For a lot of high school students, summer break means getting a job, and there are many good reasons to do this: earning some financial independence, learning valuable skills, getting experience that will help you land better jobs in the future, and cultivating a strong work ethic.
But finding a summer job isn’t always easy or a good fit. Many students are out of town or at camps for large chunks of the summer, so employers are reluctant to hire them. And other students simply don’t want a job dictating their summer schedule.
Luckily, there’s another option: side hustling.
What is side hustling?
A side hustle is “anything you do to earn money outside of a traditional job.”1 Often, it’s a part-time job you create for yourself. These usually involve selling a service, but they can also involve selling actual products or the creation of digital assets that generate revenue, such as blogs, videos, and podcasts.
When you’re side hustling, you don’t have a boss, which is appealing to many people. You don’t have a set schedule, so you’ve got flexibility. And you’re not a wage worker, so you get to keep all of the profits, minus taxes.
Many adults pursue side hustles in order to earn extra income on top of their regular job. Some pursue side hustles as passion projects, getting paid to do things they love. Others aim to grow their side hustles so much that they’re able to quit their 9-5.
But side hustling isn’t just for adults; it’s also a great opportunity for students to make money and learn valuable skills.
Side Hustles for High School Students
When I was in high school, my best friend Tom and I advertised our services around the neighborhood by putting fliers up on all the mailboxes. We would do anything physically demanding: landscaping, pressure washing, dump runs, pulling seaweed around people’s docks – you name it. We charged $15 per hour, which was a lot more than we could have earned at a job in those days. And we loved it.
Here are some other great side hustles for high school students:
- Babysitting – self-advertise or use a service like Sittercity
- Lawn mowing and other yardwork
- Dog walking/sitting – self-advertise or use Rover
- Watering neighbor’s plants while they’re out of town
- Buying cheap furniture at thrift stores, refinishing it, and selling it for a profit (Click here for a guide to flipping furniture)
- If you’re over 18 and have a car, you can become an Instacart shopper.
- Are you savvy with social media? Become a social media manager for a local business. (Hint: If the owners are old, they probably aren’t savvy.)
- Are you an amazing baker? Perhaps a neighborhood restaurant will buy your pies.
- Heck, we once had a student who started a fashion company in his spare time.
Not inspired by any of these ideas? Check out this list of over 100 different side hustle ideas. Some are, of course, not appropriate for high schoolers, but many are.
I recommend choosing something with a low barrier to entry. Advertise a service using skills and equipment you already have. Leverage your family, friends, and neighbors to spread the word for you. You don’t need to spend a bunch of money on tools or advertising. Just find something you can get paid to do, and start doing it.
What Side Hustling Teaches You
If you do start a side hustle, you’ll learn a great deal.
First and foremost, it’s an exercise in executive function. Starting and running a side hustle requires a great deal of organization and planning, so the part of your brain that does that will get a lot of exercise. You’ll have to manage the whole operation, from scheduling and communicating with clients to resolving disputes and receiving payments. As you take on more responsibilities, you’ll naturally become a more responsible person.
You’ll also learn practical skills that might help you in future jobs or entrepreneurial ventures. You’ll learn marketing and customer service on the fly through trial and error. You’ll want to keep track of expenses and revenue in a spreadsheet, so you’ll need to learn how to use Excel or Google Sheets.
And even if your side hustle fails to make money, you can use the failure as a learning opportunity. Don’t beat yourself up. Do better next time.
The Downsides of Side Hustling
As great as side hustling can be, it’s not for everyone, and it does come with some unique challenges.
First of all, you probably won’t make as much money as you would at a job, especially when you’re getting started. The long-term growth potential is higher, but it takes a while to build up a good reputation in your community and in your chosen industry. So if you need a reliable stream of income, you might be better off taking a job with set hours and a regular paycheck.
The mechanics of side hustling legally can be challenging as well. Depending on what you’re doing, you may need to get a business license with both the city and the state in which you live. And you’ll have to remember to save money for income and self-employment taxes (or make estimated tax payments).
And perhaps most importantly, you’ll have to be a self-starter. If you struggle with motivation, it’s probably better to just find a traditional job so you’ll be given a structured work schedule.
1 Loper. Nick. “What is a Side Hustle? And Why Millions Have One.” Side Hustle Nation.
Chris Loper has been working as a tutor and academic coach since 2014, racking up over 10,000 hours of experience supporting students.
Along with Greg Smith, Chris is the cocreator of Parenting for Academic Success (and Parental Sanity) – a five-part course offered every summer.
Chris’s most recent endeavor combines his academic and habit-formation expertise to help students thrive in college. Visit SmartCollegeHabits.com to learn more.
In 2021, he published a humorous memoir titled Wood Floats and Other Brilliant Observations, a book that blends crazy stories with practical life lessons, available on Amazon and through most local bookstores.
He lives in Issaquah, WA where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.