Side Gigs : A Beginner’s Guide

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The global coronavirus pandemic forced workers across all industries to reevaluate how they earn a living. A large number of workers are now expanding beyond their full-time jobs and working side gigs to make ends’ meet or get ahead in life.

As it turns out, the gig economy is nothing new. The work-for-yourself trend has been accelerating for several years, and it’s only getting more popular with each passing day.

Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to find lucrative side hustles. Keep reading how you can get a second job (or third job!) to generate some side income in your spare time.

What is a Side Gig?

As the name suggests, a side gig or side hustle is a strategy for producing extra income in addition to having a full-time job.

A side gig can be whatever you need it to be. You can use a side gig to generate passive income without working or you can have an active gig that produces money whenever you put the time and effort in (e.g., a freelance writer, a blogger, or a marketer).

Since everyone is different, the side hustle that you will end up enjoying depends on several different factors.

Free Time

As you get older, you tend to have less time and energy. When you’re in your early 20s and 30s, you may have a lot of free time and plenty of energy to burn in addition to your full-time job.

But, as you age, different challenges arise. For example, you may get married and have kids or develop different hobbies. Or you may find that you simply lack the energy that you had in your youth.

As such, workers should prioritize their free time during their prime earning years. Free time is extremely valuable and maximizing it could mean the difference between retiring at 40 or 50—or retiring at 75.

That’s not to say that you should spend all of your time working. Just ask yourself if you could be doing more to build a strong financial future for yourself.

Availability

Focus on your general availability. For example, if you work in a certain industry like sales or marketing, you may be in a situation where you are exclusive to doing certain types of work for a specific company. This may limit the types of side hustles that you are capable of doing. You can’t write copy for a competitor, after all.

That said, there are always different ways of making extra money apart from your full-time job. Spend some time analyzing your situation, review your contract, and consider how you may be able to bring in some more money on a weekly basis.

Skill

Chances are you have a special skill. For example, maybe you are a great cook or are incredible with animals or kids. Or maybe you know a considerable amount about marketing or sports.

Whatever the case may be, spend some time brainstorming and outlining your skill set and look for ways to maximize what comes naturally to you. The trick is to start making money doing what you love. That way, it won’t feel like work.

Don’t think you have any special skills? Spend time learning about which future skills will help you succeed.

Determination

There’s no getting around it: Having a side job can take a lot of determination. After all, a full-time job can take a lot out of you over the course of a week or month. You need to build a strong work ethic and focus on powering through times when you have limited energy.

That said, you may want to think about how much time and energy you are devoting to your full-time job in exchange for what you get back. Outline your goals and ask whether you want to continue working for someone else for the rest of your career or whether you want to try and achieve true financial independence.

Having a side gig may take a lot of effort. But, ultimately, it will involve taking your financial situation into your own hands—which can be very empowering.

In fact, having a side gig can change your entire outlook on your career. You’ll never think about time and money the same way ever again.

The Benefits of a Side Gig

There are many reasons why it makes sense to leverage a side hustle, which we’ll briefly explore next.

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Pay off Debt Faster

One of the hardest parts about falling into debt while working a full-time job is trying to pay it back on a limited income. If you’re bringing in a fixed amount every week, paying off debt can result in lifestyle changes like buying less food, limiting trips out of the house, and canceling entertainment subscriptions like Netflix — none of which are pleasant.

In contrast, starting a side hustle gives you the flexibility to pay off debt without impacting your overall quality of life. Of course, you should still consider making some lifestyle changes to minimize how much debt you are carrying. Overall, you’ll have to figure out the balance of money-making and cost-cutting that works best for you.

Save for Retirement

Another benefit to having a side gig is that you can start doing more to plan for retirement. This is a great option for people who don’t have a 401k and aren’t getting an employer match — or those who are having trouble maximizing individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Roth IRAs.

The truth is that you can always do more to save for retirement. Even if you max out an IRA, you could always put money into another tax-sheltered account so that it can grow over time. The more that you put in during your working days, the more comfortable you’ll be when you approach your golden years — and there’s no better feeling in the world than being able to take care of yourself.

