For as long as I can remember, I have always supplemented my income with side hustles. I’m not sure how it started. My guess is that I wanted something as a kid and didn’t have enough money for it at the time, so I had to be creative and find ways to earn more money.
I still do it today because I’ve realized that to get to where I want to be financially, which is early retirement, a salary alone won’t get me there.
That is unless of course I somehow develop incredible baseball skills even though I am way past my prime.
In order to get to where you want to get financially, odds are you need to supplement your income as well. I’m sure you’d love to pay off your credit card debt faster, save more for a house down payment, or maybe even quit the rat race early.
Understand that I’m not saying you need to take a part-time job working 20 hours a week earning $7/hour.
I am talking out other ways to supplement your income, primarily through side hustles.
So today I am going to walk you through the side hustles that worked for me to make extra money on the side as well as what is working today and what isn’t. The goal is help you get some ideas to jump start your journey to making money on the side.
The History of My Side Hustles
My First Adventure In Side Income: eBay
I got started with earning side income seriously back in college. I will date myself and tell you that I was in college in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. At the time, eBay was the rage.
I could put up a pair of my used, smelly socks and someone would buy them. eBay was such that people got caught up in winning an auction and just kept bidding.
In fact, here is a true story to prove this. I noticed people selling all sorts of crazy things on eBay. The “everything else” category was a treasure trove of weird, wacky and downright odd things.
Based on the things I was seeing, I decided to sell a $5 bill. I mentioned that there was nothing special about the $5 bill other than it was brand new and crisp, right from the bank.
How much would you pay for this $5 bill? I sold it for $7. I can understand J$ spending more for a coin worth more than its face value, but there wasn’t anything special about this $5 bill. Yet I sold it for more than it was worth.
But back to how I really made money on eBay. My roommate and I started hitting up yard and estate sales during college. At the time, everything we bought was a guess as to whether it would sell or not.
We had no idea what would sell and what wouldn’t. We didn’t have smartphones or websites to check prices. So, we took some risks.
I tried to limit risk as much as possible. I spent more on things that I thought would sell, like Life Magazines in mint condition that had JFK on the cover, and less on things I wasn’t sure about.
My greatest score was a crystal tea cup set I won at auction. I paid $0.25 for a box of 4 cups and coasters. As I was walking away, an auctioneer assistant called me back and informed me that I bought all four boxes for $0.25.
Initially I was discouraged as I didn’t think I could sell all 4 sets. But I ended up selling the boxes for $40 each on eBay.
Taking Advantage Of Music
In addition to yard and estate sales, we also took advantage of BMG and Columbia House CD offers. If you are old enough to remember, you got 12 CDs for $0.01 and then had to buy 2 CDs at full price. Because of the time we were living in, my roommate and I killed it on this as well.
This was right before Napster changed everything. If you wanted a song, you had to buy the CD.
Even better, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and N’SYNC were all the rage, so people wanted their CDs badly.
So we used these 12 CDs for $0.01 sign ups and bought the hottest music to sell on eBay.
Then we would then wait for 2/3 off sale, buy a few more along with the 2 we were required to buy at full price.
While we did lose money on the full price CDs, the huge profit we made on all of the others more than covered the losses.
Once we bought the CDs we needed to, we canceled our membership and then signed up again and repeated the process. One of us may have even misspelled our names so we could have 2 accounts at once to really make money.
Moving On To Online Games
As with my examples above, my roommate and I were masters of taking advantage of the times. Had Napster been around, we wouldn’t have made money on the CD side hustle. If eBay was in its current form, we wouldn’t have made nearly as much there either. The same idea applies to an online gaming site.
It is no longer around today, and I am not certain what the statute of limitations is so I won’t name the site. In any case, on this site, you would play various games for free and earn points for prizes. One game in particular, a horse racing game was our favorite. You picked a horse out of 4 to win a race. If it won, you earned a few tokens.
One weekend, my roommate was out of town and I was bored and decided to play a few games. My horse won and so I clicked the submit button. Thanks to dial-up internet, I sat and waited. I clicked on submit again and it went through.
When it did go through, I realized I won twice as many tokens. Curious, I started to think about why this was. Then it hit me. I clicked on the submit button twice!
Still not completely believing this explanation, I played again until I won, clicking the submit button twice. Sure enough, I earned double tokens. I played again until I won, clicking 3 times and I won triple the tokens.
I’m sure you know where this story is going!
I had to go to physical therapy for my index finger I was clicking so much! OK, that didn’t happen, but my roommate and I took full advantage of the situation. I cashed in my tokens for a ton of Sega Dreamcast games and sold them on eBay.
Eventually, they offered a cash option, so I took that instead. I was surprised they never noticed why the same two guys were earning so many tokens.
Current Side Hustles
After college, the side hustle business slowed down considerably, probably because my right hand man wasn’t there scheming with me! In any case, I still worked the yard sale scene and resold on eBay, but as the site and times have changed, my income from this has dried up.
Thanks to technology, many of the ways I was making money through side hustles won’t work today.
eBay has completely changed and you can’t make money there like you used to. Thanks to digital downloads, you aren’t going to make money on CDs. And that game website is no longer around. But even if it was, thanks to high speed internet, you couldn’t exploit it like I did.
So what do I do now to make money on the side? Thankfully when technology takes one money making avenue away, new ones come along.
Here is a rundown of various side hustles I work on each month to bring in some extra money.
