Are Online Side Hustles Worth It?

Online side hustles are tempting, especially if you could do with an extra couple hundred bucks a month and want to fill up a few extra hours. What’s more, there are plenty of ways you can (theoretically) make money online.

However, before moving on I would really like to get one thing straight:

There’s no such thing as ‘quick’ money.

The Internet is full of promises and most of them are bogus. Generating cash isn’t impossible but having a plan is still paramount. Even as a fulltime worker, you’ve got to think of yourself as a business. Naturally, that means having a business plan.

Sounds boring, doesn’t it?

Or maybe it’s a lot more effort than it’s worth…

Well, tough luck. That’s business.

Not to discourage you, of course. Having an online side hustle can mean exercising your abilities in a totally different area. If you’re particularly talented at something, it could mean making “easy” money (to an extent) just for doing something you love.

Anything is possible, but where to begin?

Online Side Hustles: Finding one that suits you

What are you good at? If you’re only so-so at coding/programming, even intermediate coding tasks/jobs won’t bring in much profit. Sure, you’ll learn and practice (not at all a bad thing – in fact, I’d encourage it if you want to perfect your skill) but you won’t see much financial return on your time investment.

On the flipside, if you’re a whizz at Photoshop there may be quite a few lucrative side gigs for you.

Can you throw together a couple of images to a high standard within a short space of time? That’s an online side hustle that can prove to be very profitable. Are you great at creating snappy headlines or writing killer blog posts within minutes?

What about explainer videos: can you shoot/edit one in less than hour – a well-made one, that is?

In short, the best online side hustles are those that can net you a reasonable sum of money in a short amount of time.

If you are stuck for ideas, maybe consider the following (online) roles:

  • Writing advertising copy for small companies and businesses who need it. Since people need copy that converts, this will always be in demand.
  • Social media management is great if you’re good at planning, strategizing and implementation. You may also have to engage with customers. You can do it for prolific bloggers, companies, start-ups…etc.
  • Creating simple websites can definitely be lucrative if you’re able for it and can do it in accordance with a customers’ needs.
  • Basic or advanced video & image editing work is always in demand. Creating/editing a video here and there can land you a few dollars in your account.

What about paid online surveys and other sources of side income?

Now I have to be blunt. The vast majority of these online side hustles are shit. The likes of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, Paid Online Surveys and “micro tasks” (whatever…) pay an absolute pittance. You are better off investing time setting up a more specialized and in-demand side hustle and doing some basic marketing (go on Upwork, Fiverr etc.). It won’t bring you money straight away, but then again “get cash quick” will always remain a pipe dream.

Conclusion

With online side hustles, you become a mini-freelancer. You’re setting up a small side business and you need to let people know about it. You should also consider your network. If you’re on social media, ask around and say that you’re offering your skills in a certain area. You may be surprised by the response.

So are they worth it? Absolutely: if you play your cards right and know when and where to hustle.

Setting Up Your Mobile Office

A mobile office is probably one of the most essential tools for a digital nomad. You need to be able to whip out your laptop and work – from almost anywhere. Especially if you want to practice the art of efficiently working and traveling.

In most cases, this means getting a travel-friendly laptop. One that has enough processing power for you to complete tasks (especially if you work with videos and/or other graphics). It must also be light so that you’re not dragging a weight around – and must fit any bag you carry.

Of course, setting up a mobile office goes far beyond buying a laptop.

There are a couple of other tools that make the set up even easier.

The basics of a mobile office

Choose the right laptop

I’ve just said this, but I’ll repeat: the core of an efficient mobile office is a good laptop. You must able to (easily) carry it around. Make sure it fits snugly into your shoulder bag/backpack. Make sure the screen is big enough (some people can work with small screens, others go crazy).

mobile office typewriter keyboard
Typewriters are cool and retro… but would you really want to lug one around?

With regards to size and compact portability, Dell and Acer have some pretty nice models. Acer’s TravelMate range, in particular, is designed exactly for what it says on the tin. Size-wise, Apple’s computers aren’t terrible either.

Have your own power supply

Ideally, wherever you work should have power outlets available. Having trekked through cafes in various European cities, I’m aware that this isn’t always possible. Especially on trains. If you’re working 10+ hours without an outlet, you need to have a backup supply handy. Plenty of power banks are available nowadays.

mobile office potatoes
Delicious and nutritious but not a great source of power. Seriously, invest in a power bank.
Note: Make sure you find a power bank that can charge laptops! There is a difference!

