Side hustles are an affectionate nickname given to things you can do ‘on the side’ of your main job to try and earn a bit of extra money. You might see comprehensive guides online about side hustles and some very clickbaity articles.
Passive income is income that you generate passively, or in other words, that you don’t have to do anything for. Once you have set your passive income stream up, it will continue to slowly drip cash into your account, day after day, night after night. To quote our much loved ‘Oracle of Omaha’
“Unless you figure out how to make money in your sleep, you will work till you die”Warren Buffet
The truth is that most side hustles and passive income ideas that are advertised are absolute crap, and there are only a few that are worth your time. I have investigated a number of opportunities and a lot simply don’t stack up as being worth your time. Many require you to exchange your time for money at a fairly low rate. The following are a few that worked for me and which I have made real money from (but in some cases it hasn’t been a lot).
Investing in ETFs and LICs. This is seriously the best ‘side hustle’ I ever got into and this is where almost a third of my income comes now, completely passively. Buying a range of index funds through good quality, diversified and low-cost ETFs and LICs was probably the best thing I ever did for my financial health, and now after spending the effort ‘hustling’ to teach myself everything I could about it, I get to passively reap the benefits for the rest of my life.
I have included property development on this list as it can be a very lucrative side hustle if done right. It’s such a good opportunity actually, that many people do this as a full-time job. Full disclaimer I haven’t successfully completed a development myself, however, I am currently working on a project with a business partner who has done many himself. Property development is A LOT of work, and there is some serious RISK involved, so it isn’t for everyone.
There are a lot of moving cogs, for example financing the development can be tricky, and if you can’t service the debt you might need to cough up the capital yourself or find and pay private lenders which expect a significant premium than what you’d get at a bank (15-20% annualised interest).
Overall the juice is worth the squeeze, and one or two good property developments or real estate deals can really set you up for life. Either you can take advantage of this to acquire cash flow positive rentals at the wholesale rate, or you can sell your development and funnel the profits into completely passive ETF and LIC portfolios.
T shirt creation
T spring, Red bubble and CafePress are all sites where I have uploaded designs, added a description and in minimal time my ‘product’ has gone live. The bonus is that you don’t need to handle any of the logistics – they do everything, and you just get a decent cut based on your design being the ‘intellectual property’. The best thing is it’s not just T-shirts. Your designs can be applied to mugs, stickers, phone cases – anything you want.
You’re probably not going to become an overnight millionaire, but I did make $80 out of it. $80 isn’t much, but it’s pretty good when you consider that was only about 30 minutes of work I did a few months ago sketching/editing on Microsoft Paint and then uploading the design using my laptop (whilst sitting on the comfy couch watching Netflix and drinking a few glasses of red wine).
To be honest, my designs were pretty crap but I just wanted to try and see how it works. I will definitely be getting back into some more t-shirt design when I have more time.
To date, I’ve made about $300 from online surveys. Some of them can be pretty good and they do start to add up especially if it’s $5 and $10 there to complete a survey of about 10 or 20 minutes duration each. I started doing them on my phone when I was waiting in lines (like at the doctors), when I had time to kill between flights or when I was in the shuttle from the airport to the hotel.
I must say that they can be incredibly frustrating as you might go to all the effort of starting it and be 5 or even 10 minutes into the survey only to get screened out. This is because the people paying for the surveys want incredibly specific information pertaining to certain demographics – if you don’t fit the bill, you get screened out – and no payout for your time.
There are a few different platforms, but I had the most success with Survey Octopus. You can find my full review of them here.
To be honest, I don’t think paid online surveys are worth your time, at all. It’s just too frustrating with the high rate of screen outs and they offer you very little payment for your time. You are much better using your time for professional development and reading, working on your projects and passions, or otherwise just for recreation and enjoying yourself – you’re not going to miss the $5 here or there.
Long ago I have done ‘contracting work’ using outsourcing software, such as Upwork and Fiverr. I’m not terribly proud to admit this, but I essentially helped people complete their school and college assignments for money.
Tutoring is a fantastic side hustle. When I was at college studying engineering and trying to fund my Commercial Pilots Licence, I took to tutoring high school and first and second-year college Mathematics, programming, Chemistry and Physics.
I earned a killing, I was getting on average $80 an hour and usually did a two-hour session minimum if I drove out to them. I found I got the most when I tutored for foreign students, especially because their families would often give me dinner in between each hour of the two-hour session.
