Most of us have needed a side gig at some point, but for a while, it seemed as though every “how to make extra money” or “find your side gig” YouTube video, blog post, website article, or podcast contained the same options. We were all told great fortune awaited if we just taught Chinese children to speak English online, became a “brand ambassador”, or partnered with a company that paid us to pick up and/or deliver groceries or takeout on our own schedule. And then suddenly….these weren’t being promoted anymore. “Side hustle” content creators have moved on to completely different things, mostly online sales and marketing.
What happened to these former “make money online” trends? Can we still supplement our art career income with these?
Teach English to Chinese kids online
VIPKid, ABCKids, and MagicEars appeared to be the most popular companies offering this opportunity, but they were far from the only ones. Opportunities to teach children from China to speak English seemed almost limitless. Teachers did need to have a Bachelor’s degree, but they did not need teacher certification or teaching experience. They only needed to be fluent English speakers, and willing to teach in the startlingly upbeat style taught by the company.
These were not promoted as “get rich quick with no investment” schemes. Both teachers and the companies’ web pages made it clear that you needed to have high speed internet, a microphone, and a quiet, distraction-free, and child-friendly space available in order to do the work. And while the corporations did not ask you for money, it was expected that teachers make a small investment in their teaching career by purchasing teaching aides such as cutout letters and shapes, puppets, props, and backdrops that made the teacher appear to be sitting in a classroom. But once you had all of that, you were on your way to a side hustle that could potentially replace the income of your current career.
As of the writing of this article, MagicEars, VIPKid, and a company called GoGoKid still maintain active websites, including links to apply to teach. The estimated pay ranges from $12-$26 per hour. They just aren’t the trendy thing to promote anymore. The only promotion of VIPKid and GoGo Kid found during a May 2021 YouTube search of “most popular side hustles of 2021” was from Rachel Cruze of the YouTube channel “The Rachel Cruze Show.”
Many more recent videos describe quitting, or even being fired from, these companies. The work is the same, reality has just set in for a lot of workers. Working for them really means working with them. You hire yourself out as a teacher to VIPKid or MagicEars or Gogo Kid, you are not an employee. This means you’re responsible for taking taxes out of your own paycheck, a responsibility many are not prepared to meet. Add to that the struggles of having to be at work at two, four, or six a.m. your time in order to meet the scheduling needs of students in Bejing, and the difficulty of recruiting and keeping your own students within the platform, and the work is just much more difficult than the brightly colored ads featuring teachers beaming into their laptops make it seem.
Sign up as an “influencer” or “brand ambassador” and share what you love
The most common way to bump into this side hustle opportunity in the past few years has been to join an online group dedicated to budgeting, frugal living, making money, or coping with work stress and share your story. Someone will likely comment offering you an opportunity in network marketing. For a small startup fee, you can earn money the way your favorite content creators on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok do, simply by sharing great products and talking about the things you love.
This one is still going strong. It is just increasingly being exposed for what it really is, the same old multilevel marketing companies that have been around longer than any of us reading this have been alive on this earth. They just changed the wording to make it more appealing, and to disguise what those they recruit are truly involved in.
A real brand ambassador is paid by the company for promoting the brand. That’s it. They promote the brand, and they get paid. A real influencer is someone who has built a large social media following, regardless of whether they’re making money from influencing their audience or not. When you pay a company to send you a sales kit, you can call it whatever you want, but you just hired yourself out as a salesperson for a multilevel marketing company. You won’t be earning any money unless you sell their products, or recruit others to sell their products.
Artist Cafe Utica is no longer a part of the anti-MLM community in that we no longer criticize anyone who chooses to work with these companies. If you really like Arbonne, Avon, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, or any of the other multilevel marketing company products out there and want to sell for them to try to earn some free products and maybe a little extra cash, go for it. But this is not a pro-MLM or network marketing site either. Multilevel marketing companies are set up to ensure success for the top one to three per cent by taking advantage of everyone below them, and that alone makes them something we cannot recommend as a side hustle.
Work as a driver or delivery person on your own schedule
Driving for companies like Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, DoorDash, and in some cities,Postmates is still a viable option for those who want to drive as a side hustle. Video titles on YouTube have just gone from things like, “I made eight thousand dollars a month driving!” two years ago, to “Why you shouldn’t drive…” in the past eight or ten months.
Like the “teach Chinese children to speak English” work, driving for these companies isn’t them giving you a job. It’s you hiring yourself out as an independent driver or delivery person to the company. You’re responsible for paying your own taxes and other expenses that come with using your car as a rideshare or delivery vehicle.
This work is also not the guaranteed money maker ads screaming “Make $30 an hour with (name of company!) make it seem. You get to set your own schedule, but if you aren’t available to work when people want rides or takeout or grocery delivery, you aren’t going to make much, if any, profit.
“Best side hustle” videos can be fun to watch, and generate useful ideas for making money. But like most online content, creators often follow trends and fads. It’s always important to take a step back and get a bigger, clearer picture of any side hustle work you find.