Coming up with extra cash to pay the bills, cover unexpected expenses, boost savings, accelerate your 401(k) or perhaps even finance a dream vacation isn't as hard as it seems. Plenty of legit, and many unique, moneymaking opportunities are out there for you to capitalize on at your convenience, with the perk of no long-term commitment and, in most cases, setting your own hours.
Updated for 2020, our diverse list of side hustles is packed with more tactics to earn extra cash than ever -- 38 ideas for you to consider, along with resources and pointers to get you started. Some are good for a fast buck, while others could turn into consistent streams of income. Find out which cash-generating ideas could work best for you.
Become an Election Officer
You can cash in on our right to vote on Election Day. Many localities need election officers, especially those who are bilingual. And while the hours may be long, the pay isn't bad for a day's - in some cases 5 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. - work.
For example, in Fairfax County, Va., which needs thousands of poll workers, election officers are paid $175 for a full day (step up your game and get paid $225 as an assistant chief election officer and $250 as a chief election officer). In Monterey County, Calif., election officers are paid $135 (for clerks) and $185 (for inspectors).
Generally, to qualify, you must be at least 18 years of age and a registered voter in the state, be a U.S. citizen, read and write English, and have transportation to the polling place. You'll likely also have to devote time to attend a training class. Here's a video about becoming an election officer.
Pro tip: Bring plenty of snacks. It's a very long day, and you cannot leave the polling place to grab some chow.
Coach a Youth Sports Team
This one may require some creative workarounds with your full-time job - but that's the deal with most moonlighting work. In the case of coaching youth teams, it often means late-afternoon, evening and weekend availability, plus knowledge of the intricacies of a sport - soccer, hockey, softball, you name it -- and the patience and talent to teach it to others.
Many recreational youth sports clubs, especially travel teams, around the country pay their coaching staffs. The pay scale for youth soccer coaches on club teams, for example, tops out at around $2,000 per month at the highest level ($200-$400 per month at the lowest level), according to Job Monkey, a job-search website. But note: You must be certified at various levels to earn that kind of money and have safety certifications, which may or may not be paid by the organization.
Some high schools around the country also rely on outside individuals to coach teams if teachers aren't interested in taking those positions. (I coached high-school soccer and a club youth soccer team for a few years while also working my full-time job as a journalist.) Pay varies. I received $2,500 per season for coaching high-school soccer. Of course, from pre-season to post-season and all the daily practices and games in between, that's not a lot of money - but it helped, and it was a lot of fun.
If you're a professional, colleges and universities are always on the lookout for adjunct professors or lecturers. Some may require a master's degree; others just a college degree and professional experience to share with students. I taught visual and print journalism at two esteemed J-schools - one required a master's degree, which I have - for 10 years while holding down a full-time job. The side hustles added several thousand dollars to our annual household income, and, more, it was richly fulfilling to work with students eager to learn. How do you get an adjunct teaching job? Reach out to community colleges, colleges or universities where you live. Depending on your specialty - say, accounting - contact the department head in that particular school and inquire about becoming an adjunct.
How about substitute teaching? Grade schools and high schools nationwide are looking for people to substitute teach. Some districts hire directly (during a recent federal government shutdown, the Fairfax County Public School system in northern Virginia outside of Washington, D.C., actively encouraged furloughed government workers to substitute teach and held a series of workshops seeking substitute teachers). Some districts have outsourced the hiring process. ESS, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based K-12 educational staffing firm, works with more than 700 school systems in 27 states to fill substitute teacher and other staffing positions with its base of more than 60,000 substitutes and permanent employees.
The company says it fills many nonteaching roles that don't require certification. These are filled by people who are maybe getting their feet wet, seeing if they want to pursue a teaching career. It varies by state and school district, but some don't require substitutes to have teaching certification. Pennsylvania, for example, allows people with a bachelor's degree to apply for a one-year emergency certification to substitute. Check the websites of school districts in your area to see if they are hiring substitutes.
Pay varies by district. The Fairfax County Public School system pays substitute teachers $14.50 to $20.50 per hour.
Here's a state-by-state guide to requirements, and in some cases, pay and benefits, for substitute teachers, courtesy of the National Education Association.
