Side gigs
March 27, 2018 3:16 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for a side gig. I have a seen a lot of advice that a side gig should be something you really like doing. This has led me to create several small crafts, do some thrift shopping, take some random serveys, and not decide on a side gig. Please suggest side gigs where I can actually make some money.

I currently work full time and even though I have a PhD in engineering, my pay is not great. I'd like to supplement my pay, and potentially switch to working less and hopefully spending more time with my kid. Working full time is expensive in itself.

I feel that a lot of side gig fields are sort of saturated like knitting hats and selling things in eBay. My technical writing skills are fine and I edit at average speed.

I'd love to do something that helps people, pays me 40k a year, but allows me to work the hours a kid would be in primary school with limited afternoon/evening/summer hours. I don't think this is teaching. The teachers and lecturers I know are exhausted and switch to full time admin jobs that pay less.

Advice please.
posted by Kalmya to Work & Money (17 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
I’m signed up on flexjobs.com — there are usually editing gigs that require a, and I’m not kidding, Masters or PhD. Usually is specific fields but sometimes just for academic style.

I’ve spent a half hearted year building up my tech writing biz and billed 32k last year, though not enough of it was remote/non biz hours. I put in about 25% of a typical 40 hour week working, 10% looking, and the rest of the time not doing anything. Ideally I’d find something 30 hours a week but I’m niching pretty specific to technology and some marketing writing. But everyone wants forty. Sigh.
posted by tilde at 3:19 AM on March 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


First, be honest about why you want to do this. Money or fulfillment?

> I currently work full time and even though I have a PhD in engineering, my pay is not great

If money, fixing this problem is likely to bring in more cash than selling crafts in a saturated market. Is that possible? Also, it doesn't have to be something you enjoy if your primary motivation is the cash.

If fulfillment, does it matter what you do as long as recover the costs of materials?

If you're looking for ideas, try the Side Hustle School podcast. Lots of ideas there.
posted by Leon at 4:15 AM on March 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


To clarify, I feel confident my income would increase over the next five years to pay my bills at standard job. However, the prospect of spending 50 hours a week, 48 weeks a year on it is horrifying. This work would very indirectly help people.

My ideal job has more flexibility so that I can spend more time with my kid and be at all of his doctors appointments and therapy appointments and school appointments and take him to do something fun a few times a week. When he's older I'd love to have significant time available for charity work.

If I could make 60k in ten hours a week doing something that's not helpful, but not harmful recommend it.

I do have a picture in my head where I spend time with my family, work out, do community service, see my friends, work out several times a week, and sleep 7 hours a night most nights. So not the typical 50 hour a week commitment.
posted by Kalmya at 4:38 AM on March 27, 2018


All the marketing gurus talk about making a passive income stream. So books or an online “course” in something?

This summer to keep the kids busy I have them working on a project to design a specific widget and make some to sell on online and as a downloadable pattern as well. But I have product / project design experience to help them do it without helping them too much. Once they’ve “beta” tested the process for me, I’ll probably roll it into a short ebook aimed at kids...
posted by tilde at 5:01 AM on March 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think we’d all love to have the job you envision!

One way people in your situation have done this is by accepting a higher-paying job that does not have an explicit social benefit, and therefore offers higher financial (vs spiritual) compensation.

I’ll be following your question wth interest to see if others have different solutions!
posted by samthemander at 6:39 AM on March 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


I work a desk job during the day which eats at me a little bit. I highly recommend finding a side-gig that's the opposite of your main gig - and for me, I really would like to get into some kind of trade or home-improvement.

If I were you, I'd take a class in welding or home improvement of some kind. I'm not sure about your income goals, but most tradesmen make at least $20 per hour doing things like wiring electrical outlets or fixing plumbing. It's not glamorous work but it's interesting, and you are doing something to create something.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:49 AM on March 27, 2018


So, there's a actually an entire industry popping up around getting people set up with what's being known as 'side hustles'. (That's the google search term you want).

I know of two pretty decent podcasts, each with a ton of ideas. Side Hustle School comes out every single day (for over 400 days now) and each day highlights someone's successful side hustle. The author, Chris Guillebeau, also has a book "Side Hustle, from idea to income in 27 days". Haven't read this specific book, but his older ones are decent so it's probably worth a read, especially if you haven't been listening to the back catalogue of podcast episodes.

