This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2014.
I've done a lot of non-traditional work, but I've never used it to make a living. Here are some of the side hustles I've had to supplement a full-time income:
* Mystery shopper. I mystery shopped on and off for about a decade, and intensively for about six years. At the height, I was making a couple thousand dollars a year doing it. I have heard of people who can do this for a living, but I'm not sure how. I think you have to start getting the really high-end shops, like for hotels and casinos, and I just didn't have the time or interest in pursuing those. (I've written about mystery shopping before, if you're interested in getting started.)
* Security guard. I did this in college, working at a mega-arena in a nearby large city. I worked everything from WWE events to concerts to a Superbowl. It ranged from super boring to super interesting (my break fell during half-time, and I got to watch the show from front-row endzone seats!). The most important thing was having comfortable shoes. It paid decently for a college gig, and was definitely flexible.
* Belly dancer. I performed with a troupe for about eight years, everything from private corporate events to bar mitzvahs to state fairs. It was a great way to pay for an expensive hobby, and while I made money every year, I didn't make a ton. Some of my friends from the troupe make some or all of their living from performing, but I felt like it's such a short-lived career that I didn't want to risk it.
* Extra. I have been an extra in music videos and an audience member for several TV shows. This is something that's really only possible in New York and LA, but it was a fun thing to do when the opportunity showed up.
This kind of non-traditional work is something I had a lot of fun doing in my twenties, but I'm a lot less likely to do it now. When Baby M is a little older, I might dip back into mystery shopping, and I can see myself being that embarrassing mom in her fifties who joins a belly dance group, but I think I'm done with side hustles that pay only slightly better than minimum wage.