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 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.