Can a Side Hustle Get You Out of Debt?

Do you have debt that you wish you could pay off more quickly? Whether your student loans are causing you stress or you’re carrying a high credit card balance, most people would love to be able to wipe out their debt. But many people can barely manage their minimum payments, which means that they’ll pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars more in interest over the life of their loans (here’s a calculator to show you how it adds up).

Conventional personal finance gurus will tell you to cut your expenses and pay down your debt as quickly as possible. But does it really make sense to spend hours clipping coupons in order to save a few bucks? Not when you could be using those hours more productively.

A new breed of bloggers have a different prescription for helping people get out of debt: Get a side hustle.

What’s a Side Hustle?

A side hustle is an entrepreneurial side business created by someone who already has a full-time job. It’s a way to make a little more money on the side whether for the purpose of paying off debt, saving for a down payment on a house, or as a way to use their free time more productively.

It’s different than just getting a second job. Because a side hustle is an entrepreneurial venture you have more freedom about when you work and what you do. Many side hustles are created so that they also have the potential to scale, allowing you to possibly quit your day job someday to do your side hustle full time or bring on employees. In fact, some people start side hustles as a way to test and refine a business idea without having to commit to it full-time.

For Nick Loper, who founded the blog and makes his money through a number of mini-businesses including affiliate marketing, publishing ebooks, and teaching online courses, “building a side hustle is a near-term sacrifice for potential long-term freedom.” Loper got into side hustling because he says, “There’s no job security anymore, and Social Security isn’t looking so hot either, so we have to become self-reliant and building our own income streams is a great way to do that.”

While debt wasn’t an issue for him, Loper has profiled people on his website and podcast who have used their side hustles to get out of debt. Recently, he profiled Carrie Smith who founded the blog and helps manage other people’s websites. She paid off $14,000 in debt with the help of her side hustle.

While there is a lot of diversity in the side hustle community, people who have turned to side hustling tend to be younger and more technologically savvy. In fact, many of their side hustles are focused on providing a product or service online. The popularity of online side hustles is not surprising since you have access to more potential clients and can create a passive income stream that allows you to make money while you sleep. You also have so many great online business ideas to choose from.

Find a Side Hustle That’s Right for You

If you’re interested in starting a side hustle, the first thing you need to figure out is what you want to do. This will depend on a number of factors including the following.

1. Your Skills

If you have a marketable skill, you can make money off of it through your side hustle. For example, if you design websites for a living, perhaps you want to start a website design business as your side hustle. While you should make sure your employer is OK with you working on the side, this is a great way to quickly leverage the skills you already have to make money. If you’re good at math, consider starting a math tutoring company. If you are skilled at crafting, consider building an Etsy empire.

2. What You Enjoy

If you love writing, perhaps you want to start a blog and a freelance writing business. Many people blog as a hobby, but if you understand how to monetize your blog you can turn blogging into a very successful business. If you love to stay fit, become a part-time running coach, yoga instructor or personal trainer. If you have a green thumb, help people plan and maintain their gardens. If you love photography, start photographing weddings and other events. Find a way to use your passion to get others to pay you.

3. How Quickly You Need to Make Money

If you need to start making money right away, consider making money via the much-hyped sharing economy. Drive for Lyft or Uber, open your home to guests via Airbnb, lend your bike to others through, or let others borrow your tools with sites like NeighborGoods. The sharing economy allows you to use things you might already have to start making money right away. Other great ways to start making money now are to run errands for people using TaskRabbit, start selling things on Fiverr, or become a virtual assistant on oDesk.

4. Where the Demand Is

Before you get too far along in your side hustle planning, make sure that there is a market for the product or service you are wanting to sell. Consider starting something that will serve a niche market, a market that is currently underserved, or a large market with many needs. For example, if you want to start a financial planning business consider targeting young professionals. Or find a business idea that will target seniors as they are a large demographic with a lot of needs. Also, think about things people hate doing and would be more willing to pay someone else for. Some people hate cutting their own grass or shovelling their driveways. You could start a business providing these services. Most people can’t stand having to pick up after their pets and there are a number of side hustlers who make their money doing this unglamourous work in other people’s backyards.

5. How Much Money You Can Invest

Big risks can equal big rewards. Steve Chou from was able to make over $100,000 income in his first year in business through an online store selling handkerchiefs. While starting an online store or selling products on established platforms like Amazon or Ebay will mean you need to invest upfront in products, the potential for success is significant. There are ways to reduce the costs of starting an online store, or to scale up slowly to make it doable for almost anyone. Just make sure you don’t go further into debt to start your side hustle. If you have no cash to invest, choose a side hustle with low start-up costs like dog walking or consulting.

What Should You Choose?

Whatever you decide to do, Loper advises that you at least choose something that interests you, “The last thing you need is a second job you dread.” While I’ve provided a few suggestions on what you can do, get creative and tailor a side hustle to your needs and interests.

Also, don’t give up if your first side hustle idea doesn’t work out as you planned. Many successful side hustlers failed at their first endeavors. Just remember how great you’ll feel when you’re making enough extra money each month that you can chip away at your debt and get closer to being debt-free. For most side hustlers, the sacrifices and time are worth it for the freedom it gives them. After all, the lifetime cost of debt can be staggering, especially if you have bad credit. (You can check your credit scores for free on

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Image: Creatas

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