Side gigs vs. day jobs

If you're in debt — especially if you're in significant debt — frugality will only get you so far. To really make a dent, you have to increase your income.

The option recommended most frequently on personal finance blogs I have read is freelancing or consulting on the side. Another option is a second job (usually hourly work of some kind).

However, side jobs aren't always the most effective way to increase your income. Freelance work is often sporadic and part-time/hourly work doesn't typically pay all that well. Time and mental energy are finite resources. Focusing too much on your side gig(s) may come at the cost of your career or interfere with your balance between time and money.

When I think about increasing my income in a sustainable, long-term way, I am usually thinking about getting a higher-paying primary position (a.k.a. “day job”). Earning more at my day job would have significant benefits:

  1. The more I can make at my day job, the less I have to earn on the side.
  2. By focusing my mental energy on my day job and improving my performance, I become a better candidate for advancement (read: the next higher-paying job) on my career path.
  3. Higher-paying jobs tend to mean more responsibility — which, for me at least (and others might feel differently), means greater job satisfaction.

My Philosophy of Job-Hunting

I've been in my current position just over four years. During that time, I've applied for 11 other positions. Out of those 11 applications, I've had four first-round interviews, two second-round interviews, and one job offer.

I could be casting a wider net, of course. However, I try to apply only for jobs that I think I'd actually be a good fit for. I think a 36% first-round interview success rate says that I'm doing a pretty decent job at that.

I am lucky enough to work in an incredibly supportive and healthy environment with great people. I enjoy what I do and who I work with. Maintaining a good work-life balance is encouraged and appreciated.

I've heard enough horror stories about toxic environments to conclude that higher pay isn't the only factor when considering job opportunities. I'd rather take longer to pay off my debt (but be happy) than pay it off quickly (but be miserable every day).

However, money is a factor. Since I know I'm happy where I am, I try to apply for jobs that entail significantly more responsibility (and therefore command higher pay) than my current position. I consider higher pay my best hedge against the possibility of not enjoying a new job as much as my current situation.

Ideally, I wouldn't accept an offer unless it paid 20% more than my current position. What's your cutoff? All but one of the positions I've interviewed for exceeded my requirement. Sadly, my most recent experience (which ended with a job offer) didn't have such a happy outcome.

Was it a Promotion or Not?

I currently make $40,000/year. The position listed was a promotion in terms of classification and had a posted salary range of $36,900-$47,990 DOE. I seriously considered not applying, since the maximum end of the range was slightly less than my usual 20% cutoff. However, since it was in many ways my dream job (running a writing center), I decided to apply.

I assumed that if I received an offer, then it would be for the maximum listed salary. Generally speaking, departments at my institution would rather not make an offer at all than make one to someone who doesn't meet all the desired criteria (which implies the highest salary listed in the job ad). The desired criteria for this position was five years of experience and an M.A.; I had 11 years of experience and a Ph.D.

The position was originally listed in May; my first interview was at the end of July (they contacted me long after I'd given up hope on the position). They contacted me regarding my second interview three weeks after my first interview (again, at this point I'd given up). Two weeks after my second interview, I received the offer. And the offer?

$40,607. Ugh. For a position on another campus that would increase my commute from 15 minutes each way to 45 minutes. Accepting the position would have also meant spending an additional $30 a month on a light rail pass.

In the end, it entailed significantly more responsibility than my current position for an insignificant raise. I tried to open salary negotiations but was totally shut down; I declined the offer.

What I've Learned Going Forward

First and foremost, unless the minimum salary posting is at least 10% more than my current salary, I'm not going to apply for a position. I feel bad that the search committee went through an almost four-month process only to have the search fail.

If I had the slightest inclination that they never intended to offer the highest salary in the posted range (which is NOT the impression I was given during the interview process), I wouldn't have wasted everyone's time. The only way I can guarantee a significant raise is to base my decision to apply for a position on the bottom of the range, not the top.

Second, there is value for me in splitting my limited cognition and willpower between my side gig and my day job until such time as I'm not under-earning. There may also be value in it for people who are trying to build up a client base via freelance work so they can eventually leave their day job. However, that's not me — I love getting out of the house and thrive in a traditional office environment. I think I'd be extremely depressed if I was a full-time freelancer.

Third, even though it didn't end up working out, it was extremely gratifying to be the best applicant. Additionally, more interview experience can only help me be better prepared for the next time around.

  • Do you have a side gig(s) in addition to your primary source of income?
  • If so, do you freelance? Work hourly serving or in retail? Something else?
  • What percentage of your income does your side gig make up?
  • What is your goal in having a side gig? Debt payoff, increased savings, diversification of income, ability to someday quit your day job? Something else?
  • How often do you apply to other day jobs? What's your yield rate in terms of interviews and offers?
More about...Career

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Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
7 years ago

I have two side jobs in addition to my day job. I started writing here, of course, and I’m do writing and editing for a publishing company. 60% of my income is from my day job and 40% from my side jobs.
My side jobs help us pay extra on our mortgage and save for home improvement projects.

Alicen
Alicen
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

How did you get into editing for a publishing company? I think this is something I would really enjoy.

Lisa Aberle
7 years ago
Reply to  Alicen

It’s a textbook publisher, so I first learned about the opportunity at a conference in my career area. The job started small, but I kept trying to exceed expectations and meet deadlines. After a couple of years, they gave me more money/tasks.
I know they are always looking for subject matter experts, so it may be a way to merge your day experience with a side gig. If you want more info, let me know.

Alicen
Alicen
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Lisa, that would be great! I work in a technical field, so there might be opportunity with your text book publisher.
If you could email me more info, I would greatly appreciate that.
Thanks!

