At any given time in life, I have always had several sources of income.
When I started working, as a teenager, I was teaching the piano to younger kids. I had five clients Monday to Friday. If I lost one, only 20 percent of my income was lost. Had I been a music teacher, laid off from my school, I would have lost all of my income.
This is why you should consider developing several income streams: so you are never at the mercy of one source of money. Knowing you have money coming in from multiple sources helps both your financial and stress-related bottom lines.
Even with multiple income streams, you aren’t 100 percent safe. When I left my full-time job to become a freelance writer, I was confident my handful of clients would provide enough for me to live on. I lost them all six months later. It was scary, but it pushed me to diversify even more.
Nowadays, I earn passive income through both affiliates and advertising on three websites I own. I also freelance as a writer and as a translator.
These jobs helped me earn money to buy a house that I rent to tourists. Sometimes, guests hire me to drive them to Mayan ruins, and I earn extra by renting out my motorbike. I also own a rental property in the U.K.
In addition, I invest in gold and foreign currencies. I have a portfolio with stocks and shares that earn dividends. I make about $300 a month from peer-to-peer lending. Even the $5 or so monthly interest from my current bank account can be considered a small additional income stream.
And though each of these streams of income is small on its own, they add up, and they make me stronger financially.
If one of my dozen sources dries up, I don’t need to immediately panic. Furthermore, my income streams are diversified — which helps.
“Having multiple income streams is like a financial security plan,” says Claire Beams, a financial planner. “If one of your income streams slows or stops, then you can rely on the other streams for support. Adding income streams can also become an important tool to help you achieve financial goals that may be out of reach.”
The likelihood of a housing crash happening at the same time that blogging ends and tourism in Guatemala plummets is slim.
The ability to quickly adapt is essential today. If you have two income streams, for example, a full-time job and a business you have on the side, and get fired from the former, you just need to work more on the latter to earn more.
But you should also challenge the sustainability of your income streams regularly, or you can risk losing it all. I never take any of my income streams for granted. Over time, I can tell you my income streams are not always steady. One year I might do well with my portfolio, but earn less with my rentals, for example.
Ideas for Multiple Streams of Income
It is important to keep in mind that the way you diversify your income streams depends on the amount of money that you are generating, but anyone can achieve diversification. “If you make more money, you can save more money,” says financial planner Michael Shea. “This is true regardless of how many income streams you have.”
Here are a dozen ways to add one income stream to your finances this month:
- Become a driver for Uber or Lyft.
- Look for a high-interest savings account and transfer the money that may be sitting unproductively in your current account.
- Work a shift delivering food on DoorDash, Postmates, or Grubhub.
- Rent a room in your house on Airbnb.
- Start a dog-walking business.
- Teach others a skill you have (knitting, a language, tennis).
- Offer to paint your neighbor’s house or mow their lawn (for a fee).
- Set up a website for a local business.
- Invest $10 a month in an index fund or another asset class once you understand the risks and benefits.
- Manage social media for local businesses — if you are good with scheduling on various platforms and understand your clients’ needs.
- List a gig on Fiverr, Upwork, or TaskRabbit (proofreading, selling Canva templates, running errands, etc.).
- Create an online course or write an e-book on something you are knowledgeable about (parenting, paying taxes, grammar, at-home cooking, etc.).
The Bottom Line
Generally, when I talk about diversifying to be financially stronger, people raise three objections:
They don’t have the time, they don’t have the money, or they don’t know what to do.
I don’t have a lot of time either, so I try to find little things that I can do in my spare time. Writing is perfect for me. I can open my laptop while I am waiting for the bus, or jot down ideas on my smartphone while waiting in line at the bank. You have to start somewhere.
In today’s sharing economy, there are many ideas that will come to you. Depending on your own set of skills and circumstances, you can find more such gigs to add to your income stream, until it grows to a steady flow.