The internet's ability to shine a light on the weirdest, most obscure parts of humanity means more than just scrolling through cat memes when you should be working. It also opens up a world of interesting (read: strange) side hustles and gigs to help you make an extra buck if you're qualified (and willing) to perform some overlooked tasks, ranging from the adventurous to the truly outlandish that would make a good story to tell at a bar or your next family gathering. Not all of these under-the-radar side hustles may be right for you. But depending on what you're looking for, you can find ones that offer flexible hours, low commitment and extra money in your pocket.
Side hustle: professional taste tester
Salary information: Salaries posted on Glassdoor for hourly taste testers range from $8 to $15 per hour.
Side hustle details: Becoming a professional taste tester is about more than just making sure the food tastes good—you're also responsible for judging the dish's overall look and smell as well. In some cases, a background in the food you're testing might make you more eligible for the gig—like if you're applying to test pizza and you used to make pizzas (real pizza, not Domino's) at a previous job.
Pros: Taste testers don't generally need to have much education, and tasting food (especially at the higher-end places) can be a delicious task.
Cons: This particular side hustle is on the lower end in terms of pay.
Side hustle: professional cuddler
Salary information: Depending on your availability, professional cuddlers can make around $80 per hour.
Side hustle details: People hire professional cuddlers for the physical contact a snuggle session provides. The sessions often come with different position options, and there are usually specific, ironclad rules with regard to the touching allowed. For example, it's a given that all touching must be nonsexual in nature (otherwise it becomes a very different and, unless you are in Nevada, illegal sort of side hustle), and some places even videotape cuddle sessions to keep everything above board. "This job indicates a powerful need in people to be seen and heard in emotionally safe, validating ways," said Madelon Guinazzo, co-founder and director of certification training with Cuddlist.com. "Collectively, we are very hungry for quality, affirming human contact."
Pros: Professional cuddlers who put in the hours stand to make a lot of money in this side hustle without needing a specific skill set. Plus, there's a lot to be gained from meeting people under these circumstances. "I am understanding more and more about human trauma," said Guinazzo, who makes an average of $400 per week with her own cuddle sessions. "I am learning how our nervous system, biochemistry, emotions, thoughts and psyche are all intertwined with our experiences with other people."
Cons: Providing this type of close contact with strangers on a regular basis is a unique side hustle that isn't for everyone. In fact, Guinazzo admits the job can be emotionally taxing and inherently vulnerable, which means that professional cuddlers should understand that this can lead to awkward, disappointing or even frustrating encounters. There's also the potential judgment you face. "It is difficult for many people to understand," Guinazzo said, adding she's been "rejected and belittled by people who haven't experienced it."
Side hustle: Census field representative
Salary information: According to Glassdoor, the average hourly base pay for U.S. Census Bureau field representatives is $15 per hour.
Side hustle details: Census field representatives are assigned specific areas to canvass in order to collect information for the U.S. Census Bureau. They knock on people's doors and ask residents questions about their ethnicity, employment and other general background details.
Pros: People who have worked this side hustle say the hours are flexible and that most of the work is done independently, so there's not a lot of middle management or office politics at play. People who excel at this job will be those who like talking to people from all different walks of life and enjoy driving around their city.
Cons: While the hours are flexible, some people found that there often weren't enough hours available to make a decent wage. Other people worried about the safety and security that comes with knocking on random people's doors.
Side hustle: professional human guinea pig
Salary information: According to Payscale.com, the average drug tester makes $16.42 per hour.
Side hustle details: As far as unique side jobs go, getting paid to test drugs is pretty out there. People interested in this type of work can check out the Program for Healthy Volunteers or Just Another Lab Rat!, where clinical research studies are posted on a regular basis. It helps to know what exactly you're getting into, so you'll want to read the fine print first. "The jobs greatly vary in terms of what you need to do," said Tom Nathaniel, who participated in a clinical trial involving a sleep supplement through a local university in Arizona. "For example, some are simple and want you to come in for an hour, while others may have you test something for weeks, journaling your results."
