When Side Hustles Don’t Go As Planned…
My husband says I’m always scheming. No, I’m not a super-villain — what he means is that I am always looking for new and better ways to make money. I’ve tried a lot of different methods to pull in cash over the years, and some have worked, but many have failed.
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Today I’d like to share with you some of those tested and failed side hustles, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.
(NOTE: My results are not indicative of everyone’s results. This is about my experience.)
Tested and Failed Side Hustles
Rev.com Transcription Services
Rev is an online transcription service where clients can submit audio files. People like you and I transcribe them. I was attracted to Rev because you don’t need to buy any special transcription equipment or have any prior experience to get started. All you need is your two hands, a reliable internet connection, and some time.
- Signing up was a relatively straightforward process.
- You get paid via PayPal. No waiting on checks or dealing with deposits.
- There is no schedule or quota. You can work as much as you want and whenever you want.
- There are lots of training articles and resources if you have questions.
- You don’t need to download any special software. The transcription editor is embedded right into their website.
- The quality of the audio is usually pretty poor. I had a hard time understanding what people were saying most of the time.
- Other, more experienced Revvers grade your materials. This led to some inconsistencies in grading because different people grade each submission.
- You are paid by the audio minute, not the real-life minute. Particularly when the sound quality is terrible, you may find yourself spending an hour on a job that is paying you for ten minutes. Not good.
- I felt a lot of pressure to get every word right, which was sometimes impossible. Since the grading was inconsistent, I never knew if I was going to get dinged for something that I legitimately couldn’t hear properly.
Why It Failed
While I think Rev is a good concept and I loved the flexibility, I just didn’t find that the pay was worth the time and frustration. You do have to option to purchase and use special transcription equipment that may help with streamlining the process and filtering lousy audio, but I wasn’t willing to spend the money.
I don’t see Rev as a huge money maker if you’re trying to improve your financial situation. Hard pass.
Selling on Amazon
Back when I first started selling on eBay, I also tried to branch out into Amazon. I only sold one or two things before I went back to eBay exclusively, and I haven’t looked back since.
- Amazon’s prices tend to skew higher than eBay’s so you can ask more for your items.
- Buyers on Amazon are less skeptical and don’t pay much attention to your seller rating. You can go on Amazon and sell immediately, whereas on eBay you have to spend time building up feedback before you’ll get consistent sales.
- Some argue that your items will get more exposure on Amazon because more people shop there than on eBay. I never tested this theory myself, but it could be true. Amazon is kind of taking over the world.
- Amazon requires you to get approval to sell in most of their categories. However, Amazon doesn’t grant authorization in many categories. As a result, you end up with very few categories in which you can sell. Some categories are nearly impossible to get into because they are already saturated with sellers.
- Amazon has a lot of rules. For example, if you submit a photo of your product, it needs to have a background with a particular shade of white, so it blends in with their homepage. This requires a lot of photo editing, which takes up way too much time.
- You need permission from many brands to sell their products. For example, I bought some really nice men’s polo shirts from Ralph Lauren online. I had a receipt to prove that they were legitimate, but Amazon wanted me to provide a letter, from Ralph Lauren, stating that I have permission to distribute their brand. Clearly, that wasn’t something I was going to be able to get, so I was unable to sell my polos on Amazon. Bummer.
- Their website is not user-friendly. eBay is so easy that even my Dad (a man who still types with his two index fingers) can do it. I just couldn’t figure out Amazon’s process, especially when trying to print shipping labels.
- Payment isn’t instantly sent to your PayPal account like it is on eBay. You have to wait until Amazon pays out. I think the intervals may have been every couple of weeks, but I can’t remember exactly.
- Amazon buyers are generally looking for new items. This knocks out a large part of my inventory. While I do have some new items, there are so many restrictions that I couldn’t list most of them.
Why It Failed
The single thing that deterred me the most from selling on Amazon were all the restrictions. I was unable to find items I was allowed to sell, and I lacked the time and patience to beg my way into categories.
I had one experience with direct sales, and it will be my last. Misguidedly, I signed up for Mary Kay back when I was about 23-24 years old. I paid about $100 to buy a product kit after attending one of their free facials with my sister. It failed horribly. I blame my young age and naivety.
- Being able to buy their products at a discount for myself.
- You have to be that annoying person on Facebook, peddling your wares to your friends and family.
- Hosting those stupid home parties, where people only buy things because they feel guilted into doing so.
- You’re expected to call local businesses and ask if you can set up a display in their store to harass their customers into buying your products.
- You’re also expected to set up little boxes at said local businesses for people to enter to “win” a free facial. Note: you don’t need to win a free facial to receive one. You need to request to host a party. The facial is always free.
- The products are expensive.
- Time away from home. Hosting parties, setting up displays, and handing out samples requires you to put on pants and be out in the world. I enjoy making money from the comfort of my couch, where pants are optional.
Why It Failed
I don’t like to harass or guilt people into buying products that they don’t want or need. I don’t know why I thought that I would be successful at direct sales, because I don’t even like when salespeople come up to me in clothing stores to ask if I need help.
Further, I questioned the practice of offering free facials as prizes when they were available for free upon request at any time. I found it misleading. When I expressed my concern, my supervisor became extraordinarily defensive and basically told me that if I didn’t like it, leave. I accepted her invitation to move on, and that was the end of my career in direct sales.
Selling baked goods
Baking has always been one of my favorite things to do. I’ve sold a few cheesecakes to friends over the years, so I thought that it might be a good idea to try to start my own baked goods business. I don’t really have likes or dislikes list for this one because I never managed to get it off the ground.
Why It Failed
Basically, the source of all my problems was that I couldn’t bake at home. Pennsylvania home-based food business rules* state that your kitchen has to be able to pass their health inspection. Because I have two indoor cats, that wasn’t going to happen. Baking at home was out.
I did try to find another venue before I gave up ultimately, but commercial kitchens are scarce and expensive in my area. Renting the kitchen time wasn’t all that outrageous, but renting space to store my ingredients was going to be the problem. I called the Health Department to see if it was possible to buy a separate freezer and save my ingredients at home, but that was not possible.
I also called around to local churches to see if renting their kitchens was an option, but their insurance didn’t cover outside people using it. Because I didn’t want to invest a bunch of money into something that I wasn’t sure was going to be successful yet, I gave up on the idea.
*Each state has different health code rules, so if you’re thinking of trying a home-based food business, check your state’s regulations.
Should I Avoid These Tested and Failed Side Hustles Entirely?
That’s really up to you. If you read what I wrote today and still want to give it a go, you should. Plenty of people are successful at these ventures, and if you think you have what it takes, I say go for it. Hopefully, if you’re thinking about trying one of the above and you’re still on the fence, my experience will help sway you in one direction or the other.
That’s the great thing about side hustles–they aren’t your primary income. If one isn’t working out for you, then just quit and try another. You really need to find a side hustle that is personalized to you and is something that you’re going to enjoy.
After all, if we’re all mostly miserable at our real jobs, we can’t be unhappy at our side hustles too.
This article first appeared on Money Geek.