The gig economy is going strong in the U.S., with gig workers and side-hustlers representing around 35 percent of the workforce—up from around 20 percent in 2014. Gig work is flexible and easy to get into, and that’s good news for immigrants looking for a side hustle to make a little extra money to send home, pay down debt, or put in savings.
For the most part, the gig economy is fueled by online platforms that act as a middle man between the consumer and the service provider (you). You aren’t an employee of the platform, but rather a freelance contract worker.
Gig platforms generally take a cut of the profit, which means the pay you get for your services isn’t always great compared to what you could make if you worked directly with the client. On the other hand, the platforms put you in front of a huge, engaged audience and handle all of the financial transactions so you don’t have to. You can work for a lot of different clients, but you get paid by the platform.
All platforms operate differently, and they all have benefits and pitfalls.
The bright side of the gig economy for immigrants
Here are a few reasons why the gig economy is particularly suited to immigrants — not only in the U.S., but worldwide:
- The hiring and onboarding processes are typically fast and easy compared to those of traditional jobs.
- Immigrants may be less likely to face discrimination when looking for a side-hustle on the platforms.
- Many gig platforms have apps that come in different languages, making it easier for non-English speakers to do their job.
- The gig economy offers flexibility and autonomy for people who have a regular job, family, or travel frequently. You decide when and how often to work.
The dark side of the gig economy for immigrants
Before you start gigging, be aware that there’s a darker side to the side-hustle platforms in the U.S.:
- Women, non-white, and younger gig workers are more likely than others to experience sexual harassment, discrimination, and rude behavior while on the job.
- The work agreements you must sign to participate on many platforms may be vague, hard to understand, and rarely offered in the languages spoken by a large portion of the workforce. This benefits the platform, but it disempowers the worker, who bears the financial and legal burdens of an employee-employer relationship but receives few of the benefits.
- Immigration advocates worry that gig platforms—particularly those involving delivery or rideshare services—exploit immigrants’ needs for accessible job opportunities.
- Critics of gig platforms charge that gig work isn’t regulated enough, doesn’t offer a minimum wage or income security, and prevents low-wage workers— especially those who are women or immigrants—from getting out of poverty.
Legal considerations for immigrants doing side gigs in the U.S.
Depending on your immigration status, certain side hustles may not be available to you. Some may require documentation you don’t have, like a valid U.S. driver’s license, a social security card, or a business license.
Immigrants Rising, a non-profit advocacy group, offers a Guide to Working for Yourself to help undocumented immigrants earn extra money legally while in the U.S. Similarly, VisaPlace offers information on various work-arounds for self-employed immigrants based on their type of visa.
Before you start gigging, understand the laws around freelance and contract work as they apply to your situation and immigration status.
How to choose the right side hustle
You’re more likely to be successful at a side gig—and happier at it, too—if you choose something that uses your unique talents and skills.
What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? You may have talents or knowledge that you don’t really think of as marketable, but if you’re creative and resourceful, you might find that you can make some extra money doing something you’re great at.
Here are just a few of the many skills or areas of expertise you might have that could make you extra money:
- Art and design
- Photography and video
- Math or science
- Fixing things
- Playing an instrument
- Managing small details
- Computer programming
As you read through this list of popular side-hustles for immigrants, keep your “hidden” skills and talents in mind, and consider the possibilities they may offer for making a little cash on the side.
1. Use a freelancer platform to sell your talents
When you join a freelancer platform, you upload your resume and fill out your profile to highlight your skills. At the same time, potential clients upload jobs. Clients can reach out to you directly, or you can bid on jobs you like.
A few of the most popular freelance platforms include Freelancer, Upwork, Fiverr, and Indeed. You can find work in almost any field, including everything from writing, bookkeeping, and translation to creating graphics, videos, and websites.
2. Use your wheels to make cash
If you have a reliable car, scooter, or bicycle, you have a few options for making a little extra money on the side through various platforms.
Drive people around in your car
Rideshare services like Lyft and Uber hire contractors who make money giving people rides. Different platforms have different requirements for vehicle type and age, and they require a valid U.S. driver’s license and proof of insurance. Once you’re signed up and approved, you’ll get a notification through the app whenever someone needs a ride. Pick them up, drop them off, and get paid.
Rent out your car
Apps like Get Around make it easy to make some side dough by doing pretty much nothing. Sign up with the app, and when someone near you needs a car to run errands or pick up Grandma from the airport, you’ll hand over your keys and start making money. Get Around screens the drivers, provides free insurance and offers excellent customer support to help you navigate any issues you or the driver of your vehicle may have.
Deliver food by bike, scooter, or car
Delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub engage contract workers who pick up takeout orders from local restaurants and deliver them to hungry fellow citizens. Once you’re signed up and approved to drive, you’ll get a notification on your phone when there’s a delivery request. You can see how much the gig pays and either accept or decline.
