Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan here.
At one point not too long ago, I had one full-time job and five part-time jobs – at the same time.
When I say we’re serious about paying down almost $90,000 in credit-card debt… I mean it. And that means that when Chris and I can make some extra money, well, we take the chance where we can. When we’re hustling, our family income can be over $13,000 NET in a month.
So when I ask you how could you – YOU – make an extra $200 this week if you had to, I’m probably going to be pretty skeptical if your answer is, “Uh, no way I could do that!”
So just keep that question in the back of your mind… “If you had to make an extra $200 this week, how would you?” We’ll come back to that in a few minutes.
As of last fall, our family’s income situation looked like this:
- My full-time job income from the local newspaper
- My husband’s full-time job income from the local newspaper
- My part-time income from helping Baker with some projects
- Our joint part-time income from buying and reselling used books online via our Amazon store
- My part-time income from working as a Weight Watchers leader
- My part-time income generated as a Mary Kay consultant
- My part-time income from doing some private website setup and design
- Our occasional income from selling our crap on Craigslist, eBay, Amazon and our local “virtual yard sale” email group
- Our occasional income from monetizing our personal blogs using Amazon affiliate links, Google AdSense, etc.
Right now, we’re running a pretty similar setup, with a few changes and some streamlining. Today, I’d like to take a look at how I make all these “side hustles” work – in part, to help continue to introduce you to me and to our situation, but also because I have a sneaking suspicion that there are some applicable lessons out of my experience for anyone who’s trying to generate more income!
I’m using last fall’s list as a reference for two main reasons.
First, this was our longest “list of income streams” ever. It was notably long enough that it earned me a chance to do an interview as part of the Part-Time Money Podcast with Phil Taylor of PT Money about all my side hustles. (Funny story there: If you listen to it, I talk about working full-time from home at some point in the distant future – turns out it was much nearer in the future than I’d have guessed!)
Second, during the same period, I was participating in the Fall 2011 You Vs. Debt class and as part of that, for 30 days, I was tracking EVERY bit of income and expense in our life. That gives us a lot of data to draw from!
Our three main streams of income
This is actually the part I want to spend the LEAST time on today, but it’s an important background to the rest of the jobs.
In the fall, this was my full-time job income from the local newspaper, my husband’s full-time income from the same source, and my part-time income from helping Baker with some projects.
There are two main things to note here.
First and pretty obviously, my “full-time” and “part-time” jobs have swapped. I now (as you hopefully know!) work full-time with Baker, and I’ve remained an employee of the newspaper in a part-time, from-home capacity.
Second, all of this work is salaried. This is extremely important to note, because if I had to pick one piece of advice to give most people on generating extra income, it would be to take the simplest possible path, which is usually to pick up more hours or jobs doing what you’re already doing.
In our situation, though, especially when our full-time incomes came from both of us working at the paper, we had to look outside the box to make extra money. That was good – because that’s actually what led me to the full-time opportunity here with Baker! At the same time, I’d caution you from getting as varied and complex as we are if you have an existing stream of income that you can grow. Don’t create NEW complexities, new jobs, unless your current ones are maxed out for any reason!
Total income per month (average) from these: $8,000 (more in months with three paychecks at the newspaper, which pays biweekly).
One note here: Assume these figures to be net, but realize that with lots of part-time work comes a lot of tax-time finagling, some of which draws out of this pool of “income”; I won’t get into that in TODAY’S post, but please know I have an accountant who helps me out with all of this and keeps us in good shape with the IRS!
Our biggest side income stream: Our Amazon store
This is another post on its own – how we went from selling our own no-longer-needed books and DVDs on Amazon, to running a full-scale store with a massive inventory – but suffice it to say we average more than 1,100 items listed for sale at any given time, with a stockpile of more than another 300 items that will almost certainly be listed in the coming months.
Total income per month (average) from this: Varies; about $180 a month profit on a “regular” month.
