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
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.
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]."
Pay: $15 to $20 per hour on average.
Pros: Typically pays higher than minimum wage and offers flexibility.
Cons: Long hours on your feet and having to deal with the occasional rude person.
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.
Pay: $10 to $25 per hour, depending on the gig.
Pros: You can often come home with leftover food and wine, as well as a nice tip.
Cons: It can be a very busy environment. In addition, if you're working on an actual holiday, you may wish you were celebrating with your friends and family instead.
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.
Pay: $10 to $20 per hour, depending on the job and client.
Pros: You can work by yourself and at a self-directed pace.
Cons: It can be difficult to predict work conditions, and often requires experience and equipment.
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.
Pay: $18 to $50+ per hour, depending on the task.
Pros: Diversity of gigs. Some can be done remotely.
Cons: May be competitive, depending on where you live.
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.
Editorial Note: The opinions you read here come from our editorial team. While compensation may affect which companies we write about and products we review, our marketing partners don't review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Our content is accurate (to the best of our knowledge) when we initially post it, but we don't guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. You can visit the company's website to get complete details about a product. See an error in an article? Use this form to report it to our editorial team. For questions about your Credit Karma account, please submit a help request to our support team.
Advertiser Disclosure: We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.
Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.
Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.