Jessica Hampton
Jessica Hampton
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Hi Lisa, I’d be interested in more details as well. I have a background in ESL and test development, if they’re looking for people in that area.

Mary
Mary
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Lisa, I’d be interested in that, too. I work as a professional editor in my day job, but I’m always looking for more freelance editing projects. Can you email me more information at mary dot vantyne at gmail dot com?

Thank you.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

I’d be interested in hearing more about how you arranged this too. I have a background in education as well as subject matter expertise, but I didn’t know this was an option as a side-gig!

Kim
Kim
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Put me down as another person who would love to be able to do this sort of work for a publisher. Ph.D. in English Lit with a good background in literature, history, and teaching composition.

Mary
Mary
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Lisa, I don’t know what’s wrong, the site keeps eating my comments. I’m a professional technical editor who’d love to pick up more freelance editing work.

Kim
Kim
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

I’d love to hear more about this, too. I’m a science writer and editor, and would love to expand to working with textbook publishers.

Christopher
Christopher
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Trying not to hijack the comment thread on a tangent *too* much, but I’d love to talk to you as well. I’m an astrophysicist (M.S., Ph.D.) who has been dabbling in technical editing over the past few months and found it be quite enjoyable. If you have a moment, please send me an email: cosmic.thespian AT gmail DOT com. Cheers!

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

I apologize that I don’t have time to answer individually, so here’s my quick response: 1. First, Tracy has a good tip below. 2. Also, ask yourself whether your field has an exam (like nursing boards, Bar exam, etc.). If it does, many publishing companies (or other organizations) are creating testing products which need – you guessed it – question writers and editors. This is actually where all of my work is right now…and they can’t find enough writers in our field (allied health). 3. Textbooks need reviewers. While that doesn’t add a lot of money, you’ll get your foot… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

@Lisa – thanks for the response! All good tips 🙂

Tracy (the other one)
Tracy (the other one)
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

My ‘third’ job (aka, occasional gig) is also editing for a textbook publisher. I’ve just started, so I’ve only done two jobs so far and am struggling with the steep learning curve (it’s quite different than editing scientific articles, which is what I do in my other two jobs).

My impression is that publishers are desperate for decent editors with specialties in technical fields.

ETA: I just realized that I should have said “different from” instead of “different than” LOL.

Kim
Kim
7 years ago

Tracy, I am a part-time freelance science editor and writer, too, and I’d be curious to know who you edit for, and how you got into editing for the textbook publisher. I’ve only been writing and editing for about 9 months, but LOVE it, and want to expand my client base.

Tracy (the other one)
Tracy (the other one)
7 years ago
Reply to  Kim

I was hired about ten years ago to do content and style editing for a professional journal in my field (it was a serendipity thing; I was handy and I was a good writer but had no pro editing experience). After a few years, the journal outsourced its publication to a professional publisher, and they head-hunted me to copyedit the same journal as an independent contractor. Eventually, the journal folded altogether, but by then I was editing other scientific journals (style only, not content…) for the publisher. Eventually, my name got to a project manager at a big textbook publisher… Read more »

Tracy (the other one)
Tracy (the other one)
7 years ago
Reply to  Kim

I’m not sure it’s appropriate to give names, but I’d suggest that you contact every university and textbook publisher, and let them know your background, specialties, and interest. I’m not sure if they’d take you on without professional credentials in editing. If not, you could go the route I did: contact the big journal publishing houses and ask to become a copyeditor. After a year or two, then approach the big publishers.

gary wiant
gary wiant
7 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

how did you get started?

Lance @ Money Life and More
Lance @ Money Life and More
7 years ago

Good job on going for the big wins! Hopefully something pans out for you soon. I recently got a new job a few months ago but it wasn’t for more income as much as it was for a change of environment. I do have a side gig, it hasn’t made a large amount of money yet but it has made a lot more than I ever thought it would at this point. Plans are for the income to increase much more over the next couple years. I run my side gig as a business so I haven’t tapped any of… Read more »

fantasma
fantasma
7 years ago

I have a daytime job that pays as much as your current salary; recently I finally found a part time job that’s a good fit for my schedule. In this day in age it’s the only way I can live and save. I also hate to waste time just watching tv or sleeping when I could easily go make money.

Jen
Jen
7 years ago
Reply to  fantasma

I manage to fill non-working time with activities other than TV and sleep! There are still books out there, museums, friends, activities/hobbies, volunteering, and of course, family.

Somehow I manage to fill free time.

fantasma
fantasma
7 years ago
Reply to  Jen

To each his own: I’d rather be out and making more money in this phase of my life. I still go to outings with some people from Meetup.com but I’d much rather concentrate on the money aspect. It is not to say that I didn’t do more than watch tv and vegge at home I did. The time I used to use watching tv I use it to go to a part time job and do stuff during the weekend.

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
7 years ago

Looking at the process from the employer’s point of view: they probably got spoiled the last few years. So many employers get 100 applicants (or more) for every job opening they post. This enables them to lowball applicants and get away with it.

I can imagine the surprise and even consternation when their job offer was (gasp) declined!

Debbie
Debbie
7 years ago

Probably doesn’t even faze the employer, as there is likely at least one of the 99 who will take the lowball…definitely not an employee’s market at the moment.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago

Ha! Yes! Her exact words were “I am sorry that salary may be an issue.” Um, OBVIOUSLY…

mary w
mary w
7 years ago

Speaking as a retired government HR manager… I always counseled managers to think long and hard before offering someone a salary at the top end of the range. At that point the employee has no where to go salary-wise except to a different position. While it seems logical from the applicant’s perspective that a PhD should be worth more than an MA from the employer’s perspective not necessarily. Especially next year when the employee wants a raise commensurate with their education but not necessarily the set salary range.

