How to Turn What You Love Doing into a Side Hustle
Recently, while brainstorming with a reader who needed to supplement her regular full-time job, I made a quick list of the ways I’ve done that in my life. I wanted to help her discover what she does well that others might pay her to do for them.
Years ago, when I discovered several friends were taking their husbands’ dress shirts to the laundry and paying $1.50 per shirt to have them washed and ironed (I have no idea what the going rate is these days, but I’m sure it’s outlandish), I got really good at washing and ironing men’s dress shirts. I offered to do a better job in less time for half the price—$.75 per shirt, which was quite a bargain back in the 80s.
I was fanatic about correct laundering and ironing, using starch as requested, and offering to either hand them back on a hanger or properly folded.
It was fun and something I could do while my kids napped and (shhh!) while catching up on my soap operas.
You may hate ironing men’s shirts, but you love to do something else that your peers would pay you to do for them. Figure it out. Then make sure you beat their expectations and the price they would pay elsewhere.
I worked as an independent process server for a company that attorneys hire to have subpoenas delivered in their civil cases. Whenever I had a couple of hours to spare, I’d pop into the office, pick up a stack of subpoenas and head out to attempt to “serve” unsuspecting defendants in civil lawsuits.
My mission was to locate the defendant and then address the said person by name (Laura … Laura Smith?). By state law, I was required to make sure I had eye contact, wait for that look of “knowing” and then hand off the document. Even if the person refused it, I could legally assert that I had completed the mission.
The best part? I got paid $35 per attempt to serve. That means if I knocked on the door and no one was home, attempt complete and back into the stack that document would go for a future attempt.
I could easily “attempt to serve”—or actually serve a subpoena—two or three times per hour. The attorney service company I worked for loved me because I was available at odd times, like late at night or early on a Saturday. Plus I took some kind of personal pride in accepting and completing my mission.
Process servers are legally required to serve papers in the correct manner stipulated by state law. Process serving laws differ by state. But basically, if you are an adult, have not been convicted of a crime, and can engage strangers in a warm and friendly way, it’s possible that you too could be a process server in your spare time.
At age 15, I was hired as a student-teacher at the Kincaid School of Music in Spokane, Wash. I loved it—not so much the teaching, but the $5 per lesson. My young students did well, and soon I was teaching independently, at home after school.
Teaching piano lessons was the way I paid my way through college. At one point after I married, I had 72 students, giving 30-minute individual and group lessons per week. That was completely nuts and not a schedule I would recommend for anyone, but it’s what I did.
You may not play the piano, but I’ll bet you’re really good at something. Cooking, organization, gardening, cleaning, sewing, knitting, computing, driving—the list could go on and on. Figure out how you can teach that skill to others. The greater your need to earn extra money, the more creative and better teacher you’ll become.
Wedding and Funeral Musician
I could not begin to tell you how many weddings and funerals I have played. And boy do I have the stories.
At one wedding, the bride sobbed so long and loudly, she never did “repeat after me.” The groom ended up handling the vows for both of them as she never could fully gain her composure.
Another couple got the giggles as they approached the altar. They could not stop laughing. Of course, it was infectious, and once the minister began to chortle, the ceremony ended in short order. I carried the day, playing softly behind the entire fiasco until every last person was out of the church. I’ve always wondered if the couple hit the reception bar on the way in.
My all-time favorite story is the wedding when I, at the organ, and Tom at the piano, were instructed to play love songs 30 minutes before the ceremony began. And we did.
But there was still a very long line of guests out the door and down the street, waiting to get in. The line moved at a snail’s pace, due to each person needing to sign the Guest Book before entering the church.
We gave one another that “keep going” signal, as we started over with our lovely repertoire of pre-ceremony music.
After more than an hour of this impromptu repetition, finally, the place was packed as we nearly fell off our respective perches.
Get a Side Hustle
You may not be a musician, but that thing you teach or do very well? Book yourself to perform it—as a service.
Let everyone know you’re available to organize, clean, cook, stencil, shop, hang wallpaper (it’s back in vogue, you know); dog walk, babysit, hairdress, mow lawns, pull weeds, run errands, bake cakes, design websites, wash windows—whatever it is.
If you’re good at it and charge a fair price, you will not want for customers.
I have spent a lifetime finding odd part-time jobs. Recently, I have been living in a college town and taking social work classes, and have picked up a recurring gig as a paid ‘expert witness” at law school mock trials. My job is to testify as a social worker about why a hypothetical child ought to be removed from a hypothetical family. It is interesting, takes two hours and provides a free lunch, and pays $50.00 cash!
I do alterations on clothing. It’s a lost skill.
I love using AdvoWire.com to earn from social media. It’s really easy and takes just a few minutes. The platform is set up so that you earn every time you share on Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn and you can share up to 6 times per day. It’s been a great way to earn some extra “fun money!”
When our youngest was born, I felt the need to give up my full time employment, but that did not end the need for money! I started baby-sitting children from my previous company in my home. It was close to work and they knew me well. During the summer the children went garage saling with us and learned to budget. Other filler jobs included delivering phone books and making cookies for an executive lunch room! LOVE your columns!
as a child, i collected deposit bottles, walked dogs, babysat, went shopping for the elderly, etc. it was fun for me, as i was making MY OWN money.
And don’t forget that you still have to report and pay tax on this income. While it’s much easier when you are working “for” someone like the process server, or another entity which may issue you a 1099, if you are ironing during your soap operas, you are still making money that must be reported. There are so many students (high schoolers) around here that think they can just pick up a camera and charge for photo shoots, but get bitten when it’s discovered by the IRS or state revenue service that they aren’t reporting it as either business or hobby income.
Another “weird” way to make money is to referee youth sports. It’s mostly weekends and evenings, and there are usually either youth sports associations, or even the high school sports association always looking for referees. You can almost always tailor your availability, too.
the irs gets plenty of money from everyone – if a person can make extra on their own i say go for it. geeze they even want to make kids pay if they have a lemonade stand. i don’t have any extra jobs but i wish i did.
I use to do ironing for people when my kids were young — yes, I know, but I love to iron. My daughter is currently working for Instacart. She does grocery shopping for other people and gets paid to buy and deliver their groceries. A “shop” pops up on her phone and she can grab it before someone else and goes shopping. She has found it a great way to fill some gaps of time between picking kids up from practices, after dropping kids at school, etc.
Great info, Becky!
My first job was at age 11 and I mowed lawns. We lived near a college and most houses around us were rentals. It was unusual for a girl to mow lawns, but I got spending money. Next was during 7th grade, I helped one of my teachers clean her house once a week. Then babysitting when we moved to the country. My first real job (with a paystub and sadly taxes) was a waitress at a little diner.
You sound very entreprenurial, Heather!
I embroider the logo on uniform shirts for a christian school. I have been doing this for 4 years. I have a very short turn around time and they love it.
That’s a side job I could love!
When I was about 15 years old ( I am now 75 ) I sold women’s
clothing for a company called “ Fashion Frocks “. They furnished a three ring binder with pictures of dresses and fabric swatches attached. I went door to door and took orders, customers paid a set deposit that was mine to keep, then I sent the order in and the customer paid the balance COD. I had many repeat customers . The deposits were usually $2.00-$4.00
and I liked doing it, I also met a lot of nice ladies.