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Tired of Being Broke? Why Don’t You Have a Side Hustle?

Almost anybody can earn more money with a side hustle: babysitting, catering, coding, etc. Question is: Why aren’t you doing it already?


Tired of being broke? Why don't you have a side hustle?

Question for you: Would you like to earn more money this year?

Who wouldn’t, right?

But let’s ask a different question: Will you earn more money this year?

If the answer is a definitive yes — great! Maybe you landed a new job, negotiated a significant raise, or got yourself a side hustle.

If the answer is no — why not? What’s your excuse? Leave a comment and let me know what’s holding you back starting a side hustle.

I read this Lifehacker piece recently about why you might not want to follow financial advice when you’re broke. The reason? So much financial advice assumes that you have money, you’re just using it wrong – spending too much on food and not saving enough.

But what are you supposed to do if you don’t have enough money to begin with? You’re not squandering $500 or $1,000 a month on unnecessarily luxuries, you’re paying your rent, your utilities and your student loan, and you’ve got $200 left to buy some combination of food and anything else you might need in the course of the month.

Of course, saving a little is better than saving nothing. Even $50 a month is a good start, but if you literally only have a couple hundred dollars with which to eat and buy other necessities, trying to save isn’t realistic: You’re going to need that money sooner rather than later.

Which brings us back to earning more money. As I’ve explained before, I truly believe finding ways to earn more money in your twenties is the answer to a lot of our financial issues. To be clear, I’m not talking about get-rich-quick schemes. I’m talking about concrete ideas that anybody with a bit of drive can implement and supplement their income. If you have the skills and desire to start a side business, great — you have the potential to earn a ton more. If not, that’s fine — there are plenty of ways to earn money on the side as an employee, too. Moonlighting has been around as long as underpaid jobs (forever). But the idea is so popular these days that it has a new name: the side hustle. 

Here’s my side hustle story:

About seven years ago I was in this exact situation. I didn’t earn a ton of money but I had been buying whatever I wanted on credit cards until I finally maxed out and had to come face-to-face with reality (and my very expensive mistakes).

Paying off my debt based on my current income alone would’ve taken a lifetime. And that’s assuming I could manage to keep paying down my debt without turning back to credit for unexpected expenses.

I had a choice: Accept that I would be broke and indebted indefinitely or figure out a way to earn the money I needed to pay it all off.

I choose option two. Rather than trying to pinch pennies I worked nights and weekends at Starbucks, I found a new day job that paid more, and I began blogging (and teaching myself how to leverage a blog to earn income online.)

Between these three sources, within a year I had doubled my annual income. And by keeping my expenses low, you can imagine how quickly that enabled me to pay off my debt.

I had gone from the prospect of being in debt for a decade or more and instead I was free and clear within three years.

So what’s the difference?

Really, it comes down to this:

Are you going to take action or make excuses?

We all make excuses everyday. I’m no different. I eat junk I shouldn’t, skip workouts, and procrastinate on stuff. And behind every poor decision, there’s an excuse.

It’s easy to make excuses for earning too little money – we blame our employers, we blame the government, or say things like “It’s just the way it is. English majors don’t earn much” or “I can’t find a job in my field, so I’m resigned to not earn much.”

Now, of course there are external forces that influence our situations. When we make excuses, this is where we focus. But when take action, we focus on the things we can control.

If you’re reading this blog because you want to have more money and create freedom for yourself, here’s what I encourage you to do:

Leave a comment and share:

  1. One thing you want to do this year to earn more money. It could be picking up catering gigs on weekends, asking for a raise, or starting a freelance business. Maybe it’s something crazy — even better!
  2. Why you haven’t done it yet. What’s holding you back? Are you taking steps towards earning more right now, or are you waiting for some reason?

Whatever it is – big or small—share one way you’re going to earn more money this year.  I want to get people thinking, then I’ll to follow up with actionable posts on ways anyone can make some money on the side, how to maximize the value of your time, and links to some of the most valuable study material online on earning more money whether its at work or via a business you start on the side.

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

  1. Hi, I’m a full time student with a full time job. I only have a few hundred dollars each month to pay bills and survive on. Recently, I’ve agreed to vacuum my neighbor’s house to earn a few extra dollars. With limited time, what are other options for extra income? P. S. I’m managing to ace all of my classes.

    • I would recommend tutoring. It’s an hour job that pays well if you find the right parents. It’s also extremely rewarding.

    • I agree with Alex. This is what I do for extra income, and it has worked out great!

