Mastering the Art of Side Hustles: An Interview with Financial Panther


I first discovered the blog Financial Panther back in August of last year when I stumbled upon an article titled August 2016 Side Hustle Report – $2,225.02. My initial reaction was disbelief. There’s a blogger out there earning over $2,000 per month outside of their day job? I had to learn more.

Fast forward to one year later and I am still a regular reader of Kevin’s articles at Financial Panther. On a regular basis I pick up helpful tips on high-interest savings accounts, trending financial apps, and side-hustle inspiration from his site. 

Today I finally got the chance to catch up with Kevin and interview him about his side-hustle success and find out what tips he has for others who are looking to start earning extra income outside of their day jobs.

Zach: When did you first start side-hustling? Was there an article you read that inspired you to start, a video you saw, etc. that first started you down the road of side-hustling?

Kevin: My journey into side hustling began in 2015 when my wife and I moved into a fancy, luxury apartment that we’d snagged through a deal on Craiglist (basically, some guy had just signed his lease, found out he needed to move, and paid us to take over his lease). On our first day in that fancy building, we walked past a dumpster in the parking garage and I saw a nice coffee table just sitting there. I’d never really grabbed “trash” before, but this coffee table was in perfect condition, so I snagged it and decided to list it up on Craigslist for $25. It sold within a day. After that, I was pretty much hooked on trying to make some money on the side.

A little bit after that, my brother told me about an app he’d been using called Postmates, where he was basically delivering food to people around the city using his bike. It seemed perfect for me since I bike all the time. Plus, I liked the idea of being able to make money on my own time while also getting some exercise. In a way, it was like getting paid to exercise. When the delivery apps started up in my city, I signed up for all of them and started doing deliveries in my spare time and just had so much fun doing it.

From there, I just got really interested in the whole world of sharing economy/gig economy/on-demand economy apps, and I pretty much signed up for every single app I could find. I found them fun. And I was basically getting paid to do a lot of the stuff I was already doing anyway (taking care of my dog, biking, etc).

Zach (aside): Reading about Kevin’s success with side-hustles in the gig economy is actually what inspired me to use Craigslist to find tutoring clients. Although Craigslist is widely known for being a buying / selling site similar to Ebay, there are many people on the site looking for services as well (tutoring, lawn cutting, etc.). It can be a great place to find opportunities for extra income.

Zach: From your monthly side-hustle reports, it appears that Airbnb is hands-down your largest source of side-hustle income. Can you describe how you got started with that, the details of it (how long people stay with you, how you screen potential guests, etc.) as well as any tips you would give to someone looking to use Airbnb as a source of side-income?

Kevin: The whole Airbnb thing started when my wife and I moved into a 4-bedroom house that my wife bought back in 2010. She’d lived in that house during school with roommates (house hacking, as the cool kids call it), then rented out the whole house to her mom for a few years. When we moved back in there, it just seemed way too big for the two of us and our dog. There’s really only so much space two people can actually use.

We turned one room into a guest room – which is what pretty much everyone with a house does – but then realized that the room would basically sit empty 99% of the year. The only time we really needed the guest room was during the holidays. In the interest of being efficient with our space, I suggested we try our hand at listing up the room on Airbnb. The way I saw it, if we didn’t like it, we could just delete our listing. And if it worked out, we could basically house hack our living expenses. It was pretty much a no-risk proposition since it cost us literally nothing to get started.

So far, my Airbnb experience has been great and we can pretty much be as booked as we want to be. Since I live near a large university, the vast majority of my guests are in town for things related to the university – grad school interviews, conferences, parents visiting their kids, etc. These are the type of guests I really like. They’re in town for a specific purpose and they’re not the type of guests that hang out in my house. People usually stay just a few days, which is what I prefer – if I have a guest that I don’t like or something like that, they’re gone in a few days anyway.

I don’t have instant book set up, so any guest that wants to stay with me has to send me a message requesting to book the room. I always ask any potential guests to tell me a little bit about themselves and what brings them into town. Airbnb also has a setting that allows you to accept only guests that have provided Airbnb with a government ID, which I suspect helps to keep out more of the riff-raff (it also helps that I live in the house). So far, I’ve had zero major problems with any guest.

