Are You Making These 3 Big Mistakes When Looking for Side Gigs?

Everyone makes mistakes (I’ve definitely made my share over the years!) but learning from your mistakes is what helps you move on and get better. Fortunately, with the Web, you can now also learn from *other* people’s mistakes, too, so you don’t have to go through the frustration and embarrassment yourself. With that said, here are 3 of the biggest mistakes people make when searching for a gig to make some extra money.

1- Going after the first flashy gig that comes along.

Trying out a new gig can be fun- and it sometimes pays off- but you should always do your research before trying any new moneymaking scheme. Research both the gig that sounds appealing and a few alternatives, because there may be a better option for your situation than the first one you hear about.

2- Paying money to get a gig.

There’s a saying in freelance writing “The money flows TOWARD the writer” and this applies to other gigs as well. If someone is insisting that you pay cash upfront to get access to a specific gig, run the other way. Paying for information (such as a book about starting a specific type of business) is research, but paying to actually get a gig is a scam.

3- Looking in the wrong places

If you want a specific type of gig, you need to find out where the gatekeepers are for those gigs. Some industries regularly hire freelance workers to complete projects or be part of a larger event, but getting these gigs can seem near impossible unless you know the way in. For example, instead of advertising your tutoring services in the newspaper, where it’s likely to be ignored, look into services like or go directly to schools. If you want to be an extra in a movie, get on a casting list that lets you know when these gigs are available, or seek out mystery shopping companies if you’re searching for that kind of work. In some industries, personal contacts are invaluable, and if you’re starting a service-oriented business, you’ll need to seek out the places where likely customers hang out.

Finding gigs can seem difficult at times, while at other times you might feel overwhelmed with all the possibilities and have trouble narrowing down the best options for you. Keep in mind that living a sweetgig lifestyle is all about versatility and flexibility. You can change your mind- or add an extra gig or two to your work-life portfolio- whenever you feel like it. After developing a healthy on-your-own-terms work style, you’ll become better able to evaluate gigs and find ones that work for you. Like everything good in life, it just takes time.

Selling Your Old Stuff on Craigslist

Whether you’re looking to make some quick cash or trying to simplify your life (while trying to make quick cash)- Craigslist is a simple and lucrative way to turn the stuff you own into a bit of extra money. This isn’t a long-term gig (unless you want to turn it into a gig selling OTHER people’s stuff for money- but that’s a similar-yet-different kind of plan)…it IS a way to garner fast cash when you really, really need it, though.

The Practical Part of Selling on Craigslist

The process is pretty straightforward- you pull up your local Craigslist page, click on the category of item you’re selling and follow the directions to list it. It’s a good idea to create an account so you get alerts about your sales and can repost them easily if something doesn’t sell on the first try.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Craigslist

The big advantage is- duh- selling your stuff quickly and getting cash in hand when you need it most (along with getting rid of some clutter.) The disadvantages are that it can be inconvenient to make appointments for people to come pick up stuff and give you the cash, and some things may never sell at all.

Pricing Your Craigslist Items

Pricing might seem like a huge mystery when it comes to Craigslist, but it doesn’t have to be. Search for similar used items in your area or on sites like eBay and price yours about the same. Expect that people will bargain, and plan to get about 10-25% less than the price you ask for.

Finding Items to Sell

The biggest sellers on Craigslist tend to be things like electronics, baby accessories (such as baby swings, monitors, etc.) and camera gear. Things like clothing and books are unlikely to sell because people have plenty of options to get those on the cheap already. Specialty items, such as antiques and collectibles, might do better on a national or international site, such as eBay, because there may not be a huge pool of interested buyers in your town.

Tips for Selling Your Stuff on Craigslist

You’ll get more interest and have better chance of selling at or near your asking price if you make an ad that looks professional. Take a nice photo to post of your item and make sure grammar and spelling in your ad are perfect before you put the ad online. Communicate with potential buyers by email and phone before agreeing to meet them to exchange goods and money- and arrange to meet at a public location (like a coffee shop) if you don’t feel comfortable inviting them to your home.

Teach English in a Foreign Country

This post is a companion piece to the Tutoring for Money post earlier this month, but it describes a slightly different version of teaching and tutoring than your typical local neighborhood gig.

If you consider yourself an adventurous person, you might want to consider heading overseas to teach English in a foreign country. Obviously, this gig isn’t for everyone (people with a full-time job they need to keep, for example)- but if you can take time off from your normal life and want to experience a gig like no other- this could be your ticket to world travel.

