Today’s simple graphics will enlighten you on the power of baby steps and the potency of small repeated marginal gains.
A Baby’s Growth
It’s easy to overlook the rapid growth that humans undergo.
At first, we’re a helpless whiny lump that’s capable of only three things: eat, sleep, bathroom. This baby, one might assume, must have a pretty low ceiling.
Fast forward two full years and…ok, some progress has happened. Our baby is now zooming around of her feet, and she’s babbling, and she’s feeding herself, albeit poorly. These are some true baby steps. Small progress. But this is largely still a helpless child.
By age five, she’s talking. That’s cool. She can eat food without spilling, she can read (whoa!), and she can run around. Compared to an adult, she’s small and weak and dumb (sorry, it’s true!). But there’s been fantastic progress.
I won’t go much further. We know that brains and bodies continue to grow into adulthood. And we know that adult humans are capable of amazing accomplishments. But the path from helpless whiny lump to amazing adult—that path was walked one baby step at a time.
Let’s bring back Wallace
Remember Wallace from “The Best Time to Invest?”
He’s back, and he’s trying to improve himself via a similar baby step method. What’s he improving?
It could be anything, financial or otherwise. Perhaps Wallace wants a fully funded emergency fund. He wants to eat a healthier diet. Or maybe he wants to be a better writer.
I’m going to refer to these improvements as levels. Wallace is at Level 1 right now. He’s a whiny helpless lump, but he’s looking to grow.
Wallace is going to focus on building towards his goals using a simple 1% improvement every week. Whatever the goal, whatever the skill. Wallace’s wants to take baby steps of 1% improvement each week.
Wallace’s will improve from 1.00 to 1.01 in Week 1.
And then he’ll improve from 1.01 to 1.021 in Week 2.
Slowly but surely, Wallace will progress. His level will improve.
But baby steps are slow
Baby steps are slow. And that’s why baby step improvements can be frustrating (at least for adults—not so much for babies). Take a look at Wallace’s first year of progress. It’s that little blue streak at the bottom of the plot.
Whether he’s saving money or writing a blog or improving at chess, Wallace has barely made any progress (at least, based on my chosen Y-axis).
But Wallace is a grinder. He believes in the power of baby steps. So he continues to focus on weekly 1% improvements for two more years.
Ok! At least Wallace’s growth is no longer looking like a flat line. Let’s fast forward another couple years.
Wallace hits the curve
After five years, it’s apparent that Wallace is starting to “hit the curve.” His 1% improvements no longer look like a straight line. Instead, those improvements are building on one another in a compounding manner.
When he started, Wallace was at “Level 1.” His 1% improvement was tiny—1% of 1 is 0.01. But after hundreds of 1% improvements, he’s now around Level 13. The 1% improvements now increase his level by 0.13 each week. In ~6 weeks of Year 5, Wallace grows more than he did the entire Year 1.
All styles of exponential growth exhibit this behavior. Growth compounds on growth. The early steps feel slow, barely making progress. The last steps feel monumental. But those monumental steps wouldn’t have been possible without the years of slow progress beforehand.
Many 4-year olds can’t read, but many 9-year olds can read chapter books. Five years of consistent practice can bring a sea change of improvement.
It’s just like the parable of rice filling up a chessboard.
The curve continues to steepen through Year 10. Now at level 177, the idea of being at level 1 is a distant memory for Wallace. It’s just like the idea that “a lot can change in ten years.”
But are baby steps always possible?
I’ve shown you an assumed scenario where Wallace is always able to make 1% improvements. And maybe that’s too ambitious of an assumption.
Even if Wallace hits the top of his game—like Lebron, Adele, or Meryl Streep—he will probably hit some sort of plateau. You can’t necessarily get better forever. But the goal doesn’t need to be infinite growth. Instead, the goal is to find an effective mindset to achieve growth. And that’s what the baby step method provides.
A widely shared story of baby steps involves coach Dave Brailsford’s leadership of the British Cycling team.
Brailsford’s vision expanded beyond training and racing and physical attributes. Instead, Brailsford wanted to improve every aspect of a cyclist’s life—diet, sleep, even relationships. Of course, it included their training and recovery and equipment, too. Brailsford was thinking about baby steps. If he could find 70 different places to make a 1% improvement, the cyclists would end up 100% better (1.01 ^ 70 = 2). Sounds easy, right?
They bought more comfortable pillows to help the cyclists sleep through the night. They cut out refined foods, replacing them with something nutritious. The team considered every component on the bicycle where mass could be reduced, even if only by a gram.
These small improvements worked wonders.
Under Brailsford’s leadership from 2007 to 2017, British cyclists won 5 Tour de France titles. And they won 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals. Oh, and they won 178 world championships. British cycling dominated the world cycling scene.
Baby steps work.
Baby steps in personal finance
There are plenty of opinions about simple financial goals that you can add to your baby step to-do list.
Unburying yourself—from debt, from bad habits, etc.—isn’t a one step process. It takes time. And it requires small improvements. You know—baby steps.
You can earn money in bits and pieces. A little raise here, a side hustle there. You can find odd jobs or use smartphone apps that pay you money. Little baby steps all over.
College loans and mortgages can take decades to repay. Learning a new budgeting system requires patience. The math behind interest rates might take a few attempts to understand. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And your personal finance success will take time too. But it’ll come if you stick with it.
This plot shows the small baby steps I’ve made over the past two years. In blue are my slow and steady investments. In red is my slow and steady debt payoff. And the white circles combine the two to show a steady increase in net worth.
Winning the lottery would be cool. So would investing in next Amazon, Apple, etc. while they’re still a startup. But if I don’t get that lucky, I’ll be ok. My baby steps are slowly building up.
Keep on Growing
Take it away, Clapton!
And, as always, thanks for reading the Best Interest. If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.
And thank you to Feedspot for including me in their Top 100 personal finance blogs. What an honor! Gotta keep on growing…
On Saturday evening, I had a chance to chat with my friends Wally and Jodie. You might remember them from a reader case study from last August. They’re the couple that wants to get their finances in order but they’re worried because they’re starting with less than zero.
