Earn Money

The Art of the Side Hustle: Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time

I’m a natural-born hustler. I pretty much came out of the womb scheming ways to make extra money, and not a whole lot has changed in the last 29 years. I have a regular full-time job working in the senior living industry, and I make decent money with that. I also work at a coffee stand a few days a month on the weekends (I only fill in when someone needs a day off), and I just recently started working as an usher at Cirque du Soleil while they’re in town for 7 weeks. On top of all that, I had an appointment this morning to sign paperwork for another part-time job that I’ll be working during the month of June. I’ll be staying up all night on my weekends, feeding and hydrating high school seniors during their all-night graduation parties.

My friends and family all think I’m crazy, but the truth is that I really do think of side hustling as my hobby, and I really do enjoy it! More than the enjoyment of experiencing new things and meeting new people though, I enjoy the extra money and the freedom that gives me. I enjoy traveling, and all of this extra money usually goes right into my vacation checking account. I have never paid anything other than cash for a vacation, and that’s something to be proud of. Plus, sunbathing by the pool with a mai tai in hand is much more relaxing without the dark cloud of debt looming overhead.

I realize that working three jobs isn’t plausible or enjoyable for most people, but there’s still plenty of side hustles you can do in your spare time to create a little more cash flow.

Run away and join the circus

OK, I know that sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. I mentioned that I’m working as an usher at Cirque du Soleil for 7 weeks while they’re in town. It honestly sucks working from 7pm-11pm three night a week when I have to get up at 6:30 in the morning and work until 6 at night, but it’s only for 7 weeks! Plus, I LOVE Cirque du Soleil! I fell in love with Cirque du Soleil several years ago after watching a show in Vegas. I make it a point to see another show every time I go back. I’m so excited to be able to watch it day after day…and get paid to watch it! If the circus isn’t your thing, find another type of show or event that you love, and figure out a way to get a job working there. Love baseball? Get a job selling beer and hot dogs at the stadium. Love the ballet? Work as an usher at your local ballet venue. If you’re looking for something even shorter-term than that, major cities constantly have trade shows, seminars, and other one or two day events. Find one relating to a topic you enjoy, and get a job working the registration table.

Find a part time job in the evenings or on the weekends

If you’re looking for consistent and stable extra income, you can deliver pizzas after work or mix a few drinks on the weekends. You could drive for Uber or Lyft in your spare time. I used to know a woman that worked at Starbucks every weekday morning from 4am to 8am, then went to her office job. The opportunities are endless

If you’re worried about getting burnt out, try to find something seasonal or per diem. The coffee stand gig I work is per diem, and it works great because I have the flexibility of saying either yes or no when they call. As for seasonal jobs, they’re everywhere if you actually look for them. There are more than enough retail jobs available from Thanksgiving thru Christmas, most will work around your regular work schedule. Work at a costume store during the month of October. Sell elephant ears at the county fair or pick berries at a farm during the Summer. Every season has its own unique seasonal jobs to choose from.

Participate in market research

Many companies want to know why people do what they do or think what they think so that they can figure out how to get you to buy their product or use their service. Some companies have their own employees that conduct this research, and many hire independent market research firms to gain this information for them. Either way, participants can earn a nice chunk of change just for sharing their opinions.

I’ve participated in more market research studies than I can remember. I’ve tested apps, played video games, and given feedback on website designs. I’ve taste-tested lunch meats, almond milk, and cereal. I’ve rated songs from 0-100, listened to morning radio show segments, and talked about my favorite books. I’ve also listened to actual court cases, planned vacations, and did some virtual reality driving. Most studies range from 1-2 hours and pay $50-$200 for that time. Many are offered in the evenings so you don’t have to miss any work, and some will actually feed you dinner or lunch.

Don’t forget about the flip side of market research

What I mean by this is there are plenty of opportunities to be the person administering the market research, so to speak. For example, my mom and brother go to a local movie theater every Friday night and ask movie-goers if they have heard of or plan on seeing any upcoming movies. They get paid $3 for every survey they fill out, plus $10 bonuses for every 10, and they average 40-45 surveys for the night. Product demonstrators could also be classified as market research (although technically it’s advertising). You can work for companies that send you to different stores to give out samples of all types of products, or you can work for a particular store. Costco, Whole Foods, and many pet stores have their own in-house demonstrators. Many wine and beer distributors also employ demonstrators to conduct tastings in different stores.

Do some housesitting or pet sitting

Pet sitting was my go-to side hustle in middle school and high school. I had a neighbor with three cats that worked long hours, and I would stop by every day on my way home from the bus stop to feed the cats and play with them. I think I made something like $20 a week, but that was a lot of money to a 12 year old! When I was older I got into housesitting. I was more excited about getting to live alone for a week or two, since I lived with my parents until I was 24, but I also made $100 a week. Plus, one couple in particular would buy me a huge bottle of Grey Goose and tell me I wasn’t allowed to come back if it wasn’t gone by the time they got home, and I thought that was a nice perk.

Housesitting doesn’t make sense for me anymore, since I live alone and have two cats that need me. But my brother’s girlfriend, who doesn’t have any pets of her own, housesits constantly and charges $40 per day. Not a bad deal for something that could essentially be considered a stay-cation.

Babysitting

I’ll be honest, this was never my favorite job. I’m not someone that’s ever spent much time around kids, so they kind of make me uncomfortable. But if that’s not the case for you, then more power to you. You can go the traditional route and let friends and neighbors know, but they’re more likely to employee a teenager they know. However, there are plenty of websites out there that connect you with parents eager for a night out that want the comfort and security of knowing they’re hiring someone with credentials that have passed an extensive background check.

Side hustling opportunities are endless. For me, the key is finding something that will work around my schedule that I don’t have to commit to for longer than a few weeks (this prevents me from getting too burnt out). I’ve found several side hustles just from word of mouth, talking to friends , coworkers, and even my hair stylist. The majority I find on Craigslist, though. I know there are a lot of people out there that think Craigslist is full of scams and people trying to lure you to their homes so they can chop you up and keep you in their freezer, but I’ve never had any problems (knock on wood). I check the “etc. jobs” and the “gigs” sections every day, and they are absolute gold mines for me. I will offer this Craigslist disclaimer to you, though: If anything just doesn’t sound right or makes you feel even remotely uncomfortable, please listen to your intuition and don’t do it! With that said, happy hustling!