How Do You Do It…?

Morning all! It’s a beautifully frozen Tuesday in the depths of a February snow storm. I thought I would take a break from my normal activity at 5am on any given day to answer a question that was just posted: How do you do it all? I get that starting a side job…whether it is a blog, Doordash, virtual babysitting (actually…don’t do this one…we’ll discuss this later), or any other gig…is time consuming and we all have busy lives. Here’s the thing…if you don’t find time for something you love…are you really LIVING? The Cents of Life wasn’t started with the idea that this would be my primary source of income…it’s just moving that direction. However…if you truly love doing something…it’s amazing how it can become what also brings in money. Still…I haven’t quit my “day job.” Yet.

So what does my day look like? Just keep in mind…I’m naturally a morning person. Your schedule may vary.

5am Up and locating that all too important cup of coffee.

5:20am Open up my computer and begin working. This can be researching new side hustles to try, setting up new side hustles to try, working on social media engagements, creating video content, or writing this blog. I devote 2 to 2 1/2 hours every morning, every day of the week to this. It’s seriously not work to me. Doing this helps my brain wake up and get organized for the day. Some people work out…I do this.

7:45am Get ready for my Day Job (those that don’t know…I’m a Mental Health Clinician and work specifically as a Recovery Specialist/Case Manager).

8:30am-4:30pm Day Job on the weekdays, fun with family and/or friends on the weekends

4:30-6:30 Dinner and a little time with my favorite resident 2 year old (aka my nephew)

6:30-8pm Down time

8pm-ish Lights Out

The reason that I put my whole schedule out there for everyone to see…to point out that I have found devoted time to this joyful endeavor that I do EVERY DAY…weekends included. If you don’t look forward to spending time with your new side-hustle…why do it? There are so many options out there…if it isn’t enjoyable…put your energy into trying a new one. Let me share something with you. Since I started working in the gig industry 4 years ago…I have tried 25-30+ side hustles. Know what I found out? That what I really LOVE doing is TRYING each of these and then use my love for writing and storytelling to educate others about these opportunities. The only one I actually wanted to focus long term on is what you see before you. THIS is the side-hustle I put the most energy into. So what’s different about what I do versus what you see on YouTube and TikTok with all those fancy, “Make Money While You Sleep” slogans? Many of those aren’t tried and true. What 4 years of this industry has taught me is that many MANY of these people are interested in 1 thing…making a buck off another person. So they are putting out these GREAT sounding ideas…without really trying them to see if they fully work…or even vetting them to see if they are fully LEGAL!

Making Cents of Life, or making money work for you, is making sure that you aren’t putting more energy into making money than you are putting energy into enjoying life. When you are doing something you don’t love and enjoy…you aren’t making Cents of Life. I’ll admit…with the stress of the pandemic on healthcare workers such as myself…I’ve found myself putting MUCH more energy into doing the job that pays the bills than into this blog. I’ve started working on that balance and am working to build this into something sustainable so that I’m not draining myself doing something that…while I have traditionally enjoyed doing it because it helps people…I am now stretched thin by. This endeavor helps people too, but in a different…and for me, much more creative and relaxing way. Take a moment. Think about what energizes you. Wondering now if there is a side-hustle to match that passion? Ask in the comments section below. I have well over a hundred hustles I’m currently working my way through to provide reviews for everyone down the road. I am happy to help you find something that fits your specific passion.

Each of the side hustles I present have been tested for at least 30 days each to see if there is really something viable about them. In my reviews, I let you know if they will actually make money if you stick with them…or if that bad feeling you have about trying it is really something fishy. If you just want to see the smorgasbord of opportunities as I review them…subscribe to my blog. Soon there will be much more available with TikTok and YouTube, as well. I will announce when they are live and encourage you to like and follow there as well. You will also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram under The Cents of Life.

Back at ya’all soon! Time to get ready to clock in.


Making Cents of 2020

I started this blog two years ago to document my journey into the world of side-hustles. Funny enough…along the way I recruited my sister, Paige. Every road is usually better traveled with someone more level-headed than you by your side. At least…that’s generally my experience. My sister is DEFINITELY the more level-headed when it comes to any kind of business/finance adventure. Together, we have definitely experienced hills and valleys.

Let’s look at the low points…or “Valleys” of our trip through 2020. In doing so…I hope to highlight for people what to avoid.

