Ways I’ve made money: a rundown of the highlights

6 ways I've made money on the side

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2013.

To kick off Women’s Money Week 2013, we’re talking about increasing income. I’ve had multiple gigs going on for most of my working life, and done a lot of odd jobs from waitressing at events to tutoring, mystery shopping and taking part in all kinds of market research. If you’re interested in making extra money through side jobs, you’ll like this post! Here’s a sample of the highlights of my side hustle career…

The weirdest way I’ve made extra money

I’ve done a few strange things in the name of market research. For the sake of cold hard cash, I’ve eaten KFC, sampled a range of margarines, and even had electrodes attached to my head. That took place in a downtown hotel conference room, where we all sat still for a couple of hours and watched a lot of Mr Bean, interspersed with a few ads, while they monitored our brain activity.

The easiest way I’ve made extra money

Running around putting up flyers on university campuses was probably the cruisiest thing I’ve ever done. And it paid pretty well at the time – something like $15 an hour plus mileage.

The most flexible way I’ve made extra money

It’s basically impossible to beat working from home for flexibility. For me, freelancing in spare time has been the most convenient way of increasing income.

The most efficient way I’ve made extra money

I’ve pulled back from mystery shopping as it just isn’t worth the time anymore, but back in the day one of the companies I worked for paid $10 per bus survey, and they were dead easy. I lived near a transport hub and could catch any number of buses between my house and town, and I had an unlimited bus pass. I’d catch different routes every day, earning a few bucks just for commuting, and when I had free time (lunchtime, or at the end of the day, or sometimes even on weekends) I’d just hop and off 3-4 buses an hour, going back and forth along key arterial routes.

The hardest way I’ve made extra money

In my last year of school, I worked for a local family doing babysitting/tutoring and homework help, 2 hours a week, 3-4 times a week. I was paid $15 cash for two hours (basically the equivalent of the minimum youth wage at the time. Thankfully, later on I progressed to proper grownup tutoring at $20-30 an hour). As with most people/service oriented gigs, it was incredibly hard graft, incredibly frustrating at times, but also incredibly gratifying when I actually got through to the kids.

The easiest AND hardest way I’ve made extra money

I can negotiate an ad deal or put together a sponsored post worth hundreds of dollars in under an hour. But it’s taken hundreds (maybe thousands? My sense of time ain’t so good) of hours to get this wee blog to the point where this is possible.

What are some weird, wacky, or otherwise interesting ways you’ve increased your income?

23 thoughts on “Ways I’ve made money: a rundown of the highlights

  • Reply Budget & the Beach March 5, 2013 at 04:12

    When I lived in Seattle years ago, a friend hooked me up with a job where you got paid $100/day to be an “accident victim” for a training program where firemen were getting their EMT certification. Basically all I did was lay there while I got bandaged up by hot firemen. 🙂

    • Reply Leslie March 5, 2013 at 06:57

      ^^winner for best side gig!

    • Reply Amanda March 6, 2013 at 00:01

      I wish I could sign up for that somewhere here!!

      I just tutor, take random photography gigs, or yknow, photograph your wedding 😉
      I used to do promo in supermarkets but people are surprisingly nasty to you… even when I just smile and acknowledge the fact that some people are on a strict grocery-shopping timetable and don’t want to be interrupted!

  • Reply My Money Design March 5, 2013 at 06:25

    “and even had electrodes attached to my head”

    You’ve got to do a whole blog post about that one. The things we do for $$

  • Reply I do Vemma March 5, 2013 at 07:15

    Man, I found this blog on a good day! I’ve been doing side jobs since I was born.

    I grew up in Michigan (in a trailer park), and we had snow allllllll the time. I’d make $100 or more in a day shoveling sidewalks for $5 a piece. Of course, there had to be a good storm, which wasn’t every day…but for a 12 year old kid…I might as well have been pouring my own gold bricks.

    Some other stuff I’ve done:

    1 – Website design (that’s my full time gig anyway)

    2 – Dog walking business (no kidding…)

    3 – Sold websites on eBay. Each one utilitized Google Adwords

    4 – Caddie. Yep, washed clubs, loaded clubs on carts (28 years old at the time – laid off waiting on a new job).

    5 – Wrote some eBooks (one on Kickstarter, one on marketing)

    6 – Tried to make it as a golf pro once.

    7 – Purchased a Golden Tee video game machine and placed it in a few bars. Made money, but not enough. Sold it on eBay.

    …and probably a million other things.

    I still hold down a six figure salary on my regular 9 to 5 gig…but I’m still trying to hustle no matter what.

    [Edited to remove blatant MLM product plug – but you can keep the link in your name]

    • Reply I do Vemma March 5, 2013 at 09:18

      At least you called it “epic” 🙂 – the post was, and is real though.

