Side Hustles

Side Hustle

I live in a typical college town, and the rent is driving me nuts. It goes up every year. I don’t really have the wherewithal to start working on the side as a fry cook or dishwasher. I really want the experience of working, though. I also need those few hundred extra bucks a month, because I know I’ll end up paying more for it if I borrow through student loans or something like that. What are my options for online businesses? What is your advice for finding side hustles that throw off a few hundred extra bucks a month?

Your goal is admirable and not impossible. You have realized that you need to invest in your career skills and reach financial goals. Lots of people never even get to this point. And, as Catherine Baab-Muguira writes in Quartz, “The side hustle offers something worth much more than money: A hedge against feeling stuck and dull and cheated by life.” So how do you find a side hustle that also helps you get the most out of life?

If your ambition is to make your rent, you need to determine what good or service you can offer. First, let’s focus on goods. According to the New York Post, more than half of all millennial side-gigs involve selling things online. Selling things online has never been easier, and the combination of online storefronts and drop-shipping, when the manufacturer ships goods directly to the customer, has created an array of online stores that need no brick and mortar.

The best strategies to sell online require little effort on your part, which is why sites thredUp and Tradesy (and others listed here) are so useful. Just uploading pictures of your old clothes can net positive cash flow. If you have, say, an eye for unique furniture at flea markets and estate sales, you can sell through the familiar channels (Craigslist, Etsy), but also niche sites such as Bonanza and Decluttr can help you clear your sales goals.

Otherwise, say you’re the creative type. Your latest invention or craft deserves its own online storefront — which could be critical for branding. This is where Shopify comes in. By giving yourself a robust e-commerce back end, you are not only able to rise above the noise of other sellers with your own site, but you can focus more time doing what matters to you: making a great product. Ideally, you can one day sell so much that you need a brick-and-mortar to hold all of your product. Companies such as Premier Glow or Blue Apron may have begun in a garage or rented kitchen, but thanks to the power of the internet, they have grown so much that they ship all over the country.

What about offering a service? Lots of people, when thinking about building side hustles, look at Uber, Lyft, and TaskRabbit as easy means to lucrative ends. If you have the means to work as a driver, it’s definitely something to consider. However, as a student, you should be developing job skills. Driving may be less valuable than you think because of the time you spend doing a routine task. Online work as a user tester (where you beta test apps and websites) or a virtual assistant (where you complete specific tasks remotely) offer better opportunities to develop job skills. The risk here is, of course, that you are working for people and companies without knowing their reliability or backgrounds. If this is something you want to pursue, take some time to read more about potential clients using public record and background check services.

Finally, something you might not know. As an English-speaking college student, you are in demand all over the world. Just the fact that you speak English, are highly educated, and have an internet connection gives you an advantage as an assistant, tutor, and online English teacher.

One of the most important lessons in life is how to apply the skills you have to the jobs you want. Whether it is opening an online storefront for your unique products or assisting somebody across the country, pursuing one of these side hustles could lead not just to a way to pay your rent but also to a successful and fulfilling career.

“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”  — Ann Landers

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