Bags!

I’m not very fancy when it comes to bags. My current office holder is a cheap Ikea design – yet its perfect thanks to the various compartments it has. A lot of bags these days have a special pocket specifically designed for laptops, so make use of it. In addition, make sure there are separate compartments for USB cables, plug adaptors, your phone, etc.

Plug Adaptors

For a mobile office, these couldn’t be more important. Even in Europe, there are differences between plugs depending on whether you’re in the UK or on the mainland. Tuck a few necessary plug adaptors into your bag and leave them there. It will seriously throw a spanner in your plans and leave you scrambling to go to the next electronics store if you forget.

Headphones

If you have regular meetings, you should really conduct them in a quiet space. It could be your bedroom or a bathroom… Noisy cafes aren’t advisable. That being said, headphones are still a plus. Not just in terms of having a meeting, either: you may simply want to drown out the surrounding noise and concentrate on your work!

Setting up a mobile office really is that simple… Although it can be as elaborate as you like. The main point is that you want to be able to whip it out and start working wherever you are.

Are Remote Work and Travel Really a Good Mix?

The year’s drawing to a close and this has been playing on my mind. Especially since I’ve done a lot of it this year. Remote work and travel seem to go hand in hand… but sometimes I just wonder how well these two things really mix.

I’ve worked from home (read: “remotely”) for a long time. I’ve also traveled and worked, sometimes simultaneously. This year, I’ve really been abusing those privileges. Planned and unplanned stints to Spain, the Black Forest, the windy city of Hamburg… And constantly going back and forth to Ireland (thanks, Ryanair, I guess…).

The true beauty? Only a fraction of those journeys involved actually using my vacation days.

Amidst this traveling though, I wondered…

With all the extra stress and planning involved, are travel and remote work really a good match?

Is it better to sit at home and focus? With only the occasional stint to the coffee shop? In some cases, I’d say yes (at least for me). Then again, it often depends…

Successful remote work and travel

The fact that digital nomads exist tells us that successful remote work and travel probably does happen. Of course, a lot of that is self-reporting, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt. A nomad’s lifestyle often involves hopping from city to city, country to country. Very frequently, too. But is this actually feasible for the majority of people? Or would most of us pass out from the stress?

I’ll be honest here. If anything, I’m more of a part-time digital nomad. I don’t think I’d enjoy the hustle, at least not long-term. When it comes to work, I’m very focused, very proactive and communicative with my team: but add the extra stress of constantly organizing flights and sorting out accommodation, I think I’d go spare.

That’s just me though. I guess I’m more of an opportunistic digital nomad rather than a “part time” one. I use my remote work privileges to travel when the mood strikes.

How to (effectively) travel and work remotely

Okay, so remote work and travel can be done by some people – especially those who thrive on constant activity. But if you’re a remote worker who still wants to at least occasionally travel, it’s good to keep a few things in mind.

  • When it comes to a job -any job- remember: it’s still a damn job! You cannot shirk responsibility because, oh no, you’re now on a plane and there’s no wifi.
  • If you are “working on the go”, prepare for it. This is easier for freelancers than full-time remote workers, of course. If you’re traveling that day, let your teammates/clients know you won’t be available at certain times. Don’t just randomly disappear in the middle of the day.
  • Be equipped! If you’re traveling on trains and buses, make sure you have enough battery power. And enough mobile data!
  • Be mindful of timezones and adjust your worktimes/arrangements accordingly.
  • As always, communicate if you have any problems and let people know.

A lot of this is just common sense. Which unfortunately isn’t all that common.

Remote Digital Marketing Jobs and How to Land Them

Remote digital marketing jobs are common, right?

You’d really think so. At the very least, online marketing positions give you the option to work remotely. It’s all about selling things online, after all. We’re not out there putting up billboards, handing out flyers on the street or any other such nonsense. Online marketing has become a highly technical job. Researching, strategizing, conceiving content, creating content, social media monitoring, building websites… It’s the perfect work from home job.

So naturally, you can imagine my massive disappointment when I found out just how scarce remote digital marketing jobs seem to be.

When I started looking for my next full-time remote gig, I was naïve and figured it was easy.