When we chatted in August, Wally and Jodie had over $35,000 in debt. They had variable incomes, but somehow seemed to spend exactly what they earned — about $3000 per month after taxes. Worst of all, they were behind on some payments.
Now, eight months later, their situation has improved.
Over smoked German sausage and beer, Wally and Jodie told me about their progress. (My dog, Tahlequah, was eager to take part in the conversation. Or maybe it was the sausage she wanted?)
Taking Baby Steps
“Based on your advice, we’ve worked hard to increase our incomes,” Jodie told me. “We’ve both been picking up extra shifts whenever possible. And I started a second job that pays pretty well.”
“So, you’ve been able to get a gap between your income and your spending?” I asked.
“You bet,” said Wally. “By working more, we don’t have time to spend much money. In August, we didn’t have any gap between our earning and spending. Our gap was zero. Now our gap is almost $2000! And we’ve been using the debt snowball method to get out of debt. We’ve already paid off a bunch of smaller stuff and now have $438 extra per month for debt payoffs. Plus, we have an emergency fund.”
“This all sounds amazing,” I said. “Great work!”
“It is amazing,” Wally said. “This is the best shape I’ve ever been in financially. But we’re struggling to figure out what to do next.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well,” said Jodie. “We’re getting married in September. We don’t know how much to budget for that. Meanwhile, we still have a lot of debt. We owe about $10,000 on Wally’s car. We had to replace my Mini Cooper last winter, and that brought us another $10,000 of debt. Plus, I still owe on my school loans.”
I did some mental math. While the couple’s cash flow has improved, I was a little nervous that they hadn’t actually decreased their debt since the last time we talked about money. That said, I know Jodie’s old car had been a thorn in their side. And they have paid down nearly $10,000 in miscellaneous debts.
“The real issue is that we can’t seem to find balance,” Wally said. “We’re burned out. We’ve been working so much that we never have time for ourselves. Or each other. It’s affecting our moods and our attitudes.”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s tough.”
Wally nodded. “Now I have a friend who wants us to fly out to his wedding,” he said. “We’ve done the math, and we can’t afford it. He’s offered to pay for the trip, but we don’t know how we feel about that. We want to go, but even if we do accept his help, it’ll cost us a few hundred bucks — plus whatever income we lose while we’re gone.”
“What should we do?” Jodie asked. “We thought saving more would reduce the stress, but we’re just as anxious as ever. Well, maybe not anxious in the same way, I guess, but still. We’re worried about money — even with a $2000 gap each month.”
“Trust me,” I said. “The money worry never goes away. Everybody has money anxiety, no matter how much they earn, no matter how much they have saved.”
Worrying About Money
“Do you worry about money?” Wally asked.
“Yes, of course,” I said. “I’m basically financially independent, but I still have money anxiety. In fact, I’m so worried about it that this year I’m tracking every penny I earn and spend. And, just like you, there always seems to be something that comes up for me to spend on. There’s my heart-attack scare, which now looks like it’ll cost me $7500. I just paid a huge tax bill. And there’s all of this travel I’ve committed to this year. It’s always something.”
“Should we fly to my friend’s wedding?” Wally asked. “I haven’t seen him in a long time. I can tell it’s important to him for us to be there.”
“That’s a tough call,” I said. “And it’s an example of how personal finance isn’t just about the numbers. There are relationships and emotions to consider too.”
“From a financial perspective, I don’t think you should go. But it’d be hypocritical of me to tell you that. My cousin Duane is still fighting cancer, but he wants to make another trip to Europe next month. At first, I was reluctant to join him. Like I said, I’m trying to cut expenses this year because I feel like I’m spending too much. But you know what? I’m going. So, you see, my advice and my actions are at odds here.”
I didn’t know how to tell Wally and Jodie, but my biggest concern with their situation is that it seems like they’re getting ready to stop the race when they’ve barely begun. They’re not out of debt yet. They’ve made some excellent progress, but there’s still a long way to go.
They’ve spent eight months on this project. From the looks of it, they have another eighteen months to go — but that’s if they use the gap they’ve created to accelerate their debt payments. If they don’t choose this route, it’s going to take them even longer.
At the same time, I get where they’re coming from about feeling cramped. Sure, there’s a finite amount of time until they get the debt paid off, then they can loosen up. But when you’re in the thick of it, eighteen months can feel like eighteen years.
The key, of course, is to find balance. And I think that’s what Wally and Jodie are trying to do.
They’re not trying to quit the race early. They don’t want to get behind on payments like they used to be. They don’t want to spend their emergency fund or to stop their debt snowball. What they want is to find a balance between today and tomorrow.
I didn’t mention it to them at the time, but I think they should look at the balanced money formula from Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi’s excellent All Your Worth.
Warren and Tyagi argue that in order to achieve financial balance, your after-tax spending should be allocated like this:
At least 20% should go to Saving (which includes debt reduction).
No more than 50% should be allocated to Needs (which includes housing, utilities, healthcare, basic food, and basic clothing).
The rest — around 30% — should go to Wants (which is everything else).
Warren and Tyagi are adamant that less than half your budget should go to Needs. If you pour too much toward necessities, you don’t have room in your budget for fun or the future.
The authors are just as insistent that you should build room into your budget for Wants. “You should ask yourself,” they write, “are you making enough room for fun?”
Wally and Jodie aren’t spending much on Needs at the moment, but they’re not spending much on Wants either. They’ve been pumping most of their money into Saving (in the form of debt reduction). This is a Good Thing. But maybe it’s too much of a good thing?
Making a Plan
On Sunday morning, Wally sent me an email. After meeting with me, he and Jodie formulated a plan:
Until their wedding in September, they’ll keep their debt snowball where it is today: minimum payments plus the $438 they’ve freed from satisfied debts.
They’ll use an envelope-like budget for entertainment, travel, gifts, dates, and personal items.
