Today’s podcast is brought to you by Adaptu, the free, online money management tool and community. They were kind enough to find someone in their community, Joan Concilio Otto, to be on the podcast. Joan is the online and community news editor at the York Daily Record. However, Joan has several part-time businesses and jobs. Not just one or two…five plus.
Joan was a pleasure to interview. She really shared some great entrepreneurial insights, and explains why it might make sense to hold down multiple money-making opportunities. Her list of gigs includes:
- Freelance Project Manager and Virtual Assistant (which she does for Baker at Man vs. Debt)
- Weight Watchers Leader and Receptionist
- Amazon Used Book Seller
- Mary Kay Independent Senior Beauty Consultant
- Freelance Web Design
Visit Joan’s website for links to her many online pursuits.
Listen to the Podcast
Some of the things Joan and I discuss include:
- Why hold down multiple part-time gigs?
- Her financial battles and how she’s overcoming them.
- How to become a Mary Kay consultant.
- How to turn $500 worth of books into $8,000
- How she makes time for all of this and her family.
Read the full transcript by clicking show
PT: Part-Time Money Podcast is designed to help you discover new and interesting ways to make extra money, and to learn the ins and outs of those moneymaking methods, not from me, but from the people who are actually doing the work. Along the way, hopefully you can pick up a few entrepreneurial skills to help you in whatever moneymaking pursuit you take on.
All right, today, our interview comes with a little bit of a twist. You know, it is often difficult to find guests for my show. Not too many people are out there doing part-time gigs at the same time as having fulltime employment. You know, it is a huge sacrifice for people, so not too many people are out there doing this. So, it is hard to find people for the show.
My friends at adaptu.com, which is the online money management community site, they offered up to help me find someone from their community to come on the podcast, and so that is what we have today. They have a great guest—her name is Miss Joan Otto—and we are going to be talking to her about … from my count, it looks like about six different part-time gigs that she has. So, she has a lot going on, and it will be a very interesting interview, I think.
Before we get into it with Joan, I would like to chat with Mark Brundage, who is the co-founder of Adaptu. Welcome, Mark.
MARK: Hey, P.T., how’s it going?
PT: Good, good, glad to have you here.
MARK: Thanks for having me.
PT: So just for the folks who are listening, who might not know what Adaptu is, won’t you give us a quick rundown of what Adaptu is?
MARK: Sure, Adaptu is kind of the next evolution where we think all of this is going. It’s a online financial community, and it does also have all the robust online financial management tools that you would expect to find, but we also felt that people needed to, not only understand their financial situation, but to have a little bit of support in a community, where they can ask questions and join groups, and connect with others who might be going through the same situation as them.
PT: I like it. So, how long have you been around?
MARK: Adaptu has publically available since just the holidays, so about our third month of public availability, and then we’ve been up and running in a kind of private alpha since last summer.
PT: I see. So, how are people using the site?
MARK: They use the site in many different ways. So, when you first come to adaptu.com, it’s a pretty robust site, in terms of content and discussions and the community piece. So, we have a lot of people that are engaging in a variety of different conversations and asking questions. Then, there is another group of people that are also actively using all of the online money management tools that automatically update all of their accounts. So they are using that, and also then kind of looking at the community in terms of various questions that they can ask. I think a lot of people are also starting to use more of our Investor Center, which is a place that you can go and look at where your finances are, and then see how they are comparing against other markets.
PT: I like it. Definitely interested in online money management tools, and I have actually done a review of Adaptu on my site, and listeners can go check that out at ptmoney.com searching for Adaptu in the search bar there. Since it does sort of integrate with your accounts online, or receives that information automatically, maybe just talk briefly about security, so for folks who might want to check out the service but might be a little bit shy about connecting their bank accounts and things like that.
MARK: Sure. Security is very important to us, and we provide bank level security that all the other online financial institutions and other highly accredited sites also follow. We also passed all the third-party independent audits, so audits around trustee, which is the third-party leader who looks at privacy. We also have VeriSign and McAfee third-party audits, where people are going in and trying to hack the site, looking for different security breeches, which we’ve been passing with vivid flying colors the entire time.