There's also another blog/podcast called Side Hustle Nation, and again the author (Nick Loper) has a book called Buy Buttons. It's basically a giant list of side hustle ideas.

You (probably) wont make 60k in 10 hours/week, but it's definitely possible to make some money. My personal side hustle brings in a very low 5 figures a year from mostly weekend effort.
posted by cgg at 7:38 AM on March 27, 2018 [14 favorites]


This absolutely won't pay you the amount you want, but it's definitely flexible - there are companies that need a lot of line-level editing for non-native English speakers submitting to academic journals. Look at edanz, cactus, aje. I worked FT for one of them and would not recommend it (too much work, too little pay), but if I needed a side or PT gig in the future, I'd go back to it. It was amusing once you got over the initial hurdles (you're editing for English, generally, not for content, which is a weird mental shift, but they still require you to have the technical knowledge needed to mostly understand what you're editing).
posted by annabear at 7:51 AM on March 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'd love to do something that helps people, pays me 40k a year, but allows me to work the hours a kid would be in primary school with limited afternoon/evening/summer hours.

My ideal job has more flexibility so that I can spend more time with my kid and be at all of his doctors appointments and therapy appointments and school appointments and take him to do something fun a few times a week. When he's older I'd love to have significant time available for charity work.

This doesn't sound like you want a "side gig" - this sounds like you just want a whole new job. Which is fine, but you should frame it that way in your own head, and move forward with finding an actual new job. There are jobs with flexible scheduling or that allow you to work from home - you just don't have one right now.

If I could make 60k in ten hours a week

This, frankly, sounds like you want a unicorn. Which, I mean, so do we all, but . . . . . our goals need to be realistic.

I do have a picture in my head where I spend time with my family, work out, do community service, see my friends, work out several times a week, and sleep 7 hours a night most nights. So not the typical 50 hour a week commitment.

There are millions of Americans and thousands of MeFites who do all of this while working 50-hour weeks. Sleep midnight-7, work out 7-8, at work by 9, work til 6, home by 6:30-7, family time until the kids go to bed (and/or hobby stuff/personal time/community service work, especially as the kids get older & more independent), visit with friends on Friday night, more family/friend time Saturday, community service Sunday afternoon. Yes, it's a busy week, and I'm not saying it's the ideal life for everyone (or what we should be aiming for as a society), but it's totally possible.

Let me gently suggest that the fact that you seem to find this "do all the things while working full-time" idea impossible makes me think that something else is going on. Maybe it's something you could use some medical/professional help with (insomnia? depression? ADHD? thyroid?), maybe you just dislike your job/career more than even you think you do, and it's paralyzing you.

However, the prospect of spending 50 hours a week, 48 weeks a year on it is horrifying.

Why? If you can really clearly answer this question for yourself, I think you'll have a much better idea of what you don't like about your life as it sits and how to move forward.

And I don't think it's with a "side hustle", which implies working more hours outside of your full-time job, leaving even less time for family. People side-hustle because they really need money or because they've discovered that something they already like to do (knit, poke through thrift stores for vintage vinyl, woodworking) can actually pull in a few bucks, not because they're searching for a better work/life balance, which sounds to me like what you are really looking for.

Unless your eventual hope is to turn the "side" gig into your main job - which is fine, but you should set that as your goal and plan for it (and realize that in the interim you'll probably be working more, not less.)
posted by soundguy99 at 7:57 AM on March 27, 2018 [27 favorites]


So, there's a actually an entire industry popping up around getting people set up with what's being known as 'side hustles'. (That's the google search term you want).

A word of caution on this. When you see someone selling "how to make money doing [x] thing" courses, you should always, always ask yourself why, if they're so expert on the topic, they aren't themselves making the money doing the thing. Usually, it's because the opportunities to make money doing the thing are actually quite limited. So, take all of that stuff with a grain of salt, and don't pay money for any classes on the subject.

But I agree with the people who say it sounds like you want a different job, not an additional job. Which is totally fine, but requires a somewhat different search.
posted by praemunire at 8:36 AM on March 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


If you want to supplement your pay with something high-paying, then your current gig is probably a good indicator of where you can make the most right now. Consulting on projects in which you have education, experience, and a possible contact base for potential clients will do you well, and can help you build up a savings account and possibly build a business in which you could (years down the line) create your own hours.