      I valued my time at about $20 an hour, but then I put myself out there for $45 an hour on this website just to test the waters. Soon, I was at capacity! They take a cut of the pay, but they take care of 90% of the logistics and job finding for you. You can try it out, and if you like it, go independent afterwards.

      http://www.wyzant.com/Tutors/Adam_The_Tutor

    • David Weliver says:

      Tutoring is a great option as pointed out. Next week I’m going to have a list of side hustle ideas, many of which may fit the bill: Tutoring, child care, pet sitting, odd jobs (landscaping/snow shoveling, light painting, cleaning) are good options — as is taking something you’re good at and turning it into a freelance opportunity (we’ll talk about that, too).

      • Stephanie says:

        Since you are putting together a list of side hustles, corresponding links would be great. I know about sites like Task Rabbit, but it would be nice to find out about more.

    • GO Dave good article I hit the like button!

  2. I would like to get a retail job for the weekends and nights. What’s holding me back is my fear of rejection and care for my daughter but if I want it bad enough I will find a way.

    • Yes! I already work full time (typically over 40 hours a week and it’s salaried so no chance of working more hours for more $) and I have a toddler. By the end of the day I don’t have much energy or time left.

      I think I might have to take vacation to do it but in order to earn more I’ve thought of opening an etsy shop or simply consigning clothes/items that I don’t wear or use anymore. While I’ve thought about tutoring or babysitting, I’m really not sure how to market myself and/or if it’s a feasible option as far as time goes.

  3. I love this because it’s so true. We will have an excuse for days as to why we can’t do something and never as to why we can!!

  4. 1.One thing you want to do this year to earn more money: building up my Etsy and Fiverr side businesses, while using Codecademy (or another resource) to learn more about coding so that I can transition into positions that would require or benefit from that skill set. Eventually, I’d like to pursue a Masters degree to increase my earning potential, but I’m not sure in what. Don’t know where to start.
    2.Why you haven’t done it yet. What’s holding you back? Are you taking steps towards earning more right now, or are you waiting for some reason?: I have a young child, and caring for him does take up a good deal of time… especially when you add in all the household chores that need doing. However, when he goes to bed at 7, I often find myself plopping on the couch when I could be investing time in pursuing my goals.

  5. GC in Milwaukee says:

    Hi David! I am a big proponent of side hustles and frequently scan Craigslist gigs for side hustle opportunities. I regularly babysit for a family with four children ($15+/hr) and have worked with a Jewish event planner in the past setting up bar/bat mitzvahs (~$10/hr). I’m also working with a young, freelance videography company and taking in 15% commission for any opportunity I bring them that results in business. All have been really great experiences that I could also turn into full time opportunities if I ever lose my day job. Because I’m young, single and childless, it is a good way to occupy my time, plus gain some additional skills, and I’m only putting in a couple extra hours a week.

  6. The points you make early on in this article are so true. I always find it frustrating that I really just cannot take part in many of the financial savings tips you provide just because there’s not enough pie to go around, in fact I normally have negative pie each month, and it’s not like we are living extravagantly. We save a little, pay the mortgage, bills, student loans, car, insurance, etc etc, after all the standard stuff we have about $300 flex for anything that might come up that month including eating out, entertainment, clothes etc. The biggest thing that holds me back from getting a second job or starting a side hustle is time. Evaluating my “time pie” there is normally very little time in my day not already allocated. My goal this year is to learn how to multi task better. I already multi-task while working, talking on the phone while also answering emails, so I’m going to try to apply that to my life.
    1. Listen to audio-books while I drive/workout
    2. Ride my bike to work more often (get workout and commute at the same time)
    3. Spend time with my kids while working on crafts, hopefully sell said crafts on etsy (make $ and spend time with family)
    4. Reduce the crap in my house by selling it on Varage. (make $$ and clean at the same time)

    Any other ideas would be appreciated.
    Wish me luck.

  7. Brandon C. says:

    There is a lot of truth to this topic and so many others you cover on the site, David. I’m 28, and a huge fan of all things personal finance. You’ve got a great side hustle story. I also took advantage of a side hustle for 3 years in my mid 20s. It all started because I was not satisfied with my income. My wife was making good money, and though I had my job with a large well known finance company, my take home pay was not satisfactory to me. Call me cocky you like, but I felt like (even knew) I was worth more than I earned. So, I took up my side hustle as a 7 day a week carrier of the city newspaper, working every morning before my 8-5 day job. I showed up on time every morning, was friendly with the staff, and had next to zero deliveries missed. To my surprise, in just over a month, I was offered a staff warehouse job. I accepted. Everyone thought I was crazy, working 1:30am – 5:30am, then going to my 8-5 job, except my wife. She knew it was all my idea and something I wanted to do to pay down debts. My side hustle allowed us to pay down debts, pay for some large homeowner expenses, and take our European vacation we wanted before starting a family; all things we would have struggled to do without it.

