What do you do, aside from your regular day job, to bring in extra streams of revenue?
April 18, 2009 11:25 AM   Subscribe

What do you do, aside from your regular day job, to bring in extra streams of revenue?

It's my goal to eventually have enough streams of income coming through so that the money from my full-time job is irrelevant. I work from home, which doesn't necessarily mean I have a ton of free time, but does mean that I do have more breathing room than I would if had an office job. Therefore, these streams of income would most likely require time to initially setup -- which is fine -- but would not require mass amounts of time to maintain. "Get a second job," is not what I'm looking for here.

So, hivemind, what are you doing to bring in money outside of your main day job?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (23 answers total) 202 users marked this as a favorite
I'm doing design work for my school's admissions department, and editing work for its press. This work came about through my suggestion; I sort of created these positions for myself.
posted by runningwithscissors at 11:40 AM on April 18, 2009

The Simple Dollar Blog recently had a post entitled '50 Side Businesses You Can Start on Your Own'.
posted by chara at 11:43 AM on April 18, 2009 [9 favorites]

As a rule of thumb, it's always better to do one or two things *really well* rather than attempt to master multiple initiatives, because you'll spend more time achieving mediocre results.

If you have any kind of startup capital (or a credit card and are confident of getting results within a month), you could always set up some sort of e-business such as selling coffee or beauty products. Create a simple webpage and a paypal account or perhaps an online form, and sell your product. You'll probably make a sustained effort (say three months to gain traction) to market your product using fliers or handing out free samples to friends.

It's really a question of time, money and skill + knowledge.

I have a friend who buys art on Yahoo Japan's auctions site and sells it in the US on eBay; he makes about 20% profit.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:01 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I like Cafepress for this. It takes upfront work to make something that fits with their product range and yet doesn't suck, and more work to let people know it exists, but they handle everything else - orders, manufacturing, shipping, etc. So you can just not touch it for a few months, come back, and see that some money has accumulated in your account.
Not very much money though. Not even enough to cover the hours so far, but maybe in time...
posted by -harlequin- at 12:09 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a few high interest accounts, that pay me X amount of money provided I fund them with Y amount of money every month. What I do is put Y value into the first account, wait a few days, transfer it to the second account, etc, once a month, and I get X amount back. With just one Y value, I get three X amounts, every month. This takes me about 5 minutes a month with internet banking. I don't make enough to live on, not nearly, but I do make enough to fuel my car every month.
posted by Solomon at 12:18 PM on April 18, 2009 [9 favorites]

I have several ways of selling my photography (which is a hobby, not a day job) - through sites like SmugMug and Zazzle, as calendars toward the end of the year, and in a local gift shop. Like someone else mentioned, these take some effort to get established, but once set up, are fairly automatic. If you do anything arty, these would be good options. If you do crafty things, setting up a Etsy shop might work.

I used to make websites for individuals and companies in my spare time as a freelancer. It was a decent way to bring in extra cash, but is very close to having a second job since it's also what I do in my day job. Notice I said "used to".

I could run ads on any of the websites I run, but I don't. If you're interested in writing for the web, start a blog about something you're interested in, then set up some ads.

Lastly, I offer to pet / plant sit for neighbors when they're away on vacation. Usually only takes a few minutes of your time and is an easy way to earn extra cash. This could also work for other neighborly things, such as mowing lawns or shoveling snow from driveways. Alternately, if you're into gardening, you could try selling fresh veggies from your garden.
posted by geeky at 12:58 PM on April 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

I like Cafepress for this. It takes upfront work to make something that fits with their product range and yet doesn't suck

Does anyone actually make real money from cafepress? I'm not sure a lot of people buy from 'custom' stores there, but who knows.

I have a friend who started his own t-shirt site based on tshirt hell, and made what seemed like decent money, but he put in a lot of work. There are, I think (if you search around) sites that will do real screen printing for you, as opposed to the inkjet process that cafepress uses (which produces crap)

Mefite Jezztek has a store called Amorpha Apparel that uses a process called plot printing which does real screen prints, but you're much more limited in the designs you can do, because the screens are cut by a computer, rather then using the 'standard' process.

True screen printing using the standard process is what sites like threadless use. It gives you far greater expressiveness (but you're still limited to a set number of colors).

That said, in order to do this, you have to have the creative skills to design tee-shirts. It's not that easy and for my friend (who did all the printing and shipping himself, rather then use an online company) it was a lot of work.

And you have to do marketing too. You can't just setup a store and expect people to buy stuff off there.
posted by delmoi at 1:05 PM on April 18, 2009

I presently have three streams.

I'm in banking but since 2003 have lectured part time in econometrics. Students like me as I know the history and lots of anecdotes of the markets (particularly the US equity markets) very well. In addition to getting them through the material, I tell them how to get a job in banking and what its like to work on a trading desk.

