Earning

Unique side hustles have made these 4 high-earners $10,000 or way more: Here's their best advice

"What's gnawing at you? How could you solve it and then help others solve it as well?"

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Emilio and his family.
Courtesy Emilio Gargano

More than half of workers, 53%, have or plan to have a second source of income outside of their current job, according to Jobvite's 2021 Job Seeker Report surveying 1,500 U.S. adults. Their reasons vary: More than half, 54%, say they need the money, 22% say they're pursuing a passion project, and 13% say they're helping a family member or friend.

If you're considering a side hustle, going with popular options such as dog-walking or e-commerce may seem like the easiest move. But finding a unique or atypical hustle could be more fun and fulfilling while also being lucrative. Lawyer Hannah Genton, for example, is studying to add a side job as a death doula, an emotional support person for the dying and their loved ones. Angelique Rewers, who consults small businesses, recommends considering a B2B side hustle like consulting or coaching in your area of expertise.

Here are four pieces of advice from people who built a successful niche side hustle.

Ask yourself, 'What bugs you?'

After failing an exam to become a certified tech teacher in Texas, Emilio Gargano started a blog in 2018 to vent about the experience. The blog drew a readership of other teachers with similar issues who began asking to see Gargano's study notes when he finally passed. So Gargano began selling guides to various teaching exams in the state.

The hustle brought in nearly $10,000 in its first 18 months.

Emilio and his wife, Bri.
Courtesy Emilio Gargano

As you consider what your side hustle should or could be, Gargano suggests asking yourself, "What bugs you? What's gnawing at you? How could you solve it and then help others solve it as well?"

"My whole side hustle journey could be summed up by that," he recently told Grow. "Passing this exam bugged the heck out of me." It was figuring out how to cope with and address the frustration that got him a captive audience and eventually a customer base.

Get to know your clientele

Eighteen-year-old Matthew Fiore was looking for a job in 2017 but couldn't get hired. People kept saying he was too young. A lifelong LEGO fan, Fiore decided to try selling some duplicate LEGO pieces he had online and found there was a customer base. He grossed more than $30,000 over the course of three years by selling his own pieces, other people's collections, and sets he knows fans would appreciate.

As you figure out the customer base for your own unique side hustle, get to know what they want. "Everyone loves ['Star Wars'] Stormtroopers in the community, and people are constantly building armies of thousands and thousands," Fiore recently told Grow. The problem is, Stormtroopers only come a few in a package with other items, which gets expensive and cumbersome for those trying to build an army.

So Fiore buys the typical Stormtrooper sets, takes them apart, and then puts anywhere from 20 to 100 Stormtrooper minifigures in a sealed bag and sells those.

Figure out your unique math

Megg Riley started buying Rothy's brand shoes in 2017 after looking for sustainable footwear. She soon joined Facebook groups of fans of the brand, and seeing how people were customizing their shoes, she decided to stitch metallic gold thread through her own. After sharing the results on Facebook, she started getting requests to customize others' shoes as well. She brought in $18,000 in the first 18 months from hand-stitching her custom designs and made another $6,500 from classes that teach others how to do it.

When it comes to a one-of-a-kind side hustle, make sure to do the math on how much effort you're putting in. Riley sets her prices based on the complexity of the design, starting from $95 and ranging up to $200.

Megg Riley.
Photo by Meggan Moran

"There's a lot of math to it; there's a lot of finesse to it," she told Grow about the process. "I got a request to make a pair of shoes to match a BMW, 3 series I believe," she said. "And I got a request for the AC/DC logo."

Put in the hours

In 2009, Randall Gibbons had been working as an RV repairman for years when he started answering people's questions about their RVs on JustAnswer. The site lets people pose questions on subject matters ranging from taxes to plumbing and get an answer from a relevant expert.

At first, he was only making a few hundred dollars per month. Over the years, however, he's started bringing in much more. Gibbons "made almost $20,000 every month since May," he told Grow in September.

Randall Gibbons answering a JustAnswer call.
Courtesy Randall Gibbons

But that requires putting in the time. "I get up, usually at 4:30 in the morning," he said. "I'm always online by 5." Gibbons stays up until 10 or 11 at night answering questions, working 16-to-18 hour days.

That's not to say you need to put in the same amount of hours in your own side hustle. Just know, especially with a unique endeavor, it may take some time to figure out what you're doing and to find your customer base. Stick with it and see what you can learn along the way.

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