MoneyMagpie

Dec 14

How to make money from your shed

If someone told you there was hidden treasure in your backyard, you’d probably get a shovel and start digging, right?

Well, the good news is: there just might be. And the even better news: no need for any digging.

We delved into the intriguing world of shedworking and found that there are endless possibilities for transforming your dilapidated and overlooked garden shed into a lucrative source of income.

 

Shedworking revolution

Small pink shed

While using your shed for anything other than storing gardening tools may seem like a foreign concept to some, many have embraced theirs as an inspiring alternative workplace.

In fact, the trend of transforming sheds into tiny business hubs has become so prevalent that there’s even a whole website dedicated to it!

Curated and published by Alex Johnson – writer of The Independent’s Home Front property columnShedworking.co.uk is a daily updated guide for people who work in garden offices and other shedlike atmospheres.

Inspired by his own experiences, Johnson started the site in 2006 after moving back to the UK from Madrid with a growing family.

“As we liked where we lived and didn’t want to move, I investigated the then very tiny garden office market and decided that was the way forward. After I’d started working in there for a couple of months, it struck me that there would probably be other people in the same boat, so I started The Shed pdf magazine and then the Shedworking site (which inspired the book),” he explains.

More than a decade down the line, the whole idea of shedworking has mushroomed incredibly and so has Johnson’s site. Since his very first post in October 2006, Johnson has covered every aspect of shed transformation, interviewed an array of shedworkers from all over the globe (and even just down the road) and published an inspirational illustrated book called Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution.

  • GDP contribution

Perhaps one of Johnson’s most interesting articles to date, however, was a 2010 post in which he shared the fact that Shedworkers contribute a whopping £6.1BN to the UK economy.

Based on findings from a poll he carried out in collaboration with PR and strategic communications consultancy Twelve Thirty Eighty, Johnson also unpacks a few interesting statistics surrounding shed-based businesses in the article:

  • the average turnover of a shed-based business in the last financial year was £76,449
  • An estimated 80,000 workers are thought to be based in garden sheds and outbuildings in the UK
  • More than half of shed-based businesses (61.3%) are run by sole traders, with 32.3% employing 2-5 workers
  • Of the more than 500 shedworkers polled for the study, 74% said that they planned to remain in their sheds indefinitely

Seven years later, shedworking has been growing steadily more popular and – while Johnson hasn’t had the opportunity to gather more recent statistics – there’s reason to believe that its impact on the UK’s economy is even more impressive.

“I think we’re returning to a more natural way of life with better work/life balance, more like the cottage industries that were once the main way people worked, rather than the mindless commuting that we’ve become accustomed to in the last century,” comments Johnson.

Finally, he believes that this frenzied way of life we’ve become accustomed to will soon come to be seen as a blip in the way we manage work, rather than the mainstream.

“Essentially, technology was used to herd us into factories, but the way it’s developed now means we don’t need to go into a central office (at least not all the time),” Johnson concludes.

 

Shed-based businesses to consider

Carpenter working in his shed

Now that you have some proof that it’s not only doable, but also comes highly recommended – and with its very own passionate community to boot – perhaps you’d like to consider giving shedworking a go.

Here are a few ideas of businesses you can run from your backyard:

  • Pop-up restaurant

The beauty of a pop-up restaurant is its temporary nature. So, you can run it when you like, for the number of guests that suit you. Because people are always intrigued by something unusual, your backyard shed offers the perfect setting.

Find out more by reading our article on opening your own pop-up restaurant.

  • Brewery

Hop onto the craft beer bandwagon by turning your backyard shed into a bespoke brewery. If you don’t actually have one, you could always invest in this fully-kitted Brewery Shed by TigerSheds and Northern Monk Brewery.

  • Creative studio

Whether you’re a designer, jewellery-maker, artist or writer, you’ll know that having an inspiring place to work in does wonders for the creative process. And what better setting than your very own garden? In fact, if this Guardian article is anything to go by, transforming sheds into studios has been popular among creatives for a very long time.

  • List it on Airbnb

As with pop-up restaurants, people are always on the look-out for something quaint and interesting when trawling Airbnb. Give your shed a good spring cleaning and then kit it out for guests. Bear in mind that this would require installing at least a toilet and shower, but possibly also a kitchenette. Read our article on how to make and save money by renting.

  • Urban chicken coop

Firstly, this is probably not a good idea for anyone with neighbours living very close by. However, if you have a larger garden with some extra space, running your own chicken coop and selling ‘farm’-fresh eggs could become a roaring business.

Read our guide on how to keep your own chickens and this post by Simple Living Country Gal for a few tips on converting your shed into a coop.

  • Location for shoots

If your shed is full of character – maybe it’s cute and well-kept or run-down and creepy as anything – you could offer it as a location for film sets or photo shoots. This would involve a lot of foot traffic through your house and garden, but at £500-750 a day, it might be worth it?

Read our guide to renting out your home as a film set for more details.

  • Garden office

Toying with the idea of working from home full-time? Instead of trying to have your guest bedroom double as an office, you could always repurpose your shed.

  • Dog grooming business

This is a great idea if a) you love animals and b) you have a big, secure garden, where dogs can roam around freely and safely pre- and post-groom. In order to set up a doggie parlour in your shed, you will need a reliable water supply, a large bath/basin or two and a sturdy table for drying, cutting and trimming their coats.

