Side Hustling During a Pandemic

On today's Dear Debbie, I talk about how to create another stream of income when your main hustle has fallen through

Dear Debbie, how can I make extra money during this pandemic to help pay my debt? Best, Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I have thought a lot about this question myself, so I’m glad you asked! Plenty of people are now in a pinch because they either got laid off of work, furloughed, or have experienced a pay cut. Having a side hustle applies whether we’re in a pandemic or not (i.e. it’s always a good time to generate additional income for yourself to keep you afloat). If you look on other websites that give lists of side hustles, you’ll notice some take time to develop (become a content creator and getting brand deals), or require a good amount of effort and some upfront investment (Shopify dropshipping). Many websites peddle “get-rich-quick” schemes, so I’ve broken down this list by what I consider easy, medium, and difficult jobs, as well as how much you can expect to earn relative to the effort.

Easy

  1. Proofreading on Upwork - this may not be easy for you, but if you’re like me and have keen attention to detail/grammar, this should be a pretty mindless way to make a quick buck. You may have to take 30 minutes putting together a nice profile and sending a personalized proposal message (especially if it’s your first job), but after that it’s smooth sailing. Some large jobs could pay anywhere from $50-$100.
  2. Gig economy apps
  3. Instacart/Doordash/Uber Eats - These apps allow you to pick up items from local grocery stores and restaurants. You may not make much, but it’s easy to sign up and get started. You can make around $2-$10 on each order (depending on how large the tip is, whether it is peak time, and how far the delivery is)
  4. Uber/Lyft - Depending on whether you have a car and are ok with driving for extended periods of time, this may be an option. The average ride pays $10-$15.
  5. Wag - If you’re an animal fan, this may be the route for you! Dog walking can run you about $17.50 on average per walk, and dog-sitting overnight can earn you $12 an hour (which can be quite a bit over the course of a day) . If you’re willing to take the time to create a nice profile and take some pictures with dogs to entice an owner, this could be both fun and rewarding.
  1. Taskrabbit - Tasks on Taskrabbit can vary in difficulty - from hanging pictures, to building furniture, to even waiting in lines for people. Perhaps you can wait in line for someone looking to get COVID-tested - I’ve seen lines almost 5 hours long!
  2. Using an existing hobby as an income stream on Etsy - If you are already crafting and are okay with parting ways with your creations, this could be a fun way to earn money on top. Knitting, macrame, screenprinting, photography, and artwork are all fair game. I’ve sold a few of my photographs in the past for a couple dollars profit. You may not make very much in profit given the cost of materials, but it’s worth it if you’re already DIYing.
  1. Tutoring/babysitting - This is a tried and true method - the easiest way to find clients is to reach out in your community.
  2. Surveys - This is perhaps the easiest thing you can possibly do, but to be honest, you’ll need to fill out A LOT of surveys to make any significant cash.

Medium

  1. Flipping furniture/used items - People typically sell their furniture at the end of the month at a crazy discount. I once bought a coffee table I had every intention of keeping for $50, and when I realized it was too big for my space, I sold it for $150. Or, if you’re up for it, you can drive around at the end of the month to see what people have left out on the curb. I once found a fully functioning TV that I sold for $100, in addition to beautiful lamps, gold clubs, and many other high value items. I usually tend to stay away from upholstered and large furniture (couches, plush chairs), because of the potential for bed bugs and the difficulty with transport/storage. However, smaller items such as lamps, fake plants, decor, and electronics could go for a good price on Facebook Marketplace.
  1. Airbnb/Turo (renting our car or living space) - Airbnb is an awesome way to make a side income if you have a spare room or can crash on a friend’s couch for some weekends while you rent our your place. It’s a bit of a hassle the first time you do it (as you will likely need to purchase extra sheets, towels, and toiletries), but it’s worth it longer term. The first time my roommate and I Airbnbed our place we broke even, but afterwards we were making straight profit of around $600 a stay. Renting out your car is also an option for days you plan to stay in.
  2. Upwork (almost everything besides proofreading) - You can pretty much do any freelance job on Upwork, from coding, to graphic design, digital marketing, and copywriting. I’ve been doing some website copywriting as a side hustle myself for $24/hour after fees, and it’s been fairly easy to find jobs that fit your schedule. Some are definitely harder than others and require more technical skills, so take a look and see what you can offer.
  3. Teaching English online on VIPKid - If you can pass the application process and like working with kids, this can be a great and flexible way to earn side income. For teaching 1 hour a day you can earn around $500 a month.

Difficult

  1. Becoming an influencer - Every side hustle list includes “writing a blog” or “become an influencer” as a way to get paid by brands to advertise their products. Not only does this typically take a huge time investment to gain enough followers to be interesting for brands, there is no guarantee you will ever earn an income from it. If you are passionate about a topic and want to share your expertise with the world, go for it! And if you make money from that (whether it’s through selling courses, e-books, or getting brand deals), even better. But I wouldn’t bank on this one as an easy way to make money.
  1. Flipping cars/houses - These could net you a huge profit, but require a lot of research, management, and upfront investment in purchasing the asset. High risk, high reward.
  2. Consulting/coaching - Similar to becoming an influencer, you may feel there is a topic you are an expert in and want to share your expertise with others. However, building a sustainable client list is pretty challenging, and there aren’t really any aggregated marketplaces to offer your services (so your marketing will need to be high-touch). However, this could be a great way to earn $$$, given many coaches (financial, relationship, career, life), charge $100+ per hour for a session.
  3. Dropshipping - Dropshipping is when you sell other companys’ products on your own site but pass along the order fulfillment to the 3rd party (i.e. you don’t have to deal with inventory or shipping). You’ve probably seen tons of ads telling you about how it’s so easy to start a dropshipping business using Shopify because you don’t need to invest upfront in purchasing inventory. While this is true, it requires a lot of time, effort, and $ to set up/design your website, determine what to sell, and advertise. This is not as easy and passive as some may have you believe.
  1. Creating a product brand and selling on Shopify or Etsy - This hustle requires you to fully design a product, create labels, list ingredients (if it’s a food item), carry inventory, create a website, advertise, and perhaps even manage a warehouse if you don’t want to hold inventory in your home. This requires maximum time, energy, and dollars. However, it could also net you a pretty penny if you sell something in high demand.

I hope this is a helpful guide! Since you’re trying to pay off debt, I would start with the easy categories that hold little risk, even if they pay less. Some side hustles may end up costing you more than you make for a long time (until you build out your process for selling your product/service). That doesn’t make them bad side hustles, just not great for the current position you’re in.

Best,

Debbie