On Thursday night, Andy Staff and Cory Land were unloading a ladder from Land’s truck at Edgewater Church in League City. They had to make sure the Christmas wreath they had hung for the church last week was secure before the weekend storms rolled in.
“We always try to make sure the customers get everything they need,” Land said. “That way, they’ll come back.”
The duo, old college friends who live in Dickinson, have their own holiday-themed side gig between the months of October and December — hanging Christmas lights and wreaths for churches and other customers. They’re not registered as a business, their only online presence is on social media and their business’ headquarters is essentially the bed of Land’s truck where they haul ladders and Christmas lights.
It’s an idea that Land got a couple years ago after he got laid off from his oil and gas job in College Station and started working in landscaping. The company he worked for shifted to hanging holiday lights in the winter when work was slow, and even though his landscaping career would eventually end, the holiday career pivot to hanging lights did not, mostly thanks to word of mouth advertising.
“We did one house in one neighborhood last year and this year we had seven in that whole neighborhood,” Land said. “People started talking.”
Land and Staff aren’t the only ones. Winter time is a verifiable wonderland of opportunity for anyone interested in Christmas-related side gigs. Hanging Christmas lights is the prime money-making opportunity, judging from advertising online, in classifieds and signs posted on the side of the road, but holiday babysitting, pecan cracking and Christmas tree hauling all have their place as well.
“It’s just a great time of year to make extra money,” said Sara Amanda, who babysits for couples going on holiday dates. “People are always looking for extra help.”
Staff and Land have brought their business into the big time, they said. The men charge $2.50 to $3.50 for every foot of lights they hang. They make between $20,000 and $30,000 between October and the end of December, Land said They return to customers’ houses and take the lights down in January.
“We put them in a duffel bag in the attic with a business card on top,” Land said. “Next year, we’re thinking about hiring a friend and using a name — ‘3 Men and a Ladder.’”
Business isn’t always as organized as what Land and Staff have started. Matt Scales, who lives in Dickinson, doesn’t have any plans to register or name his business. He just got into hanging lights and hauling Christmas trees as a small side project six years ago. It eventually grew to around 200 houses a year, which Scales lights up for $25 a pop.
“I probably make around $2,000 or $3,000 every season,” he said. “Most of my business just comes from people telling other people that I’ll hang their lights and then calling me back to do it again the next year.”
But regardless of whether a holiday hustler’s side gig is growing into a named business with new employees or not, there’s no disagreement that the competition is increasing.
For Susan Goetz, who owns Trained Eye Tree Service, a League City-based landscaping company that hangs Christmas lights in the slow winter months, the uptick in competition is obvious. She started focusing on hanging Christmas lights for customers in 2013, and the people getting in on the holiday side jobs has only grown over the years, she said.
“There’s definitely been a rise in competitors, especially with individuals trying to supplement their income,” she said. “People looking for extra cash come to depend on it.”