Side Hustle Series

Part 1:  Freelancing Your Way to Financial Independence

Becoming debt free and financially independent takes two shifts in your mindset:

1.  Resetting your views on money and spending. We touched on this during the Budget Basics series.

2.  Ceasing to care about what others think. Friends, family and strangers don’t pay your bills. Quit buying stuff to impress them.  And as long as it’s ethical and legal, care even less about what they think about how you earn your money.

This series will detail easy ways to make extra cash money, most of which also offer opportunities to exercise the ability to disregard what others think.  In the spirit of stretching that muscle, we’ll kick-off the series with the most public:  Micro jobs.

Field Agent, GigWalk and Easy Shift are mobile apps that pay you for mystery shopping and store audits, and occasionally, surveys, website and product reviews.  Some require employee interaction, but most are seeking information on product placement, pricing and availability.

Grocery, convenience and big box stores, and fast food and fast casual restaurants are common job sites.  I’ve also done liquor store gigs (stack an Ibotta YellowTail rebate and it’s my dream job of getting paid to drink wine!), as well as a few where wine and beer distributors were looking to see if their brands were on tap or served in certain bars.

I live in a mid-sized city, but if your small town is big enough for a gas station, Wal-Mart or discount retailer like Dollar General, Dollar Tree or Family Dollar, micro gigs will be available in your area.

You’ll need a smart phone with a camera and a data plan to apply for and complete these micro jobs.  And if you don’t already have one, a PayPal account.  Payments are deposited there, and can be quickly and easily transferred to your bank.  If you receive more than 200 payments in a year, PayPal will issue a 1099-K to report the income earned on your annual tax return.

Here are reviews on the micro job apps I regularly use and the pros and cons of each:

Field Agent

+  Both Android and Apple versions are available.

+  Typically larger pay-outs for fewer questions and photos than the other two apps.

+  Payments are deposited to PayPal very quickly, usually one business day after the job is completed or on Monday for a weekend job.

+  Offers better instructions and examples of the photos required than its competitors.  You want to get the job done as directed, but as quickly as possible.  Clear and understandable directions without a lot of jargon are key.

+/-  Some jobs are only available after first completing a quick Screener survey.  These will either qualify or disqualify you for certain jobs based on purchasing habits or demographic information.  However, if you’re one of very few qualified applicants, these jobs won’t be quick to disappear from your app.  And payout amounts can increase if they’re not filled a few days after being posted.

  Once you reserve a gig, you only have two hours to complete it.  I’ve even seen one-hour time limits.

  Field Agent has a job type called “Scavenger Hunt.”  These involve looking for specific product in a certain store by UPC code.  While it sounds easy, these are difficult and time consuming, if you’re even able to locate the product at all.  I’ve long since started ignoring these jobs, except there are so many and the way they’re arranged is a hot mess.

Easy Shift

+  Both Android and Apple versions are available.

+  Once you reserve a gig, you have 24 hours to complete it.

+  They have an active user forum accessible through the app, which offers beginner tutorials, tips from experienced Shifters and more information about pending jobs.

+/-  Of the three this app offers the most jobs in my city, though they are snatched up quickly.  And I like the map view it offers.  Available jobs are marked with blue pins.  Jobs reserved by others have a grey pin.  Clicking on a grey pin will show how much time is left on the reservation.  Occasionally members let their reservations lapse, so you could easily keep track and check back when their hold is set to expire.

 Typically, more photos and questions are required for each job than are required by the other apps, however, the shift reservation page will show you the exact number of questions required to complete the gig so you can judge for yourself if the pay-out amount is worth your time.

  New members can only sign up for a limited number of jobs, but Shifters receive “promotions” for completing a certain number of jobs, and with promotions the number of jobs that can be reserved at a single time increases.


+  Both Android and Apple versions are available.

+/-  Members apply for each gig.  Part of applying is indicating how quickly you can do the job.  Options are usually two hours, 12 hours and 24 hours, but I’ve seen other increments and occasionally a span of days versus hours.  Acceptance or rejection of your application is sometimes instant, but not always.

+/-  Gigwalk payments aren’t as quick as Field Agent’s, but they arrive faster than Easy Shift’s.

+/-  Similarly, the number of required questions and photos for the amounts paid are usually more than Field Agent’s, but less than Easy Shift.

 In my area, not as many jobs are available at any given time versus Field Agent or Easy Shift.

With the rise of a freelance economy through the mainstream use of Uber, Airbnb, Fiverr and others, the availability and prevalence of micro jobs is only going to grow.  These quick and easy money makers can help you become debt free, and you’ll collect a few free meals and some comp’d Chardonnay along your road to financial independence!

Next in the series:  There’s No Shame in Swagbucks & Surveys

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