PT: Awesome! Very good, well that’s good. I think more and more people are getting comfortable with doing that, so hopefully you, guys, will see some success as more and more people come on, and the community continues to grow. I like that it’s not just a money management platform, but you actually have a community of people that you can tap into, and that is what we have done here today. We actually are going to talk with Miss Joan Otto. Hi, Joan.
JOAN: Hi! How are you doing, PT?
PT: Good, good, so glad to have you here. I understand that you have a lot of part-time gigs going on to bring in some extra money for your family. From what I could tell, it looks like you’re doing, selling some Mary Kay, you’re leading a Weight Watchers meeting, freelancing as a project manager, and also a website designer for some local and small businesses, and you and your husband even buy and sell used books online, so obviously a lot of things going on there.
The first question I always like to ask people on my podcast here is, why? Why go out and make some part-time money?
JOAN: Well, the funny thing about it is, I started yesterday … knowing that we were going to get this interview, I started asking myself that question. Because when people see how many different things I do, that is the first question they ask me, “Why are you doing this?” And they don’t usually ask it in a good way; they think I am nuts.
In part, I mean, look, money is always part of it. We are trying to pay down a significant amount of credit card debt. My husband and I have been working on an aggressive plan. We expect to be free from that debt in about three years, so every little bit helps, and that is sort of where we are with it.
But with these part-time jobs specifically, what ended up happening was, pretty much every one of them is … they came up from something I was already doing. I was a Mary Kay customer, until at one point I became a consultant, because I thought, “Oh, I can get a discount.” With Weight Watchers, I was a Weight Watchers member. I had lost weight, and once I reached my weight goal, one of the options available to me was to pick up some part-time work. So, when I said yes to each of those opportunities, it wasn’t, “Oh, I am going to do this to make some money.” It was, “Well, why not?” And then, once the money starts coming in, let’s just say I am a little reluctant to stop doing it.
PT: I understand. So, talk a little bit more about, you said “a significant amount of debt.” Tell me, maybe give me some more background about how you got in to that debt, and what type of debt that is, if you don’t mind sharing that.
JOAN: Well, I don’t mind at all. In fact, I have actually been very open on … actually about this, which I think drew some attention. My husband and I are looking to pay off about $89,000 in credit card debt, so your listeners’ hearts will probably stop right there. Yes, somebody could buy a house in our town for what we owe on our credit cards. At one point, we actually … in fact, now it is one of those points, we pay more on our credit cards every month than we do pay on our house mortgage.
How we got into it? My husband and I have only been married for about six years, and some of this is much older than that, so I can’t speak to everything that has come to the point we are at now. But some of it was, when I had my daughter, I had no health insurance so I charged medical bills. I was young and single at the time. Some other stuff, college, things like, you know, they sounded good at the time, textbooks and tuition and stuff. I kind of justified that at the time by saying, “Well, it’s not like I am blowing the money. I didn’t go out and buy a sports car.” But you know what? Here I am, about 15 years later, and I am still thinking, “Yeah, I’m not sure that was the right thing to do.” So now, we want to get free of all that.
The other thing, too, we bought a house that needed perhaps more work than we realized, and for anybody out there, who is contemplating homeownership, just make sure you are in a good financial position before you make that move. Because we bought pretty much as much house as we could afford, and when that happened, then every repair that came along was a big emergency. You know, we had no emergency fund at the time, and our emergency fund for the roof that our house needed, the new flooring and subflooring that was needed, we needed a new heat pump. All that was basically … look, the way that we are going to fund that is credit card, and so that stuff adds up pretty fast. You know, a $10,000 heat pump, and $9,000 roof, you know, that is a big debt.