Be a Tour Guide
If you live near an historic site overseen by the National Park Service, you could become a licensed guide with the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides. For example, the Licensed Battlefield Guides of Gettysburg, the Pennsylvania site of one of the greatest battles of the American Civil War, are licensed and regulated by the National Park Service and are the only individuals legally allowed to conduct visitors around the national park for a fee. Rates for a two-hour basic battlefield tour range from $63 to $132 depending on group size, with prorated fees of $31.50 to $66 per hour for additional time. Tips are not required but often given.
Are you a runner? Consider earning extra bucks as a running tour guide. City Running Tours - "sweat and sightsee simultaneously" - is one company offering "sightrunning" (it's a thing) services in 14 (and counting) U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., and Honolulu (and two cities in Canada). The company offers personalized or group tours. Tips aren't required, but permitted.
"Our tour guides make on average about $20-$40 per tour plus incentives based on seniority, type of tour, distance, number of participants, referrals and positive reviews," Michael Gazaleh, president and CEO of City Running Tours, tells us.
Sell Unwanted Electronics
Don't leave smart phones, tablets, computers or game consoles you're no longer using in a desk drawer or the back of a closet. You can easily cash in on your unwanted electronics - even damaged items - by selling them online.
Sell used smart phones and Apple products at Gazelle.com and get paid by check, PayPal or an Amazon gift card; you can also use one of ecoATM's mall kiosks and get instant cash. You can sell smart phones, tablets, and wearables (think "smart watch") to NextWorth.com and get paid by PayPal or by check. At uSell, you can sell smart phones, tablets, game consoles, and more. You get paid by check or through PayPal. Shipping with all of these sites is free. Or bring your video games, game consoles, smart phones and tablets, and accessories to GameStop to earn cash or store credit without the shipping hassles.
Search for Unclaimed Property
Federal and state coffers hold billions of dollars' worth of unclaimed property. Some of it could be yours, but it's up to you to track down the cash.
The feds hang on to tax refunds that are returned to the IRS because of mailing-address errors or that are never claimed by taxpayers because they didn't file returns. The government also holds on to forgotten savings bonds, government-guaranteed mortgage-insurance refunds and government pensions that were never claimed. There's no central database, so you'll have to check with individual federal agencies about missing funds.
State governments hold onto uncashed dividend checks, returned utility deposits, unclaimed state-tax refunds, uncollected insurance benefits, and stock dividends, among other things. (If a bank or other payer doesn't have your last known address on file, it will turn over your money to the state in which the institution is incorporated.) You can search for unclaimed property held by states at Unclaimed.org and Missingmoney.com.
Yes, I did this, in 2017. And yes, I found some unclaimed funds, in the coffers of New York state, where I once lived. I followed the procedure and sent a notarized letter to New York and heard back. I received three checks totaling $134.
If you have a special skill -- whether it's the ability to play an instrument well, paint like Picasso or explain calculus in a way anyone (even me) can understand -- you may be able to make money sharing it with others. For example, you could earn $10 to $75 an hour tutoring individual kids or college students if you speak a second language or have great math, science or writing skills.
Advertise your services on school, campus and community bulletin boards, or tutoring web sites such as Wyzant (where you choose your own hourly rate) and Tutor.com. And take advantage of social media sites, such as Facebook, to let people know about the lessons you're able to teach.
Model for Artists
Modeling is another great way to earn money. If you're comfortable posing nude in front of artists and are capable of holding poses for as long as 30 minutes, consider life modeling. Artists want to draw bodies of all shapes and sizes in order to hone their skills. Typical sessions last three hours, and pay is about $18 to $25 per hour, according to job listings on Jobmonkey.com. During sessions, models start with short one-minute gesture poses, then transition to longer poses lasting from five to 30 minutes. If you're interested in becoming a life model, contact art schools at local colleges, art organizations and community centers. You can also check Artmodeltips.com for a list of life drawing sessions in the U.S. and guidance on entering this field of work.
If you're uncomfortable with nekkid life modeling, you could take other routes. How about modeling just part of your bod? Fashion magazines, TV shows, commercials and movies are always in need of attractive hands, feet, legs, even beards, unique ears and that perfectly shaped bald pate. In-demand body-part models earn anywhere from $1,000 a day for TV work and $2,000-$5,000 for print work, according to Forbes. Contact local and national modeling agencies, including Los Angeles-based BodyPartsModels.com.
Get Paid for Your Opinions
Market-research firms are hired by big businesses to get inside the heads of consumers. Participation in an in-person focus group led by a moderator, such as those run by Focus Pointe Global, can earn you between $50 and $750. Focus Pointe Global also has opportunities for telephone, app or online surveys as well as clinical trials.