Build an Emergency Fund

Many people learned the hard way during the pandemic that it’s critical to have an emergency fund. A crisis can come when you least expect it, reducing or even eliminating your ability to bring in income. This can be extremely stressful—especially if you have a family to look after.

The best way to protect yourself is to stockpile your savings in an emergency fund and focus on growing it as steadily as you can. Most financial experts agree that you need to have at least six months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund to cover things like rent, food, utilities, healthcare, and debt.

TIP: Maximize your emergency fund’s returns by using a high-yield savings account.

Shop around and look for a place to park your money in a location that offers maximum flexibility and a strong return on your investment. One of the best places to put money aside into an emergency fund is a high-yield savings account (HYSA), which is a savings account that offers a higher interest rate than what you’ll find at a traditional bank. In addition to benefitting from a stronger ROI, HYSAs also offer greater flexibility to access your money when you need it.

Just keep in mind that HYSAs have a limited number of transactions allowed for each monthly cycle. In addition, HYSAs won’t offer debit card services. For these reasons, most people use HYSAs in conjunction with traditional checking and savings accounts.

Diversify Your Income

For some people, it’s not uncommon to have four, five, or even six sources of income. This may seem ridiculous. But if you start slow and stick with it, you’ll find that working side gigs can be addictive.

With each side gig that you start, your sense of personal security and well-being improves — especially when it comes to your full-time job. Having an extra cash flow lets you worry less about losing your full-time job — and it even gives you more confidence to do things like ask for raises (which you should be doing regularly) and taking professional risks.

Take my word for it: Side gigs can open up a world of possibilities. How do you think I got here?

Types of Side Gigs to Consider

Now that you have a general understanding of what a side gig is and why it’s important, here are some ideas that you can explore in your free time.

Drive or Deliver for Money

Driving for a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft is something that you can explore. It requires virtually no training, and you don’t even have to interview to get started. All you need to have is a decent car, a desire to make money, and general people skills, and you can start making money in a way that is flexible and convenient.

If you’re uncomfortable driving strangers around town, consider making deliveries for services like UberEats, Postmates, and DoorDash. This is a great option to consider if you live in a heavily populated area with a lot of dining options. It’s even better if you like driving.

Learn More: Here’s our list of best delivery app jobs.

Take Surveys

Chances are you’re thinking that these ideas sound great. But you might be wondering about where you’ll find the time to take on any more work.

It turns out you can even make money in your free time when you’re sitting on your couch. If you’re interested in that, look into taking surveys on sites like Swagbucks and Survey Junkie. Survey sites can pay you in cash and legitimate rewards from retailers like Amazon and Walmart. There are a lot of scams to watch out for, but taking surveys can be a great way to supplement your income and have fun in the process.

In addition to taking surveys, some sites can even pay you to do things like watch on-demand videos or shop at your favorite stores. It’s not a terrible way to make a few bucks.

Learn More: Here’s our list of the best survey apps.

Work as a Virtual Assistant

There is high demand for administrative assistants who are skilled at typing, scheduling meetings, keeping track of files, and processing paperwork. People with these skills can bring in decent income on the side working as virtual assistants.

It’s not unheard of for virtual assistants to earn $2,000+ per month, depending on their specialty and available time.

Working as a virtual assistant is something that you could do as a part-time job. This is another great way to meet people and form strong business connections. Plenty of famous people started out as office assistants—like Joan Rivers and J.K. Rowling.

Learn More: Here’s our full article on how to become a virtual assistant.

Walk Dogs

Maybe you are better at working with animals than kids. If so, consider dog walking or working as a pet sitter. You’ll get to hang out with animals and earn a steady cash flow.

One of the best parts about working as a dog walker or pet sitter is the lifestyle that comes with it — especially during overnight stays. You can earn under-the-table money for spending time with animals, going for walks through trails and parks, and playing fetch.