A side gig outside of your area of expertise where you can get a high amount of pay for a minimal amount of effort on a part-time schedule doesn't really exist anymore. I'm sorry to be a bummer about it, but whoever is telling you that you can craft your way to financial stability part-time has something to sell you, and it isn't crafts.
posted by xingcat at 8:56 AM on March 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I totally understand that lots of parents and single parents are spending 2ish hours a day of waking time with their kid. As clearly described above. This is what I am hoping to avoid by having a more flexible job. Yes, I am a single mom caring for a child with disabilities And would prefer to spend more like six hours with him a day. I'm not sure how people do that and do all appointments (typically hours a week for us and more with supports from me) and work out and have a social life. I don't think that's possible. I am asking for a side gig I can use to reduce my out of home time eventually yes. I'm surprised that you are telling me I have ADD. Let's not imply single parents or parents of kids with special needs have ADD when they ask for work life balance. I am actually more productive than almost anyone I know.
posted by Kalmya at 9:08 AM on March 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


>>Let's not imply single parents or parents of kids with special needs have ADD when they ask for work life balance.

Hear, hear!

I'm a single mom of two, business owner, and I definitely feel you - the example schedule soundguy99 posted is actually my nightmare. I don't want to not see my kids until 6:30 or 7pm at night.

There's a lot of good advice here - something resellable that falls under the category of "passive income" is a good goal because of the way it frees up your schedule and offers recurring income. The FlexJobs lead is a good one as well, because it's nice to have paying gigs that can happen within the bounds of your real life schedule. I no longer accept agency work that requires me to be at my desk (or onsite at a corporate location) during certain hours - I am most productive when handed tasks to complete within a 24 hr time frame that I can fit into my life of carpooling and kids. Some days I can get up at 5am and work a couple hours before the school run - other days, I snooze my alarm until 7 because I'm TIRED, I'm the point person for literally everything in this life machine. So flexibility is very very critical right now.
posted by annathea at 9:37 AM on March 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


If your goal is to spend more time with your child, how about adding a child or two to the equation?

There are a lot of people looking for morning childcare. You might be able to find a couple of kids to watch from say 6am-8am school drop off. If you are already hanging out with your child and getting ready for the day this might not be too intrusive and could even be fun.

On the flip side there are other people looking for overnight child minding because they are nurses, cops etc.
posted by MadMadam at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


I do technical editing, though not in engineering. Since you have the technical expertise, and assuming you really do know how to edit, I'd suggest looking at websites for engineering societies or technical editing groups because editing can often be done remotely, which would enable you to fit it around your schedule. Editing with a specialization is going to pay better than general editing, though it's not going to be your dream salary. And the higher paying editing is going to be advertised on specialist websites. Lots of English majors want to be editors, but don't have the technical expertise. This is a situation where your PhD can be helpful.

It can be tough to break in because a lot of people assume they can work as editors because they "edited" their friends' papers in college or their husband's dissertation. I've seen this sort of "experience" cited on resumes, and it doesn't help at all.

You don't mention what your insurance situation is, but obviously, that's something to think about if you are trying to get away from full-time work.
posted by FencingGal at 11:22 AM on March 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


My friend just got a fully remote position editing resumes and cover letters. She set up a search alert on Indeed.com and landed one in about two weeks. I think she's getting around $20/hr for it. Definitely a good service that helps people!

Also, I work as a part-time marketing manager for a small(ish) organization and it is essentially the dream job you describe, sans the helping people part I suppose. Big learning curve to start, but you could probably train up and get going in the field in around 6 months. Get some in-person starter jobs, jump to part time flex-remote consulting, then find the company that will give you regular hours at a good rate. I could theoretically do all my work from home, but I like to go into the office and see my coworkers and boss because I enjoy spending time with them and feeling more connected to the team. Also it keeps me from turning into a hermit.
posted by ananci at 12:36 PM on March 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Breaking out to manage my kids educational and etc careers has been the most useful part of this last year; only missed one appointment for them out of the couple of dozen or so they need.

But I have health insurance and other support through my spouse. It was okay that I only billed 32k (and after the expense of computers and software and licensing and education/networking events, and of course, self employment sized taxes, I didn't even end up with HALF that) ... but I have to quad it this year to keep it working.

ananci's got it with the getting your way in. I paid a lot for my education and networking events, and evern worked at a related company for a time just to meet people and get a jump start on freelancing. I tried and failed at it during the great recession ....
posted by tilde at 6:20 PM on March 27, 2018


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