7 Side Gigs That Got Us Through 2020 (And Are Ripe for 2021)

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We’re almost there, folks. Only three more years until the end of 2020.

At least it feels that way. The pandemic upended many areas of the economy, forcing millions of people out of work and into a scramble to fill the income void.

We’re looking back at the side hustles that helped many of us pull through the year. Each gig below held up surprisingly well — even as traditional jobs plummeted. Some even sprouted up because of the pandemic.

7 Sides Hustles That Pulled Us Through 2020

These gigs not only did well this year, but many have good moneymaking prospects in 2021 as well.

1. Delivery App Gigs

Whatever you want to deliver — pizza, packages or produce — there are ample opportunities. Delivery-related companies are among the clear winners of the coronavirus economy. App-based delivery services like Amazon Flex, Uber Eats and Instacart have been onboarding new workers by the hundreds of thousands throughout the pandemic.

Requirements are overall very low. In many cases, all you need to start earning are a valid driver’s license and a functioning car with proper auto insurance. Practically speaking though, the work can be tough, and you’ll need to be able to lift and carry heavy items.

You can expect to net about $15 an hour through delivery apps.

Get Started: Learn from a delivery driver who made $8,000 in one month. When you’re ready, sign up for a delivery gig of your choice.

2. Elder Assistance

Long before coronavirus, older and younger folks alike grappled with a different problem — what Andrew Parker, the CEO of Papa, calls “the loneliness epidemic.”

Gen Z and seniors are the two loneliest age groups. By pairing older adults with “Papa Pals,” who are typically tech-savvy college students, the company is attacking the issue from both sides.

As a Papa Pal, you might provide contactless deliveries, make companionship calls, help older folks set up telemedicine visits, or help someone troubleshoot their new smart TV.

The pandemic heightened the need for this service manyfold. This year, Parker expanded many of the services offered by Papa nationwide through remote work, like phone check-ins and video conferencing. In-person services are still needed in about two dozen states.

The positions are part-time and pay up to $15 an hour.

Get Started: See what it takes to become a Papa Pal, and start assisting older folks.

3. Contact Tracing

Contact tracers play an important role in the economy reopening fully. Health experts estimate that hundreds of thousands are needed to do so safely.

Tracers interview people who have tested positive for COVID-19, typically over the phone. They gather contact information of people who the patient potentially crossed paths with, likely state-wide but possibly county-wide. Then they call all of those people to establish who may have been infected and refer them for testing and/or self-isolation.

These positions typically have flexible schedules, can be done remotely and can earn you upwards of $30 an hour.

Get Started: First, take a free online contact tracing course from Johns Hopkins University, then find contact tracing jobs at private or public employers.

4. Freelancing

Despite the pandemic vaporizing some freelance work that’s contingent on big crowds or in-person events, the overall freelance economy soared to $1.2 trillion in 2020, according to a study commissioned by Upwork.

Since many freelance gigs can be done remotely, it’s as good a time as any to jump on board the $1.2 trillion train. If you have specialized skills and want to make some side money using them, join a freelance network. Marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork are a good way to test the freelancing waters. The websites help you find gigs and connect with clients.

The most common types of freelance services offered via online marketplaces include marketing, web and software development, customer service, administrative support and writing.

Starting out, these types of services are likely to net you around $20 an hour.

Get Started: Join one (or all) of the top freelancing websites.

5. Seasonal Jobs

The mom-and-pop flower shop down the road may not be hiring the usual handful of seasonal workers, but the big guys — the Amazons, Targets and UPSes — of the world are doing pretty well this year. In some cases, even better than last year.

The type of work has changed a bit. Instead of a need for the usual sales associates at retail stores, the demand has shifted to e-commerce-related work like order fulfillment, curb-side pickup prep and warehouse labor.

The good news is that many major seasonal employers have $15 minimum wages this year.

Get Started: Choose from more than 750,000 seasonal job openings at major companies.

6. Homeschool Assistance

New to the side-gig scene: online learning assistants.

Parents, likely out of sheer frustration at having to juggle remote work with the added responsibilities of helping their child(ren) with distance learning, created a grassroots education movement. Parental demand is driving the trend of pandemic pods, which are small groups of students who come together throughout the week to complete their online course work and socialize — all according to CDC guidance.

These homeschool pods may be led by one of the students’ parents, a tutor, a retired educator or a recent college grad who’s good with kids. Parents may pool their resources together to pay the pod leader based on their qualifications.

Get Started: Learn more about how pandemic pods work and score the newest online-learning side gig.

7. Poll Work

A forecasted shortage of poll workers sent many polling locations into crisis mode earlier this year. Under normal circumstances, poll workers skew older. Increased voter turnout and social distancing measures didn’t mesh well, and many older folks decided to play it safe and stay home.

Younger, healthy folks were needed en masse to ensure voting locations were properly staffed. Thanks in part to a major recruitment campaign by the nonprofit Fair Elections Center, a widespread shortage was largely avoided.

And in case you didn’t realize: Poll workers get paid (in addition to that dizzying sense of pride and patriotism, real money). A day of poll work can typically earn you between $50 to $300 depending on the area.

It’s true there won’t be a shortage every year, but what this near-crisis highlighted is that poll workers can be decent paying gigs. Beside presidential elections, poll workers are needed during midterm elections and local off-year elections as well.

Get Started: Use Work Elections’ database for more information about becoming a poll worker during your area’s next election.

Want more ideas? Check out our curated list of the 25 best side hustles. We paired each gig with a realistic earnings potential — and the resources to get you started.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.








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