How to Make Money on the Side

July is make more money month at Women's Money Week. The first post in the series, Decide How You'll Make More Money, is a must read before this post. The second post in the series was about making more money at work.

About This Week's Action

This week is all about making more money on the side. On the side of what? Work, parenting, school, fitness - name what you're currently doing and this week is about how to make money on the side of that. What does this mean? It means going above and beyond now, so that you have more later. That's right, later you'll have more money, more flexibility, more time for: work, parenting, school, fitness - whatever it is that you want to do. In a nutshell, this week's action is about doing more now, so you can have more later.

Why Make More Money on the Side

It's Freeing Earning more money on the side will literally free you. It will free you from whatever you currently feel stuck by because when you start earning more on the side you suddenly have options. You can spend more on something you want to buy or you can save it for later. In time, you'll have the option to quit your job - if that's your goal.

It's Satisfying Making money on the side is satisfying. Knowing that you don't have to work for yourself to make a living is one of the most rewarding things you can achieve. Why? Well, going back to the previous reason - it frees you.

Why NOT Make More Money on the Side

Normally I only discuss the positive reasons for taking an action. But, this week's action step requires two huge caveats and I would be misleading you if I didn't include them here. Making money on the side requires a HUGE TIME COMMITMENT. If you haven't already spent time analyzing your time, do so now. Prepare to devote several hours each week at a minimum to earning more money. Second, if you want to earn more on the side, you'll have to WORK HARD. This isn't something for lazy folks who have a different tv show they plan to watch each night of the week. But, if you are willing to work hard and put in the time, you'll be on your way to a richer, freer life.

How Long Does This Action Take?

Wouldn't it be great if there was a magic number of minutes you could put in and make x more dollars? Unfortunately, there's not. I can only speak from my own experience about how much time it has taken me to make money on the side. It took me 1.5 years of blogging 5 days a week to earn more than a few hundred dollars a month. It took me aten week class to find my first consulting client where I earned several hundred dollars a month. It took me one month to find my first freelance writing gig that paid about $20 an hour. It took me one week to find mystery shopping gigs, survey/focus group opportunities that occasionally pay $50-$100. And it took me a few days to find items that I could buy and turn around and sell for a profit of a very small amount per item. (Note, I don't still do all of these things to make money on the side, but they just provide a sampling of what I've done in the past and how long they took to do.)

The bottom line is: it's going to take a lot of work and time to make this happen.

How to Make Money on the Side

1. Think About Your Goals

Part of the first installment of this series was to decide how you'll make more money. You should have written down answers to these questions (if you didn't already, do it now):

  • Why do you want to make more money? For a vacation, early retirement, so you can quit your job? Be specific.
  • How much money do you want to make?
  • How much time do you have to make the money? That is, when do you want to be making this amount of money by.
  • Can you afford to be wrong? That is, how much risk can you afford to take?

Reconsider your answers now as you think about how you will make money on the side because each way of earning income will correspond to different goals. Remember, there's nothing wrong with just wanting to make enough money to pay this month's water bill. (I know, I've been there). But, you'll be looking at different types of side-income earning projects that you would if your goal is to earn enough on the side to leave your job.

2. Know What You Like to Do and What You're Capable Of

Next, make a list of things you like to do. Write down everything you can think of whether it's a concrete activity to an abstract skill- from playing tennis, to reading news sites, to shopping for shoes, to bossing people around. Also, write down things you currently get paid to do (or have been paid to do in the past.) All of these things have the potential to earn you side income.

3. Start Making More Money on the Side

What follows are mini-guides to making money on the side by selling stuff on eBay/Etsy, participating in surveys/focus groups, making money online, and freelancing. If you are serious about making money on the side, I recommend skipping straight to freelancing. It’s the hardest thing to do in the short run, but in the long run you’ll be much better off. If you’re looking to make money on the side relatively quickly and are fine not actually generating that much revenue then consider eBay, Surveys, and Online work.

1. Sell stuff on eBay (or Etsy)

Buying and selling things on eBay takes little skill and can be fun if you enjoy shopping. Selling items on Etsy is a great idea if you are crafty and enjoy making stuff. While these two may seem very different, I group them together because I think the vast majority of people can’t make much money selling things on either eBay or Etsy. There are exceptions, but they are not the rule.

In a Nutshell: How To Sell on eBay for a Profit

  • Decide What You Want to Sell I recommend selling electronics. Or sell something that you already know a lot about. Electronics are great because you can generally buy them locally on Craigslist and then sell on eBay for a profit.
  • Watch 10-20 Sales On eBay watch 10-20 sales of the particular item(s) you’re thinking of selling to get a sense of the prices and who you'll be competing with
  • Buy on Craigslist Once you get a sense of the price of the item you’re planning on selling on eBby, start watching your local Craigslist ads for people selling the item for less than it auctions for on eBay. For instance, if iPhones usually sell for $150 on eBay, watch Craiglist for folks who are selling them cheaper.
  • Sell on eBay Once you’ve gotten a good price on an item on Craigslist, return to eBay and sell this item for more money than you bought it for.