In exchange for taking online and phone surveys, firms such as Harris Poll Online and Inspired Opinions by Schlesinger offer rewards points redeemable for gift cards and merchandise from the likes of Visa (debit cards), Amazon.com, Starbucks and iTunes. Beware scams, though. Legitimate firms won't charge a fee or ask you to cash a check and wire back part of the money.
Lawyers are getting in on the act, too. "Online jurors" can earn cash for giving their opinions on legal cases. EJury.com pays $5 to $10 per case. You'll need a PayPal account. At OnlineVerdict.com, where fees for "jurors" range from $20 to $60 (the case reviews take from 20 minutes to 60 minutes to complete), payment is made by check.
Sell Gold and Silver for Scrap
If you have gold jewelry that isn't valuable as an antique or a designer piece, consider selling it for scrap. Keep in mind that most gold jewelry isn't pure, say 14-karat or 18-karat, so you'll need to calculate the melt value to get a better sense of its worth as scrap. The melt value reflects the actual amount of gold in the jewelry; a dealer will offer you a percentage of that value. Quotes will vary widely, so get several.
The same goes for silver. Maybe you inherited a few sterling trays you never use. Assuming the trays hold no particular value to collectors, sell them for scrap rather than trying to sell them at a consignment store or online. Check with several metals dealers, both online and at storefront locations, to get quotes. Expect to receive about 85% to 90% of your silver's melt value.
Sell Gently Worn Clothing
If you or your family members have brand-name clothing, accessories or shoes that are in good condition but no longer being used, turn them into quick cash by selling them on consignment. Research the consignment shops in your area to find the right match for the types and styles of clothing you have to sell. Most consignment stores will price items at one-third of their retail value, and you'll likely get 50% of the price at which your items eventually sell.
You might be able to get more for your used clothes by selling them online. For example, you can earn up to 80% of the resale value of women's and kids' clothing, shoes and handbags at fashion resale site thredUP.com. If you have high-end men's and women's clothing, jewelry, watches and accessories, try your luck with luxury consignment site The RealReal. You earn up to 85% of the resale value in cash. Another option for designer clothing and accessories: Tradesy, which pays a 19.8% commission of the resale value of items $50 or more. You receive earnings via PayPal, debit card or a bank account. (Note: Several of these sites require that you register before you can enter and explore.)
A new site in this space, Poshmark, takes it all -- clothing for women, men and children, plus handbags, shoes, jewelry and makeup. You keep 80% of the sale, and Poshmark keeps 20%.
Or skip the middle-man and sell your used clothing on eBay, which will require more effort on your part but could result in a bigger return.
Babysitting can be a fun way to put money in your pocket if you like kids. Hourly rates vary by city (and demands of services). In smaller towns and cities, such as Palatine, Ill., and Schaumburg, Ill., the going rate is $10 to $15 an hour; in big cities such as New York and Washington, expect to earn $10 to $40 an hour as a babysitter or nanny. Advertise your services on community bulletin boards, the public library or houses of worship. You can also place a listing or search for jobs on sites such as Care.com and Sittercity, which notes the average hourly rate for babysitters in the U.S. is just under $14.
Sell Excess Furniture
If you have an attic, garage or storage unit filled with furniture you're not using, unload those items for cash by selling them on Craigslist. (You might even end up saving the monthly cost of your storage unit.) You can list large items (free) on your local Craigslist classifieds, and buyers will come to you -- if you're comfortable with that (some people I know who sell on Craigslist meet the buyers at a neutral, very public location, including police stations, just to play it safe). Just be sure to insist on cash to avoid bounced checks. Take good photos, share key details and provide a concise description of what you're selling.
If you don't want the hassle of selling items yourself, take furniture and home accessories you no longer want to an upscale consignment store that gets a lot of traffic so that you can get top dollar for your items. Expect to split the profit 50/50 with the store.
For online furniture consignment, try sites such as Chairish, which lets you sell your used or vintage furniture and home decor and earn up to 70% of the resale value, or AptDeco (only available in the New York City area), which helps you sell used home furnishings. AptDeco retains between 19% and 38% of the sale price. Listings for both sites are free.