My manager likes me as I take some of the load off his shoulders, letting him focus on primary research. So that's one revenue stream, about five hours or so a week, and pays the mortgage.

A second stream - about two years ago I started a small business importing iPod look alike / work alikes from China. I've found a product niche that works well for me and currently have three distribution channels. I can mark up %268 on my highest margin channel, selling individual units. I move larger quantities (1K or more units) at a much lower margin but make it up on volume.

This took me a few years to get going, I first had to build up relationships with the exporters, but if you start at Alibaba and being to purchase small sample quantities you can perhaps find a product and niche that will work for you. This can take as much time as you've got available, but payoff is much less certain; depends upon how well you can sell and run your business .

The third stream is the most lucrative, and in fact allowed me to take a sabattical from full time employment to take another Masters - for about twenty years I've invested for nothing but cash flow. Reinvested cash flow each paid each month into additional, cash flow generating securities, augmented with captial from my full time job and the revenue stream built up over time. A few years ago it got to the point where the monthly cash flow would easily support both myself and Mrs Mutant. This takes a long time to establish, but is well worth it; passive income, and we don't have to do anything to realise the cash flow.

Like I said, three streams, but I'm always angling for more. I've started and discarded many other opps; they either didn't break even or just didn't pay off long term. Opportunity cost is something to keep in mind, and sometimes its best to drop an opp in favour of another.
posted by Mutant at 1:05 PM on April 18, 2009 [49 favorites]

chara: "The Simple Dollar Blog recently had a post entitled '50 Side Businesses You Can Start on Your Own'."

With about 49 of those businesses, you need to be very cautious. Depending on your location, many of them will require licensing, and/or bonding and liablility insurance. Do not, for example, just start catering out of your home kitchen.

Also, I love how the guy recognises that his wife has specialist skills with a sewing machine, but apparently any idiot can be a pet groomer. That guy is, frankly, an idiot.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:46 PM on April 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Mystery shopping, focus groups, stuff like that. I also found a money-making hobby (belly dancing). At least it covers the costs involved.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:03 PM on April 18, 2009

Mutant- can you recommend any educational materials on investing for cash flow? I've been doing it on a really small scale and doing OK so far but I really don't know what I'm doing.

I do a few things on the side. I teach a sport that I am an expert in. This pays well but the hours are weird and it's as much for fun as profit. I also write: I've done copywriting, resume and cover letter services and written free lance articles. The resume/ cover writing is by far the most lucrative and it's easy work.

I also consult on occasion in the same field as my "real" job but that is less of an option in the position I have now. Eventually I will semi-retire and consult part time but not for another 10 years at least because I find consulting pretty boring most of the time.
posted by fshgrl at 3:03 PM on April 18, 2009

Do market research surveys - they can pay up to several hundred dollars a session.
posted by agregoli at 3:48 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Simple Dollar Blog recently had a post entitled '50 Side Businesses You Can Start on Your Own'.

These are some of the absolute worst recommendations I've ever seen.

Antique refurbishment: Requires detailed knowledge to separate the "deals" from the rip-offs, requires intimate knowledge of trends in particular antique markets, requires capital to purchase initial antiques, requires investment of time and cost of materials to "refurbish" said antiques, and in the end leaves you with a product that, frankly, is near the bottom of the desirability totem pole during tight times like these.

* You'd do better buying used pick-up trucks and restoring them to bare drivability and then re-selling them on Craigslist.

Auto detailing: Ludicrously time-intensive, many up-front costs, and a terrible industry during hard economic times.

* A self-service car wash would be smarter, cheaper, and get more business.

Babysitting: Time intensive, liability issues, very low income potential.

Bed and breakfast: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Oh, my aching sides!

I could continue, but this list is a complete waste of time and I hope I've made my point.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:07 PM on April 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

fshgrl -- Mutant- can you recommend any educational materials on investing for cash flow? I've been doing it on a really small scale and doing OK so far but I really don't know what I'm doing.

Sure, I can provide a few books and other things that might help you as well as other folks interested, but before I'll post the first screen that I use to select the securities I purchase. I know a few other folks that invest solely for cash flow; some have different rules, some have totally different rules, but whatever rules you use it's important that you have rules and are comfortable with them. Mine are pretty simple:
  1. Never purchase any share unless it pays you a dividend
  2. Never purchase a dividend paying share unless it yields at least 10% (my personal hurdle rate)
  3. Never purchase a dividend paying share yielding more than 10% unless it trades at a discount to book value
  4. Never purchase a dividend paying share yielding more than 10% trading at a discount to book value unless it pays monthly
This type of trading is counter intuitive to most folks, as it renders one share price indifferent. Picking stocks is a chumps game. I can't do it at any single point in time, and neither can the greater majority of people. And all the time? Nobody can do it all the time, even folks like Peter Lynch or Warren Buffet haven't been able to pull it off, so I don't even try. Instead I dodged the problem; when considering an investment we know that total return is the sum of capital gains or losses PLUS dividends. If you can alter the equation so dividends dominate total return, then its possible to ignore share prices; capital gains or losses, in other words you're share price indifferent.

