The Struggling Student Rants—Consider Turning Your Skills into a Side Hustle

The Struggling Student Rants—Consider Turning Your Skills into a Side Hustle

Whether you’re saving for a large purchase, planning a big trip, trying to pay down those ugly student loans, or saving for your next AU courses, who couldn’t use a little bit more cash?

Starting a side-hustle gives you the chance to make more money.  According to Merriam-Webster, the precise definition of side-hustle is still evolving and has now evolved to take on the meaning of “work performed for income supplementary to one’s primary job.”

Now, before you dismiss side-hustling, thinking this just isn’t something you want to do or have time for, consider the benefits a side-hustle can offer you.  Many people claim that money can’t buy happiness.  But I genuinely believe that starting a side-hustle can, in fact, make you a happier person.  Run with me on this, and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

Side-hustles are often activities we enjoy.  Usually, it’s rare to get paid for spending time with your kids in the park or getting into the zone while working on your pottery.  So, imagine how great you would feel if you could get paid to do something you love doing?  Even if you’re stuck in a job you’re not crazy about, a side-hustle gives you that opportunity to do something you enjoy and get paid to boot!  In addition, it can give you the opportunity to explore your passions, and possibly find purpose.

But maybe you’re more concerned with what I said about being “stuck in a job you’re not crazy about…”?  Well, a side-hustle has your back there, too.  Think about it: the more you put yourself out there, the better your chances of networking and making connections.  When you have a side-hustle, you get a chance to meet and collaborate with people you otherwise would never have interacted with.  Especially at the job you’re (not) so crazy about!  And, you never know where that next connection could lead you to.

Now, I’m not saying side-hustles are all unicorns and roses—there are disadvantages.  The reality is, romanticizing side-hustles is just another way of normalizing low wages and our current crappy economy.  While a side-hustle might, indeed, be very lucrative for some, for most people it’s just shiny new wrapping on an old problem – stagnant wages which are not in sync with our country’s rate of inflation and the requirement for two (or more) jobs just to make ends meet.  Also, you have to be smart in choosing which side-hustles are well-paid and which are just plain scams or a waste of your time.  A quick Google search will bring up thousands of stories about side-hustles gone wrong, companies taking advantage of people trying to make a dollar, and some jobs that just plain suck the joy out of your soul.  Plus, if you already work an eight-hour day and have to then come home and change, only to go work for another four hours, at what point do you find time to eat, sleep, shower, read a book, or just spend time with your family?

A side-hustle is not for everyone, and sometimes you need to put your mental and physical health above all else.  Still, a side-hustle can be seen as an end to a means, or it can be seen as a way out of a currently abysmal reality in your cubicle.  It really depends on how you look at it.  And there are ways to make a side-hustle doing the things you love, on your own time, at your own pace.  Just like our courses with AU!

Start a blog

Yes, I know, this has been beaten to death.  But, if you enjoy writing, use it as a way to unwind, are good at writing creative content, and have the ability to draw in large crowds, you can turn that joy into a profit.  It takes time to draw in loyal followers, and it takes even more time—and some marketing skills—to get those followers to interact with you on your blog site.  But, that’s when the rewards start coming in!  A blog is something that will either make you a lot of money or it will make you nothing, and you might be the only person that ever reads it.  So, don’t go into it for the cash, but look at it as a way to unwind doing something you love, or a way to permanently record your thoughts on the Internet.  Ideally, you should find a singular niche that you write about—Pilates, stock markets, makeup, or electric cars—and avoid being all over the place.  This will help you build an audience with the same interests as you and gain a loyal following.  I suggest taking ECOM320—Overview of e-Commerce, if it’s not on your current radar, to help with understanding how websites work and with the marketing skills.  You can also use Google Analytics to track traffic on your blog site, for free, and once you have that loyal following, there are a few ways to monetize on your blog:

  • Affiliate income
  • Ad placements
  • Brand partnerships
  • E-courses or e-books
  • Business opportunities (book deals, speaking gigs)
Sign-up with a direct sales company

Yes, I’m talking about MLMs.  And yes, Urban Dictionary says it’s a stupid way to alienate your friends – I completely agree.  To clarify, MLM stands for “Multi-level marketing”, also known as pyramid selling, network marketing, or referral marketing.  Basically, this is the Avon lady who not only tries to convince you to buy her products but to sign up as a team member under her to get a better discount and be as successful as she is running her own business.  You agree and fork over the $1,000,000 you need to become a gold & rose diamond superstar member, despite the pit in your stomach.  You then proceed to harass your own group of friends to buy, until you realize that the only way to actually break even from even signing up for this is to convince your friends to sign up as “team members” also.  Let’s just say I’m not a fan of pyramid selling; however, I also know lots of people who are naturally extroverted and are ideal for these gigs.  And that makes all the difference!  Their bubbly and care-free personality makes you want to buy from them, without them even saying anything or putting the pressure on.  They tend to just throw the fact that they’re selling XYZ out there, leave it at that, and go on with their lives.  They will, also, occasionally post a random article or link on Facebook, just to remind their friends.  So, if you’re good at public relations, this just might be a good fit for you!  But please, for the love of God, don’t go about hosting virtual or in-house Tupperware “parties”, suddenly inviting people you have not talked to in years, solely for the purpose of making a buck off their hard-earned cash.  I haven’t seen, nor spoken to you in three years Karen, and I specifically remember you looking the other way in Costco pretending you were busy looking at the array of chicken thighs.  Don’t try to sell me your Arbonne Bath bombs on Messenger with your pre-written script because you need X amount of sales to make the “Diamond Jubilee” member list.  End rant.

