Thursday, March 1, 2018

Am I a Builder or a Hostess? Or Both?

Four years ago, I wrote my first post on this blog. I was focused, optimistic, and inspired but simply had NO idea where this idea would take me.

Now, here I sit in My Tiny Empty Nest, my 204 sq ft tiny house with two lofts, leasing land from a friend, and calling it my “home base” for when I’m not traveling. My most recent tour video has been viewed almost a MILLION times on YouTube and my friends still can’t decide if I’m crazy or brilliant.

Mid-Build in 2015.

Just down the hill, is My Tiny Perch, my first short term rental and, at only 148 sq ft, it pushes the boundaries of what a livable tiny house feels and looks like. Over the next 3 days I have 3 guests checking in and just returned from yet another trip to the grocery store to get the above-and-beyond goodies my personal standards require.

Look! I made the COVER!!??

One hundred and sixty miles away, currently under construction at my boyfriend’s house, is My Tiny Hideout. It’s only 14 feet long, with two lofts, and at this point it is my favorite floor plan with 12 windows!

My Tiny Hideout.

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, this morning I found a 12 foot long trailer for sale on craigslist for only $500.  I’m not sure if I’ll buy it, or can make it work for a tiny house, but suffice it to say I’m not stopping this insane ride until I have four tiny houses in My Tiny House Village.

Why am I doing this to myself?

Why have I decided to be a builder AND a hostess?

To put it simply, people making money in tiny house industry are divided into six categories: Builders, Consultants, Events, Websites, Land Developers, and Hosts. As the Tiny House Podcast Hostess for over two years, I’ve had the opportunity to be the ears and eyes of the movement at large; I’ve heard their stories and followed their successes. Or in some cases…their failures.

My Tiny Empty Nest: Completed in November 2015, and no system failures yet!


With a few exceptions, tiny house builders are financially struggling.  The ones who have embraced business-to-business model are definitely doing better but those whose sole source of income relies on a business-to-consumer revenue stream are dealing with keeping prices down, while trying to make money, and satisfy customers with custom built homes. And, almost every week, I hear of another traditional home contractor that’s decided to jump on the tiny house bandwagon. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the supply is adequate or the market is saturated, but not all of the builders have a fairy tale to tell. More than a few have declared bankruptcy, are being sued for “bad builds”, or are dealing with legality drama that leaves them actively considering leaving the business all together.

I'm VERY busy, but still find time to volunteer in my community.

Don’t get me wrong, the industry is FULL of builders who are making a good living, and building decent houses, and who still have a good reputation. But from where I sit, as I consider MY future in the industry, I’m not interested in competing with the great builders still hanging in there or dealing with high maintenance customers.

Consultants  and Workshops

Very early in my learning curve I attended a Meetup event and went armed with my floor plans, confident that I would find someone to answer my questions. At the end of a presentation, they asked if anyone had any questions. I raised my hands, asked my succinct question, and was more than disappointed in their answer: “We really can’t answer that here, but we would love to consult with you later.”  Later I would discover that their consultant fees were $75 an hour.

Today, the shoe is ironically on the other foot.  I am inundated with requests from people who want to “pick my brain” or “meet for coffee” or “ask a few questions”. And, I am now faced with how to answer them.  

My "job": Give away stuff in at the NC Tiny House Festival in 2017.

Do I really want to charge for answers? 

Do I think, after all, that I’m the best person to answer them? There are soooo many more talented and knowledgeable people out there.

So, as much as possible, I wrote blog articles that can answer most questions that come up, I encourage people to read the articles in lieu of my personal time, and offer Tiny Dinner for Two for $100 which includes a 3 course meal and a two hours of “consulting” during the meal. Even so, I’m constantly in fear that I’ll make someone else feel like I did when I stood up and raised my hand to ask the experts.

Do I want to charge $75 an hour to answer questions? Not really. But there’s not enough of me to go around so I’m still struggling with the “right” responses.

Speaking at the World Treehouse Conference.

However, once in a while I am invited to attend workshops that other tiny house experts organize, to provide my unique insight to their attendees. It’s my favorite way to meet people and give one-on-one advice without being too uptight about my time or theirs. 

And the conversations around the fire pit after a long workshop day, are the bestest!

Events and Websites

Do I have the resources, time, patience, and organizational skills to pull off a great tiny house event that will be worth the time and effort expended?  No. Way.

Do I love, respect, support, and openly compliment those who do? Absolutely.

Do I love attending said events, speaking, supporting the staff, or being an Emcee? You bet. (I go where I’m invited and appreciate every opportunity to do so.)

Was I lucky enough to grab one of the highly successful domain names that have expedited the advancement of this explosive movement?  (Tiny House Swoon, Tiny House Listings, Tiny House Blog, Tiny House Build, etc….)  Nope. 

Luck favors the prepared and who’d thunk there would be enough interest to sustain the creative geniuses who manage those websites and hugely successful events?  Not me. That’s for sure.

Land Developers

If you would have asked me a few months ago, I would have never considered this as an income possibility in the tiny house movement. However, in the past few months I have seen at least a half dozen new communities popping up across the country.

How do they overcome the legal, financial, and political hurdles? I don’t know.

No community here...yet...

But I look forward to learning more about these opportunities and how others can follow their lead.  I look forward to visiting some, to interviewing their inspired leaders, and helping the owners count their money….oh….did I say that out loud?.....I meant… credit where credit is deserved….yeah….that’s what I meant….

Hostess with the Mostest

And this is where I’ve landed.

I can build a tiny house and make a few thousand dollars, or I can build a tiny house and rent it out and make a few thousand dollars every couple of months. (if all goes even reasonably well)

Projects are my vice. Sponsors are the wind in my sails. I have a talented co-builder / boyfriend, and cheap land to lease. I love the creative process, the project management, even updating budget spreadsheets. 

My Tiny Spaces give me both solace and security.

As long as I have sponsors, I'll build on!

Being a hostess scratches my social itch. (Or should I say “itches”…does that sound creepy?  Lol!)

My role as hostess is the culmination of my personality, my skills, and passions, and I have enough time and energy to be really great at it.  I’m not competing with my tiny house friends, or charging for my mere advice. I’m closely managing my financial risk, and hoping for the best, but also preparing for less than stellar results.

This is where I belong, my little corner of this big world of tiny…and so far it fits me perfectly.

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