In a way, farriers are lucky in that the farrier business is kind of seasonal, and the season when the business slows is also the coldest, darkest, crappiest season to work in. It’s nice to watch snow, sleet, rain and/or ice pellets fall from the comfort of your heated home, rather than the discomfort of the edge of the driver’s seat as you try to keep your truck on the road. On the other hand, it’s also nice to have a paycheck. If you find yourself with more time than cash over the winter season, here are some ideas for work options that complement a farrier career.
Some farriers will supplement their incomes with some good old fashioned smithing work. You already have many tools and lots of experience with a forge, so setting up this kind of business isn’t too costly or daunting. The nice thing about this option is that you can tailor your work to your interests. Large landscaping projects like gates and fences, custom artwork, home furnishings, tools – there are countless useful (and not useful) things you can learn to make and sell. How much money you make at it will depend, much like your farrier business, on how good you are and how good you are at marketing your wares. Most small metalworking businesses sell online as well as in person, so it would be profitable to invest some time, money and energy into figuring out how to do online sales.
You already have a truck. Hitch a plough to the front of it and do some snow removal if you live in a climate where snow happens. Chances are that in a snowstorm your clients will be cancelling anyway, so you might as well take the time you’d already booked for work and, well, work. Start up costs vary, depending on what size jobs you intend on doing, but you should be prepared for an initial investment in equipment. If you don’t want to spend a fortune on this side business, you could find a reasonably priced used plow, limit yourself to small private jobs and just work around your schedule. Plowing can pay pretty well, although it’s key to do some research and figure out what your client base is going to be and what equipment you’ll need. Best case scenario, you double down and plow a client’s driveway before doing the usual trims and resets. No more getting stuck!
Reading about industry issues, other perspectives on problems, new trends and developments in farrier science is interesting and helpful, right? Other farriers think so too. You work in a very specialized field, and comparatively speaking, there aren’t very many people who can knowledgeably write about this profession. You can use your expertise to write blogs, magazine articles, how-to guides on specific problems, even whole books on shoeing philosophies if you’re into theory. You won’t make millions on this one. There’s a reason the phrase “poor, starving writer” is a common one. Publishing your ideas can get your name out there, though, and help your main farrier business earn a little more. In case you don’t like rejection (which is the bread and butter of the writer’s life), you should know that lots of people self-publish now. It’s completely fine.
Wait! I know you went into the farrier trade specifically so you could avoid having to do jobs like retail. But hear me out. Many stores look for extra staff for the busy holiday season. We’re talking minimum wage labour, of course, but you could rack up some substantial hours and add to your coffers that way. It’s a few weeks of work, and you could tailor your job search to stores that are useful to you. Think farrier supply stores, tack shops, feed and farm supply stores…think employee discounts…you see where I’m going with this…
This is an option for a serious alternate profession. If you’re certified, experienced and have access to a shop with a forge, winter could be an excellent time to take on an apprentice or two and get them through some coursework. Check out your state or province’s licensing and accreditation procedures if you want to establish a farrier school. As you remember from your own days at school, basic courses can run from 2-16 weeks, depending on what students want to learn. You’d need to be able to deliver a quality education and get your students ready to test for potential certification by the end of it. If they stay on as apprentices, they could learn trimming and shoeing theories and some basic forge work over the winter and be ready to be helpful for you when your business picks up in the spring.
Pet Sitting/ Farm Sitting
When people go away over the holidays or on trips, they need other responsible people to farm stay, or just come in and look after the animals and property a couple of times. You’re responsible – you could earn some extra cash taking care of other people’s pets, livestock, or whole farm. It’s freelance work that pays pretty well and that you can schedule around your other commitments. There are no set up costs if you go to work for an existing farm sitting business, and even if you start your own, you’re really just investing in a basic business start up. The bonus for everyone is that you can do farrier work for people while they’re away. You’re a very good deal.
These are only some of a number of options for supplementing your career and your income during the off season. If you’ve had any other ideas that have worked for you, share them below!
By: Cindy McMann
image 1: Pixabay; image 2: Scott Robinson (Creative Commons BY)