Weird Ways to Earn Money on the Side

By Mary Hunt

July 1, 2019 5 min read

Recently, while brainstorming with a reader who needed to supplement her full-time job, I made a quick list of the ways I've done that in my life. I wanted to help her discover what she does well that others might pay her to do.


I worked as an independent process server for a company that attorneys hire to have subpoenas delivered in their civil cases. My mission was to locate the defendant and then address said person by name ("Laura ... Laura Smith?"). By law, I was required to make sure I had eye contact, wait for that look of knowing and then hand off the document. Even if the person refused it, turning to walk (run) away, I could legally assert that I had completed the mission.

The best part? I got paid $35 per attempt to serve. That means if I knocked on the door and no one was home, the attempt was complete, and back into the stack that document would go for a future attempt.

I could easily "attempt to serve" two or three subpoenas per hour. The attorney service company I worked for loved me because I was available at odd times.

Process servers are required by law to serve papers in the correct manner determined by their state. Process-serving laws differ by state. But basically, if you are an adult, have not been convicted of a crime and can engage strangers in a warm and friendly way, it's possible that you, too, could be a process server in your spare time.


I got started young, at age 15, as a student teacher in a music academy. I loved it — not so much the teaching but the $5 per lesson. My little students did well, and soon I was teaching on my own, at home after school.

You may not play the piano, but I'll bet you're really good at something. Cooking, organization, gardening, cleaning, sewing, knitting, computing, driving — the list could go on and on. Figure out how you can teach that skill to others. The greater your need to earn extra money, the more creative and the better teacher you'll become.


When I discovered several friends were taking their husbands' dress shirts to the laundry and paying $1.50 per shirt to have them washed and ironed, I got really good at washing and ironing men's dress shirts. I offered to do a better job in less time for half the price — 75 cents per shirt, which was quite a bargain.

You may hate ironing men's shirts but love to do something else that your peers would pay you to do for them. Figure it out. Then make sure you beat their expectations and the price they would pay elsewhere.


I could not begin to tell you how many weddings and funerals I have played. And boy, do I have the stories.

My all-time favorite story is the wedding where Tom, at the piano, and I, at the organ, were instructed to begin playing love songs 30 minutes before the ceremony was to begin. And we did.

But there was still a very long line of guests out the door and down the street waiting to get in, the line moving at a snail's pace, due to each person having to sign the guest book before entering the church.

We gave each other that "keep going" signal as we started over with our lovely repertoire of pre-ceremony music.

After more than an hour of this impromptu repetition, finally, the place was packed, and we nearly fell off our respective seats.


You may not be a musician, but that thing you teach or do very well? Book yourself to perform it as a service.

Let everyone know you're available to organize, clean, cook, stencil, shop, hang wallpaper (it's back in vogue, you know), dog walk, babysit, hairdress, mow lawns, pull weeds, run errands, bake cakes, design websites, wash windows — whatever it is.

If you're good at it and you charge a fair price, you will not want for business.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Photo credit: Noemi-Italy at Pixabay

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