With the rest of their monthly gap, they’ll create a dedicated savings account for their wedding. After the wedding, they’ll throw this money at debt.
This seems like a good, purposeful plan to me. It balances today and tomorrow. And you can be sure that I’ll follow up with them in the fall to make sure they’ve stuck to the plan — that they’ve remembered to prioritize their debt snowball again.
In the meantime, I sent Wally this Reddit post in which a young guy realized that by pushing for a 65% saving rate, he was miserable. He writes:
I’m currently shooting for a 55% saving rate and I cannot tell you how much more I enjoy life. I went from feeling like I couldn’t spend a dollar that wasn’t strictly budgeted, to travelling with friends, going to concerts, and enjoying the pleasures of life. That 10% made all the difference in the world
As for me, I still feel anxious. I’ve done a good job of controlling my small, everyday expenses this year, but the big stuff is still stressing me out. I need to heed my own advice and find better balance. That will come, I think, as I consciously make better decisions about future large expenses — and as I work to increase my own income.
College students obviously have busy schedules with classes, assignments, social lives, and extracurricular activities, but many students also need to find the time to make some money.
During the 2019-2020 academic year, the cost for the average college student was $30,050 (including tuition, fees, room, and board) according to EducationData.org.
Many college students have part-time jobs in order to cover part of that cost, but starting a business is another way to make money. Starting your own business may not offer the same guaranteed income that you would get from a job with an hourly rate, but there are some significant benefits, including:
The opportunity to pursue something that you enjoy.
The possibility to gain valuable experience that can help you after graduation.
The chance to grow a business that may turn into a full-time income someday.
The potential to earn more than you could make with the average part-time job.
With those benefits in mind, college can be a great time to start a business.
Not all businesses are equally suited for college students. Ideally, the business should be free or very inexpensive to start, because the last thing college students need is more debt. All of the business ideas covered in this article could be started with very little investment, and they could also be run part-time while you’re taking classes.
Student to CEO started a social media marketing business as a 19-year-old college student. Ashley continued to grow the business throughout her time in college and after graduating in 2019. Ashley jumped into running the business full-time.
Because of the combination of high demand and excellent income potential, this is one of the best business opportunities for college students.
2. Virtual Assistant
Another service-related business that has a very strong demand right now is to work as a virtual assistant. You could become a virtual assistant by working through a website like Fancy Hands, but you’ll have much higher income potential if you start your own business.
As a virtual assistant (VA), you could offer a wide variety of services like:
Moderating online forums or Facebook Groups
Providing customer service
Managing social profiles
Managing a blog
Setting up appointments
And much more
You could take a general approach and offer a very wide range of services, or you could specialize in a particular aspect. Specializing may allow you to charge a higher hourly rate, but getting clients is a bit easier with a generalized approach.
If you’re looking to get started, check out 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success.
One of the most flexible business opportunities is to start a blog. Not only can you work whenever and wherever you want, but you can also choose the topics that you want to cover on your blog.
Unlike the service-related businesses that were mentioned so far, blogging is a business opportunity that will require some patience, because you’re unlikely to start making money right away. If you’re in a position where you’re able to put in the work without seeing immediate results, blogging can be a great business.
Blogging offers truly unlimited income potential. Some bloggers are able to earn five or six figures per month by working on something that they enjoy.
There are many different ways to make money from a blog, with the most common methods including:
Affiliate programs (getting paid to promote products or services from other companies)
Publishing sponsored content
Offering a service
Selling a product
If your goal is to make money now, consider other options instead of blogging. But if your goal is to start a business that may be able to provide a full-time income by the time you graduate, blogging could be an excellent choice.
4. Freelance Writer
If you enjoy writing but you’d rather work for clients than try to build your own successful blog, working as a freelance writer is an option that you should consider.
As a freelance writer, you could be a generalist and cover just about any topic, or you could specialize in a particular industry or topic. Specializing could give you higher earning potential, but it may be harder to find clients when you’re just starting out.
Freelance writing is one of my favorite business opportunities for a number of reasons:
You can get started right away and you’ll be making money as soon as you land your first client.
It’s possible to get started with $0 in expenses.
There are plenty of opportunities for beginners.
There are also plenty of higher-paying gigs for more seasoned writers.
It’s very possible to earn an excellent hourly rate (although you’ll typically be paid per word or per project).
Demand for the work is likely to remain strong, due to the vast amount of content being published online everyday.
It’s also a totally flexible business. You can work the hours that suit your schedule and scale up or down depending on the amount of time that you’re able to dedicate to the business. It’s definitely possible to work as a freelance writer part-time in college and then transition to full-time by picking up a few more clients (or by doing more work for the clients you already have.
To get started check out Freelance Writing Success.
Another business opportunity for those who like to write is to become a self-published author. Thanks to platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), anyone can become an author.
Through KDP, you can write and sell e-books and paperbacks that are printed on demand, which means you won’t need to invest money in large runs of printed books.
Amazon obviously offers a massive platform that makes it possible to reach millions of book readers. You can write and sell books in many different genres, so the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Becoming a self-published author is similar to blogging in the fact that you’ll need to be willing to put in a lot of work before you really start to make a serious income.
So far we’ve looked at several business opportunities that involve creating written content (blogger, freelance writer, and author). A similar opportunity exists for those who want to create video content, and the demand for online video content is growing at an incredible pace.
YouTube is obviously the #1 platform for video content, and anyone can start a YouTube channel in effort to capitalize on the opportunity.
If you look at successful YouTube channels, there is a great deal of variety. They may be educational, entertaining, funny, or just straight-up weird (I’m constantly amazed by the YouTube videos that my kids find).
This is another business opportunity that offers high income potential but requires some time and patience to build. The YouTube Partner Program, YouTube’s advertising program, requires you to have at 1,000 subscribers and at least 4,000 watch hours in order to make money from advertising.
Podcasting is another type of content-related business, focusing on audio content (although some podcasts are also available in video format). Although podcasting has been popular for several years, it’s still a much more wide-open market as compared to blogging.
