Hitting the Gig Time
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22 Tips for a Successful Side Hustle

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Hitting the Gig Time
nrqemi/istockphoto

Hitting the Gig Time

Uber and Lyft. Rover. TaskRabbit. Shipt. Postmates. The list of gig economy opportunities is long these days. For those looking to make a little extra cash — whether for early retirement, to pay off debt, or otherwise — there's never been an easier path forward, often without any special skills or investment required. But while landing a side hustle might be easy — often involving little more than downloading an app, attending an orientation, and passing a background check — being successful at it takes a bit more thought and work. Cheapism talked to gig-economy workers and looked to advice shared by industry experts to find out how to make the most of your side hustle. (Here are some of The Best New Ways to Make Money Part-Time.)

Rideshare Gigs
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Rideshare Gigs

Side-gigging as a rideshare driver for Uber or Lyft is probably one of the easiest ways to make some extra money. You need a reliable car and a smartphone to get started, and little else. But while it seems simple, those who have done it have some tips and tricks they swear by.

Pay Attention to Your Wheels
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Pay Attention to Your Wheels

Paying passengers want to feel like they're in a car that will get them from point A to point B. It's important your car not make concerning rattling sounds, sure, but it should also be a vehicle that makes sense if you're going to be using it a lot more than you normally would. "You will need something fuel-efficient and durable to turn a profit," says former Uber and Lyft driver Eubie Butt. "There's always at least one guy around who thinks he's going to make his new Escalade pay for itself. Don't be that guy. Also, never put off repairs."

Drive Defensively
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Drive Defensively

This one seems like a no-brainer, of course, but folks who often find themselves at the fault-end of minor vehicle mishaps should reconsider ridesharing as their side gig. And no matter how good your driving record, be mindful about driving defensively, Butt says. "Repairs cost money. Hospital bills cost even more money … avoid both, and keep your rating up in the process," he stresses.

Related: How to Stay Safe from Road Rage, Including Your Own

People Will Ask You to Break the Law. Have a Plan for That.
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People Will Ask You to Break the Law. Have a Plan for That.

Whether it's asking drivers to exceed the speed limit, refusing to wear a seatbelt, or trying to bring a small child into a car without a car seat, Uber and Lyft users occasionally ask drivers to run afoul of the law. Clarke Bowman, who writes about his driving experiences for Business Insider, had the latter happen to him. He stopped at a daycare to pick up a passenger's small child — who didn't have a car seat. Bowman locked his car doors and, after an argument through closed windows, drove away. You can break the law — Bowman notes that Uber and Lyft are pretty vague about policies here — and chances are nothing will happen. But do you really want to risk it?

Report Problems to Your Employer's Support Team
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Report Problems to Your Employer's Support Team

In Bowman's case, he knew he'd probably be reported or receive a bad review. Once safely away from the passenger, Bowman called and reported the incident. Bad reviews can result in a lower rating, which can translate to fewer rides. Reporting such incidents can keep them from impacting your rating. Butt adds that drivers should also immediately report any damage done to their cars, especially upholstery damage. "Uber and Lyft were surprisingly good about paying for interior damage, but it has to be reported right away," he notes. "Otherwise any evidence you have becomes worthless the moment you pick up another passenger."

Related: 25 Items You Should Always Keep in Your Car

Provide Amenities, But Don't Go Overboard
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Provide Amenities, But Don't Go Overboard

Having a few niceties in your car can increase your tips and driver rating. One amenity that is nearly universally appreciated is a phone-charging cable. "A spare charging cable for passengers is one of the best investments you can make," Butt says. "I recommend a quality 3-in-1 with mini Lightning, USB C, and mini USB, preferably around 6 feet long." However, he adds, "do not offer an aux cable to the young or inebriated, unless you have a high tolerance for top 40 music sung off-key at the highest volume possible." When it comes to refreshments, Butt says, "stick to water, mints, and if you have seat covers installed, gum. Everything else I tried was a waste of money."

