The truth is a bachelor’s degree is the new high school degree, the minimum wage hasn’t risen at a rate that properly combats inflation, and while baby boomers make fun of our generation, they’re the ones who truly fucked the economy for us.
We are products of the 2008 financial crisis… not the culprits. And while most of us have a criminally large amount of student loan debt, baby boomers continue to blame our avocado toast habits on why we aren’t buying houses.
*Casually sips pumpkin spice latte*
So it’s not shocking that more than half of US millennials have side hustles, according to a recent study by Bankrate. In fact, over 44 million Americans have at least one side hustle, and on average they make over $600 in additional income per month.
With these statistics, I figured there’s a solid chance I can also begin to make money with a side hustle. While my field research almost led me to a very illegal industry in LA’s karaoke bars and an intriguing conversation over froyo with a middle schooler explaining how to make money off of viral memes (welcome to GenZ), I have actually found some amount of success.
However, I figured it’s better to start off with my very unsuccessful side hustle attempts so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
Table of Contents
- The Common (& Not-So Common) Side Hustles to AVOID
- Side Hustles That Could Actually Work
- Longer-Term Side Hustles
- In Conclusion…
The Common (& Not-So Common) Side Hustles to AVOID
Every Single Survey Site
ALL SCAMS. For example, VIP Voice gave me 100 points for participating in a ten-minute survey. All was good, until I realized that the current high bid for a $25 Amazon gift card was 48,000 points.
Even if every 100 point survey took you half the time it took me, you’d still have to waste over forty hours for just the mere chance that’d you’d get the $25. Most survey sites operate on this point-bid system with some of them occasionally giving out prizes in an effort to maintain some sort of interest.
SurveyJunkie.com gives out cash after you’ve earned $10, but a 5-minute survey earned me 2 points… which translates to an entire 2 cents.
Getting paid to hang out with dogs sounds ideal, but apparently everyone else thinks so too. This market is incredibly over-saturated, especially in Los Angeles.
I signed up on the Rover app where there was an initial $15 background check fee, and after creating a thorough profile I could not get a single dog walking job.
Continuously browsing the app in hopes to at least make back my $15, I found that the few available dog walks within a few miles of my house would get taken immediately, and the ones farther away were not at all worth the LA traffic for a walking pay rate of about $12 an hour.
Overall, I found that the availability of dog walkers greatly exceeds the demand, and the preferred dog walkers already have built rapport with dog owners on the app.
I read countless accounts of side hustlers claiming they make thousands of dollars a week upselling tickets.
I don’t doubt this, but too many people have caught on and now sports and concerts tickets sell out within minutes. From my research, it is apparent that as many people are making money off of this, there are easily ten times as many people losing money.
This side hustle requires a lot of research, planning, and betting; often tickets turn almost no profit or sell for under their original value. Furthermore, you typically need at least a few hundred dollars to invest in tickets in order to turn a decent profit.
Quite a few popular side hustle articles directed me to this app saying that it offers easy gigs that almost anyone can do.
There were less than 10 job postings in all of Los Angeles, half of them posted by an eye-wear company that needed a very specific skill. This app has potential, but right now it doesn’t offer much.
After reading about how neighbors post gigs on this app, I joined. I found no gigs. I don’t doubt that occasionally a neighbor will post something, but this isn’t the place to look for a plethora of side hustle opportunities.
However, if you already have a business and want to market it to your neighbors (although Nextdoor discourages it), the app can be great way to access and build a local customer base.
One man learned to roast coffee in his home and after posting on Nextdoor sold $1400 in one weekend to his neighbors.
PSA: He did report almost burning down his home on multiple occasions.
Selling Whale Vomit…Among Other Very Implausible Ventures
Yes, you read that right. The Penny Hoarder has an article on how you can make money off of finding and selling ambergris, the technical term for whale vomit from sperm whales. Apparently
During my research I found an immense amount of “I somehow made a ton of money through this one simple thing that’ll probably never happen for you but give it a shot anyways” type of articles and I definitely suggest that you overlook them as to not waste your time.
Side Hustles That Could Actually Work
I’ve found that there are often two types of side hustles: quick money jobs that involve little investment, and long-term hustles with the potential to make you more money, but require a lot of time and commitment to get you to that point.
Quick & Easy Side Hustles
Bird is a fast-growing company with plans to expand their company worldwide and as they do so, more chargers will be needed. My favorite part about this side hustle is the terminology the company uses; a charger is asked to “capture, charge, and release the Bird back into the wild.”
To become a charger, someone from the company walks you through the steps over the phone and you will receive three Bird chargers for free. Be aware that you cannot just plug a Bird into your wall - my friend attempted this and none of her scooters were properly charged so she was not at all properly compensated.