So, that is where we are. We’ve … look, I will be honest, we’ve made a attempts in the past to say, “Oh, we are going to get it all paid off,” and we kind of give up after about a year; something else happens. But for the fist time, we now are also sitting on an emergency fund, really funded in part by a lot of these part-time jobs, and the ability that we have to, in part with some of this stuff, the ability we have to use this as tax deductions. I don’t know if people in your show have talked about that before, but because we work full-time jobs, having the tax deductions for home businesses is pretty nice, and then when we get money back, it is finally, for the first time, going into this emergency fund. So now, no more credit cards, we are going to get this done.
PT: I see, awesome. So, one last question about the debt … and that is an awesome story, by the way. Congratulations for moving forward with this debt.
JOAN: It will be more awesome when it is zero. [Laughter]
PT: What do you think is … you mentioned this time that you’ve got the income coming in applying to it, but what was different about this time that you said, “Okay, I am willing to go out there and work the extra jobs to commit to getting rid of this debt?” What really flipped the switch for you this time around?
JOAN: I think there were several things altogether, and in part, you know, looking … it’s funny, folks from my fulltime job are going to listen to this, I’m sure, and I don’t want to give them the wrong idea. I am not quitting tomorrow or anything. But in part, it’s always been one of my goals to eventually be able to work completely from home. I don’t know that that is any time in the near future. But when I started getting more part-time work, one of the little ironies about that was, money was coming in, and I am sitting there, and I am thinking, “I am really enjoying this. I could do more of this.” And right now, I am actually capped at the number of side projects I can take, because I hold a fulltime job as well.
I am the kind of person, if I have a fulltime job, I am going to do a good job at it, I’m going to devote my time to it, so when I started thinking about that though, I really sat down and asked myself, “Okay, if the right opportunity came up, you know, could I take it? Right now the fact is, with the credit card debt from my husband and I both, if we get an opportunity to do a year’s worth of volunteer work for a cause we are passionate about, unless these credit card bills go away, we are not going to be able to take that opportunity.
So, I think we just started talking about things like that. Our daughter is entering middle school and that, for us, was kind of like, “Oh, gosh, at some point, she is going to want higher education, and we’ve got zero saved up.” So, she is starting to think about those things. I think really has felt different. And I think, too, this is the first time he and I, Chris and I, sat down together and worked out a plan. Before, it was always, you know, he would try to save money, but I really wasn’t, or I was trying to save money, and he wasn’t. Now, we are more of a team about it, and that makes a big difference.
PT: Wow, that’s a great story. So, the fulltime job right now, what do you actually do for your fulltime gig?
JOAN: I work for a local newspaper here in York, Pennsylvania. I am the online editor. My husband actually works for the same company; he is the sports editor, so we spend a lot of time together, which is cool. That is where we met. My job is, I manage the websites, and we have several, and I also handle community news. I talk with community groups about how to get their news published. I receive that information, and we run some print publications, dealing with community news. We run some special websites dealing with certain towns in our area, and I am responsible for overseeing all of that. I have a staff of four employees who help me with that. So, my day-to-day job is really to be overseeing that, to be managing that.
PT: I see. So, one question I think a lot of listeners might have is, why pursue some part-time gigs, versus maybe pursuing a higher paying career? What sort of decision point is there for you?
JOAN: You know, in part with that … first of all, I love my job. Some people can’t say that. You know, everybody has days that aren’t what they choose, but there are a lot of things about what I do that are really a good fit. I actually ended up in this fulltime job, I will say, almost by accident. I had a college job, typing obituaries at the newspaper—and I was a math major; I have no journalism major background or anything—but it was in my town, and so it was the job I got when I was in college. I liked the place, and I liked the people, and I liked the opportunities, and so I stayed.
Well, right now, the position that I am in, one of the things I am really passionate about is my community. You know, I said I managed community news; I blog about living in my town. Many of my part-time gigs are done to benefit people right here in my community. I like it here, I like living here, but there are major newspapers within an hour’s drive. I have friends, who live in my town, who work for a newspaper that might pay them probably my salary and half again on top of it, but I am not interested in that. I am not interested in driving an hour and sitting in traffic. I am not interested in covering a community that is not where I live. That is not for me.
