What about being a “second wife”

Organising someone else’s life, in the same way as a wife would do in the 1950’s is a great business idea.

People need help with organising their lives.  In the olden days, we would have had wives to organise things for us, do our shopping, launder our clothes, fold our clothes, and pick our kids up from school.  The gap in the market here is because husbands, wives, single people, older people, lots of people need help with doing the things we all have to do to in our lives, but lots of people are out at work, commuting and working long hours and don’t have the time to do these things.  But they do have some money to pay for it to be done efficiently for them.

This business idea will never make you a millionaire, and it requires good organising skills, tact and a lot of hard work.  But it is a low-cost business to get set up, and I love it for that.

How it works

 You decide on your offering.  Think of all the things that a great housekeeper, mum and wife would do to keep the household running.  Think about what aristocratic families would have had their housekeeper doing (you might have to read some novels to get this information, unless you know a lot of aristos), or what a 1950’s wife would have done.  Maybe what your mum did, or what you’ve done for your own family.

There’s an enormous list of tasks you might do as a life organiser – here’s some I wish someone would do for me:

  • Laundry
  • Folding laundry and putting it away in the right places in my wardrobe
  • Ironing my shirts
  • Keeping the fridge full of healthy food from my shopping list and sourced from my local shops.
  • Throwing away anything that’s gone off in my fridge
  • Maintaining an adequate supply of Montezuma’s chocolate in the treats box
  • Booking tickets for gigs and shows
  • Telling me about gigs and shows I might want to go to
  • Booking my travel tickets
  • Checking travel times
  • Telling me when the trains aren’t working
  • Getting my shoes heeled
  • Taking my dry cleaning in and bringing it back

There’s another  list including:

  • Picking up the children from school and taking them to different activities and bringing them back.
  • Buying them new clothes within a sensible budget – ones that they’ll like.
  • Making packed lunches to take to school.
  • Arranging the right equipment for school trips and activities.
  • Being around for when they’re off sick and I need to work.

You’ll see that some of these are similar to what a nanny or au pair might do, so you’ll have to decide how much overlap with this sort of service you want to provide – you might not want to do the childcare part of this, or you might especially like these elements.  The obvious thing that is missing from the lists is cleaning, but think carefully about whether you want to include this as a main part of what you do, as many people in your target market will already have a cleaner and be paying them somewhere around £12 per hour.  You want to sell this service as more than a fancy cleaner, and be able to charge more than £12 per hour.

How much does this cost to get going?

 You could start up this business with nothing more than your address book, a phone and some business cards.  You’ve probably already got the first two, so you can get a beautiful set of Moo.com cards for £13.

My plan would be to get going with some calls to ask people if they know anyone who is busy, has some money and needs a second wife/life organiser.  And while I was waiting for the customers to build up, I would put some ads on Gumtree or your local equivalent and then set up a simple website so people could find me online.  Maybe add in a bit of business networking and you could build up some regular clients pretty quickly.

You might need to drive to your clients, if you live in a rural area, but if you’re in a city, you could definitely do this by public transport, cycling or walking. Top tip – get an electric bike.

Who is this good for?

This business is quite a solitary one, so if you enjoy being around other people a lot, it’s not going to make you happy and fulfilled in the long run. You’ll be on your own, in people’s houses doing things while they’re out at work, so this is good for someone who can put their headphones on, get stuck in and get the work done very efficiently.

It’s good for someone who doesn’t mind hard physical work and repetitive tasks.  If you’re easily bored, or at all judgemental about people’s lifestyles (be honest here), this might not suit you.  It does need someone who can be reasonably assertive in negotiating what they will and won’t do, and what it will cost, but it also takes someone who can be flexible about how to do things – if I want you to do my shopping from the expensive organic farmers market, and you think that the carrots in Waitrose are better value, you have to be able to accept my little quirk about the farmers market’s overpriced droopy carrots.

If you’ve been running a household yourself, have children yourself, and are quite practical, then this could be a good one for you.

And although I’ve been talking about this as a “second wife”, this business idea definitely isn’t just for women – I think men could really stand out in this gap in the market.

