Side Hustle #75: Picking Out Lice For Money!!

by Guest Author - Published October 26, 2018

no head shaving lice

[Now here’s a side hustle you don’t hear of every day – being a lice picker ;) But it’s apparently a thing, and one our guest hustler stops by the site today to share more about! Take it away Jessica, aka The Patient Picker! Haha… No one ever said this stuff had to be glamorous.]

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One of the tasks on my financial independence checklist is to establish multiple income streams. Thankfully, earlier this year, an unexpected (and disgusting) opportunity arose to help me add some cash to my wallet.

I was doing my daughter’s hair one morning and saw something move under her bangs. I held my breath and thought, Oh no, they’ve found us! Sure enough, the lice that we had successfully evaded all school year had made a home on my daughter’s pretty little blonde head.

I’d never encountered lice before, and was honestly in shock. How did this happen to us? How do we deal with this? Is my head itchy? Should I burn the sheets?

After I composed myself and started researching removal techniques, I began tackling the problem. One by one I picked each louse and nit out of my daughter’s hair. That first day I worked on her head for six hours and found 45+ adult lice and probably 80+ nits (eggs).

The nightmare continued for two weeks. Every day after school I would sit my daughter in front of the iPad for a couple of hours and would proceed to check her entire head for any sign of life. Finally, after two weeks we were lice-free and my daughter and I were exhausted.

While picking one day, I thought, How could you possibly do this if you were working full time and/or had a bunch of other kids or responsibilities to take care of? I have one other child and found my free time had disappeared because of the lice issue. Apparently, I am not the only one who has had this thought, because I discovered this uncomfortable task was actually a real profession!

“Lice technicians”, as some like to be labelled, are people who professionally pick lice for a living. You can work for yourself, join a team, or even start a franchise.

Wages range, but according to this CBC article, at the Greater Vancouver Lice Clinic, you can have your lice problem solved for $60 an hour! My jaw dropped when I read that number; that is a very respectable hourly wage. Lice Squad, a lice removal franchise in Canada, is growing and has a number of franchises across the country. According to this article, Lice Squad founder Dawn Mucci charges $75 per hour to solve your lice issues. I don’t know about you, but I think those numbers are impressive!

It’s no wonder the profession is growing: modern parents are overwhelmed and time-crunched, and lice are becoming resistant to the typical drugstore insecticide crème rinse of yesteryear. The only way to truly get rid of the lice is to comb and pick them out, which is obviously a huge time drain (as I experienced firsthand). And what if you, the parent, get lice, too? It’s impossible to thoroughly check your own head!

patient picker lice removal

I founded The Patient Picker Lice Removal Service earlier this year and charge $30/hr per child and $25/hr per adult for treatments.

The extra $5 per hour for children is compensation for dealing with a potentially squirmy, irritable child. For my hourly rate, I consider a child to be 13 years old or younger. I have been able to treat both adults and children; I’ll be honest, adults are so much easier to deal with! But I know kids are obviously more prone to infestation and are more likely to be my future client base.

Currently, I only offer my time; physically taking the time to stand there and pick out the lice and nits. I am not selling or applying any product and I don’t plan to. In this day in age, with almost every parent wanting chemical-free, organic everything; having them source their own treatment options could potentially save me research, money, and time. Perhaps when I have had some more experience and have seen different treatments at work, I could make recommendations. At this time, I am not really interested in having a product inventory or backing one product over another.

My idea sparked in June and I have only been operating for a couple of months. So far I have made less than $500, but come’on that’s $500 I didn’t have before! Truth be told, I wasn’t actively looking, and it was summer. With most kids out of school there is less of a chance of infestation. (However, maybe next year, I will advertise to the summer camp crowd?!)

Until recently, my services were word of mouth. I now have some marketing in place: a website and Facebook page, and I am listed at a number of daycares and my daughter’s school. Right now my only qualifications are my experience and the fact that I will actually do the dirty job, but I would love to get some formal training and make things more official.

You don’t really need much to get started: lots of sturdy hair clips, a lice comb, a regular comb, metal tweezers, a headlamp or a swing arm lamp. You need to be extremely detail-orientated and have the resolve to not be embarrassed by the fact you are actually picking lice to make money.

This is strictly a means of providing us with some extra income; I don’t necessarily want it to be my full-time job. But as a stay-at-home mom, it’s a great way to bring in some extra cash. My most recent client required two treatments and I pocketed $200. That’s a nice chunk of change!

Then there are the moments when I dream of growing my successful lice business: hiring other stay-at-home mom friends to help them pad their own wallets, throwing lice removal parties with wine (yes, that’s a real thing!), volunteering to help the less fortunate families in my community, and the big dream… drum roll, please…

THE LICE-MOBILE!

A mobile hair salon, but strictly for picking lice!

