The pandemic did not give birth to the gig economy, but it sure did help it grow up a lot quicker. In 2020, side hustlers scrambled to find alternative income streams out of necessity, because COVID-19 left them unemployed or furloughed and dependent on government benefits.
Last year, however, the landscape shifted. The 2021 Side Hustle Report from DollarSprout -- a widely cited annual study from one of the top sites dedicated to the gig economy -- showed that people who had started a side hustle out of necessity were making it a full-time thing in much greater numbers. More people were spending more hours and making more money from their side hustles than ever before as gigs transformed into businesses.
Three out of four people who responded to the DollarSprout study said that they thought 2021 was just the beginning, and they expected side hustles to become even more popular in 2022.
If you're considering joining the movement, you've no doubt been advised by countless online lists to start an Etsy shop, drive for Uber or start a blog. Fine ideas indeed, but there are several roads less traveled that are just as good or better, but not nearly as well known -- therefore, not as crowded or competitive.
Become a Medical Detective
In the strange-but-true department of side gigs is medical detective -- kind of like the show "House," only in real life and starring you. If you have a passion and a knack for sleuthing out the root cause of medical ailments and symptoms, consider signing up with CrowdMed.
You don't have to be a doctor or even a medical professional to get your detective's badge and magnifying glass, although 90% of the site's health care private eyes work in or study medicine. It doesn't take long to sign up, and once you do, you can pick cases that interest you and start collaborating with other medical detectives who chose the same case -- there are hundreds of active cases at any given time.
The more helpful you are in cracking the case, the more your reputation will grow and the more money you'll earn. During one of its fundraising runs, CrowdMed said the average detective earns $400 per solved case.
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Teach English Online
Just as you don't have to be an MD to solve medical cases, you don't have to be a teacher to make money teaching English to students overseas. You don't even have to be bilingual, either.
You are required to have a four-year bachelor's degree to sign up with sites like VIPKid, but it can be in any major or field. While you aren't required to be a professional educator, the site recommends that you have two years of experience in coaching, mentoring, tutoring or teaching.
You can teach online from anywhere and the service provides you with the curriculum, lesson plans and material you'll need. One of the things that makes it such a good side hustle is that you can set your own schedule and work for as many or as few hours as you like with no minimum required. That's side hustle gold, right there. The pay isn't bad either -- VIPKid teachers can expect to earn $14-$18 per hour.
Corral Wayward Scooters
Scooter ridership is way up in locations where services like Lime and Bird rent their two-wheeled vehicles, but when riders get to where they're going, the electric scooters they rode in on are often out of place or out of batteries.
That's where "Lime Juicers" and "Bird Flyers" come in. If you choose this as your side hustle, you'll find, charge, relocate and release far-flung scooters for the next customer to rent. You take the gigs you want, say no thanks to those you don't, and get paid the very same day that you do the work.
You'll start at a lower level with lower-level tasks and work your way up to higher levels with better gigs and better pay. Lime pays between $5 and $12 per scooter for an average of about $8, according to Gridwise, which estimates Lime Juicers can expect to earn between $20 and $30 an hour.
Shop and Deliver, or Just Shop
Every side hustler knows about delivering food for Uber Eats, DoorDash or GrubHub, but you might be better served to deliver food that hasn't been prepared and cooked yet -- or not to deliver at all.
If you sign up with Shipt, you can expect to earn good money -- up to $27 an hour -- shopping and delivering grocery orders in the community where you live. As with all great side hustles, you can work as much or as little as you want, full-time or part-time, and set your own schedule.
You are required to own a car to work for Shipt, but not for Instacart, which has options for in-store shoppers as well as for shoppers/drivers. Drivers keep 100% of tips and in-store shoppers can work up to 29 hours per week.
Go Into the Car Rental Business
The greatest side hustle of all is the one that lets someone else -- or something else -- do all the hustling for you while you collect the payoff. If you're a reformed commuter who joined the remote workforce revolution, if you have a second car, or if you just don't drive that much, put your idle wheels to work and collect on the payout.
P2P car-rental services like Turo let travelers in need of a ride bypass expensive and frustrating rental car companies and rent directly from people like you. With 14 million prescreened users, there's incredible demand, especially now that the chip shortage has made new cars, used cars and rentals so expensive and limited in selection.
You don't have to worry about insurance -- each car approved by Turo is covered by a $750,000 Travelers policy. The average side hustler with one car to rent out earns an average of $10,516 annually -- actually, their vehicle earns it for them.
Sell Your Smartphone Photos
If you're like most people, you probably have thousands or tens of thousands of pictures on your phone or in the Cloud. If you can dazzle your followers on Instagram with your photographic finesse, why not make your artistic streak pay?
Shutterstock has paid out more than $1 billion to its contributors over the last 15 years, and that's hardly the only service that pays good money for good images and videos. Newspapers, websites, magazines, TV productions, billboards, advertisements and media of all stripes rely on stock image sites like those from not just Shutterstock, but Adobe Stock, Getty Images, iStock and more.
Generally, you can expect to earn between 15% and 40% of the selling price every time someone buys one of your photos, which they can over and over again. Good photographers can collect royalties indefinitely from a single image or video.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 6 Lesser-Known Side Hustles To Earn Some Extra Cash