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Work & Purpose

For Extra Cash, Get a Side Hustle That Fills a Need

Here's how to do it, plus a few possibilities


“Have a side hustle” is common advice for people who want to ensure their financial survival in case their full-time job goes away, survive unemployment or help boost retirement savings. About 28% of workers have one, according to the new Gallup Great Jobs Survey. One way to launch a side hustle: find one that fills a need.

It might dovetail with something you’re doing anyway. For example, I once interviewed a woman with a school-aged child who walked neighbor kids to school along with her own. At $5 per child per day, she was pulling in $125 per week.

7 Side Hustles That Fill a Need

Those types of side hustles require serious commitment. But some part-time gigs that fill a need can be picked up and put down, when you have the time and inclination. Here are seven:

Personal concierge. Maybe your neighbors don’t have time to pick up their dry cleaning, do a little grocery shopping or take the dog to the groomer. But you do. Get paid for it.

A woman in my writing group paid me $75 to take her dog on three 15-minute walks over a long weekend.

Being a “waiter.” Not at a restaurant, but rather as the person who earns money waiting for things for people who can’t or prefer not to — signing for Amazon deliveries, say, or standing in line to mail packages. You could charge money to be the person who lets in the plumber, electrician or cable guy, so other homeowners or renters needn’t take time off from work. Spread the word via social media, your friend networks, the condo newsletter or a notice in your apartment building.

Low-maintenance housesitting or pet walking. With this side hustle, you might pick up someone’s mail, water the plants or feed the cat. A woman in my writing group paid me $75 to take her dog on three 15-minute walks over a long weekend. Dog walkers often can earn $8 to $30 daily.

Occasional delivery driver. Apps like Roadie and Dolly let you get paid to drive and deliver packages. Suppose you regularly visit a parent in a nearby city and someone in your town wants something brought there. You make money, and the other person saves a few bucks by not paying the U.S. Postal Service or a private carrier. Besides, some things — like Grandma’s special coconut cake — deserve loving, door-to-door delivery.

Dog (or cat, ferret or parrot) boarder. Sites like Rover and Care let you put yourself out there as someone willing to let a pet stay with you, rather than being taken to a keenl. Before you start, however, talk to your insurance agent to see if this kind of work jibes with your homeowners’ or renter’s policy; some insurers won’t reimburse for damage done by certain dog breeds.

Snow-day angel. Be the person who swoops in to save parents who can’t afford to take time off from work when winter storms close the schools. Ditto those in-service days, parent-teacher conference half-days and “my kid is sick and can’t go to school” days. About that last one: Do this only if you’re healthy yourself; wash your hands often and keep up on flu and DPT shots.

Obviously, you have to be good with kids, and have a few toys or games that children like. Check online to find out what the going rates are in your area, so you don’t undercharge.

Provide rides. You have to go to the supermarket anyway, so why not offer to drive an older or disabled relative or acquaintance and help with the shopping? Or you could make yourself available to take people to places like the doctor, the physical therapist or the hairdresser.

Just be sure to settle on a fair price ahead of time. You might say something like: “For thirty dollars a week, I’ll drive your mom to the grocery store and help unload the groceries once we’re back.”

This type of side hustle works best for people who are very good at entertaining themselves while waiting or organized enough to run their own errands during the time needed for the appointment. (Bonus frugal points if you can use the other person’s car, saving yourself gas and depreciation.)

5 Tips Before Starting a Side Hustle

And now five tips before you begin a side hustle:

1. You may need to get a business license. Check with your state’s department of commerce.

2. If your business takes off, consider forming an LLC or limited liability company  to protect your personal assets from lawsuits. The “What Is an LLC?” article on the Nolo site has good background information.

3. Be sure you know your limits. If you find small children are fun only in small doses, don’t subject yourself (or them!) to an eight- or 10-hour snow day. A large dog on a leash might aggravate your bursitis; if so, stick to smaller breeds or pet-sit only for place-bound critters like reptiles, hamsters or birds.

4. Guard against gig creep. When you’re just getting started, it can be tempting to take every opportunity offered. But accepting too many gigs could add up to almost a full-time job and lead to exhaustion.

5. A gig-creep corollary: If you have a spouse or partner, be sure that person is on board with how much you’ll be working. The two of you might want to look for side hustle jobs you can both do to share the burden and reduce the chance for burnout.

By Donna Freedman
Former newspaper journalist Donna Freedman is a freelancer living in Anchorage, Alaska. She has written for MSN Money, Money Talks News and many other publications and websites.

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