Pros: There are usually a number of studies to pick from, so you can generally be flexible with how detailed you want your involvement to be. The pay is decent for a side gig, especially since you can often do these things from the comfort of your own home. Plus, "you're helping researchers with their studies," Nathaniel said.
Cons: You'll want to take anything medical-related seriously before signing up. Also, "depending on the study, you may have to alter your lifestyle," said Nathaniel. "You also have to make sure you're very detail-oriented. For instance, I had to cut back on caffeine, get at least eight hours of sleep and limit my alcohol. This could be hard for some, but again, all studies vary."
Side hustle: on-demand snow shoveler
Salary information: According to ZipRecruiter, snow shovelers make an average of $16 per hour.
Side hustle details: When the snow starts falling, the demand for shoveling sidewalks and driveways goes through the roof. One unique opportunity to make a little extra cash is to become an on-demand snow shoveler. Apps like Shovler help pair would-be shovelers with people in their area who need snow cleared. With Shovler, prices are set daily based on the amount of snowfall and the demand for shovelers.
Pros: Shoveling snow is an incredibly flexible way to bring in a little extra cash and get in your workout for the day.
Cons: Obviously, the need for a shoveler is dependent on the weather, so this is one of the less-reliable side hustles. It's also not a good idea to become an on-demand shoveler if you have any health issues or you don't enjoy being outside in the cold.
Side hustle: professional bridesmaid
Salary information: Prices vary based on the tasks a bridesmaid is hired to perform, but they can start at around $200 for speechwriting and go up to $2,000 and more for in-person tasks.
Side hustle details: As the founder and CEO of Bridesmaid for Hire, Jen Glantz considers herself the bride's on-call therapist, personal assistant, social director and peacekeeper. "Brides hire me for two reasons," she said. "One: They have friends, but their friends are a mess and they need a professional in the room. Two: They don't have any close friends, which happens in life, and I understand that." Glantz says someone considering a professional bridesmaid gig should have experience dealing with difficult personalities, have a lot of patience and be able to diffuse any tension with a well-placed joke (or at least a graceful way of changing the subject). "Also, someone who can relate to different challenges and situations," she said.
Pros: Glantz said being able to help and support a stranger in a time of need has by far been the biggest pro of this side hustle. Not to mention the fact that if you love weddings, this would be the perfect job for you.
Cons: Brides on their wedding day can be, to put it delicately, stressed. Glantz said having all that anger and frustration taken out on her is an aspect of the job she doesn't enjoy, even though it's not personal.
Side hustle: professional line sitter
Salary information: As a relatively new side hustle option, prices vary, but some companies have minimums and hourly prices for additional time. For example, at Manhattan-based Same Ole Line Dudes, line waiters are paid a $45 minimum for up to two hours, then $10 for each additional 30 minutes.
Side hustle details: Professional line sitters do just that—sit and wait in line for people who want those coveted "Hamilton" tickets but would prefer not to wait three hours to get them. "Our success has come with two popular event waves—first, the creation of the cronut in the summer of 2013 after we had just started out, and then the popularity of "Hamilton" on Broadway in spring of 2016," said Robert Samuel, founder of Same Ole Line Dudes, LLC. Perennial events like Macy's 4th of July Fireworks and Thanksgiving Day Parade, the iPhone release, and designer sample sales continue to keep line sitters busy throughout the year, Samuel added.
Pros: Standing in a line is something we all do at one time or other—for free—and if you're someone who likes making conversation with strangers, this is a great way to make money doing just that. "In a city with millions who live here and even more who visit, line sitting is the gift that keeps on giving for me and my staff," Samuel said.
Cons: Line sitters are more apt to find work in big cities where people are known to wait in long lines. Weather also plays a factor—standing outside while it's freezing or pouring rain turns this job from an exercise in boredom to hard labor.