Trevor
Trevor
7 years ago

“it was extremely gratifying to be the best applicant.”

Don’t take this as me just trying to put you down or anything like that but…

With very long times between applying and interview and then the long time between the 2 interviews and finally with the low salary offer, I would consider the possibility that you weren’t their first choice and they were just taking a punt after their first choice pulled out of the interview process.

If that was the case then even if you had taken the job it might not have worked out in the long term

Katie
Katie
7 years ago
Reply to  Trevor

Do you really think that only one really good fit candidate applies for most jobs in a job market like we’re seeing right now? Or were you just looking for an opportunity to denigrate Honey?

gabrielle
gabrielle
7 years ago
Reply to  Trevor

There are lots of organizations (federal government, non-profits, academia) that routinely take this long or longer for the hiring process. Some are just slow, some have a lot of paperwork to deal with and procedures to follow.

Tracy (the other one)
Tracy (the other one)
7 years ago
Reply to  gabrielle

Definitely. For federal jobs that require a lot of experiences and credentials (such as a research scientist), it isn’t unusual for the hiring process from job anouncement to final offer (not even the actual job start date, just the offer) to take 6 months or sometimes more.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago
Reply to  gabrielle

I work for a large for-profit corporation and it took them a long time to hire me, and others. Sometimes an employer’s process is just sloooooooow.

Erin
Erin
7 years ago
Reply to  gabrielle

Amen. From the ‘writing center’ bit (and the salary, I’m sad to say), I was guessing that this is a job in academia. It is routine for searches in academia to take months – 6 is not unusual.

betsy22
betsy22
7 years ago
Reply to  Trevor

Honey might have been their 2nd (or even third) choice or they might just take a REALLY long time with their hiring process. Even if Honey was their 2nd choice, it might have worked out just fine if she had taken the job….our first choices aren’t always the best choices

amber
amber
7 years ago
Reply to  Trevor

Given how the salary range was so limited and odd-numbered, combined with zero possibility for negotiations, I would say she was applying for some type of public position within a larger bureaucracy and this was a very typical wait time. But Honey – as others point out DO NOT FEEL BAD about anything you did in this search. YOU could feel bad that THEY wasted YOUR time! $607 above your current salary? sheesh. One other thing I will point out for civil servant applicants is that when you have a salary range presented, they typically cannot hire you at the… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  amber

I did consider this. At this institution, the top of the posted range is midway through the promotion potential for the position. So they can hire at the top of the posted range (in fact, they are not allowed to post a range unless they’re willing to pay at the top of that range). Since we haven’t had merit raises or Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) in 5 or 6 years, part of the reason to stay where I am is that if we DO get raises this year (which we are semi-hopeful about), then I want my raise to… Read more »

Audrey
Audrey
7 years ago

Regarding where job offers typically land within a salary range: it seems like most (at least public sector) employers are planning to hire at the low to mid point of the salary range listed. So I definitely think it’s a good idea to look for job ads where you’d feel comfortable being in the middle of the salary range. Though these days it seems like employers want the sun, moon, and stars handed to them for pennies, so good luck!

Mark
Mark
7 years ago

I’ve been with a phenomenally good company for almost 12 years now, and have been ‘burned out’ the last year and a half. But I pretty much work when I want, wherever I want. I lead a small team of mostly remote employees (5 in total), and unfortunately 3 of the 5 are not qualified for their jobs and lack the skills needed. And they’ve got personalities like mosquitos to boot. I ‘inherited’ them when I took over managing this group. Although I hate my day to day work and most of the people I work with, I literally work… Read more »

Anne
Anne
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Maybe I’m way off track here, but if several are unqualified for the jobs, is there a chance they can be replaced?

Not that I wish anyone to lose their job, but…….

Kristen
Kristen
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

I have to wonder, if there is enough revenue available there to support some incompetent employees, plus management at a very high salary, it sounds like there would be enough revenue for a competitor to do really well, maybe someone experienced – like you. Mind you, entrepreneurship is NOT for everyone (my husband and I own a business, but he drives the business and I do the support work – he is the entrepreneur, not me). Just a thought. Good luck to you in any case.

Ann
Ann
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

over 6 figures

So, you make $1 million or more?

Amanda
Amanda
7 years ago
Reply to  Ann

No. If it were $1 million or more it would be “over seven figures.” “Over six figures” means an amount greater than $100,000. $100,001 is “over six figures.”

Ann
Ann
7 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Logically, “6 figures” means $100,000 to $999,999. There are 6 figures in every number in that range. Over or greater than 6 figures is 7, which starts at $1,000,000.

I worry about a personal finance site where basic math is sketchy.

ETA: And before someone brings it up, I’m excluding decimals and working with whole numbers only.

Jill
Jill
7 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Maybe it’s the IT industry, but when a person said “over 6 figures” it was understood that it was somewhere over $100K but under $1M. We talk in bytes, not beans. 😉

Trina
Trina
7 years ago

No. There’s so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. If GRS wants someone to write about job searches I wish they would hire someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Eileen
Eileen
7 years ago
Reply to  Trina

I’ve been hard on Honey in the past, but I’m not getting this comment — and since you don’t bother to explain why you had this reaction, it’s impossible to respond. This was a post about a “job searches”, it was a post about Honey’s situation, just as every other post of her has been. Someone could certainly write generically about Job Searching, but this one used a real person, real numbers, and real considerations and trade-offs. Honey – sounds like you did the right thing. Frustrating I’m sure, but personal knowledge/experience in the process and only better armed as… Read more »

Trina
Trina
7 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

This is not supposed to be a “reader story.” I’m assuming we’re supposed to get something out of it.