For anyone who wants to try their hand at real estate, renting out a spare room on Airbnb is pretty much the lowest risk way you can get started. If you already have a guest room set up (which I bet you probably do), it basically costs you nothing to get started. You can’t say that about any other type of real estate income. And the nice thing about Airbnb is that it requires very little commitment. If you opt to rent out a room in your house to a traditional roommate, you’re basically stuck with that roommate for a year. With Airbnb guests, they’re gone in a few days and the house is basically yours whenever you want.

As for the guests, from my own experience, people using Airbnb are just like you and me. They’re just regular people that are looking for a decent place to stay. You can take standard precautions though. When a guest stays with me, I keep my valuables locked in my room. I also have a Ring Video Doorbell, which allows me to see when guests enter or exit my house.

Zach: I also noticed that Rover is another decent source of income for you. Do you ever do in-home visits or do pet owners always drop their pets off at your place to stay?

Kevin: I only dog sit at my own house. Rover works for me as a side hustle because I already have a dog, so watching a second pup doesn’t really add any additional work to my plate – I already have to feed and walk my own dog, and walking and feeding a second dog isn’t really any different.

If I did in-home visits, it’d be more like an actual time-for-money job, which isn’t something that I want to do when it comes to my dog sitting side hustle.

Zach (aside): Reading about Kevin’s experience with Rover also inspired me to look into the service more. I convinced my twin sister, who happens to be a veterinary technician and loves dogs, to sign up for the site and she has been regularly finding clients in her town. She earns anywhere from $200 – $400 each week doing work she would otherwise do for free. Thanks for the side-hustle idea, Kevin!

Zach: Are there any side-hustles you have ever attempted that just weren’t worth the time and energy?

Kevin: Instacart. For those of you that don’t know what Instacart is, it’s basically an app where you can order groceries to your house. The Instacart workers shop for you at the grocery store and then deliver your groceries to your door.

Back in 2016, I signed up to do Instacart since I was curious about it. I had to sit through a 2-hour orientation, which seemed really excessive considering the fact that most other apps I use require no orientation at all or a really short online orientation.

Then, when I did my first Instacart gig, I was sent to a grocery store located a 30-minute drive away from my house. The whole shopping for groceries thing also took way too long and it ended up being an unpleasant experience that wasn’t worth my time. Plus, it required me to put miles on my car, which I hate doing.  After doing one gig, I stopped doing it.

Still, that’s the beauty of these sharing economy/gig economy apps. You can try them out and if they’re not for you, you just move on to another one. It doesn’t cost you anything except for a little bit of time.

Zach: What would you say is the easiest side-hustle to start for someone with no previous experience of earning income outside of their day job?

Kevin: I’d say the easiest side hustle to start is delivering food on your bike with apps like Postmates, DoorDash, Caviar, Uber Eats, or Tapingo. You can get signed up for any of these services from your computer and since you’re using your bike, you’ll basically have no expenses (if anything, you’re getting a net gain by improving your health). Deliveries are nice too because they’re one-off things – you do a delivery, and then you’re done with it and moving on to the next one.

I wrote a post a while back about my experience as a Postmates courier and why I think it’s the perfect side hustle. Check it out if you want to learn more!

Zach: What would you say is the best side-hustle for someone with a busy schedule?

Kevin: The best side hustle for anyone with a busy schedule is one that incorporates the stuff you’re already doing. Airbnb and Rover, for example, are both side hustles that I think any busy person can do. They’re not time-for-money endeavors. Airbnb guests don’t need you around – they just need the room. Dogs can stay home by themselves when you’re out and about (plus, if you already own a dog, you’ve already probably set your schedule around your dog anyway). Once you’ve systematized both of these things, they really don’t take up much time at all.

The other thing about these side hustles is that they’re incorporating stuff you’re already probably doing. Think about cleaning your house, for example. Even if you’re a total slob, you probably occasionally have to make some effort to keep your house clean. When you rent out a room on Airbnb, any cleaning you do benefits you as well. I keep my bathroom clean because I have Airbnb guests, but cleaning my bathroom is something I’d already be doing anyway for myself. In a way, it’s like I’m getting paid to clean my own house by hosting Airbnb guests.

Zach (aside): I really love this idea of getting paid for doing stuff you’re already doing. For many people with busy schedules, earning additional income outside of their day job might seem too time-consuming. But using Kevin’s technique with Airbnb and Rover he demonstrates that it’s possible to earn side-hustle income without the extra time commitment.

Zach: Since you hold a full-time job, what time of day (or days of the week) do you find the time to do side-hustles?

