4 Side Hustles That Are More Trouble Than They’re Worth

4 Side Hustles That Are More Trouble Than They’re Worth

4 Side Hustles That Are More Trouble Than They’re Worth | brokeGIRLrich

One of my favorite things to write about on this blog is ways to side hustle. I think almost anyone can work the right side job into their lives to bring in more income. I also know that for years in my early twenties, I thought people were crazy suggesting I could do some kind of side work considering what life is like if you work in the arts (turns out that’s totally wrong).

That being said, some side hustles totally aren’t worth it. Or are only worth it under really precise circumstances. Here are four side hustles that have wildly disproportionate income to time spent.


Surveys have been one of the worst side hustles I’ve found. To begin with, they’re unreliable and if you really need reliable side income, you may not get enough offers to make what you need. Additionally, most surveys come in between $.50 and $1.00 for 15 minutes of your time, minimum. That’s not to say that if you spend a lot of time on survey sites, you might not manage to find the occasional survey with a higher payout, but they are rare.

Times Surveys Might Be OK: If you like multitasking while you watch TV at night, maybe the extra $20 a month could be worth it.

Also, if you have the type of job where work is slow sometimes, but you still need to just be there, this could something you could do from your desk too (though I am totally not encouraging you to take surveys instead of doing your actual work).

Suggested Alternative: UserTesting pays out $10 per website review. You’d have to actually pause the show you’re watching when you qualify for a review, but for about 10-15 minutes of work, $10 is a way better payout. By running the site behind what I’m doing online regularly, I can usually make about $100 a month through this site with minimal effort.

Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping can work well under the right circumstances, but you’re certainly not going to get rich doing it. For most folks, if you have to drive out of your way to get to the shop, it’s already not going to be worth your time.

Mystery shops usually pay out between $5-$15 a shop, no matter how long it takes you to get there, how long you spend in the store and how long it takes you to get home. Additionally, some mystery shops require you to buy something. They usually state a reimbursement amount, but in more than one case, the reimbursement amount was below what 99% of the merchandise costs (I remember buying a single dresser knob in West Elm because it was the only thing I could find that came in under the $5 or $10 reimbursement limit).

Furthermore, as part of the same shop, you’re sometimes required to go return the purchase after 24 or 48 hours have passed. If you’re doing the shop somewhere you walk past all the time, this might not be a big deal, but if you’re not, then that’s an extra time and gas expense to get back to the store.

Times Mystery Shopping Might Be OK: When I lived in NYC, mystery shopping added all of 15 extra minutes to my day. On my way home I’d divert to a store, pick up the item, and spend 5 to 10 minute at home filling out the survey about the shop. I’d get home with a free food item or tchotchke that I could add to someone’s birthday or Christmas present and then get a check with a few dollars in it at the end of the month.

If you live or work in a big city where you’re regularly around the shops, mystery shopping could be an easy little side hustle that works into your regular routines.

Additionally, if you fly a lot for work, Sinclair Customer Metrics is always looking for people do to shops in certain airports. They usually pay much higher for those and you can sit and complete the survey while waiting for your flight.

Suggested Alternative: Brand Ambassador work requires a little more commitment, but there are often listings on Craigslist and even a new app called Pinata that lets you sign up for shifts when you’re available. Even if you just do one 3-hour shift a week, you could make $60 a week or $240 a month.

Selling Your Books

Book buyback sites allow you to sell your books directly to them. They even pay shipping as long as you meet a minimum buyback amount (usually around $15). You might think $15 wouldn’t be that hard to get to, but most books are bought back in the vicinity of .10 cents.

Additionally, these sites don’t take an awful lot of books. You might be better off donating them to Goodwill and taking the tax write off.

Times Selling Your Books Might Be OK: If you have some free time on your hands and an incredibly excessive quantity of books you’re trying to get rid of, you might manage a successful sale that primarily declutters your home.

Additionally, if you have recent textbooks, those can actually net a few dollars on these sites, so if you’ve just finished a semester of school, you can probably hit the $15 minimum for shipping pretty easily; however, you’re likely to make more for your books from sites like eBay.

Suggested Alternative: Selling books on eBay has always brought in more income per book for me. You can also up what you make by bundling similar book types and series together. Additionally, you’re not limited to just books on eBay.