You could start a podcast on a topic of your choice and make money through:
Sponsorships and advertisements
Creating and selling your own products
Just like blogging or starting a YouTube channel, starting a podcast would require you to put in the time to build your audience before you’re able to earn a significant income from it.
One of the interesting benefits of podcasting is that you may be able to build a very strong network. Podcasts often rely on guest interviews for content, and there are thousands of people who are actively looking for spots to appear on podcasts as a guest. Podcasters are able to meet a lot of people and make a lot of connections. As a college student, this could be extremely valuable to you if your podcast is related to the field that you plan to work in after graduation.
One of the most practical ways to make money as a college student is to become a tutor. If you’re strong in a particular subject, you can tutor other students in your class that may be struggling, or students who are a year or so behind you. You could also tutor high school (or younger) students.
As a tutor, you can earn a nice hourly rate for sharing the knowledge that you already have. There are no costs to start the business, and you can start making money as soon as you have your first client.
If you have some photography skills, starting a photography business is a natural choice, and there are several different ways that you could make money as a photographer, including:
Taking portraits or family photos for clients in your local area
Selling your photos at stock photography sites like Shutterstock
Becoming a contributor at Vecteezy and giving away free photos (you get paid based on number of downloads)
Writing for online publications like photography blogs
Creating and selling digital products for photographers (like Lightroom Presets)
Becoming an Instagram influencer (and selling sponsorships)
A photography business would be ideal for students who are studying something creative like art, design, or photography. It’s also the type of business that you could start part-time in college and grow to full-time after graduation.
10. Graphic Designer
Starting a business as a graphic designer is a great opportunity for those that have the right skillset. There is plenty of work available and sites like Fiverr make it possible to get started relatively quickly.
Of course, this would be an ideal business for students who are studying design, but anyone with some design skills could make it work. There are plenty of small projects for clients like designing images and graphics to be used with blog posts or social media posts.
Like several of the other opportunities mentioned already, a graphic design business is something that you could do part-time through college and then turn into a full-time business later.
11. Web Designer
Much like graphic design, web design is a skill that’s needed by many businesses, and you can make good money if you’re able to deliver for your clients.
Web design has changed a lot over the past decade. Today, many web designers are using platforms that require little-to-no coding to create custom websites for clients. You could use pre-made WordPress themes or plugins that give you customization options without the need to code.
Of course, if you’re able to code a website, that’s great. But if you’re not able to code, that doesn’t mean that you can’t work as a web designer.
Take some time to get familiar with a particular WordPress theme or drag-and-drop builder plugin and you’ll be able to meet the needs of most small businesses.
12. App Developer
If you have some coding skills, becoming an app developer is an excellent option. You could either develop mobile apps for clients, or start your own app in attempt to grow it as your business.
Coding skills are highly valuable, and the demand is likely to remain strong for the foreseeable future.
13. Dog Walker
Like many other service-related businesses, becoming a dog walker allows you to start making money right away. You can either create a profile on Rover or find clients in your local area on your own.
In many ways, becoming a dog walker is an ideal opportunity for college students:
You can start making money quickly
Decent average hourly rate
Flexible schedule since appointments can be scheduled around your classes
Lots of potential clients
Doesn’t require any experience or specific skills
14. T-Shirt Designer
For those who are creative, starting a t-shirt business may be an ideal opportunity. You could use a platform like Merch by Amazon or Printify to sell your t-shirt designs with a print-on-demand business.
A Print-on-demand business allows you to get started without the need to purchase inventory. You’ll upload your designs and the shirts will be printed as they are ordered.
This is a business model that will require some time and patience to build. You might not start making money right away, but the income potential is there if you have a long-term approach.
A college campus with thousands of students can be an ideal place to start and grow your own t-shirt business. Get some friends to wear your shirts and start to build some brand recognition and you may find that sales start coming quickly.
If you’re interested in starting and growing an online business, e-commerce is an excellent option. E-commerce has never been more popular than it is today with millions of people not wanting to risk getting sick by shopping in stores.
You can sell just about anything through your e-commerce store, and you can also take advantage of existing platforms that allow you to launch a business very quickly. Amazon’s FBA program is an excellent option because Amazon will handle all of the order fulfillment for you, which means you won’t need to pack boxes or run to the post office every day.
Aside from selling on Amazon, you could use a platform like Shopify to create your own e-commerce website without the need to hire a designer or developer.
You might assume that an e-commerce business would require you to store your own inventory, which would not be ideal if you’re living in a college dorm room. But there are many warehousing businesses that receive and store your inventory for a relative low cost.
16. Book Reseller
Every college student knows that textbooks can be very costly. The best way to reduce the amount that you spend on textbooks is to buy used books from other students.
Most students are eager to sell their old textbooks because once the class is over, they’ll probably never use the textbook again.
You could start a business buying and reselling textbooks. There are probably some bookstores on or near campus that already do this, but you’ll be able to offer better prices thanks to lower overhead costs.
This business does require some investment in order to buy the books, but it’s possible to get started for a minimal amount and then grow the business slowly by reinvesting all of the money that you’re making. Having some money to invest when you get started will allow you to grow faster.
College students who have musical abilities may choose to turn those skills into a money-making opportunity. You could make money by performing, by offering lessons, or even by creating music and selling it online.
Some of the other opportunities on this list are likely to offer better income potential, but this could be a good choice for someone who plans to pursue a career in music after college.
18. Personal Trainer
Are you in the gym every day taking care of your own body? If so, you could probably make some money by using your knowledge and experience to help others as a personal trainer.
It’s possible to make some money by working as a model in your spare time. You could be working for a photographer who is taking stock photos to sell online, for photos that will be used in advertising, or any number of other things.
To get started, you could use a site like Model Mayhem or advertise your services on Craigslist. You can also build up your profile on Instagram or other platforms that can provide some exposure.
