Getting Serious About Side Jobs

Think about this for a minute. In 2016, 42.4 million Americans owed $1.3 trillion in federal student loans. As a result, the U.S. homeownership rate fell to its lowest level in more than 50 years.

Whether we like it or not, debt is a big part of our lives, and it comes at an extraodinary cost to students and their families. So much so that many young adults can’t get by with just one job anymore. Side jobs are quickly becoming the norm and the only way that people can shake themselves from the shackles of debt.

But what are all these side jobs? And how much do they pay? There’s no shortage of advice online for millennials. “Start a blog, fill out online surveys, sell your calligraphy skills, sell your photographs…” the list goes on. Many are a waste of time, but some are actually helping people pay off their student loans, save for a home or raise a family.

Would you consider doing any of these?

1. Become a plasma donor: According to – an educational website from the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association – plasma donations help treat people with rare, chronic diseases so that they can live healthier and more fulfilling lives. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows up to two plasma donations within a seven-day period, you can make as much as $400 a month by donating plasma. The process is similar to giving blood except that once your blood is drawn, the plasma is separated from your blood and then the red blood cells are returned to your body. Average visits take about 90 minutes, and there are more than 450 donation centers in the U.S. and Europe. You do have to be in good health and at least 110 pounds in order to donate.

2. Participate in clinical trials: Another way to make money on the side and help other people is by participating in medical research studies, also known as clinical trials. Clinical trials help researchers find better ways to treat, prevent, and understand human disease. Although payment varies from study to study, clinical trials typically pay generously. For example, clinical trials offered by the company Covance pay from hundreds of dollars to several thousand. Other paid clinical trials can be found at,, on Craigslist job boards, or on the websites of local research centers, such as Johns Hopkins or Biofortis Clinical Research. Before agreeing to participate in any studies, make sure you know all of the risk factors involved, including potential side effects.

3. Participate in focus group sessions: Just as medical researchers trial new treatments, marketers pay people for their opinions on the products and services they use (or don’t use) every day. This helps them improve those products and services, thereby improving their business. And marketers pay well for people’s opinions. Focus Pointe Global – a marketing research company with 18 research facilities across the U.S. – pays between $45 and $250 per study. Savitz Research Solutions, located in 16 major cities, pays between $50 and $300. Other marketing research companies that pay cash include Fieldwork, Probe Research Incorporated, and MindSwarms. Since competition for studies can be fierce, it’s a good idea to sign up with several marketing research companies in order to increase your chances of participating and getting paid.

4. Become a pet sitter: For dog and cat lovers, pet-sitting is a natural and enjoyably way to earn cash on the side, especially if you can care for more than one pet at a time. In The Simple Dollar, personal finance blogger Holly Johnson writes that part-time pet sitters at (defined as those who watch two or three dogs for two weeks out of the month) earn an average of $1,000 per month. Best of all, the service lets pet sitters determine their own rates and keep 80% of their earnings. Similar services include DogVacay, Fetch! Pet Care, and Dogs Go Walking.

5. Become a rideshare driver: If you have a car, consider driving for a ridesharing company, such as Uber or Lyft, to make extra cash. Although your earnings will depend on where and how often you drive, Uber states on its website that on average, drivers in Los Angeles and Chicago make more than $600 per week and drivers in San Francisco and Boston make more than $700 per week. And you don’t necessarily have to drive full-time to earn a lot of cash. On its website, Lyft states that some of its drivers make more than $800 just driving on Friday nights and weekends. In addition, U.S. News and World Report cited an analysis from Princeton University which found that Uber drivers who drove between one to 15 hours per week averaged more than $16.00 per hour. Many ridesharing companies also offer new driver bonuses upon sign-up.

6. Become a multi-tasker (literally): Yet another way to capitalize on the “sharing economy” or “gig economy” is by becoming a tasker for companies such as TaskRabbit, Gigwalk, or Handy. In a recent interview with Fast Company—which named TaskRabbit one of the most innovative companies of 2017—CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot said that TaskRabbit workers earn an average of $35 per hour, or nearly five times the federal minimum wage. Taskers choose their own tasks, and there are more than 40 categories listed on TaskRabbit’s website, including shopping, yard work, and arts and crafts.

What do you think? Have side jobs helped you get out of debt, or save for a home? Are there any side jobs that you would add to this list?

2 thoughts on “Getting Serious About Side Jobs

  1. Chance Baggins

    Sell plasma? College cliche to buy beer.

    Participate in clinical trials? Pretty hilarious to speak so highly of the positives and a quick blurb of possible side effects. Duh, that’s what the trials are for. Those doing the trials probably don’t have health insurance so what happens when it goes wrong?

    Uber? That’s a great one, especially if you don’t even have a car, they will lease you one for a small fee with hidden terms and you will have to give half a dozen rides just to break even (after working at your silly, under paying day job).

    Pet sitter? Might be a good way to meet people with a job lucrative enough to afford a pet sitter and then do what they do.

    Couple more ideas since the previous ones are so brilliant:
    Environmentalist(collect cans in a shopping cart)
    Entrepreneur(drug dealer)


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