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Wednesday Welcome: In Praise of the Side Gig

By many accounts, we’re still living in a freelance economy, which means many people are stringing together a few part-time jobs to create a full-time income. It keeps things interesting, varies your days, and — perhaps most importantly — diversifies your income sources. Joel Larsgaard, today’s guest poster, has juggled side gigs for some time, and wanted to share what he’s learned with you.

covershotWhen I chose my career path, I had just a few sticking points. I wanted to be able wear jeans every day (and sometimes flip flops). I wanted to really enjoy what I do. And I wanted a flexible job that also allowed me to live life. (Side note: I also wanted to not go hungry).

Thankfully, I currently have a job that allows me all of the above, but what I’ve come to appreciate most (besides NOT being hungry) is the flexibility.  Flexibility offers a surprising bonus – time for side gigs. Given my growing family, slow economy, and vast interests, I’ve really enjoyed the chance to branch out in multiple directions when it comes to making a living.

When the real estate and stock market crashed in 2007-2008 I was fortunate enough to not lose my job, but seeing so many other folks out of work made an indelible impression on me. I hated seeing so many friends and co-workers struggle. It reminded me of growing up, when I saw my own dad lose his job. I remember well the difficulties associated with that. The recession made me want to make sure, for myself and for my family, that losing my main job wouldn’t mean losing all sources of income. I couldn’t be reliant on a single paycheck from a single employer. So, I’ve branched out and tried to form multiple streams of income so that if I do happen to find myself without that main gig, my family can still get by.

At this point in time I have three side gigs – although I’m always looking for more! Here are the gigs that I’m pursuing on the side to plant some idea seeds in your brain and a little advice on finding the proper side gig for you.

Starting a Blog

I started my blog, Save Outside the Box, almost a year ago. While it has taken massive amounts of work and incredible dedication (for very little monetary results thus far), it’s been more than worth it. The thing about starting a blog is that you won’t reap major benefits right away — you have got to stick with it — but it does serve as a source of minor income through ads and networking. My blog has lead to a few other freelance writing gigs all thanks to the blogger network.

If you decide that blogging is for you, the best way for you to monetize that effort is through other freelance writing gigs. While ads might bring a bit of money, they won’t make you rich (trust me). So get out there and network.

Rental Property

I bought my first home near the bottom of the real estate market in 2009. If you factor in the $8,000 giveaway from the federal government, I only spent $81,000 on my first home. It’s a tiny little modest dwelling from the 1940’s that definitely needed some love but, it was also liveable. Over my three years of living there I put in a little bit of money here and there and made it feel cozy. Now, before expenditures, it rents out for $600 a month more than my mortgage. And I have a 15 year mortgage! Now some of that was pure luck. I was in the right place at the right time. But now I’m looking for even more rental properties. I know my local market and I know how to avoid home purchase pitfalls. Becoming a landlord is a great side gig and, if you have the stomach for it, can be extremely profitable.

Consulting on the Side

I have always loved start-up companies. The youthful energy. The ingenuity. The passion to make something that is better than what currently exists. So I’ve started hiring myself out to help startup companies in their infancy. Most of us have a knowledge base on some particular subject, and because of my day job I have a special knowledge and expertise of what start-ups are going through and what consumers are looking for in the marketplace. I’m using what I know and what I do every day to branch out on my own in a small capacity. Sharing and selling your knowledge can be a profitable side gig.

I’ve also dabbled in a couple of other side gigs. Reselling furniture, pet sitting, pressure washing, etc. My mind is always churning with the next idea to broaden my income base. I’m sure at some point this will settle down and I’ll focus on the two or three that work best for me. But right now I’m 29 and I’m just itching to see what’s out there. Sometimes dabbling can be the best source of inspiration. My most recent idea was to become a Lyft driver (you are basically a taxi for hire as you drive around town). Let’s just say my wife vetoed that one…

Finding the gig that is right for you

I can’t stress to you enough that in this day and age a side hustle (as the young pups call it) is important. It gives you added financial stability in an inherently unstable world. Things have changed in the last 30 years. Staying with one employer, collecting a steady paycheck, and receiving that pension payment every month after retirement aren’t the norm anymore. So how do you find the right side gig for you?

About Joel: Joel Larsgaard is the creator of Save Outside the Box, a website dedicated to helping you live life to the fullest on a tiny budget. He also works for consumer expert Clark Howard. You can follow him on Twitter for more money musings.

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