What’s the trick to making this work?

There are a few things to bear in mind with this business idea to make sure that you’re going to be making some decent money from it.

Firstly you need to think about your target market.  If you live in London, or another big city with lots of people with money but no time, this is a good business for you.  If you live in a rural ex-mining community where people have lots of time but very little money, there won’t be enough people who are willing to pay for it.  Even where I live in Brighton, there are not that many people who will pay a high hourly fee for this, it’s more likely to be somewhere between £12 and £18 per hour, because there aren’t that many rich, super-busy folk here.  Get some figures on average income levels and the number of commuters in your area.

Secondly, can you reach these people?  If you have an address book full of people with good jobs and busy lives, that gives you a good start.  If not, then you’re going to have to do much more marketing to get enough clients, so you need to budget for a simple website and some online promotion such as Facebook Ads.

The other trick is to make sure that you’re not doing little tiny bits of work for many clients.  You want clients who will book you for at least a half day every fortnight, and probably a day per week.  A lot of this work will be at their houses so you really want to avoid a situation where you’re doing a half hour for Fred, an hour for Tracey and an hour for Samir.  Because you’ll end up spending most of your time going between Fred, Tracey and Samir’s houses, and you can’t bill them for travel time.  So set a minimum billing time, say of two hours.  That way, if Fred just wants his dry cleaning picked up, you can tell him that the minimum is two hours, and would he like help with other things such as sorting laundry or buying healthy food.

A great way to show clients what they could benefit from is to offer a free “life efficiency audit”, where you go and talk to them about their lifestyle and suggest ways you can help.  That means they get a risk-free meeting, and you get to really listen to them and find out what you can sell them.

How much money would I make?

This isn’t a megabucks business.  If you’re doing this on your own, and spending four days a week looking after clients, with one day per week for admin and marketing, and can only charge £15 per hour, that gives you an income of £17k a year.  If you can charge £18 per hour, that’s £21k a year.  But you’d have very few costs to the business after getting going, especially if you can cycle rather than use public transport or driving.

So this is a good alternative to working in a pub or a shop where you’ll be looking at a wage of £13k.  And it’s an easy business to run part-time if you’ve got children or you’re studying, so it’s great for flexibility.  You can get into this business pretty quickly as well, if you put the effort into getting your name known and getting referrals from your first customers.

If you can build it up to you and a couple of people you pay the living wage, where you’re working half the week on developing the business and doing the admin, and half the week on clients, you can make £30k+.  And if you build it up to a few people, and you spend all your time on the business while they go out and help others by organising their lives, you could probably be making a nice profit of £60k a year.  But this last option is more difficult to make work and would take a few years to build up, so don’t get too carried away too soon. 

Great variations

 There are a few variations on this business.  You could specialise in one particular area, such as travel booking for retired people or making sure that busy people always have the right clothes to wear, matched to their diary for the week.  Have a look at some of the ideas for virtual and personal assistant businesses too, which are done online rather than at someone’s house.

Other things to remember

You’ll need public liability insurance to keep you legal and protect you if you damage something in a client’s house.  It would also be helpful to get a CRB check (now known as a DBS check) to show people that you don’t have a criminal record.

Get clients to pay you electronically, preferably through a monthly internet banking transfer into your account, rather than carrying cash which isn’t very safe for you and is more hassle for them to remember.

Like this idea?  Want to see more business ideas and find the right one for you?

This is a “free sample” business idea taken from my big library of business ideas at New Business Ideas Collection.

I’ve written dozens of guides to setting up new businesses, some little, easy start ones like this one, some which you can start small and grow into something bigger, and some which are “make you a million” type businesses which take a bit more time and investment but have a great chance of paying off big time later on.  Here’s a little video that explains a bit more about New Business Ideas Collection. Watch the video here…

Photo credit – Storebukkebruse from Flickr on a creative commons license


52 ways to find your gap in the market

It's not easy to find the right gap in the market for your next business. That's why I've written this free guide to how to identify a gap in the market, with lots of ideas for areas where you can build a viable business
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The Joy of Business
52 Ways to Find Your Gap in the Market
Julia Chanteray