Boy, I was WRONG.

Instead, searching for a remote marketing meant trawling the usual channels (Indeed, LinkedIn, contacts etc.). I got interviews but when push came to shove, quite a few (read: far too many) expected me to up sticks and move to whatever backwater their office was located. And let me repeat: These were jobs that were 100% done online.

Look at any standard job ad in the realm of SEO, social media or paid advertising. There are some exciting roles out there. Until you read…

Benefits: A beautiful office located in the heart of Berlin. Free coffee, tea, soft drinks, fruit snacks, games…

“Games?”. I’m not six years old. And don’t get me started on those who describe their workplaces as a “fun” office. The reason I work is to get paid for my expertise, not spend my days at an adult day care center.

I also don’t care how “beautiful” your office is. My apartment is nicer. I can actually get work done without pointless distractions and petty office wars.

daenarys targaryan
Pretty much sums up how I feel when someone has the gall to distract me from my work over something trivial.

Sure, plenty of the positions I applied for had a “work from home” option. Compared to my current job, that just didn’t cut it. It’s a big leap going from a mostly remote setup to suddenly sitting at the same desk nearly every day.

A MASSIVE leap.

One thing did give me hope, however. While many companies were still stuck in the 1980s in this regard, a significant portion of employers were very open to a remote setup (startups, more than anyone else).

So, while there aren’t many marketing jobs to be found via remote job boards – there are actually plenty of digital marketing positions you can do remotely. You just need to know how to land them.

Hence this post.

There’s an easier way to find remote digital marketing jobs

Don’t rule out remote-first jobs just because the competition is high. Chances are slim, but you never know. More importantly, remember: working in an office is the default. Most modern companies maintain outdated working methods because that’s what they know. Working remotely is slowly being accepted in many sectors. However, remote workers outside of the tech industry have organized “mobile” setups themselves… By asking for it.

You don’t even have to touch remote job boards (though I’d recommend you throw a few resumes that way, chances are slim but you never know!). The good news is that there are definitely more remote digital marketing jobs out there than are advertised. The first thing you’ve got to remember is that working in an office is the default. Employers expect it because that’s how its been since the Industrial Revolution (on a fun note, people have been working from home for about 1.4 million years).

So how do you get a remote role without using specialized job boards? Well, just ask.

Wait, really? It’s really that simple?

Yes. Your prospective employer may say no… But really, that’s the worst they can say. Asking for a remote work environment is no different to asking about other perks or a bigger salary. Additionally, remote digital marketing jobs are best found in startups rather than big companies. Though if some corporate giant wants you, don’t be afraid to ask.

Successfully securing a remote setup

First things first: know what you want. Know exactly what type of remote setup you’re looking for. Do you want to be entirely remote? Are you happy to travel to their office at least a few times a year? Or… Do you mind going in on a weekly basis, one or two days? Perhaps you simply prefer having the option to work from home.

As with any position, read what they say about the job. Apply for it, sell yourself. Maybe slightly emphasis your remote working skills… But don’t overdo it. In addition:

  • As with any other job, emphasize your skills and how they can be applied to the position. Your employer doesn’t care about your desire to work from home. They care only about how you can contribute to the company.
  • Do not mention remote working straight off the bat. Only talk about it after you’ve discussed the role, your experience and your skills.
  • When you do discuss a remote setup, ask about their “work environment”. If you’ve held a remote position before, don’t be afraid to say it. Explain that it’s the style you’re used to.
  • Should your employer seem open to the idea, proceed.

This advice goes not just for online marketing, but any position that can theoretically be done from home. The main takeaway here is that you have to ask for some things. Remote digital marketing jobs are more plentiful than you think. You just need to be tactful!

Becoming a Digital Nomad – How Do You Make It Happen?

Becoming a digital nomad is often a slow, steady process. You don’t wake up one day and suddenly decide to start traveling and working remotely. For many, it happens gradually, step-by-step. Sometimes there are a few lucky accidents. For the most part, it is planned. The best part is that there are plenty of ways to switch over to the location independent lifestyle. For those interested in beginning this new adventure, there are several important points you need to cover before you jet off.

Any major lifestyle change takes a lot of mental and emotion energy. The nomad lifestyle is no different.

