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Freelance Jobs That Pay Surprisingly Well

by Chris Poindexter

There are very good reasons to have a sideline gig in today’s economy. One is it’s extra cash that you can use to pay off debts, put into savings and fund your retirement. Another benefit is if you get laid off from your current job, you’ll have a way to make money while you search for another day job. You can also find a day job that aligns with your skills and interests. If it’s not fun, you don’t have to do it.

Some options for part-time and sideline work require a bit of skill and planning, others can be started with minimal overhead. All of the sideline jobs listed here pay surprisingly well and some have added benefits aside from the extra money.

Beer Tap Cleaners

Yeah, that one surprised me, too. Growing up in Wisconsin, arguably the beer drinking capital of the midwest, even I was unaware that, unlike bottled beer, beer in kegs is not pasteurized. Over time tap lines and taps become gunky with mold, stray yeast and tiny unfiltered particles. Cleaning that delivery system periodically is necessary and a surprisingly complex procedure. Pressurized lines have to be purged and cleaned, taps have to be taken apart, cleaned and have the gaskets and o-rings replaced. Of course, bars and restaurants want this done when they’re closed, making it a perfect sideline job for those who can learn the trade.

Voice Acting

Everyone remembers the actor Mark Hamill from Star Wars in 1977 but few people remember seeing him in many movies after that. Yet Mr. Hamill has remained one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood, though his face rarely appeared on screen. More often it was the voice of a cartoon character or the background of a commercial. Voice acting can be surprisingly lucrative and, for a minimal investment in equipment, anyone with a good voice and the ability to read naturally can find work that pays $50-$75 an hour. Web videos are huge right now as companies use YouTube and online video to reach new customers. Audio books are another big market. You’ll need a quiet place to work and a few hundred dollars in equipment and software to get started.


It takes a long time to build up income from photography these days but opportunities still exist for people who treat it like a business. High quality stock photography has value to advertisers and those who can put together the production processes can build an entirely decent sideline business over time. Wedding photographers still make good money and work weekends but you need to carry liability insurance (check WEVA.org) and that’s a business fraught with potential disaster.

Farmer’s Market Vendor

Not a farmer? Don’t have a green thumb? Neither of those is a barrier to running your own vegetable stand on the weekends at your local farmer’s market. All you have to do is find a wholesale produce distributor and open an account. You’ll need a large van or a pickup truck to haul your wares to market but you can often find distributors that will deliver bulk orders of produce to your door. If you live in an area where there’s a lot of agriculture, keep in mind that farmers get paid, well, dirt for their produce by big supermarket chains and distributors. Anything they can sell to you out the back of the barn is a higher margin for them and it will still be cheap enough that you can make good money. Okay, it’s sad to realize that those little roadside vegetable vendors are probably getting their wares from a wholesale vendor but that’s the reality. It’s not locally grown, it probably comes off a truck from California. Sorry, there’s no Santa Claus, either.

You can start your own produce business for less than $1,000 but do take note of the health department rules and insurance is highly advisable. Anything leftover goes on your own table or into canning jars.

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