Shop for and deliver groceries
When you sign up with companies like Instacart and Shipt, their customers order groceries or other goods on the app, and you get a notification with the order details and how much you’ll make for the delivery. Accept it, head to the store, purchase the items , and deliver them to the customer.
3. Rent out a room—or the whole house
If you have extra room in your home, or you’re away from home for periods of time, you can rent your empty space to out-of-town visitors through Airbnb, Vrbo, or Homestay. Each platform has certain requirements you must meet around overall guest ratings, response and cancellation rates, essential amenities, and a clean environment.
4. Take care of people
If you’re a natural caretaker or have experience in fields like nursing, education, or social work, consider joining a platform like Sittercity, Urbansitter, and Care. These sites connect you with people looking for babysitters, pet caretakers, or companions for elderly or disabled loved ones. Other gigs you may find on these platforms include tutoring, homework helper, and housekeeping.
5. Take care of people’s animals
If you’re an animal lover, you can make a difference—and some money—by taking care of people’s pets.
Services you can offer include pet sitting, dog walking, and animal boarding at your home. Sign up with a pet services gig platform, and once you’re accepted, clients in your city can find your profile and book your services on the app. Rover and Wag are two such platforms that let you choose the types and sizes of pets you want to work. You’ll only get offers from clients whose needs meet your preferences, and the sites give you plenty of support and resources to help you succeed.
6. Do household tasks and chores
People in your area who need help around the house post the details on TaskRabbit, and Taskers such as yourself offer the services they need. You set your rates and keep 100 percent of your earnings — which often include tips. Tasks are usually fairly quick and easy, including things like:
- Fixing a leaky faucet, broken furniture, or household appliance
- Running errands or delivering groceries
- Moving furniture or hanging pictures
- Organizing, decluttering, or removing junk
- Cleaning the kitchen, washing the dishes, or doing the laundry
- Mowing, shoveling, cleaning the gutters, or planting the garden
- Picking up dog poop, cleaning the pool, or detailing the car
7. Entertain the masses
GigSalad is an entertainment platform that connects entertainers with local people looking for talent for everything from their kid’s birthday party to a gala event. Types of performers that find work on GigSalad include:
- Balloon artists
- Stilt walkers
You can also find event photography, videography, catering, and bartending gigs through the platform.
8. Become a tutor
Use your expertise in your field to make some extra pocket change tutoring adults or children, either online or in person. To become a tutor, you can sign up with an online tutoring platform, which matches you with students and pays you through the app.
eTutorworld offers K-12 online tutoring to students across the world via their platform. They provide their tutor contractors with training and competitive pay and are looking for tutors with a bachelor’s degree in their field of expertise. Club Z matches tutors with students in the U.S. for many subjects, including math, science, foreign languages, and music — and they don’t always require a degree. Preply specializes in language tutoring and offers services for 24 languages, including Arabic, Serbian, Urdu, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish.
9. Sell stuff online
If you have a great eye for things people want to buy—or you create things you’d like to sell — the internet makes it easy to make a buck. Online marketplaces are popular and easy to use. Set up a shop, upload pictures of your wares, and when someone makes a purchase, the platform moves the money into your account, and you ship the goods yourself.
You can make a tidy sum selling things on eBay, from unique thrift store finds to your own items you no longer want, like books, clothes, electronics, and almost anything else you can send through the mail.
If you’re a maker of arts or crafts, set up an Etsy shop, an Artfinder account, or join ArtPal. All three sites offer a vast number of resources to help you reach the right buyers. Set your own prices — but remember the platform will likely take a small cut of the profits, so adjust accordingly.
How to manage the money you make
Now that you have lots of options for making some side cash, keep these things in mind as the money starts rolling in.
- If you reach a certain income level with your side gig, you’ll have to pay taxes on your earnings. The best way to ensure you won’t go into debt at tax time if you end up owing money is to pay taxes on your earnings each quarter.
- Use some of the money to help improve your overall financial situation. Pay off debts to improve your credit score, put some of your extra cash in a savings account, or invest it to help you reach your long-term financial goals.
- If you’re sending extra money home to support your family, use a reputable digital payment service like Remitly that won’t charge you—or the recipient—sky-high fees. Our service is fast, easy, and affordable, and your delivery is safe, secure, and guaranteed to arrive on the date promised or we’ll refund your fees. Download our app to send money straight from your phone, track your transfer, and get help 24/7.
- If you’ve read this article and feel like a side-hustle isn’t really for you after all, read up on how to get the most out of what you do make with these easy ways to save money when you’re living on a tight budget.
Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Since 2011, over 5 million people have used our secure mobile app to send money with peace of mind.
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