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A series of interviews with ordinary people making extra cash a reality

This month, Dylan Reid tells us about his tree felling business

Tree Surgeon

So, Dylan, how does it all work?

‘Well, I offer my services as an amateur tree surgeon. I lop trees and branches that need to be kept under control and take away the waste material. I can then sort out the useful wood and chop it into logs and recycle the rest into garden mulch – all of which I sell. I effectively make money twice for the same job!’

How easy is it to do?

‘If you are competent with a chainsaw, it’s pretty easy work – but if you haven’t had proper training, I strongly suggest you go on a course before you start working with a chainsaw up ladders - there are serious health and safety issues involved! I did a weekend course at a nearby agricultural college and it was well worthwhile. I also learned how to maintain my chainsaw properly which helps prolong its life – and your profits.’

What sort of profit do you make?

‘Each job is different, so it’s hard to give a figure per job but I charge £50 for felling a reasonably sized tree. I also charge £85 for a trailer-load of cut logs and I can supplement that with logs from the local forestry (when I can get them). I earn at least £15,000 per year from it and that’s working pretty much part-time.’

What are the advantages of earning money in this way?

‘The main advantage is that I’m my own boss and can work the hours I want. I also get to work outdoors, which I love. It’s also great to be able to recycle the wood from the cut trees and make money twice for the same job! Also, I can earn money all year round – chopping and felling in the summer and selling and delivering logs in the winter. I found that it’s better than general gardening, which is pretty seasonal.’

What are the pitfalls to earning money this way?

‘It can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing with a chain saw or other power tools. It can also be heavy physical work, so you have to be fit – gives you a great workout though!’

So what are your tips for someone who wants to become an amateur tree surgeon?

‘Get yourself a good quality chainsaw and go on a course to learn how to use it properly before you do anything else. Also make sure you have all the proper safety equipment and use it every time. I nearly had a bad accident once – all because I didn’t know what I was doing. When you’re ready for customers, the easiest way is go out canvassing. I started by knocking on doors where I spotted trees that needed trimming. You could also do some contract work for your local council.

It’s worth getting a medium-sized trailer too for delivering logs. I got mine from an agricultural auction sale for $45/ £30! Also, I use my garage for storing and seasoning logs – people generally expect seasoned logs for burning. Another market for wood is the craft market. I’ve sold a lot to a local woodcarver who creates some lovely sculptures.’