4 side hustles I’ve done to pay off debt

Young woman checking her watch, chatting on the phone, and coordinating her next side hustle. Young woman checking her watch, chatting on the phone, and coordinating her next side hustle. Image:

In a Nutshell

Side hustling can help expand your network, teach you new skills and help you pay off debt. But some gigs are better than others.

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When I graduated with my master’s degree a few years ago, I had $68,000 in student loan debt and wanted more than anything to pay it off as soon as possible.

The problem? After moving to a city with a lower cost of living, I wasn’t able to find a full-time job. Instead, I secured a temporary six-month contract, making $12 per hour. I had already downsized my life in nearly every way possible, but that wasn’t going to be enough on that salary. I knew I had to make more money, but how?

To help my debt-paying efforts, I started taking on extra gigs, or side hustles. These helped me pay off $10,000 of debt per year on a minimal salary. Here are 4 side hustles I’ve tried — and my take on how helpful they were.


Side hustle #1: Brand ambassador

In today's interconnected world, there are more opportunities to make more money in a variety of ways.

A few years ago, I started working as a brand ambassador, which is acting as the public face of a brand at events, after responding to a Craigslist ad. The ad stated that it was looking for friendly folks to pass out flyers for a concert and would pay $20 per hour.

I started to look for more gigs as a brand ambassador and was surprised at how prevalent they are. You may have seen brand ambassadors at concerts, sporting events or grand openings, usually handing out free samples or coupons to passersby. Over the years, I’ve done promotions for big-name companies such as Starbucks, Columbia Sportswear, Chevrolet and more.

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Brand ambassador gigs can last a few hours to several days. Typically, summer and holiday seasons are busy times for this type of work. Being a brand ambassador has helped me make an additional $7,000 each year for the past few years, and this only required me to work a few nights and weekends. I still work as a brand ambassador on occasion and use that income to fund specific goals. For example, all of my brand ambassador income this year funded a recent trip to Spain and Portugal.

You can find brand ambassador opportunities on Craigslist, EventSpeak and even on Facebook. Look for the group “Brand Ambassadors of [Your City].”

Side hustle #2: Holiday helper

I didn’t realize how lucrative the holiday season is for side hustling until a few years ago. Now, I eagerly await October to December because there are so many opportunities to make some extra bucks.

Holiday jobs offer a lot of variation: I’ve helped with coat checking at a Halloween party. I’ve been a catering assistant for Thanksgiving dinner, despite having little food service experience.

Nearly every weekend in December, I serve appetizers and help set up and cleanup after holiday parties. Because you may have to work on an actual holiday, clients tend to be more generous with pay and tips. I’ve had success finding gigs on Craigslist as well as on online neighborhood community boards.

These gigs typically last just 4 to 6 hours. Over the years, I’ve made an extra $1,000 during the holiday season. I recommend this for anyone looking to pay off debt, as it’s short-term and offers many opportunities.

Side hustle #3: House cleaner

I like things tidy, organized and clean, so I thought I would take that fervor and help others as a house cleaner. However, after two gigs, I quickly realized it wasn’t for me. Cleaning your own house is not the same as cleaning someone else’s house.

I didn’t have any professional cleaning supplies and felt ill-prepared for the task. Ultimately, this side hustle wasn’t for me, but is an option you can try to make extra cash.

Side Hustle #4: Tasker on TaskRabbit

I’d already mastered the art of Craigslist when I heard about TaskRabbit, a website that connects gigs to people (who are known as Taskers) — but TaskRabbit has the added benefit of conducting identity and criminal record checks as well as in-person interviews of anyone wanting to hire a Tasker so you could see who you’re working for.

A few years ago when it first launched, I became a Tasker. During my time with TaskRabbit, I did a variety of tasks like:

  • Watering someone’s plants while they were away.
  • Attending a Google hangout for 15 minutes as part of a sound check for a DJ set that was to be streamed live.
  • Transcribing a podcast.
  • Setting up for a surprise birthday party.
  • Helping someone unpack after a move.

Using TaskRabbit can be a great way to make extra money to pay off debt, especially if you live in a big city. You can fill out a profile and set your rates for certain tasks and let people know your availability. Clients can choose you for a task and once the task is completed, they can review you. Having positive reviews can help attract more clients.


Bottom line

If you’re grappling with the burden of debt, you may be forced to cut back in some areas. However, there is another way you can tackle debt — through earning more. In today’s interconnected world, there are more opportunities to make more money in a variety of ways.

Side hustling can help expand your network, teach you new skills and help you pay off debt. The best part? You can work on your own terms and make more money by working a few extra hours per month.


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