We make a third monthly salary of £2,000 with our side hustle – it started with mowing a lawn | The Sun

We make a third monthly salary of £2,000 with our side hustle – it started with mowing a lawn | The Sun

WHEN Jonny Cusden was asked to mow a neighbour’s lawn for a few quid in 2017, he never imagined it would turn into a thriving family business.

Today, the side hustle earns Jonny, 36, and his wife Emma, 34, more money than either of their salaries as a firefighter and in PR. 


It began as Jonny’s dad, who used to do landscaping, passed on a job mowing laws to the couple once he was in his 70s.

It involved two hours of work every week for £70 a month. 

“We’d just had our first baby, so it was a nice bit of extra cash to pay for a day out,” Emma told The Sun. 

“The same family then asked him to make them a compost bin, and then their son asked him to build a summer house. 

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“It just started to spread through word of mouth and local Facebook community boards. 

“It was never really our intention to have a business on the side.”

Today, the West Sussex-based family has grown to include three young children – Freddy, five, Sailor, two, and Jude, five months. 

The couple has also since taken on jobs varying from large-scale landscaping to bathroom renovations to converting a utility room, and it's paying off.

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“As a firefighter, Jonny only takes home about £1,750 a month after tax,” Emma said.

“But we can earn more than £2,000 a month from the business.”

Before firefighting, Jonny was a builder and already had the skills and equipment for the home and garden jobs that started coming his way, so the Cusdens didn’t incur start-up costs to get their side hustle up and running. 

They’ve slowly upgraded the tools over the five years they’ve been going – helped by the fact Emma’s parents live in Canada where the exchange rate makes it easier to buy good tools. 

She said: “A strimmer that was £300 here is $150 over there. 

“They’ll buy him tools for his birthday and Carhartt workwear, so he’s the smartest builder around.”

Emma, 34, works in healthcare PR and marketing as her day job and does all the admin for what has now become Cusden & Son, their home and garden maintenance business, while Jonny, 36, works on the jobs around his firefighting career. 

'Jonny will always be a firefighter first'

It’s hard work fitting it all in around the day jobs – particularly as Emma and Jonny have a hectic family life.

“In the fire service, they do shift work so he gets a fair amount of time off and he is still good about making sure that we have weekends as a family,”Emma said. 


The way the shift patterns work means often Jonny will have six days away from work, which incorporates his annual leave, and he devotes this time to the family business.

The family don’t employ anyone else, and want to keep it in the family, though Jonny does sometimes get the help of a labourer when needed. 

“We stay away from big builds like extensions because we don't have capacity to do them,” Emma said.

“It’s a small business and he wants to keep it that way.”

“Jonny is a firefighter first. That's what he loves to do, that is his career and the other stuff is nice to have but if it got in the way of his firefighting, we would stop it instantly.”

Jonny actually treats the home and gardening work as downtime for himself. 

Emma said: “There’s a lot of adrenaline involved in being a fireman and then he comes home and it’s really busy and loud so, doing this, he gets to have time on his own. 

“He listens to podcasts, and he’s really into the NFL so he gets to catch up with that and then when he comes home, he’s really fulfilled.” 

And while Emma and Jonny’s day jobs pay the bills, the money from Cusden & Son means the family are able to take holidays and the kids can do activities like football, karate and swimming. 

“This is entirely our fun money,” said Emma.

'We thought we'd lose it all during Covid'

It’s not all been plain sailing, however – their biggest hurdle came when lockdown hit. 

“We thought we were going to lose everything during the pandemic because my business was so new that I wasn't covered by any furlough. 

“I also had a client who did a runner on a big bill and I was taking them to court while I was five months pregnant, so it was really frightening,” Emma said. 

“We didn’t know how we were going to make ends meet and we thought the side business would close down because no one would be able to afford to do work. 

“But, in the end, the building trade thrived and a lot of people did work on their gardens. 

“I love gardening, so we started offering a vegetable starter pack. 

“We built raised beds for people and provided them with all the starter plants and seeds, which worked really well. 

“We’d put together jungle gyms for people’s gardens too. 

“And once they lightened up on the rules, we did redecorating and handyman services.”

Giving money to charity

Realising just how close they could have been to relying on services like food banks, the Culsdens now donate a portion of their revenue to their local food bank. 

Emma said: “Every day of work that we do, we give £5 to the local food bank, and another £5 goes to Girl Pride Africa.

“It supports girls under the age of 22, some as young as 13, who are pregnant or young mums, some of whom have run away from child marriages.”

Emma’s best advice for anyone looking to make a living from a side hustle is to give it your all and be true to who you are. 

She said: “We are a family, we love spending time with one another, we love gardening and being outdoors, and our business is a reflection of this. 

“We offer honest services which help families enjoy their homes and gardens, and we give back to our community at the same time.” 

She said it’s also important to be realistic about how much hard work it can be.

Emma added: "There will be late nights working on estimates or emails when your children have gone to bed, there will be early mornings trying to juggle it all and there will be stressful moments, but remember what your end goal is.

“We find it rewarding watching our children being able to do things like riding lessons, swimming and karate. 

“We have amazing holidays together – Disney is just around the corner for us – and we are really grateful for what we have, but the trade off is there are some nights where we have to do admin, and there are some weeks where the laundry pile stacks up because we simply cannot do it all. 

"It is just about taking the time to remember what you are working towards and having faith that the hard work will pay off.”

Tax rules for side hustles

Running a side hustle is similar to running a small business, so get clear on your rights.

If you earn more than £1,000 extra a year, you’ll need to pay tax on your earnings. 

You can operate as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company.

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The rate of tax you pay will depend on whether your side hustle is a limited company or not.

If you are trading through another platform, such as Amazon, eBay or Depop, ensure you fully understand the legal terms and policies.

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