Wallet feeling a little thin this month? Looking to pad your emergency fund? An increasing number of niche networking sites are popping up to help wannabe-workers find flexible, unique, part-time opportunities, many of which mesh well with busy schedules.
One such networking site, Sitter Pals, leverages parents’ personal networks to connect babysitters with childcare jobs. “The online world presents a much more efficient way to match people,” said Amanda Armstrong, founder and president of Sitter Pals. “The whole premise was connecting the babysitters I know and sitters my friends use, so when I need a sitter, I know who’s available – before I didn’t have that information.”
Sittercity.com and Care.com provide similar services, yet social networks that pair job seekers with side gigs aren’t isolated to child care. Check out Freelancer.com or Elance.com for design work, copywriting or other freelance projects. Many of these jobs can be completed from anywhere.
At Sitter Pal, having on online bank of open jobs gives sitters the flexibility to apply for as many or as few jobs as they want, a major benefit, especially if you can’t commit to the set schedule of a traditional part-time gig. Sitters can also showcase their talents and list skills from CPR certifications to language fluencies to a willingness to run errands.
Anna Kenneally, a sophomore at University of San Diego, has found the Sitter Pals network particularly advantageous for working students. Last summer, Kenneally joined the network in Tulsa while home on summer break. Now back at school, she hopes to grow her existing network in California to make some extra cash while she studies for her degree.
“I’ll be studying, but if I can make 40 bucks in a night, that would be great to help out with everything,” Kenneally said. “I love that about babysitting being a student. I might randomly have to stay in on a Friday night for a chemistry test on Monday, so it allows me to be able to pick when I want to commit to taking on some hours.”
And if minding little ones isn’t your thing, Sitter Pals has an option to sign up for house and pet sitting, too. “That’s really flexible with your work schedule because it doesn’t require that you are there at the house the entire time,” Armstrong said. “You can come by and take care of the dogs on your lunch break or housesit in the evenings and you’re still available to work your day job.”
The benefits of using a networking site to line up side gigs don’t stop there. Forming connections through these opportunities means you can also leverage those relationships in the future, using those clients as references or to gain referrals.
Whether you’re dog-sitting or social-media consulting or freelance writing, pursuing a side gig in addition to your day job benefits you in the long run, said Marci Alboher, vice president of nonprofit think tank Civic Ventures and author of One Person/Multiple Careers.
“For young professionals, these are their prime years to pick up a ‘slash’ or two that they can have for the rest of their careers,” Alboher said of having multiple jobs. “It gives you more options for income and to have the lifestyle you want.”
But while being a slasher — an individual who might struggle to answer “What do you do?” with a single word or phrase — might sound financially appealing, it can be challenging to juggle multiple jobs. You run the risk of burnout if your schedule is too rigorous, and you could face issues while trying to reconcile different job responsibilities and skill sets.
Do you use a niche networking site to make extra money? Which one?
Meg Handley is a writer and online journalist who covers a wide range of money and business topics including economics, investing, and real estate. She lives in Washington, D.C. and tweets as @mmhandley.