What I Earned and What I Learned: the Side Hustle Income of 2017

*Affiliate and referral links galore! Read my disclaimer here


Hello, hustlers.

Trite to say, I’m sure, but I cannot believe that 2017 is over. It’s been a… year, for me. That’s it. Personally, I can’t say that it was amazing, but it also wasn’t the worst year on the books. Money-wise, I earned a decent chunk of change on the side. Which, as you might notice, is the whole point of this blog.

In 2017, I earned $7,206.54! 

*Immediate disclaimer: this doesn’t account for taxes (yup, gotta pay taxes on side-hustlin’ – sorry, folks) or business expenses or whether it was liquid or not or… etc etc.

Face-painting Income: $2,296.00

Average: $191.33/month

What to say. Face-painting is my first love and main squeeze. In fact, first job in life was as a face-painting clown, and I think that’s set the tone for the rest of my working career quite wonderfully. To me, face-painting is a perfect side hustle: fun, easy, pays a lot for not that much time/effort, allows me to express myself creatively, kids are sometimes funny and charming… the list goes on.

There are a few downsides, however:

    • I live in, frankly, an arctic hell. As you may have noticed from my bar-graph above, I didn’t have any gigs in February or November. While I personally stand by the statement, “Face-painting knows no season”… the rest of the world treats it as an outdoorsy, summertime thing. People, apparently, would rather abandon society and hibernate in the winter. Thumbtack has been nothing but crickets for me for the past two months, as has the family entertainment group on Facebook that I’m a part of. I’m hopeful that it will pick up again in the spring, and, for now, I’ll join the movement to stay indoors and stay warm.
    • Good, high-quality face-painting supplies are not cheap.

$12 for one ounce of paint?!  Over $100 for a palette?! THIS SHIT WASHES OFF, PEOPLE.

Regardless, it’s been a great year for face-painting (even if I was nearly scammed), and I can’t wait to kill it in 2018.

Dog-sitting Income: $2,212.20

Average: $184.35/month

I’ve never watched dogs for pay before this year. There were a few misfires (house-sitting in a filthy f**king den of bed-bugs, for one) but overall, it’s been extremely rewarding. I’ve had dogs all my life, but I feel that adopting a fur-baby would be too irresponsible at this point in my life. So, instead I’m contented in renting other people’s dogs.

Most of my business comes from either personal references or Rover.com; I’ve noticed there’s some definite factors that have played a role in my success:

  • I am a home-owner and have a lot of land. More ideal than an apartment-dweller.
  • I live by myself. People tend to be iffy about leaving their dogs when there’s large groups of people/children running about. Den of zen, here.
  • No other pets. Guest dogs have a monopoly on belly rubs.

Call me Blood Type AB, because I am like the Universal Recipient… for dogs.

Since I was too lazy to didn’t post any income reports in the last quarter, enjoy the gallery of puppers who came through Sylvia’s Dog Hotel & Resort during October, November, and December.

This only fuels my desire for F.I.R.E. – I want to become a recluse from society, go off the grid somewhere, and live alone with my 100 dogs.

That’s the dream.

Bartending Income: $1,556.85

Oh, what a fruitful summer it was, slinging drinks and pouring the perfect draft beer… except not. Before I delve into the nitty gritty of bartending and hustle-money, let me share this PostSecret that I stumbled across about six years ago:

Image result for postsecret bartender after college
I want to go to college, but I still want to be a bartender when I get out.

That resonated with me. At the time, I was pursing my useless Latin degree, loved it, but still had the idea that it would be awesome/glamorous/fun to work in a bar.

Whelp, dreams come true…

I guess.

Safe to say, I got it out of my system real quick. For the most part, bartending was a fun and easy side hustle, and tips can be great. But, at the end of the day, bartending is still a customer service position. I’m more or less of the mindset that most other human beings are just straight trash, as a baseline, and are worse yet when they drink.

It really just depends on where you work, I suppose. For me, it was a catering company and a batshit insane family-owned brewpub with a friend as my general manager. The catering gig was fine, but the latter… led to some situations that, six months later, I’m still salty about. Don’t work for crazy and don’t work for your friends, is the lesson learned.