    • Reply Leslie March 5, 2013 at 10:37

      How does the arcade machine thing work? The bar pays you some money to “rent” it then you both split the quarters?

      • Reply I do Vemma March 6, 2013 at 02:40


        My game did take quarters, but it was a golf game that also took dollars..and took about $7 bucks to play a full 18 holes…not everyone does that, but some get hooked and play every day at lunch time.

        Anyway, the deal for us was to always split the proceeds 50/50 at the end of the month….that’s the only transaction that would ever happen. We didn’t have to pay any rent or lease a space or anything like that. Just a gentlemans agreement.

        If you really got into this and came to a new bar and outfitted the place with all new machines…you’d make a killing…duplicate that across your area…you’re looking at driving around collecting money all week.

        Not too bad of a gig huh?

        I’m on to something bigger and better though now, I don’t even have to drive around to collect money! 🙂

  • Reply krantcents March 5, 2013 at 07:51

    When I was in college, I did experiments or tests for the U.S. Navy. They were pretty lucrative for the time and easy too. As an adult I have done marketing groups that pay you to participate. By far the easiest is when I cover classes for other teachers. I am paid at my teacher (hourly) rate for baby sitting.

  • Reply The Norwegian Girl March 5, 2013 at 09:11

    I worked as a teacher assistant for my “mother-in-law”! But it was superfun and very educational. I had the sole responsibility for a girl with special needs (Downs Syndrom), which taught me so much!

  • Reply Tammy March 5, 2013 at 10:17

    I had an awesome job as a taste tester for a flavor enhancement company. They didn’t want my opinion, instead my job was to tell them which of a pair of samples was sweeter. I did that job for five months until I discovered a food allergy (outside the job) that was grounds for being let go. I was fired for being allergic to artificial cinnamon!

  • Reply Girl Meets Debt March 5, 2013 at 10:42

    I love reading about crazy wacky things people have done for money. I wish I had some crazy stories to share but so far I haven’t done anything too “out there” yet. I’ve “sampled a range of margarines” sounds rather unique 🙂

  • Reply Kevin Watts March 5, 2013 at 13:27

    There has been a few odd ways that have made money. In college I participated in a few marketing surveys where I was paid a flat rate of $20. I have also passed out flyers for a fee and did the whole online coupons.

  • Reply Shannon @ The Heavy Purse March 5, 2013 at 13:54

    I feel boring as my jobs have been traditional. But I applaud your savviness and willingness to eat fast food and watch Mr Bean to add a little extra money to your pocketbook. 🙂

  • Reply Holly@ClubThrifty March 5, 2013 at 14:43

    I have done all kinds of difficult jobs- waitressing, being a nanny, working in a factory. I am spoiled now with my comfy office job!

  • Reply KK @ Student Debt Survivor March 5, 2013 at 15:17

    I used to do mystery shopping but haven’t done any shops in a while. In grad school I was an alcohol proctor (got paid $20 an hour to monitor drug undergrads for the university, score!)

  • Reply Linda March 5, 2013 at 17:08

    I’ve never worked any strange jobs, but my first job (which I held all through high school and into my first year of college) was pretty dysfunctional. I really didn’t know any better at the time, though.

  • Reply CF March 5, 2013 at 18:04

    I’ve done market research in the past for extra $$ and it’s always a blast. I’ve sampled Subway and Tim Hortons, watched lottery commercials, done brainstorming sessions on fashion and listened to music 🙂

  • Reply Financial Independence March 5, 2013 at 22:53

    I put additional 3 hrs a day during a year to get a pay rise $ 3,000 a year. I paid myself less then $4 dollars an hour for this : -)

  • Reply I do Vemma March 6, 2013 at 02:42

    Had to add this one to the list: I used to manage about a dozen websites for a sperm / egg donor company in Northern Virginia. No fringe benefits, lol, and no, I never made a deposit! 🙂

  • Reply Mackenzie March 6, 2013 at 14:20

    I’ve never worked any strange or wacky jobs, but I would say the toughest one was working at a daycare for children under 3. Tiring, exhausting, and someone was always sick, which meant you got sick too!

  • Reply Serenity March 6, 2013 at 16:19

    crazy stuff! back when I lived at home in between semesters at college, I worked weekends as a hotel housekeeper. I didn’t even want to tell some of my friends I was cleaning hotel rooms. it took me a long time to get past the whole “ick” factor and accept it was a good opportunity to make extra cash.

    the most insane job I think I ever had was actually tutoring younger children at a big-name tutoring center a few years back. the hours were miserable, the kids were not pleasant or attentive, and the management was completely incompetent. I’m glad I only worked there a few months!

  • Reply How to travel and work around the world January 12, 2014 at 15:12

    […] Savings = income – expenses. To break that further down, you can cut costs, increase income (which I tend to be better at), or both, in order to maximise that […]

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