As many of you know, side hustling is a large part of my debt payoff journey. I make a fairly low amount of money in relation to my debt, so for me to reach my ambitious goals, I need to hustle.

Side hustles have included: cleaning houses, washing dishes, working events, being a babysitter, selling water at a rave, being a brand ambassador, and a freelance writer.

One thing I pride myself on is that I think work is work. As long as I am in debt, there is no job too small or too big for me, and certainly nothing that is “below” me. I may have thought otherwise a few years ago when I had a fancy job title and managed several employees.

However, the 2 years after graduate school that I searched for a full-time job was a humbling experience. It was an emotional roller coaster for me and I felt like I took a dive in status.  I went from being a director of a program to cleaning houses.

I realized that perhaps I was wrong before. That I did think I was “too good” to do certain things, and now being forced to do whatever was available humbled me and deepened my understanding of the human experience, and this bizarre class structure we’ve created.

Now I have a full-time job that’s pretty rad. I’ve learned a ton of new skills that are highly marketable, and I’m having fun. I’ve also started this blog, and I’m seeing it as an opportunity for other doors to open. At least I hope a few will.

My current long-term side hustle that I’ve been doing every weekend for the past three weeks, and will continue for another five, pays $10/hr.  It’s a pretty low amount, and of course I’d love to be paid more, but here is the scoop:

Part of me is really proud of myself. I do things that I know my friends won’t do; I meet crazy people who are like characters from the circus; I have odd, amazing experiences; I get out of my routine and my comfort zone.

Most of the time, I’m very happy about my hustling. Other times I start to think that I might be selling myself short.

I have a master’s degree in something fairly useless, but it’s given me the ability to write. I also have management experience, as well as outreach and communication experience. I also speak Spanish, which has helped me land almost every job I’ve ever gotten. Shouldn’t I get more than $10/hr?

Yes, of course, I should. But these jobs I do on the side don’t require any of those skills.

I also think if you have the time available, then making some money is better than none.

Right? Or is it holding me back from pursuing larger paying side jobs? I really want to focus 100% on my blog; I want to update it more frequently, write good content, get paid to write content, and continue down the many avenues of creative employment.

But I’m not there yet. I can’t in good conscience turn down legitimate, albeit low paying work with how much debt I have.  I stand by the fact that work is work. Sometimes I just wish I could throw myself into this head first and reach my full potential.

What do you think? Am I a #1 hustler or am I selling myself short?


Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

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35 responses to “Am I a #1 Hustler or Selling Myself Short?”

  1. Debby says:

    I think you’re a boss hustler, girl. You’re absolutely right: work is work, and you need to focus on what’s most important: making money. While doing that, you can keep your eyes open for better opportunities (job and hustle-wise) – but for now, you’re doing just great. 🙂
    Debby recently posted…Day 136 – February’s Ridiculous Resolutions Recap!My Profile

  2. Great question. I am torn on this subject sometimes myself. It’s great that you’re willing to take on work that is sometimes seen as “beneath” you, but at the same time if it’s not what you want to be doing, maybe you can scale back on it while at the same time putting that time towards the blog or other side hustles that you think will be a better use of your time. Doing a partial scale back of your current side hustles is better than quitting them altogether, but in the end it’s up to you to do what you’re comfortable with.

    • deardebt says:

      I think I am going to try to put more energy to online things as I let these other things ride out. I will also never turn down any work, and keep my options open.

      • I hardly ever turn down work, but once in a while I just need a day to “catch up” on my household chores and some R&R. You are really making progress, which is awesome! But, don’t forget to give yourself some down time, you are still human 🙂
        Shoeaholicnomore recently posted…February 2014 ResultsMy Profile

  3. anna says:

    Have you ever considered being a Spanish tutor? I think they pay pretty well depending on class size? If you were in SD, I would be your first customer. 🙂
    anna recently posted…The Great Ball and Chain Acquisition (or, I’m Married!)My Profile

    • deardebt says:

      I would not be confident as a Spanish tutor. My Spanish is pretty good and I can translate, converse. etc. A lot of it is conversational, not legal or professional. I’m not perfect though and I have pretty strong feelings that people should learn languages from natives, or by living in another country. I think slang and culture are a huge part of learning a language. I mean, think of all the weird English sayings that would not directly translate. Or the phrase ‘media naranja’ in Spanish.

  4. Love, love, love this post. You know I’ve always had mad respect for you as the Queen of Hustling and like you, I DON’T think there’s any job out there beneath me.
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted…End of February 2014 Debt Repayment UpdateMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      You are the sweetest! I’m not the Queen, I’m a wannabe Princress 🙂 You got to do what you got to do — in the end, hard work and tenacity will get you everywhere. Not being lazy and mooching off others!

