Work continues in hard times. Ironically, at a time when so much more needs to be done, it gets harder and harder for people to actually find jobs.
We can guess what type of jobs might disappear first as a result of Peak Oil and economic collapse—such as housing construction, highway construction, just about any kind of construction for that matter, credit cards, banking, stocks and bonds, overnight tourism (daytrip may do okay), airlines (but bus and maybe even railroads may do well), the automobile industry and all its related businesses, hotels and motels, drive-through fast-food, car washes, chain stores dependent on cheap goods from China, and so on—but it's probably more useful to try and predict what type of jobs and skills will be most needed.
We assume they will involve basic needs—food, water, health, and the like. There will probably be much more focus on repairing items than replacing them, so cottage industries like small appliance repair and clothing repair could do well. Escapist entertainment and fads were thriving during the Great Depression of the 1930s and there's no reason to believe similar, low-cost businesses might not do equally well now.
We'll add more ideas here as we think of them and as visitors to this website suggest them.
For other related information, see our Barter and Money pages.
We can't make any guarantees, but these are good possibilities. And they should get you thinking in the right direction about other likely businesses.
When people don't have money, they do barter. They've always got stuff—and skills—that they can exchange. See our Barter page.
Beer and Wine Making
No matter how hard times get, people will still want beer and wine. If you can turn the stuff out at home, you've got an endless supply of barter material.
Bicycle Sales / Repairs
he first thing you should do right now is run out and buy as many used bicycles as you can. Used bike sales and repairs should do very well. You could even add motorcycles and scooters, because of the good gas mileage they get.
If your home is big enough, or can be made big enough, open a boarding house. Offer rooms on a weekly or monthly basis, and include as many meals a day as you feel you're up to. You should probably at least include breakfast and likely even dinner, giving your guests a choice as to which plan they prefer. If you expect short-term guests, you could turn your home into a hostel or bed and breakfast inn.
While this is no time to be in the new car sales business, car repair should be fine as people try to keep their existing vehicles running as long as they can—and as long as they can afford the gas. Consider basic car repair/maintenance where you go to the customer's home to do the service. You might even have luck with ongoing maintenance contracts. You could also give car repair classes.
No more mass produced coffee tables. Instead of remodeling every 10 years, we can go back to making sturdy, beautiful furniture that will last several generations. Skilled carpenters will be in high demand.
Even in hard times—actually particularly in hard times—people will want to spoil themselves now and then. But the luxury has to be cheap. It might be a special chocolate chip cookie, or delicious homemade candy. Or maybe it's very special handmade giftwrapping paper. Or fragrant handmade soap or a hand-carved wooden toy.
Cobblery and Shoe Repair
This goes along with tailor and clothing repair, but cobblery is a dying art these days. Watch it revive.
Computer repair and maintenance should do exceptionally well. People will no longer be running out to buy the latest upgrade (computer, monitor, printer, etc.) but will be more interested in keeping what they have working properly.
It makes much more sense to pay a slight fee to have a store deliver a purchase to you than to get in your car and make a round trip to do it yourself. Smart store owners will offer free delivery in order to attract customers. On a larger scale, companies like UPS and FedEx should do well.
People want to be entertained, particularly when times are tough. Consider bringing together talented people to offer live entertainment in neighborhood or community locations. You probably won't get rich but you'll have a good time, and you and the entertainers will end up with more money than when you started.
On a more personal level than a delivery service, errand services can combine your needs with similar needs of others, to provide services cheaper than you could do them yourself. This might be pickup and delivery, but could also include banking, taking children to after-school classes and sports or pets to the veterinarian, and a variety of other activities.
It would be nice to invent, and get rich off, the next fad. But you can also stay in touch with the culture, and offer low-cost ways for your community to enjoy those fads.
You don't have to have a huge farm to have a healthy farming business. An acre of land and a lot of hard work will produce what you need for a small-scale business. Consider also specialty items such as mushrooms, herbs, or sprouts. Because of the many uses of hemp, that will be a great crop once it's legal—or at least possible without enforcement—to grow.