  1. Coronavirus changed EVERYTHING when it came to the world of side-hustles. We originally started with a business venture: Beargrass Organics. While we have not formally closed this business…we did have to put much of it on the back-burner and are watching to see how the markets and spending settles as the advent of the vaccine effects the financial and business landscapes.
  2. In 2020, side-hustles became less of a “catch-all” to pay for Christmas gifts, vacations, and other fun things and more of a way to survive the employment rollercoaster. This means the side-hustle industry became inundated with workers and there became far fewer opportunities to make money in the same fashion as before.
  3. A lot more work has gone into finding creative ways to legally make a buck. I am greatly inspired by this ingenuity and am enjoying trying everything. It has also led to a lot of misrepresentation of possibilities within the industry…some border on scams. I urge everyone to research EVERYTHING…and remember…if it seems too good to be true…it probably is.

Here are the ventures we tried and DO NOT recommend:

  1. Selling on Facebook Marketplace can be an amazing thing. We found one suggestion on TikTok that recommended going to Etsy, cutting and pasting the product and product picture onto Marketplace and then selling it at an inflated price. Our experience is that, while this is very similar to dropshipping, the process is cumbersome. If you are not open and upfront with the Etsy sellers about what you are doing…they become very upset and it can open you up for the possibility of issues you really don’t want. The other problem we found with it… Marketplace isn’t going to account for the shipping cost that Etsy has. You don’t find out what the shipping cost is for a product on Etsy until you are almost checked out. So…we learned that you have to take several extra steps to insure that you mark up your price enough on Marketplace to cover Etsy’s shipping cost. After you do that…there’s very little room for profit. Lastly, when the product wasn’t shipped from the Etsy supplier in the time-frame that Marketplace requires, we were forced to print the Facebook shipping label and attach it to an envelope with a card in it explaining to the customer that we are working with an Etsy supplier and just waiting for them to ship. We did this in order to secure the payment from Marketplace to make sure our payment to Etsy was covered so that we weren’t out money. Marketplace has a requirement that product must be shipped within 5 days of purchase or you forfeit the customer’s payment. We really don’t recommend this option.
  2. Relying on Affiliate subscriptions to make an immediate 6-figure profit. Ummm…just…no. An enterprising person on TikTok (we found a lot of stuff on TikTok) suggested that you go to Capterra, find a software that is similar to a popular one that doesn’t have ads running, become an affiliate and start posting their stuff. I do see how it could be possible to make money off that. Not in a day…maybe not in 6 mos. Here’s the thing…it’s definitely NOT as easy as it looks. It took several hours of cursory work to a) find a company with no ads, b) find a company with no ads that has an affiliate program, c) find an affiliate program with at least a 10% return (anything less than this…and overall it won’t be worth the time and effort you put into this), and d) we never found a company with an affiliate program with a 10% return that will get back to you in the same day (as the TikTok post advertised) with the affiliate link you need to post. Don’t fall for this people…unless you have MOUNTAINS of time…and patience (which I don’t).
  3. Magic on Fiverr. Yep…not joking on this one. NO. I’m not against the Wiccan belief. I have several friends who are Wiccan and have much respect for them. Especially their love of the natural world. What I find difficult about this one is that there are a lot of people on there that promote themselves as spellcasters…when really it’s more Harry Potter than anything else. For those that are operating appropriately…I have nothing against it. For those who are doing it as a scam to make a quick buck…my only thought is: That which you put into the universe will return on you 7-fold.

Ok…so those are are the TOP 3 No Gos. Here are the ones we tried, work, but have attached warnings to.