You can sign up for an FBA account which basically means you ship a product to Amazon, they store it and when it sells, they handle the shipping, payment, etc. all for a small fee. It’s super easy to do. The best part about it is that when you are part of this group, you can sell items with Amazon Prime, meaning if the buyer is a Prime member, they get free 2-day shipping.
This allows you to charge more for the item and still sell more units. In all, I’ve made a few thousand doing this. Note that it isn’t as simple as buying items and reselling them. You do have to put in some work if you plan on being profitable.
If you are like many and have no idea where to get started with this, check out this online course. It’s the one I used to help me understand Amazon FBA and start making money fast. For less than $30 you can learn how to easily start making money on Amazon.
Since eBay isn’t like it used to be, I now sell things on Craigslist. Not everything sells, so you have to be more picky when finding items. You also have to deal with low-ball offers and no-shows. Overall though, if you can find the right niche of products, you can make out well here.
For me, the most success I’ve had on Craigslist is selling a few used cars and electronics.
Fiverr is a place that allows you to sell your services. So if you are great at photoshopping images, you can make money on Fiverr. But it doesn’t end there. There are countless ways you can make money on this site.
Before I shut down a website I ran, I would sell links on it and made a decent amount of money. And I have a friend who is great at making videos, so she offers her services on Fiverr. She makes a few thousand a year.
To figure out how you can get started on Fiverr, check out this great ebook.
Sell Old Books
Next, I sell old books. Textbooks tend to sell better than fiction or non-fiction, at least for me. I used to use Half.com but sadly eBay shut that down. I now sell books on Amazon. But I don’t sell them using the FBA program, I just list and sell them myself on their website.
Note that this side hustle has a lot more competition than it used to, so I would stick with some of the others I list over this one. I’ve scaled back on this one considerably. I still keep my eye out for some good bargains, but this side hustle is no longer a staple.
But if you are interested, I get my supply of books at yard sales and library brown bag book events.
Another side hustle I take advantage of is doing surveys. I typically take around 15 per month and get paid about $3-$5 per survey. The money isn’t enough to let me retire, but the surveys take me around 10 minutes, so effectively I earn $18 per hour. In a year I average close to $1,000 which I use to help pay for gifts around the holidays.
In addition to taking the surveys, I sometimes get to see new products before the public, and in some cases, I get paid to actually test out the product and provide my feedback. The survey sites I currently use are Swagbucks and SurveyJunkie. New users to Swagbucks get $5 in cash for joining.
You can learn more about them here.
I’ve gotten into selling scrap metal as well. I don’t scour Craigslist for old washer’s or dryer’s people leave out, but instead I collect cables and wires. Think about when you buy a new electronic item. It always comes with the basic red and yellow audio visual cable. Why, I have no clue. I take these and put them in a small box.
I also collect any other copper wire that I no longer need. Extension cords, power cords, s-video cables, telephone cords, you name it, I put it in the box. Insulated copper wire like this doesn’t sell for hundreds of dollars, but last time I went, it was $2 per pound.
I usually cash in once or twice a year and walk away with around $100 every time I go. I don’t really do any work other than throw the wire into a box. In other words, I don’t actively search for wire, so there really is no time commitment for this.
Of course you could scour Craigslist for larger pieces of scrap metal and really turn a profit. I know of one guy in my town that picks up old metal cabinets and shelving and makes a few thousand a year with scrap metal. It’s all about how much effort you want to put into it.
I started out blogging as a side hustle but now it has turned into my main hustle. While you won’t make a killing overnight, if you approach it with the right mindset and do things right, you can earn a good amount of money from blogging.
When I was blogging on the side, I was making around $10,000 a year. That’s money I never included in my budget. I just threw it into an investment account and let it grow.
For a step by step guide on how to get started blogging, check out this post I wrote.
Credit Card Cash Back
Finally, I’ve gotten into the credit card cash back scene. The card I use offers 6% cash back on groceries. I exploit this by purchasing gift cards at the grocery store. If I need to pick something up at Lowes or Home Depot, I run to the grocery store and buy a gift card. It’s an immediate 6% off my purchase price.
While I don’t travel for free, it can be done by churning credit cards. The best site I have found to learn about this stuff is Travel Is Free. Just their resources alone are amazing.
Other Options For Making Money On The Side
Of course, these are just the ways I’ve made money through side hustles. There are many other ways out there. For example, you can check out the post I wrote about how to make extra money on the side.
It is broken out based on how much money you want to make each month, from a small amount to a large amount. In total, there are over 51 more ideas for making money there.
In addition to that post I wrote, you can check out this ebook of easy ways to make money while you sleep. It covers many different options for earning extra money, so I am certain you will find something in it that you can use.
Where My Side Hustle Money Goes
While doing these activities is fun, I really enjoy the part when I see how much I’ve made. I created an excel spreadsheet where I list all of my income from side hustles for the year and then try to beat that amount the following year.
When it comes to the money, at first I opened up a separate savings account just for this income and then used it however I wanted.
During college, I used the money for pizza and beer. After college, I used the money to help pay off my student loans.
Now I use the money mainly for building my investment portfolio and some for vacations. It’s awesome to be able to boost my savings and see the balance quickly increase. When I see that money in the account, it helps to motivate me more to keep pursuing more income through various side hustles.
Over time, I realized that having additional streams of income is a great thing. By not relying on one source of income I don’t worry as much about my job security or how I will pay for things.
In the event I lost my job (and I did), I have other ventures that will help cover the cost of living until I can land something else. The income from my side hustles doesn’t allow me to live like a king, but it does go a long way in bettering my financial picture and helping me to reach my financial goals.