Need a Second Job? Here Are the Best Options

FT Contributor  | 

Nearly half of all Americans claim they couldn’t cover a $400 emergency without either selling something or borrowing the money. Many have chosen to address this struggle to make a living wage by picking up a second job. However, it can be difficult trying to fit a second occupation into an already busy schedule.

If you’re thinking of getting a second job but you’re not sure what the best options are, don’t worry. We’ve pulled together a list of the best tertiary jobs utilized by Americans across the country.

Diving Into the Gig Economy

The thought of getting a “second job” may evoke images of regular hours punching in and working for an employer in the evenings or on the weekends, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The gig economy has been a popular option for secondary work for a while now, with nearly 16 million people regularly using it as a source of income.

Picking up work in the gig economy typically remains primarily in your control. You can choose the amount of work you do and when you do it, which is perfect for a second job. However, it is also significantly less stable than a regular job and can have drastic fluctuations in income.

For instance, if you’re working as a freelance writer, you may be able to write a $100 article in four hours, making a cushy $25 per hour. You may write four of those in a week and then have nothing the following week, followed by five the week after that. While the average income for the three weeks may be $300, you received the income in fairly unpredictable bursts that required dramatically different amounts of time when viewed on a weekly basis.

The point is, gig economy work may pay well at times but is also often difficult to count on.

Examples of Gig Economy Jobs

Picking up a side hustle is fairly easy, as there are a variety of different apps that provide work in various ways:

  • Uber and Lyft enable you to hire yourself out as a taxi service.
  • If you’re not interested in driving, you can still rent out your car using a crowdsourced service like Turo.
  • If you like to host, you can turn one of your spare rooms into an Airbnb.
  • UpWork and Fiverr are online marketplaces where you can offer a variety of freelance services.
  • If you like to do fairly mundane tasks in your free time, you can pick up work as a personal shopper for instacart.
  • If mystery and miscellany are your jive, you can find a huge assortment of paid odd jobs on TaskRabbit.

Whatever your particular skills or tastes, there are plenty of ways to earn a little cash in person or online using the gig economy.

Serving and Bartending

Serving and bartending are both common options for a second job. Working in food service can be high pressure, and the base pay is often very low — minimum wage for a tipped employee is a paltry $2.13 per hour. However, if you have a knack for serving others and you love to socialize and smile, you can actually make quite a bit of money.

For instance, while the base rate may be low, the average bartender actually makes somewhere between $9 and $12 per hour, which adds up to a decent, though hardly stellar, wage for a side job. In addition, most bartending and serving work takes place in the evenings and weekends when people go out to eat and socialize, which makes them easy to fit in alongside a traditional nine-to-five job.

Serving Jobs to Explore

When it comes to specific jobs in food service, there are a few different categories to choose from including:

  • Bartender.
  • Server.
  • Caterer.
  • Chef.
  • Food stylist.
  • Fast food server.

The specific jobs available will vary depending on the restaurant options near you.

Opportunities to Earn Money Working From Home

If the idea of leaving your home to work twice a day sounds daunting, there are also many ways that you can earn money right from the comfort of your own home. The options for “at home work” are extremely varied in both the kind of work and the amount earned.

For instance, you can pick up a side hustle writing articles on UpWork for $5 a pop and bring in a few hundred dollars per week if you stay busy. However, if you’re financially savvy, you could also put your existing cash to work through investment apps and make money simply by researching, keeping up with current events, and watching the market trends.

How to Make Money Online

Here are a few of the most popular ways to make money online:

  • Investments: You can use apps like Ally Invest, Betterment, and TD Ameritrade to put your hard-earned cash to work making you more money through stocks, funds, and bonds. Just make sure to take every investment seriously if you want to actually make money.
  • Take online surveys: If you like answering random questions for hours on end, you can look for sites like Swagbucks and Survey Junkie that will reward your time with cash.
  • Pick up digital side gigs: While side gigs, in general, were already brought up, a very large amount of freelance work takes place exclusively online. From writing to graphic design, social media management, consulting, and marketing, the list is virtually endless.
  • Create content: Influencers and content creators abound online. If you have a knack for getting people’s attention, you may be able to create a profile on a popular social platform like YouTube or Instagram and monetize your efforts in a variety of different ways.

Regardless of your specific talents, if you’re comfortable operating in the online world, you can make money one way or another.

How to Find the Right Second Job for You

Choosing the job that fits your needs best requires a little forethought. Consider these factors as you go about making your decision:

  • What second jobs suit your particular experience and skill set?
  • What jobs are within your realm of expertise but aren’t so close to your current occupation that they would lead to burnout from too much repetition?
  • What is your current schedule and how much time do you actually have for a second job?
  • Have you created a personal budget to figure out how much money you actually need?
  • Have you considered your work-life balance and how you will still find time to both tend to personal responsibilities and care for yourself?

Take some time to synthesize your answers to these questions and then look for a second job solution that best fits your particular needs.

Second Job Opportunities to Avoid

Finally, there are a few specific kinds of job types that you’re going to want to avoid, as they can often lead to low levels of income, high levels of frustration, and a general failure in your attempt to solve your financial concerns:

  • Multi-level marketing schemes: You may have fun selling fake fingernails, luxury soaps, and fancy clothes to your friends, but if you depend on an MLM for side income, things can go south quickly.
  • High-risk jobs: Jobs like construction, healthcare, and emergency response are all high risk and require large amounts of mental, physical, and emotional investment. They are not good candidates for secondary work.
  • Low-income jobs: This one depends on how much money you need. If you want a few hundred bucks a month for saving or discretionary spending, nearly anything in this article will suit. However, if your debt-to-income ratio is high (over 36%), make sure you find a job that actually pays well enough to solve your financial concerns.

As a general rule of thumb, always take the time to assess your own situation, your current commitments and responsibilities, and what you actually need financially before you begin searching for more work. The initial research will help you avoid exerting excessive energy as you attempt to address your monetary concerns through a second job.


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