You can grow, or forage for, herbs and use them to make healing concoctions, syrups, salves, teas, and a variety of other healthy items. For more information, see our Herb section. You could also use flowers for Aromatherapy.
People will have to do what they can to keep everything in their home in working order. If you have carpentry, plumbing, electrical and a wide variety of other relevant skills, you can be a big help to those people. You might even have success at teaching these skills to others.
It makes sense that some people might go back to real "horse power" for day trips and hauling loads. We might even bring back oxen for more intensive farm labor, as Cuba has done.
You name it, someone will be interested in it. Whether it's using tools, playing music, sewing or storytelling. The lessons likely to do best will be those focused on basic essentials, saving money and protecting health, such as gardening, food canning, inexpensive home cooking, yoga and other health exercises, meditation and relaxation, herb foraging and use, and pet care.
Thousands of how-to videos from experts.
We can't at the moment think of anywhere else to list this, but Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers free online video lectures. No registration necessary. Courses include the full range of departments, from aeronautics to computer science to history to women's studies.
Instructional Video Library
Considering setting up an instructional video library; videos and DVDs that teach people various skills, whether they're home or car repair, sewing, musical, language or any of hundreds of other subjects.
Technical Video Rental
Rent video tapes and DVDs on everything from Alternative Energy and Billiards to Cooking, Fine Arts, Auto Repair, Blacksmithing, Soapmaking, Locksmithing and Lathing.
Midwifery and "Field" Medicine
Our current system of highly-specialized doctors and big regional hospitals is not going to be practical. A lot more babies will be born at home, and doctors will go back to making house calls
Organic Pest Control
The need for people who can capture unwanted household pests in a humane and/or chemical free manner is obvious.
Raising Chickens and Rabbits
Lots of people might start their own gardens, but very few will raise their own meat. You can take advantage of that by raising chickens and rabbits—and other critters if you've got room.
Libraries aren't just for videos and books. Consider offering specialty kitchenware, car and woodworking tools, games, toys, household repair tools, gardening equipment and literally anything else you can think of.
Seamstress / Tailor / Clothing Alterations
In hard times, people can't afford to simply buy new clothes to replace slightly worn clothing. Darning socks will be back again. Sewing and knitting skills are no longer common, nor are sewing machines. Anyone with these skills will be much in demand.
More than 150 free online knitting instruction videos
Seed Farmer/Plant Nursery/Consultant
More and more people will be growing food in their backyards, or even starting small farms. They'll need seeds, plants and advice.
Small Appliance / Electronics Repair
Till now it's been cheaper to throw away a broken radio, telephone, blender, microwave, coffee maker and similar appliances than to have it repaired. That time is over. With the end of cheap imports, and loss of income, people will no longer be able to afford new items. They will either have to do without, or find someone with the skills to fix them.
Everybody needs soap. While there might not be a time when you can't find soap to buy, you'll save money, have some fun, and end up with an excellent barter item by making your own soap. Here are some recipes. While you're at it, here are some skin care recipes.
There will be increasing demand for public and shared transportation. If you can modify your car to run on alternative fuel, this could be a very profitable venture for city-dwellers. You could also rig up a bicycle-driven pedicab.
Toys and Games
There was a time when toys were not mass-produced plastic things. They were carefully crafted from wood, cloth and other natural materials, were treasured by the children who received them, and were passed down from generation to generation. Create some yourself, and you'll have customers.
There are Peak Oil observers who believe it possible, and even likely, that we'll end up back at a Paleolithic level of culture. If so, you'll find the information here helpful. And useful for survival in, and understanding of, nature at any time.
Classes in Stone Age living skills
Participating in Nature
Thomas J. Elpel's Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills [book]
A book of earth skills [book]
Society of Primitive Technology
Earth skills, wilderness survival, and native awareness. A non-profit organization dedicated to the research, practice, and teaching of primitive technology.
Stone Age Skills for the 21st Century
For people who want the skills without the cave [book]