And just like babysitting, if you do a good job your reputation and client base can grow — especially if you are available during the working week or on nights and weekends. This can lead to consistent work and higher-paying gigs. As an added bonus, walking dogs is a great way to meet people and make more connections.

Learn More: Best Petsitting Jobs for 2021

Sell Stuff Online

Plenty of people work lucrative side gigs selling items on e-commerce sites like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. There are selling opportunities for all types of sellers, ranging from people who own books to those who can create crafty items like hats and jewelry.

Selling items online is great because you don’t have to manage a website to do it. Instead, you can leverage pre-existing marketplaces — saving you a tremendous amount of work.

It’s also a great way to get rid of old stuff that you never use. One of my favorite websites for this is Decluttr which accepts items like old phones, CDs, DVDS, games, books, tablets, and a whole lot more.

Manage Social Media

If you’re savvy with social media and computers, consider helping businesses manage their social media accounts.

Plenty of small businesses are looking for help growing their social presence. You can get paid to post on various social sites, manage connections, and engage with other customers and accounts. It can be a fun way to make money.

There are tons of postings for these types of positions on sites like FlexJobs. This could be a great opportunity if you understand social media and how it works.

Freelance

If you are a creative type, you should take a hard look at whether you are being adequately compensated for your talents. All too often, creative professionals get complacent when they are salaried and fail to understand how much they could actually be making freelancing.

Look into sites like Fiverr and Upwork, or go on LinkedIn and start looking for companies seeking freelance writing, design, video, and audio professionals. Who knows? You can launch a healthy side gig that just may turn into a lucrative full-time business of your own. Freelancers can make a lot of money while maintaining the flexibility needed to work at their own pace.

Just remember to review any agreement that you have with your current employer to avoid any potential complications. Companies can get territorial about who they hire or share information with. In fact, depending on your line of work, you may want to consult with a lawyer to protect yourself before starting a side gig as a freelance professional to protect yourself and avoid potential problems.

Learn More: Check out our guide on how to become a freelance writer.

Rent Out Your House

If you own your own house and you have room to spare, consider making your home available to travelers on a site like Airbnb.

Making your house available on Airbnb is an excellent way to earn passive income while treating your house like a bed and breakfast — especially if you live near a big city or a popular destination like a ski mountain or beach. Vacationers are always looking for cheap rents at places that they can stay in for a few days at a time.

Plus, as a host on Airbnb, you can offer as many or as few amenities as you wish. You can take a hands-off approach (and just worry about cleaning—or paying someone to clean for you) or you could offer more of a hands-on experience for your guests.

Leveraging Airbnb consistently can expose you to many fun and interesting people. You can use the money to pay down your mortgage—or to pay for utilities or groceries. It’s a convenient and flexible way to earn money on your own terms.

Learn More: A real-life case study on how to make money with Airbnb.

Sell Stock Photos

Another way to make money without much effort is to sell stock photos. If you have a camera and an eye for design, you can spend a day walking around your local city and taking artsy images of objects like buildings, park benches, and light fixtures.

Once you’ve snapped a bunch, take the best ones and apply to sell them on an image sharing site. If your images are good, companies can download your photos and pay you royalties each time they use your work.

Learn More: Selling stock photos is one way, but there are tons of ways to make money with photography.

Become a Social Media Influencer

If you’re good with social media and have a decent following, consider working as an online influencer helping brands and retailers promote products and services. You can get paid to try different products, explain how things work, and offer reviews.

Just keep in mind that being an influencer isn’t quite as easy as it looks. It can require a significant ongoing effort to come up with high-quality content that looks professional and is engaging.

Before you start working as an influencer and working with brands, consider drafting a business strategy and a content calendar to plan ahead. This makes the process infinitely easier.

Complete Tasks for Others

If you’re handy with a wrench, hammer, or paintbrush, or if you’re great at buying groceries, you may want to do jobs for hire on sites like TaskRabbit or Craigslist.

This is a part-time job that you can easily take on in addition to working a 9-5.

