The chaos wrought by the COVID-19 virus dunked on conventional wisdom about saving for emergencies. When an emergency can span the course of more than an entire year, it turns out, almost no one outside the aristocracy will have the cash to outlast the crisis.
It wasn’t the people who squirreled away the most savings who adapted best during COVID-19, it was those who had money coming in from a few independent sources at the same time. Call it a side hustle, call it a gig — call it an alternative revenue stream if you want to channel your inner economics professor. No matter the name, it’s a synonym for security.
If a Paycheck Is Your Only Lifeline, Your Only Lifeline Can Be Cut
Even before the virus and even for people with good jobs, W-2 workers are always just one management change away from having their financial rugs pulled out from under them.
“COVID has taught us that we should never be reliant on one income stream,” said Jacqueline Gilchrist, founder of Mom Money Map, a resource for helping people manage their money and reach their financial goals. “If you lose your job, at least you have another income stream to fall back on.”
For Gilchrist, the situation is not hypothetical.
“This actually happened to me,” she said. “I lost my job during COVID while on maternity leave. As I have additional income streams, I’m still in a good financial position and am able to pay off all of my regular expenses and contribute to savings.”
Side Gigs Can Be Exhausting, but the Pros Outweigh the Cons
It’s not only Gilchrist. A variety of financial experts gave the following reasons why even modest income from contract work is worth the extra effort:
Security: By spreading out your income, you reduce the chance of being left with nothing coming in at all.
Options: Even if it’s not perfect, a steady, well-paying side gig can buy you some breathing room until you can make a passion project pay with the same consistency.
Networking: When you’re juggling different projects, you’re meeting other motivated people in your line of work who might give you leads or even become collaborative partners in the future.
Gigs can blossom into businesses: It doesn’t happen for everyone, and it takes time and hard work when it does, but a single gig can become a steady side hustle. With time, hard work and a little luck, that can evolve into a self-sustaining, full-time business. It’s a great time to branch out. More freelancers and contract workers than ever before are finding paths to the dream of not having a boss, choosing their own schedules and saying no to work they don’t want.
If You Have Legit Money Coming in Consistently, You’re in Business
You might not have a business plan mapped out or a mission statement written. You might not have a patent pending for the next great widget. You might not have investors lined up with venture capital money. Don’t worry. Your side business doesn’t have to be a business in the traditional sense.
You Can Do Stuff
The service industry has long provided flexible, shift-based side gigs to servers, bartenders, cater-waiters and others. In the new economy, driving for services like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, GrubHub, PostMates or Amazon Flex have helped millions generate cash from their cars. But there are plenty of options beyond making drinks or driving people home after said drinks have been consumed. Working as a customer service rep, for example, is a job most people can do on the side from home on a part-time basis.
You Can Make Stuff
Etsy is still the biggest and best-known site for selling handmade goods, but there are also big markets for your one-of-a-kind crafts on sites like Amazon Handmade and Aftcra.
You Can Sell a Skill
Freelance writing, coding and graphic design are among the hottest skill hustles, likewise for tutoring and social media management. Flexjobs is the biggest marketplace for flexible, part-time work, and sites like Fiverr, Toptal, People Per Hour and Upwork are great for freelancers.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Why Everyone Should Have a Small-Business Idea Ready