Adult student
Adult student
7 years ago
Reply to  Trina

Well…what’s wrong with it? Some of us (including the writer, I think) are still trying to figure this stuff out!

Allyson
Allyson
7 years ago
Reply to  Trina

I, too, have been hard on Honey in the past for her earlier articles, but I enjoyed this one. I thought this was the best one she has written yet: it was interesting and offered “food for thought” for readers who are trying to increase their income and/or look for new employment.

Holly
Holly
7 years ago
Reply to  Allyson

I second Allyson. This article is an improvement.

Mark
Mark
7 years ago

One followup –
I imagine the first thing someone will reply with it, “If they’re incompetent then fire them!” Well, it’s not that easy. Believe it or not, there actually is a ‘corporate welfare’ state at this privately owned mid-size company. No one gets fired unless they are incompetent, have a very abrasive personality, AND screw something critically important up multiple times. I tried going down the termination pike with one employee and HR wanted to me to jump through 50 hoops before even thinking about it…

that girl
that girl
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Mark I think I have had a similar experience with a “corporate welfare” environment. I was neither the manager nor the incompetent. I eventually left because the environment became toxic.

That is the sad thing about not letting go of incompetent people. You lose people who actually know what they are doing. Not that it makes sense telling you that. You’re probably the one they’re going to lose. You or the other 2 that know what they’re doing.

Jill
Jill
7 years ago
Reply to  that girl

Talk about toxic! We have a situation where the supervisor defines his staff incompetent, and openly states that he hates them and the work he does. Yuck. Makes me glad I walked away from that industry in 2007.

Brett
Brett
7 years ago

Honey, I think it is admirable you tried to enter into salary negotiations with the prospective employer before accepting that offer. The fact they wouldn’t budge on that number shows they aren’t in search of the best candidate…just the best candidate for that amount of money. Companies, no matter how noble their pursuits, have budgets and try to get the best talent for the least amount of money. First offers are always low balls (unless you are a one of a kind specialist and no one else can do the job). I never accept the first offer from a company,… Read more »

marie
marie
7 years ago

In some companies, when they list a range like that, the high number is the max you can ever make in that position. Not the max you can get hired at.

Anne Dwyer
Anne Dwyer
7 years ago

A good side gig if you have the credentials (which Honey does) is teaching online. I am sitting here typing in my pajamas having just finished working in one class and ready to go onto the next. (Can you tell I teach math and not writing?) It is the ultimate flexible schedule and works great with having kids. There are a few hoops to jump though to get the job, but once you do, it is almost automatic every session. I will make almost $40,000 this year teaching part time (two online gigs and one on the ground gig).

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Anne Dwyer

Nice! Do you mind if I ask how? I mean, do you work for a school board or a private company? I’m curious because it’s something I would consider doing, but working for a school board wouldn’t be possible for me. (Those online jobs go to people who have seniority with the school board and there are way too many underemployed teachers in my province as it is!)

Jen
Jen
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

In the U.S. a lot of colleges/universities have online degree programs. I used to adjunct a face-to-face evening class at a local university but they had many online instructors as well. Typically you need a Masters degree in the field. It can be a nice side gig.

Anne
Anne
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Elizabeth,

These are online adjunct jobs. Since they are university level, you don’t work for a school board. Mostly, they are for profit universities. If you are on LinkedIn, there a many adjunct groups that list current job openings.

Since adjuncts can only teach so many credit hours, the universities need a lot of them. I teach math and statistics and every university requires some kind of math class to graduate. The courses are already designed and put into course shells. I have to facilitate discussions, reply to email and grade. You get paid by the session.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

@Anne and @Jen — thanks for the responses! It sounds worth looking into these opportunities.

Christopher
Christopher
7 years ago
Reply to  Anne Dwyer

Anne, thanks for your comment. I have a highly technical background (MS and PhD in astrophysics) and I know that there is a dearth of qualified individuals teaching in STEM courses. I didn’t realize something like this could be an option. I’d be very interested in speaking with you about the details of online teaching over email. If you’re willing, please find me at cosmic.thespian AT gmail DOT com. Cheers!

Emmy
Emmy
7 years ago

I work a couple hours a week as a lab assistant for the math department at my school. It pays less than my “day job,” (though depressingly, not that much less) but the opportunity cost is low since I’d be on campus anyway. And I LOVE helping people with math! I enjoy my side gig way more than my actual job, which I’ve been burnt out on for a while but that I’ve kept because it gives me a flexible schedule and decent pay, for the restaurant industry. A lot of times I think the benefit of a side gig… Read more »

W at Off-Road Finance
W at Off-Road Finance
7 years ago

It’s pretty amazing how poorly academia (at least I’m assuming that’s what a “writing center” is) pays. But it’s also amazing how unambitious the poster is. $40K with a PHD? Honey does know the average household income is $50K or so, right? And the average PHD income is about $75K? And if she’s living somewhere with light rail that probably means high living costs, so you should be looking to exceed those numbers. She’d need three of those 20% raises just to be breaking even on the cost of her education. There’s value in looking at people’s struggles as well… Read more »

Katie
Katie
7 years ago

I think she said Phoenix; not a high cost of living.