Otherwise, I just met my ‘tutee’ at a public library or quiet cafe. So pretty much zero overhead cost, and to be quite frank I wasn’t a subject matter expert in everything I tutored – I am just an extremely fast learner and jokingly I always said I just had to stay one lesson ahead of the kid. I’m pretty clued on academically – I duxed my school and won numerous scholarships and awards through college, and really enjoy teaching as well as getting money, so it was only natural I was going to somehow combine all three.
Most of my students did great, and between me helping them to learn and setting them extra assignments as well as helping them complete their homework brought them from failing grades right up to a (nicely not suspicious) B-. Any higher and I figured the teacher would cotton on I was doing their homework?
Whilst I don’t tutor these specific subjects at the moment, I’ve been focusing more on aviation coaching/mentoring. Tutoring was a great way to get some fast and easy cash for me in the past, but it is still money for time and I am transitioning to more passive styles of income these days.
I have made income from a portfolio of websites. It started really small but has quickly snowballed and I am now making more money from websites than I could have imagined. I have actually written a few dedicated articles about this, so be sure to check out;
I have made the most ‘side hustle’ money by flipping items on eBay, Facebook Marketplace and online classifieds (Gumtree/Craigslist). This is seriously the way to go, because you can pick things up for nearly free and then sell them sometimes at a serious premium.
Adding value is the name of the game, which is where you essentially make something better and then sell it. I used to buy second-hand cars and motorbikes to do them up (quick service, thorough clean and detail and then an exterior cut and polish) and then sell them for a premium. Whilst it wasn’t enough to get me a Ferarri, it completely paid for my SuperSport motorcycle as well as my set of racing leathers and all my other gear such as helmets, gloves and boots (which was something close to $12,000 all up). It also helped me pay a significant chunk towards my car which I paid $20,000 cash for (which is a lot I know, however it only had 15,000 miles [24,000 Kms] on it and brand new ones were selling for $50,000!)
Other than vehicles, I find anything with an engine or motor is the best return on effort. I look out for lawnmowers, chainsaws, weed whackers, generators or air compressors in council hard refuse pick-ups or on the classifieds sites going for cheap. I have a technical mind and enjoy engineering, so I love finding fixer-uppers. For example, I once picked up a small portable petrol-powered electrical generator from a hard refuse collection by the side of the road, destined to go to the tip. All it needed was a couple of hours of tinkering and $20 worth of parts from a hardware store and I was able to on-sell it for nearly $400 to a tradie!
If tinkering with engines or vehicles isn’t your deal, then you can still make a decent buck with furniture. I have a secure storage space lock-up in my apartment carpark – it’s about the size of three car parking spaces. Whenever I see free furniture advertised, or something decent on the side of the road, I go and get it. I then put it in my lock-up, and when I have some time on the weekend I can attend to it. Sometimes giving a table a good clean, rough sand and then a re-stain or polish is all that’s needed to breathe a bit of life into things and make it attractive to a buyer. I don’t paint anything as paint is expensive and messy. My latest flip was a queen size timber bedframe which I bought for $50 and sold for $300!
The last type of thing I really deal with is electronics. You have to be careful as you don’t want to get involved with anything dodgy! Do not buy anything you suspect is stolen property or that the seller has no right to or should not be selling! I have walked away from numerous dodgy sellers. What I have done though, is bought electronics from friends or coworkers such as laptops which I have cleaned, reformatted and then on-sold for a small profit. I’ve also picked up speakers, amplifiers and televisions which I have then packaged as a ‘home theatre package’ and made a profit on.
I work full time as a pilot and took a second job as a flying instructor on weekends earning $60 an hour, and flying aerobatic joy flights in warbirds too. The truth is I really love this form of employment, and I’d probably do it for free, so the money is a bonus. Without a commercial or instructor’s licence, to do this kind of flying costs many recreational pilots thousands of dollars per weekend.
In the past I have also done work landscaping, removing graffiti and picking up cigarette butts at a shopping centre (again, making money to finance my commercial pilot licence training).
Decluttering and selling my stuff
In addition to arbitrage, the way I got started selling online was through trying to declutter and minimise my belongings at home. I realised I could cut down on the crap I had in my apartment – a lot of which I never used anyway, and get some cash for it in the process. I have put this money towards the things I value – like a few high quality possessions (i.e. a very high-quality chef cooking knife) but mainly into my ETF/LIC portfolio!
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Captain FI is a Retired Pilot who lives in Adelaide, South Australia. He is passionate about Financial Independence and writes about Personal Finance and his journey to reach FI at 29, allowing him to retire at 30.