Several years ago, I had a lovely long-term consulting assignment which kept me both busy and solvent.  One morning I woke up and realized that it was coming to an end and I had nothing lined up.  After a few moments of panic, I decided to get serious about creating my next income source.  I didn’t have a great deal of time to devote to this, so I gave myself the challenge of finding a way to earn $100—an easily accomplished goal.  What I didn’t realize at the time, was that I had just created a new habit that has kept my business—and cash flow—moving smoothly along.

Over time, I’ve learned that there are other benefits to this simple technique.  For instance, I teach a seminar called “Making a Living Without a Job” throughout the United States and Canada.  Nearly every seminar has at least one person who tells me that they want to be self-employed but don’t know what kind of business to start.  Using this technique is a wonderful way to sample a number of different possibilities, while training you to be creative.  In other words, you’ll learn to think like an entrepreneur.

There’s an old saying, popularized by Robert Schuller, that goes, “By the inch, it’s a cinch. By the yard, it’s hard.” Any successful goalsetter will tell you that reaching goals big or small is dependent on breaking the big picture into tiny, doable steps.  That’s the essence of my favorite idea, the $100 Hour. It works with such infallible certainty that once you make it a regular part of your plans, it’s like a rocket propelling you to your goals.

You can begin implementing the $100 Hour even if you now have a job or other commitments that clamor for your time.  Begin by making a pact with yourself that you will set aside time daily, if possible, or at scheduled intervals for the purpose of finding an idea that will bring you $100.  You needn’t complete the plan in the hour, but if time permits use your surplus to get your idea rolling.  Do research, make calls, write letters—anything that advances your goal.  If you’re focusing your energies on a single profit center, then come up with an idea for expanding it in a way that will earn another $100.  If you’re going to try a number of different ideas in order to figure out what you most want to do, then this time can be spent designing a variety of projects.

A word of warning is in order here.  While this idea works wonders, your ego may tell you that $100 is too insignificant to bother with. Ignore it. After all, great fortunes and grand achievements have been accomplished by steadfast devotion to creating tiny successes—which ultimately add up to enormous successes.  The discipline that comes with using this technique is perhaps its greatest bonus.  However, once you start seeing results, don’t stop using it.   With continued practice, you’ll find it gets easier and easier to come up with a $100 idea.  At that point, you can raise the monetary stakes, if you like. At any rate, you’ll discover that the quality of your ideas gets better and better with practice.

$100 Idea Starters

To show you how easy this is and to get you thinking along these lines, I’ll give you some of the $100 ideas that have appeared on my lists and those of others who are joyfully jobless.  Each of these could be worth far more than $100 and each can be adapted and embellished to suit your interests and skills.

* Be a broker.  Match up a buyer with a seller and collect your fee.  If you’re smart about automobiles, for example, you could be a consultant for people shopping for a used car.  Or you could develop a referral service for professionals.  That’s what speakers’ and writers’ agents do. If you know a lot about art, you could broker the work of artists as a couple I saw on television do.  These folks live on an island off Vancouver and run an international art business via the Internet.  Read some classified ads and see whether you might be a matchmaker between someone offering something for sale and a potential buyer.

* Clean out a closet.  There may be cash in your trash. Isn’t it time for a yard or tag sale? I know several folks who run sales every month, earning at least $100 each time.  If you’re really loaded with old stuff you want to sell, consider renting a table at a flea market.  Clothes, especially high-quality ones that are in good repair, can be taken to a consignment shop—as can toys, sporting equipment and computers.  You could also organize and promote a neighborhood sale, and collect a small fee from other sellers in exchange for doing the advertising and promoting.  Now that recycling is trendy again, used merchandise is politically correct.

* Sign on as a temporary worker.  All sorts of temporary agencies match workers with work.  Many are general, such as Kelly Services, while others specialize in computer operators or medical workers.  Some people make a career out of doing temporary work; you may want to use it as an emergency profit center, since it can be tedious.  You may have to put in a lot of hours to earn $100 this way, but it’s nice to know you can if you must.

* Eliminate an expense that doesn’t bring you joy.  Every so often, use your $100 Hour to save $100 that you’re now spending.  It’s the same as earning it, in a way.  Quit smoking. Or find a credit card company with a lower interest rate than you’re now paying.  Find a tax deduction you’ve overlooked.  Cancel the movie channel you never watch.  Sometimes our spending becomes automatic and habitual.  It’s healthy to reevaluate and change old spending habits from time to time.

