My Side-Hustles Bring in up to $3,500 a Month…and They Can Do the Same for You

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on December 7, 2020 in Gig Economy

In the weeks and months following COVID’s emergence in the U.S., I began writing about the toll it was having and would have on older workers—namely the historically high unemployment rate for people, like me, who are over 50.

Now comes more sad news.

In the third quarter, more than 28 million baby boomers threw in the towel and simply left the job market, according to new research from the Pew Research Center. They retired—prematurely—because they were forced out of the labor market.

As I’ve mentioned a few times over the last couple of years, I was pushed out of a job at 51 and found that locating a vaguely similar position was crazy difficult, even at a sharply reduced income (I was earning just north of $150,000 and was willing to work for less than six figures).

Ultimately, I decided to return to school at the University of California, Los Angeles to pursue a long-held dream of learning to write screenplays. But I only tell you that because it plays into the story I want to share today: the story that I wish I’d known at the time…

Ever since I landed my first job as a newspaper reporter in Monroe, Louisiana, in January 1989, I’ve been all about the idea of earning extra income as a freelance writer. In fact, my first bank loan as an adult was $5,000 from a Monroe credit union to buy an Apple Macintosh and a desk so that I could begin pitching story ideas to national magazines, and so that I had a computer to write on from home.

Through the decades, my capacity to freelance waxed and waned due to the obligations of family and my day job, which simply means that when I was forced out at 51, my view of “alternative income” was myopic. I knew freelance writing. And I knew one particular investment-oriented website, for which I did a bit of writing. And I knew about blogging—so I built an investment/political blog…but I had no idea how to monetize it or what affiliate links were, or how to use keywords.

More important, I didn’t know the broad range of opportunities that I really had that went well beyond a blog and one investment website.

For the last several years, however, I have spent a substantial amount of time and effort exploring a vast collection of side-hustles that exist today. As you likely know, I’ve pursued several (sometimes too many). And I began to find a grove that meshes with my skill set and my personal desires—namely freelance screenplay editing on Fiverr; freelance investment writing found through a personal contact; walking tours and other non-financial writing I do through Upwork; and selling photos through several so-called microstock photo websites in the U.S., Canada, and Germany.

Combined, those pursuits currently yield an extra $2,500 to $3,500 a month, depending on screenplay editing demand.

If I had the hours in the day, there are other opportunities I’d like to chase—namely designing T-shirts and jigsaw puzzles and such based on my artistic skills. Seriously, there are people earning thousands of dollars a month doing that. I also wish I had more time to devote to my blog, since it has actually generated a bit of purely passive affiliate-link income.

All of that I say, though, not to talk about my successes, post job-loss. It’s to share with you personalized proof of the larger message: You have options.

Maybe like me you were forced out of a job in your 50s. Maybe COVID killed the company you worked for and you’re one of those millions of older Americans struggling to find a new path. Or maybe you left a job because after all these years it no longer gave you a reason to wake up every morning, excited by what the day will bring. I get it.

But your path hasn’t come to an end.

I’m witness to the fact that, regardless of age or location, there’s an opportunity somewhere that’s just right for you. Maybe it’s an entrepreneurial job that allows you to chase your passion after all these years of keeping it stifled. Maybe it’s taking a skill—or many skills—you honed in the workforce and turning that into a lucrative second career. Maybe it’s exploiting that hobby in which you have years of expertise and selling the arts you craft, or writing e-books that teach others how to do what you’re great at (again, good money is available writing e-books).

Maybe it’s consulting in your former industry for $100 or more per hour. Whatever it is, there’s a path with your name on it. You just have look for it.

By Jeff D. Opdyke