You can read all the blogs and articles you want on digital nomadism. You can follow the many well-known nomads on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc… But if you don’t actually take the steps yourself, you’ll still be sitting in that open-plan office.

If you want the nomad lifestyle, you need to be honest with yourself. Do I have the right skills to travel and work remotely? If not, do I have the attitude and initiative to learn them – and overcome the obstacles that may be presented to me?

And what are these skills?

  • The ability to put up with a high level of discomfort and frustration. As a nomad, you’ll travel a lot. You’ll plan trips that go awry. If you’re freelancing, you’ll deal with the trials and tribulations that it brings. You need to be incredibly stress-resistant. The same can be said for physical comforts: get used to sleeping on sofas, futons and having to use your mobile data efficiently.
  • The ability to be alone. Being a digital nomad means being alone sometimes. You’ll go to a new place, make lots of great friends and then leave again. Sure, you’ll stay in touch with them. Maybe meet them again occasionally. When you move on to your new residence though, you’ll need to make a whole new group of friends. And that’s not to mention the reduced contact you’ll have with friends and family in your home country.
  • The ability to work independently. You’re not just a digital nomad: you’re a remote worker (whether freelance or employed). You need to take your work seriously. You need to be proactive and disciplined: your clients and your company are counting on you. They won’t be looking over your shoulder. Additionally, they won’t accept many excuses for not handing in work on time or being communicative.

You must either have these traits or be willing to develop them. If you’ve never traveled much, then this lifestyle will be a big change from what you already know.

The first (basic) steps to becoming a digital nomad

If your job ties you to one place, becoming a digital nomad is impossible. If you work as a nurse in a hospital, for example… Well, they kind of need you there. You can’t fix bandages and take blood tests without being present. Not yet, anyway. If you work in a shop – the same applies. And a great many other places.

For some, switching to this lifestyle also means changing careers. And that can be a HUGE leap.

On the flipside, you may have an in-office job where you don’t leave your desk. Literally everything you do is on a computer. You’re surrounded by colleagues and you travel to that office daily. Good examples are accountants, programmers and even project managers.

The change here won’t be as big, but you may have to argue your case with your employer. Which brings us to the skills of remote working. And I would say…

One of the most important telecommuting skills is communication. Effective remote working is sloppy at best without consistent, clear communication.

When switching to a remote work environment, you must make sure…

  • You’re GOOD at clearly and proactively communicating over text, voice call, video call and email… Whatever method of communication your clients/employer needs.
  • If you must change careers, see how many of your skills can be transferred to a remote work environment. Are you a good copywriter? A visionary graphic designer? Or are you a diligent account? All of these are standard, well-paid remote jobs.
  • Know what you are looking for in a remote job (not just the other way around). In truth, it’s not that different from finding a regular one. You’re just not going to be physically present.
  • If your current job can theoretically be done remotely, see how easy it could be to make the switch. Your current employer may surprise you.

Remember: Having a remote job (whether employment or freelance) is an integral part of being a digital nomad. If this is unfamiliar territory to you, get learning!

Beyond work, know what the digital nomad lifestyle entails

You don’t truly know if you like digital nomadism unless you try it.  But let’s just say you’ve managed to become location independent. You work from wherever you like: your home, a coffee shop, whatever. You’ve got a full-time remote job, or perhaps a couple of steady clients. What then? Well, now it’s time to move.

This means being organized. You have to book flights. Take care of visas. If traveling to a country that doesn’t speak your language, you may have to learn a few words and phrases in a foreign tongue.

Becoming a digital nomad is about becoming a traveler. For many, it’s their first step on the path to becoming a global citizen. It can a beautiful, enriching and exhilarating experience. But you have to put the work in.

I Didn’t Appreciate the Benefits of Working Remotely… Until I Lost Them

At one point in my early career, I got bored of working remotely. I’d never worked in an office, so I was willing to try it out. I’m glad I did – but I will say I’m also glad I took up remote working again. After working two years in a standard office job, I started to sorely miss the benefits of working from home.

I seriously appreciate the benefits of working remotely now. It’s not something I’ll take lightly again… However, my two-year experience in an office was invaluable. It taught me a lot about different working styles, dealing with different people and how I can improve my general productivity.

After all, I thought the experience of working in a brick-and-mortar company was invaluable. Back then, I thought my CV was lacking because I had only been “freelancing” for a couple of years (years later, a job coach specifically told me not to play down my experience as a freelancer).

