Writers are the original side hustlers.
Most of us have day jobs, at least when we start out. Writing is hard work, and it takes time to craft a good book, no matter your topic or your skill level. In between, you have to keep the lights on and a roof over your head, so day jobs are kinda necessary.
In the days before the ebook revolution, writers had to struggle even more to make money off their work—we were at the mercy of agents and big publishing houses, sending out dozens of queries and hoping like heck to be picked out of the crowd.
Today, we have a lot more options to get our work into the hands of eager readers—we can self-publish, use hybrid publishing strategies, and sell our books directly to our audience. We can also supplement our writing in other ways, like producing audiobooks and courses.
But the goal for most of us it to make a full-time income from writing. It’s not a side hustle, something to do on top of a day job—the goal is for writing to be the day job.
So what’s a writer to do when you need to earn a little extra cash on the side? Your next book isn’t ready to be published—it’ll be another month or two before you’re done editing—and you’re still marketing the last book, but you really want to get some extra cash for a great summer vacation.
Pick up a side hustle!
While everyone else is out of the office this summer, take advantage of the situation to make a little extra money.
Summer vacation is the perfect time to get your side hustle on—people are busier than ever trying to get everything sorted so they can leave on vacation, or they’re looking to make life easier so they can enjoy the season.
Plus, being out of the office leaves gaps in regular staffing lineups, so you can step up with your unique skills to fill in.
Smart Side Hustle Ideas
Whether you want to earn a few bucks toward iced coffees or save enough for an epic vacation of your own, there’s a perfect summer side hustle waiting for you.
Here’s just a few ideas to get you started!
In the summer, people often need a hand getting errands done before vacation—or even while they’re on vacation. If you get summer Fridays or have a flexible work schedule, take advantage of that to earn some extra cash by running errands or doing shopping on demand.
You won’t make a ton of money, but you’ll definitely get a few bucks here and there without a lot of effort.
Help out with errands, basic home maintenance, phone calls, and other low-stress tasks as an on-demand personal assistant. You can sign up with a service like Task Rabbit, Thumbtack, Fancy Hands, or Perssist to do all kinds of tasks.
With Task Rabbit or Thumbtack, you’ll be running basic errands for people, like taking care of the dry cleaning or helping set up IKEA furniture.
With Fancy Hands and Perssist, you’ll be handling virtual assistant tasks, like ordering flowers for delivery or researching flights.
Another way to earn a few bucks here and there is as an on-demand shopper.
With Instacart, you head to a specific grocery store and fill a customer’s order with the best food available, picking just the right passionfruit or a perfect steak.
If you love fashion, you might want to hook up with Stitch Fix, an online clothing subscription service that pairs customers with stylists to create their perfect look. You can work when you want, where you want, and get paid to play with clothes all day!
Secret shoppers have been around for ages, but smartphones have revolutionized how you can get paid just to head to a local store.
With GigWalk, you just download the app and then search for gigs near you. You might get sent to the grocery store to take pictures of a certain display, or you might be asked to count how much of a certain product is on sale. Tasks can take as little as two or three minutes, done in between your normal errands, and pay varies from $3 to $100 per task.
Field Agent is another good option to find quick jobs scouting information for brands or companies.
Love taking photos when you’re out and about?
Want to earn money while you’re on vacation?
Consider being a stock photographer!
With easy apps like Foap, you can turn your camera roll into cash. Just download the app, upload your best pictures, and get paid. You’ll earn 50% of the royalties on all sales of your stock photos, and you can sell the same photo an unlimited number of times.
If you have a background in graphic design or another hot skill, you can pick up some fast side cash by signing up on Fiverr.
While you’d make a lot more actually going into business as a freelance designer, writer, or other area, you’d then have to do the marketing to find clients and cultivate ongoing relationships.
On Fiverr, you can do super-quick gigs that don’t require a lot of energy (but also don’t pay as well as a proper freelance job).
Create a quick logo, write a poem for someone’s anniversary, or draft a business memo. Boom, you’ve made $5.
A really fast way to make some pocket change is to join Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program.
As great as computers are, they still can’t do everything as well as a human can. Amazon has created a program to outsource this kind of task to actual humans.
The jobs (called Human Intelligence Tasks, or HITs) only take a few seconds to a few minutes to complete, and they don’t pay much.
But almost anyone can crunch a whole bunch of HIT projects into otherwise empty spaces in their schedule, and those pennies or dollars start adding up!
It doesn’t take much time or mental energy to assign a product category to something, or to choose the right spelling for a word. You can even start earning money while you’re watching TV or doing another gig, like housesitting (more on that later).
If you’re looking to make a little more money and have a little more time to spend, consider one of these side hustles.
You’ll need a good sense of direction and a good knowledge of your city, as well as a clean and well-maintained car. You’ll also need to be comfortable being alone in that car with strangers.
But this is also an amazing opportunity for writers to get ideas for new characters and snippets of dialogue—you’ll meet all kinds of people who can inspire your next novel!
Pets, houses, kids: people need things looked after, especially in the summer! Sign up on Care.com to look after someone’s dog while they’re on vacation, take care of the kids in that gap between camp and school, or housesit and run errands.
If you love animals, Rover.com might be your ideal side hustle—you can sign up, detail your animal experience, and set your favorite pets, then start picking up side jobs looking after dogs, cats, or even birds.
This is a particularly great way to earn some side income if you’re a writer with a flexible schedule—you can housesit or pet-sit and earn money while you’re writing!
