Start-Up Cost: $500–$2,000
Potential Earnings: $30,000–$70,000
Typical Fees: $200–$1,500 per event
Advertising: Search engines, email to manufacturers’ representatives or marketing departments, networking
Qualifications: Good people skills and selling ability
Equipment Needed: None
Potential Home Business: Yes (but you’ll be on the road)
Staff Required: No
Disabled Opportunity: Possibly
Hidden Costs: Insurance, slow reimbursement for travel expenses
Lowdown: This is definitely a “who-you-know” sort of business; if you know a key marketing official at a large automobile manufacturer, you’ve got it made if you want to be a merchandise demonstrator at a big trade show for automobiles. Many “product specialists” (as some prefer to be called) can travel year-round to trade shows demonstrating products for one specific company, while others circulate their talents to many different types of product manufacturers.
For instance, you can start as small as handing out samples at your local grocery store (of course, the pay for that is usually on the low side), or you can work toward establishing relationships with larger corporations to represent them at trade shows. The days of the gimmicky product demonstrator are virtually over, however, so keep in mind that today’s consumers want intelligence and answers to all of their questions. You’ll need to learn everything about the products you demonstrate by talking with everyone from the engineering team to the marketing department.
Start-Up: You can get started in this business for less than $2,000, because all you really need are some terrific self-promotion pieces (such as business cards and perhaps some Internet advertising). Be sure to allow a few extra dollars for advertising, but really limit what you spend, because your success will ultimately depend on how well you network. If you’re a top-caliber speaker and promotional genius, you can make a fairly respectable $30,000–$70,000 per year and get to travel all over the country on the house.
Bottom Line: Travel gets tedious, even for the adventurous. You’ll be expending huge amounts of energy up there on stage, and you’ll have to work at sounding extremely knowledgeable about everything you show off. Get some rest, drink plenty of fluids, and be sure to collect an advance when possible.