For the past 9 years I have been mostly a seasonal worker, with the bulk of my work occurring in the spring and in the fall. From time to time I have had jobs in my industry during the winter, but it certainly isn’t a guarantee. One of the most difficult things to manage with a seasonal job is inconsistent cash flows, especially when there is a structural break where you know you won’t be working for a period of a few months every year. I just came across this article from The Penny Hoarder; 8 Summer Jobs For Teachers, which got my wheels turning on other side hustles that would be a good fit for seasonal workers.
The ability to generate even a small amount of income makes a big difference when it comes to cash flows. For example, if Bob is off work for June July and August, and his expenses are $2,000 a month, he will spend $6,000 that he saved up during his busy spring season. If he can generate even $250 a week, this will cut the amount of his savings he eats into in half. I enjoy my time off of work but seeing my bank account run backwards for 12 weeks drives me crazy! Here are some ideas for how to keep the negative monthly cash flows in check.
Lawn Care / Snow Removal: Yes I know everyone does this, but once you establish a few accounts it gets easier to maintain the same level of business. The barriers to entry are low, most of us own a lawnmower, a weed wacker, and a snow shovel.
Babysitting: Yeah, I know this gets a bad rep because little kids are obnoxious and babysitting doesn’t pay much, BUT if you are watching your own kids anyways during the off season in your normal profession adding a kid or two into the mix can result in some decent money to lower the negative monthly cash flows. 2 kids at $3 per hour per kid for 40 hours a week adds up to about a $1,000 a month. During the summer many parents struggle to find daycare for school aged children who are still too young to stay at home alone. This means that the kids you would be watching in the summer can self direct to some extent and are much lower maintenance than the under 5 crowd.
Mock Trial / Consumer Study: In my area there are frequently advertisements for participants in mock trials and for consumer studies on new appliance products. These gigs pay around $50 for a half days work and don’t require you to lock down a return commitment, of course if you have a positive attitude and are helpful to the process I am sure they would take repeat workers.
Temp Agency Jobs: The beauty of working for a temp agency is that they understand you are going to work for your primary employer in X amount of months. They can set you up with a job that fits your skills and is temporary. In my area they tend to always have entry level jobs in the $8-$10 an hour range, but have some jobs that pay substantially more.
Clinical Studies: This works much better for people in higher populated areas. The closest place for me that offers clinical studies is 50 miles away, which makes them not cost beneficial. At The Jasper Clinic in Kalamazoo right now they are paying healthy men $3,200 over a two month study to stay for 9 days straight then have 18 follow up visits (probably every 2 -3 days). For someone off work who lives close to one of these places this can be some serious money.
Tutoring: You don’t have to be a teacher to be a tutor. People pay good money to get their kids who are struggling some extra help. If you have patients, the heart of a teacher, and some practical knowledge in a subject, tutoring could make you some decent money. A good tutor can easily charge $25 an hour or more depending on your area. You can even be a specialized tutor for just Algebra, or just SAT prep, etc.
Work For A Friend: I’m sure you know someone who is a business owner, many of them need some extra help in the summer. This has worked well for me with working for a septic system company. I know others who have worked for construction companies, roofers, landscapers, and automotive shops.
Car Work: A decent mechanic is hard to find. Being able to competently handle a few jobs can add a ton of money to your account in the summer.
Unemployment: Usually workers who are laid off can get unemployment benefits. In Michigan the maximum weekly benefit is $362 a week. There are other states where unemployment is up to $600 a week. Most states require you to be actively seeking work while on unemployment and you can still work part time / temporary jobs while getting unemployment. In Michigan your unemployment benefits are reduced 50 cents on the dollar for earnings. Let’s say you earn $300 in a week and have a michigan unemployment claim. Your unemployment benefits would be reduced by $150 to $212 and you would have your $300 of earnings. Instead of only having $362 from unemployment, you now have $512!
Professional Development: Okay this doesn’t put cash in your pocket NOW, but can easily increase your earnings to make up the difference of cash flows in the off season. I used my off season to study for and take the CAPM exam, as well as taking the OSHA 30 exam. With these two recent qualifications I have made myself a candidate for jobs that pay $10 an hour more than what I currently earn. Over a 1,500 hour work year with a third of it being overtime, this can add up to $17,500! With that being said it isn’t the exams by themselves that make it so I could get those jobs it is also the degree I already have and the field experience I have that when combined with those qualifications open up these options. I have known other contractors who have used their off time to pursue welding certificates, NDT (Non Destructive Testing) certificates, and even traditional degrees by taking summer courses.
What seasonal side hustles have you done to keep negative monthly cash flows at bay during your off season?