  5. E.M. says:

    I am inclined to agree with you that money is money, and it’s great to be making extra on the side. However, if you think you’re capable of more – say, growing the blog, and getting paid to write – then maybe you should try and focus on that after the eight week gig is up. If you can spare any extra time building an online side hustle during the week, I would try. Give yourself a month or two, and evaluate at the end if you should continue seeking other side jobs, or work on the blog.
    E.M. recently posted…The Reality of Car OwnershipMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      I am definitely trying. It’s all new territory for me. It would be great to do some side hustles from home. I think that’s a great idea to give it my all for a few months and see how it goes. I feel like I am either constantly in an evaluation state, or too busy to think about evaluation, lol. As long as I’m bringing in some extra money that is all that matters. Nov-Jan were really rough, so I’m playing catch up.

  6. eemusings says:

    Money talks, and ultimately you gotta do what brings in the cash. As someone in a creative field who’s never gonna get rich I’ve also had to realise that your value is determined by the market and nothing else.
    eemusings recently posted…Three Thing Thursday: Tips for a one-way US road tripMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Yep! What a profound and disturbing statement, but you are right. The market determines a lot. Which is why the arts aren’t valued and it’s hard to make a living as a creative person!

  7. Sounds like you’re a hardcore side-hustler!
    I’m only just getting into side hustles myself, starting some niche websites and my million dollar blog.

    I’m starting to investigate some new ones, such as selling some things from around the house on ebay, possibly renting out a spare room and helping some friends develop their own websites.

    About to start reading more about your hustles… 🙂
    Mr Ikonz @ Project Ikonz recently posted…Hiring tools or buying tools – which way do I save the most money?My Profile

  8. I think it’s more of what you want to do. If you want to use your side hustle to eventually go full-time, I’d focus on that right now. But if you’re ok with where you’re at or cannot find a side hustle that could translate, then take the jobs you can find!

    Either way, you’re the Queen Bee of Hustlin’. Make that money, girl.
    Michelle @fitisthenewpoor recently posted…Weekly Roundup #19: Try New ThingsMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      I would like to move towards doing my side hustles from home. It takes a lot of energy to go to places, stand all day, and talk. Not complaining, but it’s more draining. It would cost less money and use less emotional and mental energy to write from home. I never considered freelance work before because it just seemed like a pipe dream — but now I am considering the thought. Also, I am so not the Queen Bee. I think Michelle from Sense of Cents is! But I do work hard to make ANY money.

  9. Michelle says:

    I worked at Starbucks for almost 2 years after graduating from my Masters Program. It was a humbling, frustrating, and stressful experience but I had to do what I had to do. I think that I would judge you if you weren’t willing to work and then complained about your financial situation. Instead, you work like a machine and get IT DONE! Your work ethic will translate into greater success later. As a person who has cleaned super poo I can completely understand how you feel. But, as you pay your debts down and your net worth goes up understand that later when you’re wealthy people will assume that it was easy for you. You’ll know different. You’ll always appreciate everything you have because you’ve worked so hard for it. Feel proud of yourself. You haven’t sold yourself short-you showed character and tenacity. Traits that a lot of people don’t have.
    Michelle recently posted…February LinK LoveMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Michelle, I’ve always admired your work ethic too. You are amazing. I would never want to be one of those people that complains but isn’t willing to do whatever it takes, even cleaning super poo, lol. You are right, that the work ethic will translate to other things. I’ve been so humbled and really appreciate my current situation. When I’m tired and feeling overworked, I think that all this work is getting me closer to my dreams. And that it’s much better to have this ‘problem’ than the converse!

  10. This is a GREAT post! And in my book, you are a HUSTLA! My grandma always said a job is a job. It doesn’t matter if it pays $1 – as long as you’re not cheating anyone and you’re doing a good job, there is no shame.
    If push comes to shove, I would be the first person in line to work at McDonalds. It’s admirable that you’re doing what you’re doing. Prioritizing your debt is always an awesome thing. 🙂 So go and enjoy that drink this weekend (after your shift)!
    Anneli @thefrugalweds recently posted…Frugal Reads of the WeekMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Thank you for your comment, Anneli. Sometimes it feels like I need a boost. I feel like I’m trying so hard, but I could be doing better. I’ll slowly get there, but for now work is work and I’m happy with where I’m at. I did enjoy my shift drinks and slept in and did nothing yesterday 🙂

  11. Debt Hater says:

    I don’t think there anything wrong with what you are doing. Like you said, your side income is not requiring those extra skills you have so there is nothing wrong with working for the wage they are currently paying you. That said, I think it would be important to keep a look out for side jobs that can improve your income stream even more 🙂 As long as you are keeping an eye out for improvement I see nothing wrong with doing that. Money is money.
    Debt Hater recently posted…Student Loan Progress – February 2014My Profile

  12. This is tough because it’s hard to turn down work, but I think understanding your value and putting a price on your time is SO important. I was offered a part time gig a few weeks ago for $13/hour and struggled a lot before turning it down. I’ve NEVER made less than $15/hour. Even babysitting, it’s closer to $20. Even if it’s something anyone can do, I’m not anyone (and neither are you). If someone isn’t gonna pay me what I need, I’ll find ways to use that time more valuably.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Moving Forward: Fast, Slow, and Constant.My Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Part of me thinks I need to be more confident, and also negotiate harder, go after the bigger fish. But I also can’t turn down work, so it’s really hard for me. I admire your values and that you know what you want and need to work.

