What to Watch Out for When Starting an Online Side Hustle

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There are plenty of reasons you might need an extra $50 or $100 in your pocket immediately.

After all, tires don’t warn you before they go flat and kids have no regard for how much their stunts cost in urgent care bills. You might also need money fast if you’re trying to pay off debt or build an emergency fund quickly.

Luckily, there are plenty of legitimate ways to make money fast; you just have to know what to do. The more you know about the dos and don’ts of making money online, the less time you’ll waste on dud jobs and the faster you’ll reach your financial goals.

Common Pitfalls of Beginners

Getting paid fast for online side gigs isn’t a myth. You do have to be aware of some important facts if you want to avoid scams and find jobs that pay.

They Expect It to Be Effortless

Unlike building a large-scale online business, fast money has a low barrier to entry. There are no job interviews, specialized degrees, or big marketing campaigns required before you can start working and cashing your checks. Sounds like it’d be easy, right?

Not necessarily.

The most successful side hustlers are the ones who treat their side gig as a business. And like a business, you’ll need to spend time upfront finding things to sell, building a customer base, and getting reviews. After that, you’ll work to maintain your reputation and expand.

You can make money fast but don’t expect an immediate return. Your paycheck will be proportionate to the effort you put in.

They Fall for Online Scams

When searching for online jobs, you’ll likely encounter at least one online scam. Here are some of the most common “wfh” scams you need to know about:

The fake check. In this scam, someone offers you a job then sends you a check and asks you to deposit it. Soon after they ask you to wire some of that money to someone else. Unfortunately, the check is typically a fake and you lose real money.

Pay-to-play. If you’re being charged a fee for an interview or to continue the hiring process, you’re probably not dealing with a legitimate employer. And while there are job directories that charge for premium features, be skeptical of any that require payment upfront.

Identity theft and phishing. These scams trick you into providing identifying information in exchange for “lucrative” work-at-home jobs. Be cautious when filling out any applications that require your social security number, bank account numbers, or address.

If something doesn’t look right, do an online search for associated names or businesses to find complaints and reviews. And never send money to someone who’s supposed to be paying you.

They Waste Time on Small Potatoes

You’ll need to invest some time into making fast money online, but you shouldn’t have to devote all your days, nights, and weekends to it. These “small potatoes” opportunities aren’t scams but rather hobbies. They generally don’t offer enough earnings for the time you invest in them. The opportunities you’ll see commonly are:

Online surveys. Online survey sites claim to offer cash for taking simple surveys. Unfortunately, these surveys can long, and the high-paying ones may be hard to come by. It’s common to waste 10 minutes on a pre-survey only to find out you don’t qualify for the real thing. Surveys are great for passing the time, so save them when you’re not in a financial bind.

Multi-level marketing. These companies appear to offer a lucrative income selling products to your friends, but most of the time you make money by recruiting other people to sell “under” you. The products might be great but are not worth losing your friends.

 

Matched betting. These online sports betting sites offer “no risk” returns and bonuses when you deposit minimum amounts. The truth is that while sites claim “guaranteed profit”, they don’t guarantee a good profit and one mistake can mean hundreds of dollars in losses.

Don’t get distracted by opportunities that seem too good to be true. Focus on the ones that require a little more work and have a consistent history of payments.

They Make Large Upfront Investments

If you need money now, you probably can’t afford to purchase a bunch of products to start a new business or make risky online investments. If you want to make money, invest your time.

Don’t buy bulk inventory, rent office space, or have a custom website designed for your side gig. Use the products and interfaces already available to make money. Sign up for sites that you can offer services through like Fiverr, Upwork, and Care.com. You can also dropship and use print-on-demand services for selling products without carrying inventory or buying it all upfront.

Making a large investment in a business isn’t bad, but it’s not necessary to make money fast online.

They Ignore Long-Term Strategies

Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Driving people around is a great way to make money when you’re in a bind, but you’ll never make six figures doing it. Don’t become committed to any short-term profit strategy.

Think about what you want to be doing in 10, 20, and 30 years. Balance quick-cash side hustles with building lasting wealth through investing for retirement and starting a business that can scale and grow long-term.

Use the fast money you’ll make to break the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle by expanding your expertise in your field, raising your hourly rates, and figuring out what’s holding you back from bigger money-making opportunities.

What Successful Online Earners Do

Now that you know what to watch out for, what are the best ways to increase income? Here are the “dos” for earning money online.

They Set a Goal

Know how much you want to make, what you’ll use it for, and when you want to have it by. Having goals will not only help you reach them faster, but you’ll also know when to stop so you can get back to investing in your long-term wealth.

Paying off a credit card, getting current on bills, or saving $1,000 are good examples of goals you can reach quickly. Saving for the kids’ college tuition or paying off your house are goals you should consider using longer-term methods to achieve.