Kevin: Anytime I feel like it! I don’t really think of Airbnb or Rover as something I have to find time to do. They’re just incorporated into my daily life (I already walk my dog every day, I clean my house every day because I like to have a clean house for myself, etc).

During lunch, I’ll sometimes go and do a delivery depending on the weather and recently I’ve been trying out walking dogs near my office using an on-demand dog walking app called Wag. I like to also try to do a delivery on my way home from work, since often times, I can get an order heading back in my direction (I bike to work, so since I’m biking home, it’s a nice bonus if I can get a delivery heading back towards my house).

Weekend mornings are also a great time for me to get my side hustle on. People order breakfast and stuff like that in the morning, and I can often get a few hours of bike deliveries done in the morning before most people have even started their day.

Zach: Through September of this year you have already earned over $12,000 from side-hustles. Do you have any side-hustle income goals you would like to meet by the end of this year, or for the entirety of 2018?

Kevin: I don’t have any particular goals when it comes to side hustling. I just find doing a lot of this stuff fun! If anything, I mainly like having enough extra income so that I can basically throw as much of it as I can into a Solo 401k (basically creating myself another tax-advantaged retirement vehicle). I guess I typically try to earn about $2,000 a year from Rover, $2,000 a year or so from delivery apps, and $1,000 or so from selling trash finds. I also like to have an Airbnb income that’s at least equal to what I could rent that room out for if rented to a traditional roommate – which I’ve been able to hit very easily so far.

In terms of monthly numbers, at least $1,000 of side hustle income in a month is something I strive to achieve each month. When you think about it, an extra $1,000 per month is worth a ton. For anyone thinking about financial independence or early retirement, being able to earn an extra $1,000 of income per month is the equivalent of having a portfolio worth $300,000 (assuming you’re using a 4% withdrawal rate). What this means is that financial independence is probably a lot closer than you think.

If I can earn an extra $1,000 a month or so on the side while working full time and running a blog, I promise that you can do it too!

Be sure to check out Kevin’s blog Financial Panther for more helpful ways to earn money through side hustles. His blog is one of the few personal finance sites I read on a regular basis because his content is so actionable. Thanks for reading 🙂

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6 Replies to “Mastering the Art of Side Hustles: An Interview with Financial Panther”

  1. Awesome interview, Financial Panther definitely knows the ins and outs of side hustles! Really enjoyed his in-depth post about his Postmates experience.

    I’m a big fan of Rover. My wife and I use it often to find dog-sitters for our pups when we travel, and my wife does dog-walking as a side hustle to make some extra cash.

    1. I have only heard positive things about Rover, it’s definitely an app built for side-hustlers.

      This interview was insightful for me as well, it’s always nice to see the different types of side-hustles that are actually available out there, and very few people do it better than Financial Panther.

    2. Make sure your wife signs up for Wag, especially if she’s already used to walking dogs! It’s an easy way to fill up some time and works out really well if there are a lot of dog walks in your neighborhood (basically get paid to explore your neighborhood)!

  2. Thanks for linking this to your most recent post. I really enjoyed the read. Currently I have two side hustles that I feel could be beneficial to others: donating plasma and poker dealing.

    Donating plasma is pretty straight forward and easy (if you’re not scared of needles). I go twice a week, sit for two hours and read a book (almost done with “The Intelligent Investor”). I would otherwise be at home reading a book, so why not earn some dollars helping others AND get paid to do it? Typically in a month I earn $345 – $500 per month depending on any promotions going on.

    Dealing poker may be more specific to my city, but I’m sure there are house games or companies like mine who offer this service in your city. Some friends of mine opened up a casino business setup for charity events, corporate parties, birthday parties, etc. No real cash money, but all the fun of playing in a casino: craps, blackjack, roulette, poker, slots, etc. I used to be an avid poker player and so dealing at a poker table is second nature. I started working with them on weekends and holidays and typically make $100 for four hours of dealing poker. Christmas is coming up and that’s the busy season. I expect to work every weekend and look to make $500 or more in December. I really enjoy being at a poker table and now I get paid to be at one whenever I want.

    1. Donating plasma is something I have never done (not good with needles lol) but that does sound like a great way to earn an extra buck. That’s also great you found a side hustle with dealing poker that you actually enjoy and earn money from. I never thought of that as a potential side hustle but it sounds like it could be ideal for some, thanks for sharing!

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