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10 Offbeat Ways to Earn Extra Money

Susan Johnston Taylor

Consider these underrated side hustles to earn extra income.

Driving for Uber or other rideshare services or selling handmade goods on Etsy may generate a lot of buzz, but they aren't the only ways to earn extra cash on the side. For those who want to pay off debt or simply generate more income this year, U.S. News got the inside scoop on several more unusual side hustles. Read to find out how consumers are making money or exploring new interests in the gig economy.

Become a sports referee.

While in college, Hannah Moore, now a certified financial planner in Dallas, worked as a basketball referee. After passing a referee test, she shadowed experienced referees before becoming a referee on her own. "It's great for anybody who loves sports," she says. She liked being active while she worked. Moore also found that middle and high school teams paid better than on-campus teams. "It took me out of my college bubble," she adds. Other active side gigs include serving as a sports coach, a hiking or rafting guide, a yoga instructor or a personal trainer; however, these may require certifications and the amount you can earn varies by location.

Consider braiding horse hair.

Kat Tretina, a writer in Florida, earns an extra $1,000 a month braiding horses' hair for shows. Tretina wanted to pay off her student loans, so when a friend mentioned how she paid her braider, she ordered a kit online and tried it herself. "I borrowed a friend's horse to practice, and also helped out at a local horse rescue with grooming to get more experience and get my technique perfected," she says. "It is a lucrative side gig, but it's physically hard work. My hand would cramp, my legs would hurt and I'd be exhausted," she adds. Animal lovers might also consider dog walking, pet sitting or painting pet portraits.

Represent a brand.

While eliminating $81,000 in student loan debt, Melanie Lockert tackled several side hustles, including working as a brand ambassador for around $20 per hour. Brand ambassadors hand out samples or otherwise serve as the public face of a brand on street corners, at trade shows or special events. Lockert says the gig was a natural fit for her personality. "I am an extrovert and a former theater major. I enjoy talking to people and I enjoy being out in public," she explains. She found these gigs through Craigslist and by signing up with local agencies. If you're interested in other public-facing gigs, consider working as a promotional model or movie extra.

Perform fire spinning.

Ashley Stafford, a masseuse based in Philadelphia, spends her weekends performing at festivals, weddings and corporate parties as a fire spinner. Stafford first learned the skill at a festival in Delaware and got hooked. She now earns upwards of $250 per gig and says it's like getting paid to hang out with friends, since spinners often work in groups with least one person watching the crowd. She and her fellow fire spinners arrive early to ensure that their props are ready for action. Juggling or dressing up as a princess or superhero for kids' parties are other crowd-pleasing side hustles.

Be an usher.

Kristin Young spends her days working in an office and her evenings ushering for concerts and touring Broadway shows at three Minneapolis theaters. "It's fun because we get to see and watch shows that we otherwise maybe wouldn't buy a ticket for," Young says. She's been an usher for 13 years and a floor captain for 10 years, meaning she assists the house manager, resolves patron issues and oversees other ushers. While wages for an usher can vary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median hourly wages for an usher is around $9. Other artsy side gigs include gallery sitter or stagehand.

Get hired as a professional bridesmaid.

While working full time as a copywriter in New York City, Jen Glantz got the idea to post a Craigslist ad as a professional bridesmaid, providing virtual coaching to frazzled brides, planning bridal showers and keeping the peace on the big day. The idea proved so popular that after running the side hustle for a year and half, Glantz launched a business and penned a book, "Always a Bridesmaid (for Hire)," to be released in February. She's traveled to weddings across the country and now offers packages to maids of honor and mothers of the bride, too. Her services start at $150 and can go up to $1,000 or more.

Wait in line.

Long lines, whether for Broadway tickets or a new electronics release, can be frustrating. Entrepreneur Robert Samuel turned this fact into a bustling side hustle called Same Ole Line Dudes. He now oversees 40 part-timers. Cronuts used to be a popular draw, but now consumers hire his staff to wait in the cancellation line for "Hamilton" tickets or for renowned Black Tap milkshakes. Samuel says the gig mainly requires "patience and something to keep you busy." Customers pay $25 for the first hour and $10 for each additional 30 minutes, with upcharges for same-day service or inclement weather. Other hustlers have cashed in on common aggravations like assembling furniture.

Hand out proctor tests.

When high school students take the SATs, professionals take certification exams and non-native speakers take language proficiency exams, a test proctor typically gets paid (though the amount depends on the test and time required) to hand out exam books and monitor the room for cheating. Since testing typically happens outside of the work day at testing centers such as schools, test proctoring is one way that people with a 9-to-5 job can earn extra cash on the weekends. Scholarly types might also consider tutoring to earn money.

Give a tour.

Kelly Paras, a writer based in the District of Columbia, started volunteering with Dupont Underground, a nonprofit that's turning a subterranean street car station into a public art space, a few years ago. Now, Paras gets paid to lead tours. Paras says tour guides need to develop public speaking skills and an ability to mix humor with history. "Sometimes your jokes fall flat, but you can't let that stumble you up," she says. The median hourly wage for tour guides is around $11.50, according to data from the BLS. If you're a history buff, you may also be interested in moonlighting as a museum docent or working as a historical re-enactor.

Deliver singing telegrams.

Bill "Captain Billy Bones" Sayles charges between $78 and $125 (depending on location and other details) to deliver singing telegrams around Maui, Hawaii. Sayles, who plays the ukulele and silver flute says, "I just conjured up this idea that I'd like to make people happier." Sayles wears an Aloha shirt or sometimes poses as a pizza delivery guy or a construction site inspector to surprise people for their birthday or other occasions. "It's like guerrilla theater," (a type of theater performed outdoors rather than on a stage) he adds. If you're musically inclined, you might also consider giving music lessons or performing in a wedding band to earn extra cash.



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