Sadly, that’s just a dream for now. Ha! My husband, family, friends, and strangers all laugh out loud when I tell them about my lice picking business. But then I tell them if I worked only 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, I could make a healthy $46,000 a year! That’s not something to laugh about at all. That’s some serious cash and you work for yourself.

It’s a dirty job and hard on your eyes, neck, and shoulders, but the possibilities with this field are endless. Lice don’t discriminate, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. There is no shortage of work, and it’s a great profession to keep in your back pocket for when times are lean!

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Jessica is the founder of The Patient Picker Lice Removal Service, and a long-time student of financial independence. She is based out of the Cowichan Valley, BC (Canada), and can be found at PatientPickerLiceRemoval.com

This hustle too gross for you? Check out our full list of over 70 hustles here, or click through to the last few we’ve featured:

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bryan October 26, 2018 at 7:17 am

I applaud your patience! However, as both a pharmacist and one that has never been accused of having too much patience, I say buy a bottle of Nix and a comb…Boom…dead lice. But again, my respect to you. Happy Picking $$$!

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2 J. Money October 26, 2018 at 7:45 am

Does that really work?? We get like 10 cases of lice every year at our schools/pre-schools and dread the day when they finally jump on my little kids’ heads! (And then spread to the other kids!!)

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3 Bryan October 26, 2018 at 8:58 am

Nix is first line OTC treatment. However, you do want to keep checking and combing out dead lice and eggs every 2-3 days. You can repeat the application again after 7 days for any lice that may have survived. You can treat all your kids even if you don’t see them on the others. They’ll get them too. Wash and dry bedding in HOT water, vacuum couches, and check yourselves too. Check the CDC website. Excellent info there including Rx treatments if you have to go nuclear.

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4 The Patient Picker October 26, 2018 at 9:24 am

In my experience, the Nix just slow them down. That is what I originally used with my daughter, but her head was so infested I was still finding live bugs every few days. It was a nightmare!

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5 Bryan October 26, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Ugh. They are tenacious little buggers.

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6 Libby October 26, 2018 at 7:29 am

I found this fascinating and give kudos to Jessica for meeting a need and making money doing it! I will admit that I was literally scratching my head (not figuratively!) by the end of the story.

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7 The Patient Picker October 26, 2018 at 10:52 am

Thanks for your support Libby, there is definitely a need in my community! Unfortunately, the schools here have lice outbreaks constantly.

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8 Joe October 26, 2018 at 9:24 am

Jessica needs to get the van up and going ASAP. Then hire lice picker to do the work. I bet most people would be happy to make $20/hour. You can pocket $10/hour.
We haven’t had many problems with lice at our school. I’d be okay with shaving our son’s head. He already has a buzz cut anyway. Yuk…

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9 J. Money October 26, 2018 at 9:47 am

She really could have a nice little empire going in no time :) Ain’t no one is competing for that business!

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10 The Patient Picker October 26, 2018 at 10:29 am

My husband is so embarrassed by the van idea and says I’m not allowed to park it in the driveway. He’s being a poor sport! But I figure he won’t be embarrassed about our bank account and he can suck it up :)

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11 J. Money October 26, 2018 at 11:32 am

That’s the truth, haha…

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12 Mrs. Money October 26, 2018 at 9:31 am

J $, they make shampoos that supposedly repel lice- look at Target. I can’t remember the name. I’m sure Amazon carries them too. Kudos to Jessica for looking outside the box!

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13 The Patient Picker October 26, 2018 at 10:54 am

A few drops of tea tree oil added to your regular conditioner is a great at home precautionary measure! Hope you stay lice free, Mrs. Money!

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14 Ryan October 26, 2018 at 9:45 am

Aw man! The Lice Mobile! I am dying laughing over here! But I’m not laughing at the money! You go girl! Do you! And laugh all the way to the bank!

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15 The Patient Picker October 26, 2018 at 10:45 am

Thanks for your support Ryan, there are lots of dirty jobs that pay good clean money! I ain’t afraid of no bugs!

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16 Lisa O October 26, 2018 at 10:17 am

Love this! It is amazing how much people will pay when they have a fear of something. We just paid close to $600 for a women to come and check our house for bats. We had 2 bats in a weeks time and it was just too gross for me! I opened my wallet to hear bat free in the attic, cellar and everywhere else she checked. First visit was a walk thru to say, they are not living or breeding in your home. The 2nd visit was some caulking, covered a vent with wire mesh that had fallen off and it was about a 2 hour visit. Spending the money was so worth the piece of mind :)

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17 The Patient Picker October 26, 2018 at 10:49 am

Exactly Lisa, this is who I am counting on to give me a call…families who just can’t handle the task on their own. A friend of mine gets physically upset when her kids get lice, it is so stressful for her. For some people, if they can afford it, paying the money for a service eases their stress and helps them get on with life. Who said you have to do everything yourself?

