Have you ever had a side hustle? In the last two years, we have tried a handful of side hustles to get through hard times. Some have stuck, and some were just too much hassle to bother with. Here’s the list of things we’ve tried and opportunities we are looking into!
Side hustles we’ve tried
Odd Jobs on Craigslist
What it is: Looking on craigslist for gigs that fit your skill set
Our experience: From singing in a Christmas choir at the mall to taking a minor backdrop roll for a cut-rate music video, we found all kinds of interesting gigs on Craigslist. My husband took a handful of odd jobs from craigslist when he was unemployed. Honestly, you have to be supercareful and mega choosy about jobs like this. I don’t strongly recommend it.
What it is: Get paid to make food deliveries.
Our experience: We tried door dash because of a promo deal running through Swagbucks (more on that later). It takes a couple days to get approved and started, but the app is pretty intuitive once you get going. Deliveries were simple and easy, and in his first run my husband earned $15 an hour. This is a side hustle that I’m exploring as a weekend option for me. I like the concept because there is way less interaction with strangers than other services like Lyft.
What it is: Swagbucks is an online rewards program that offers cash back for online purchases, along with rewards for completing surveys or affiliate offers. You can also earn by using the Swagbucks search engine and watching videos through their video player. I outline more details here.
Our experience: Swagbucks isn’t really a full side hustle, but it’s one way I’ve earned a little extra with all my online purchases for years. I wrote an in-depth article about how I use it here. Usually, we save up our Swagbucks gift cards to supplement our Christmas budget.
Swagbucks can be slow going at first, but if you install the swagbutton on your browser, it will remind you to shop through their affiliate links so you can get cash back for online purchases. They also have tons of other ways to earn, like surveys and daily offers. We started DoorDashing because they had an offer for $150 (or 15,000 swagbucks) after your first delivery.
What it is: Ebates is a popular online cash-back program.
Our experience: Originally, my husband tried Ebates when I started Swagbucks and we decided we’d see which we like better. I ended up earning more on Swagbucks because I had other rates to earn. My husband still uses Ebates on his browser, so we get occasional points there. Luckily we can exchange them for Swagbucks and consolidate all our points on my Swag account.
Ebates may run better specials and rates than Swagbucks, but I honestly don’t check often enough to know for sure. I’ve been happy with Swagbucks because I can earn other ways. If you are solely interested in a cash-back option, Ebates may be a better choice for you.
Website: www.ebates.com — This link gives you an extra $10 credit after your first purchase
What it is: Get rewards for using Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
Our experience: This was another one that my husband headed up. He had a set of saved searches in his tabs and he would just take a second to open them every day and earn points. Super easy!
We eventually gave up bing rewards because the exchange rate for gift cards was so bad. However, if you plan on buying anything through Microsoft (including xbox), you can earn extra bing reward points. This is a good way to double-dip on rewards/cash back if you combine with a rewards credit card and cash-back browser tool.
What it is: HomeAdvisor helps customers find contractors and laborers for home projects.
Our experience: My husband keeps this app on his phone. He has some general skills, but mostly the jobs he gets handed are assembling furniture. We also had one job where I went with him and we hauled away some furniture. He doesn’t always take the jobs offered, but when they line up with a Saturday where we don’t have much planned, it’s usually an easy way to earn $50-100. HomeAdvisor is free to sign up for, but the really do want professionals. If we were doing it again, we’d stick to TaskRabbit. We haven’t tried it yet (there is a small fee to sign up) but I think we’d get more jobs from it.
What it is: Basically they are rewarding you for data mining. You put their unobtrusive monitoring software on your computer and it tracks your internet usage.
Our experience: TRUTH – everyone is mining your data. We like that this company, unlike google and facebook, is honest about it and rewards us for it. The catch is they don’t always have a need for certain user demographics. Occasionally their VPN (the service they use to track your internet use) goes down or causes accessibility issues, but this is rare and easily fixed by switching the monitoring off until the issue is fixed.
They also offer short surveys once in a while that pay $1 to $3. They are almost always under 10 minutes, and they help even out the balance in our account so we can cash out faster. We only earn $5 a month, but there are bonuses throughout the year for keeping the software installed. We cash out about twice a year for around $40.
What it is: Sourcing items to sell as a third-party seller on Amazon.
Our experience: We tried arbing a for a little while, but it ended up being more labor-intensive and we couldn’t commit enough time to sourcing. I wrote about the process of getting started here. Overall, our experience was positive. We recovered our costs, but on the items we sold the profits were small.
I would recommend this as a great way to learn about selling with Amazon. While we didn’t make crazy money, we did gain some useful skills. We learned way more about sourcing, how to sell on Amazon, and what the market looks like. In the future, when we have more spare cash, we are definitely interested in using the skills we learned to try to open some kind of a product line on Amazon.