How to Get Started

Teaching English overseas starts with finding a company to work with. In some countries, English teachers and tutors are in such high demand that companies advertise on expat sites looking for potential workers and pay for the one-way airfare ticket to get you there (you’ll either have to pay for your own ticket home or in some cases get the return ticket after you complete a 6-month or 1-year contract with the company.) Some well-known companies include English First and Wall Street English, which both have branches in many different countries around the globe. The highest demand will be in places where there are few English speakers, such as in Southeast Asia. If you get a certificate or degree in teaching English, your program may help you find a gig.

What You Need to Teach English Overseas

The main requirement to teaching English overseas is that you are a native speaker. A TEFL (Teacher of English as a Foreign Language) certificate will open up a lot more opportunities (and higher pay rates), but it isn’t an absolute necessity in some areas of the world. If you have any teaching or tutoring experience back home, that can help land a better teaching gig.

Things to Keep in Mind

Accept from the start that you’re not going to get a gig teaching English in Paris, Berlin or Rome. If that’s your goal, it’s just not going to happen. There are already plenty of English speakers with degrees in teaching and a passport or visa that lets them stay in western Europe indefinitely, and they’re already taking the jobs there. Eastern Europe might give you a better chance, and even more so if you’re willing to go teach in a rural or out-of-the-way area. Asia offers some of the best opportunities for English teaching- especially China, Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea. Japan has opportunities, but it’s somewhat saturated with applicants to teach, so you need to stand out from the crowd to get a gig there. South America is another option to consider, and English teachers are in demand in Saudia Arabia and other areas of the Middle East. African countries offer a growing opportunity for English teaching, although there are not as many programs available yet in Africa.

Five Ways to Sneak in More Time for Gigs

When you have an actual life to balance- you know: relationships, kids, school, a real job, household chores, etc.- it can be hard to find time to fit in some moneymaking gigs. If you prioritize making extra cash, though, there are ways to sneak in some gig time and maximize your overall productivity. Here are five ways that other successful freelancers sneak in time to work on gigs.
1- Get up early. Setting your alarm just 30 minutes earlier nets you a full 2.5 hours of extra time to get stuff done during a typical workweek. Waking up before everyone else in the household also makes it easier to work because no one is bugging you about making breakfast or helping them do things around the house.
2- Take advantage of lines and waiting rooms. Bring your laptop, notebook or tablet along with you when you’re headed to the doctor’s office with the kids, to the bank, or to school to pick up the kids. When you’re waiting in line or in the waiting room, you can work on a few tasks for an online crowdsourcing company, look for upcoming in-person gigs on job boards, sketch out crafting ideas, or compose an email to schedule or confirm a live gig. This also works if you’re waiting in the stands during your child’s soccer game or waiting at the airport in the car when picking up a relative. Pretty much anywhere you would otherwise be sitting bored with nothing to do, use that situation to your advantage.
3- Give up an hour of TV time. If you watch more than an hour of TV a day, narrow down your viewing to eliminate an hour of shows and use that time for working on gigs. This goes for Internet browsing and listening to music, too. If you’ve got a passive hobby taking up most of your free time, shift your priorities to spend more of your time improving your income situation. You don’t have to give it up entirely- just cut back enough to add a little extra gig time in.
4- Get a Crockpot. I’m not kidding. With a crockpot, you just toss in the ingredients in the morning and let it cook all day instead of spending an hour at night in the kitchen making dinner or 30 minutes driving to the local fast food place to get something because you don’t have time to cook. Instead of cooking or driving, spend 30-60 minutes before dinner working on gigs. You can even hide in the kitchen while you work so your family thinks you’re slaving over a hot stove and won’t bug you. If you can master microwave cooking, that works too.
5- Stock up on chores. Instead of multitasking and trying to switch gears between doing a chore, then working for 10 minutes, then doing another chore…switch to a plan where you do all of your chores on one day and spend the next day working on gigs instead. Weekends are a good time to implement a plan like this. For example, you could dedicate 4 hours on Saturday to cleaning the house and doing backyard chores, then spend those same hours Sunday working on your gigs.

Review of Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

When it comes to finding gigs, rejections are part of the process. Rejections can be painful, and they can make you think you’re on the wrong path when you might actually be doing exactly what you should. The book Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection by Jia Jang faces this problem head-on and helps you get a handle on rejection so you can make more money and live a better life.

This book is part memoir, part social experiment and part practical tips. The author, Jia Jiang, set a goal for himself to get rejected 100 times to help get over a fear of rejection. On this journey, he learned a lot about why rejections happen and how to recover from them and move forward, which is a useful skill for any aspiring entrepreneur.

Some specific tips- such as giving a reason why when making a request and choosing your audience wisely- may seem naturally intuitive, but the anecdotes in the book drive the concepts home and make you really think about the reasons these tips work. Other tips seem counterintuitive at first – like the idea that you should discuss the target’s doubts with them- but after seeing the concepts in action, they make much more sense.