Work as a Babysitter

If you’re good with kids, you may want to consider helping your friends, family members, and community members who are working full-time and need a break.

Working as a babysitter is a great way to make under-the-table cash. In addition, you can build up a steady clientele if you prove to be reliable. Parents are always looking for trusted contacts to help with childcare.

Tips for Side Working Gigs

Before you rush off and start working a side gig, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you have a safe, enjoyable, and profitable experience.

Time Management is Key

Once you start getting a taste of the good life working side gigs and the money starts rolling in, you may be tempted to keep working more. Make sure that you go slowly at first so that you don’t run into any scheduling conflicts. Time management is key to success when working one or more side hustles.

Keep Careful Track of Finances

Another issue that workers face when managing multiple gigs is staying on top of payments. Working a side hustle isn’t always as easy as working full-time or part-time for a company. Expect to keep invoices and submit them at regular intervals to keep payments from going missing. The last thing you want to do is complete work without compensation due to an administrative error.

In addition, keep in mind that payment structure and frequency can vary depending on what you’re doing. Not all employers are diligent about paying people on time. You may have to be aggressive about tracking payments down from time to time.

Talk to a Financial Advisor About Taxes

Not all employers take taxes out of your paycheck, putting the responsibility on you to complete this critical task. If you work as a contractor, talk to a financial advisor about handling taxes to avoid running into trouble with Uncle Sam.

You can also check out our Freelance Tax Guide.

FAQ

Is it legal to have a side gig and work full-time?

Generally speaking, most side gigs are legal. However, it can get complicated when trying to determine whether your side hustle interferes with your full-time job.

If you signed an exclusive contract to work for a company—or your organization is tight about protecting trade secrets or private information—you may want to consult with a legal professional before starting. Rushing into a full-time gig could have dangerous repercussions if you’re not careful.

How can I avoid burnout when working side gigs?

Burnout is a reality that all professionals who work side gigs have to manage. It can be very easy to take on too much work and wind up getting into a situation where you are left feeling depleted or depressed about having to do it. This can be difficult—especially when other people are counting on you to complete certain projects.

To avoid burnout, diversify your side work. For example, if you work full-time in an office, consider working for a restaurant as a bartender at night. Bartending can be fun, and you can make a lot of money. Most importantly, it’s something different than pounding a keyboard all day.

At the same time, taking on another type of work can teach you valuable lessons that you can apply to your full-time gig. Working as a bartender can help you refine your social skills and give you more confidence to approach coworkers and customers, for example

Can you get rich working a side gig?

You absolutely can get rich working a side gig if you choose the right investment strategies.

Money management is critical for success when working a side gig. It’s up to you to put money aside for growth in places like index funds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and individual stocks. In addition, you’ll want to set money aside to pay taxes and to grow in a savings account.

The more money you put aside when you’re young, the more you are going to have waiting for you in retirement. If you blow all of your money on fancy items like cars, expensive dinners, and designer clothes, you will wind up spinning your tires with little to show for all your hard work.

Above all else, remember that your free time is extremely valuable. Do yourself a favor and invest wisely to maximize your income.

One of the best financial tips to consider is to focus on growing each dollar. If you make $20 sweeping someone’s floor, try to turn it into $100 over the years.

What is passive income?

In some cases, you can make an upfront investment and continue to receive payment on an ongoing basis. The investment can be financial (like investing in the stock market) or it can be in the form of time.

For example, selling an image online and collecting royalties can be considered passive income. Passive income is great because it can provide monthly payments while requiring little to no ongoing labor on your part.

The Bottom Line

If you want to pad your bank account, consider signing up for a second, third, or even a fourth job. This could be one of the best personal finance decisions you will ever make. You can make money on the side while learning valuable skills that you can use to enhance your personal and professional life. And you might well meet some awesome people (or pets) along the way, too.

One of the hardest things to learn in life is that you alone are responsible for your professional growth and development. If you want to make more money, find a way to start making more money. It’s that simple, and you have the power to do it.

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