"It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it." You've probably heard this now-famous clich stated by many different people over the course of your lifetime in a variety of situations, though its origins trace back to 1955. Some attribute it to Bonnie Tyler's 1986 duet with Todd Rundgren, "Loving You's a Dirty Job But Somebody's Gotta Do It," penned by Jim Steinman.
For most, this now-common saying is a comment pointing out the unpleasantness of a task or a sarcastic quip meant to joke about jobs that are, in reality, quite simple and not at all dirty. But for others, it's become a meaningful statement that symbolizes the opportunity that lies in the many filthy tasks that most of us aren't willing to do. For these entrepreneurs, the willingness to tackle the tasks most people don't want to deal with is a lucrative opportunity.
The thing is there are many otherwise-unpleasant jobs that some people are willing to do for the right price. What would you do for a million dollars? Most people would acquiesce some of their ordinary personal limits to do the unthinkable for a lucrative financial reward. That's precisely why some entrepreneurs have delved into these unpleasant territories to tackle the jobs that no one wants to do. Here's a look at three such "dirty jobs," and how entrepreneurs capitalizing on customers' willingness to pay someone else to "take out the trash" are banking on success.
It's tough to really quantify this one as a single job or business opportunity, as there are several ways to cash in on the undesirable task of working with sewage or sewage systems in any manner. Sewage treatment plant workers take home a decent paycheck, but they're often employed by the city or local municipality that manages the sewage treatment plant.
For those of you who are more entrepreneurial-minded and want to take the reins of your own business while tapping into the lucrative, yet disgusting world of sewage work, you might consider setting up shop as a honey-dipper. Actually, it's not so much a shop that you'll need to set up, but a truck, as you'll be traveling to rural areas where some homes still have on-site septic systems in lieu of tapping on to the public sewer system. The thing with septic tanks is that eventually, they become full, meaning someone has to pump out the human waste that has accumulated inside.
While this task is obviously gross enough in its own right, there's also the issue of some homeowners not understanding how to properly maintain their septic system and basically ignoring the fact that there are some things that should simply never, ever be flushed down the toilet that drains to a septic tank. This results in nasty clogs, malfunctions, septic tanks that overfill and seep out all through the lawn and even back up inside the property. You get the picture. A similarly disgusting, yet lucrative, business opportunity is a port-a-potty business.
David Balkan, owner of Joseph L. Balkan, Inc., the largest sewer and water main company in New York City, a family run business for over 60 years, states, "When old septic systems are connected to the public sewer, the task is dirty and unpleasant. Pumping and filling old septic tanks is not a clean in-and-out process. Installing a new sewer connection through contaminated soil even less so. That's why sewer contractors are a special breed."
According to HomeAdvisor.com, the average homeowner pays between $263 and $482 to have their septic system pumped and cleaned. The average falls right around $372, but some homeowners pay as much as $895. Most of the time, the process itself doesn't take more than an hour or two, and of course there are other costs involved, but it's a pretty lucrative gig if you can stand to bear massive amounts of human excrement on a daily basis.
Crime Scene Cleanup
If the popularity of television shows such as CSI and NCIS are any indication, crime scenes are pretty fascinating to the general public. Investigators get to do interesting stuff like collect evidence, take photos of the scene, and try to piece together the events of horrific crimes to solve the case.
But what happens after evidence is gathered, detectives are back at the lab, and life as we know it has to go on? Someone has to clean that up, and detectives working the case have more important things to do. Still, crime scene cleanup requires more than your standard housekeeping service. "Training is exhausting due to the fact we must be aware of all of our surroundings when walking into as many homes as we do," says James Michel, President of CrimeSceneCleanup.com.
"We have to deal with hazards such as asbestos, lead paint, mold and hundreds of blood borne pathogens, ranging from hepatitis and AIDS to MRSA and even Ebola. We hold a multitude of licenses and certifications from OSHA in the handling of blood borne pathogens, asbestos, lead paint, and hazardous waste transportation, to name a few. They are all separate and specialized courses that test and issue certifications," Michel explains.
Regulations outlining how such materials must be removed, cleaned, and disposed of are strict, with several regulatory agencies offering oversight on how such situations should be handled and responsibilities employers have to keep employees safe when exposure is part of the job. "Regulatory requirements are strict and complex in our industry due to the fact we are overlooked and regulated by multiple government organizations such as OSHA, the DEC, and the EPA. These regulations also vary in each state and county, down to the township level. Due to the fact we transport hazardous materials, special licenses, insurance and bonding is required to the DOT's standards," says Michel.
Even being exposed to some biohazards during the cleanup process can be risky to those undertaking these tasks. Michel explains, "Some of the types of crime scenes we see are homicides and murder, suicide, unattended decomposition, and unfortunately in grim circumstances, mass casualty scenes, where there are multiple fatalities. Worst of all situations, would be children involved in any of the aforementioned types of tragedies." It's a dirty and often a tragic job, but the fact that crime scene cleanup requires special training, expertise, and a willingness to see things that no one wants to see means the payout is pretty desirable.
Not all landfills are publicly owned, and those with the stomach to handle it can cash in on other people's trash, quite literally. Obviously, the United States has a waste problem, so that means there's no shortage of trash waiting for its trip to the local landfill. Expand your horizons with a recycling center and you can take people's willingness to round up all their metal, glass, and other recyclables for some spare change to the bank, too.
There are some seemingly fun jobs to be had at a landfill, such as operating the heavy machinery, but if you've ever driven by a landfill, you're well aware of one primary factor that makes running a landfill such an unbearable job: the smell. Methane gas is produced by all that waste that's similar to the natural gas found underground, and some landfills have found a way to harvest this and turn it into energy. Either way, someone still has to manage the gas and collect it to prevent the waste from catching fire, which would clearly be disastrous.
Then there's the issue of all the "stuff." Most people can't truly fathom the stuff that ends up in a landfill unless they've witnessed it firsthand, and it's no picnic. That said, landfills are big business and operators are happily cashing in. Similarly, sanitation workers (also known as "garbage men"), the ones who drive around the neighborhood in filthy trucks to pick up property owners' trash every week, are making bank, as well. So if your local landfill is publicly owned and you can't get in on the private landfill action, there are always sanitation services.
There are many dirty jobs that must be done by someone, some of them unfathomable to the average person. If you're willing to do what most people aren't, for the right price, of course, opportunity awaits.