Sometimes money gets a bit tight. When it does, we have options: annihilate our budget, dig ourselves into debt or get more money. Because a budget can only be cut so deep — and frivolously using credit can cripple your future — the best option may be doing a little extra work to get some extra dough. It’s not always easy, but earning cash on the side can make a big difference.
Wages for Watching
When a neighbor decides to go bask on the beach, it’s a perfect time to cash in. No, we’re not suggesting robbing their house; rather make an offer to feed the pets, water plants, get the mail or even housesit while they’re on vacation. Start with friends and family, since they’ll (hopefully) trust you enough to be in the house while they’re gone. If you’ve done it a few times — and have kept the cats from going hungry and the plants from wilting — you might be able to use those first customers as references to convince others that you’re trustworthy. As for pay there’s no uniform amount to ask for, just be reasonable about the effort involved, talk it out with the homeowner and come up with a rate that works for both of you.
You can also try a classic moneymaker: babysitting. Parents sometimes just need a night to themselves, and they’re grateful for every minute. If you’re reasonably responsible and like kids, it’s worth giving it a shot. Sites like care.com can give you a ballpark pay range to start with (about $13.50/hour), but if you think you deserve more because of experience or extra responsibilities, make it clear right off the bat.
We all know the starving artist stereotypes, but it is possible to turn creative talent into cash. Photography has become ubiquitous with reasonably priced digital cameras, but there are still special moments in life that require more than the extended arm self-portrait or Facebook mirror shot. Start by working a friend or relative’s wedding (or graduation, or anniversary) as a secondary photographer. Once your skills have developed, advertise on Craigslist or wedding-specific sites like theknot.com. If finding a willing client is too burdensome or you don’t really want to shoot in high-pressure situations,
visit stock photography sites like shutterpoint.com to flip your jpegs into dollars.
You can also make money from handmade goods. Sites like etsy.com are perfect marketplaces to leverage your carving, cutting or any other crafty skills. If you can sell sand to a Floridian and want to sell your garb face-to-face, get a booth at a local Saturday market or craft fair.
Farm It Up
Everyone knows that mowing lawns, raking leaves and shoveling snow are great ways to get finances back in the black. If competition is stiff, or the right tools aren’t at the ready, head for the farm. Small farms often need extra harvesting hands for a few weeks or months out of the year. These farms usually pay by the pound of fruit or vegetables picked rather than by the hour, so the harder you work, the bigger the payoff. You can also take matters into your own hands by selling fruit from your own backyard or from a public area nearby. True story: my brother and I made $50 with just a few hours’ work by selling homegrown blueberries door-to-door. The only costs involved were the bags we used to hold them, and (of course) our time.
Play It Smart
Before tackling any side jobs, make sure that everything’s done legally, and that there’s no confusion about what services will be provided or what the rates are. A contract might not be necessary for absolutely every work agreement, but when in doubt, write it out. Referencing a signed piece of paper is better than relying on all-too-fallible memory. Some jobs — like yard work — probably don’t require contractual confirmation, while others — like photography — probably will. A good rule of thumb: The less familiar the client, and the more involved or expensive the work, the more documentation and credentials there should be.