Sometimes a new year means a new career, and sometimes it just means it’s time to make some money, and fast, because holy smokes life is expensive! Perhaps you have been looking for work, but nothing has panned out and you need to start making money before a human resources manager makes a decision. Or maybe you are in transition and it just isn’t the right time to tie yourself down at a company, but there are still bills to pay. Or, even if you are working full-time, a little extra money could be a big help, and that’s where odd jobs can fill in the gaps.
When I was in the entry-level part of my career, I was having trouble justifying working 40 hours a week for $24,000 a year, or some other pittance amount of pay, not to mention it was during the apocalyptic aftermath of the tanked economy. I decided to earn my money another way –any other way. I took a breath and dove headfirst into odd jobbing. Here are the tactics I learned which can help you, should you decide to go for it and get some gigs.
1. Set a Monthly Goal
Decide how much money you want to earn per month. Make it reasonable and feasible for you. Then once you have a number –do not sway from that goal no matter what. Of course, don’t compromise yourself just to make money, but do whatever you can to meet that goal. Paint walls, clean houses, be one of those people who passes out samples at Wal-Mart, sell stuff, try online jobs like testing out websites. When you’re determined to meet a goal, you’ll be amazed at what you can come up with to get there. When I first started odd-jobbing, I set a goal of earning $2,000 a month. A reasonably modest number indeed, but certainly more than I would have pulled in full-time at an entry level job after taxes. Within a few months, I was earning double my goal.
2. Be Safe
Odd jobs often mean working for strangers outside of the safety net of a human resources department. Even if you do get offered a contracted job from a company, do a little research to verify their legitimacy. When you are working for an individual, organizing their garage, say, let someone else know where you will be and when to expect you back. Most of all, listen to your instinct. If something sounds too good to be true or doesn’t feel right –don’t do it.
3. Have a Written Agreement
It doesn’t have to be complicated or drafted by a lawyer, but it can be useful to have something very simple on hand, that allows you to have in writing the work you are going to do, the pay, and any other agreements or expectations. It may not be necessary to freak out the nice, old neighborhood lady paying you to run errands for her, for example, with daunting paperwork, but it’s helpful to have when appropriate. Explain to the other party a written agreement ensures they will receive the work they are expecting, equally as much as it guarantees your pay. It can be just as iffy for someone to hire a stranger to do odd job work as it can be to work for one. A written agreement will put you both at ease. Bring two copies, one for you and one for the person hiring you. I learned the importance of an agreement the hard way when I lost out on $600 because someone just decided not to put the check in the mail after I had done a job, and it was someone I had worked for before without any problem! (Note: I don’t recommend getting paid via check in the mail; it is always best to get paid on site. This was only an exception because I had worked numerous jobs for this person before without any issue.) Don’t let that happen to you.
4. Demonstrate Responsibility
Just like any other job, you will be rewarded for your good performance. For odd jobs, that usually means repeated requests to come back and do more work, or referrals. One of the reasons I was able to double my monthly money goal was because I was still seeking out new odd jobs but also getting asked to come back and work, from previous ones. Promptly return phone calls and emails. Show up on time, be courteous and responsible, and work hard. It will pay in returns.
5. Swallow Your Pride
Okay, okay, so some of my odd jobs were a bit humbling. Wearing a hairnet and handing out food samples at Costco was not my idea of cool. But, since I applied the tactics from above, I got a few extra months’ work out of that gig, was given a little promotion, and able to translate that job into sales and management experience on my resume, when it was time to start pursuing a more regular career. On the flipside, I landed some super-glam gigs in the fashion industry. Bragging rights galore! Whatever you end up with, try to have fun with it and remember it’s only temporary. People will probably be a lot more impressed with your hard-work ethic and colorful work history than another gal’s boring nine-to-five that barely pays the bills.
6. Let Everyone Know You're Looking
Let your network know you’re available as a helping hand. Because my connections knew I was willing to work, I got gigs such as decorating a friend’s bachelor pad, and a hefty cleaning job for a neighbor while she was renovating her house. They would have hired someone anyway, but much preferred to get the work from a person they knew. I also got a lot of great leads from people I met when working odd jobs. It was surprising how many other folks were making a living in similar ways, and they were more than happy to share their insight.
More often than not, you will find your odd jobs by responding to ads, but it doesn’t hurt to have your own self-marketing outlets. Hang flyers for yourself on grocery store bulletin boards. Print off simple, at-home business cards with your contact info and some blank space for writing. You never know when you may run into someone looking for that perfect person to bartend a big private party. Be ready.
It can be messy and stressful running between sporadic and unusual jobs. There will probably be days, such as after a long weekend of ten-hour shifts selling cell-phone plans under a tent, when you want to throw up your arms and get a cashier job at Aldi’s. However, a nice-sized check at the end of a gig will usually be motivation enough, but if it’s something different, keep it front of mind. Maybe you want to travel after graduating and before settling in on a job, or maybe you’re eager to pay off some debt, or maybe you just absolutely hate sitting at a desk or can’t stand to wait one more table. Whatever it is, don’t lose sight of it.
9. Location, Location, Location
I’ll be the first to admit I had a much easier time finding odd jobs because I lived in a huge city. More people meant more work. But it also meant more competition, which is why handling gigs with professionalism was important. However, being in a smaller city does not make odd-jobbing impossible. I know a young man who took one look at Craigslist in a mid-size city and found regular, paying work as a performer, right off the bat.
10. Obvious Odd Jobs
These days there’s a plethora of good, odd jobs available with crowd-sourcing becoming a stronger staple in our economy. Driving for companies like Uber and Lyft or delivering items for people via Peapod or Instacart are just the tip of the iceberg. There are excellent websites listing legitimate odd jobs such as Upwork.com, Flexjobs.com or Guru.com. On top of that, dozens of apps exist specifically for users to make a few extra bucks. The point is, if you need to survive on odd jobs, the resources for it are abundant.
Working odd jobs came with some unexpected benefits in my experience. I walked away with more than just pre-tax income. It taught me to be a very independent worker. This was invaluable to my success in a sales job I took down the road, which quickly led to a high-paying upper management job. I am thankful for the discipline and perseverance I learned working gigs. More than money or self-discipline, my favorite part of all the weird work I’ve done are the great stories. Once you’ve put a few unusual gigs under your belt, you will slay at dinner parties. Enjoy the journey and good luck!