Whatever. I’m still TIPS-certified, make a slammin’ margarita, and am open to possibilities of what 2018 may bring. Is freelance bartending a thing?

Surveys & Rebates Income: $203.95

Not a bad haul from just spending a few minutes here and there answering survey questions, snapping pictures of receipts, and filling out forms.

If you’re wondering why November & December is disproportionately high, it’s because:

  • I received a $75 rebate from my power company for a buying a Nest, a wi-fi enabled thermostat. It’s a handy little device that saves my skin when I’ve left the house for work and forgotten to turn down the heat.
  • I forgot that cash-back credit cards are a thing and decided to tally up my rewards from the entire year. All told, between my Bank of America Cash Rewards Visa and Chase Freedom Visa, I earned about $50. It’s actually a goal for 2018 to start utilizing more of my cash-back credit cards, especially since the Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash-back on rotating categories such as gas, utilities, and restaurants. Due to a year of underemployment, I’ve been heavily favoring cards with 0% APR for the longest periods of time. Now that I’m on steadier footing, it’s time to start credit-hacking.

Other Sources:

  • Ibotta – a rebate app for groceries and other purchases. Not a huge money-maker, but I can usually get $0.25 off every grocery run from Kroger or Meijer. Plus, they offer monthly bonuses, rotating 20% rebates, and more – it adds up! Click here to use my referral link to sign up and join my team, which, the bigger the team, the faster we all earn $$$.
  • JobSpotter – find and snap pics of ‘for hiring signs’ out in the wild. You get rewarded in a varying amount of points (hand-written signs on mom & pop shops will net you more points than a generic ‘Start your career as a barista today!’ sign at Starbucks) which then translates into an Amazon giftcard. A stupidly easy and quick way to make a buck, even if it does garner you some weird looks for stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture of a storefront.
  • Consistently choosing the ‘No Rush’ shipping options on Amazon.com when offered. Because, hey, I’m in no rush, and I’ve earned about $20 in credit.
  • ShopKick, Surveys on the Go, and Streetbees. ShopKick is decently fun and easy – it’s an in-store auditing app. However, I’ve gotten in the habit of ordering groceries online and curb-side pickup, so I rarely physically go into a store anymore. SotG and Streetbees, I’m not terribly ‘into’, to be frank. I get too frustrated when I get twenty questions deep into a survey and am suddenly told that I’m ineligible.
  • eBates – another rebate app. This one is good for one-off purchases from Amazon or other specific stores (I’ve gotten most of my money from this app through online purchases at Sephora.com. 8% back woohoo!) I certainly could have gotten more money out of it this year, had I only remembered to log in through their portal first before I placed my orders.

Freelance Writing Income: $118

I won’t include a fancy graph because I earned all of the above-mentioned money in the month of March.

Before I landed solid employment toward the end of the year (again, the long-reaching consequences of quitting life for a cruise ship), I had envisioned myself breaking into the world of free-lance writing. March ’17 was my first real go of it. I landed a client through Upwork (I got to write about power recliners! Hell yeah!) and pounded out a couple of pieces through the content mill Textbroker. I’m sure it would have worked out well in the end, and in October I had a promising local client lined up. Unfortunately, she went radio silent (which, before that, I’d already noticed that to be a pattern with her). I had just started my new job and didn’t have the time or patience to keep hunting her down.

And so, I’ve decided that I’d rather spend my time working on more personally-rewarded writing projects, such as this blog! That’s not to say that I’d turn away writing projects if someone sought me out, but it’s just not worth my time anymore to write 1500 words on the ‘6 Best Light Sockets Money Can Buy!’ for $8.

Hire me?

Mystery Shopping Income: $82 

Again, foregoing another fancy graph because I did all of my mystery shopping in April – July. Although $82 isn’t much, keep in mind it’s payment on top of reimbursements for the goods and services you evaluate. So, really, it’s more like $82 plus free dinners at restaurants, free trips to the movies, free hotel stays, and free products (one of which was a purchase at an, ahem, adult toy shop).

I haven’t done a mystery shop since the summer, but I haven’t hung up my hat just yet. Mostly, it’s just the time commitment (again, that 40-hour work week is just eating into all of my side hustling time!), effort (those evaluations and report write-ups feel like homework sometimes), and weather (it’s been negative degrees with a double-digit negative windchill, these past few days. SHOOT. ME.)