Sell Online

You all know what I’m talking about – VarageSale, Facebook Marketplace, and all the local Buy/Sell Groups on Facebook.  One thing, that irks me about these selling platforms, however, is that it brings out people’s pettiness when they try to bargain down the $10 shelving unit you’re trying to get rid of and offer you $2.50.  These are also great platforms for discovering those who were raised with no manners – you know the ones who book a time for pick-up, make you wait around all day, don’t bother showing up, and then turn rude to a different level when you ask them why.

But, there are better ways to sell online, I kid you not!  Similar to setting up your own blog, this requires some patience and possible upfront costs (but much lower costs than becoming a gold & rose diamond superstar member).  Recently, I discovered how easy it is to set up your very own website and sell your wares.  And this is where doing what you love crosses over into making money from it.  So if you love turning blobs of clay into pitchers and painting intricate designs on them, this is your chance to shine, baby!  Do you love unwinding after a long day with a roll of yarn and a crochet needle?  Is your pup getting fed up with wearing a different sweater every day of the week?  No problem!  Set up your own niche website and sell those doggy sweaters on Etsy!  You never know what kind of traffic you’ll get on your Website and, if you’re an undiscovered Picasso, this could be your chance to get discovered.

There is a downside to all this, and I feel I should warn you.  If you decide to make your own products and sell them online, there are more costs involved in overhead and materials (and labour) to create, store, and ship the product.  So depending on what you want to make and sell, it could end up being a pricey investment.  There’s also the risk involved, that you might not be able to sell what you made and then end up with a large lot of products lying around and money thrown out the window.

Another way to sell online is dropshipping.  What is dropshipping?   It’s when you have your own website and sell your wares, but you don’t actually have to make your wares, or even keep them lying around the house until they get sold.  You never see, or handle, the product.  You’re probably thinking “Ok, so what am I selling then, thin air?”  Kind of.  You see, with dropshipping you set up your website, list the products you’d like to sell (after you find a reputable vendor), and when someone adds something to their cart you get a notification.  You then proceed to notify the dropship vendor and buy that product from them.  They then mail that item directly to the customer, who doesn’t know—and doesn’t care—where it came from, as long it’s what they ordered and intact.  Shopify, in coordination with Oberlo, is great to get you started with this model.

Traditional Side-hustles

Personally, I’m old-school, and prefer true and tested ways.  Traditional side-hustles are not dead and are great for part-time.  You can try dog walking, babysitter, restaurant server, pizza delivery driver, administrative assistant, or barista.  You can also find part-time jobs within your industry.  Maybe you’re a full-time marketing consultant for a large organization.  You can take on a part-time social media gig.  If you like the idea of a mind-numbing job for 5 hours a week just to make a couple hundred extra a month, try applying for a cashier at Walmart.  I am told their hours are very flexible.  If you have a reliable and clean vehicle, the latest craze is signing up to be an Uber driver.

How much money can you make with your part-time job?  Most of these jobs float around the minimum wage mark.  However, you can find a few higher paying side-hustles if you dig around a bit.

Consulting Business

If you have specialized talent, or skill, that can benefit others, starting a consulting business could turn into a lucrative side-hustle, or even your main gig.  This will take the most time to get rolling, but again, I’ve read of people who generate five or six figure incomes by doing what they love and what they’re good at.  The challenging thing, for this one, is networking, building relationships, and proving your skill sets.  If you’re a member of Introverts Are Us, like I am, this may seem horrifying at first, but it is doable.

Just think of your industry from a broad perspective, and what problem you can use your skill-sets to solve.  People tend to seek those who can either A) make them feel better, or B) solve a problem.  The difference is that option A can be seen as a luxury and not always sought after.  Whereas, option B is a necessity and has a sense of urgency, so will be sought after.  If you’re running low on ideas on what to “consult” try narrowing it down to specific skill-sets.  You can start consulting in a lot of niches, such as Marketing consultant, Brand consultant, Accounting, HR consultant, IT and digital consultant, or social media consultant.  I recently listened to the $100 start-up on my audiobooks reader and there were some really good tips and ideas on there – borrow it from your local library to see what I’m talking about!

The concept of having a side-hustle is not new, but it has become extremely popular in recent years.  This is most likely due to the unstable economic times the past couple decades.  Finding the time for a side-hustle can be a challenge, too, especially if you already worked a long day, have kids, etc.  And some side-hustles will take longer to get started than others.  It’s all about finding the right balance that fits your busy lifestyle.  But before you dismiss the idea, consider that you might have more free time than you realize.  Instead of spending 2 hours mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds to unwind, use that time to work on your side-hustle ideas.

Remember that investing and sacrificing a few hours today could help your finances and future later.  To summarize, find something you’re passionate about or enjoy doing.  Set a dedicated number of hours each week and stick to it.  Look at your side-hustle as a potential opportunity.  Be patient and don’t expect to quit your regular job within a few weeks.  And, finally, even if you fall down the first time, keep going.  That failure makes your next move stronger.

References

The Origins of ‘Side-Hustle’.  (n.d.).  Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/words-were-watching-side-hustle

Side hustle.  (n.d.).  Retrieved from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=side hustle

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