Another year, another chance to ask myself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
I have worked from home full-time as a freelancer since September 2018, and there have been some great discoveries and learnings along the way. While testing out ideas and filling in my time, I wanted to share the incremental income streams that I have actually tried (and liked!).
On average, they add up to a combined $300+ each month (on top of my regular freelance work). Whether you want a little extra spending cash or you need additional income, these platforms can help you reach your financial goals in 2019!
PLUS: Some of these ideas are AMAZING ways to test out your small business idea or audience niche. They have low barriers to entry, low startup costs, and some require very little time once they are set up.
Active Income Streams
These revenue streams make you work for your money, but they are great ways to make a little extra while discovering the type of work you enjoy most.
The Good: Platforms like Upwork allow you to take on short-term projects without the hassle of invoicing and chasing payments. Depending on how much you want to work and your skills, you can make a good deal of money finding projects/clients on Upwork. Do a quick search to see if your preferred projects are needed by contractors. Or, if you just want to make a little dough, try something like data entry or transcription. The biggest benefit of Upwork, in my opinion, is the ability to fine-tune your own side hustle or small business idea while still making money. For example, if you want to be a blog editor, take on a project or two to see if that career is right for you.
The Bad: It can take some time to finally land quality clients on Upwork. It seems like a “when it rains, it pours” type of platform — once you get a great client, three more ask to interview you. With patience, you can choose projects you like best and increase your rate as you gain experience and leads. The other downside is that all of the convenience of Upwork is paid for with 10-20% of your earnings in fees.
The Good: The work for UserTesting is very simple. You apply to be a tester, and once accepted, you receive invitations to test websites and apps. You go through screenings to see if you fit what the client needs, and if selected, you spend 10-40 minutes going through their prototypes. The UserTesting software records your motions and you dictate your actions to help the clients improve their products. Most tests pay $10 each, which is not bad for the time and work you put in.
The Bad: I only occasionally qualify for the tests available. But, when I check daily, I get about two tests per week. I can’t make a living on this platform, but the extra money is definitely worth the time.
The Good: Do you waste time on social media during the day? I do, and that is why I like InboxDollars. As I sit there watching a show with my hubby, I can also be filling out surveys to earn money (instead of wasting time on Facebook). So far I have made at least $27 each month, with most months earning twice that amount.
The Bad: There are some big frustrations with InboxDollars. One, the surveys can take a great deal of time for little or no money. Second, the cash offers can be slow to credit, and the format of the surveys can be wonky. Finally, you must earn $30 before you receive payment, so the process feels slow. But overall, it is my favorite survey website and I continue to use it to fill in my television time!
Sell Your Stuff
In case you haven’t heard, Marie Kondo has swept the U.S. with her life-changing magic of tidying up. I have been a fan of hers since I read her book last year, but I did not really minimize until I watched her series on Netflix.
People can only sell so much, but I made an extra $50-$150 a month by selling items I didn’t or couldn’t use anymore. There are many platforms and apps to use, but I sold my stuff on the following websites.
- Facebook Marketplace: I used this one the most. I joined many local FB yard sale groups but sold zero items. Marketplace can be extremely annoying, though, with all of its flakey buyers. I found my sales went smoother and faster by putting this in my description: “First come, first serve. No holds unless you pre-pay via Venmo or PayPal.” The other annoying part of Marketplace is the fact that Facebook rejects my listings about 80% of the time due to potential violations. Their filtering software for violations is WAY off, so it may take a few tries for your listings to be active.
- Craigslist: An old platform but a solid choice for higher-priced items. I sold my used car in one day on there. Just be safe when using Craiglist: try to find neutral locations, be cautious with communication, and remove the listing as soon as the item is sold.
- Nextdoor: In case this is new to you, Nextdoor is a social network that connects you to people in your neighborhood. Sell things, buy things, report missing animals, share community events, etc. If you are new, give yourself several days to set up your profile because they verify your address before granting you access.