  1. Teaching with VIPKID. It took me a few tries to get through the interview process. If you are really comfortable with making videos of yourself…you probably will have a better time with this than me. VIPKID is highly competitive. If you can get through their hiring process…you can make really good money. I have friends that teach full-time and part-time and do well. The warnings: a) you are teaching children in China…so your work day needs to start at 4 or 5 am, break from 9am to 7pm and then start up again and go from 10pm-11pm to accomodate the significant time difference. b) this platform is inundated with extremely qualified teachers due to the pandemic layoffs…getting hired is very difficult.
  2. Teaching on Outschool. I, myself, love Outschool. I teach when I have time to do it. When I am teaching…I make decent money usually. The warnings: a) extremely competitive due to pandemic layoffs, b) must be very creative with your content in order to capture a learning audience for your classroom…really have to sell yourself, c) must be realistic about what can be earned. Many people have turned to platforms like Outschool to assist with their children’s education during the pandemic…however they are looking for very specific things. You need to make sure you are really researching the subjects you are looking to teach to make sure its not already fully saturated. Look for areas that are under-served. For me, that was using legos as a medium to work through difficult things. My class is called, “Legos and Life Lessons” and I offer it one or two times per quarter depending on my schedule.
  3. DIY Selling. This can be very lucrative. It is also HIGHLY competitive. For the holidays, we created preschool playdough sensory kits and sold them on Marketplace. They do sell. To do well with this…you have to stay on top of what everyone else is setting their prices at daily in order to compete. We initially started selling our kits at $25 (which is a $20 profit per kit at this price) and took the price down to $15 per kit by the end of the holidays. So…still not a bad profit. Warnings: it is very time consuming to keep up with all of the necessary price adjustments. You also need to be creative in content and presentation in order to beat out the competition. If you are thinking the competition is just in your town…so it won’t be that bad…you could be wrong. If you choose to add shipping to your seller account on Marketplace…it opens you up nationwide. This is great and we do a lot of shipping, however it also means your competition is coming from LA, NYC, Chicago, etc. Still requires your A-game if you take this option.

Highlights from 2020…the ones we HIGHLY recommend if you need to make quick money:

  1. Doordash. I have tried several different delivery platforms (GrubHub, Waiter on the Way, Skip The Dishes). NONE of them have the payout that Doordash does. Doordash also has taken VERY good care of its drivers over the course of the pandemic…making sure everyone has access to the PPE needed to do this essential job safely. Most days that I deliver…I make about $16 per hour. After taking out cost for car and gas…it equates to $10.50 to $11 per hour depending on the type of vehicle you have. Are you going to get rich doing this? No. Can you make fast cash to catch that unexpected bill? Absolutely.
  2. Selling Plasma. This has been around forever and most people are shaking their heads “yes” to this. However, what many may not think about is that if you are one of the 20 million people in the US who have survived Covid…especially in the last 3 mos…your plasma is like liquid GOLD. It likely contains antigens that can be used to help those with severe COVID-19 fight the disease while in hospital. Payout is pretty good…anywhere from $240 to $700 per month depending on where you go to sell it and what part of the country you are in.
  3. Selling on Facebook Marketplace. Marketplace has been mentioned frequently in this post…and that’s because it is easily our preferred platform. The reason behind this is that it is easy to set up a seller’s account, easy to attach a paypal or bank account for direct payment, easy to print shipping labels, and best of all…Marketplace does all of the shipping and tax calculations. You just put in what you want to sell something for, they do the math, and the buyer pays your price plus the shipping/taxes calculated by Marketplace, and the sale is a done deal. It is also very easy to figure out what sells on Marketplace and what doesn’t. A cursory search will show you what stuff goes for. For instance, yesterday I posted a retired Lego product for $50. Sold within 3 hours. It’s cake. When we first started…we made the usual errors: pricing too high, selling things in indiscriminate lots, etc. We do recommend that you research the items you want to sell, be targeted about your approach, check in frequently to make sure your item is still competitively priced, and make sure you ship within the 5 day limit to avoid being out money.

There you have it! From worst to best…all of the side-hustles we have worked on in the last 12 mos. We will continue to weed through all the options out there. If you have a side-hustle you have questions about…please contact me and we will investigate it. Good luck with all your financial goals in 2021!

Learning About Realities…

Reality…ah yes…that quirky piece of life that hinders…well nothing really unless you let it. I have spent the past several months finishing what I have been exploring for over two years…side gigs. I have delved into the world of e-commerce…as I have talked about before. I have also worked for delivery businesses, gotten ordained online to do weddings and other religious ceremonies, utilized my medical training as an event medic for tv and film sets (as well as a few sports events), worked as stage crew for theatre, driven for Uber, sold photographs to stock photo companies, participated as an online juror, and probably a few more I just can’t think of in this moment.