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago
Reply to  Katie

It can be, once you factor in the electric bills for air-conditioning 11 months of the year. 🙂

Jen
Jen
7 years ago

Average household income is…a household which often means two incomes (or more with extra jobs).

PhDs come in all sorts of flavors, some lucrative (math, science) many not (literature, political science, history). If an industry doesn’t want your skills, you need to have a degree that can be used to attract grant money to a university to really make good money.

Many colleges and universities hire PhDs to teach on a part-time, per course basis. Those people are lucky to be making 20-30K in a year, without benefits.

TC
TC
7 years ago

I am curious – is there a general rule of thumb for how much of a raise is likely to be worth a change in job? I’m curious where the ‘only switch for a 20% raise’ comes from?

MB @ 12 Year Career
MB @ 12 Year Career
7 years ago
Reply to  TC

There are so many variables, I don’t think a general rule of thumb is possible. How will the change affect your commute? Your stress level? I switched jobs for 17% a few years ago and was thrilled about that, but there were many other factors in addition to the pay increase that made that a good move. If everything else was constant (location, stress, etc.) it would probably take about 10% for me to feel as though the trouble of the job search/interview process/getting up to speed in a new company was worthwhile.

Steve
Steve
7 years ago

I agree that it is basically not possible to come up with one single number or rule of thumb. Each field, career, and personal situation going into the decision has a huge effect.

I would be interested in hearing about how Honey came up with the number, though. That might help the rest of us calculate one four ourselves.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Steve

My number is based on the fact that I’m overqualified for my current position. A 10% raise for me is about $300 more per month (before taxes), which for me isn’t enough to compensate leaving a job I like as much as my current one. $48,000 is basically entry-level for a position that is in line with my credentials. I understand that I’d still be considered entry-level in a job like that because my current job isn’t directly related. However, I do think it’s reasonable given my background. Basically, I’m under-earning, and I’m not interested in leaving my current job… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
7 years ago
Reply to  TC

I can’t imagine there is a general rule of thumb, but even if there was, the word “general” explains that it can’t possibly take into consideration each person’s situation.

Honey has stated numerous times what she values about her current job situation. If she’s come up with the 20% increase, then I accept that at face value.

I imagine if someone is a very unpleasant work situation, that number might be 0%.

someone
someone
7 years ago
Reply to  Eileen

0% with move to a higher cost-of-living area. 🙂 couldn’t be happier with it. Originally was expecting -10% so 0% was a nice suprise. …. some jobs are just worth leaving at any cost….

Andrea
Andrea
7 years ago
Reply to  someone

I once took a 20% pay CUT to leave a terrible job. It’s been worth every penny.

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago
Reply to  TC

Also, she only makes 40K….so 20% isn’t a giant raise in dollars. If she made more money, then she might be willing to take less of a raise percentage. For instance, if she made 200K, she might be willing to take a different job for a 20K pay raise and move up 10%.

I think that 20% sounds reasonable for what she makes…especially to leave a job that she likes.

Hopefully she isn’t missing out on opportunities by waiting for the “perfect deal” but there is no way for anyone to know what will come along!

Tom
Tom
7 years ago
Reply to  TC

For what its worth, I made about the same salary as Honey working for a small public company who was purchased by a larger conglomerate company. At the next round of annual raises, people in my position got about an 18% raise to bring us in line with what the larger company was used to paying for our position. It wasn’t a promotion, it was a salary adjustment. So it doesn’t seem out of the question to look for a 20% increase for equivalent work. When I was promoted, I got a 15% raise. So if you’re looking for an… Read more »

Anne
Anne
7 years ago

I’m retired so this didn’t apply to me, but I still thought this was an excellent post by Honey with a lot of good points.

MB @ 12 Year Career
MB @ 12 Year Career
7 years ago

Also, DO NOT “feel bad” that a company’s search failed, or feel as though you “wasted their time”, or feel guilty about negotiating “in this economy” (not from this article, but from something else I’ve read). Look at it as a business transaction and nothing more. The company’s search failed, but so did yours. The company couldn’t get you for the salary they were willing to pay, and you couldn’t get the job for the salary you wanted. And so on.

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

If you’re only going to leave your current job for a minimum 20% raise, then you’re never going to leave your current job. Unless you’re highly specialized and there are very few people that do what you do, a 20% increase is entirely unrealistic.

Erin
Erin
7 years ago
Reply to  Dan

I don’t think this is true, especially if Honey is looking for work in academia. I work as a librarian, and entry-level salaries for the job I do (with the qualifications I have) have about a $20K ranged depending on the institution. No kidding.

After six months of work, I was a final candidate for a job that would have bumped my salary up $8K – or just over 20%. For an entry level position.

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago
Reply to  Dan

I don’t think that’s true at all. She’s not just looking for a job that pays her more to do the same work; she’s looking for a job with more responsibility. Given that, $8000 more shouldn’t be hard to find at all. It might take a while to find the right fit, but that’s far from “never”. Honey, you’ve got the degree and the years of experience to back it up. Aim higher than your desired range – because really, you’ll want a position where what you want is in the middle of their range. I also recommend Ramit Sethi’s… Read more »

drea
drea
7 years ago

I have done freelance document translation in the past and have 2 regular clients that I tutor in conversational french every week. The tutoring helps me bring in enough to cover miscellaneous expenses (I call it my coffee fund) leaving me more to put towards savings and debt paydown AND keeps my french exposure up so I am continually adding to my own knowledge. I really enjoy it and, I suspect, benefit more from the learning than my students (to teach is to learn)! I have found recently that my cognition and will ARE split, though, and may start to… Read more »

Glenda
Glenda
7 years ago
Reply to  drea

drea, things may be slightly different for your language, but in the current situation of the translation industry, I would strongly caution you against switching into that career. I am a freelance translator and interpreter, and, while I love my job, getting work that pays decently has become a daily struggle. There are lots of huge agencies driving prices way down, and although many companies are well aware of the fact that machine translation yields sloppy results, they often don’t care and go with it anyway because you can’t beat the prices. I am currently making about half what I… Read more »

Jill
Jill
7 years ago
Reply to  drea

I think it depends greatly on the language. For instance, I find that the automatic translators do a decent job with Spanish as long as the language is fairly formal, but it could still use some tweaking. When it attempts to translate German, the results are incomprehensible much of the time.

