Side Hustle Central

Our First Side Hustles

We’ve been side hustling alongside our primary income source for over five years now. Our side hustle adventures began when I started listening to Nick Loper’s amazing Side Hustle Show podcast. The idea of a side hustle caught my imagination. Along with saving money, I saw side hustles as a way to make money that we could send directly to our Poker Pilgrimage budget.

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Side Hustle Central
Side Hustle Central

For context, our Main Hustle is not exactly a traditional office job. We are both freelancers in the area of research consulting and data science. We are lucky enough to have the freedom to work where we want, when we want, for a decent rate of pay. However, a few years ago we were looking for ways to start building savings for our Poker Pilgrimage.

Given that we are almost always within 10 feet of our laptops, online hustles were an easy place to start. They didn’t require us to leave the house, acquire any goods or materials, or *gasp* talk to anyone.

Our very first side hustles were:

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk is a site where one completes “micro-tasks” for small sums of money. We fill out surveys for the majority of our Turk time. However, we have also done some simple transcription and image recognition tasks as well. Each task is usually quick and pays a small sum of money (most well under $1.00). No one is getting rich on Mechanical Turk.  Having said that, we earned a combined $1,917 from our Turk work in an 18 month span. We only do Mechanical Turk when we need a work break or have nothing else pressing in the evening. So it is not cannibalizing from our more lucrative earning opportunities.

A positive of Mechanical Turk is that it is run through Amazon. The site is trusted, run solidly, and you can feel comfortable that you will get paid. You can either deposit earnings directly into your bank account (our preference) or apply them to Amazon purchases (how convenient!).

If you are interested in Mechanical Turk, I strongly recommend Michael Naab’s excellent book Side Hustle from Home, which lays out the ins and outs of Mechanical Turk. I found this book invaluable as I started turking . Key among Naab’s excellent advice is how to find the best tasks and what chrome plug-ins will aid your side hustle efficiency. Other Mechanical Turk books have been written more recently, but this was the one that really got us on our way.

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The second Mechanical Turk resource that I would recommend would be the Reddit thread Hits Worth Turking For. This thread encourages people to put up the best hits of the day as they come across them. These are the hits with the highest “hourly rate” if you consider the pay and the time spent working. Frankly, these are the majority of hits that Paul and I spend our time on. Spending five minutes filling out an interesting survey for $.80 is surprisingly rewarding.

In summary, Mechanical Turk was a great side hustle to start us out. The initial investment was small: a couple of hours reading Naab’s book and figuring out how to get started. However, we would like to find side hustles that offer us significantly better hourly rates.

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Next up was Fiverr. Fiverr is basically a freelancing marketplace. Those looking for work in graphic design, research, voice work, transcription, and a variety of other areas post “gigs.” Those looking for such services at low cost with speedy service then purchase these gigs. In theory, Fiverr sounded great to us. We could bid out the research services that we are already expert at, and people would come to us.

Here’s the catch. Fiverr is named “Fiverr” because their ideal base cost is $5. While five bucks makes sense for some services, it is well below a reasonable rate for survey design or analytics. We had some great initial success with Fiverr, making about $500 over one summer on a number of projects. We followed some online advice to start with a low price in order to build our recommendations and star ratings. This advice resulted in resounding success….for our ratings.

As soon as we increased our fees to a reasonable living rate (say $50 for a basic survey design) – crickets.  A few more tweaks to change our rates and offerings have garnered no further interest. We ultimately made the decision not to undermine our bread and butter work by essentially giving it away for free. In the future we may explore other freelance marketplaces, such as Upwork, or Freelancer. But for now, we’ve put side hustle freelance research on the back burner.

Mechanical Turk and Fiverr got us on the road to side hustling. They were certainly not the end. A little more digging got us to some very successful side hustles, including our all time favorite that gave us a high hourly rate and still makes money for us today!

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