If you’re looking for a business that you can start quickly with no particular skills or experience, flipping could be a good option. It involves going to yard sales, flea markets, auctions, or other places where you can buy things for very low prices, and then reselling them for a profit. You might sell on eBay or the Facebook Marketplace to get higher prices than what you’d be able to get at a yard sale.
This is a relatively easy business that anyone can learn. As you get more experience, you’ll have a better idea of the types of items that are likely to make a profit, as well as how much you should expect to make from an item. To get started, you can refer to this list of the easiest things to flip for profit.
This free workshop will show you how to get started in 14-days or less: Flea Market Flipper
21. House Cleaner
Another business that can be started with no particular skills or experience is cleaning houses. You can schedule clients around your other commitments, so it’s a very flexible opportunity that can be done part-time.
As is the case with other service-related businesses, you can start making money as soon as you land your first client. Finding a client is usually not that difficult. Talk to everyone in your network to let them know that you’re looking for clients, post an ad on Craigslist, put your contact info on bulletin boards in your local area, or use a website like Care.com to create a profile.
22. Child Care Provider
Child care or babysitting is an ideal part-time opportunity. You can find some regular clients that need help on a consistent basis and work to grow your business by word-of-mouth. It’s not the highest-paying opportunity covered in this article, but there is a lot of work available.
Build Your Own Business As A College Student To Earn Extra Income
If you’re a college student and you’re looking to make some money, consider starting a business from home rather than settling for a low-paying part-time job.
Starting a business may not be the right fit in every situation, but consider the options covered in this article and see if one of them might be the right fit for you.
When Jeff Neal’s wife told him she wanted to quit her job to stay at home with their kids, he had to think about how to make one income work. With over $21,000 in student loans, there wasn’t much extra money lying around. Losing another income stream would be difficult.
But rather than give up hope, Neal did something no one expected. He launched a side business that helped bring in extra money: selling crickets online.
Yes, you heard that right. Crickets.
Now, Neal makes $600 a month selling bugs online at The Critter Depot, which helps him pay off his debt. Read on to learn more about this odd side hustle and how Neal has turned it into a steady income stream.
Searching for a Side Hustle
Neal graduated from Temple University and got a job as a project manager. While he made a good salary, he had student loan debt and a growing family. When his wife decided she wanted to stay home with the kids, Neal knew he had to make changes.
“My wife wanted to stay home, so I had to take full responsibility as the sole provider,” he says.
Since his full-time job involves e-commerce, he focused his side-hustle search on online jobs. After doing extensive research, he decided to put all of his efforts on one specific niche.
The area that he identified was in the pet industry; reptile and exotic animal owners need live crickets to feed their pets, but getting them can be difficult — and expensive. So, Neal’s site caters to pet owners, selling crickets of various sizes in bulk.
But before you rush out and buy tanks and crickets to replicate Neal’s success, you should know his approach is even more interesting. He actually doesn’t deal with the crickets at all. Instead, his business is a drop shipping company.
What Is Drop Shipping?
Drop shipping is a business model where the store doesn’t stock any of the items it sells. Instead, when a customer purchases a product, the drop shipper works with a manufacturer — or in this case, a cricket supplier — to fulfill the order. The drop shipper never comes into contact with the product, so wrangling crickets isn’t part of Neal’s day.
“I don’t know anything about raising crickets,” he admits. “They have short life spans and unique nutritional and environmental needs. It’s a lot of work that takes a lot of knowledge. When I set up my business, I found someone who breeds crickets. He takes care of them and ships them; I just handle the orders.”
For customers, drop shipping is a seamless process, whether it’s through Amazon or a private site. Most of the time, you don’t know when you’re buying from a drop shipper. Once your order is placed, the drop shipper works with the supplier to place the order, and you receive the item like you normally would.
Drop shipping can be a mutually beneficial relationship between the seller and supplier. In Neal’s case, he has the marketing expertise and skills to build a successful website and business. That gets the cricket farmer more exposure and more orders than he would get on his own. Neal estimates that he generates about $3,000 in sales each month from The Critter Depot and his cut is $600.
Previously, Neal primarily sold crickets on Amazon. But meeting Amazon’s strict standards is hard when you’re shipping live insects. He ended up taking his sales to just his website, which requires more work for him each day to build traffic.
His new income stream allows him to take advantage of other opportunities, too. He recently purchased the site Jason Coupon King, which generates another $700 a month in revenue.
Balancing a Side Gig With Life & Work
While Neal’s side hustle is successful, he has to balance his work with his full-time job and his family. But that’s why he says drop shipping is a great option. It gives him the flexibility he needs while still allowing him to earn extra money.
“I don’t have a television, so when I come home from work, I just spend time playing with the kids and catching up with my wife,” says Neal. “Once they’re in bed, I work on optimizing my websites, contributing to forums and building links to my sites.”
Neal says he spends an hour or two a day after work on his side hustle and that his business is still growing. The extra income is substantial enough to help him pay off his student loans early and give his family more wiggle room in their monthly budget. (You can keep tabs on your own finances by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
Making Extra Money
While selling crickets might not be for you, Neal’s story is just another example of the many ways you can make money on the side. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, or need more income to pay down debt or boost your emergency fund, launching a side hustle can be the right approach.
If you’re looking to make a little extra cash, and help others while you’re at it, you may want to consider donating plasma.
Thousands of Americans across the country are lining up to earn a little extra cash through blood plasma donation. The plasma donation process is similar to giving blood but does take a little longer. Thankfully you can be compensated for your time.
Donating plasma offers the potential to earn $300 to $400 a month. Before you get started, however, you need to be aware of what’s involved to help you make an informed decision.
ABC News that 94% of paid plasma that was used to create medicines around the world, was donated by American donors.
Blood plasma is the part of the blood that’s actually a clear liquid. It consists of water, enzymes, antibodies, and proteins. Plasma donation is different from giving blood at the Red Cross, however.
To obtain the clear plasma, your blood is drawn, then the plasma is separated. The blood is then returned to your body.
There are hundreds of donation centers around the country. However, to donate, you must typically meet some basic requirements.