Prepare for the Partiers
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Prepare for the Partiers

Speaking of inebriated riders, this one seems like a no-brainer, but you might want to have a repository of some sort for people who have had too much to drink. "Also," Butt recommends, "get seat covers, waterproof ones."

Plan Your Driving Schedule Strategically
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Plan Your Driving Schedule Strategically

The best time to drive, Butt notes, "is typically from around 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., particularly during rush hour." Driving at night, he notes, "is a much more variable proposition, but doable; Fridays and Saturdays are best of course, but unless you live in a designated 'party town,' the rest of the week is going to be hit or miss."

Know About Special Events
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Know About Special Events

Butt suggests following local venues and festivals on Facebook so you know when public events are happening — events that could cause surge pricing, which is when rideshare drivers can make better cash. "The best way to make as much money in as little time as possible is by driving during big public events, so pay close attention to your local social calendar."

Don't Drive Between Rides — Park and Wait, Strategically
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Don't Drive Between Rides — Park and Wait, Strategically

Bowman notes in a Business Insider piece that he used to drive around between rides, hoping it would increase his chances of getting a pickup. "All driving around did was put unnecessary miles on my car and ensured that I ruined my profit margin by wasting gas," he writes. Now he pulls over and waits between rides. "A podcast or an e-book keeps me entertained between rides, but it's usually no more than a few minutes until another request comes."

If Your Passenger's Ride Was Ordered by Someone Else, Practice Caution
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If Your Passenger's Ride Was Ordered by Someone Else, Practice Caution

Yes, passengers can rate drivers, but did you know drivers can also rate the people they pick up? Uber and Lyft users who have horrible reviews from drivers — because, say, they're rude or take rides after drinking, resulting in some not-so-pleasant results — occasionally get banned from using the app, or have a hard time getting rides thanks to those bad reviews. If you show up to a ride that someone else has ordered for that person, it doesn't necessarily mean this is the case, but be cautious.

Pet-Sitting Gigs
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Pet-Sitting Gigs

Sites and apps like Rover and Wag! let side hustlers make money by caring for pets through pet-sitting, dog-walking, and more. But, of course, any time pets are involved, there is also an unpredictability factor. Here are some tips for making your pet-sitting gig a success.

Related: 14 Unexpected Jobs for Animal Lovers

Don't Underestimate the 'Meet and Greet'
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Don't Underestimate the 'Meet and Greet'

Sabrina Hart, a Denver-area pet-sitter who gets her gigs through Rover, often sets up a meet-and-greet before she even accepts a gig to give "the pet sitter, pet owners, and the pets an opportunity to meet face to face and make sure everyone is a good fit." If that's not a possibility, be sure to arrange a meeting before providing any care, Hart notes. "The more information you get from an owner the better. It gives you the information you need to better care for their pets, and in turn, owners will feel better about leaving their pets with you because of your attention to detail." Hart takes notes during her meetings with new clients.

Written Notes From the Owner Is Also Helpful
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Written Notes From the Owner Are Also Helpful

Even with a meet-and-greet accomplished, Hart says she still prefers that pet owners leave written information for her, no matter if she's doing a 30-minute drop-in or an extended house- and pet-sitting gig. "From my own personal experience, and why I think I have so many repeat clients, in part comes from my attention to detail. The more information I get from an owner the better I can care for their pet(s), and it shows the owner my attention to detail and the passion I take in providing the best care possible."

Say Thank You
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Say Thank You

Hart notes that she always leaves a thank-you card. Do so, she recommends, "with your own personal touch. It's a great way to let the pet owners know that you appreciate them and their pets." And it probably helps earn repeat business.

Task Service Gigs
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Task Service Gigs

Services like TaskRabbit and Handy let side-giggers provide services like housecleaning, running errands, performing small home repairs, yardwork, furniture assembly, and a myriad of other mundane tasks that some people just don't like taking care of themselves. There's a wide variety of work here, but some tried-and-true pieces of advice make it all seem a little more manageable.