Those are the rules that I apply to securities that have passed my screens. As for selecting securities, I have to leave that up to you but you really have to read the prospectus and understand the financial stability of the particular firm you're investing in.

I'm not going to post the rules that decide when and how I sell but that side of my trades is indeed done programatically, using a variant of a methodology called relative dividend yield; we look at the yield on each security compared to the yield either on the market as a whole or a specific sector. Again, counter intuitive; when the yield on the security I'm holding is much less than the market or sector yield (indicating its overpriced by comparison), I dump IF I can find a suitable investment that will generate larger cash flow. In other words, I only trade to increase monthly cash flow. That factor - only trade if I can increase monthly cash flow - dominates all my decisions.

Another rule that I follow - I tend to take large positions. I like thinly traded securities that have the attention of few traders and I keep buying until my position approaches five to ten percent of daily trading volume. Then I find another security to purchase, or move funds into another hold I've already got. This strategy can cause problems if volume dries up as it has (until the last few week).

I'm currently holding two NYSE listed securities where I've got positions in each of well over ten percent of daily trading volume (note that this is volume not float we're talking about so nothing illegal going on ... ). The takeaway here is you can make significant money in thinly traded stocks. Stuff that is doing hundreds of thousands of shares a day? Too many eyeballs on the company, you ain't gonna see nothing that everyone else hasn't already picked over. So once again, I dodge the problem, look at companies few folks are interested in.

This isn't for everyone, and I do know folks that also engage in cash flow investing who will hold precisely 40 securities at any one point in time; 2.5% of their capital is at risk in any one company. Works for them so good on them.

In any case, I'm well aware of concentration risk and it's corollary so I'm very comfortable with this type of exposure and the monthly cash flow is welcome. But this approach isn't for everyone. I'm currently earning about 12.06% annual current yield (paid monthly) cash flow generating side of the portfolio. So stick with it and build the monthly cash flow, and continue to reinvest as much as you can - preferably 100% PLUS any other capital you can raise.

Regardless of the system you have it's critical that you've got one. We know that emotion is the root cause of all mistakes retail traders make.

I previously inventoried mistakes retail money makes in the market, as cataglogued by academics studying the behaviour of smaller investors. Might help as you try to develop a system that works for you.

While some of them are very obvious mistakes, many of which I've made myself (e.g., selling too early, buying too late), its interesting that far too many folks don't have a quantitative system in place, and instead trade on "feeling".

In terms of educational resources I can't cite specific stocks but will post some reference material for everyone's benefit. If this is isn't sufficient please MeMail and I'll do what I can to augment.

I've always thought the Dummies series were great resources and their economics books is a pretty decent place to start getting one's head around broader concepts. The Pocket MBA is a pretty decent book for an overall view of some aspects of calculations, while Kitter's Investment Mathematics for Finance and Treasury Professionals: A Practical Approach (don't be fooled by the title; the emphasis is on practical ) is very accessible and features very easy to understand calculations (sidenote: I worked with Greg at Dow Jones in the early 80's, and his passion for this material as well as clarity of explanation shines through - its a great work )

I've also placed a lecture that I deliver for a Corporate Finance certificate program as well as an accompanying spreadsheet up on the 'net.

If you work through them you'll start to get an idea of what you've got to look for when investing in a company for pure cash flow - namely, sustainability of the dividend, or how confident one is that if a security is indeed purchased for cash flow purposes, management will be able to continue to pay.

A generic answer I realise, but I wasn't sure of your precise background, and hopefully this will help everyone.
posted by Mutant at 4:47 PM on April 18, 2009 [346 favorites]

chara: "The Simple Dollar Blog recently had a post entitled '50 Side Businesses You Can Start on Your Own'."

I saw this article via Lifehacker, and I have to say that it's a bit...unrealistic. Are you really going to start a dog grooming service in your bathroom? Do you really think you can start an in-home daycare service in your free time?
posted by radioamy at 8:28 PM on April 18, 2009

oh wow, the alterations and clothing repairs suggestion... How much is your time worth? Since you won't even get minimum wage doing that if you want to compete with professionals who work out of dry cleaning shops and the like. If you don't hem half a dozen pairs of pants every day of the week you'll never blast through them like they do. And getting a hem raised is like $10 at the average tailor or dry cleaner. Whooptey do.