So, what has happened … and look, too, I like working with my husband. That might sound odd, and some people probably wouldn’t prefer that, but it has been nice for us to kind of be at the same place. We live … actually, talk about money saving, we both live, our house is a half mile from work, so we walk part of the time. We are a one-car family.
JOAN: Well, it is. But then, when you start looking at higher paying jobs, okay, it is higher paying, but we would have to get a second car. I mean, then, you have taken off part of that. So instead, what we first started doing was looking at, “What can we be doing where we are, and in the situation we are, to just be supplementing that?”
PT: That’s great. So, that is awesome. And I want to come back to sort of the debt situation and how your finances have improved since starting this, but let’s delve into some of the specific, you know, part-time gigs. One that is of interest to me is, recently I started Weight Watchers back in January, and I have lost about 30 lbs.
JOAN: Did you really? That’s crazy, I had no idea.
PT: Yeah, yeah, I haven’t told that too many people, but it is out there now. But yeah, I have lost about 30 lbs. using Weight Watchers, and it’s been a good success for me. So, how much do you make as a worker at Weight Watchers, and what are the benefits in time constraints, I guess, to doing a job like that?
JOAN: Well, the cool thing with any employment with Weight Watchers … first of all, employment with Weight Watchers is open to people who are Weight Watchers members, who have lost weight and reached their weight goal. So, in this sense, I mean, we love to have successful people come through the program, but in a sense it is not a hard job to get, because the more people who are in the program, the more meetings they want to be able to offer in an area, and there is kind of almost an unlimited availability to take a position, you know, assuming you are qualified.
For me, what you make depends on the meeting: How many people are there? Are there products sold? You know, there are certain things we get bonuses for, renewals of memberships, and things like that. For a meeting, a meeting might take about 2 to 2 ½ hours of my time. A really good meeting can actually make you $75. An average meeting for me will make me $35 or $40 after taxes, so 2 hours …
PT: How many a month do you do?
JOAN: Well, the interesting thing, too, with Weight Watchers is you have the ability to set your schedule. Right now, I am leading one meeting per week, so I did that for four months, so that’s about $200 or something. The interesting thing though is, when I want extra money, the way Weight Watchers works is, if you go on vacation, it is your job to find a substitute, either a leader, or what we call a receptionist, somebody who weighs you in and hands you your paperwork and everything.
We have a staff mailing list, so anytime I need more money, I can get on the mailing list and say, “Hey, does anybody need a sub? I am available. I can take meetings at this time, this time, and this time.” And I guarantee you somebody always wants a vacation day. So that is kind of a way that that becomes real flexible.
PT: I guess the last question I have is, just to clarify, to be a person who works at Weight Watchers, you have to have completed your goal there?
JOAN: Yes, you have to have lost weight on the program, and have a goal that is within the body mass index range. And I’ve lost 50 lbs., yeah! I tell you why I really like it … and for what it is worth, the other cool thing with Weight Watchers, and with being an employee there, is because I am a member, I mean, once you reach your goal, you are still a member at Weight Watchers. Well, I am a member, I attend for free, I get a discount on products, you know, I get 50% discount on products. Anytime new material comes out, I get copies of it. They are really good to their employees.
There are not any benefits in terms of health insurance or anything, but there is also a lot of perks that come with it. There again, that is a case, where if I am going to be attending anyway, if I am going to order the products anyway, why not—and I like talking if you can’t tell—so why not get up in front of a group, share this thing that really has benefited me and made a difference in my life? Why not do that? And, you know, quite honestly, even if the only income were just to be a member for free, I would probably get up and do it anyway, but the extra money is nice, too. [Laughs]
PT: Yeah, that’s great. So, let’s talk about the other gig you mentioned that sort of came out of—you said you were a customer first, but then you became an employee/owner—the Mary Kay sales.
JOAN: Well. the interesting thing with that, and I think we talked a little earlier about a lot of these jobs just sort of found me, and this is another example of that. I was using the Mary Kay products, and I had a bunch of friends that were using the products, and it was one of those things where one of my girlfriends said, “You know, you use so much of this stuff you should sign up as a consultant just to get the discount,” basically.