You must be aged 18 to 69
You must weigh over 110 pounds
You must have proper levels of iron, hemoglobin, and blood
You need to pass a basic physical and be free of infectious diseases
You must have a legal Social Security Card or government ID to prove that you’re a citizen.
The rules can vary according to your home state. Local laws may even override the requirements of the plasma donation center. For example, some states have a higher age requirement than the typical center age of 18.
Some states also have rules prohibiting people with piercings or tattoos from donating. There may also be a minimum number of donations permitted within a specified timeframe.
If you don’t qualify as a plasma donor, you may be given a temporary or permanent deferral. Temporary deferrals occur if you’re sick, your blood, iron or hemoglobin levels are too low, or you’re recovering from a procedure. You’ll be advised on what to do and when you can return to donate plasma for money.
Permanent deferrals typically result from your age, weight, or if you have a medical condition that could negatively affect you or the recipient of your blood plasma. However, if you believe the permanent deferral was given in error, you can obtain a second medical opinion to try to overturn the decision.
How To Prepare To Donate Plasma
In order to donate plasma, you will need to hydrate, avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, eat healthily, and prepare the necessary paperwork.
Before you visit a plasma donation center, you will need to drink plenty of fluids and eat heart-healthy meals such as vegetables, fruits, and fish. You should also try to avoid high cholesterol, fatty foods.
Being properly hydrated is crucial, so you should drink plenty of water the day before and the day of donation. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol are diuretics, so it is best to avoid them, as they can dehydrate you.
When you arrive at the center, you will need to present your Social Security card, a photo ID and proof of address. Your name and address should match on all of your documentation.
What’s Involved In Donating Plasma?
If you’re a first time donor, you should plan for your visit to the center to take up to two hours. When you arrive at the center, you’ll be asked to complete a health history and go through a basic physical. This can include a heart check, urine test, and reflex test. They will also prick your finger to test your iron, blood, and hemoglobin levels.
Once they are ready for you to begin donating, you’ll be sat in a semi-reclining chair. The actual process looks similar to standard blood donation. However, as the process is more involved compared to donating blood, the actual donation part takes up to an hour.
When your blood is drawn, the center team separates the plasma using a plasmapheresis machine, and the blood will be returned to your body.
If you choose to donate again, the process will be quicker. Future donations typically take an hour, since you only need to confirm nothing has changed about your medical situation.
If you plan on donating plasma regularly, bear in mind that there are limits. Generally, you can donate no more than twice a week, but you need to leave 24 to 48 hours between donations. This allows your body enough time to replace the lost plasma. However, drinking plenty of water can assist in this process.
One common concern is if it will hurt to donate plasma. However, the discomfort involved is similar to donating blood.
In addition to the finger prick, the technician will use an IV and needle to draw your blood and return the plasma free blood to your body. When the blood is returned, it is mixed with saline. This can make it cold, which can cause a little discomfort. So, it is a good idea to bring a jacket or blanket.
Obviously, if you start to feel very uncomfortable during donation, tell the technician immediately.
How Much Can You Earn Via Your Plasma Donations?
If you choose to donate twice a week, there is the potential to make up to $400 a month or up to $50 per donation. That’s not too shabby, given that it will typically take 60 to 90 minutes per visit.
There are factors that will determine your earning potential for plasma donation, however. In addition to how often you donate, your weight, the quantity of plasma you donate, and which donation center you use will influence your earnings.
Typically, if it is your first time donating plasma, you’ll make more. Many centers have incentives for new donors, and since the process takes longer, you’re compensated accordingly.
Additionally, the FDA requires that plasma donations correspond with body weight. So you’ll get paid more if your body weight is more, since you can donate more plasma. Generally, the weight ranges are split up in ranges similar to this:
110 to 149 pounds
150 to 174 pounds
175 to 400 pounds
Also, you may have a certain type of protein that’s in high demand. If you carry this type of protein in your plasma, the center may offer you more money.
Some centers also offer “frequent flyer” incentives. So, you’ll receive more per donation if you regularly visit the same centers.
Where Can I Donate Plasma?
A great place to start when looking for the highest paying plasma donation center near you is to check out the website DonatingPlasma.org. It has an easy to use search tool where you can plug in your city/zip and it will show you centers near you.
Although the FDA inspects donation centers to ensure compliance with the laws, it does not own or manage them. These centers are operated by third-party for-profit companies, and there is no central organization that receives plasma. You’ll need to either use a site like DonatingPlasma.org or search Google for “plasma donation near me” and ensure you choose an FDA compliant location.
Highest-Paying Plasma Donation Centers
Plasma donation is a competitive business. It is worth comparing the earning potential if you have multiple centers in your local area. You may even find you can obtain higher than typical payouts.
A good starting point is to look for first-time plasma donor bonuses. Many centers promote bonuses on their websites (many of which you’ll find below). This could allow you to earn $500 in your first month rather than $300. Donation centers also run promotions where you can earn more if you return to donate again. Although it can feel strange to see promotions and coupons on a donation site, this is how the industry works, so be sure to take advantage of the best deal.
Here are some of the trusted donation centers in different states and what you can expect to be paid.
B Positive Plasma
B Positive Plasma is one of the highest paying plasma donation centers out there, but they currently only have locations in MD and NJ.
You can earn up to $500 a month, and they sometimes have promos for first-time donors where you can get $50 per donation for your first five donations.
You’ll get paid fast via a Visa Debit card and you can earn even more by referring a friend!
Biolife operates in 28 states in the USA, including AZ, AR, CO, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY.
New donors at certain centers can earn bonuses, which offers the potential to earn up to $600 in your first month. Centers also run local promotions. The typical rate is up to $50 per donation. Payments are made with a Biolife prepaid debit card.
Biotest Plasma Center
Biotest Plasma Center has locations in AR, FL, GA, IA, NC, NE, NM, OH, PA, SC, SD, TX. You can earn up to $50 for the first five donations, and subsequent donations will earn you $35 to $45. There are also sweepstakes and bonuses when you refer a friend, which can boost your earnings. Payment is made via a Mastercard prepaid debit card.