That doesn’t sound like a ton, maybe, especially not when I consider this a “business.” However, we’re just now starting to hit our stride (and monetize on some previously purchased inventory), and there are months in which we top $300 to $400 if a big-ticket book sells. This is basically my husband’s hobby – and, over the course of a year, this “hobby” adds about $3,400 to our family’s income!
We’ll talk more about this concept when I talk about our occasional selling-our-crap income, but here’s a point to remember: Selling used goods online – whether they’re yours or someone else’s – can be pretty profitable!
Joan’s original side-income sources: Weight Watchers and Mary Kay
I talked a little about my job with Weight Watchers in my post about how I think being overweight and in debt have a lot in common. Essentially, since 2006, when I lost 50 pounds on the program, I’ve worked as a part-time meeting leader and receptionist.
The great thing about this job in particular is that you can choose how much you want to work.
Right now, for instance, I’m working only on a fill-in/substitute basis, helping out other staffers when they want time off. At my highest, I led 10 meetings a week across a three-county area (still ON TOP OF a full-time “regular” job). At my highest, I brought in about an extra $250 a week from this work.
Mary Kay is similar; as with any direct-sales business, you can certainly be as active or passive about it as you want. I’ve had months where I was really active, going out and doing facials, etc., holding open houses, what have you, again bringing in $250 to $300 profit in a week. I’ve also had months where my reorder business was the only income.
If you’re going to pursue direct sales – and I’ve heard many arguments both for and against these businesses – I highly recommend choosing a product that meets a need, is used year-round, and is consumable.
In a “down” economy, selling a product that’s completely a “want” can be hard to do, and if you sell something that doesn’t get used up, well, then the sum total result from your efforts will only be that one original sale.
With cosmetics, people are using them – and using them up – pretty much year-round, and that means if you’ve built a solid customer – even if you only ever sell them on one “product” – they’ll use it and keep coming back for more, which is pretty nice.
In both cases, the biggest draw for these income sources actually isn’t the income. The great thing about both of these “jobs” is that they spring from products/services I’d otherwise be spending my own money on.
In Weight Watchers, all Lifetime members at their weight goal can attend for free (so I don’t have to work there to attend at no cost), but staffers also get a 50% product discount, which I enjoy.
Same story with Mary Kay. I’d been using the products anyway, and paying full price to a friend. Now, I get anything I want at 50% off, and my income at a minimum covers the other 50%. That means that at the LEAST, in a month, I’ve saved the money I would spend on cosmetics. At best, there’s profit on top of that!
Total income per month (average) from these two sources: Varies; right now, about $100 a month on a “regular” month; can be over $1,000 a month combined.
Making money by making websites
This is perhaps my favorite “side hustle,” in part because it has been very serendipitous for me at various times.
In short, I design VERY basic blog-based websites for small businesses, churches, nonprofits, etc., then train personnel there on how to maintain and update.
I don’t do hosting and I do only light graphic design and technical support. I’m not working with huge companies with big chains of command. Generally, I do about two to three hours of work once, get a check, and then deal with the client by email as needed here and there (usually less than 15 minutes a month if that, unless a new “project” comes up, for which I then get another check!)
My favorite story about this is that one day, I received a Dropbox file shared to my email account. It was from a gentleman asking his web developer to take a look at his files and make some changes. I replied and said the digital equivalent of “Sorry, wrong number. … I’m not who you need, but by coincidence, I’m a developer and I can certainly take a look if your guy is for some reason unavailable.”
Long story short, that worked out, and I’ve now had several “batches” of work from this company, all of which can generally net me about $200 to $300 for a couple hours of work!
This isn’t the type of work I go seeking – other than my serendipitous email project, most of the sites I deal with are from local businesses that I either patronize or have personal connections to – but it’s something I can grow if I have the time to do extra work.
Total income from this per month: Varies, but can be $300 to $500 on a month where I have one to two projects completed.