I had mentioned, with Weight Watchers, one of the great things about that is I get a discount on products and services that I would be using anyway, so, this was a case like that. And then what happened was, without a whole ton of work on my part, again, since I already had friends that were using the products as well, I was able to build up a pretty steady customer base.
The one thing with Mary Kay, in particular, I had never done direct sales before. I am becoming a real big fan of it, because I feel like there is a lot of opportunity, but one of the things about Mary Kay in particular is that the products are consumable, so, you know, everybody is going to go through the cleanser every couple of months, and so a lot of my business is based on reorders. So, it is not solely passive income, but really the things that I do, it just [unintelligible 0:21:14.7] get in some areas, to being able to essentially have done the work right when I started the business, and then I have this active reorder business that more than pays for any of my expenses. And then, as I said, any business on top of that is just pure profit.
PT: That’s genius. And how much per month do you think you are making with Mary Kay?
JASON: Just on reorders, I would say my profit is about $200, and there again, that is really, if I am not doing any other work. It’s when people are reordering, and I’m not saying, “Hey, I’ve also got these other new products, are you interested in trying them,” and so on. So just straight from steady reuse customers, a couple hundred in profit. Our profit is 50%, so … And then beyond that, I would say, you know, it depends on how active I am. In a month where I have the time to commit to it, I can make $1,000 or more. I think my best month was maybe $1,800 profit, and that was very part-time; that was maybe, I think, a party a week, basically.
PT: Great. So, getting set up with Mary Kay as a newbie, are there any fees upfront?
JASON: You purchase a starter kit, which gives you all the supplies to hold your skin care parties; that is $100. And then, essentially, you have the decision to, unlike most of the direct sales companies, you have the option to carry inventory and stock, and I had made the decision to do that. I had done that for a small business loan, actually, which is now paid off, but I kind of made the decision to do that, because I knew when I go to parties, I don’t like waiting for my stuff, and I think I impulse buy more at home parties when the stuff is there. You know, it is cash and carry. So, I have been able to leverage that very well, but it is not a requirement. If you don’t have the money to lay down on it, or don’t wish to do that, they don’t pressure you, and say, “You really have to do this,” or anything.
PT: Yeah, that’s good advice. One more question about Mark Kay—obviously as a dude, I have never used Mary Kay’s products …
JOAN: Hey, we have men’s products.
PT: Okay. Well, tell me what is so special about Mary Kay versus maybe just going to a department store, or discount store like Walmart, and just getting your cosmetics there?
JOAN: Well, I can give you a very specific example from the past week. I have a woman who has been trying and trying to find the right foundation shade, and one thing with Mary Kay, it’s 100% money back or exchange, so if you get the wrong shade or something, or you just have a color you don’t care for, we take it back, and there is no cost to the consultant, there is no cost to that customer. The company handles that.
This customer of mine has been through five foundations, and so I want to see what store is going to let her go in, buy a foundation, use it for two days, bring it back and say, “This isn’t what I want,” give her money back, and sit down with her, and try and match her for a different one, all for about $14. Now, you might be able to go to a department store—and I don’t even know if they would take the return, but they will match you for a shade—but I guarantee you, you’re going to be in for $35 or $40. So, I would say the service part is very different.
The other thing that’s interesting for me … and look, this is based on how I built my business. I built it around people I knew who were already using the products, so I see them day-to-day in various circles. So, one of the things that I am able to do is, I will have someone call me up, and say, “I am leaving work, and I am going to see you at …,” for instance, my Taekwondo class that I take. Several of the other students are customers of mine, and they might call me up, and say, “I am on my way from work. I’ll meet you at the Taekwondo studio, because you are going to be there anyway. Can you bring me two cleansers?” So they get delivery service brought to where they are, and they don’t have to spend their time to go and shop.