BPL Plasma has centers in AR, AZ, CO, FL, IL, KY, ME, MN, MO, NC, NM, OH, OK, TX. They offer up to $50 for your first five donations, but there are seasonal promotions to boost your earnings.
However, BPL Plasma requires donors to be 18 to 65, rather than 69 and not to have had any tattoos or piercings in the last 12 months.
CSL Plasma has locations in AL, AZ, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NC, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, WA, WV, WI. There are also multiple locations within the same state. For example, in Alabama, there are Birmingham, Auburn, and two Montgomery centers.
You can earn up to $50 per donation, with a potential for up to $400 a month. There are also monthly promotions. You’ll receive points that you can redeem for prepaid debit cards or merchandise.
GCAM Plasma has locations in CA, ID, IN, TX, WA, and you can earn up to $25-$40 for each donation. Payment methods vary, so you would need to contact your local center.
Grifols has more than a hundred locations across the U.S including AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MN, MS, NC, NV, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI. This company owns a variety of centers, including Biomat USA, Talecris, Plasma Biological Resources, and Interstate Blood Bank.
You can expect to receive up to $25 per donation via a prepaid debit card. However, Grifols also operates a refer a friend program for additional bonuses.
Immunotek has locations in 8 states including AL, FL, MS, NC, PA, SC, TN, TX.
The amount you can earn isn’t listed on their website, and pay rates for donations vary from location to location.
They do offer a $20 referral bonus when you refer a a friend who donates.
The Interstate Companies has locations in 14 states including FL, IL, IN, KY, MD, MO, MI, MS, NC, OH, PA, TN, TX, WI.
While they don’t list how much you can earn on their website, users online have stated they pay $50 each for the first 5 donations, and anywhere from $25-35 per donation after that.
KEDPlasma has centers in 11 states, including AL, FL, GA, LA, NC, NY, SC.
You can earn up to $50 for your first five donations. However, returning donors may qualify for a $20 lapse bonus coupon”. You would need to leave at least 14 days between donations.
This company also operates Kedrewards, a loyalty rewards program, which creates an opportunity to earn additional bonuses. The payment methods can vary according to location, but typically you’ll be offered a prepaid debit card.
Octapharma has more than 100 locations across the USA including AL, AR, CA, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NV, OH, OK, SC, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI.
You can earn up to $50 each for your first five donations. There are also frequency bonuses and a New Donor bonus. For example, you may earn extra if you donate more frequently in certain months. This is usually when there is a high demand for plasma but few donors.
You’ll be paid via prepaid debit card, but you can also accumulate reward points that can offer sweepstake entries and other discounts.
The Tax Implications Of Donating Plasma For Money
Most plasma donation centers will load your payment onto a prepaid debit card. You’re unlikely to be provided a tax form that reports your taxable income as you would with a day job.
However, not getting a 1099-MISC IRS form will not let you off the hook. You’re required by the IRS to file a return if you make more than $400 from “gig work”. Donating plasma does count as gig work, so keep a track of your earnings.
You will be responsible for reporting the income made from donating plasma when you file your taxes. So, it is a good idea to set aside a few dollars of each payment to avoid a nasty tax surprise.
The Side Effects And Potential Risks Of Plasma Donation
Of course, you should not try anything without being aware of the possible side effects and potential risks. Fortunately, plasma donations are considered relatively safe. It is a well-understood process, but there is a possibility of side effects.
Many of the possible side effects are similar to donating blood. Since needles are involved in the process, you may experience tenderness or bruising around the injection site. There could be discoloration, pain, or swelling, but these should subside relatively quickly. You may also have a reaction to the disinfectant used. This is often iodine, so if you know you have an iodine sensitivity, mention it to the center.
Some donors can also feel faint or experience dizziness. This is due to fluid being removed from the body, which causes a reaction to this stress. You can minimize your risk of this by drinking plenty of fluids the day before and the day of donation.
In less common cases, you may experience a citrate reaction. This is an anticoagulant that they use, so the blood doesn’t clot during collection. You may experience a reaction to the citrate, which often presents as a tingling in the fingers or around the mouth and nose. In severe cases, it can cause shortness of breath, shivering, twitching, or a rapid or slowing pulse.
If you experience any symptoms during the donation process, it is important to let the center staff know. You should also follow instructions following the donation. For example, you may be told to remain seated and have a drink after donation. This will help your body to recover from the stress of donation.
Donating Plasma After COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on the economy and it may be the reason why you’re considering donating plasma to make extra money. Fortunately, it is possible to donate plasma even if you’re recovering from COVID-19.
In fact, the FDA is encouraging people to begin donating after a negative COVID test and “complete resolution of symptoms”.
President Trump came out with statements this week encouraging people to donate plasma after having COVID-19 so that the medical community can get plasma with the antibodies to help patients who are still struggling with the disease. You will need to wait at least 14 days after your symptoms are resolved before you can make a donation, but giving your plasma with antibodies can be very helpful, and life-saving, for those in need.
Donating Plasma Is A Legit Way To Earn Some Extra Cash
Donating plasma is a legit way to earn some extra cash while helping others with life-saving plasma.
You only need two or three hours a week to donate plasma and you could make $300 to $400 a month. Anyone can do it as long as they meet the guidelines, and as long as they have no qualms with being stuck with a needle and sitting in a chair for a few hours a month. If that sounds like you this could be an easy way to earn some extra income.
If you’re not comfortable with the idea of donating plasma for money, you can still donate for free. You can visit your local Red Cross Center to donate blood plasma. The Red Cross allows donations every 28 days, so you can still help people and potentially save lives.
Have you gone through the process to donate plasma for money? Tell us how it went!
Love the idea of working with animals, but don’t have the resources or desire to go through vet school? You can still put your love of pets or wildlife to work in your career. Here are twelve jobs working with animals that can pay the bills for any animal lover.