Side hustle: golf ball diver
Salary information: Diving rates vary greatly depending on hours and location, but the best divers can make up to $100 per hour.
Side hustle details: Even the best golfers have an off day (or off years), but a bad time on the links means opportunity for golf ball divers, who get paid to head into the water and retrieve lost balls.
Pros: Many golf ball divers say they enjoy this side hustle because it allows them to work outside at some of the world's most scenic places. Plus, as professional divers (which you must be to do this kind of job), they get to spend their time doing the hobby they enjoy and get paid well for it.
Cons: Not everyone can be a golf ball diver. You need to be a certified professional diver with training in first aid and dive rescue to even be considered for the gig. The diving often requires working through muck and dirt at the bottom of ponds to find the balls, and after recovering the balls, divers have to lug them around, which can get heavy. In warm places like Florida, diving for hours at a time in a wet suit and lugging around heavy bags of golf balls can get quite hot and uncomfortable.
Side hustle: professional pet sitter
Salary information: Pet sitting rates vary based on location and number of pets, but professional pet sitters on Thumbtack make between $20 and $30 per visit.
Side hustle details: If you love animals, watching someone else's pet while they're gone is a great way to get in some quality fur time while making money. Lots of companies make it easy to find people looking for pet sitters these days, like Thumbtack and Rover. Pros: You get paid to play with adorable puppies without having them eat your socks or treat your house like a toilet.
Cons: If you plan to use a company like Rover, you'll need to pass a basic background check, provide a detailed profile and personal information, and get approved by a team of sitter specialists, which may be too much hassle for some. Pet sitting also often requires some travel, and walking dogs in the rain is never fun.
Side hustle: survey respondent
Salary information: What you make with this type of unique side hustle will depend on where you provide your survey responses. For example, with Swagbucks, respondents typically earn between 1 cent and 15 cents for each task.
Side hustle details: Sites like Swagbucks and YouGov allow people to earn money by taking surveys, watching videos or even just searching the web. People who participate in these types of side jobs can usually be paid either through cash or with gift cards.
Pros: This side hustle can be done from the comfort of your own home on your phone or laptop. The jobs are flexible and can often be fit in between other tasks or during short breaks.
Cons: You usually have to do a lot of these small individual tasks to make enough money for it to be worth it, but if the alternative is checking Instagram for the thousandth time, you might as well change up your habits and earn some cash from your screen time.
Side hustle: scan receipts for cash
Salary information: Varies based on how often you shop. The sky (and your grocery budget) is the limit!
Side hustle details: With apps like Ibotta, people can earn cash back on their everyday purchases through participating stores. Users download the app, find offers available on products they want to purchase, buy those items at participating stores (like Walmart, Food Lion, Publix, Walgreens and CVS, among others), and then keep the receipt. After making a purchase, users redeem their preselected offers by taking a photo of their receipt, and the cash difference is deposited in their Ibotta account within 48 hours. You can also link to a loyalty card or make in-app mobile purchases for cash-back opportunities.
Pros: This is a great way to save money on items you would buy anyway, and the mobile in-app purchase option means you don't even need to leave your home to save.
Cons: Users have to remember to select offers before making their purchases, and cash back is only offered on items where that offer exist.
Side hustle: mystery shopper
Salary information: According to Indeed.com, the average secret shopper's daily wage ranges from $150 for customer service representatives to $400 per day for mystery shoppers.
Side hustle details: Mystery shoppers are often paid by companies to visit stores, restaurants and banks, and to provide detailed feedback about how the experience went in order to help with their customer service.
Pros: Mystery shoppers are usually paid either through a traditional shopper payment and/or through reimbursement for free purchases or meals. This means you make money not only on visits to some of your favorite places, but the things you purchase there could be free as well.
Cons: Mystery shoppers need their own transportation to get to and from places, and it could take a few visits before this side hustle starts to pay off.