    My advice, if you have a side hustle, put the income earned into an account other than your primary account. Doing so allows you to watch that account grow and prevents it from being spent on something that is not part of your goal. It took me a while to realize how important this step is. For example: It’s easy for that extra $400-$600 of income a month to escape your main account on your normal monthly expenses.

    Good luck to everyone and keep posting great topics!

  8. Zac Janda says:

    The main thing that is preventing me from earning more money with a side gig this year is that I am not really sure how to turn my interests into a way to make money. My main interest would be debating politics and I’m really not sure how to use that interest to gain income. I know that writing is an option but I am also unsure of how one would start writing about things for money.

  9. Brett Mel says:

    1. I work full time for a corporate fitness center, so my goal to make MORE money and start a side hustle is to set up a system of year-round boot camp style fitness classes on my own to bring in additional income and start building my BRAND as a trainer

    2. Fear: Fear of failure, of making mistakes, attracting the wrong clients, and ending up like all the other personal trainers I knew back home who barely scraped by from session to session. And paperwork- SO MUCH PAPERWORK

    • David Weliver says:

      Great insights. If there’s one thing that’s kind of cliche advice but as I get older I realize is right on is that you if you’re NOT failing and making mistakes, you’re not going anywhere. You have to fail many times — it’s part of the process. We see successful people around us but we don’t necessarily see all the things they’ve tried that haven’t worked out.

      You have a skill that’s in demand in our fitness-obsessed society — the tough part is finding a way to sell your training in a unique high-value way that earns you more than your competition. Once you find it though you have the potential to earn more than the average trainer possibly even by working fewer hours.

  10. Hi! I have actually been inspired by this and other personal finance sites to start my own blog. I am in the planning stages at the moment but I hope to have it launched within the year. What’s holding me back, rather what I am nervous about, is I have no idea what I’m doing. Any advice you have for starting a blog and making it profitable? Really any advice on the financial aspect of blogging would be great! Thanks!

    • David Weliver says:

      Great! The great thing about blogging is that with some basic writing skills and a little bit of technical self-education, anyone can start a blog. Making money with one isn’t as easy as it seems…again you see successes like mine but you don’t see the 100,000+ blogs that die off every single year.

      Two quick thoughts: The fastest way to make money with a blog is to use it as a platform from which to sell some service or product that you can offer. To make any substantial amount of money from advertising or affiliates takes traffic, which takes 1 year or more to build. That said, the time put in can reap rewards for years to come.

      Two sites run by friends of mine to check out are http://bloggingyourpassion.com and http://microblogger.com. Good luck.

  11. What I’m doing:
    I’m starting a dog leash company for side income! http://www.scrunchieleash.com

    Why I haven’t done it yet:
    I currently have a full time day job and doing a masters in the evenings. I’m trying to get this launched and turn it into a successful business, but I don’t have any experience with online sales or product sales in general. It is a slow learning process when time is limited. I’m keeping a blog at getbackon.wordpress.com that documents my strategies and lessons learned as I try to find success.

  12. Unless something changes on my blog in the next year, I probably won’t be bringing much money. Which is fine for me since it’s not a priority, my graduate classes are. Once I finish, that will definitely change. For this coming year though, I’m looking to make some cash on the side by selling somethings I no longer use and continue to churn credit cards. It won’t net me a ton of money but it lets me earn a little bit on the side for very little extra effort.

  13. What keeps me from having a side hustle is the lack of time, and little availability of support, I.e. family and lack of friends for safe quality care of children.

  14. I’ve decided to work more overtime that is being offered. Stay away from shopping for clothes and shoes unless it’s very necessary and I took on a weekend job and my 90 days are up so I’m going to ask for a raise. I would love other ways of making extra cash any suggestions?

  15. I’m a college student that wants to earn extra money through blogging. I haven’t accomplished my blogging goals yet, but I’m still trying to do my best to accomplish them.

  16. 1. I want to start bringing in money via a blog or product I’d create.

    2. I’ve got a site that I’ve wanted to turn into a blog or selling platform, for the longest time. I simply haven’t found a topic that I’m both A) knowledgeable about, and B) enjoy creating/writing about. I just haven’t found any subject matter that I’m passionate enough about. Combine that with my full-time job with an 80 minute round-trip driving commute and a 5-day per week gym program I’ve just begun. The little time I have left has been used to relax from the exhaustion.

  17. I would love to start a side hustle to earn a bit of extra money, but have litle to no idea what to do.

    I work as a journalist. The hours are long, often 50-65 hours a week, when I’m salaried and they are unpredictable. If there’s a major snowstorm on a Saturday, I’m working. A deadly accident at midnight? It quickly turns into a 18-hour long day.

    I’m trying to figure out a side job I can do on my own schedule or one night a week (max) that I can set aside.

