When I graduated from college in 2009 with a BA in French, I spent six weeks looking for a job.
I needed to save money for my impending move to Paris, where I would spend a year working as a teaching assistant in an elementary school, frolicking in the City of Lights, and I needed to save money quick—$3,000 in the span of a couple months—in order to afford all of those baguettes and bottles of vin.
I don’t know if you recall, but the summer of 2009 wasn’t exactly the best time to find a job or graduate from college because of the…ahem…recession that had just hit the U.S.. Merci, economy! When June arrived and I still hadn’t found work, I started to panic. In my desperation, I posted an ad on Craigslist entitled “French Tutor: $15/hr”.
Two days later, I got an email and scheduled my first student: a Russian-American eighth grader with a deep love for David Bowie.
That, my dear reader, is how I got my first taste of how to earn money on the side. No, it wasn’t a ton of money (I eventually found a full-time job to save the money I needed for France), but I realized an important lesson: it’s just not that hard to get people to pay you to do things.
In the four years since I graduated, I’ve become more and more obsessed with the idea that I can earn money without getting a real job. In fact, while living in Paris, I continued to grow my tutoring business and offered up my services as a nanny. I made bank. I even moved back to France in 2011 and spent eight months living off of my side hustle, earning money “under the table” or “in the black”, as the French say, by tutoring ESL, babysitting, and even continuing to tutor American students via Skype.
Now, I even teach new entrepreneurs how to land their first three clients and start earning money on the side. (My “side hustle” has become my main income).
How did I do it? More importantly: How can you start earning extra money (at least $500) on the side, too?
You just need to try a few of the following things (as many as you can, really). It’s fun. Just think of it like a game!
#1 – Teach someone something
You, my friend, are talented. You have knowledge and wisdom that others just don’t have. You have knowledge that they need. Stop hogging it all!
Maybe you have an academic skill, like tutoring French or Math or Biology. Maybe you’re an amateur auto mechanic. Maybe you have a knack for cooking tapas or sneaky vegan recipes that even meat lovers will love. Contact the local high school, library, etc. to see if they’d refer you.
Whatever it is, there’s someone out there who is willing to pay you to teach them how to do what you do best.You have to get over the unwillingness to earn money for doing what comes easy to you, because, well… it doesn’t come easy to them. (I, for example, would love to hire someone to teach me how to sew or do my taxes).
Make a list of 50 things that you know how to do. You don’t have to be an expert. You just have to know how to do it better than the person who hires you. (I am not the best French speaker in the world, but I know way more than my students and have diverse teaching experience, and they get an incredible value from my lessons.)
Charge what you’re worth. Don’t do what I did and charge a measly $15. (My lessons are now triple that cost). If you do this right, this is the best and easiest way to make money on the side.
#2 — Sell something (not your body, duh)
Don’t even try to tell me that you don’t own anything that you can sell. I’m a minimalist, for crying out loud, and I still have things lying around that I can sell.
Do you have:
- Nice clothes that you rarely wear?
- An instrument?
- An old computer, phone, or other electronics?
- A designer purse?
Walk around your house with a pen and paper. Make a list of items that you see that you might be able to sell. (Note: the best places to sell things are eBay, Craigslist, and at garage sales).
I sold my piccolo from high school for $300. A few friends told me I was crazy—that I should keep the piccolo just in case. Just in case what?! The damn thing had been rotting on a shelf in my basement for eight years. Now that I’ve sold it, it’s actually going to get the love and attention that it deserves… and I made 300 bucks.
#3 — Get a J-O-B.
Last spring, after my house was hit by a tornado (yeah, that happened). It was cra-zy. In the midst of the madness, I craved normality. I decided to get a part-time job at the local coffee shop (I’m actually writing this post from that coffee shop right now, sippin’ on my chai).
Getting a part-time job is great because (a) it’s easy (b) you get to meet new people (c) you spend your time doing something that’s earning you more money rather than spending it.
Most people complain that they don’t have enough time to get a part-time job, even for just a few hours on a Saturday morning. Or—they think that having a part-time job would suck just as much as it did in high school.
I don’t agree with either of these claims. I’m sure that you could wake up a couple of hours earlier on a Saturday or trade some of that time that you spend surfing Facebook to get out into the world. You need to think about the benefits the job gives you: more money, more freedom (eventually), and a more interesting life!
So, what’s it gonna be?
You can absolutely earn $500 a month this way, but you have to make a decision. The mailman is not going to drop the money off at your door, though. You must get up and take action to get started.