* Deliver a valentine.  There are dozens of possibilities if you’re a natural romantic. You could specialize in enhancing romance all year long. (If you’re good at this, you may not realize that you have a gift!)  How about selling a basket of erotic massage oil and other romance-enhancing treats? Or catering breakfast in bed? Or setting up mystery evenings in conjunction with a limousine service?  If you love love, this one’s for you.

* Organize a tour.  Is there a geographic area or subject that you know a lot about? Do you live near a historic battlefield or favorite fishing spot? You could create a tour right at home that would appeal to visitors to your area.  Several companies in London offer fascinating walking tours covering everything from Shakespeare’s London to places where the Beatles hung out.  If you long to travel, find a travel agent or company that will work with you to organize a trip abroad.  In exchange for marketing the tour, you can receive a free trip.  A focused specialty tour offers the best possibilities, so concentrate on planning a trip around your area of expertise.  You could produce regular $100 Hours with this one.

* Take in a paying guest.  You may not want a full-time roommate, but what about an occasional out-of-town visitor?  You could specialize in providing homey accommodations for business travelers in town for long-term assignments, or hook up with a local college that hosts visiting professors and conference-goers.  If you speak a foreign language, be a paid host to travelers who aren’t sure about their English.

* Barter services.  Some people thrive on exchanging services, building their own underground economy.  This moneyless way of doing business can be great fun if you find other traders who enjoy bartering, too.  I’ve known people who have bartered for everything from laser printers to time in a vacation home. There’s a fabulous architectural drawing hanging over my sofa that I got in exchange for some promotion services for a home furnishings consignment store.

* Clean something.  Windows and floors always need cleaning, but you might aim at something larger—like an airplane or boat—and collect your $100 more quickly. It’s unfortunate that cleaning is considered lowly work, since the opportunity to clean things is enormous.  If you find tidying up a satisfying occupation, you could easily clean up financially with this one.

* Give your opinion.  Market research companies are always looking for people to try new products or sample old ones.  For this they rely on consumers who are potential users of the product.  Check your Yellow Pages for such firms in your area and ask to be added to their database.  If you like telling people what you think, why not get paid for your opinions?

* Teach a class.  Not long ago I found an old $100 Hour list of mine.  One of the ideas was to send a proposal to Open U in Minneapolis for a class called “Making a Living Without a Job.” That single idea has brought me tens of thousands of dollars in income and hundreds of hours of bliss in the classroom.  What are the hobbies you love? Where’s your expertise?  Build a class around what you know and start teaching.  This idea can, of course, be repeated endlessly, bringing you many $100 bills.

* Throw a party.  Planning special events can be fun and profitable. Or offer to cook for your busy friends for the price they’d pay in a restaurant.  If you have abilities as a confident host, this is a wonderful way to indulge your partygoing personality—and get paid.  Companies, too, engage the services of professional party planners; or you might specialize in class reunions or wedding receptions.

* Get a grant.  Thousands of dollars go unclaimed every year.  All sorts of private foundations offer grants for a huge range of projects. If you want to do research, work on a product design, or investigate another culture, there may be a grant just waiting.  You need to do lots of legwork and proposal writing for this, but don’t overlook this option for acquiring cash.  Your reference librarian can point you to the directories of available grants.

* Contact former customers.  Remind them that you’re available and willing.  Generating repeat business can be easier than finding new customers all the time.  Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Once your have customers to call your own, keeping in touch with them should be a regular event.

* House-or pet-sit.  House- and pet-sitting are popular ways to earn money. You could have a specialty, such as caring for cats or vacant houses waiting to be sold.  One enterprising fellow offered his services through real estate agents, housesitting for people who had moved, but not yet sold their house. He’d bring in some oriental rugs and a few pieces of nice furniture, making the empty space more attractive. One woman I know got hired to housesit for a client’s home in the south of France. If you’re flexible and love a change of scenery, this could be perfect.

* Finish things.  How about a follow-through service to complete unfinished projects? If you’re handy at repairs or household jobs, you could complete things that do-it-yourselfers didn’t do.  Needlework is another area where enthusiasm sometimes diminishes before the work is done.  Busy people often start more than they can finish so you could find a gold mine here—and relieve a bit of guilt.

Every single one of these ideas can be started easily and inexpensively, so there’s no excuse for not getting your own $100 Ideas List started.  Better yet, each of these have the potential to grow into large, luscious profit centers.  You might think of them as acorns, harboring an oak inside. Get busy planting.