Rev is a service for captioning and transcription. You take a test to qualify and once you pass, you’re free to accept any task on a pretty long list of jobs they need done. They jobs vary from .25 cents a minute when you first start to $1.00 a minute (though usually that’s a file with terrible audio quality or heavy accents that is particularly difficult to transcribe).

I’m still a beginner transcriptionist, and I have trouble getting an hour long transcription done is less than 6 hours. If the audio quality is really good, I can usually manage to make minimum wage. If the audio quality is particularly rough, I might only make half that for the amount of time a file takes me to transcribe.

Times Rev Might Be OK: To be honest, Rev has kind of kept me sane while going through a current unemployment bought. If I don’t have any freelance writing or blog work, I don’t mind spending 6 hours concentrating on a project to make some money.

Once you qualify, they have tons of projects, so there’s always something you could be working on.

Suggested Alternative: Freelance writing is likely to bring in more income with less work. That’s not to say that it doesn’t take work, it’s just that your hourly rate is likely to be better than it works out with Rev. You can start out with a few lower paying jobs $5-20 an article, but quickly build up a portfolio. I currently make between $75-200 an article and definitely do not consider myself the strongest writer. It’s also rare for any article to take me more than 4 hours to complete.

What side hustles have flopped for you?

15 thoughts on “4 Side Hustles That Are More Trouble Than They’re Worth

  1. Worst side hustle was when I downloaded this app called Spare 5. It’s basically another one of these micro money making apps. Total pain to do the stuff and you basically would make a few bucks per hour if you sat around doing it. The idea is that you can do it in your spare time while you’re waiting for the bus or something, but I have tons of other stuff I’d rather be doing during that spare time.
    Financial Panther recently posted…Independent Contractor vs. Employee: It Pays To Not Be An Employee In The Sharing EconomyMy Profile

    • I think apps like that maybe have a place when people are just starting a personal finance journey and getting used to the idea that there are other ways you can bring in some cash — but the payout on most of them is really lousy.

  2. The only one of these I’ve done consistently before was mystery shopping and I did it as part of a larger auditing/consulting part time job. I’ve just recently tried surveys, and I can see how they might not be so lucrative, but as long as I do them while watching TV news, I’m happy to have a little extra money. I’ll have to check out the user testing. Thanks for the tips.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…What is the Best-Kept Secret to Big Success?My Profile

    • I struggle with most of the accents too. It can be real frustrating! And if the surveys are fun, then that makes them a better hustle. I don’t usually have much fun with them, so to me it feel like low paid drudgery.

  3. Surveys are kind of a pain but I’ve always done them in front of the telly, so no real time spent. Also, I did get on a panel through doing surveys. It was for a cookie and cracker manufacturer, and I got $20 supermarket vouchers for each of their surveys, as well as free samples. That was quite nice!

  4. The trick is to find those that work for you; and to realize that your time has value. If you can get a couple of dollars for suveys and do then while watching TV its a couple of dollars you wouldn’t have otherwise, but doing them ruins TV time for you then it isn’t a good deal. I found I was spending a lot of time writing things I didn’t care about for too little money with freelaning. I’ve had some good customers and I’ve learned it is better to say no than to spend hours writing garbage for $10.
    RAnn recently posted…Blog Giveaways–Free is a Nice PriceMy Profile

    • Absolutely! The ride side hustle is really so personal since everyone’s personality is different and something that’s really irritating to one person might not bother another, so it becomes an easy way to make a few extra dollars.

  5. For all the people who do, ugh, mystery shopping, make sure that you’re giving all the employees perfect scores. It only takes a couple of the most MINOR imperfections (such as the employee not using your name three times or something like that) for the retailer to consider the shop a failure, thus putting the employees’ (not just the one employee, but everyone at that location) compensation at risk. Frankly, considering the pointlessness of pushing physical relationships with customers on a customer base that cares more about digital offerings, the fact that most retailers likely use it to deny employees chunks of their “total compensation”, and the idea of taking a business’s time with the knowledge that you’re not actually there to do business with the company, I avoid mystery shopping for ethical reasons.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker
    ARB recently posted…For Financial Samurai Readers: WELCOME!!!My Profile

  6. mTurk sucked for me when I tried them, it was mostly $1 surveys at best because I didn’t have time to sit and sift through the best ones and build up qualifying rank over time. It wasn’t entirely clear, either, how you became more “successful” to see the higher value paid jobs.
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Currently, and currencyMy Profile

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