5 side hustles that make real dollars and sense for military families

According to the 2019 Blue Star Family survey, “financial issues” is a top stressor related to time in the military. More specifically, 44% of service members and 49% of military spouses identify it as the no. 1 cause of anxiety (service members also indicated “relocation stress” at 44% to tie for the top position). The survey provides additional insight into what is driving this issue. 

The unemployment rate of military spouses in 2019 was 24%.  Common sense dictates that this percentage may be higher now due to the pandemic. For 48% of military spouses, unemployment or under-employment is another top concern.  According to a financial survey conducted by The Harris Poll, 54% of active service members and 48% of military spouses/partners said they had worked in the gig economy to supplement their income. Key reasons cited for turning to the gig economy include difficulties securing and holding positions in the private sector and limited employment opportunities in the vicinity of most military communities. 

Gig economy employment is also popular because it offers a degree of flexibility that fits with the military lifestyle. However, not all gig jobs are created equal – especially when it comes to potential earnings. According to a recent article, a common side hustle, driving for Uber or Lyft, is not all it’s cracked up to be. On average, drivers earn between $8.55 and $11.77 per hour after expenses. Other studies contend the hourly rate is much less and place rideshare driving with these two services in the same category as the lowest-paid workers in America – fast food employees.

The good news is that there are gig economy jobs that offer the real opportunity to earn much more. Below are 5 side hustles to consider when looking for ways to generate extra income.

CitizenShipper – Transport – Motorcycles, Pets, Boats, Cars

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

To cash in on this side hustle, all one needs is a valid driver’s license, vehicle insurance, a motor vehicle and some drive – literally. CitizenShipper is where people with something to ship connect online with individuals willing to transport it – usually across states or across country – for a fee. 

Drivers who utilize the CitizenShipper platform earn an average of $22 an hour. And the hourly earnings only go up from there. The top 10% CitizenShipper drivers earn $42 an hour, the top 25% make $35 an hour. Items that are typically listed for shipment on the website include pets, motorcycles, boats and cars.

How it works:
Potential drivers register to list their services on the CitizenShipper platform. A standard background check is performed. Each potential transporter creates a profile designed to highlight strengths and any special qualifications. Drivers select the type of deliveries and distances they are interested in. When a shipment is listed that matches a driver’s inputs, the driver is invited to bid on the shipment. If the driver decides to bid and is selected by the shipper, the two work together to confirm all details of the trip and arrange direct payment.

Drivers can “try out” the CitizenShipper marketplace for free for 3 months to make sure it’s a side hustle that makes sense for them. After that, a nominal monthly subscription fee is charged.

Who this side hustle works for:
Anyone who can legally drive is a good match with CitizenShipper and it’s an even better fit for hustlers who want to make a lump sum of money on one job rather than smaller amounts on several gigs. CitizenShipper shipments are typically distance transports, over 250 miles. Military service members and their spouses find this side job appealing because deliveries can be worked into trips they were going to take anyway – like vacations or to visit family and friends. It’s especially lucrative if the journey there and back is utilized to deliver multiple shipments.

CitizenShipper makes sense for part-time and sometimes side hustlers. There is a growing number of full-time transporters who kick-started small transportation businesses with the assistance of CitizenShipper and continue to use the platform as their primary sales pipeline.

Gig support:
CitizenShipper has a free, robust driver support program designed to accelerate new driver success by winning bids quickly. Webinars, 1:1 coaching calls and sales support materials are available at no cost. A peer-review system on the platform displays ratings and feedback, delivering a powerful driver promotion tool.

Upwork – Skilled work – professional services

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This online work marketplace is especially attractive to the 77% of employed military spouses who have endured at least one instance of underemployment. It offers individuals who possess professional skills with the ability to connect with thousands of companies seeking remote freelance workers. All that is needed is a computer and reliable internet connection. 

Categories of gigs that are most often available include IT and development, design and creative, sales and marketing, writing and translation, administration and customer support and finance and accounting. The types of companies that post jobs on Upwork range from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups. Compensation is based on the level of skill and expertise the freelancer brings to the table ($15-$20 hourly beginner, $20-$40 intermediate, +$40 hourly expert). 

How it works:
Prospective freelancers submit a profile application on Upwork. Information gathered on the application focuses on skills and what level of expertise the freelancer possesses. Once the application is approved (only reason for decline is skills not being a good match for type of work available on platform) the freelancer can begin searching and applying for gigs. Employers select candidates to interview and determine whom to hire. Jobs are paid by the hour or at a fixed-rate project rate.  Upwork secures the payment for the freelancer and deposits the funds, once approved by the employer, in a provided bank account or other third-party service such as PayPal. Upwork keeps a sliding percentage (between 5% and 20%) from the freelancer’s deposit based on the amount billed to the client. 

Who this side hustle works for:
Individuals who possess a particular skill listed in the platform’s most in-demand categories.

Because military bases are often in areas that do not offer a lot of opportunities to apply professional and creative skills, Upwork is a great way for anyone to continue pursuing career advancement remotely. Most gigs on Upwork do require some commitment to a number of “set” hours – determined by the employer and the freelancer. In many cases, freelancers are eventually hired by employers as full-time employees with the benefit of remaining remote.

Gig support:
Upwork’s platform includes numerous resources and tools to help freelancers develop and fine-tune their profiles to attract interviews and land jobs. Dashboards on the platform collect information on each freelancer over time, which, if positive, elevates a freelancer’s profile, resulting in more opportunities and gig choices.