So…why? Many of the companies who hire people for these gigs have a tendency to advertise the ability to make fairly significant quantities of money. For example, several of the food delivery gigs state that drivers can make $21 or more per hour. I wanted to see how much of this was really true. If it is…where’s the catch? How much does that catch cut into that beautiful $21 an hour figure? Can you really set your own hours…or is it more just flexible schedules? After over two years of actually trying all of these things out…I have answers…and will be making them available to the public very soon. My book, The 40 Hour Side Hustle, investigates the world of side gigs and delves into the realities…good and bad. I am excited for the book to begin sales on Amazon in May. Stay tuned…!

The Reality of “Making Money While Doing Nothing.”

I think most of us have heard the phrase, “If it’s too good to be true…it probably is.” Yeah…don’t fall for anything that says, “Make money while watching tv,” or “Passive income from your couch.” As I stated in my previous blog…I decided to try these out. Online jury duty…that did pay. I received two cases to review in the last 8 weeks. I received $5 for each of them. So…I took myself out for coffee. Thinking of getting rich while doing the paid surveys??? Please…they are usually about a penny per minute of survey. So a 45 minute survey is a whopping 45 cents. In today’s America…you generally can’t even get a candy bar for that.

I also tried out some of the Freelancer sites. I heard great things about Upwork. So…I filled out the paperwork…put in what I know that I can do…and waited. Waited to be denied because there are too many other people out there wanting to freelance with the same skills and not enough jobs. So yeah…unless you are amazing at coding…or something of the like…think again. Other freelance sites were a little easier to work with…however I’m now 6 weeks out from beginning this journey with very little to show for my efforts on this front. I know that I am good at setting up sites, am creative, can write…etc. That’s great!!! So can many many other talented people.  This is where the enormous uphill battle is.

I am not one to be fully detoured by struggle. Forget that. I took a backseat for a moment to watch the world go by…so to speak. I re-evaluated my priorities and reminded myself of what I want in life. I want to be a participant in life…not a frequent bystander. So…I started an e-commerce store. I thought…here’s a way to incorporate my love of site design, mountains, living. Well…it was a start…and I took the site down after about 2 weeks of significant learning curves in the world of e-commerce. This wasn’t bad…and while maybe technically it is considered a failed project…I don’t see it as a failure at all.

I love to explore, learn, travel, see and do things. In recent years, health issues have stalled my exploration and participation in life. Yet…I am overcoming these struggles and am determined to get out and experience life as I once did. I needed a project that would encourage this. It’s very easy to sit at home and do nothing because you don’t feel good…it’s also easy to let your body tell your mind to stop…when really you need to get out and move. With these factors in mind…I set out to create a new project that would encourage active living, keep me out of the poor house, and have a lot of fun. Thus…Out N About Chicago and the sub-project Out N About Global were born.

Out N About Chicago is my platform for exploring everything this great city has to offer. My first YouTube video looks at the charms and quirks of the trendy Wicker Park Neighborhood. I have tied all the social media sites to…which is an e-commerce website dedicated to selling all things Chicago related. Out N About Global is a similar platform to Out N About Chicago…however will focus on my adventures outside of the Windy City. I have two other “homes.” I am originally from Montana and I spent several years living in central and northern New Mexico. So there will be adventures from these beautiful states when I return for visits. I have plans for travel to Europe in the coming years and will feature videos and blog posts about these experiences as well.

So there ya have it…my experiences with “going down the rabbit hole”…and what I found on the other side! I don’t know if this is helpful to anyone but me…as I find writing cathartic. Yet…I promised a report of sorts in my first blog…and here ya have it!

My best to those fighting the good fight in the land of freelance! You have more patience and tenacity then I…and that’s saying something!

Til next time-


We All Gotta Start Somewhere!

Starting something new is ALWAYS a little scary. Whether it’s posting your first blog, launching a new site, leaving the traditional 9-5 for the freedom of freelance, or…jumping off a cliff for the first time, it all provides the same rush of adrenaline. All those questions come pouring in ie: Can I do this? Will I make it? Will my family make it financially? What if I fail? What if I succeed? Yep…I’m going through all of that right now as I write this. Yet…we all have been through many failures and successes in life. Guess what? We Made It!!! Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this…and you wouldn’t be reading it.

So…here I go. In the coming days, weeks, months, hopefully years…I will be blogging about all that I learn as I go through the process of figuring out what is REAL out there. So stay tuned, subscribe, and you will be on this journey with me! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or CONSTRUCTIVE criticism…go ahead and fill out that contact log. I would love to hear from you!

Back to ya soon!