8 Side Gigs for Federal Workers Affected by the Government Shutdown

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There’s no need to state the obvious here, especially if you’re a government employee.

The government has been shut down for more than a month, and many federal workers have now missed their second paycheck. Thousands have applied for unemployment, according to The New York Times and, while idle, many seek side gigs.

During this time, it’s difficult to know what to do. If you’re working without pay, you have little time to look for income elsewhere. If you’re furloughed, who’s going to hire you knowing you could leave to take your government job back at any time? But you need the income.

Although a side gig — or even two or three — won’t necessarily replace your lost or delayed income, it can help offset some of these challenges. It’s temporary work that pays relatively quickly.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Take on Freelance Assignments

You’ve got skills, so flaunt them.

Upwork is a great platform if you’re just wading into the freelance world.

Once you create a profile, search through thousands of gigs based on your skills and interests. If you find one you’re interested in, apply.

One of the perks of Upwork is that it handles all financial transactions, eliminating any unease or questions of, “Will they really pay me?!” Upwork takes a 20% fee for the first $500 you bill with each client.

Fiverr is another freelance platform you can check out if you don’t have luck on Upwork.

2. Share Your Spare Room (or Couch) With Travelers

If you have a spare room, you might as well try to earn some money by listing it on Airbnb.

If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could earn enough money to offset the cost of rent or mortgage payments.

And, hey, even if you don’t have a spare room, you can get in on the Airbnb action. Folks across the country are getting creative.

A few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one. We talked to Terence Michael, an Airbnb superhost based in Los Angeles.

Here are some of his tips:

  • Break out the labelmaker. “I have the entire house loaded with labels,” says Michael. “They look nice; they’re modern. This helps people feel less helpless.”
  • Be a good host, and stock your place with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels. Here’s a little hack from Michael: “I order on Amazon and have it delivered when people are there.”
  • Be kind to your neighbors. “I say, ‘I’m not going to put anyone here who I think won’t be good for you,’” Michael explains. “And I turn a lot of big groups away, especially in Nashville. I don’t want anyone going to the cops or the city.”

(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)

3. Drive People Around Town

Instead of watching your car sit idly in the driveway, use it to make some extra money. No, it’s not going to replace your paycheck, but it is a fairly simple side gig.

Try driving with Lyft. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.

Because it’s simple to switch between apps, many Lyft drivers also sign up as a driver partner with Uber.

As a partner driver with Uber, you’re an independent contractor. You set your own schedule and work as much or as little as you want.

If you want to give it a try, here are a few things to keep in mind: You must be at least 21 years old, have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the U.S. (three years if you’re under 23 years old), have a valid U.S. driver’s license and pass a background check.

Finally, your car must be a four-door, seat at least four passengers (excluding the driver), be registered in-state and be covered by in-state insurance.

4. Let off Some Steam, and Hang out With Dogs

If you’re totally stressed but love hanging out with dogs, Rover might be your perfect gig.

The online network connects dog walkers and sitters to local dog owners through its 4.9-star-rated app, so you don’t have to staple flyers on every utility pole across town.

Rover says sitters can earn as much as $1,000 a month.

Rover dog-sitter requirements vary by location. In general, you must:

  • Be 18 years or older.
  • Pass a background check.
  • Have access to the Rover app (iOS or Android).

Here’s how it works: You’ll create an online sitter profile where you’ll answer questions about your experience with puppers and your schedule availability.

You can choose to offer a variety of services, including dog walking, overnight boarding at your home or theirs, and daycare. Boarding is the app’s most popular service, so offering it can get you more gigs. You set your own rates. (Rover keeps a small percentage as a service fee.)

Dog owners will reach out to you. Accept which gigs you want, then start snugglin’ pups. As soon as you complete a service, you’ll be paid within two days.

5. Shop and Bag Groceries (No Need to Deliver)

Sure, there are a number of grocery delivery services out there (think: Shipt, PeaPod), but if you’re not into the idea of driving your car around town, there’s another option:

Instacart, a grocery-delivery service, is looking for part-time in-store shoppers who simply shop and bag orders.

To qualify, you must:

  • Be 18 or older.
  • Be eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Have access to an iPhone 5 or Android 4.4 (or newer).
  • Be able to lift 30 to 40 pounds.

You choose the hours you work (up to 29 hours a week) and get paid per order weekly. Rates will vary by location.

If you want to get real adventurous (or work more hours) you can also sign on as a full-service shopper, meaning you’ll deliver the groceries, too.

Once you sign up to become a shopper, Instacart will reach out about an orientation.

6. Help With Odd Jobs

If you’re handy, consider helping your neighbors out with odd jobs around the house.

Rather than going door to door, connect with people in your area who need help getting things done through TaskRabbit — anything from picking up dry cleaning to putting together Ikea furniture.

Keep an eye out for virtual tasks, which are mostly centered around personal assistance, administrative work or research help. You can do those and earn money without even walking out your door.

7. Find Nannying Gigs

Parents, oldest siblings and former camp counselors: This one’s for you.

Whether you want to look after school-aged kids on Saturday nights or help tired parents after school, you can find opportunities to use your childcare experience to earn cash.

Look within your circle of friends and acquaintances first, as parents are more likely to trust someone they know. Ask friends if they know anyone else who could use a few hours to themselves, whether it’s to grocery shop or simply to head to the gym.

You can also let parents find you through Care.com. Rates on the platform will vary by city, but the average rate for babysitters in 2017 was $16.20 an hour, according to Care.com’s 2018 Cost of Care Survey.

8. Sell Your Plasma

If you’re not afraid of needles, you could consider selling your plasma. It’s a way to get paid, and it also helps others in need.

The process takes about two hours, but it’s relatively simple. You’re free to read or watch TV while a machine draws your blood and separates the plasma.

It’s common for plasma donation centers to pay between $20 and $30 per visit, up to twice a week.

Interested? Search “plasma center + [your city]” for options, and ask your friends for referrals — many centers offer referral sign-up bonuses.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.