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In the past few years, it seems like the phrase “side hustle” has gone from slang used by young entrepreneurs to a widely accepted concept. The definition is simple: your “side hustle” is whatever work you do on top of your regular job in order to get ahead and pay off debt (holiday gift debt included).
While a side hustle can help you make money all year long, it can be especially useful during the holiday season. With expenses for travel, decorating, and gift giving adding up, it can be comforting to know that you have some extra cash coming in.
For those interested in finding a side hustle and boosting their income to take the edge off the holiday season, we rounded up six side hustles that are both relatively lucrative and easy to do.
1. Complete micro jobs in your spare time
The Internet has made it incredibly easy to find work of all kinds, an especially useful feature when you’re trying to avoid holiday gift debt. While you’ve probably browsed job boards such as Monster or Indeed in an attempt to plan your next career move. What you might not know is that there are plenty of earning opportunities on the Internet past just finding your next 9-to-5, such as micro-jobs.
Micro jobs are exactly what they sound like: small, simple jobs that are easy to complete, usually from the comfort of your own living room. Usually, they’re one-time arrangements that involve fulfilling a single task with a large amount of flexibility and no commitment to do any future work. You won’t make much from a single micro job, but over time, you can bank a little extra pocket change without leaving your home.
It’s worth noting that you won’t get rich doing micro-jobs. While some micro job websites might list work that pays out $40 to $50 per task, most of your run-of-the-mill micro job providers pay less than $1 per task. Some may also only pay out in the form of gift cards or other virtual currency that has limited usefulness. The time you’d have to invest to make any significant money from micro jobs is probably better spent elsewhere.
In other words, micro jobs are low impact, low reward. They work well if you don’t have a lot of energy to put toward your side hustle. Your best-case scenario with a micro job is popping open your laptop when you’re watching TV and completing tasks while you’re relaxing to earn a few extra bucks.
Examples of micro jobs
Your stereotypical micro job is a task that is relatively simple but requires some amount of human intelligence to do right.
Consumer research surveys, for example, might be considered a micro job. Your standard survey might involve watching a few commercials and answering questions about them. It’s not difficult but it’s almost impossible to automate, so companies pay people small amounts of money in order to get the job done. Swagbucks is a popular destination for these types of surveys.
Audio transcription and data entry jobs are also relatively common. Past knowing how to type quickly, these types of jobs don’t require specialized skills and companies can hire them out to micro workers cost-effectively at a large scale. Rev offers these types of transcription jobs with no experience necessary, as long as you pass a skills test.
Website and usability testing jobs are on the rise as well. Digital marketers need real user data in order to make decisions, so they’ll list jobs on sites such as StartUpLift asking workers to complete a series of tasks and offer feedback on websites and apps. These opportunities may be a little bit more time intensive than other micro jobs, but they often pay between $5 and $10 per assignment.
2. Find a freelance gig online
Unlike micro jobs, online freelance jobs are a bit more formal and in-depth. They’re also more lucrative. That’s because online freelance work is usually skilled labor. If you already have some kind of skill, or you’re willing to put in the work to develop one, then you can probably find someone to hire you as a freelancer.
Payment for online freelance jobs varies wildly depending on the employer and the type of work involved. As you gain experience, however, you’ll be able to command higher rates and start to build a reputation as a reliable worker that people want to hire.
Types of online freelance work
The Internet is a big place, and if you look hard enough, you can probably find someone hiring for just about any type of job you can think of. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the types of work that you can probably handle with minimal upfront training. This includes writing and editing, marketing, and basic graphic design.
Writing and editing jobs are plentiful as more brands embrace content-driven digital marketing. There has never been more demand for online content of all forms than right now. Entry-level gigs might include writing blog posts for company websites, editing copy for print materials, or helping people out with resumes and cover letters. Once you get some experience, you might find yourself writing longer, more in-depth pieces or even helping people write and edit books for publication.
Many other types of freelance jobs exist, which we can’t cover in full here. If you’re curious, browse a few freelance listings sites such as Upwork or Fiverr, or check the hiring section of Craigslist to see just how much variety exists.
3. Start a blog and monetize it
You’ve probably heard stories of people starting personal blogs to talk their passions and they somehow become millionaires in the process. To be honest, that likely won’t happen to you. If there was ever a gold rush for bloggers, it’s over. The sheer amount of websites that already exist combined with rapidly changing relationships between publishers, audiences, and distribution networks make it very unlikely that you’ll get rich blogging.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make money with a blog. Done correctly, starting a blog can help you create income each month in a creative and enjoyable way. A moderately successful blog can drive a few hundred to a few thousand dollars of income each month. That type of money won’t make you rich, but it could definitely change your life and help you to avoid racking up holiday gift debt.
How to monetize a blog
We won’t go in depth on how to start a blog here, as plenty of guides exist that cover the topic much more expertly than we ever could. The going advice is this: choose a topic that you’re interested in, write about that topic in a way that adds value to your readers’ lives, and hustle to get that content in front of the right people.
More importantly, we’ll briefly cover the ways that people monetize their blogs and you can then determine if blogging might actually be for you.
Many bloggers make money through affiliate marketing. With affiliate marketing, you link out to a product from your website. When someone clicks your link and purchases that product, you get a portion of the sale. For example, say you start a blog reviewing different wine-of-the-month clubs. If someone clicks the link in your review to a particular wine club and signs up, you’ll get a small percentage of the subscription fee.