Task Rabbit – Errands and Handyperson

Image by Joseph Ken from Pixabay

Running errands, assembling furniture, waiting in line, heavy lifting, hanging curtains, cleaning, organizing or providing general handyman services. These are just a few of the odd jobs and errands people look to Task Rabbit for to find and pay skilled “taskers” willing to get the deed done. It’s a convenient platform that people use to increase personal productivity by offloading projects which create a consistent source of good-paying gigs for side hustlers. On average, hourly rates range between $18 and $36, but depending on the service rendered it can be considerably more. 

How it works:
The first step toward becoming a tasker is to create an account on the platform and then download the Tasker app to register – there are some general requirements, but none that are out of the ordinary. A future tasker then builds a profile detailing the services he or she offers and includes when and where those services are available. After confirming a registrant’s identity and any verifications required, a $25 non-refundable, one-time registration fee is charged by Task Rabbit. Next, a new tasker sets a schedule and service area and is ready to begin receiving client invitations. Task Rabbit pays taskers through direct deposit into a valid checking account. A service fee of 15% of the total amount is retained by Task Rabbit on each project.

Who this side hustle works for:
This side hustle is for anyone who doesn’t mind doing the things other people don’t want to do.  While some tasks require experience, many do not, making this an ideal way to earn extra income without becoming overly invested in one gig. Tasks are generally finished in a few hours, leaving time open to still enjoy the day or move on to another booked job.

Gig support:
The Task Rabbit platform does support a tasker review and feedback forum that helps individuals highlight their successful projects and establish credibility.

GreenPal – Lawn Services

Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay

This service platform bills itself as “Uber” for lawn care. Many individuals using GreenPal to find lawn service jobs are part-timers. It is especially popular among firemen, teachers and college students and the built-in flexibility makes it compatible for military service members and their spouses. Hourly rates can average $55, but keep in mind there is an investment in equipment and seasonal limits. 

How it works:
There are no fees or charges to apply to be a GreenPal provider. If approved, the provider develops a profile on the platform and begins to receive job leads to bid on from GreenPal. All bids are forwarded to clients with matching criteria. The client selects a provider and confirms the terms of the job. After completing a job, the provider takes and uploads a picture of the end-product. Payment is handled through Stripe – an account must be set up when registering.  For each job, GreenPal retains 5% of the total project cost and Stripe receives a $2.95 processing fee. 

Who this side hustle works for:
The physical nature of the work may not make it ideal for everyone, but for those who don’t mind a little extra exertion, the pay-off can be substantial. While many providers on GreenPal do a job every now and then, many start securing regular clients and develop a nice side business during the process. 

Gig support:
GreenPal offers all vendors a free Business Guide that helps new providers get started from a variety of perspectives – including technical tips, marketing suggestions and maximizing platform utilization. The guide also offers guidance for existing providers on how to grow their business and increase profitability. Like many other sites already mentioned, GreenPal has a provider review tool that rewards jobs well done with customer visibility.

User Interviews – Sharing Opinions

Image by Claudio_Scott from Pixabay

Everyone has an opinion. User Interviews pays participants to share them. Opinions are valuable to businesses that use this platform to evaluate certain products, processes or services. Each of these studies is conducted either online (webcam required), over the phone or in person. On average, study participants earn $50 an hour in cash or mainstream cash card equivalencies.

How it works:
Interested individuals first create a profile on the User Interview site. Once the profile is approved, potential participants can begin searching upcoming studies that interest him or her. To qualify for a study, the participant fills out a screener survey. If selected, the interviewer confirms the session time, participates and receives payment – either in cash or gift card equivalencies – through distribution channels set-up by User Interview. Gift cards commonly used for payment include Amazon and Visa. The individual being interviewed always knows the method of payment prior to filling out the survey used to qualify for a study. The interviewer is not subject to any charges or fees from either the company hiring him or her or User Interviewer.

Who this side hustle works for:
Everyone who has an opinion and anyone who does not get hung up on alternative forms of payment for a side gig. Here is why it may not matter. Disciplined side hustlers can often use the gift cards for normal day-to-day expenses – such as groceries – and stash the cash that would have been used for the purchase into a side gig deposit account. It’s a tiny bit more work that can really pay off over time. This side hustle is also attractive to individuals who only have small periods of time available for an extra income effort.

Gig support:
The nature of this side hustle makes it unnecessary for much user support other than how to best use the platform to find and apply to studies. That information is detailed well on the site. There are a few other tips that show up periodically to help make the potential participant more attractive to interviewers. 

Like all things, side hustles do have pros and cons. Of course, the main benefit is the ability to make extra money on your time and on your terms. Finding the work is often the most challenging part of the equation and that is why utilizing the sites mentioned above as a business generation tool provides a huge advantage. The work is teed up for side gig workers to pursue. In exchange, most sites charge a subscription fee or retains a percentage of the earnings, but most individuals find the costs reasonable when compared to the benefits they deliver. Also noteworthy is the fact that side hustlers are generally not full-time employees, they are independent contractors. Consequently, individuals will be responsible for paying taxes so it is imperative to reserve earnings to cover what will be owed to Uncle Sam.

The key to side hustle success lies in being realistic about what to expect and making sure the exchange of time and energy is worth the effort. The good news is that technology has transformed the once-limited side job industry into a large, varied and marketplace that offers good paying opportunities for just about everyone – including military members and their spouses. 

Julie Bina is a freelance writer who covers a wide range of topics and industries. Bina is especially interested in exploring the opportunities and challenges presented by the gig economy and the impacts it produces in the lives of its participants.

Featured image by Jon Kline from Pixabay