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18 mobilehomegurl October 26, 2018 at 10:56 am

Yikes!! I had no idea this service even existed. Though it’s definitely much needed. I remember some kids who did have lice in school ended up shaving their heads…even the girls. Interesting business! :)

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19 Donna Freedman October 26, 2018 at 11:28 am

Sounds like a lousy way to make a living.

(See what I did there?)

Seriously, though: My daughter got lice in kindergarten. It was one of the few times I allowed her to sit in front of the TV for a few hours straight — and I was sitting right behind her, going through her thick, curly hair with a fine-toothed comb. Gah.

What a useful side hustle!

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20 Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life October 26, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Hey it’s a job that needs doing and people who have no time, or are physically impaired, or can’t do their own heads, to name just a few, appreciate the help I am sure!

This might be “gross” in the sense that lice are gross but it’d be a lot worse if we didn’t kill the little buggers.

Of course long before we could afford flea treatments for dogs, I was the flea picker to ensure our dogs stayed pest free so I wouldn’t think this is a gross job. It’s weirdly satisfying catching and crunching them.

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21 The Patient Picker October 26, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Thanks for the support Revanche! I see those needs in my community everyday, but I never thought about picking pets! Maybe that’s another avenue…haha!

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22 TMC October 26, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Goon on you! How do you prevent bringing lice home if you are exposed to clients? I guess this is where the term nitpicky came from!

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23 J. Money October 26, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Heyyyy… I wonder if it DID come from that?

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24 The Patient Picker October 26, 2018 at 5:23 pm

As part of being a professional, I am going to invest in a couple scrub tops with my logo that I can take off and wash without exposing my regular clothing. You also just make sure that your own hair is tied up, you don’t touch your own head while working, and you wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after and you should be fine. But the urge to scratch while you are working with lice is SO hard to resist!

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25 Donna October 26, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Here in Southern California the lice have built up a resistance to the OTC treatments. They literally do not work. At all! And our schools no longer send children home for having lice. My friend’s 3 elementary school daughters got lice… over and over and over again! Over a couple year period of time. Each time she had to hire the “Lice Lacy” to come take care of the girls hair and handle all the house and clothing/bedding/toys.

The whole experience has made her paranoid of getting it again. Her girls always have tea tree oil in their hair now!

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26 Paula October 26, 2018 at 3:20 pm

I’ve worked in elementary schools with littlke kids for years and all the constant lice outbreaks. I use the tea tree oild shampoo with citronella in it and I’ve been lice free. I also must say that the stuff makes my hair feel great. Although… I do smell like a citronella candle. Compared to a head of lice, no issue.

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27 The Patient Picker October 26, 2018 at 5:27 pm

That is the problem, the recurring outbreaks! Our schools here are also struggling with constant lice outbreaks and it is exhausting for teachers, parents, and students. I found the OTC treatments just slowed them down but it didn’t wipe them out. After I do some official training, I am hoping to offer professional advice on how to prevent or deal with a lice infestation on your head and in your home. Thanks for your support of the idea!

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28 Frogdancer Jones October 26, 2018 at 6:20 pm

Anyone else’s head itching after reading this???

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29 Tonya October 26, 2018 at 9:48 pm

Teacher here. I teach second grade and only made it 7 weeks into the school year before I got an email from a parent saying their kid had lice and to warn other families to check their kids’ heads. Everyday I drive past a place from home to my school where they do professional lice/nit picking. I’ve heard for $500, they will not only pick heads but they will also come to your home and do all the cleaning required to get rid of lice: wash sheets, vacuum furniture, etc Sounds like a great money maker which I will not be taking part in.

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30 J. Money October 29, 2018 at 6:55 am

I bet they stay in business well for doing a whole package like that! Maybe you can add that to your services too, Jessica? :) And if you don’t have a brick and mortar can even do a lot of these professional services even cheaper and gobble up even more business.

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31 Danielle Ogilve October 27, 2018 at 6:25 am

Got a few goosebumps from reading this but very respectable side hustle! Interesting read

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32 Suzanne October 29, 2018 at 3:36 pm

I learned a ton when my kids picked up lice from daycare. It was all part of the service that came out:
https://www.thelicelifters.com/
For $150 she combed through my kids’ hair to check for lice (she charged $35 for a “head check”) and found a couple on my daughter. She did mine and found a couple on me. Then we slathered our heads in this solution that’s basically rosemary and olive oil. Did that 3 times over a 2 week period, and no lice.
The way that you can pick up lice is hair=to-hair contact. And we didn’t have to trash our stuffed animals or pillowcases. I learned a lot and it’s not a gross as it was before we went through it!

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33 Marsha Dickerson-Jones November 1, 2018 at 8:34 pm

Im not sure about lice. Is that something african defendants get? I’ve never experienced lice ever. Definitely not something you see in the hood. Lol.
If I’m wrong please feel free to further educate

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