Plus, if you housesit, you might be able to arrange for an awesome “staycation” for yourself, exploring a new part of your city or region while being paid to do so. Some housesitting sites charge a small fee, but also allow you to find housesitting gigs outside your area, so you can basically get paid to go on vacation.
Flip Yard Sale Finds
If you love checking out estate sales and tag sales on the weekend, you might be able to make a nice side income by flipping your finds.
This is a particularly great side hustle if you live in a relatively small area, but you’re internet-savvy. That’s because more rural areas tend not to be swamped by antiques dealers looking to do just what you’re doing—but you can find great deals on interesting items and then sell them online for a profit.
I’ve had amazing luck scoring vintage furniture and rustic décor pieces in rural Maine, vintage costume jewelry in upstate New York, and farm tools and pottery in rural Vermont. In every case, the owners were delighted that they were getting rid of stuff, and I was able to sell them to collectors on eBay for a tidy profit.
This takes a little time and a lot of knowledge of what you’re looking at, so you’ll want to specialize in something you know well. If you’re into comic books and action figures, search for those. Love midcentury modern furniture and décor? Hunt for that.
If you’re looking to make a bundle from your side hustle, you’re going to have to commit more time and energy to the cause—five minutes here and there won’t earn you a full-time income.
But if you have a little extra time to do prep work or a few hours to spend on projects, you can earn a few thousand dollars a month on the side with these ideas.
As a writer, you’re an expert in something, whether that’s crafting believable dialogue or picking stocks. After all, you’re expressing your expertise in a book.
Why not express it in other ways, too?
Convert your book into an online course, walking people step-by-step through the process and offering personal advice and information along the way.
In many cases, you can use the material you developed for your book to get a head start on course creation, especially if you’re a nonfiction writer. Think about creating videos of yourself teaching some of the chapter lessons, or creating worksheets based on major concepts.
Don’t forget to promote your book to your students—and to promote your course with a link inside your ebook! That will grow your earning potential dramatically.
Another good way to draw on your writing skills to make even more money is to produce audiobooks.
You can either sign up to ACX.com with your current titles to have them produced as audiobooks by other people, adding an income stream to your existing writing platform, or you can sign up to start producing books for other people.
If you have good recording equipment and a basic knowledge of sound engineering with free software like Audacity, you’re already on your way to earning royalties for producing audiobooks!
Learn more about audiobook production on Episode 137 of our Publishing Profits Podcast.
Document Support Services
Writers are, by nature, good with words. Not all of us are excellent editors or typists, but many are—and for those who are, there are a lot of opportunities to make money on the side!
Most freelance document support work goes in waves—editorial services, for example, get swamped around midterms and finals each year, so in October, December, March, and May.
Still, there’s lots of work to be done in the summer—and plenty of full-time and part-time workers who’ve taken off. So you might be able to get plenty of work thanks to your way with words.
Are you fast and accurate when typing? You may be able to make some good money as a freelance transcriptionist on the side.
You’ll be turning video or audio files into text documents, with an emphasis on accuracy and fast turnaround. You can work anytime, anywhere, and can end up earning a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month depending on how much you work and how good you are.
Editing is a difficult and specialized skill. But many writers also happen to be good editors, so you might find your side hustle niche here.
There are lots of sites that hire freelance editors to work on academic documents, resumes, cover letters, formal papers, and more.
In many cases, you’ll need a graduate degree to work on academic texts, but there are other sites that hire people to work on business documents and don’t require a master’s or PhD in a certain field.
You’ll be working on client files in Word, using the Track Changes function, to make detailed edits and comments and to help polish the client’s writing. Often, you’ll have short turnaround times and need to be fast and accurate.
You can make anywhere from a hundred bucks to a few thousand a month depending on your speed and skill.
If you’re fluent in more than one language, try taking on translation jobs.
Because of the skill required, these gigs often pay far better than editing or transcription work. But you’ll also need to be very accurate and careful—you don’t want to insert the wrong word into a business document and insult someone’s client!
You can find freelance translation jobs on Fiverr, Upwork, Freelance.com, Hubstaff Talent, and other freelance sites, or you can join an agency like Gengo, Executive Linguist, or TranslatorsBase to find work.
Most writers are also expert researchers—we have to be in order to get a broad and deep knowledge of the subjects we’re writing about.
Put those skills to use earning a little extra money as a freelance researcher.
Services like Wonder let you research a variety of topics—and you can do as much work as you like. You might only find the links to the relevant information, or you might take the links someone else has found and produce a well-written final research report.
JustAnswer also allows you to leverage your expertise in an area by getting paid to answer questions in your specialty. Think of it like being paid to spend your day on Quora!
Pay varies depending on the project and what you contributed, but you can make up to a few thousand dollars a month depending on how much time you have to spend researching.
No matter how much time you have and what your interests are, there’s a way to make extra cash on the side this summer. Take advantage of everyone else’s summer slump to get your hustle on and supplement your income!
Side hustles can let you earn grocery money or thousands of dollars a month—and there’s a side hustle that’s just right for you.
For more ways to increase your income, read on:
- How to Break Through the Barriers to Success: What It Really Takes to Become a Full-Time Author
- For Fiction Authors – How To Earn a Full-Time Income Writing Fiction Books
- 5 Writing Skills to Increase Your Income
Oh, and if you’re wondering what it’s like for folks who want to hire freelancers, check out our guide on how to find an editor.