“Besides,” I thought, “I’ll obviously get paid more, get better benefits and be taken more seriously…” All for showing up at a specific time, sitting at a specific desk and keeping up appearances.

So I gave up freelancing and went straight into my first 9-to-5 job. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad: stable money, health benefits, even subsidized transport. It was great!

The first thing to go… Enthusiasm

I never liked school. Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy learning. In digital marketing, you have to keep updating your knowledge. But I didn’t actually enjoy going to school and being in the same place every, single, day. My new office was the same: I sat at the same desk for two solid years.

This type of routine works well for a lot of people. It gives them a sense of structure. Unfortunately, it made me feel trapped. All of my days blended into one. I lost track of time: life became a series of getting up, coffee, sitting, typing, lunch and going home…

The work was interesting, to a point. But that paled in comparison. I began to dream of days when I’d use my remote working benefits to sit in a new café down the street… Or take my laptop and work from a hotel room in Portugal.

“Forget it,” I told myself, “you’ve a proper job now. And more money than you’ve ever had. This is what “grown up” work is like. Deal with it.”

I realized how independent working remotely had made me

Remote work had turned me into a self-starter. As a freelancer, I had to be organized and make sure I knew where my work was coming from. I had to hit people up and do a bit of marketing. There was no one on my back to get me to do things. I had to be my own boss.

Working in that office had turned me into something else. I became content to wait for tasks. If there wasn’t much to do, we’d sit around and chat. I lost my proactivity… And only waited for directions from my manager.

Basically… I turned into an office drone.

Two years after started, I asked to switch to a remote working set up (Germans like to call it “home office”). It worked out well… Then I found a new job and thankfully, I can be as remote as I like.

I will never take remote working for granted again!

Are All Remote Jobs Flexible?

With remote jobs, flexible work options are a given, right?

Not necessarily.

The main difference between a telecommute position and one based in a office is really quite simple. Work at home jobs are just that – jobs where you work in your own home. All other aspects of the job are the same: you may still have to go to meetings, be available at certain times or even bend to someone else’s schedule.

Essentially…

’Remote’ does not always equal ‘flexible’.

It’s food for thought when you’re looking for new challenges. Admittedly, working remotely often does mean that you’re on a flexible schedule. Especially if your colleagues are scattered throughout different time zones. Often, you’ll have to adhere to only a vague or loose routine in order to facilitate efficient communication.

That’s why it’s important to look at the fine print before you decide to continue with that application.

Remote Jobs: Flexible or not? What I noticed when searching

Whether remote jobs are flexible or not depends on several factors. These are often the same factors that determine whether any other office-based position offer flexibility:

  • The nature of the job: If your job is tending to the needs of customers, you may be required to work in shifts. Call-centers spring to mind.
  • What your colleagues need: Your work could theoretically be deadline-based, but if your colleagues want you on call at certain hours, you may be required to work specific times.
  • Meetings: If you’re needed in a bunch of important meetings throughout the day, it could leave you with very little wiggle-room.
  • If the company is more traditional/corporate then it’s likely you’ll only receive a certain level of flexibility.

Not everyone who wants a work from home position necessarily needs to be on a flexible schedule. For many people, scheduled breaks and lunch hours are usually enough.

Types of jobs which may not be flexible

The Western world at least is moving towards a more flexible work mindset – which is a good thing! However as stated before, the nature of your job may only allow for a certain amount of flexibility. The following remote jobs may not offer as flexible a schedule as you might think.

Human Resources

You may need to be in regular meetings or on-call throughout the day to answer certain questions. This is especially true if you have a lot of different meetings throughout the day. If anything, remote HR jobs aren’t very different from the in-office variety: you just have the luxury of sitting at your kitchen table.

Customer Service

It probably doesn’t matter if you’re mostly answering emails. But if you’re on the phone to customers or chatting with them online, you’ll probably have to work in shifts.

Virtual Assistants

A lot of VAs actually work in accordance with a rather strict schedule. That’s because people need to know when their VA is available in order to speak with them, give them tasks etc.

While these are three of the most common types of job with limited flexibility, there are many more. At the end of the day, a job isn’t just about your skills or the specific tasks you’re needed for. You’re there to help a company get things done and grow: sometimes, that means less flexibility.