PT: Are you just like the most entrepreneurial person in your life that you know? Do people just call you the … you know, the … I don’t know. Do you get that kind of vibe from folks, that they are impressed with your entrepreneurial skills?
JOAN: I do sometimes. And then, there are … I think I am lucky, because part of the reason I got into some of these things is, I surrounded myself with other people who are entrepreneurial. So, with Mary Kay, the woman who was my consultant was very entrepreneurial. She was in direct sales for a couple of different companies. She had her own business doing some other things, and so for her, she was the same way. For her, it was natural that she told me, “Hey, this business opportunity might be a good fit for you.”
But among people day-to-day, I have a lot of people who really wonder, first of all, about how much time I put into various things, and then other people who say, “How do you keep it straight? How do you manage it? How do you know where you are supposed to go and when?” And all I can say is I am very organized, which helps.
PT: Well, cool. I definitely want to talk to you about your next gig, which is a recent gig, freelancing as a project manager for a friend of mine, Baker, from Man Versus Debt.
JOAN: Mm-hmm. And there again, like I said before, sometimes you’ve just got to be in the right place at the right time. This was a case where I was a huge Baker fan. I was reading all his stuff, I’ve bought his eBooks, I’m commenting all the time on his blog. And as he’s been doing—you know, he is doing the national tour in his RV—his original stop to get the RV wrapped in the wrapper that he carried from his sponsor was in Baltimore, which is only about 45 minutes to an hour south of me.
So, as soon as I found out he was there, and he was going to be there for an extended period of time, I was like, “Well, you have to come up to York County and meet me.” So we did; we got together. His wife and daughter, and I and my husband, all got together and had lunch at a diner. It was a lot of fun. And all this was before I was doing any work for him. It’s a good case of I got to meet him face to face, and I got to talk to him a little. It wasn’t just, you know, some comments, or I was somebody, you know, a name to a face and all, or a face to a name, I guess.
Then, about a week later, he said, he put this up on his blog saying, “I am going to need some part-time help. I am going to put this firm up, and anybody who is interested should apply.” Long story short, I felt, “Well, shoot, I wish I had known about this a couple of days ago. Maybe I could’ve made a better impression.” You know, I rolled out in a little Hershey Park sweatshirt. But he is a pretty cool guy, a casual guy, so I don’t think I made too bad of an impression.
Honestly, the coolest thing for me about working with him is that he just launched a course called You Versus Debt. You need to crush your debt, get rid of that tie, and stuff like that, which is huge. It’s what my husband and I are trying to do. It’s why I am taking on all this work in different areas to try to fund that debt reduction, and so I had been able to access that course at no charge, because I am working on it. So, that is really fun. I participate in that, and I’m like, “Well, this is great. I am basically getting this great bonus in addition to doing some work for him.”
PT: Yeah, that’s great.
JOAN: The other cool thing about this is, this is sort of a new arena for us both. He had never had kind of this project manager type person before. The job has been evolving since I started it a couple of months ago. But is it evolving on both of our parts. I am able to better articulate for him, “Here are areas where I think I can help you,” and he is better able to see now that You Versus Debt has launched, “Okay, what are some strengths Joan can bring that maybe what we went into this talking about, you know, are kind of working out well?
PT: That’s great. And you manage all of that from a thousand miles away from each other.
JOAN: That’s right. Yeah, he is in Portland, Oregon, right now as I am speaking, and I am in Pennsylvania.
PT: That’s cool.
JOAN: And it is raining both places, isn’t it great?
PT: And then also, a couple more gigs you have, you also do some web design, and I see that you are buying and selling some used books, so maybe just touch on those areas as well. How are you doing those?
JOAN: Again, well briefly, the web design that I am doing is stuff that’s locally based in my town, people that I know, friends of friends, and so on. A lot of them are also small business owners, or nonprofits that I am involved with. They will sometimes either have a web site, but it is either never been updated, or they don’t know how they would update it, or somebody set it up and that person has since left the organization. It was set up in like complicated PHP programming, because that guy knew how to do it, and now the secretary says, “I don’t know; I want to type something.”
