Straight out of college, I was thrilled to land my first job teaching kindergarten through eighth-grade music. It was perfect. Except for one thing: It was part-time.
Like many recently graduated music teachers, I wasn’t left with many options except a $20,000-per-year job in which I worked only about 25 hours per week. Though I thought I could make it work, I was back to living on ramen noodles by September. It definitely wasn’t what I had envisioned my post-college professional life to be.
Then I saw the sign — a literal sign: “HIRING NOW FOR THE HOLIDAYS!”
I was skeptical at first about the idea of retail work — I had a college degree, after all. Plus, I was a teacher who was pretty darn good at her job, if I do say so myself. Why would I want to work a seasonal retail job in my off hours?
The Benefits of Part-Time Work
In the end, my rumbling stomach (and looming monthly rent payment) won — I took a job working as a cashier at one of the busiest stores in the United States. And I even added more work as a singer in a caroling troop and jazz band.
Though I was a nonbeliever at first, I ended up making an extra $10,000 in three months.
My decision to take on part-time work isn’t uncommon — in years past, the retail sector would build up its employment by 7 to 9 percent, creating upward of 600,00 part-time jobs between October and January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Of course, this holiday season is unlike any other — the economic impact of the continuing pandemic has seen a notable decrease in the retail sphere, with job numbers down 550,000 in the sector, according to the BLS. That said, there’s still remote and in-person work to be found, albeit in places you might not usually consider.
If you want to find ways to make extra money during the holidays, or if you want to have a debt-free post-gift-giving winter, here’s what you need to know before you put in your application:
Determining Your Part-Time Schedule
Let’s start with the obvious: You’re going to spend more time working. In my case, I taught three days per week for 20 hours, cashiered for another 30, and then took gigs most weekends for an additional five to 10 hours.
That’s nearly 60 hours of work per week. Though that’s totally doable for single ladies like I was at the time, I couldn’t handle that today with a family and a strict sleep schedule.
You will also inevitably miss out on some of what the holidays can mean — namely finding time for your family, whether it’s in-person or over the web.
Sure, some stores are revolting against forcing their seasonal employees to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. However, unless you’re lucky, you can almost guarantee that you’ll be putting in hours while the rest of your family and friends open presents or stuff their faces with pumpkin pie.
It’s important to consider how an additional side hustle might cut into your other professional engagements, and to ensure you can handle everything coming your way. Remember — a part-time job shouldn’t interfere with your regular job if you have one.
Look at your schedule and assess how much time you can devote to side hustling. Consider which gigs might be the best fit for your time relative to how much they might earn you.
“There are so many flexible side hustles you can do to make money that you can usually find something that fits for your schedule,” says financial coach Andrea Woroch. “Make sure you have the time before you make a professional commitment — otherwise you’ll end up feeling burned out and stressed.”
Understand What You’ll Earn
On the other hand, there’s the money. In just three months, I made enough money to supplement my part-time income and pre-pay my rent for the next year.
Income from my music gigs meant that I got paid in cash, though I did have to claim these earnings on my taxes. As a result, I didn’t have to wait on paychecks to buy gifts.
We’re also talking about a very limited timeline of sacrifice. If you’re not a huge devotee of the holidays, seasonal work in the winter could be a huge boom, especially if you’re planning an awesome vacation in the summer or a career switch-up in the busy hiring season.
And of course, that extra money could max out your retirement contributions for the year without dipping into your regular paycheck each month.
Depending upon what kind of part-time work you’re taking on, your experience, expertise, and industry standards, as well as what you think you’re worth will determine your total earnings.
I’ve done many side hustles over the years to help expedite my debt repayment — I’ve worked as a housecleaner, brand ambassador, pet sitter, medical test subject, consultant, product sampler, editor, and writer.
I’ve earned between $10 to $100 per hour. If you’re unsure of how much to charge, you can always ask your clients, “What’s your budget?” Looking into industry standards for your hustle, and asking individuals involved in similar work might also give you an idea of what you should be charging.
- Become a babysitter or pet sitter through Care.com or DogVacay.com; $10 to $20 per hour
- Be a mystery shopper
- Uber driver or Lyft driver; $25 to $35 per hour
- Find various gigs on TaskRabbit; you set your own rates
- Become a tutor using Tutor.com; rates depend on expertise
- Use Fiverr to freelance.
- Rent out your car or bike on RelayRides, Getaround, or Spinlister
- Become a delivery driver (even with a bike!) using Postmates; up to $25 per hour
- Work part-time as a caterer
- Pitch companies as a consultant, based on your expertise (and yes, everyone is an expert at something); up to $100 per hour
- Sell items on eBay, Craigslist, and Etsy
- Work as a writer, editor, or translator on Upwork
- Take part in medical research
- Be a transcriptionist
- Hire yourself out as a virtual assistant
- Clean houses
- Deliver groceries using Instacart
- Work retail
Identify Your Skills and Seek Out Opportunities
Beyond the hourly commitment and your potential earnings, it may help to consider your skill set when it comes to finding another job around the holidays. Even if options for additional work may be limited, you’re more likely to find personal gratification — and potentially higher earnings — if you settle into a part-time gig that works to your strengths.
Ask yourself: What am I good at and what makes me happy? The most successful side hustles are those that use your skills to help others.
For example, if you are talented at graphic design and enjoy creating, you can help others create flyers and posters. The key is to identify your skills and passions, and figure out how those skills can serve others.
“Is there a skill you use in your part-time job or as a hobby that you can put to work for yourself? If so, consider joining a freelancer platform such as UpWork, PeoplePerHour, or Fiverr to promote your skills and earn some income over the holiday season,” recommends Joe Flanagan, senior employment officer of career matchmaking platform Velvet Jobs.
Moreover, consider where your skills can fit into our contemporary, socially-distanced workforce.
For example, an individual who excels in customer service can thrive both in retail and as an online virtual assistant, and the latter of which can be done from the comfort of a home office.
“As a virtual assistant, you can offer a range of support to your clients based on your skillset and work as little or as much as you need or want at any given time to supplement your income, or just boost your holiday spending cash,” recommends remote business specialist Ionna Karelia, founder of Be Your Maverick.
Considering your own skills, and their various applications, can help illuminate new, previously unconsidered opportunities as pathways toward greater earnings during the holiday season.
Part-Time Work Is a Year-Round Grind
If you’re ready to take on a seasonal job, get hunting now. Major retail stores, where you can find the majority of holiday work, begin hiring in mid-October through mid-November, but there’s work to be found even through January.
Of course, there are other options out there if you’re not into folding sweaters or cashiering.
There are holiday-related jobs such as working Christmas tree lots, photographing kids visiting Santa’s village, and wrapping gifts at shopping malls.
You can also capitalize on the weather and get busy decorating other people’s homes, plowing driveways, or becoming a personal shopper — and that’s not mentioning the variety of online gigs available all year round.
And don’t forget — seasonal work isn’t just for the winter! You can find temporary jobs in your city’s top seasons. That might mean spending a few months leading kayak tours in the summer or working a food truck during fair season.
The Bottom Line
Whether you make seasonal work your permanent thing, or just sub in for Santa’s elves for a month or two to make extra money during the holidays, considering a seasonal job opportunity may just be your ticket to financial freedom.
In today’s world, there are so many ways you can make extra money. With a little additional time and dedication, you can reach your financial goals and have some fun along the way.