11941179 - young brunette women with sunglasses knocking on

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. 

11941179 - young brunette women with sunglasses knocking on

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”—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 actually accepting and completing my mission.

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 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 on my own, 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.

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.


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.



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  1. 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).

  2. 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.

  3. Jackie Marcinko says:

    I sell Tupperware to make some extra money. It’s a product that I love and believe in, which has been around for over 72 years! (I have some Tupperware pieces from my Mom that are older than I am, and I’m 55!) I make 25% of my sales, and earn lots of discounted and free Tupperware products, too. Best of all, I don’t have to leave home to have a party. It’s all done online these days. It has been a fantastic side gig during the pandemic. I’m having fun doing it, and have made a bunch of new friends. I know that direct sales aren’t for everyone, but it has been great for me!

  4. Gina Stevens says:

    After I retired, I answered an ad on Nextdoor requesting a tutor for Shakespeare studies. I soon had a little cottage industry.

  5. Marianne Rankin says:

    I don’t know if this is possible any more, but for a few years during and after the recession, I proctored students taking ACT tests (sort of like the SAT). I took roll and verified identity; passed out test booklets and reviewed the procedures; answered questions; timed the tests; collected the booklets and answer sheets; for a handicapped student, transferred answers in the booklet to a test sheet; returned materials to a central location; etc. I had to get up early and stay after the tests were done, but it was a fairly easy way, over a few hours, to earn $100. I think nowadays students take the test online, but that may not be true in all areas.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    • 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?

    • 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

    • 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 … 🙂

  10. 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

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