They Choose the Right Methods

There are methods for making money that have the capacity for high earnings but typically won’t produce that level of income until months or years in the future. Alternatively, you can find survey sites that’ll pay you within a few days, but the earning potential is low.

When choosing the right methods to make money fast, you’re ideally looking for something in the middle — moderate levels of income that can be achieved within a few weeks. Here are a few examples of fast money opportunities that hit that sweet spot.

They Find Something to Sell

You might literally be sitting on the extra cash you need right now. To make money fast, find something, or some things, to sell.

Choose items that will sell for more than just a few dollars such as furniture, electronics, and collectibles. Facebook Marketplace and eBay are great places to list items, but you might need to wait days or even weeks for the right offer and payment.

If you have old phones, CDs, DVDs, games, books, or LEGO® to get rid of, try selling them to Decluttr. You can easily scan or enter the item’s barcode and instantly see what Decluttr will pay you for it. Shipping to them is free and once they receive your items, you’ll get paid the next day.

Related: 18 Best Selling Apps to Sell Stuff Online (and Locally)

They Offer Their Services

Everyone has something to offer, and chances are you can find a place to offer it online. There are a variety of websites that make finding service-based jobs like babysitting, housesitting, and house or office cleaning jobs much easier than it used to be.

One example for dog walkers is Rover. Rover connects pet owners with dog walkers and pet sitters on its website and app. This is a great way for animal lovers to make money fast. If you’re interested in making money by walking dogs, you can sign up to dog walk for Rover. You’ll start getting paid as soon as two days after your first walk.

They Use Skills They Already Have

What are the skills in your arsenal that make you unique? Take a minute to think about your degrees, past work experience, hobbies, etc. and try to find a job that incorporates them. Here are a few options:

Freelance writing. If you’re good with words and can make a deadline, then freelance writing is a great way to make quick money. Aim to specialize in one or two topics you have personal or professional experience in and become an expert in them. This will help you get higher-paying clients.

Web development. Building a website no longer involves starting from scratch with long lines of complex code. If you want to make money online designing websites, you can do it relatively quickly and find online tutorials for your code questions.

Virtual assistant. Even if you don’t feel like you have any special skills, you can still make fast money online as a virtual assistant. A few common tasks include bookkeeping, research, data entry, and managing emails. You might have to be available during certain hours of the day, but all the work is remote so you can do it from anywhere.

For more ideas on monetizing the skills you already have, search the internet for online jobs. You might find sites already hiring for jobs you didn’t know existed.

Other Tips for Increasing Your Income

person holding money

Ask Your Boss

Want to know how to make money without finding a new side gig? Start with the place you already work. Volunteer or ask your boss if you can work overtime. Federal law regulates that nonexempt employees make time and a half for any hours worked over 40 in a week.

Also, negotiate for a raise. If you’ve exceeded the scope of the job you were hired for or it’s been more than a year since your last raise, start the conversation with your boss. Ask what you need to do to get a raise, and explain why you think you deserve one.

Remember that W-2 employees pay fewer taxes on their earnings than independent contractors, so making more money at your full-time job is always a smart move.

Narrow Your Focus

At first, you’ll probably try a lot of methods to make fast money online. You may be tempted to keep all of your side hustles because they’re all profitable. But once you figure out which gig is best suited for you, drop the ones that aren’t.

If you focus on the one or two most profitable side hustles, or the ones you most enjoy, your potential to make money from those will be higher than if you worked 10 online jobs.

Track Your Time

Still trying to figure out what to stick with? Track your time to see which jobs are making you the most money for the effort you put in.

If side hustle A brings in $100 for 6 hours of work and side hustle B brings in $75 for 2 hours of work, don’t look at the $100 payout and assume you should stick with A. When you track your time, you can see side hustle A brings in $16.67 per hour while B brings in $37.50 per hour.

Since you want to get as much value for your time as possible, this is a good exercise to determine which side hustle to keep. Download a free desktop or mobile app like Clockify to start tracking your time and see which of your side hustles is most profitable.

Stay Consistent

Treat your side hustle like a business and you have the opportunity for quick cash whenever you need it. That means even in months you don’t necessarily need extra cash, you should still maintain a minimum level of effort to show potential clients you’re still around.

Staying consistent with your side hustle doesn’t mean sacrificing your long-term wealth-building. There are situations where having a quick way to make money online can help your long-term goals like in the event of job loss.

Fast Money Isn’t the Same as Easy Money

There are plenty of real ways to make money fast. Avoid scams and time consuming low-paying gigs. Be willing to put in the work and you won’t need to stress about any unexpected expenses. If you follow this list of dos and don’ts, you should be bringing in extra money in no time.

Author
Jen Smith

Hi, I'm Jen! As a best selling author on Amazon writing about minimalism, spending less, and making more money, my work has been featured in U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2017 my husband and I finished paying off $78,000 of debt and that's what I help others do here.

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