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The Technologically-Improved Side-Hustle

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Would you write a message in the Caribbean sand, record a birthday video message from a clown, or juggle knives and a chainsaw, for the price of $5? These are some of the wackier and more creative ideas on Fiverr, a website that connects people who provide and purchase small services, each priced at $5. Fiverr is one example of a growing selection of websites that provide a new and technologically improved version of the side-hustle.

Amanda Carter, a Seattle resident, started using Fiverr when she was looking for more freelance work, after her income from writing started to drop. Her more popular tasks include Whiteboard video animation where she makes commercials, tutorials and funny shorts. She uses Fiverr as a source of part-time income. "When I first started out," she said, "I didn’t expect much to come of it, although after more than a year on Fiverr and other micro-niche sites, it quickly became a part-time income. Still, ‘why’ I do it has less to do with income than it does with doing things I love to do for other people.”

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The side-hustle is no longer just about mowing your neighbor’s lawn, delivering pizzas, moonlighting at your local bar or shoveling driveways. In the new economy, technology makes it easier than ever to connect people with small projects, whether it is assembling Ikea furniture, vacation planning, or my personal Fiverr favorite, making a personal recording with a green monster puppet. Sites like Fiverr, Task Rabbit, Zaarly, and Gigwalk provide would-be micro-entrepreneurs with more options for earning supplemental income to pay off student loans, take a vacation, save for a home down payment or just stay afloat in a difficult economy.

John DiMarco, author of Career Power Skills, brainchild of portfoliovillage.com and Associate Professor of Communication at St. John's University in New York City, encourages his students to develop side-hustles while they are also starting their careers. “We live in a very freelance-driven society now," DiMarco said. "Ultimately you are the company, and companies have multiple income streams. We live in a society where everyone can create a business.”

DiMarco makes a distinction between having a side job, and a side hustle, in that a side hustle is “where you figure out what you want to do." He sees the rise of the side-hustle as something that will hopefully lead to continued growth in creativity.

Task Rabbit, one of the more popular sites to create a side-hustle and use your creativity, bills itself as an “online and mobile marketplace that connects neighbors to get things done.” Task Rabbit screens its aspiring “task rabbits” and requires an application, a video interview, and a criminal background check. Once approved, you are able to post your services and pricing, and you can also bid on tasks that have been posted. Because of the site’s focus on connecting neighbors to get things done, Task Rabbit is organized around location, with the site currently operating in nine cities around the country. You probably aren’t going to get rich from being a Task Rabbit, with average prices for some of the more popular tasks at $35 for grocery shopping, $60 for house cleaning, and $85 for handyman jobs. These average prices are before Task Rabbit takes its fee out of your earnings for its services. But, the site does offer useful options for earning some supplemental income as a micro-entrepreneur.

Zaarly has a slightly different take on micro-entrepreneurship compared to Task Rabbit, in that it is focused on allowing users to create online storefronts to sell goods and services. When Zaarly was initially launched in 2011, it had a similar approach to Task Rabbit in that users could “request anything” and connect to other users who could provide a particular good or service. Zaarly recently moved away from this model and is now focused on storefronts that showcase local goods and services. For example, there are storefronts delivering homemade chicken-soup to your door, running your local errands, hosting a cigar-smoking lesson for you and your buddies or giving a lesson on kitchen knife skills in your home.

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One of the more popular storefronts is operated by Myriah Zytoun, who sells made-from-scratch baked-goods, meals and assorted crafts. Zytoun discovered Zaarly about a year and a half ago when she responded to an ad on Craigslist to bake some cookies. The Craigslist ad routed her to the Zaarly site, and she began baking cookies for the Zaarly team and early Zaarly users. When the storefronts launched, her already popular business took off. “[Zaarly] provides all the exposure, marketing, promotional side of the business, so I can spend my time doing what really matters to me: cooking and baking meals for families,” Zytoun said.

The only drawback that she has experienced so far is that sometimes it is difficult to keep up with all of the orders that she receives as she has a full-time job and other entrepreneurial ventures in addition to her storefront. Perhaps one of the more rewarding benefits of the storefront is how it has allowed her to connect to others in her community.

“When you come in and teach someone how to make their favorite meal, or you deliver a week of meals to a sleep-deprived family that just had a baby, you form an instant connection with them," Zytoun said. "Oftentimes, I deliver to the same people time and again, and I start to get to know their families, and their story. On top of that, I get paid to surprise people at work with home-made cookies from their spouse, and what could be better than that?”

If the idea of an online storefront doesn’t appeal to you, Gigwalk offers another alternative to tap into your inner-entrepreneur. Gigwalk connects businesses to enlisted iPhone users who want to make money by completing various “gigs.” Users of Gigwalk download the iPhone app and must also pass a background check. The iPhone app filters gigs based on the user’s GPS, which allows the users to complete the “gigs” or micro-tasks when they are out-and-about. There is even a Gigwalk community, started by a couple of Gigwalkers, to share Gigwalking tips, such as how to plan your Gigwalking route, what equipment to bring and how to dress. Examples of “gigs” include such things as verifying roadblocks, driving restrictions or the existence of red light cameras. Other “gigs” include taking photos of the interior of restaurants and restaurant menus. Gigwalkers capture this information with their iPhone cameras and send the information to the business that solicited the micro-task. Gigwalk is currently active in seven cities and is continuing to expand.

The new and technologically improved side-hustle may not be for everyone, but if you are creative and entrepreneurially focused, you might just line your wallet with a modest but welcome wad of cash.

Also see: How Big Brands Are Using Supply Chain Storytelling

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