  • Yoga studio & retreat

If you’ve always dreamed of running your own wellness retreat, you don’t have to look much further than your back yard. Since you probably won’t be able to accommodate too many people at a time, your unique angle can be exclusivity. The main objective here is to create a space that is airy, welcoming and serene. Consider adding a window or two, as well as air conditioning and heating to keep the temperature mild throughout the year.

  • Storage space

Finally, you can always make money by using your shed for its intended purpose – storage. However, instead of stashing your own stuff away in there you will be helping other people out by keeping theirs safe.

Read more about making money by renting out parts of your home for storage.

 

A few tips for transforming your shed

Happy man holding decorating tools

Before you can start making money from your shed, however, you’re probably going to have to spend a fair amount on transforming it.

Here are just a few things to consider:

  • Power

No matter what kind of business you run from you shed, you’re going to need electricity. Unless you’re a qualified electrician or have a natural affinity for these sorts of things, it’s probably best to get professional help. After all, you don’t want ongoing power troubles to interrupt your work or, even worse, an unfortunate accident to cast a shadow over your new venture.

  • Heating/Air-con

Unless you’re running something like a yoga studio (mentioned earlier), installing heating/air-con is more of a nice-to-have. For most businesses a heater will do the job in winter and a fan in summer.

  • Wi-Fi

If you’re running any desk-based business, you’ll definitely need an internet connection. However, if the whole idea is to escape distractions, you may want to avoid it altogether.

  • Tools of your trade

Of course, you’re going to need to kit your shed out fully in order to run whatever your business happens to be as professionally as possible. So, if you’re using it as the base for your catering enterprise/pop-up restaurant, you’ll need a safe, clean and spacious kitchen setup. If you’re designing and sewing wedding dresses, you’ll need a large sewing table, good lighting and plenty of storage space fabrics and the like.

The best thing to do is make a comprehensive list of all the necessities, followed by a list of things that could add value. Once you’ve ticked off all the former, you can move into your new shedworking space and add the rest as you go.

  • Rules & regulations

Finally, if you’re going to be running any sort of retail/catering/food/beverage business from your home, you may need to check with your local authority about any zoning regulations. Also, if you’re going to be working with food at all you will need to comply with health and safety regulations, as well as apply for certain licenses. The Food Standards Agency has a comprehensive start-up document to help you out.

 

Case study:

Dawn and Hannah in front of their shed

We caught up with Dawn Fry from The Melting Pot to find out more about the chocolate workshops she presents in her garden shed.

This is what she had to say:

Can you give a quick summary of what it is you do at The Melting Pot? 

The Melting Pot offers chocolate-making workshops to adults, children and teams.
I don’t make chocolates to sell (most people presume I do this) but just offer workshops, where people come and make their own yummy creations under my instructions.
It has proved a great formula. I now teach other people how to run workshops from where they live, and have created a ‘business in a chocolate box’.
 

What did you use your shed for before it became the home of The Melting Pot? Also, how big is your shed?

The shed was previously our family den. We have three children and a small terraced house, so when they were growing up it was a great big space to have friends and family in or just a space to play. There were lots of parties for children and grown-ups too (and this continues to this day).
The shed is 5m x 6m and was built entirely by my husband Jo, a blacksmith by trade.
 

How did you decide to transform your shed into a working space?

I had seen some friends use their sheds for businesses and this inspired me to think about running my own.
Frustrated with part-time work and trying to fit around the needs of my family, I wanted to create a business that was fun and flexible. Since I love cooking, I knew it needed to be food-related and also that I wanted to include people, as I really enjoy meeting lots of different people and didn’t wish to work on my own.
I literally woke up one day and thought ‘chocolate, that’s got to work!’
Once I’d made that decision, I started to research how you trained as a chocolatier, found out about some courses, started planning my business on paper, whilst still in a part-time job.  This was in early 2009 – in June of the same year I was made redundant from my job and decided, it’s now or never, and went for it.  There was no redundancy package to fund my new business, but I did my training and launched that September.
I was totally scared, but it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for so many reasons, not least of which the amazing opportunities that working with chocolate has bought for me personally.  It has also been totally flexible while my family was growing up, which is what I wanted in the first place.
 

How long did the transformation take? Can you name a few of the changes that had to be made? What was the hardest part?

The structure of the shed was already there, in terms of making it useable for my business, we stuck a false wall in the main body of the shed, to create a storage area, we added underfloor heating, flooring, mains water supply, painted and prettified.
It already had an electricity supply.
We did this over a couple of months in the summer of 2009.
The hardest part was worrying that the investment was worth it. We did not have any funds behind us, it was the height of the recession and I was using up precious resources to launch and untested business concept!
 

What do you love most about your working space?

I love my working space because it’s home, but not quite home.  I’m down the garden and I can see my own house but I’m in my own precious space.
The outlook is so pretty, and it always smells of chocolate!
It’s my space, but one I also share with lots of others.  It’s where we have fun and a good time, so it has a really positive ambience and also a lovely peaceful feel to it too.
 

Would you recommend RE-PURPOSING your shed into a working place to other entrepreneurs? If so, why?

I would definitely recommend repurposing your shed if you have a business idea and wish to go for it.
Both my husband and I believe that your job should be something you enjoy doing if at all possible (he offers courses at his forge on the back of my success at chocolate workshops).
Working from your shed is flexible, the commute is fantastic and usually you are doing something creative, that you love.
Why wouldn’t you work from your shed?
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