      With so much debt, I need to keep moving forward and I just don’t trust waiting around for something else — I’m also really impatient, haha.

  13. Tony Rapley says:

    Hands down you are a side hustling diva. I admire your hustle so much! I’m still trying to figure out how to fit mine into my hectic schedule.

    You’re developing even more character while really tackling your debt. It’s commendable and anyone that doesn’t get it or criticizes you doesn’t clearly understand what it takes to accomplish real financial freedom.

    Keep being fabulous 🙂
    Tony Rapley recently posted…The Frugal Fab 5 is on Tour Delivering Proven Methods for Improving Your FinancesMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      It’s hard managing a full-time job, side hustles, a relationship and boring life stuff as I call it (bills, groceries, cleaning, etc). But I have my eyes on the prize and that is to be debt free!

  14. Gina says:

    I can totally relate to this, which is one of the reasons why I recently quit my side hustle. I was hostessing at a restaurant three lunch shifts a week for $9/hr. It was an easy job and turned out to be an extra $500/month, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking “I can do better. I’m 28 years old and I have tons of restaurant experience. I don’t need to be doing a job that’s meant for a 20-year- old. There are better ways for me to spend my time, like working on my blog, learning new, valuable skills, or working a job that pays better and is more challenging.”

    Now that I’ve quit one side hustle and am currently looking for a new one, I’ve decided to raise my side hustle standards a little bit. For one, I think $12 an hour is the lowest I will accept for pay since I’m 28, I have a degree, and I have a lot of work experience. Second, if I’m going to side hustle, I want a job where I’ll learn new skills instead of another restaurant job. My main gig is a restaurant job, I don’t need another one! 😛

    I’m pretty new to side hustling, so my standards might change again in the future, but for now, this is where I stand.
    Gina recently posted…Five on Friday v24My Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Interesting — on one hand you can see side hustling as an extension of what you do and related to your job. But I also think it’s a great space to learn new skills. I would keep a hustle that paid $500/mo, but I understand where you are coming from. You want something different. Good luck and keep us posted!

  15. I have to saw I wrestle with this too. It’s not to much that I’m “too good” or too proud to take lower paying jobs…I just wonder too if I should be spending that time doing those jobs pursuing higher paying gigs. If I think small will I get small? Or if I think big will I get big? It’s a tough one to answer and I think each individual has to figure out what is right for them.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…February Recap/March GoalsMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      You make a really good point. I don’t want to set the bar low, and then never improve. I want bigger, better things, and I need time to pursue that. But I also can’t turn down work. It’s a balance I’m trying to work with!

  16. 1- Hablas español? How did I not know this before?
    2- Lady, you are killing it. Keep working your side hustle and if something that pays higher comes along, you can take it. But as you said, what you have right now is better than no money at all.
    3- Not only, but working these side hustle gigs expands your network (maybe not your intended network, but network nonetheless) and you never know when that might come in handy.
    4- These jobs teach us hardwork and humility.
    La Tejana @ Debt Free Tejana recently posted…How to Tip at a RestaurantMy Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Si, yo hablo español! Soy de Los Angeles, y he estudiado español desde que tenía 15 años. Por mucho tiempo!

      Also, I totally agree. This work is expanding my network, my net worth and I’ve learned so much. And I have some fun too. Your dinner theater gig sounds fun too!

  17. Rock on with the hustle! I think there’s a fine line between thinking jobs are beneath you and actually putting a price on your time. When I finished grad school I was struggling with whether I should take jobs that paid less money then I wanted to make (babysitting, cleaning etc.) then I realized money is money and once I got a little experience under my belt I could negoiate better wages and felt more confident to find better paying jobs. When I got my first post-masters job it didn’t pay what I wanted, but I worked hard and got promoted fast and now I’ve got my “foot in the door” and I can transition to better paying career options. Hang in there!
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted…I love my job. Do you love yours?My Profile

    • deardebt says:

      Thanks, KK. I appreciate your perspective. You are right, I just need to hang in there and keep going. Better paying things will come along, but for now this is great. I do want to be more confident in putting a value on my time though.

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