The Good: Considering a nomadic, traveling life? Just want to make a little extra money each month? Try teaching English. There are many platforms to do this online, but I actually did this in person. I worked about 6 hours a week (planning and teaching) and made an extra $60. If you are new to teaching, test out your audience (individual vs group; beginner vs industry-specific; kids vs adults). If you love it, make it your job! If not, it can be a valuable back-up job. And below you will see ways to turn your teaching materials into passive income.
The Bad: Teaching is much harder than it sounds. In most cases, you need to take time each week to plan your lessons and grade exams. And teaching may not be for you. Test out the waters and decide for yourself!
Passive Income Streams
Like the term “side hustle,” passive income is buzzy among budding entrepreneurs. Passive income streams require work upfront and continued time for maintenance, but it allows you to test out small business ideas economically and make a little money on the side.
Two big concepts will make your passive income streams more successful:
- Content Marketing — Add value to your customers’ lives and then upsell them on your passive income offering.
- Promotion — Put your value-added content in front of the right audience through social media, e-mail marketing, and advertising.
The Good: While I don’t take out my earnings, I use a Robinhood investment account to learn more about the stock market and make my money work for me (instead of earning pennies in a savings account). Robinhood requires $0 to open an account so you can check out the app before actually committing any money.
The Bad: If you are not familiar with trading and investments, it can be overwhelming to choose stocks and understand how the market works. I recommend doing research before you buy stocks, and DO NOT SELL if you see the market take a hit. The worst thing you can do is sell low, because many times, stock prices rise again and reward the patient investors.
The Good: If you are already speaking to an audience, why not make a little extra money with affiliate links? Basically, if someone buys a product or service using your link you receive a small commission. I only make about $2 per month on average, but it’s better than nothing! See if your favorite services offer affiliate programs. Amazon is the most popular one out there and the only one I use.
The Bad: You MUST disclose when you use affiliate links. (My disclaimer at the end of my post is an example!) Don’t pull a Fyre Festival faux-pas and mislead your audience; let people know when your recommendations make you a little money. (Yes, I was one of those who watched the Hulu and Netflix Fyre documentaries back-to-back…) For the best results with affiliate links, make your recommendations feel natural in your normal content.
The Good: Have you ever created something that new teachers could use? Digitize and sell it! I taught English to children for a year, and I created a bunch of lessons for that job. Since I spent all of that time making the worksheets, I decided to digitize and sell them to other teachers who have international students. I opened my store on Teachers Pay Teachers in November 2018, and I made my first sale two months later!
The Bad: I will make almost half of the price of the bundle I sold. Although a 50% commission it is not a huge amount, you could make a lot of money if you find a popular or much-needed niche.
The Good: Publishing your own eBook has never been easier. When I was eating low carb, I decided to package up and sell my best practices to other serial dieters who hated cooking in a short eBook. I Googled all of the steps for publishing and selling my eBook on Amazon. I wrote it in Microsoft Word and designed the cover for free on Canva. During free promotions, I had more than 800 downloads.
The Bad: Sadly, most eBooks do not make much money. My little $0.99 eBook has made me about $4 so far. If you sell yours for at least $2.99 and exclusively on Amazon, you can make 70% in profit. Do your research to make sure you have a profitable niche and attractive cover. I plan to try more eBooks with other ideas to see if they have better legs than my low carb book did.
The Good: Like the last two ideas, Skillshare is a way to teach other people the things you have learned and make a little money on the side. There are many online course platforms like Skillshare, but I have only used it and Teachable so far.
The Bad: While I would eventually like to offer paid courses, right now my free courses have made no money. Like I mentioned at the top of this section, you must put in some work to build strong passive income streams. An online course is definitely an example of hard work required upfront. Someday I plan to really focus on this revenue stream.
As I discover new ways to earn income, I will add them here. And tell me in the comments if you have vetted side hustles through other platforms. I would love to continue finding ways to make money in my free time!
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*This post contains affiliates links. I only recommend products, services, and platforms that I really love. I hope you like them, too!