  18. Maria McCullough says:

    I’m a single mom, working full time. Lack of time mostly, no family in town, and lack of extra money keep me from making extra money. Already working every weekend plus in order to afford a 2 bedroom apartment for my son and I, student loans, and a small amount of savings, etc.

  19. David Weliver says:

    To the parents reading: I recently read somewhere that there should be a disclaimer on all blog posts out there about time management, career, earning more, etc. that says “*Does not apply if you have kids!”

    As a dad now myself, I totally get it: being a parent significantly limits the hours and energy you have to devote to other pursuits. That said, I don’t think being a parent (even a single one) and having a side hustle are mutually exclusive. I’ll explain in upcoming posts!

  20. just got a part-time job in addition to my full time job! bye, bye laziness!

  21. This year I’m going to finish my PhD (or die trying)! And then I’ll start a real job (TBD), which will pay 2-5x my current stipend. It’s going to be amazing!

    Oh, and I want to make more money from my blog, though that won’t compare to the FT income. I have just dipped my toe into monetization and next year I want to earn enough to pay for my trip to FinCon14.

  22. Finding something that ensure success even after putting in the work…I have tried things, putting in the investment and then it falls through. I don’t mind the hard work. I want to know it will pay off.

  23. I’ve worked different side hustles for four years now to pay off huge debts, including two full-time trucking gigs at the same time. After that I slowed down and waited tables and bartended part-time while I kept my main trucking job. I’m still not out of debt yet, but I got married, own a condo, bought two vehicles, bought my wife a ring, and we have two vacations planned this year.

    My advice is put your head down and do whatever it takes. I go on kijiji and there is always hundreds of jobs. I even helped a guy install blinds for a summer for great cash and it was a lot of fun. Be open to do anything and have a strong work ethic, and you will be amazed how far you can come in 2-3 years.

  24. Love this concept! Building wealth requires cashflow: income minus expenses. Cutting expenses is only half the equation – increasing income is just as important.

    One thing I’m doing this year to increase income is helping host a meetup for people looking to start side hustles. By taking initiative and helping others pursue their own dreams, I’m hoping to expand my own tribe as well. One of the best ways to gain followers is to add value.

    Thanks for the post!

  25. I want to get a job as a trip leader for Outward Bound or the like. I am working on it now! What i am really working on is debunking the belief that doing what I love won’t earn me much money.

  26. I will keep it simple. I want to earn more money doing something during the day, haven’t got too creative yet but a friend suggested walking dogs near the uptown part of our city where people are usually at work and busy during the mornings. I also want to open my won Juicing bar, but that’s another story.

    The reason I haven’t put forth any energy into either of those has been mainly because of fear. What if it doesn’t work. I don’t have startup money to do the Juice bar… so maybe i’ll have to save for years until I can get there. Either that or stubmble upon an extremely generous investor.
    On the dog walking gig, I was scared that I don’t have much experience doing this at all, but I am very passinate about dogs.
    Bartending, Waitressing, and teaching dance in the evenings were my other options.
    Mostly my fears are from not having money to start something I truly love, or enough experience to back me up!

    • Hey Anabelle!

      Read up on the internet about how to train your dog to walk nicely – maybe read a dog training book – then sign up at the local dog shelter to volunteer to walk the dogs for practice. You can make yourself an experienced dog walker in less than a month for very little money!

      Also, you’ll develop connections at the dog shelter to help you find clients.

      Follow your dreams!
      Good luck!

  27. Crystal Lee says:

    I’m a freelance designer. Its hard for me to find a steady hustle because I don’t keep regular hours and am often going out of town for 1-2 weeks at a time to do gigs. Things like task rabbit or network marketing fit better in my lifestyle but are a lot of work to make $ at. Scanning Craig’s list takes up time do to all the spam you have to sift threw. Getting a job at starbucks isn’t an option (I don’t think) due to my frequent traveling out of town for work. (Usually once or twice every other month) Do they have on call people? Are there options out there I haven’t thought of!?

  28. Great article, I’ve been working a fairly ‘steady’ side hustle for almost a year now. I think the key to a good side hustle is to have it be something fun. Most of us work pretty hard at our regular 9-5, so having a fun side hustle really makes it worthwhile. I work a couple of days each month at a local brewery, and work as a bartender during our tours. It’s a lot of fun, I get to meet people, get a beer or two, and make a little extra money. That extra $100-$200 each month goes straight into my travel fund!

  29. I’ve read this article twice and each time it motivates me to brainstorm and start a side hustle. My hindrance would be my 3 children, ages 5, 3 and 1, and my husband being an active duty military member. I substitute teach 3 days a week and I’m currently enrolled in a masters program for special education but taking a break at the moment. Living in a military town doesn’t offer many jobs near but at least 35+ miles away. I know there’s a way to conquer this. Just need advice. Thanks!