Be Flexible and Versatile
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Be Flexible and Versatile

If you really want to make money performing odd jobs and tasks, you need to be willing to do pretty much anything asked (within reason, of course). Some people get paid to wait in lines for tickets or new phone releases. Taskers writing Indeed.com reviews reported doing IKEA furniture assembly and mounting TVs to walls. Just know that some interesting requests could come your way but, as long as you feel comfortable with completing the work, it benefits your bank account to say yes.

Learn New Skills
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Learn New Skills

Different taskers charge different hourly rates depending on what's being asked of them. Tasks that require a higher degree of skilled labor — carpentry, basic plumbing, or home-staging or professional organization services, for example — will land you a higher paycheck. Figure out ways you can learn some new skills: Attend a workshop or take a free online class, for example.

Hazards
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Take Advantage of Your Reality

If you're a brawny dude with a big truck, you can get paid to pick up furniture, or help someone move. Are you a type A clean freak who already has a massive supply of cleaning products? Consider cleaning other people's houses. Or maybe you're a college student living at home with access to your parents' yard maintenance tools. People will pay you to mow lawns and rake leaves. And all of these tasks are some of the higher-paying ones on TaskRabbit.

Food Delivery Gigs
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Food Delivery Gigs

Apps like Shipt, Instacart, Favor, Postmates, and DoorDash specialize in delivering food — meals and groceries — to clients. And just like other side hustles, there are secrets of the trade and some more practical bits of advice that help a delivery gigger be more successful.

Stick With a Schedule
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Stick With a Schedule

Nikki Rosen, a Dallas resident who's been delivering groceries for Shipt for about a year, says that keeping a consistent schedule has helped her to be a repeat shopper for many of her clients, which in turn helps develop professional relationships that benefit her bottom line. "I'd say about 75% of my clients are people I've already been matched with," Rosen says. "So we know each other and I don't have to ask them a million questions each time I shop for them." And developing that shopper-client relationship can often result in more generous tips.

Stay in Your Zone
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Stay in Your Zone

Rosen delivers in three Dallas neighborhoods — which are also the areas closest to where she lives and shops herself. Staying close to what she's familiar with — what Shipters call their "zone" — not only helps keep gas expenses and vehicle wear and tear down, but it's helped her professionally in other ways. One high-end grocery store where she shops for her clients saw her so often and got to know her so well that they offered her a job, which she happily accepted.

Know When to Work
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Know When to Work

Rosen says some days and times are better than others for regular, profitable work. These include Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, and she says weekday evenings are always busier. Holidays and just before back-to-school season is another great time to work more (if you want to — Shipters and other many other food-delivery giggers choose their own hours) and make more.

Grocery Quality Matters
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Grocery Quality Matters

It should go without saying, but Rosen confirms it: You don't want to deliver dented cans or groceries in dirty boxes. It also helps to have a knack for choosing produce at its peak. And, if you're delivering take-out meals, secure them — no one wants to open a carton of food that's been turned upside down.

Be a Professional
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Be a Professional

Just because you're in the gig economy and not a 9-to-5 job doesn't mean you shouldn't look and act like a professional. Rosen's last bit of advice seems like common sense, but she notes she's been surprised by how some gig economy workers present themselves. "Look and act professional. Don't look scary or irresponsible. A lot of the time you're delivering to women," she notes, many of whom can be accepting deliveries while home alone. "Be sensitive to that."

Keep Track of Expenses
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Keep Track of Expenses

And, finally, this piece of advice goes for pretty much any side gig. If you don't have an employer deducting taxes from your earnings, you'll have to pay those yourself come tax season, and you can deduct many of your expenses, such as gas. Pet-sitter Hart notes that she uses an inexpensive expense tracker she bought on Amazon, but there are digital versions as well.

Related: 40 Essential Tax Tips for Small Business Owners