- In 2018, I quit my full-time job that paid $60,000 a year without an emergency fund.
- I wanted to be a full-time writer, but I had to take side gigs along the way until I got there.
- I lost money driving for Instacart, and I made more from copywriting gigs.
As a recession looms in the coming months, I’m hearing more stories of friends getting laid off without emergency funds to fall back on. Having once quit a full-time job that paid $60,000 a year without any savings, I can relate to the deep financial panic that follows.
At the time, I quit my job because I couldn’t handle the toxic workplace environment anymore, but I also had a lifelong dream of becoming a writer. I didn’t have any formal writing education or experience, but I sent three cold pitch emails to editors every single day. It took a while for my writing work to actually replace the full-time income that I was used to, so I had to take side gigs along the way.
Here are the seven hustles that put food on the table while I was building my career as a writer.
Pay: $350 a week
At the time, I lived in Brooklyn while my parents lived in Amityville, Long Island. My parents needed someone to stay at home with my 8-year-old sister after school, so I stayed with them during the week and went home to my apartment during the weekends. They gave me a little cash each week to babysit, knowing I was struggling financially.
2. Personal assistant
Pay: $25 an hour
Soon after my babysitting gig ended, a new neighbor moved into my building who needed a personal assistant for a few hours a week. While I was splitting a three-bedroom apartment with two other roommates, she had an entire three-bedroom with the same layout as ours to herself, with one bedroom converted into an office.
She mostly asked me to sort through her mail to unsubscribe from promotional junk, pick up dry cleaning, and take care of administrative tasks, like setting up her energy and electric bills.
Pay: $500 for a 1-bedroom apartment
Many years ago, while watching HGTV’s “Clean House” starring queer femme icon Niecy Nash, I learned one important decluttering tip: If it takes more than five seconds to decide if you need to keep an item, you probably don’t need it.
I took this hardcore approach with a client who needed to make more space in their home. Honestly, it was the most fun I had while making $500, since I love organizing and cleaning.
Pay: $500 a week
At this point, most of my friends knew I was struggling financially, so they sent me any leads on gigs and jobs that they heard about. As a dogsitter, I got to stay at really fancy New York City apartments on my own, and I treated that time like a paid writing retreat.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I continued dog sitting to make ends meet. Thankfully, my New York contacts were more than willing to serve as references.
5. Instacart driver
Pay: After gas, I lost $2 an hour
In Los Angeles, I started driving for Instacart early in the pandemic because I was desperate for cash. The job sucked and people tipped poorly, but I was able to get cash to buy groceries quickly. After crunching the numbers, though, I realized I actually lost money since gas prices in LA are so high.
6. Cookie baker
Pay: $13.25 an hour
I started working at a cookie shop in West Hollywood, making minimum wage. At the time, I was living in a hostel with 15 other people in a three-bedroom house. Before the pandemic started, the store opened at 3 p.m., so I would get there early to get some writing done without any distractions, even sometimes taking job interviews via Google Meet in the backroom of the store using my phone.
Pay: $100 to $800 per project, depending on the project
After sending hundreds of cold pitch emails with the hopes of being published, I started pivoting my strategy to copywriting. I knew a ton of entrepreneurs from my time in New York, so I sent daily emails to friends asking if they knew anyone who needed a copywriter on top of the three daily pitch emails I was writing.
Copywriting was really enjoyable, even though it wasn’t the kind of writing I wanted to do. I dove in headfirst, quit my cookie-baking job, and made over $9,000 in my most successful month as a freelance writer. Since then, I started writing full-time for Insider, and now I make more money than ever.
On the rare occasion that I order groceries from Instacart, I happily tip them 35% knowing it wasn’t that long ago that I was in the same position.
- ^ recession (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ toxic workplace environment (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ struggling financially (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ roommates (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ Google Meet (www.businessinsider.com)