Budget & the Beach
Budget & the Beach
7 years ago

I’m a freelancer, and I wasn’t brining in enough monthly income, so I got a side job in retail in August. Then picked up another job 2 hours per day as a personal assistant to my friend. Then did side jobs on taskrabbit. Those were supposed to be my “extra” money, but freelancing has slowed down so much in the last couple of months that it has become my MAIN source of income. I’m also spending a lot of time looking for a full time job, so I can stabilize my life more.

Steve S
Steve S
7 years ago

I’m an engineer by day. It pays well but I took a job on the weekends doing marketing for a popular sports nutrition product. I get paid per event (marathons, triathlons, bike races) + expenses. This is the first year I’ve done it but it will probably only account for about 8-10% of my engineering salary. Which isn’t too bad if you consider I will only have worked 11 days on the weekend the entire year. My goal is less the money and more about branching into a different career field. I am a very technical/business minded person, and would… Read more »

Kathryn
Kathryn
7 years ago

I agree with drea, tutoring may be a possible sideline or you could also try contacting advertising/marketing firms to offer proofreading, copyediting and copywriting. I also work at a university, but in the marketing/publications office, perhaps you could get sideline gigs from your university’s publications office or from offices at nearby schools. I used to freelance a great deal for local newspapers and magazines plus cities that put out magazines/brochures, but I have cut back to have more family time and help my kids with their school work. The extra income was great, but I was getting too stressed out… Read more »

Mrs EconoWiser
Mrs EconoWiser
7 years ago

Yup, I own a side business. Are we telepathic? 😉 I blogged about my side business today, haha. I sell stuff online and have been doing that successfully for the past five years or so. I love having a part-time (4 days a week) job and a side business (10-15 hours a week).

Alison Wiley
Alison Wiley
7 years ago

This post definitely rings true to my experience. When I was a self-employed artist, I was (financially) poor, no matter how frugal I was. A decade ago I started the day-job route, and have been financially secure ever since, with my juicy creativity expressed in my blog, rather than self-employment. And I truly enjoy my day-job. That said, my experience is also, still, that many of the best things in life are free. I read a great book recently by a woman who had an amazing summer-long adventure on a shoestring. I’m doing a giveaway of my extra copy of… Read more »

HKR
HKR
7 years ago

I really like the idea of setting a percent on what you would be willing to change jobs for, but what about when you’re looking at jobs that don’t advertise the pay scale? How do you decide whether it’s even worth applying for? If you look up average pay ranges, where is a reliable source? It seems like some sites just pull numbers out of a hat, or give a huge range like “$20k-70k” that is no help when it comes to making a decision about whether it’s actually worth taking time to apply and interview for a given position.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  HKR

This is one of the benefits of working for a public university – the job ads are required to list the range. I’ve looked at jobs outside academia, and my head spins. I think there’s a lot of “make the job sound really important to get the best applicants and then shock them with a super-low salary” going on. And since I’ve never really worked outside academia, I have no way to decode what they’re really trying to say.

Andrew @ She Thinks I'm Cheap
Andrew @ She Thinks I'm Cheap
7 years ago

Besides blogging, I’ve though about doing personal training on the side to bring in some extra income. Training a couple clients on the side on the weekend shouldn’t be too difficult. I’d only look for local clients within a 15 min commute from where I live so I can maintain that work/life balance!

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago

This can work if you train at their homes or outdoors. If you have to pay a gym for access, you might not come out ahead with just a couple of people a week, because you’re going to need some credentials AND liability insurance, which means association fees. I am letting my PT certification lapse in February and the annual savings (fees, insurance, and continuing ed) will be nearly $400. To profit this way, you need to be able to count on *clearing* $50 a month (must consider self-employment taxes), which doesn’t sound like much if you are charging enough.… Read more »

Mary
Mary
7 years ago

Why won’t the site let me comment? I’ve tried to reply to Lisa’s first comment multiple times and each time, nothing gets posted.

I do freelance editing work, but I’m always looking for more. I’d love more information about publishers who are looking to hire freelance editors.

Nathan
Nathan
7 years ago

Hi, Just a quick reply to the article above. In many cases, a sidejob can actually be much easier to achieve than a higher paying job. A case in point: Lets say you were earning a $100,000/yr salary and you wanted to move to the next level. By applying the same yardstick above of moving to a new job with a 10-20% increment, you would mostly move to a job with a pay of around $110,000. However, the job which pays around $110,000 is going to be quite strict in its requirements and you would need some ‘prep’ time (for… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Nathan

My goal is to get to a point with my day job where I don’t need a side gig.

Lincoln
Lincoln
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

If a higher paying day job is the end-goal, ask yourself where the high paying day jobs actually are (literally, where are they located on the map and how many of them are in your geographic region). It’s not enough to be the smartest or most hard-working in a field if you are in a field or industry that doesn’t pay well or in a location that doesn’t pay well. You can be in the bottom 25% of all surgeons and still do better than the top 1% of all coffee baristas (and that’s no dig against coffee baristas). Having… Read more »

Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
7 years ago

I’m definitely interested in doing more freelance work. Around 10 hours a month just for the challenge.