While there’s no surefire way to make people not reject you, the book does give practical tips for increasing your chances of a yes. A handy appendix in the back of the book encapsulates all of the lessons learned throughout the book so you can remember them easily.

For even more inspiration and rejection therapy, the author runs a rejection blog and video series- so you can go watch the actual interactions described in the book exactly how they occurred and make your own assessments about how things like body language or tone affected the rejection attempts.

Overall, this is a worthwhile read, and an interesting one. Learning how to handle rejections and get fewer of them is a great skill for anyone living the Gig lifestyle.

Tutoring for Cash

Photo by Prime Education
Photo by Prime Education

Take advantage of your expert status or your extensive knowledge about a subject, to make money teaching others one-on-one. Getting work as a private tutor is fairly easy, and there’s plenty of work to be had. Here’s the scoop on tutoring for cash.

What Tutoring Involves

Tutors teach a subject one-on-one to someone who wants to learn it. Tutors can make anywhere from $20 to $100 or more per hour, depending on the subject and local demand. High school or college math tutors are almost always in demand, while tutors for elementary school subjects are less needed because more people have the skills to teach those subjects. Tutoring is an especially lucrative side gig for teachers and for anyone with a college degree in an in-demand subject (such as math, computer science, chemistry, or a foreign language.)

Advantages of Getting Paid to Tutor Kids and Adults

One of the biggest advantages of tutoring as a side job is the flexibility. Tutors set their own hours, and you can schedule tutoring sessions whenever you want. You can also opt to tutor in your home or go to the client’s home- or even schedule a session at the school library or in a local coffeeshop. You can even find tutoring gigs on the web, through online tutoring agencies, or you can opt to tutor through a specialized tutoring center that finds clients for you.

Disadvantages of Tutoring as a Gig

The biggest disadvantage to tutoring as a gig is the lack of reliability (a common trait of side gigs in general.) Students might cancel a scheduled session without giving you advance warning, or they might suddenly quit altogether after months of reliable sessions. Holidays and summers are typically slow because students aren’t in school and spend time with their families instead of studying.  Another disadvantage is that you might have to spend time traveling to each student’s house, which cuts into your hourly rate.

Finding Tutoring Gigs

If you want to succeed at finding tutoring gigs on your own, you’ll need a professional-looking website. Use online sites like Craigslist to find potential clients, providing a link to your website in your ad so interested students can see you’re a professional. You can also bring an informational brochure about your services to local schools to let them spread the word among students who might need some extra help in the subject you tutor.

Tips for Making Money Tutoring

The best tutors- the ones who get recommended to friends of their students- are people who are really good at explaining their subject to people who just don’t get it. Try finding multiple ways to explain the same concept, and learn about the different kinds of learners and how to reach them. Someone who is an auditory learner might need to hear you repeat the concept multiple times, while a visual learner will do better if you write or sketch out the idea on paper for them.

Getting Your First Gig

Stand out from the crowd and use your talents to land a gig.
Stand out from the crowd and use your talents to land a gig.

Getting your first gig can seem overwhelming when you’ve never tackled outside work before. If all of your work experience has involved sitting in an office or standing around at a restaurant or store waiting for your boss to tell you what to do, then it can be hard to figure out where to start.

Fortunately, getting your first gig doesn’t have to be scary. You don’t have to plan out a whole year’s worth of gigs before you begin, and you don’t have to make a certain amount of money or commit yourself to a specific type of gig. You certainly don’t need to spend a lot of money- or any money at all if you’re starting a gig that requires nothing but your time.

The only thing you need, really, is a willingness to take a step toward controlling your own income- and a desire to make more than what your regular job (or savings) provides.

If you’re nervous about taking on gig-like jobs, start small. Try finding odd jobs on Craigslist or Fiver and jumping right in. Once you’ve experienced what gig-like work is really all about, you might feel more confident about pursuing gigs in the areas you really want to explore.

If you’re a planner at heart, take some time to sketch out the direction you think you want to go, but don’t spend so much time planning that you never actually DO anything. Gigs are about action- and you’ll have to jump in with both feet at some point.

The places you find gigs and the opportunities available to you depend on your local area, specific skills, and the level of competition in your particular niche- but in some cases, just trying a few gigs locally will help you determine these things and help you figure out if what you want to do is feasible in your area. If local conditions aren’t right for your gig interests, you might have to adapt your plans- but there’s almost always *some* way to make extra money related to your interests even if the idea you thought of first isn’t working out.

Whether you’re eager or nervous about getting your first gig, keep in mind that soon you’ll find that living a gig lifestyle comes naturally to you. You’ll probably look back and wonder what took you so long.