Selling our crap for cash
This was something I was into even before I became a rabid Baker fan.
At a few points in my life, I was so broke that selling stuff for cash was how I got groceries.
In more recent – and better – years, getting rid of crap was something that I was doing anyway, often to prepare for a move, and since we tend to keep our stuff in pretty good condition, it seemed logical to at least cursorily try to sell it.
We’re very lucky in our area – our Craigslist is well-used and not full of freaks, and we also have a local email group called the “Yard Sale,” which often will fetch higher prices and more reliable buyers than Craigslist will. If you have such an option available to you, I highly recommend it! (Search Yahoo!’s email groups directory here to see what comes up for your area and phrases like “yard sale”!)
Total income from this per month: Varies widely, but can be $100 to 200+ a month, even more if we’re dealing in larger items like furniture.
Monetizing our personal blogs
Both my husband and I run blogs about our passions – his for old books and paper, mine for homeschooling – that we monetize lightly with Amazon affiliate links and Google AdSense.
We’re not going to get rich doing this. These blogs won’t likely become our full-time income sources any time soon (nor, really, do we want or need them to be). However, it’s pretty great to recoup a little money for something we were doing anyway.
Read that again.
It’s great to recoup a little money for something we were doing anyway.
That’s the key to a significant amount of our extra streams of income. I’m going to a Weight Watchers meeting each week anyway – so why not make some money doing it?
I’m going to buy, and some of my friends are going to buy, cosmetics anyway, so why not make some money doing it?
I’m going to be online anyway – so why not design some websites for a couple hours at night and make some money instead of just playing on Pinterest?
I want to get rid of a bunch of my stuff, so why not see if I can get back some of the cost?
And if we’re going to blog anyway, why not try to bring in an extra $100 or so here and there, which more than offsets our nominal expenses and gives us a little extra as well?!
Total income from monetizing our blogs per month: It’s fairly new, but so far we’re averaging about $80 to $100 a month.
So how could I make an extra $200 this week?
That was my challenge to you at the beginning of this post, and I’m willing to take it myself if you are. These “little hustles” can really add up – and when you’re trying to pay off as much debt as I am, or trying to get cash together to start or grow a business, or to fund an emergency fund… well, it comes in pretty handy.
So if I had to make an extra $200 this week, I’d probably start by selling some crap; I’ve got AT LEAST $100 of stuff sitting here that I had planned to donate (for lack of time right now), but I could take the time to list and sell it and bring in the cash.
The other main thing I could do would be to call some Mary Kay clients and see if any of them are in need of product reorders. That’s a quick and easy way to usually get $50 to $100 in sales. Not something I do terribly often, but I do like to check in and try to provide good service when I can, even though I’m very part-time with my consultancy!
What’s the big picture?
Remember how I said I tracked EVERY dollar spent and EVERY dollar earned for 30 days this fall? Well, here’s what that looked like:
Total money outgoing: $10,228 (included mortgage and debt repayment; some credit cards were paid twice in this 30-day period due to how the days fell)
Total money incoming from the sources above: $13,081
$5,000 of that income came from sources OTHER than our primary jobs. That’s intense – and it allowed us to make our outgoing number higher, as we paid a significant amount above the minimums toward our debt repayment. It’s not a level of dedication we can pull off every month – but if you’re entrepreneurial, even a “spare-time” business can make you some decent change toward getting your finances where you want them.
By the way, my numbers together added up over those 30 days to us being $2,853 ahead – which allowed us to create our emergency fund and start building a buffer in our checking account of a month’s expenses. (We’re not all the way toward that buffer yet, but we’re getting there!)
So can you make some extra money hustling?
I sure think so! Whether it’s $30 in selling on Amazon or $3,000 from a side business that you’re trying to build into a career, in my book, it’s worth doing.
How could you make some extra money this week – what’s ONE THING you can try?
Let me know in the comments!