Alamy Being a 20-something in today’s economy means getting used to people assuming that you’re probably a debt-ridden parasite, still suckling at the teat of parental welfare. And why not? As our student loans, rent checks, grocery bills and bar tabs pile up throughout the month, it’s no surprise we Millennials yearn to bury our heads in our parents’ protective financial bosoms.
But we don’t have to play into the stereotype. Members of Generation Me can — and often do — attack our money problems by embracing the new version of a classic moneymaker: the side hustle.
Like a small business, only smaller, a side hustle is any (legal) way you can capitalize on your individual talents to generate extra income. Former journalism majors take up freelance writing jobs. Graphic designers create website logos for bloggers. Performing arts grads babysit. And anyone who has learned their discipline well enough to teach it can try tutoring.
There’s money to be made from the skills you spent all those years honing: But how exactly do you secure your side hustle? Let’s review:
Millennials may be egotistical nut jobs. Perhaps we enjoy selfies, taking pictures of our food, and telling everyone we know how we’re feeling every second of every day. But if social media has taught us anything, it’s how to apply the proper filter to a photo — and an invaluable lesson in marketing.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and scores of other platforms give people opportunities for self-promotion and ways to make connections that otherwise never would happen. A simple Tweet with a link to your portfolio can be the spark that leads a company to hire your services. (I’m penning this article as a direct result of an exchange that began on Twitter.)
By the way: While we’re talking about branding, maybe untag yourself in that picture of the beer can pyramid, and don’t Instagram yourself in the process of making “special brownies.”
Ask for the Order
You fired off a Tweet with a link to your recent blog post, or a picture of the haircut you just gave your best friend, or a recipe for your latest concoction, and suddenly, someone has responded with praise for your work.
Don’t be afraid to make contact and “ask for the order” by inquiring if they’d like to hire your services. It’s not too aggressive. They’ve already decided they like you. And you rarely get what you don’t ask for.
Put up a ‘Hire Me’ Page
Blogs are so 2006, but if you have any sort of website to promote yourself or your work, consider adding a “hire me” page. While it isn’t a particularly active way to seek work, it provides prospective clients with easy access to your résumé or samples of your work. It also lets people know that you’re available for hire, otherwise they may not realize your talents are for sale.
If you’re willing to shamelessly promote yourself, then consider tweeting or posting on Facebook about your available services with a link back to your “hire me” page.
Apply for Everything
When I first moved to New York, I quickly realized my job in entertainment wouldn’t be enough to cover my cost of living. After getting a second job at Starbucks, I felt the need to get a side hustle, too — preferably one with flexible hours, to supplement my meager income.
Babysitting seemed like the logical choice. I’d come home from work and immediately open up my computer, log into my SitterCity account and apply for every single babysitting job in my zip code (and several others).
If you want to get serious about earning extra cash through your side hustle, then you have to apply for any, and all, jobs that fit your skill set and interests.
Two years and a salaried job with benefits later, I still rely on my babysitting side hustle for quick infusions of cash.
Join a Group
A few months ago, a blogger posted a “no nonsense guide to getting freelance work.” While some people rely on freelance as their main source of income, others use the gigs to supplement their 9-to-5 salaries. In her post, this blogger mentioned joining a group of freelancers.
Outside of providing golden networking connections, these groups often offer email alerts with job opportunities.
Freelance writing and babysitting are my go-to side hustles. One builds my résumé and improves my skill set, while the other is easy money that can be made in a few hours. I have known people to sell their hair or blood (or other body fluids). Others allow medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies to use them as test subjects; but ideally, side hustles should viewed as a business that can help you continually better your financial situation.
Besides, it can take years to grow your hair long enough to sell, and you can only donate blood every two months. A decent side hustle can bring in cash weekly.
If stringing words together into coherent sentences isn’t your thing and you can’t stand kids, then perhaps some of these unique side hustles from around the web will help get your creative juices flowing: But those are just to get you started; you know what you have to offer better than anyone else could. Everyone’s got something that could be their side hustle. You just have to find it.
Erin Lowry writes for DailyFinance on issues relating to Millennials, money and personal finance. She also writes her own blog, Broke Millennial. Visit her there, or follow her on Twitter, @BrokeMillennial.