BALTIMORE — Anyone needing to make some extra cash to pay off some bills or get out of debt is not alone. It's estimated one out of every three Americans has a side hustle to make ends meet.
Financial experts advise people to pay down debt and increase savings in times of economic uncertainty but sometimes it's easier said than done.
Whether you call it freelance work, a part-time job, or a side gig, most people do it with one goal in mind.
MoneyTips senior credit industry analyst Nathan Grant said “when the pandemic first started, people were losing their primary sources of income and it kind of opened people's eyes to other ways they can make money.”
Once someone makes up their mind to take on a side hustle to make some extra cash, the next question might be “doing what?”
A Google search of side hustle ideas reveals millions of results. To find the right answer for you, Grant recommends people think about all the things they know how to do.
“Talking about skills you might have, I didn't go to school for this, but you know what, I’ve designed wedding invitations, and stuff in the past. I wouldn't mind doing that for people who are looking for a cheaper option, an alternative outside of going to a professional service which might charge a lot more, for something simple,” Grant said.
Freelancers can offer up their graphic arts, programming or writing skills in an online marketplace like Fiverr, Freelancer, or Upwork.
“The person paying already knows up front what they're going to be agreeing to, and the payment isn't released until the work is approved. That's usually stuff like website design, proofreading, there could be social media work done, graphic design,” Grant said.
For those professionals skilled in manual labor, there are other apps like Handy for Pros.
“It’s for people who must already have paid experience with the services that they're offering. So, you can't just be like 'hey, I’m a handyman, I’ll do this.’ There are checks and balances in place,” Grant said.
Besides signing up for gigs on one of the more familiar services like Uber or DoorDash, there are other apps such as TaskRabbit or Thumbtack which offer opportunities for babysitting, dog walking, and other odd jobs
Other side gigs opportunities may be found in the freelance sub-communities on Reddit.
Prospective side hustlers also might want to start small.
“Small businesses are a good place to start to see if maybe you can make money because there might be some nice local, small businesses that either don't have a website or they have a really outdated one, and maybe dipping your toes in trying to get some work like that done,” Grant said.
Once you settle on the type of side work you want to do, there are a few other things to consider like the cost of doing business, having the proper tools for handy work, or having high-speed internet and a laptop with enough RAM to handle your digital workload, as well as gas to get you to and from your job sites.
Be sure to budget your time and money to expect the unexpected.
“I’ve even had experiences in the past where you might out like oh, this will only take me a few hours to make. I’ve done this stuff before. But then, can you tweak this, can you change that, and then you're like if I break down my hourly payment, I’m actually working for a very low hourly wage on this project. So, that's like a thing you've got to consider,” Grant said.
If being your own boss doesn't sound ideal, more and more companies are offering remote work since more people started working from home during the pandemic.
“For many people who lost income, and lost jobs over the past few years, they really have to start thinking these things because that might be the saving grace that gets you back on your feet, or keeps you afloat, before the next major job decision comes up,” Grant said.
There are stories about people who struck it rich making thousands of dollars on a side hustle but don't get discouraged if that doesn't happen for you.
“It might not be right away you're making 100K doing the side business, but you're really helping your overall financial situation, and right now, more than ever, I think that's super important,” Grant said.
If your side gig helps to pay down some of your debt and save a little extra money, you're already on the right track.