If you’d like a list of mystery shopping companies to check out, drop me a line!

mean girls GIF

Blog Income: $6.69

Not much to see here! Obviously, it would be great to one day make a living from blogging (and face-painting and dog-sitting) full-time, but I think it’s safe to say that that won’t happen within the first year of a blog’s lifespan. Maybe there’s greater things in store for 2018?

All right. I’ll throw down: my goal is to break double-digits and make $10 this year!

On that note, allow me to gush about the hosting for my blog, DreamHost. I’ve never had any issues with them, and I have yet to experience any blog ‘downtime’… something that I could say is a night and day difference from other, cheaper web-hosts out there. You get what you pay for, people.

Interested in starting your own blog? Click to get started with DreamHost for as little as $7.95/month. DreamHost


Financial Goals of 2018:

  1. Break $3000 in face-painting. Hindsight has taught me that I definitely started off with rates that were way too low. It was necessary, in part, to help build an online reputation on sites like Thumbtack; now that I’ve established myself, it’s time to stick to my guns and get paid.
  2. Similarly, break $3000 in dog-sitting. I think this is more than do-able. For one thing, I had to follow a similar path of having low rates just to get my foot in the door. For another, my home was rented out for a majority of 2017 – thus, I wasn’t able to watch dogs at my home (the real money-maker) and instead only just walked pups and house-sat.
  3. Max out my Roth IRA! I’ve got a cushy retirement account through work, so this is definitely secondary. Normally, this would be a given and not an outright goal, but 2018 is going to be a year of tight purse-strings while I pay off a personal loan. This is where a budget and side-hustling is king queen.

Song of the Month: ‘You in Me’ by Volor Flex

For the love of biscuits, listen to this song. Intense, melodic, and friggin’ beautiful. It sort of reminds me of the Grey’s Anatomy theme-song (which, for as much as I regard that show to be absolute trash, it does have, at least, a great sound-track). I can already tell that this is going to top off my ‘Most Listened to in 2o18’ Playlist that Spotify aggregates for you at the end of the year.

My songs of the month are only tangentially related to side-hustling in that I am constantly listening to music. For everywhere in life that I can tighten the purse-strings (and, subscription services are usually the first to go), I will always pay for Spotify premium.


A great year of side-hustling! Can’t wait to see what 2018 brings, and I hope your endeavors were and will be just as successful. Happy hustling, and thanks for reading.

Click here to read ALL of my published income reports!

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3 Replies to “What I Earned and What I Learned: the Side Hustle Income of 2017”

  1. Awesome work in 2017! The face painting is an interesting side gig for sure. How do you get the word out about your services? (it sounds like you work for yourself).

    Bartending seems fun for sure and definitely lucrative depending on where you work. How’s the flexibility with it? I think my only issue with bartending is just the lack of flexibility, i.e. having to work nights, weekends, etc.

    1. Thank you 😀 Shouts out to you! You’re where I first learned about JobSpotter. I’d definitely be out there JobSpotting if it weren’t negative degrees outside right now.

      Re: face-painting – I’ve been doing gigs for friends and family since I was about sixteen, so that’s been a solid customer base to build off of. This past year, I’ve been working to solidify my profile on Thumbtack.com as well as my personal face-painting website (which needs some more love, tbh). Also, I’m part of a family entertainers group on Facebook, and the networking there has been solid. I make sure to pass out my business cards like candy at every gig I work. Sometimes, if I’m feeling really adventurous / bored, I’ll cold-pitch a few people or places where I think it’d be fun to have a gig, which has worked out a few times.

      Bartending & flexibility – the catering gig was nice because it was just an online portal where you could pick up available shifts as you felt like it, but the scheduling coordinator definitely would try and pressure me into non-bartending / server shifts like… all the time. The brewpub, it started off with the understanding that I would just pick up a shift here and there on the weekends as they needed me, but… it got to be a bit much since every other bartender quit because of the crazy family-owners and I was the last one standing, since I was still working a 40-hour work-week on top of it. Yes, I got burnt out quite a bit. Basically, if I could just show up to a house-party, mix a few cocktails, and get thrown a $50, that would be the friggin’ dream XD

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