If you’ve decided that working as a full-time grave digger and burial grounds custodian isn’t for you but you’ve got the background and stamina for the work, you might want to go freelance, setting yourself up as a skilled contractor who can be called upon by a variety of burial sites as the need arises. You’ll need to establish a business model for yourself, but it won’t take much time or money to do so if you consider a few suggestions.
Write a business plan. List your credentials and experience. Figure out whether you're financially able to keep yourself afloat until you build a client base. Solicit recommendations attesting to your work ethic and skills from former bosses. Meet with an insurance broker to learn what it will cost to get the type of policies that will insure you against injury, death and disability issues while operating your own grave digging business.
Develop a flier or a brochure that touts your skills and talents. Use bullet points to make relevant experience stand out--supervised grave diggers; researched earth-moving equipment to meet budgetary limitations. Mention membership in professional groups or unions. List types of equipment you’re able to operate and mention safety classes or training that sets you apart from other gravediggers.
Set a per-hour fee for your services that mirrors the going rate in your area. Estimate one hour to dig a conventional grave and several hours for a particularly large excavation, making sure to include mention of soil condition and barriers--rock, tree roots, and others--that could extend your base quote.
Write your own employment contract or have one drafted by a legal service that stipulates the conditions under which you’ll assume responsibility for working at cemeteries that hire your services. Always sign the contract after getting sign-off by a cemetery official and give your temporary employer a copy.
Invest in the protective clothing and sanitary gear you’ll need to stay comfortable and protected in a variety of weather conditions. Acquire tools that can be brought to a job if, for one reason or another, none are available to you at a job site. Expect to be asked to do tasks other than actual grave digging to help with burial ground maintenance and upkeep.
Don a business suit and visit every cemetery in your area. Introduce yourself and your services. Talk with cemetery personnel about your skills and experiences and understanding of local and regional burial law. Expand upon any experience you’ve had using backhoes, mini-excavators and other commercial equipment you’d be asked to operate while on duty. Offer site managers and officials your business card and a brochure or flier before you leave. Follow up with phone calls to remind these contacts of your services.
Learn about religious burial rites that can affect the way your duties are done to show sensitivity and understanding on the job. Talk with experts or use the Internet to find information about the burial traditions of people who have migrated to your community so you will be seen as knowledgeable about burial rituals when you land future jobs.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.