When I was unemployed and my kids were going to a preschool we couldn’t afford, I approached the director and asked if I could create a website for the school. The only payment I asked for was allowing my kids to attend her school free of charge. The kind soul she was, she agreed to my request; and as a result, my kids attended the best preschool in our city.
What I arranged was a side hustle that saved my family thousands of dollars. The gig lasted the duration of my unemployment and until my youngest graduated from the school. The website I created and maintained was, truthfully, not that great; but the director and her staff loved it. Money saved for my family was money earned.
I remember with fondness going to the school to take photos for the website of students engaged in school projects, as well as school events like the annual parade. And I wrote content for the school site, which was title “Director’s Corner.” At times it was extremely fun, at others time consuming and frustrating.
The side hustle concept isn’t new. But for people who are unemployed, it can be a game changer. It can keep them out of debt like my side hustle did for us, or it can earn them as much money as they were making while they were employed. It all depends on what they have to offer.
I tell my clients having a side hustle could help them in their job search. If you haven’t considered a side hustle, perhaps you should. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Earn money
This is an obvious reason. The money you earn could supplement your unemployment income. In my case I didn’t pocket cash. But over the course of of my unemployment and beyond my wife and I saved money we would have had to pay.
Considered part of the Gig economy, driving for Uber can be lucrative if you’re willing to drive odd hours during the day, as well as put mileage on your car. Some of my clients have made this their main source of income.
One of my clients referees football and umpires baseball more often now that he’s out of work and has more flexibility. He’s making a good sum of money doing something he loves. He’s even learning how to referee soccer.
2. Utilize your skills and/or develop new ones
You might be an amateur photographer who can “shoot” weddings at a fraction of the cost of an established photographer. After taking thousands of shots for one or two weddings, you’ll learn how to be more efficient. Better understand lighting or where you should stand.
Did you act in college or even professionally? You could provide acting lessons to young students. Acting and teaching are two different skill sets. Some actors might say that explaining the art of acting is more difficult, as you have to employ communication skills and see the “big picture.”
If reading is your thing, you might consider proofreading as a side hustle. Writers don’t want their work published littered with typos, so they hire people who have a keen eye for finding mistakes. You could advertise your services on a site called fivver.com.
A website called sidehustlenation.com suggests 117 possible gigs (and the list keeps growing) you could consider based on your skills.
3. Get out of the house
One of the most important things you can do during the job search is get out of your house. Having a side hustle that requires this is ideal, as it gets you away from your television, computer, or out of bed. You’ll also interact with people, e.g., your clients.
If your side hustle is computer based, that’s fine, as long as you take breaks to exercise or do errands . Better yet, set up a virtual office at Starbucks or your local library, especially if you need to get away from distractions. My gig required visiting the school often, including during lunchtime when I landed full-time employment.
Choose side hustle gigs that require you leaving your house, such as personal trainer, yard worker, house cleaner, nanny, junk hauler, tour guide, etc.
4. Create networking opportunities
Whenever you’re around people there are opportunities to network. Always keep your ears open and ask questions about what your clients do. Make it clear that your side hustle is exactly that.
Business consulting is a great example of interacting with people who could be helpful for networking, particularly if said businesses are in your industry. Starting a small business marketing service will also give you exposure to great networking opportunities.
Even running a grocery shopping business can expose you to people of all types. Imagine talking with people in the check-out line and inserting into the conversation that you’re shopping for clients, but your real job is software engineer.
Eventually shoppers in line will say, “I know someone who works at Company (XYZ) and she’s looking for a software engineer. Do you have a personal business card I can give her?” And, of course, you’re prepared to hand them your business card.
5. Continue your side hustle after land your next job
Bring in additional income to make up for what might be a poorly paid position. This is more likely if your side hustle can be done during the evening. I coach people on using LinkedIn, including writing their profiles. This is done strictly during the evenings and on weekends.
As an accountant, you can continue your side hustle by servicing the small clients you gained while unemployed. You’ll perform accounting services during evening hours.
Your side hustle could lead to a career change. One of my LinkedIn connections, Jack Wang, worked in banking until he joined the non-profit world. Wisely he continued financial advising on the side. Now he has made financial advising his full-time calling and is doing quite well with his own business.
Another close LinkedIn connection, Kevin Willett, started out in banking, as well, but is now running a very successful business networking group called Friends of Kevin. He utilizes what he learned about networking, as a VP of banking, to facilitate this group. He loves what he’s doing, and he’s been doing it for quite some while.
You can see how running a side hustle can be beneficial to your job search—earning money, getting out of the house, networking, exercising your skills, and continuing your business while employed.
It’s been awhile since I designed and maintained my kids’ school’s website, but I remember with fondness my visits to their school to take hundreds of photos of happy children. My side hustle allowed our three kids to attend a very good preschool. That made it all worthwhile.
Photo: Flickr, Aldo Vargas
Photo: Flickr, Ed Yourdon
Photo: Flickr, David Gibby
Although I agree a side hustle is almost always a good idea (I had one from 1984 until 1994 when it became my full time job for the next decade) please note there are tax obligations that go alongside any side hustle. Also in most (all?) states it will directly affect unemployment compensation. And yes, barter is considered income. Just be aware to stay on the right side of the various agencies to keep yourself “safe”.
Good to keep in mind, Hollis. In Massachusetts one can earn up to 1/3 of their UI benefits without it affecting their benefits. After then it’s dollar for dollar.