Jane Gordon
Jane Gordon
7 years ago

I’ve always loved to have a job, but having kids has made it very hard for me to have side jobs as well. However, my husband loves to pick up extra jobs here and there which is a great way for us to bring in some extra money!! Love this article, thanks for sharing!

Cortney
Cortney
7 years ago

Just wanted to say that I liked this post, and I echo the sentiments of others who said that you shouldn’t feel bad about wasting their time.

I have no side gigs at the moment. As an engineer, I don’t really need them, although I’d love to use them as a way to dabble in other areas (ESL, tutoring, writing, etc). I’m just overwhelmed at the effort required to start, so I’m still in the stage of avoiding it.

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago

The only side gig I’ve ever done was dance lessons and some personal training. In neither case did I earn enough to “make back” what I spent on getting qualified, but between the two I was able to bridge the gap between SUI and the bills during a period of disemployment. Once full re-employed, however, I happily abandoned the side gig. One job is enough at my pay grade. All of my sizable raises have come from changing jobs, not from promotions (I’m a legal assistant, there’s no such thing as a promotion). The most significant came from moving across… Read more »

bryan
bryan
7 years ago

We should treat our finances like a research paper: can’t rely on one source. If you want to be wealthy or successful you’ve got to have several flows of income. Investments, work, freelance etc.

Christa
Christa
7 years ago

Kudos to you for sticking to your minimum necessary income threshold. It doesn’t make much sense to switch jobs for the same pay unless you’re unhappy in your current position.

Carla
Carla
7 years ago

What would some people consider a “side gig” is a primary job for me. I work part-time for a web design/development company. The company is local to where I live, but I work from home. I sometimes think about looking for something else to supplement it, but my life is already full with other responsibilities and I don’t want to physically wear myself out.

Rob
Rob
7 years ago

When my wife and I were getting out of debt we attacked with extreme prejuidice against debt in the following manner: We snowballed our debt, from smallest balance to the largest balance. Over a span of three and a half years we paid off over $80,000 in debt made up of 2 student loans and 2 credit cards and consequently became debt free. In my posiiton at work I am salary but have the added benefit of getting paid overtime if I log in greater than 40 hours a week. So while we were paying off those debts I logged… Read more »

rachel
rachel
7 years ago

Does anyone know about getting a Masters in Public Administration? I’m thinking about getting out of teaching, into running a non profit and thinking it will help.

Joanna Lahey
Joanna Lahey
7 years ago
Reply to  rachel

What would you like to know about getting a degree in Public Administration? Non-profit is one of our areas of specialty at Texas A&M and our students tend to do well. We’re a US News best value and all students pay in-state tuition and all get some form of aid. Check out the link to our website (above) or contact our admissions director for more information. We also have a non-profit online certificate program and run a couple of multiple day workshops on nonprofits if you want a smaller time commitment. Your local United Way office will also most likely… Read more »

Valerie Cox
Valerie Cox
7 years ago

I have an opportunity at my job to make extra money by teaching college success courses. I built an online version and I’m the only online instructor for this class. I teach 2 in the Spring, 1 in the Summer and 2 in the Fall. I also received my board-supervisor certification to help others get their counseling license. I’m about the get another certification in counseling to further my career. I don’t see my career as stagnant, I’m always growing and I’m open to new opportunities.

Coin Sleuth
Coin Sleuth
7 years ago

I earn a decent side income writing for online clients. Another 11 months and the mortgage will be paid off. At that point I will seriously consider leaving the day job and doing it full time.

Sara
Sara
7 years ago

Honey – after reading your comments, it sounds like you are restricting your job search to academia. If you’ve decided that you want to work only in that realm, then great, but know that YOU are putting limits on your job search. All my other comments may be totally not applicable, since I’ve never worked in a public sector job where there are pay scales and published ranges and such. First – don’t worry about being the most qualified candidate. If they are advertising 5 years and a MA, feel free to apply with 3 years and a MA. Yes,… Read more »

thethriftyspendthrift
thethriftyspendthrift
7 years ago
Reply to  Sara

Sara’s reply is on the money. For one, I really hope that you are not limiting yourself to academia. I think you will find that you could potentially earn a lot more outside of academia. I would apply to jobs that are not my dream jobs if money and job satisfaction are the issue—by job satisfaction I merely mean you like your job not that it’s your dream. Right now, I do not love the work that I do but for the moment it is very stable and I enjoy the people that I work with, which is a huge… Read more »

A-L
A-L
7 years ago

I’m a teacher and my school district closed the school where I had been working at. I was lucky enough to get a transfer to another school (60% of people didn’t). But this one has longer hours, doesn’t have an after-school program (which paid $25/hour for 2 hours a day and I didn’t have to go anywhere since it was at the site of my day job). Between all the extra things I did at my old job, this was about a 15-20% pay cut. I was going to try and tutor to add some extra money, but now I’ve… Read more »

JB
JB
7 years ago

I can’t remember the guy who posted about being a product design engineer and designing products on the side. Do you, or have you considered getting your PE for that? If not, how do you protect yourself from liability? I only ask because I am a design engineer and would love to donor on the side. The PE has always been a roadblock though.

