Weird Ways to Earn Money on the Side

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. 

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Process Server

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 then address the said person by name (Laura … Laura Smith?). By 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, turning to walk (run) away, 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” two or three subpoenas 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.

Process servers are legally required to serve papers in the correct manner laid out by their state. 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.

Piano Teacher

I got started young at age 15 as a student teacher in a music academy. I loved it—not so much the teaching, but the $5 per lesson. My little students did well and soon I was teaching on my own, at home after school.

Teaching piano lessons was the way I paid my way through college. At one point I had 72 students, giving  30-minute individual and group lessons per week.

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.

Laundress

When I discovered several friends were taking their husbands’ dress shirts to the laundry and paying $1.50 per shirt to have them washed and ironed—I got really good at washing and ironing men’s dress shirts. I offered to do a better job in less time for half the price—$.75 per shirt, which was quite a bargain.

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 were napping and (shhh!) while catching up on my soap operas.

You may hate ironing men’s shirts, but 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.

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, that ended the ceremony 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 begin playing love songs 30 minutes before the ceremony was to begin. 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 moving at a snail’s pace, due to each person having 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 seats.

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 business.

 

Question: What job have you taken in order to earn extra money?


Updated 5-04-19

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23 replies
  1. Jacqueline
    Jacqueline says:

    I House/Dog sit for a coworker when he goes out of town. He sent the request via company email. He pays me $35/40 per day and all i have to do is stay the night at his house, feed and give his dogs their medicine, and walk them once a day.
    I don’t have any children or pets of my own at home, so I can just do my normal routine from his house. It’s nice!

    Reply
  2. DianaB
    DianaB says:

    I love the piano lesson thing–that is like 36 hours a week and a full-time job. Process serving tends to be a tad more complicated than told in this article. The server must also complete the service and sign an affidavit attesting to same in front of a notary. One cannot simply make an attempt and then get paid for doing so. Otherwise, the process of service would run astronomically high and the plaintiff is getting charged for having those papers served. I can see where that might be somewhat lucrative but typically a charge is something like $15-35 per actual process served. It could also be a dangerous situation to put yourself into depending on who and what is being served. Just my take. That is why where I live the sheriff knocks on your door. Someone else in the household may also accept the service on the defendant’s behalf, as well, in some situations.

    Reply
    • Guest
      Guest says:

      DianaB … I had to only sign an affidavit, no notary required. This was years ago, and again each state has its own laws and guidelines. And these laws can change so readers should always make sure they are adhering to the most current. I think that goes without saying. And each attorney service can set its own fees, pricing and compensation for workers. Which state’s laws are you describing here?

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      It was a full-time job! But not all 72 were individual lessons. I had group lessons as well. And lot of adult studentd whose lessons were mid-week. As for process serving, when I did this in Calif, what you described was not required of me. Perhaps the servive I worked for had to do that kind of certification. i want to reiterate: Check the laws in your state.

      Reply
  3. Letesha Samuels
    Letesha Samuels says:

    Great post! The process serving job really interests me!
    I privately tutored French to a student. It was from a referral who simply knew I spoke French. What started out as a one-time thing turned out to be an every Sunday thing for a year. And the best part, the mom brought her child to me at my place!

    I know tutoring is nothing new. I was a lot younger then so I was just impressed that I was given the opportunity. On my own terms.

    Reply
  4. thekathleenchapman
    thekathleenchapman says:

    Okay, I’m the bride that kept the musicians playing hours before our wedding started! We were told only a percentage of invited guests actually show up at weddings…not true- there was standing room only as Mary & Tom kept playing! Incidentally, we just celebrated our 45th- so it took! Thanks Mary!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Wow … really, is that you!? So I wasn’t exaggerating, was I? But are you sure about the 45 years thing? That would have made me about 5 years old … 🙂

      Reply
  5. Becky Walker Phillips
    Becky Walker Phillips says:

    I have 25+ years in travel. I am no longer a travel agent, but have tons of friends and family who love to travel. I get paid about 1% commission of the travel package just for referring people to my old agency. It’s an agreement we worked out so I would keep the customers coming long after I retired. It’s nice to get a surprise check every now and then!

    Now, I’m a Professional Organizer with my own business in Arlington, TX. I absolutely LOVE what I do and feel I’m teaching a valuable art of organizing to friends, family, and referrals. I organize kitchens, garages, offices, everything. I also offer photograph organization in albums, online ordered books, etc as well. I also taught myself calligraphy and get paid by the envelope for weddings, party invitations, etc. I’m having a ball! Becky Phillips, Organization Unlimited (Find me on Facebook).

    Reply
  6. Denise
    Denise says:

    I have cleaned houses for friends of friends. It’s physically demanding, but you can do it as much or as little as you’d like. I have also tutored children in their school subjects, which was fun and creative. Currently I make small 8″ x 10″ (more or less) zipper cosmetic bags and sell them on Facebook or by word of mouth. I have also sold bread, homemade brooches and Christmas ornaments at farmers’ markets and Christmas craft shows.

    Reply
  7. ria
    ria says:

    Some of the ways I make extra cash is by creating “kitschy” crafts that people enjoy having but do not have time to make. Also cake decorating at home. Pretty costly to start up but pays itself in the process

    Reply
  8. amantill
    amantill says:

    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!

    Reply
  9. Cherry
    Cherry says:

    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!”

    Reply
  10. DianaC
    DianaC says:

    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!

    Reply
  11. PatriotPeg
    PatriotPeg says:

    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.

    Reply
  12. Anna Mandy
    Anna Mandy says:

    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.

    Reply
  13. Becky
    Becky says:

    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.

    Reply
  14. Heather Shover
    Heather Shover says:

    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.

    Reply
  15. FRANCES BEARDEN
    FRANCES BEARDEN says:

    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.

    Reply
  16. Carol Rowe
    Carol Rowe says:

    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.

    Reply

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