10 Side Hustles That Don’t Pay Off

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Not all side hustles are created equal. While some jobs on the side can make you rich — or least help you earn a nice chunk of change in a reasonable amount of time — others are notorious for doing exactly the opposite.

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It can be tempting to pursue certain side gigs that look like easy extra income or offer the hope of getting rich quick, but oftentimes they sound too good to be true — because they are. GOBankingRates spoke to some experts about which side hustles to steer clear of, or at least proceed with caution.

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Getting Paid To Play Video Games

In perhaps one of the most brilliant marketing ideas ever, some companies will allegedly pay people to play video games. Sounds like a great plan, right? Well, according to NerdWallet, proceed with caution.

Some companies actually require cash upfront before you can start work. Others only allow you to “win” cash back rewards to be used at specific stores, rather than actual cash.

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Opening a Patreon Account

If you’re a person who creates any kind of content or art that can be shared digitally, Patreon might sound like a great side hustle. All you need to do is get subscribers to pay for access to your content, and the money will roll in — ideally, but not necessarily.

According to the website Marker, just like most art-making industries, only the top 1% of Patreon users earn as much as $2,500 per month and only 2% of its users earn what could be considered a living wage. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, but don’t expect to get rich, or even pay your bills with it.

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Taking Online Surveys

Side gigs are often marketed to people as being simple tasks you can do from home. A common one is being paid to take surveys.

According to Paul Mallory, co-founder of ConsumerGravity, these were the least useful side hustles he ever attempted. “To participate in surveys, you must qualify. This necessitates answering any questions before the paid component of the survey,” he explains.

“You may spend nearly 10 minutes attempting to qualify for a survey just to get rejected. However, it takes excessive time to assess if you are eligible to take the survey in exchange for $5. Unless you are the perfect demographic for every survey, you may expect to be rejected more frequently than not and waste time answering questions for which there is no reward.”

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Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a way to earn money by referring customers or clients to other businesses or services. While this is a legitimate way to earn money, according to The Balance, it requires an enormous commitment.

You must first do a ton of research, build an effective and user-friendly website with content that attracts customers, know how to build and maintain customer relationships, and a lot more. Simply put, it’s probably more than most people can realistically do on the side.

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Social Media Influencer

You’ve probably heard stories of people making millions of dollars by promoting products through their social media channels or websites. It sure looks like a great way to make money, doesn’t it? The reality is, it’s not a side hustle, but a full-time job.

You have to already be creating great content that attracts businesses to want to partner with you, for starters. Of course, creating great content takes a lot of time and money.

According to Scalefluence, the average payment per post if you have less than 2,000 followers is $50, and that might be generous. Even at 75,000 followers, you’ll be lucky to make a couple of hundred bucks per post. Like many creative ways to earn money, you’ll have to invest way more time, and often more of your own money, than you may first imagine — and it doesn’t pay off more often than not.

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Investing in NFTs

The rise of cryptocurrencies, built upon unique strings of numbers that can’t be repeated known as blockchain, has given rise to yet another crypto-inspired concept that people claim is a great investment: non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

CNBC describes them as “having an individualized digital fingerprint for each NFT asset, where the subtle uniqueness of every project has its own value.” NFTs can come in many forms too, like “…unique digital art assets, real estate, collectibles, event tickets, website domains or even tweets.”

People buy them with the intent to sell them for more money later, but an expert for Time magazine compared investing in NFTs to gambling and called it “even riskier than buying crypto.”

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Writing Product Reviews

Another allegedly “easy” side hustle you could do from home is writing product reviews for companies. However, according to Robyn Newmark, founder and CEO of Newmark Beauty, “Product reviews are time-wasting. You may earn a few dollars here and there, but this is neither scalable nor sustainable. The process is laborious, and eventually, you reach a point where you can no longer expand through surveys or product reviews.”

The money you earn is also not worth the time, she says. “It makes no sense to labor for 15-30 minutes and earn no more than $5. Invest this time in something more successful and useful as a side hustle.”

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Making YouTube or TikTok Videos

In this digital and visual age, many people have turned to producing video content for their own websites or a YouTube or TikTok channel. The problem with this is, it takes becoming “internet famous” to really earn any money at it, according to Jon Lynn, CEO and founder at My Office Pod

“Blogs and YouTube channels are fantastic, but they will only bring you significant revenue if you become recognized on these sites. Assuming you’re just getting started with a blog or YouTube channel, it’ll probably take months or even years before you start making money if that happens at all.”

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Multi-Level Marketing

Another side gig that appeals to people by advertising that you can “be your own boss” or “run your own business” comes from multi-level marketing companies, says Matthew Carter, an attorney specializing in advising small businesses and founder of Inc and Go.

“Really they are a clever way to get you to buy inventory and work for someone else. You will virtually never be able to make a real business with an MLM company,” he explains.

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Hobbies as Businesses

Carter says just because you’re good at something or enjoy it, it “doesn’t mean you can turn it into a successful business.”

He adds, “Business is about volume and efficiency, and a hobby like this is probably not going to be able to be your main business. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! Hobbies are great to have. You just need to look at a business more from the standpoint of market demands and what you can offer to people that will actually buy.”

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