I’m all about the side hustle.
For me, it started out as a survival mechanism – hustling to afford basic life expenses in between acting gigs. Later, it became an escape mechanism – a tool to leverage my skill set, grow my earning potential and break free of broke for good. Whether it’s just to scrape by or to build upon existing earnings, sources of additional income are always welcome in my world.
For those looking to beef up their own earnings- and let’s be honest, who isn’t – a quick Google search of “ways to make more money” yields pages upon pages of side hustle suggestions- 10 ways to start earning more, 101 ways to increase your income, 50 ways to make extra money, etc.
Having tried and tested many of these strategies throughout the course of my survival job saga, I’ve found some extra earning propositions to be more worthwhile than others. Whether it’s a warped ratio of effort to income or time to earnings, these are some commonly suggested strategies for padding your pockets that typically aren’t worthwhile.
Whether it’s eBay, craigslist, a yard sale or any other version of “sell your stuff”, this common suggestion for “easy” additional income is, in my experience, a total misnomer.
I know there are people out there selling their stuff and making a killing, but they’re generally not going into it on a whim. Taking photos, pricing, listing, shipping, fees, time and effort eat away at earnings, making one time listings with low profit margins (as is often the case in a “sell your stuff” scenario) a pretty solid waste of time.
It’s a buyers’ market, and unless you have a lot of high value things just lying around, using your limited time and energy to sell your stuff can turn out to be a total wash. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my second most popular post of all time is called, “I Suck at eBay”- thank you search engine traffic.
When It’s Worth It: If you’ve inherited some valuable furniture or artwork or otherwise high value, high profit margin items, selling your stuff can be a good way to make a buck while clearing the space. You may want to consider hiring someone to do the work for you and giving them a percentage of the sales, making it a passive income endeavor and removing the opportunity cost to you.
Sure, you can make an extra $0.50 to $4.00 for 5 to 35 minutes of your time with these simple online tasks, but even low-income earners who presumably place greater value on small cash infusions would be better served pursuing alternative, more impactful earnings and savings strategies.
When It’s Worth It: It’s not. You’re trading your time for money at a horrible exchange rate. You’re better off investing that time in yourself – maybe working to improve your credit score or taking the time to cook at home instead of eating on the go.
I know there are reports of six-figure dog walkers out there, but for the occasional influx of extra income, dog walking is generally not so hot a proposition. Instead of thinking about the $10-20 you’ll get for a half hour of dog time, consider the full time and monetary cost of going to pick up the dogs, walk them and return home. When half an hour is really a two-hour commitment and $5 in transportation costs, $10-20 isn’t such a win.
When It’s Worth It: If additional time and monetary costs don’t come into play, as would be the case when walking the dog of a neighbor for example, go for it. You can get some physical activity while making a couple of extra bucks. The alternative is to go full-out dog walker on specific days or during certain hours- walking multiple dogs and systematizing your side hustle to maximize earnings in such a way that your payout more than covers your costs, time and effort.
This reasoning can also be applied to other extra earning propositions like TaskRabbit-ing and Gigwalk-ing. Make sure the potential for income is greater than total costs.
Even in my uber broke days, it took me all of one mystery shop to learn that it wasn’t a money-making strategy worth repeating. For those not in the know, mystery shopping entails going to a store with a specific set of tasks to complete or observe and submitting a questionnaire upon completion. Compensation can range from a stipend to cover the cost of the shop/experience to a flat payout, typically around $20.
As with dog walking, you should consider your total time and effort exerted, not just the time you spend in-store. Once you factor all that in, the payout often comes out to less than minimum wage. In the case of a stipend, it may come out to nothing – you’re literally just trading your time for a free product or experience, which is fine in some cases, but not when your goal is to generate additional income.
When It’s Worth It: I’d be hard pressed to find a mystery shop that’s really worthwhile, but I imagine there must be some exceptions out there. Watch out for anything that’s too good to be true though. As with many at home income opportunities, there are a lot of scammers in the mystery shopping world, hoping to cash in on your hopes of easy, extra income.
Writing a book is an often revered passive income strategy, but for the vast majority of people, authoring a personal opus is not going to be a major money maker. Weighing the price of how much I get paid to write five hundred words vs. how much I’ve made off of my nearly 200 page book, is a really quick way to put things in perspective.
When It’s Worth It: That said, I have no regrets on the book-front – not because I’ve generated a ton of revenue from my book, but because of the platform it’s provided me. As a published author I’m now positioned as an expert in my field and poised to take advantage of additional income opportunities that pay some respectable bucks – speaking and writing being my top two revenue powerhouses.
If you’re considering authoring a book of your own, think bigger picture. If the end goal is to make money, a book might not be the best tool. If it’s to build a larger business however, then yes, a book can become the foundation for multiple new earnings platforms.