Groomers help pets look their best by cleaning them, trimming fur and providing other services. Pay depends on skills, certifications, experience and which state you work in. The highest pay in each region typically going to specialists who provide boutique grooming services.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $34,702
Salary Range: $22,666 to $51,323
Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent
How to Become One: Typically, animal caretakers must have at least a high school diploma or GED. Most training takes place on the job, but some choose to study at a grooming school. Employers generally prefer candidates to have some experience working with animals.
2. Pet Sitter and Dog Walker
Pet sitters and dog walkers care for pets while owners are traveling or unavailable. You might choose to work through a service that pays you as an employee or hire your own services out as a freelance dog walker or pet sitter. In the latter case, you may make more money per job but will also have to handle your own marketing and business administration expenses.
How to Become One: Employers may require a high school diploma or GED and some training or certification. However, if you want to freelance as a dog walker, you may just need experience and references, so concerned pet owners can learn more about you.
3. Veterinary Assistant
Veterinary assistants work in a vet office, clinic or animal hospital helping veterinarians with animal care. They are responsible for assisting with routine tasks, which might include checking in patients or helping as the vet provides services.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $30,898
Salary Range: $19,431 to $43,072
Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent
How to Become One: If you want to become a veterinary assistant, you should at least have a high school diploma. Most veterinary assistants learn their trade on the job. Certification isn’t always required, but it could help you get promoted or obtain an advanced position.
4. Research Animal Caretaker
Laboratory animal caretakers work in labs with animal scientists, biologists or veterinarians. They feed, care for and monitor the well-being of lab animals.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $37,890
Salary Range: $35,215 to $46,105
Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent
How to Become One: Laboratory animal caretakers are required to at least have a high school diploma. Most laboratory animal caretakers learn their trade through on-the-job training. Certification isn’t required to become a laboratory animal caretaker, but some employers prefer it. Having a certification could also help you get promoted.
5. Animal Trainer
Animal trainers are responsible for training animals for tasks such as riding, performance, obedience or assisting the disabled. They can also help animals become more comfortable with human interaction.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $30,430
Salary Range: $20,810 to $59,110
Minimum Qualifications: no formal education requirements
How to Become One: There are no formal education requirements to become an animal trainer. Those who train animals usually receive on-the-job training. In addition, animal trainers can receive education through organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and earn certificates or other credentials to help them move up in their careers.
6. Veterinary Technician
Veterinary technicians perform medical testing with the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. They help diagnose an animal’s injury or illness and may also perform some routine procedures, such as ultrasounds, catheterization or EKGs, and administer anesthesia.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $35,308
Salary Range: $24,619 to $48,002
Minimum Qualifications: an associate degree
How to Become One: Typically, you must complete at least an associate degree or get a certification from an accredited program. Depending on the state, you may need to pass an exam and become registered, licensed or certified. Many employers look for techs with at least some experience in the field, which means many vet techs start in an assistant position.
7. Animal Control Worker
Animal control workers help ensure the proper treatment of animals, investigate cases of mistreatment, may help locate abandoned animals and may be called on to deal with nuisance animals of certain types.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $38,490
Salary Range: $23,160 to $58,220
Minimum Qualifications: varies by location
How to Become One: Animal control workers are required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or the equivalent. Additional training usually takes place on the job. The National Animal Care & Control Association offers training programs. In addition, some states require certification in animal control.
8. Conservation & Forest Technician
Conservation and forest workers help keep track of wildlife, gather data, suppress forest fires and work to improve the health of forests. They may lead guided tours or help train others in managing natural habitats.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $39,180
Salary Range: $26,160 to $56,410
Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent
How to Become One: In many cases, all you need is a high school diploma. You receive on-the-job training, but you can potentially advance your career with certifications or degrees in various sciences.
Breeders select and breed animals according to characteristics and genealogy. They may use artificial insemination equipment and need to keep meticulous records on animal health, genetics, dates of birth and family history.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $46,420
Salary Range: $26,030 to $69,550
Minimum Qualifications: high school diploma or equivalent
How to Become One: Animal breeders are required to have a minimum of a high school education. In addition, breeders learn their skill through short-term on-the-job training. Those who want to breed zoo animals are required to have a bachelor’s degree in veterinary science and, depending on career goals, may also want to pursue postgraduate study in zoology.
10. Biological Technician
Biological technicians help medical scientists in the laboratory. They are responsible for the setup, operation and maintenance of laboratory equipment. They also monitor experiments.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $49,110
Salary Range: $29,540 to $73,350
Minimum Qualifications: bachelor’s degree
How to Become One: Biological technicians generally need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a similar field. Technicians must also acquire laboratory experience and a working knowledge of computers and lab equipment.
11. Zoologist & Wildlife Biologist
Zoologists and wildlife biologists study how animals and wildlife interact with their environment. They may also help care for animals in captivity.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $67,200
Salary Range: $38,880 to $101,780
Minimum Qualifications: bachelor’s degree
How to Become One: A bachelor’s degree is necessary for those seeking entry-level positions. A master’s degree is usually required for advanced or scientific positions. Those who want to lead independent research or work at a university might want to consider a doctoral degree.
12. Conservation Scientist
Conservation land managers work with conservation groups, landowners or other entities to protect specific wildlife and land. Often, they do so because the area is a habitat for certain animals, particularly endangered animals.
Here are the job details:
Median Salary: $67,040
Salary Range: $39,270 to $98,060
Minimum Qualifications: bachelor’s degree
How to Become One: Conservation scientists usually need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, preferably in natural resource management, agriculture or another related field. Experience can be gained through internships and volunteer work. Some states require those desiring to become foresters to obtain a license.
Start Working Now to Land a Job Working with Animals
First, check out Monster.com‘s resume services and bring out the most relevant facts in your work history. Get tips and help polishing your resume so it shines when it hits employee inboxes or application systems. Then, upload your resume to ZipRecruiter and start connecting immediately with employers who are looking for people with a passion for jobs working with animals.