Side-Gigging: A Creative Way to Pad the Wallet

Let's face it. The state of the economy over the last several years has played financial havoc on a lot of people. Those lucky enough to still have their jobs may have taken pay and benefit cuts, and pensions (remember those?!) are mere relics of the past. The upside of this bad situation is that some very savvy individuals have made lemonade out of lemons by turning their hobbies and creative passions into moneymaking machines.

Kimberly Palmer is the Senior Money Editor at US News and World Report and author of The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life. We asked her to explain how we can discover our "inner entrepreneur" and create a stream of income in addition to our 9-to-5 job. Kimberly offers sage advice about how the "side gig" movement can be a powerful means to control our financial fate and put much-needed moola in our pockets.

You practice what you preach and started a successful side-gig. What was your motivation and how did you do it?

I needed more financial security and wanted to create another stream of income. I designed and wrote digital money workbooks for people who are trying to get on top of different money goals. I launched a virtual shop and put them on Etsy, an online marketplace. Next, I figured out how to market them, and the rest is history.

How are today's side-giggers different from yesterday's "moonlighters?"

I think it's the language we use. Years ago, "moonlighting" suggested something secretive. Today, it's all about side-hustling, side-gigs, side-businesses -- something very positive. Others are launching side businesses as they approach retirement. Not only are side-gigs a way to earn extra income, they're a means to leverage a whole career and professional identity, which can continue to sustain them even after retirement.

How are employers reacting to their employees' side ventures?

Many are viewing side-gigs as a positive thing. On their own time, employees are learning new skills, which they bring back to work. Employees are happier because they're less financially stressed and have an outlet to be creative and fulfilled.

Say we want to start a side-business, but have no idea what we want to do. How do we come up with that brilliant idea that will turn into the next Facebook?

The best way to start is to browse the e-commerce websites to see what others are doing. This is how I got my idea. Visit sites like Fiverr, eLance, Etsy, even Craig's List. This will help you brainstorm, view trends, and even discover an empty niche to fulfill.

What are some of the most popular and well-paying side-gigs?

Right now, wedding speechwriters, floral designers, pet-related small businesses, and social media consulting are popular. Even voice acting and cake baking. Also, look to turn your professional skills, such as marketing or architecture, into profitable side businesses.

Can you rely on side-gigs to bring in the big bucks?

Yes, but it all depends on the amount of time you have to devote to growing the business. There is nothing wrong with making just a few hundred dollars a month. This can really add up, especially if you are saving it, investing, or paying off debt.