Ask The Experts: Is There A Way To Incorporate My Day Job Into A Side Hustle Without Being Shady?

You love your job but it doesn't pay the bills. You need a side hustle. Here's some advice on how to make that happen.

Finding a job that you love that pays well can feel a dream more impossible than finding the tooth fairy riding a unicorn. Many people are happy to get at least half of the equation.

So what do you do when you love your job but you can't make rent? If a raise isn't in the cards and you're not ready to sell out, you look for a side hustle to make some extra money. Here's how to make it happen without being shady.

Hello AskFC,

I’m doing a job I enjoy but it doesn’t pay me enough to stay afloat. There’s no chance for a raise, as it’s a struggling nonprofit as it is, and I’m one of just three paid employees.

My question is: How can I find side work that won’t eat up all of my time and energy? Is there a way to incorporate my day job into a “side hustle,” like freelancing, or is that a shady area to step into?

Strapped for Cash in San Diego


Hi Strapped for Cash,

It’s a sad fact of today’s economy that you are far from alone in your situation. And while you don’t say if your work at the nonprofit is something you envision doing for the rest of your career, it sounds like for now at least you've found your bliss in a field that pays richly in satisfaction but not in money.

Of course, taking consulting or freelancing work for a direct competitor isn't a good idea. If you're unsure or worried that your current employer wouldn't like your side job, it's worth mentioning it to your boss (and emphasizing that the side work is done completely outside of your normal work hours).

Here are some ideas on how you might be able to earn some extra cash that likely won't present a conflict of interest with your current position:

Become a freelancer or consultant. More companies are looking for contract and freelance work as an alternative to full-time positions. Farming out work to independent contractors makes sense for the bottom line because companies can pay for the work they need done, with decreased overhead expenses like benefits and setting up a physical office for each employee.

Many companies are willing to pay a freelancer to assist them with writing, monitoring, and maintaining their Wikipedia listing, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

There are multiple websites where you can post your resume and search job listings, including elance.com, ratracerebellion.com and flexjobs.com. Some sites charge a commission to connect you with an employer, others charge a flat fee to access the listings, and some are completely free. Do be careful—there’s plenty of legitimate work out there, but it’s also an area where scams abound.

Start a YouTube channel or a blog. With some steady video traffic—and maybe even one that goes viral—it’s possible to bring in income from Google’s AdSense platform. Even modestly viewed channels can make a regular income by posting videos often. The key, of course, is adding value. What could you record and post to help people or just entertain them?

Blogging can help generate a little extra money. Many blogging platforms are free. Once your blog is up and running, connect with ad and affiliate programs to generate income.

Become a tutor. Everyone has something they can teach, and everyone has something they need to learn. Usually, it’s pretty easy to find someone who will pay you to tutor them in something. When people hear about tutoring, they assume that only subjects like math or English are involved. This is not true. People will pay for tutoring in every area of academic work, music lessons, computer skills, and all kinds of other subjects. This is definitely one of the most varied side jobs out there.

Become a bartender or server. One of the greatest things about the service industry is the flexible hours, and that is what can make bartending and serving great side jobs. In most cases, you can find a place that will let you work around your primary job.

Consider the side work you did as a teenager. Things like pet walking, babysitting, and yard work is often sought out by teenagers looking for a few bucks. However, it can be a lucrative opportunity for adults with some spare time, and people might feel more comfortable hiring a responsible adult.

Advertise with flyers in your neighborhood or online that you can walk dogs and watch pets—it is work that can usually be done in the mornings, evenings, or on weekends.

If you’re an experienced nanny or babysitter, Care.com is the place you want to make money. By listing yourself on “the Craigslist of child care,” you’ll broaden your reach and increase your odds of finding the right position.

Mowing and trimming lawns, watering, and other outdoor chores are a challenge for the elderly, and people who lead busy lives. As a bonus, you’ll be helping yourself stay healthier.

Consider sales. If you are crafty, there are a lot of places to sell handmade goods like jewelry, T-shirts, knitted items, and more. Set up shop at local festivals or events or create a shop on Etsy.

If you have anything you’re willing to part with, list it on eBay. Some people make a side income scouting bargains at yard and estate sales to sell for a profit online.

You can also try direct sales. You won’t get rich selling things like Avon and Amway—according to Amway, their average salesperson earns $115 a month selling their products—but you can make a side income.

No matter what you do to make money online, promote it on your social media accounts. By promoting yourself and your projects online, you’re greatly increasing the chances of people actually giving you money in exchange for your goods and services.

If all else fails, and you have a car, you can try this:

Drive a billboard. Have you ever seen a car drive by plastered in ads for potato chips or an energy drink? A number of advertising firms will pay drivers to have their own cars covered with ads. Depending on the firm, the length of the promotion and your region, you can be paid between $400 and $900 per month to serve as a moving billboard. Some companies will even provide you with a car to drive free of charge. All you have to do is sign up on the company's website, filling in basic demographic information.

I hope this list of ideas can help you find ways to earn the extra cash you need. Let me know the direction you went and how it turned out.

To much success,

Lolly Daskal


If you have a dilemma you’d like our experts to answer, send your questions to AskFC@fastcompany.com or tweet a question using #AskFC.

[Image: Flickr user Images Money]

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6 Comments

  • Craig Jones

    Great article, I am ready to help 5 people achieve financial freedom with their own Internet business.

  • ruth

    Just be aware that some employers - especially government agencies - have rules against moonlighting. Check the employee manual or whatever documents you might have signed on accepting the job to make sure you don't jeopardize it by freelancing on the side.

    Then use the income from your side jobs to build a cushion for if and when you want to freelance full-time!

    Ruth E. "I can write about anything!"® Thaler-Carter, www.writerruth.com