope was to reinvent the office environment as a healthier workplace, but most classified me as a janitorial service, so I went with it — salesman by day, janitor by night.
Fake it until you make it
During one of my appointments, I had an office manager ask if I also cleaned carpet. Not having the slightest idea how to clean carpet, I answered, “yes…yes I do.” Luckily my local janitorial store gave me a crash course on cleaning carpet, and that’s where my side hustle took shape.
I was fully committed to getting my business going regardless of the service I offered. I simply had to make it work because the freedom I was enjoying was far greater than the security of a regular job. This is what many US workers experienced during the pandemic, the freedom to control their one true asset — time.
Side hustle to entrepreneur
My hygienic janitorial service quickly turned into a residential carpet cleaning service that is still in business today. EverClean, LLC offers professional carpet cleaning in Nashville, TN and the surrounding Middle Tennessee area. Even though EverClean is in Nashville, I run it from my home in northern Indiana, a skill I couldn’t have acquired without being self-employed.
My carpet cleaning business also helped develop a chemical formulation company, RAW PreSpray, LLC. RAW produces detergents and stain removers for carpet cleaners and pet owners alike. Our flagship product Ur-Out is an enzymatic pet odor cleaner that removes odors from carpet, rugs and hardwood floors. I wouldn’t have known how much I love chemistry if it wasn’t for starting a carpet cleaning business.
The freedom to grow on my time
The equity of owning a business is that I never stop looking for ways to improve it. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve just about anything: products, services, slogans, websites — if I can make it better, it’s mine to profit from. The search for certainty in a steady job became the fuel to improve my business.
While my family and I no longer have the perks of corporate benefits, we are humbled by the opportunity to have more freedom to control our time. I work from home where I see my wife and kids throughout the day, and they see me. It hasn’t been easy, but I have more freedom in my life than ever before while building certainty for myself instead of someone else.