What it is: People and organizations posts tasks on MTurk that you can complete. As you complete more tasks and gain more skills, you get higher paying tasks. It’s run through Amazon.
Our experience: This was something we tried waaaay back in the day as newlyweds. It was our first side hustle (awww!). Theoretically, you can work your way up to making okay money doing the tasks, but I think I earned a grand total of $4 before I called it quits. I did so many jobs for pennies, and most of them took half an hour or more. It just wasn’t a good value for my time, but it’s certainly an option if you’re willing to put in the time and “level up” to the higher paying tasks.
This is a good one if you want to earn while you watch TV, since the tasks are pretty mindless.
What it is: Design custom merchandise to sell on amazon.
Our experience: For us, this was a big flop. I put in the time to make some designs that I hoped would sell, but none of them did. Ha! If you have a high-traffic website or existing company, it is a great way to monetize and get some brand merchandise out there. Some people have built entire t-shirt selling empires.
It’s worth a shot if you have some great design ideas, and there is no up-front cost. It’s just difficult to make your product stand out on a platform with literally millions of t-shirt options.
What it is: Companies send mystery shoppers to do quality control and make sure that services and sales pitches are meeting company requirements. Compensation may include cash or free/discounted services.
Our experience: Mystery shopping can be tricky because you have a limited time to claim a shop, and shops often have strict requirements such as going during a certain time frame, inquiring about a specific service, or ordering a new menu item. Generally it’s not that difficult, but it can be inconvenient.
We have done mystery shops with BestMark. When we were stretched thin, we did them a little more often. These days we do them now and again when the shop time lines up and we want to try something new. In our experience, the compensation isn’t really worth it, but it can be a great way to get a free meal.
What it is: Exactly what it sounds like – take a part time or seasonal retail job.
Our experience: One year, my husband took a seasonal job working at Best Buy over Thanksgiving/Christmas. This last year, I worked at GAP on the evenings and weekends. Usually this brought in between $200 and $400 extra a month. Now that I’m expecting kiddo #3, we are not doing any traditional jobs outside of my hubby’s full-time employment. It’s definitely something I might go back to when the baby is older though.
Credit Card bonuses
What it is: Technically this isn’t a side hustle. We have good credit (yay!) so we like to keep an eye out for new cards that have awesome signup bonuses. You can read my thoughts about using credit cards for cash back and rewards here if you’re interested.
Our experience: Cash-back credit cards combined with an online cash-back tool like Ebates or Swagbucks is an ideal method for double-dipping on cash-back. Combining the two for online purchases often puts my cash-back rates close to 10%.
We’ve opened airline cards for bonus miles, but our favorites are cash bonuses. Usually you can find cards offering amounts between $150 and $300 if you spend a certain amount in a given time frame. Between groceries, gas, and monthly bills, we usually have no trouble meeting that requirement. We just use the card exclusively until we earn the bonus.
We never carry a balance – you should always pay off your cards before they collect interest! But we do keep our cards open, unless they have an unreasonable yearly fee. This helps with our credit score.
Technically this blog started as a side hustle. I haven’t earned anything really, maybe a few pennies in referrals. I do have Amazon ads and, occasionally, affiliate links in my post but this blog is really just a failed side hustle. As it happens, I just like writing about finance so I keep it going anyway!
Future side hustles
Bank account bonuses
Again, not technically a side hustle. Now that we have a steady paycheck, we have more cash on-hand to look at opening accounts with banks offering cash bonuses. Typically, checking account incentives require some kind of minimum direct deposit for around 90 days, hence the need for a steady paycheck. I’ve also seen lots of savings account bonuses, most of which require a lump sum (usually over $10,000) to be deposited and left in the account for a given time period.
We are in the middle of a move right now, but once things settle down, we will just pay the fee and finish signing my hubby up for TaskRabbit. I’m interested to see what the pay rates are compared to HomeAdvisor, and I’m hopefully he’ll get more tasks kicked his way.
After I have this baby, I’m planning on taking over DoorDash as my side-hustle to help pay off student loans. I’m hoping to try out a few other apps to see what’s the most lucrative. Some drivers say they manage to use multiple delivery apps at once to maximize profits. We’ll see how that goes!
This one is a big maybe. We are buying a house, and while the baby is little and in our room, we will have a spare room we could rent out. BUT our other kids are little and having strangers staying in our house introduces some risks that terrify me as a mom. I haven’t ruled it out yet – we have some good friends who rent out a room and they have kids at home, so I need to sit down and ask her how it’s going.
What is your best or worst side hustle experience? I’d love to hear new ideas for us to try!