Etsy is good, but it's big enough now that it's tough to break into it. Almost anything "easy" they list you can make has at least a hundred other people selling the same thing who have been perfecting their product for a lot longer, and will have better feedback since they're already established. There are a ton of soap and candle sellers on there. I'd hate to try and start a brand new shop, as a new member with 0 feedback, and be selling the same item at the same price as two dozen other shops with a 400 feedback. Or more, since a lot are now at the scale they're getting supplies in bulk at wholesale.

The stuff that a new seller can sell more easily are generally items involving more upfront expense and some amount of experience (jewelery, knitted/crochet goods, and custom handsewn items) Basically stuff you'd already have an interest in and be making as a hobby, not anything you would randomly take up just to make spare cash. I have an etsy selling custom corsets, and even for something as specialized as that there is quite a bit of competition. I find the idea of going into crafting as a way to make money kind of bizarre, since for every single crafter I know it's just a good way to lose money. It usually takes a long time to turn a profit. If you don't love it you'll quit well before that day comes.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:54 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I also work from home, and I've recently started substitute teaching a few days a week. In Illinois, you just have to have a bachelor's degree to get a sub teaching certificate. It took 50 dollars, a transcript from my university, a background check, and a few weeks of waiting. I dropped off apps at every school district within 30 minutes drive (7 districts total), and within a month or so, I'm getting calls 4 out of 5 days. The pay is pretty good too, depending on the district here in Central, IL, the pay runs around 75-80 dollars A DAY (I got 145 bucks for 2 days work). I take a few days a week, and then make up the work for my day job in the evening or the weekend. Now, I'm actually going back to school to become a high school english teacher, so subbing is a logical second job for me, but ymmv.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 9:17 PM on April 18, 2009

I work from home as a software engineer (main stream).

I tutor people in programming. And I do some paintball gun modification (and painting), although I haven't started charging for it yet. Both of these are beer-money level income streams.

You've either gotta pick something ancillary to your primary skills, or something that you already have a passion for. Choosing some shit off a list and doing it because "you can" doesn't seem like a winning proposition for me.
posted by Netzapper at 9:59 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I make extra money through public speaking engagements and the odd consulting gig. Public speaking has taken years to build up, and required dozens and dozens of occasions of speaking without pay. But now that I'm recognized as an expert on a couple of topics in some circles, I can get paid ~$500 to talk for an hour or two, which is fun and, better still, I can get all-expenses paid trips to interesting places. (Last year, Reno and Manhattan in September and October, respectively.) Now, I consulted for many years prior to becoming a full-time public employee a few years ago, so that's not new to me, but, again, my really specialized areas of knowledge allow me to charge a really decent hourly rate, enough to make it worth the trouble for a couple of gigs each year.

The bad news with these extra revenue streams is that, unlikely selling products, you only make money when you're working—that is, there's a linear relationship between the time that you put into it and the money that you make. But the good news is that it's really simpler. I don't want to sell stuff, because then I've got to deal with shipping, exchanges, customer service, credit card transactions, etc. How do you go on vacation if people expect to order stuff and have it shipped to them? Occasional consulting/speaking forays are great, because I can say "no" when I'm busy, or say "yes" when something really interesting or worthwhile comes along.
posted by waldo at 9:42 AM on April 19, 2009

I work ft as a staff person at a community college and do a lot of copyediting/proofreading on the side. Someone here is always writing something (books, dissertations, theses, journal articles, etc.). I'm not sure what kind of work you do from home, but I'd suggest thinking about customer needs that are going unmet through your current job and make a side business of those. You'd have a built in customer base.
posted by iceprincess324 at 10:02 AM on April 20, 2009

I occasionally find collectible toys cheap and sell them on ebay. I also do textbook consulting but that's drying up as the publishers implode.
posted by mecran01 at 9:54 AM on April 24, 2009

I sell books and DVDs via Amazon Marketplace. It's not very time consuming and helps keep down the clutter when I'm done with something. It's also a treat when you realize a book you own and think nothing of can be worth a lot more that you expected. Amazon partially reimburses your shipping costs.

Not a real cash cow, but it adds up.
posted by wowbobwow at 7:00 AM on May 19, 2009

I earn $100 to $120 a month on Mechanical Turk. I mostly do transcription work and surveys for the universities because this is the highest pay. Sometimes I do data entry because doing a whole lot of these will add up. There is some minor, but irritating MTurk jobs you want to avoid like signing up for information, insurance, colleges, and similar. I personally think they're unethical.

Funny enough, one time I made $5.00 on MTurk for calling Wal-Mart and getting a price on spaghetti. Sure enough, crazy as it was, I got paid.

I earn $210 with the potential to earn much more if I chose to at Demand Studios as a Keyword QA. They have several different jobs, so you may want to check there. I earn it a penny at a time, but each one literally only takes a second, so it adds up fast.

I've done some article writing, but the truth is that I don't enjoy writing that much to do it full-time. There's money there too.
posted by VC Drake at 3:51 PM on November 30, 2009 [9 favorites]

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