Also, Bird advertises that for each scooter charge you can get $20. Sure, but that’s for a scooter that needs a full charge so naturally those scooters get swiped up pretty quickly. Most Birds need a partial charge and will get you around $5.
- At least 18 years old
- Charge 3 or more birds at a time
- A car is typically required (although some people get around this)
For a full charge, one Bird will cost you around 7 cents in Los Angeles and each scooter requires around 3-5 hours to charge.
The best time to capture Birds is after 9pm and then between 4 and 7 am the Birds need to be “released back into the wild” in the areas on the map marked as “Bird nests” and they should be in sets of three.
For more information, check out this YouTube video on what being a charger is like.
Be warned, there are a lot of scams. One LA gig offered $500 for a photo shoot…where you’d be a “hand model” just for a few hours. Nah… not real.
I also found a gig that appeared legitimate and the woman I talked to on the phone made it seem like I was basically a freelance cocktail server.
Upon further research, I discovered that this is actually an illegal industry in Koreatown being investigated by LAPD, and the women are referred to as “doumi” girls.
Many women have made quite a bit of money in this industry and although they are not sex workers, every story I read from doumi girls included consistent sexual assault and detailed the clients as mostly old men who ask to pay for “other services.”
However, there are also a lot of legitimate gigs. In LA, I found that if you are a bartender, there are a ton of bars who need guest bartenders for a night or two.
This can be good money but understand that from my experience as a guest bartender, most bars won’t pay you minimum wage since you’re not an employee. Your compensation will be solely from your tips.
I know many people who cater on the side since they can work for multiple companies at a time, getting called typically a few days before or even the day of to work.
This offers a lot of flexibility and the companies usually pay between $15-20 an hour. Depending on the event you may make extra in tips; my friend who gets calls to bartend these events makes around $20-$30 an hour.
Typically to enter the catering company you just have to go to one of their “interviews” which often is really just a “sign here and you’re in” kind of deal, and then they tell you what you’re expected to wear with an added lesson on fine dining, how to properly buss tables, etc.
I have also tried secret shopping which isn’t something to make you cash, however, you can easily get free meals out if it which definitely saves you money.
Just understand that these are often costs you have to pay up front, and then within a few weeks after you submit your shopper report with a picture of your receipt they will reimburse you.
I used secretshopper.com, which I had success with. You can get free nights at hotels and free fine dining, but know that these often get swiped up as soon as they are posted. If you’re looking for a
Longer-Term Side Hustles
Start a Blog
One of my roommates has a small-time blog that he occasionally uses to post products on and as an affiliate
Aside from affiliate marketing, if your blog really takes off you can begin to get paid via ads on your site.
However, everyone is a blogger nowadays and as a currently unpaid blogger myself, I can tell you blogging requires a ton of long hours, commitment, and strategy to build a solid following base if you want to make any money at all.
For more, check out How To Start a Money-Making Blog
This is basically a platform for online freelancers to offer their skills, however, it will definitely take you a while to develop a customer base, gather good reviews, and actually make a decent amount of money.
With so many competing freelancers, you basically have to offer your service for very little money at first and then slowly charge more once
Flea Market Flip
Ever seen this show on HGTV? Well it’s very trendy to be vintage and if you have an eye for cool furniture pieces, a place to store them, often a truck, and the tools and skills to renovate them a bit, you can definitely turn a profit.
As a broke college student I picked up many furniture items I found under the free section on Craigslist, used them in my apartment, and then sold them for cash when I no longer needed them.
I have consistently turned a profit doing this and these weren’t items that I at all updated or fixed, but I’m sure if I did I would have been able to sell them for more.
Maybe you’ll become the person who finds whale vomit and pays off your college loan debt all in a week…but chances are you probably won’t. When it comes to side hustles, most are not as easy money as many sites make them seem.
There is great potential to make a decent amount of money and even start your own successful business, but understand that this will require a lot of dedication and research on your end.
Even Bird charging significantly varies depending on where you live. While it’s decent in San Diego, it’s been described in the Bay Area as a “cutthroat turf war.” Or on the bright side, maybe you’ll actually get paid well to walk dogs in your area. You truly won’t know until you really do your research.
So begin figuring out which side hustles could work for you and your particular skill set. To get you started, I found that Side Hustle School has hundreds of 5-10 minute podcasts accompanied by concise articles detailing the ways that many other people have made money off of their side hustles.
Many of these have inspired ideas on how I could build my own business and they’re not the impossibly lucky venture types; many seem very plausible. For example, one couple took advantage of the 50 Shades of Grey trend by putting together already manufactured erotica items in packaging disguised as books. Their brand is Novel Erotics.
So there are a plethora of ways to make money through a side hustle and you can definitely take advantage of current trends. Don’t be discouraged if the first ten or more things you try don’t at all work. Remember, the majority of millennials have a side hustle, so the odds are ever in your favor!