Again, this is intended to be a very brief overview of how to sell on eBay. Use the Resources section for more.

eBay Resources:

I don’t have any experience selling on Etsy, but there a huge number of resources to help you sell your stuff. But I recommend that you start by reading Jackie’s series on selling on Etsy for a realistic look of what it’s like.

Etsy Resources:

2. Complete Surveys and Participate in Focus Groups

Right out of college I was living in a small town waiting for my (now) spouse to graduate. I tried everything I could to earn a little extra money - including online surveys and mystery shopping. Now the market is flooded and sadly there are lots of scams, but if you know where to look there are still some good options.

At Pocket Your Dollars there a great list of tips for participating in market research studies (and a list of Twin Cities market research opportunities). Here are some of the listed tips:

  • You should never have to pay to sign up for a database. If you’re asked to pay for a membership, chances are it’s a scam.
  • The company should explain to you exactly how you are getting paid and how much you are getting paid before you complete the focus group, taste test, etc. Most of the time, you’ll receive a check immediately after the study is completed.
  • Be aware that by adding your name and information to a database, you will be contacted via email and phone, possibly quite frequently depending on your demographics.

In my experience, typically these focus groups pay anywhere from $75-$150 for 1-2 hours of “work”. (It’s actually quite fun because you’re just giving your opinion about something). But, they are hard to come by and you may only be invited to participate a few times a year.

To find opportunities near you I recommend searching “market research firms (or studies) list” + [name of your city]. If you search in Google Blog search there’s a chance that a blogger near you has already compiled a list.

Surveys are a little dicier. If you want to go the online survey route set up a different email address to keep your current address from getting flooded. Here are two good lists of legitimate survey companies:

3. Make Money Online (But Not What You Think)

You might think I’m going to tell you that a great way to make money online is to start a blog or niche website - but that’s the last thing I would tell you to do. In fact, I would recommend that you DON’T try to make money online. Yes, it can be done. I know because I’ve earned thousands per month with websites, but I would still never recommend it to anyone. It takes too much time and chances are you’ll never “make it.”

(Actually, there’s a caveat. I would recommend that you start a blog if you are interested in making money by writing for other bloggers (which will bring you more revenue that writing for your own site in most cases.) But, only put enough time into blogging to get accustomed to the writing style and learn the tricks of the trade. Do enough so you learn how to be good at writing for the web and can show your skills to those who might hire you. But that’s it.)

Instead of chasing niche website making, I recommend making money online by using the internet as a starting point for your freelance business. You can make money by writing for others - I’ve previously written for Demand Studios making about $15-$20 an hour (they pay per post, but if you get a good rythm you can easily make this too.). And I’ve written for a variety of other websites and blogs. The Problogger job board is probably the best place to look for gigs. Just know that those who post job openings here get 200 plus applications - so write a strong cover letter and be sure to follow the instructions in the job listing. In a recent job listing I ran to hire a blogger, we had 250+ applications and fewer than a third followed the instructions. There are also very few highly quality writers who are willing to write for a reasonable rate ($20-$50 per post is reasonable depending on the niche). So, if you're a blogger already or an aspiring blogger, looking at freelance web writing.

You can also use Craigslist to find freelance gigs in your area - more on this in the next section.

The bottom line: the best way to make money online is to use the internet as a platform and resource for finding regular freelance jobs.

4. Start Freelancing

The single best way to make money on the side is to freelance. Again, here is a nutshell of how to start freelancing.

Freelancing in 3 Easy Steps

1. Narrow Down Your List of Options

Remember those skills and interests you listed above? Use those as a starting point. The idea is to find the intersection between things you like to do, things you can do, and things that will make you money.

I recommend starting with the list of things you like to do and cross off things that you don’t do well. For instance, I like to bake, but I’m not a particularly good baker. Don’t be too hard on yourself - because it’s likely that most things you can do better than most people. For example, if you have any sort of technical experience (such as creating websites, using Google Analytics, etc) you know more than 85% of people out there. Don’t decide to freelance doing something you’re not competent in, but don’t underestimate your abilities.

2. Determine If You Can Make Money in That Field I use a simple test to determine whether or not you can make money freelancing in a particular field. Go to Craigslist.com, choose your location, click on “gigs,” and search whatever job you’re thinking of. For example, I went to my local city and typed in “tennis.” Several tennis instructor gigs popped up. (Note, I wouldn't necessarily recommend Craigslist as the way to get work as you can spend all day responding to ads. Instead, it’s a great sniff test.)

3. Get Your First Client I got my first freelance client through a friend who had a business I knew I could help with. He wasn't hiring and he didn’t actually think he needed help. But I convinced him to let me write some sales copy for one of his products and I got a commission of every sale he made from that copy. Long story short, that first client was so happy he referred me to another person and the clients grew from there.

Once you have your first client you are on your way to building a freelance business. Obviously, there is a lot more to it than that, but those are biggest sticking points. I’ve listed a few of my favorite internet resources for freelancing below; but I think that getting a book to help you along the way may be of even more help than websites.

Books

Commit

This post contains a lot of information. So, take some time to digest it and follow the steps outlined above.

In the comments tell us: Do you currently make money on the side? If so, doing what? And what are your plans for the future? If don’t currently make money on the side, which method do you plan on pursuing?