Making Money by Hosting a Successful Yard Sale

With summer- and the warm weather that comes with it- in full swing, making some quick cash selling off your clutter is easier than ever. Holding  a yard sale, or garage sale, is an easy, popular way to make money off things you no longer need.

Preparing for a Yard Sale

Before having a yard sale, you’ll need to decide how big of a sale you want to have and whether you want to go it alone or with others. Yard sales can be held on your own or with a few neighbors, or you can gather a group of friends together to hold a themed yard sale (such as a sale of kids’ clothing, toys and furniture that your children have all outgrown.) If you plan to have your sale in your front yard, make sure you have a tent or garage available in case of rain.

Publicizing Your Garage Sale

Signs hung around your neighborhood, ads in your local newspaper or on Craigslist, and flyers handed out to people in the area are all good ways to let people know about your upcoming yard sale.

Preparing the Merchandise

  • Showcase your most valuable merchandise where people can easily see it, and label tables with special items clearly to make them stand out.
  • Make sure prices are on everything. Many people won’t bother asking for a price if it isn’t there, but will instead simply put the item back on the table and move on to someone else’s yard sale. Create groups of products for quicker sales. As an example, if you have 100 comic books, offer them all as a group or in groups of 10-20 instead of trying to sell each one individually.
  • Offer a testing station with an extension cord that lets potential buyers try out electronics before they commit to a purchase. You’ll make more sales and command higher prices when people know that the items actually work.

Closing Out Your Yard Sale

Items leftover toward the end of your yard sale can be discounted to try to get rid of them quickly. Putting up a sign that lets customers know everything will be half off during the last hour of your sale not only encourages people to come back again at the end, but it also encourages people to buy items they really want immediately because the item might be gone by sale time. Excess items after your sale ends can be donated to a local charity-run thrift store, and you can usually take a tax deduction for up to $500 worth of donated items at tax time.

What’s the Big Deal About Millennials and Freelance Gigs?

A few months ago, we posted about how gigs are the new lifestyle choice for lots of millennials, and how changes in the way people work has made the gig economy a real force in the workplace. That article Why Gigs Are Extremely Important for Millennials drew a lot of interest, and left many with questions about the phenomena.

Fortunately, plenty of other sites have also weighed in on the link between millennials and the gig economy. Here are some of the things they’ve been saying, which helps clarify how big gigs really are for Generation Y.

According to an article in the New York Times, many Millennials opt to take on multiple gigs because they want both a reliable paycheck and creative freedom. One way members of Generation Y achieve this balance is by opting for a balance of gigs that bring in steady work and gigs that let them pursue a fun career without committing to it full-time.

Forbes predicts the end of the 9-to-5 job as Generation Y increasingly pieces together a life of gigs. According to the article, about 60% of millennials stay in a given job for less than three years, and factors such as making an impact on the world and workplace flexibility beat out salaries and stability when it comes to choosing jobs.

Fast Company calls the Millennials “the first generation of freelance natives”- and the name fits the statistics. The best news from this article is that over 80% of young freelancers are optimistic about their future work opportunities and the lifestyle the gig economy affords them.

Even the government has something to say on the matter, according to Style Weekly. Some officials are starting to wonder how the US economy is going to respond to the gig economy and whether new regulations are needed to protect young people who rely on gigs for their income.

Selling Crafts on Etsy

If you make crafts or other handmade goods, you’ve likely heard of Etsy. Opening an Etsy shop is simple, and extremely cheap. All you need are some good quality photos of your merchandise and a little cash to pay for the ultra-cheap listing fees (20 cents per item for a listing that stays up four months) to get started. If you sell something, Etsy takes 3.5 percent of the price as their fee. You can pay using a credit card or Paypal.

Some ideas of things you can sell on Etsy include:

  • Handmade jewelry
  • Homemade candy or other food items
  • Specialty clothing you’ve made at home
  • Craft supplies you’ve purchased wholesale elsewhere
  • Vintage clothing
  • Vintage collectible toys
  • Holiday decorations made by hand

As you might have noticed, having a crafty hobby can be a big help if you’re thinking of trying out Etsy as a way to make extra money. It’s also a great way to test whether your particular craft will appeal to a large audience. If you aren’t crafty, though, Etsy can still work for you. Vintage items are another huge category on Etsy, especially if you find a specific niche, such as vintage handbags, engagement rings, or kids clothing. Stock up on merchandise at local estate and garage sales, then sell your wares to people across the country who are searching for something that’s easy to find in your neighborhood but lacking in theirs.

If you decide to set up shop on Etsy, stand out from the crowd with a creative shop description, a wide selection of merchandise, and a personal story about your brand that makes potential customers comfortable shopping with you. Being social also seems to help with increasing your sales on Etsy, so join teams and share others’ hard work by creating Treasury lists and you just might find some new friends willing to share links to your shop and specific items in return.