Not-so-sketchy Side Hustles

By Kristen Castillo

December 7, 2018 6 min read

Side hustles can be very appealing. They're flexible, give you a chance to be your own boss and help you earn extra cash.

Still they can be challenging. With many side hustles, workers use their own vehicles or homes. There can be added fees and many sacrifices, too. The work isn't guaranteed either, so some days and weeks you could be working less than expected. So, are these side gigs worth it? That's up to each individual to decide.

Here's a look at the pros and cons of some of the most recognizable side hustles:

*Uber

This ride-hailing service connects drivers with passengers through a smartphone app. Drivers use their personal vehicles. A new study by Ridester, an industry publication, says the median pay for an Uber driver is $14.73 an hour.

Pros: No service fees on tips. The company offers Uber Pro rewards, such as discounts on vehicle maintenance for their top performing drivers, who maintain at least a 4.85-star rating and a low cancellation rate. They're also partnering with Arizona State University online to offer eligible drivers (or their family members) the opportunity to complete courses toward an undergraduate degree.

Cons: Uber takes a commission on the fares. There will be wear and tear on your vehicle, on top of the cost of gas and other maintenance. Your personal car insurance won't cover claims but Uber has a commercial policy. Check with your insurance carrier.

*Lyft

Lyft matches drivers with passengers via smartphone app. Passengers automatically pay through the app. Drivers can earn $15 an hour.

Pros: Drivers keep the full tips from passengers and they can make more money during peak times known as Prime Time pricing. They get paid when you want it via Express Pay.

Cons: Lyft takes a percentage of each fare in commissions. Driving a personal vehicle means considerable wear and tear on the car or truck. Plus, there are gas and other car expenses. Dealing with potentially difficult passengers can be tough, too.

*Postmates

Drivers for this food delivery service typically earn $11 an hour. Postmates allows workers to keep 100 percent of their tips and earn weekly bonuses. Workers can track their earnings in real time and can choose to get paid via free weekly deposits or anytime with "cash out" (a 50 cent per instant deposit fee applies.) They offer "Blitz" pricing, increased rates for working busy times.

Pros: Work is flexible.

Cons: Regular schedules are not guaranteed. Finding parking can be difficult. Some customers and restaurants can be tough to handle.

*GrubHub

This food delivery service, which has more orders than any other platform, allows workers to keep 100 percent of their tips. Workers typically earn $12 an hour; however, this rate varies per city.

Pros: They offer flexible schedules.

Cons: There are no guaranteed shifts. It's not always easy to find parking in delivery areas.

*Airbnb

This site connects travelers with properties for rent in cities across the globe. Hosts are paid the rental rate, minus the 3 percent (or more) service fee.

Pros: You can make money renting out your property, ranging from one room to a home.

Cons: You'll have to clean the property and maintain it with supplies like clean towels and soap. In addition to the service fee, Airbnb also charges hosts who offer experiences a 20 percent service fee. You may have to pay special taxes in your area, so check with an accountant. Also contact your insurance company to make sure you're covered from claims arising from a guest's stay.

*Side Hustle Insider

For her book, "Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy," author Alexandrea J. Ravenelle, Ph.D., interviewed nearly 80 gig workers for Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit and Kitchensurfing.

"Many workers also don't earn as much money as they think they will, especially when they factor in travel time and expenses," she says, noting a recent Bloomberg report found many Amazon flex drivers make less than $11 an hour. (The advertised rate is $18 to $25 an hour.)

These gigs can be risky, too. Ravenelle says contractors don't have basic protections against sexual harassment, discrimination, involvement in criminal activity, the right to unionize or rights for workplace injuries. She says workers she's interviewed have been used as drug delivery drivers, propositioned for threesomes and experienced on-the-job injuries without workers' comp.

"Workers considering a side hustle should think long and hard about why they want to do this, and what exactly they hope to get out of it," she says, explaining that in some cases, workers may be better off getting a part-time job in retail.

She suggests keeping precise track of expenses and income down or you may owe a large payment come Tax Day. Also look for side hustles like Instacart, HelloAlfred or MyClean that pay you as W-2 employees, not contractors. You'll have better protections.

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