While this kind of arrangement can potentially lend itself to deception, the best affiliate marketers (such as The Wirecutter, recently acquired by the New York Times) are transparent about their arrangement with their affiliates and consistently provide reliable content to their readers.
Bloggers also make money simply by selling ad space on their sites. Ads come in many different shapes and sizes. While you might see traditional banner ads on some sites, other ads might take the form of paid reviews, sponsored posts, and other more innovative formats.
The most lucrative way to monetize your blog is to use it to “upsell” readers on some other product or service.
Coaching is a popular example of an upsell. Say you’re a mom and you start a blog talking about how you raised three children on an all-vegan diet from birth through adolescence. A reader might find one of your posts when looking for advice on how to convince her teen son to try tofu and discover that your perspective really appeals to her. It might appeal to her so much that she’s willing to pay you $200 for an hour-long Skype call where she picks your brain about how to transition her family to veganism. All of a sudden, you’ve opened up a brand new revenue stream.
Upsells work best for well-established bloggers, so you probably won’t be able to make much off them to start. Still, it’s important to know what kind of work you might be building toward with your blog.
Keep in mind that it can take awhile for any significant amount of money to come in through your blog. If you’re looking for a quick buck, blogging probably isn’t right for you. If you’re looking for a creative and potentially lucrative side hustle, however, you might be a blogger in the making.
4. Get a traditional second job
So far, we’ve covered ways to use the Internet to find your side hustle. Finding a side hustle in the real world works just as well, but it likely won’t be as flexible.
A good second job needs to work around your existing schedule. If you work during the day already, then you’re limited to jobs with evening hours.
For this reason, bartending is often a popular side job, especially for the younger crowd. Bartenders tend to work at night, and bartending itself sounds potentially glamorous (assuming you like to hang out in bars in the first place). However, it’s not easy to become a bartender with no experience. This guide breaks down the process into 10 steps. Put in the time and you could be slinging cocktails and making tips sooner rather than later and avoid holiday gift debt completely.
Seasonal retail work is less glamorous but easier to find. Assuming you’re trying to pay down your holiday gift debt during the holiday season, then there are probably plenty of seasonal retail jobs open at your local malls and department stores. These jobs are nice because they allow you to start with little to no experience and bank numerous hours without any expectation that you’ll stay once the holidays end. If you’re looking for a limited engagement, seasonal retail work is probably it and will help you manage the holiday gift debt that comes up towards the end of the year.
Delivery is also pretty simple and flexible if retail work isn’t your thing. Whether you’re delivering newspapers or pizzas, you’ll likely be working outside of the regular 9-to-5 workday and making a decent paycheck without throwing off your routine.
5. Drive for a ridesharing service
It’s no coincidence that Uber uses the phrase “side hustle” in its advertising materials for potential drivers. For many people, driving for a ridesharing service is the ultimate side hustle: flexible hours, significant earnings potential, and a high likelihood that you’ll come out of the experience with a bunch of new stories to tell your friends.
The requirements to drive for a ridesharing service vary depending on the service, and where you’re located, but the basics are similar across the board. You’ll need to be 21 or older with access to a relatively new 4-door car. You’ll need in-state insurance, an in-state driver’s license, and a few years of driving experience. That’s the bare minimum, as even if you check off all those boxes, there’s no guarantee that a ridesharing company will accept you as a driver.
As for how much you stand to make driving for a ridesharing service, it’s hard to say. Some estimates put the number as low as $8 per hour while others put it as high as $25 per hour. Much of that depends on where you’re located and when you’re driving. Giving rides during high-demand periods (when fares spike) in a big city will net you more per hour than if you cart people around during off-hours in a small town. If you want to dig into pay further, Uber does a nice job breaking down how it pays drivers.
Unlike some of the other side hustles we’ve discussed so far, driving for a ridesharing service is far from easy work. You’re likely to work long hours dealing with many strange people without any guarantee as to how much you’ll be paid. However, it’s worth a shot if you’re looking for a side hustle that’s interesting, flexible, and potentially lucrative enough make holiday gift debt a thing of the past.
6. Work in your community
If you’re looking for flexible work that is fulfilling and allows you to be your own boss, then you might not have to look any further than your own community. Providing some kind of service to your neighbors is a great way to make money while being a positive influence on those around you.
For example, if you know how to play an instrument, offering lessons to kids in the neighborhood can be a great way to make a few extra bucks while meeting your neighbors. Even if you haven’t picked up your guitar in years, all it takes is a little extra practice to get your chops back and start teaching the basics to beginners.
In the same vein, tutoring can be an extremely rewarding way to earn extra money. While you might have forgotten the finer points of trigonometry, you’re likely more than capable of learning to tutor a child or even a non-native English speaker in the basics of reading and writing. You don’t have to be a genius to teach; you just have to be patient and take a genuine interest in your students.
Childcare and pet care are also great ways to help your neighbors and make a quick buck. While starting a proper daycare in your home requires extensive training and inspection, babysitting while your neighbors enjoy a much-needed date night is simple enough. Starting a dog walking service can also be fun and profitable.
Remember: a good side hustle should fit your existing routine, hold your interest, and be lucrative enough to make a difference. You might experiment with a few different things before you find what works for you. Once you get into the groove, however, you’ll be able to take the edge off your holiday gift debt in no time. Of course, once you have that side hustle going, make sure you know how to use it to build real wealth going into the new year.