Side hustle: professional friend
Salary information: $20 to $25 per hour is average, but it can range anywhere from $10 to $50 per hour based on the activity or event.
Side hustle details: Sometimes we need a friend when one simply isn't available. Sign up at a site like RentAFriend and you'll be helping someone in need of companionship, perhaps during an important event like a wedding or party. "All activities that take place on RentAFriend are 100% platonic in nature," said Jessica Rose, friendship coordinator at RentAFriend. "There is a no-touching rule between the members and friends." Open-minded individuals who enjoy meeting new people and socializing are the types who tend to excel at this gig, Rose added.
Pros: Providing your friendship is very flexible—you can pick which events or activities you'd like to do. If you enjoy meeting new people and doing new things, this is a great way to get paid for doing what you like.
Cons: Since this side hustle is so flexible, it's hard to say there are many cons. The worst that can happen is you try it out and don't like it.
Side hustle: host dinner parties
Salary information: How much you make depends on how often you can host, but hosts have reported making between $500 and $1,500 per month.
Side hustle details: Hosts who take on this particular side gig are hired out to create meals and overall experiences for their guests. "This job entails a love for food and for connecting people through food," said Dina Manganaris, who hosts dinner parties through the organization Eatwith. "I think people are willing to pay for this experience because it's unique and special. I serve guests traditional Balkan cuisine and other dishes that are hard to find at restaurants. As I serve each dish, I educate guests about my culture and heritage. It's more of a cultural experience."
Pros: Preparing dinner for guests is flexible, since you can decide when to host. Hosts also set their own prices for their guests, so you can bring in a big haul of cash provided you find people willing to pay what you charge. Plus, there's the intangible benefit of "connecting people from all over the world," said Emillio Mesa, another Eatwith host. "It's a never-ending cultural education."
Cons: If you decide to go with this type of unique side job, you're probably a person who loves good food, cooking and connecting with others, so there probably isn't much of a negative. To be popular and get a steady stream of customers, though, you must be good at both cooking and making people feel welcome. "For me, this is more than a job—I never even call it that," Manganaris said. "It's really a passion and joy to meet wonderful people to get to share my story, and if that brings some extra income, then that's awesome."
Side hustle: host wine-tasting parties and classes
Salary information: Depending on your experience, you can charge about $35 to $40 per person for wine classes and/or parties.
Side hustle details: Wine-tasting parties and/or classes are a great way to showcase your wine skills and make new friends. Michelle Mele, of Michelle Pours Wine, hosts food and wine pairing dinners (for an extra fee of about $70 to $80 per person) as well as just wine tastings from her own home. "People love these events because it is an opportunity to try new dishes and get a wine and food pairing education all at the same time," she said.
Pros: If you already have the skills for this gig—Mele has been working in the wine industry for several years and is currently working on her Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Advanced Certification—then this is a great way to make a little extra money on the side doing what you already love.
Cons: Besides the education required to make this side hustle work, this particular gig requires a little extra legwork on your part to find customers. Mele started her business by using Nextdoor to advertise her classes before branching off on her own. It also helps to be friendly and welcoming as well as a great conversationalist.
Side hustle: get paid for your smartphone skills
Salary information: Foap pays users $5 per photo, and one photo can sell multiple times. Specific missions pay more, usually starting at $50.
Side hustle details: If you'll be taking glorious photos with your iPhone anyway, you might as well get paid for them. Foap helps would-be photographers make some cash on their prized pics by allowing them to upload photos onto the app and add hashtags so companies can search for them to potentially use in their advertising campaigns. Users can also join missions created by companies that ask for specific types of photos.
Pros: The app is easy to use, and it's a great way to potentially earn some money from something you'd already be doing anyway.
Cons: These days, iPhone photographers abound, and they're pretty good at that. The competition on Foap can be fierce, so your skills really need to be professional-looking if you hope to make any money using the app. Plus, at $5 a pop, you'd have to sell a lot of photos to make this side job lucrative.