Your Guide to Side Hustles

Getting by isn’t as easy as it used to be. No disrespect meant to the many success stories of the ’70s and ’80s, but those of us who are now — or still — out here trying to make a living have new challenges and new frustrations. A “gig economy” has stripped some of us of benefits that were hard won back in the Progressive Era. While the economy has grown, the wealth held by everyday, hardworking people in our country has remained remarkably stagnant; the trend continues today as a surging economy leaves too many behind. And if we work hard to earn a living, we may find that even that is not enough. Economists say the real wage of the typical American hasn’t budged in years.

All of this has created some real problems for Americans. Many of us have too little saved for retirement and too little in the bank to cover unexpected expenses.

But what can we do? Even if we aim for big policy changes or economic shifts, we need to come up with something in the meantime. That’s why so many people are now turning to the “side hustle.”

Why side hustles make sense

A side hustle is anything you work at for money besides your main job. It’s not exactly the same thing as moonlighting, though, because many (if not most) side hustles don’t involve an added employer. Side hustles are often entrepreneurial in spirit.

You’ll still pay taxes on your side hustle income (please don’t try to avoid this — it makes the IRS very upset), but having a side hustle allows you to increase your earning power by turning free time into work time (of course, assuming that you opt for an entrepreneurial side hustle, you can more or less choose how much to work and when). That’s a great way to build an emergency fund, supplement retirement savings, or pay down a debt faster.

From hobby to side hustle

Side hustles are great, but where can you get one? Well, you actually might already have one. Most people have hobbies they enjoy, but some of us can actually make money through our passions. Are you a weekend musician who plays paying gigs? A crafty creator who sells wares at art shows? Then your hobby might be a side hustle (and you should probably check in on the tax implications of that).

Or maybe you have a hobby that could be a side hustle. Does everyone love your crochet work? Your paintings? Your ceramics? Then maybe you should be selling them at art shows or through online marketplaces such as Etsy and eBay. It has never been easier for hobbyists to monetize their work, and choosing to make money off of something you already do and love could give you a side-hustle income without adding much new “work” to your days off.

Flipping and reselling

Folks with enough disposable income can do well flipping houses. They buy a run-down place in a decent neighborhood, spruce it up with renovations, and resell it fast for a quick profit. That can be either a full-time job or a side hustle — but, either way, it’s out of financial reach for many of us.

But houses aren’t the only things you can flip. If you master the market for some type of product or collectible on eBay or Etsy, you could snap up underpriced goods or pick up great deals at garage sales and then flip your finds for a profit. And then there are the products that you can buy in bulk through sites like Direct Liquidation — whole pallets of returns and liquidated goods from huge retailers such as Amazon and Walmart. Some entrepreneurs buy goods this way and then resell them on online marketplaces (including, sometimes, Amazon itself) for a profit. You’ll need to be knowledgeable, of course; try to focus on particular types of items so that you can learn everything you can about their resale values and popularity. The more efficient you can be with this work, the more you can make on the weekends or after work without having to quit your day job.

Passive income and long-term goals

A side hustle is great, but nobody wants to work forever. So we’ll leave you with this advice: Think about passive income. Sometimes, a side-hustle project like an e-book or a website (with ads) can give you long-term passive income that lasts after the work is done. Other forms of passive income don’t involve much “hustle” at all: Buying stocks and other investments can give you increased wealth without asking you to lift a finger. Be smart and work hard — you can still make it in this country of ours.