Unquitting 60% of My Job

In this post, I explained that I’d gone to half time at Cigna / Evernorth. I did this to free up time to focus on developing more Udemy courses. But I wasn’t able to increase my Udemy revenue. Here’s what happened:

  • I launched a test-only Udemy course on the Tableau Certified Associate exam. The course received very high ratings. But Tableau discontinued the course just weeks after launch! No one wants to prepare for an exam that no longer exists, so I set the course as Private.
  • I learned Power BI well enough to pass the exam, and created a Power BI course. But, the course wasn’t good enough to compete with the top courses. I found Power BI more difficult to learn than Tableau, so the process took more effort than I expected.
  • The covid course boom tapered off, as I explain here.

After about a year, I was thinking I’d need to go back to full time W-2. My plan to become a full time Udemy instructor wasn’t panning out. When my manager told me that I needed to either go full-time or leave the company it was an easy decision.

Building Sheds & Coops

But I still have an entrepreneurial itch.

Shopclass as Soulcraft and Durable Trades got me interested in the trades. But I’m the breadwinner, so I can’t take time off to do a long training or apprenticeship. Unskilled construction jobs wouldn’t work as a side hustle and wouldn’t pay well.

So what side hustle would use my hands, wouldn’t need extensive training, and would have good earning potential? Looking around online, I found John Fealy‘s Shed Business class. John has a repeatable process for efficiently building sheds. A repeatable process for a standardized build doesn’t take long to learn. With each build, you refine the process, adjust the tools and jigs you use, and keep getting more accurate and more efficient.

Compare this to doing renovations. With renovations, every job is different because because you’re always encountering the random quirks of the existing structure.

Learning to build sheds still takes time and practice, though. And there’s more to the business than the carpentry and roofing. So John’s class doesn’t just explain how to build the shed. It also covers business setup, marketing, trailer and shop setup. There’s also an optional website template that I purchased but haven’t used yet. The course also included an helpful facebook group where you can post questions and get help. I hate facebook (their business model is monetizing wasted time), so the fact that the group is hosted on facebook is a downside.

I didn’t own most of the tools, so I purchased from Harbor Freight, CPO tools, ebay, and Amazon. Acquiring the tools takes time and money… this is not a 100 dollar startup. I’d never built a structure, but I building tables, benches and bookshelves. To get practice, I built a 10 x 14 shed in my backyard:

My first build – a 10×14 shed

Since I don’t have a work van, I had Lowe’s deliver the material for 80 bucks. My garage was packed with lumber & siding. I’m cautious of heights so, even with a 22.5 degree angle on the roof, I was pretty nervous at first.

Partial list of mistakes:

  • Getting the joists square and level took quite a long time… I’d get it level, but then it wouldn’t be square and I’d shift and get it near square but not level. Others in the shed academy facebook group recommend using ToughBlocks, which cost more but are faster and allow you to build on a steeper incline.
  • Had to redo one of the doors because the orientation was wrong.
  • Didn’t get the paint thick enough on the overhangs.
  • Nailed the trusses too far in, so that only a small length of the nail penetrated the top plate.
  • Installed SmartSide on the peak side walls before they were raised.
  • Throwing a tarp over the rafters won’t keep out the rain… water will just pool on the tarp and eventually spill out. Once you get the OSB on the roof you can use a tarp or tar paper to keep out rain until you have time to put on the shingles.
  • Didn’t get the SmartSide perfectly flush on the peak side so that there was a gap when I installed the topper.
  • Had trouble getting overhangs tight against Smartside… will try screwing through the smartside rather than toenailing with staples.
  • Used drip edge that didn’t fully cover the overhangs… will use wider ones next time.
  • Shot a few roofing nails too far out on the overhang, so that they penetrate the drip edge. Framing must have been off enough that the door screws didn’t go through 2x4s.
  • Trusses had irregular spacing.
  • After shed was up I adjusted framing to fit windows that were larger than the ones in the plan… much easier to frame for the windows ahead of time.

I submitted my application for the Maryland Home Improvement Contractor license to enable me to build sheds. The exam to qualify for the license does not test construction knowledge, but rather focuses on knowing the state regulations. Details include, for example, the requirement to prominently display your MHIC license number on any vehicles used primarily for your business. Once submitted you wait about a 15-20 business days to get your license number… only then can you legally advertise your services. I submitted my application in late July and received my license on September 6th.

While I was waiting, I’m built a chicken coop using the Morgan Creek plans here but using the shed academy approach to building the door and roof. I don’t need a license since I’m building the coop in my garage and the customer’s picking up. MHIC is needed when you’re doing work on-site. Here’s a shot of the coop:

12 bird coop using Morgan Creek plans

Getting it onto the trailer was a challenge. Couldn’t have done it without dollies on the front and back:


Another Tableau Project?

Still early on this, but I may be doing live Tableau trainings for Australian government employees with the Public Sector Network. The trainings would be spread over three days. The Public Sector Network, a company focusing in Australia and New Zealand already does monthly Power BI trainings, and they think they’ll be interest in a similar Tableau course.

Learning About Other Side Hustles and Businesses

Listening to business podcasts leads to the paradox of choice – so many options you don’t know where to start. I’ve been listening to podcasts on buying and running laundromats, side hustles, and buying existing businesses.

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