Where I kind of specialize is being able to set up basically blog-based sites for small businesses, churches, non-profits, stuff like that. Usually I will go for those on kind of a project basis. I look at the work and say, “Okay, for $350 I can get you started,” or “For $750 I can get you started.” And then, what I do is, I give them an hourly rate and say, “Okay, if you have future projects outside of the scope of what we’ve talked about, I will be glad to help you out with those, and I will quote you at my hourly rate, and we will go from there.”
So, there again, most of that is one-time income for the setup, but because of our relationship, and because these are people that I know and that I interact with, it is really easy for them to call me up and say, “Oh, you know what, these are the programs that are going on, can you do a special section on the website for it?” So there, I get an extra couple hundred bucks. And, you know, there again, I don’t know, I feel like I am helping, because these are organizations in my town, you know, groups that I am involved with.
I have even done some barter with some of those organizations. One is developmental therapy service. My daughter is a [unintelligible 0:31:40.6], and needs some speech therapy, and so I bartered with them for speech therapy services for her, which is great.
PT: That’s cool. I do a little bit of that myself. Do you also use Word Press?
JOAN: Yep, I’ve done Blogger, Word Press, Square Space. The cool thing is, I will sort of pick based on what I think the … sitting down and talking with the organization, what I think is going to work for the person or people who have to be doing the updating. Right now, I’ve got one in Blogger that this woman is incredibly happy with. I’ve got a church website set up for a company called Square Space, which is a paid but hosted service, and they are really happy. It has some hosting functionality that like Blogger doesn’t have, and they’re not interested in doing anything like a Word Press install, so it is kind of a good middle ground.
PT: Very cool.
JOAN: Then, just to touch really briefly on the used book buying and selling. This is one of those things where your hobby turn into a business, or your housecleaning turns into a business. My husband and I, when we moved, between us had like thousands and thousands of books. We are both newspaper people fulltime, so we like to read. So, we were deciding, “Okay, we’ll go on amazon.com, you know, we can sell used books there, and we will make a little bit of money cleaning the house.”
Then it turned into … now, we went to a used book sale to buy books for ourselves, and my husband says, “I think I can sell this book for more, you know, I could sub list,” and then it turns into us renting a U-Haul truck, and driving three hours to upstate Pennsylvania, and filling the U-Haul truck with … we paid $500 for a truck full of books that we’ve, probably over time, sold for close to 8 or 9 thousand dollars.
JOAN: So, it kind of grew, as did the pile of books in my basement. And look, I would say the one cool thing about that is that is really … it started out as my project, and it has morphed into mostly my husband’s project, as I have taken on some of these other things, but it is something that we do together, and it is something we really enjoy. My favorite thing to do is, when Amazon will email me when we have made a sale, and I will just holler up to him and say, “We sold a book! We sold a book! We sold a book!” So, we have a good time.
PT: Are you seeing that market diminished with all the e-readers out there now?
JOAN: You know it’s interesting. Most of the books that we deal in are, I want to say, really old or fairly rare. We don’t deal with a lot of things like mass-market paperbacks or hardcover fiction books. So, a lot of what we have is not yet available on some of the e-reader devices now. At some point, I think we might see that change.
Like we have a 1950 copy of an old textbook, nursing textbook, and it sold for $35. Well, they’re not going to make an eBook of that anytime soon.
PT: So over time, you’ve turned $500 into $8,000?
PT: Of doing this, and so it took time, obviously, sorting through the books and getting them listed on Amazon, but I am sure you’ve got a pretty streamlined system at this point.
JOAN: We do. And the other thing is that my husband—my husband just loves books—so he considers it fun to sit down, and sort through them, and see what they are worth. He blogs on used books, on old papers, and things like that, too. So, sometimes, he’ll get started with trying to list books, and then it turns into he is writing for his blogpost. So, you know, I don’t know if streamlined is the exact right word, but we do have a system. We know how we sort things. We will go through and like pre-sort out all the stuff that was selling online, and then will just sell those in Box Lot or Craigslist locally, and things like that. My husband is having a books-only yard sale this Saturday, a dime a book, and he’s got probably 100 boxes of books. So, you know, it might bring in $100 or something, but he is going to have fun. He is good, you know, at spreading the word about our website, and things like that.