Sasha
Sasha
7 years ago

I think a really big issue is that once you take a job that underpays you in relation to your qualifications, it is extremely difficult to find the next job that doesn’t attempt to continue to underpay. There is a lot of research that backs this up and is something more people should take into account when accepting that low ball offer and/or lower paying job in general. Once you’ve anchored yourself to a low salary it can be very difficult to break away from it.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Sasha

But this is the same logic that keeps unemployed people from taking a job that is “beneath them.” I have had two family members deal with extended unemployment and knocking on the door of bankruptcy largely because they wouldn’t apply for anything that was less than what they made previously.

Perhaps when you are employed you can think like this, but when you are looking for work, I think all bets are off.

CJ
CJ
7 years ago
Reply to  Sasha

This is why starting out in a recession influences your entire career earning. But what are you going to do? If you graduate in a recession, you could refuse 2+ years of salary at $30,000 ($60,000) and then get the $40,000 a year job you deserve. It will take you 6 years to make up that loss (plus interest if you lived on debt for those 2 years of being unemployed). That also assumes you still “deserve” that higher paying job after 2 years being out of the field. If Honey turned down a job that paid “what she was… Read more »

Mark
Mark
7 years ago

In regards to the commenters who balk at the 20% raise wish – I’m in my 40’s now and have NEVER told the truth to a prospective employer as to what my current salary was. I always said it was higher – the number that I *wanted* from that employer. This has helped me because it weeds out the cheapskates. They usually ask during the phone-screen/first interview and then if it is out of the question that they can pay it, they let me know and we end it there. Where I live (Eastern USA) employers certainly do not divulge… Read more »

Mark
Mark
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

As a reference point – my first professional job was at 28k. Within a year I was up to 34k through a promotion. A few months later I applied for a job and was offered $48k. A year later I was bumped up another 8k by my then manager, because she said I was paid too little compared to my colleagues in the same role!

Kristen
Kristen
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Being in HR, I verify the salary and would never hire somebody that lied to me in the interview process. Not very good advice for people.

Mark
Mark
7 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

Not if you’re in the US you don’t verify the salary, unless the applicant was dumb enough to give consent to release prior tax returns.

How exactly do you verify prior salary? Calling the employee’s current employer? They wouldn’t tell you (they simply verify dates of employment and title).

Kristen
Kristen
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

I am in the US and I verify information while doing the reference check. I would not assume that your salary is not going to be shared.

Andrea
Andrea
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

In my state, if you are a public-sector employee – including at public universities – your salary is a matter of public record. If you’re a state employee (including, again, public university employees), it’s available just a couple clicks away from the state government home page.

Tracy (the other one)
Tracy (the other one)
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Information on federal employee salaries is also a matter of public record, and freely available online.

Sara
Sara
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Mark, I did something similar last time I changed jobs. They asked what I made and I answered mid-40’s when I made $40K. I always figured that if I added in the 401K and FSA match, that got me to mid-40’s, so I could claim it was “total compensation”. I ended up getting the new job at $48K – ironically, a 20% raise.

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago
Reply to  Sara

I’d never lie, because I wouldn’t assume they couldn’t find out. Instead, I discuss total compensation and make it clear that I am not interested unless there is a substantial increase, in the most appropriate way possible. Of course, that’s if I’m currently working. If I was unemployed, my approach would be a bit different.

Marcy
Marcy
7 years ago

There is an article in Woman’s Day, October, 2012, titled, “Work-at-home jobs that really pay”. Some might like to check it out.

Michelle
Michelle
7 years ago

This is probably the first time in my life where I haven’t worked on a side gig. I’ve thought about becoming a certified translator in French and translating books or legal documents from French to English (I have both a JD and MA in English) and doing that on the side with my current stationery design business. I’ve also thought about working part time in a boutique as well. Other side gigs I’ve done in the past: working in a boutique, proofreader for a professor, tutor for high school student, GRE teacher for Kaplan, cultural events blogger (though that last… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
7 years ago

I thought Honey’s dream job was running a writing center. Isn’t that why she got her PhD in rhetoric? Or maybe that’s something she wrote somewhere else. It seems to me that if she really wanted to run a writing center, she’d take a writing center job and work it into what she wants and use it as a stepping stone. When I went into teaching, I went into general ed. I knew full well I wouldn’t stay in general ed, and I haven’t, but I used gen ed as a stepping stone. My husband applied for a job that… Read more »

Dianna
Dianna
7 years ago

I’m an upper-level manager in a non-profit industry and I’ve recruited and hired a good number of staff people in my time. In my experience, we never hire at the upper end of the pay scale posted for that position. Why do we have that scale? So that the incumbent in the position has some room to advance, salary-wise, due to merit increases. Our budgets are based on those ranges (10 staff x median of range) which gives hiring managers some leeway when it comes time to hire. Experienced and less experienced staff members aren’t paid exactly the same at… Read more »

lhamo
lhamo
7 years ago

Honey’s situation may be slightly different, given the amount of debt they are paying down, her husband’s rather erratic track record/risks of starting a new business, and how much she likes her current job, but sometimes taking a pay cut can pay off in spades. I left a job that was making me miserable about 5 years ago. I had a interim thing that covered my expenses while I was looking for something more permanent. I applied for a job that I thought I would be very good at (I am!) — only problem was the upper end of the… Read more »

maria
maria
7 years ago

“I could be casting a wider net, of course. However, I try to apply only for jobs that I think I’d actually be a good fit for. I think a 36% first-round interview success rate says that I’m doing a pretty decent job at that” hum, no you are not doing a good job…several years after obtaining a Ph.D you are still working for 40K and applying for jobs with a max range of 49K??.. I don’t get it. I live in Florida ( comparable to Arizona), have 14 years experience in my field ( accounting) and a AA degree… Read more »

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