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Posted: 10:58 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

Choose Your Side Hustle Carefully

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Paper bill advertising a part-time job with free training photo
Satish Krishnamurthy / Flickr

By Mike Timmermann, Contributor

ClarkHoward.com


As I worked to pay off my $86,000 mortgage in 2 years, I tried just about everything I could think of to reduce my expenses.  I negotiated lower monthly bills with service providers, cut cable TV, halved my dining out expenses by cooking at home, and began to avoid the shopping mall at all costs.

I don't think I would have been successful without implementing those savings strategies, but there came a time when I ran out of expenses to cut. I realized that it was impossible for me to reach my goal by just saving. I had to make more money.

Finding a Side Hustle That Works for You

At the time, I was working 40 hours per week at an office. The position was stressful, though I rarely had to do work outside of my set schedule. One day I ran the numbers and found that by working an additional 10 hours per week, I would be able to pay off my mortgage in 2 years.

I quickly picked up several side hustles, including banquet serving, pet sitting and freelance writing. Each of these jobs had pluses and minuses.

Being a banquet server had the highest fun factor. I primarily worked Saturday night weddings. I served drinks, dinner, and helped cut the wedding cake. Another perk is that I got to take home a lot of leftovers! While the job was easy, it was also strenuous. In addition to carrying food on trays, the servers worked as a team to break down tables and chairs at the end of the event. It paid roughly $15 - $20 an hour.

Banquet server:

  • Fun, enjoyable job
  • Worked Saturday nights
  • Free food
  • Easy, but physically challenging
  • Average pay


As a dog owner, pet sitting seemed like a natural fit for some extra cash. I created an ad on Craigslist and began accepting clients around the holidays. This was perhaps the most rewarding side hustle. It also carried the most responsibility.

When looking after dogs, I found myself constantly worried about something going wrong, especially if the pet had underlying issues. Taking care of cats, however, was much easier.  My favorite part of pet sitting was the ability to be my own boss.  I only accepted clients whose requests fit around my schedule. I charged $30 a night.

Pet sitting:

  • Flexible schedule
  • Short-term commitment
  • Be your own boss
  • High responsibility
  • Average pay

My final side hustle was freelance writing. This was the most convenient of my side hustles because it was located in the same building where I worked full-time.

I would simply finish my full-time job and hop on an escalator that took me to my part-time job. The shifts varied depending on the company's needs and by doing this job back-to-back with my full-time job, I worked 12 to 16 hour days. The job itself easy, though boring at times. It paid the highest of my 3 side hustles.

Freelance writing:

  • Convenient
  • Hours varied based on need
  • Long days
  • Easy, but boring
  • Good pay

By evaluating what I liked and disliked about each of these jobs, I've come up with a criteria for future side hustles.

Hallmarks of the best side hustles

1. Convenient - Since I already work full-time, I don't want to be traveling too far to get to my part-time job. It has to be located close to my home or full-time job.

2. Flexible schedule - I don't want to ever feel as though I'm obligated to work more than I want to. If the boss demands 15 hours per week and I only want to work 10, I'll pass on that opportunity.

3. Enjoyable - I want my part-time job to be something that I enjoy. I don't want to ever be thinking "I wish I could be doing something else" when I'm working.

4. Decent pay - I will make sure that I'm being paid a competitive rate for the extra work that I do. Even when pet sitting, I sometimes felt like I sold myself short. I now have a better concept of what my time is worth.

Are you working part-time to achieve your financial goals? Share your tips in the comments section below.



About the author: Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years when he was 27. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.

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