PT: That’s cool, very nice. So, all this seems to work for you, all these different projects. I don’t know if we touched on this early in the interview, but why not just focus on one thing? Why keep sort of all these different irons in the fire, so to speak?
JOAN: You know … and I’ve asked myself that too, especially as I’ve started adding on more and more. If I get to the point where I am not enjoying any of them, that will be the first one to go. If I get to the point where I am not getting like a product or service benefit, you know, if I decided I wasn’t into Weight Watchers anymore, I wasn’t going to make use to that service myself, maybe I wouldn’t want to work there, you know, and lead meetings and so on.
But at this point, even doing it at an incredibly part-time level, working there once a week, I am getting all my services for free, and a little income besides. And the same with Mary Kay, if I am getting all my products at cost, and I am using the products regularly, it’s really not even a case of the business by itself; it’s that I am gaining so much benefit from it.
Honestly, I think, too, the fact that I have all of these things to keep me busy, you know, they kind of ebb and flow. Sometimes, I’m focused almost entirely on website designs, and other months I am having a Mary Kay party every week. And other months, over the summer, people at Weight Watchers need substitute leaders, and I am like filling in five meetings in a week. But all of them are my choice, and all of them can kind of give and take, so I am not 100% invested in any one of them at any time, which is kind of cool.
I will say, too, in working with Baker, that has probably been, first of all, kind of a big surprise, but it has been a lot of fun. And I know I have been talking with him about, “I would be glad to make myself more available to be more help to you.” And there again, that is because right now that’s what I am most passionate about. It is also the one, besides the books, that I do entirely from home, which is cool.
PT: Well, that is great! Sounds like you’ve got it all balanced and figured out. I think all of this, too, is kind of pushing you down the road toward getting your finances together. So, I guess my last question is, what do you see in the future in terms of getting your finances back on track, and kind of …?
JOAN: Well, that is, when all is said and done, we’ll have paid off $89,000 in consumer debt, which is a ton, and so scary when I think about it. When that happens, that is $2,400 a month in payments that I don’t have to make. And when that happens, that opens up a lot of flexibility just in terms of … look, right now, my husband and I also both work fulltime. For now, we like it. It’s work that we find pretty fulfilling, you know, and it is worth doing, as well. But it’s better if that would be a choice, and not a requirement because of finances.
And so, for us, having that debt paid off is going to open up some choices. My husband would someday like to own a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, in addition to our online book business. Right now, that is not financially in the cards, but if I could be saving $2,400 a month towards that business, or replacing, say, his fulltime income with that money and more, that’s going to make a huge difference just in our flexibility, our ability to travel, our ability to be home more with my daughter, and things like that.
PT: That’s good stuff. Well, Joan, thanks for coming on with me, and telling your story. I am sure many of the listeners picked up on some good tips, and have just enjoyed and, I’m sure, inspired by your story. So thanks again for coming on.
JOAN: I hope so.
PT: How can folks find out more about you, and say for instance, someone wanted to get a website built, how would they go about contacting you to do that?
JOAN: Well, interestingly, with all my website design time, I just, within the last month or so put up a quick profile site for myself. That’s joanconcilio.blogspot.com, and it’s just got a quick summary, and links out to some things, like my Mary Kay page, like my blog that I do for my fulltime job, like our used book inventory, things like that. It shows you some sites that I have designed and so on.
PT: Cool. I will definitely link to it from the blog post, and I am sure folks will check it out.
PT: Joan, thanks again, and I will talk to you again soon.
JOAN: Thank you very much, PT. Take care.
PT: All right, talk to you later.
PT: Now, that’s it for this week’s episode. Thanks so much for listening. You can find more episodes at ptmoney.com, on iTunes under the Part-Time Money Podcast. See you, guys, next week.