Sell Collectibles Online
Perhaps you collected baseball cards (or stamps, coins or Beanie Babies) when you were young, and now they're just collecting dust. But they might be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. One place to get top dollar for your collectibles and small items of value is eBay. Click on the "register" link in the top left corner of the homepage to create an account. Then visit the site's "Seller Center" to learn how to sell. (Or check out our slide show with 9 Secrets to Making More Money on Your eBay Auction.) You can list 50 items every month for free, and you'll pay a 10% fee (lower in some cases) on each item when it sells. Research prices for merchandise similar to what you plan to sell, so that you can price your wares competitively. For more tips on how and where to sell valuable items, see 6 Things You Should Know About Collectibles.
Redeem Rewards Points
You could be sitting on an untapped source of cash if you haven't bothered to redeem your credit card rewards points lately. One-third of all rewards -- everything from airline miles to cash back -- worth a total of $16 billion go unredeemed each year, according to a study by marketing research firm Colloquy. Per household, that averages out to $205 worth of rewards a year that aren't redeemed.
The next-best thing to getting cash for points is a general-purpose gift card, something I stumbled on recently as I was looking at my NASA Federal Credit Union credit card statement online. I'd actually racked up enough rewards points to land a $50 Costco gift card. At American Express, for example, 5,000 Membership Rewards points earn you a $25 AmEx gift card that's good in more than a million places. You can get more bang for your points by selecting a retailer-specific gift card from AmEx, such as The Cheesecake Factory, for example, where you'll score a $50 gift card for 5,882 AmEx points.
Sell Used Books
Stop letting your used books collect dust on a book shelf, and start selling them online. BookScouter.com makes it easy for you to get the best price for your books. Simply type in the ISBN, which you can find on Amazon.com, from your book, and BookScouter.com scans prices from more than 30 book-buying sites to show you which ones are offering the most. For example, the highest price offered recently for a copy of American Dirt (bought new for about $16.79 at Amazon), was $5.27 from sellbackyourbook.com.
BookScouter.com is also a good place to find out who's doling out the best prices for used college textbooks. For example, we plugged in the ISBN for the textbook International Environmental Law and Policy ($241 new at Amazon) and found sellbackyyourbook.com would buy it for $105.28. For more information, see Get the Best Price When Selling Back Textbooks.
Walk or Pet-Sit Dogs
Why not get a little exercise while you earn anywhere from $10 to $30 for about an hour's work? Working folks will pay plenty for you to take mutts W.C. or Moonshadow on a daily stroll while they're (the owners, not the pets) at the office. Or consider pet-sitting for people while they're on vacation for a daily fee of $50 or more. Advertise your services in veterinarians' offices, on Craigslist or on sites such as Care.com.
You can also team up with an existing dog-walking operation that handles client recruitment and scheduling. To find one, ask other dog walkers you encounter whether they're part of a group or check Craigslist.
Marking similar territory is Rover.com, a website for those of you looking to be pet caregivers (and, as well, a site for pet owners to find you). Rover offers dog boarding services, pet- and/or house-sitting services, doggy day care and even drop-in services where caregivers stop by your crib for quick potty services (for the dog) and a mini-playdate. Rover has some stringent guidelines for the folks it hires (only taking on less than 20 percent of potential sitters, the company says). The Olympia, Wash.-based firm has services in more than 34,000 communities in North America. Rover says sitters it backs via its website can earn up to $1,000 a month (sitters set their own rates; Rover takes a 20% bite).
Get Freelance Work
Plenty of media, corporate and nonprofit websites are looking for freelancers to write, edit or design content for an average of $30 to $70 per hour, according to the website Freelancewriting.com. Freelancewriting.com and Freelance Writing Jobs provide a long list of freelance writing opportunities culled from several top sites, along with advice and tips for freelance writers. Freelancer.com offers a wide variety of freelancing jobs in categories such as design, media and architecture or writing and content. For $14.99 a month, you can join Mediabistro's MB Unlimited to post your qualifications and get support for your endeavors. Krop is a useful site for developers and designers, but it, too, posts jobs for copywriters and copy editors.
If you fancy yourself a skilled photographer, you can also earn extra cash by selling photos to stock art sites such as iStock by Getty Images and Shutterstock. At both sites, you must apply to be a contributor by submitting samples of your photos, illustrations, videos or audio. If approved, you'll earn royalties when your files are downloaded by paying clients. iStock royalty rates start at 15% for photos and 20% for videos and illustrations (if you sign as an exclusive contributor to iStock, you can earn between 25% and $45%). Shutterstock pays between $0.25 and $0.38 per still image and $0.81 and $2.85 per on-demand image.
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