Academic side hustles

#1 occasionally picks up $100 or $500 here and there to review a paper or a grant or a book.  She will also do these things for free, but is perfectly happy to accept money for the opportunity when it’s offered.

Sometimes she’ll do free-lance writing for a policy brief or a news article or encyclopedia article, though she doesn’t seek these out and hasn’t actually done one in several years.

Her colleagues moonlight as expert witnesses or do big consulting contracts for various state governments.  But she hasn’t been offered such things and doesn’t seek them out.  She does seek out grants, but those aren’t really side hustles, as they fit under her regular job heading.

#2 has reviewed textbooks and is supplementing her unemployment spell with small bouts of copy-editing for academics.  She’s also hiring herself out as an experimental subject, for Science.

In grad school we picked up side work as advisers, research assistants, and experimental subjects.

How do you get money outside of your regular 9 month contract?  If you’re not an academic, what kind of side hustles do you have?  Any ideas for #2?

33 Responses to “Academic side hustles”

  1. TheologyAndGeometry Says:

    The group I work for grades retinal photographs for eye disease for epidemiologic studies. We get contracts from other groups that want to study these diseases but don’t have the resources to do the grading. However, this isn’t a side-hustle – it’s a big part of how we pay the bills. We also contract out for other things we measure on our populations that we’re not prepared to handle like lab work, reading ECGs etc. These people get paid some small percent of their time from our grant for their expertise. I’m not exactly sure how we find these people, but I think there’s a fair amount of word of mouth. So #2 could keep her ears open for a study that is interested in but needs help with some measure they don’t really understand but she is an expert in.

  2. e Says:

    I consult privately for clients in the area where I have expertise.

  3. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    Blogging and freelance writing were once my side hustles!
    Now I do really boring things like buy and resell kid’s clothes and sell things on ebay. I occasionally babysit too, but I’ve done that for free more than I’ve been paid.

    • Leah Says:

      Is ebay still worth it? I used to sell on ebay about 8 years ago — made the money for my first laptop that way. I found my most lucrative sales were old board games. My dad loves to visit thrift shops and garage sales, so he bought lots of old board games (mostly scrabble and this game called Acquire). I’d put together complete sets from the partial sets, clean them up, and sell the games. I made pretty decent money that way but not enough to pay bills or anything.

  4. Debbie M Says:

    I’m not a faculty member, but I have done academic side hustles.

    When I was a typist for faculty (can you imagine writing things out for a typist nowadays?) I would occasionally get extra work from faculty who waited until the last second to work on their grant proposals.

    I’ve also done some transcription work for my friend who does research in social work and some of her social work researcher friends. They would actually lend me a transcription machine to do it. (This is really hard when you have more than two or three people in the interview.) It was interesting–they wanted me to keep in every “uh,” “well,” “er,” etc. And you could tell that the parts that were smooth were on topics that the person had thought about a lot, and the other parts were being made up on the fly.

    When I quit my job working with the degree audit system in the registrar’s office, three different colleges (in my same university) hired me part-time to help them get their programs translated into the new degree audit system.

    I’ve also done some tutoring. Elementary statistics is my favorite. I got students majoring in social science, education, and business. (Business students were the only ones with decent text books.) I preferred working for the university because I could get a lot more students (they talked them into getting tutoring every week) and they provided the space, but most companies take at least half the tutoring fee, so it’s generally more productive to just do it yourself if you can find a space.

    And I’ve scored teacher certification tests for secondary teachers. This generally requires teaching certification. (Similar jobs scoring the writing portion of various student standardized tests just require a college degree.) This used to be a good gig–take a vacation day or two and get paid more than my hourly salary plus lunch for only 4-6 hours. It was like cashing in vacation and working fewer hours. However, over the years, the salary has gone up only slightly (from $10 to less than $12 over the last couple of decades), so now it’s an insult. I’ve done math, which is some word problems, usually interesting–this is my favorite. And I’ve done history, which I stink at because I don’t really know my history (even though I’m certified to teach it), so I started refusing those jobs. And I’ve done social science, which is just too depressing because pretty much every single person fails it, so I started refusing those jobs, too.

    And for summer work I’ve been a camp counselor (overnight camps and day camps), worked for my dad (doing bookkeeping), and done cashier work.

    Nowadays I have no interest in side jobs (except I’d do more degree audit work–I love the puzzle solving and streamlining of processes). I have enough money and prefer my free time. That will be true when I retire next year, too and have a lot more free time. I’m looking forward to never having to work for money again and probably never working for money again (though I won’t quite promise to never work for money again).

  5. independentclause Says:

    Ha! My adjunct class is a side hustle from my freelance copyediting work. It gets me out of the house and reminds me how to put on grown-up clothes. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to forget.

  6. rented life Says:

    The UN has some short term contracts, I’m applying for my first one today. A couple weeks, work at home, edit or make stuff for them. I adjunct 1-2 times a year. I’ll likely do this until the credit cards are GONE. (Which means only another year and a half, pending no major emergencies!) I found a couple writing gigs that I’ll be pursuing, but it’s not just a side hustle for me; it’s a chance to move into the career I really want. Should that move forward then my current job will be my side hustle.

    I also “volunteer” to help on a project for one of our sister companies. The director over there really wants my help and it’s just meant as extra hours. Plus he’s super specific in what he wants which I love because I can just do it and not waste time guessing.

  7. waltless Says:

    I sell blood plasma

  8. What Now? Says:

    I tutor, which can pay astonishingly well, at least for someone who tends not to recognize how much her time is worth.

    • plantingourpennies Says:

      Tutoring paid REALLY well when I was in grad school. You could get $25-$50/hr depending on the course level… and the undergrads paid it. Again and again. One guy bought his fiance’s engagement ring (a nice one, I thought) on the cash he pulled in just tutoring during in the few weeks leading up to finals!

  9. becca Says:

    I <3 being an experimental subject.
    It was particularly sweet when I was in the food science department. Once in a while spend my lunch break eating chocolate or tasting coffee drinks for an extra $10? Yes please!
    We did some with my kid too, which is a bit more of a PITA. Hint: academic nutrition scientists do not know how to make your kid eat more veggies. Bribery backfires. At least if your kid is as contrary as mine. I can't imagine where he gets it from…

  10. kt Says:

    Enrichment activities and U summer camps sometimes add $250-$1000, depending. I tutored in grad school. You can make $50/hr. That’s also what I made at some entry-level programming side gigs this summer; I was underpaid but it was just the foot in the door.

    I would like to do more consulting for companies. Anyone done consulting? I know math, with sidelines in data visualization, stats, ed tech, and programming. I want to do some data analysis for a company or consult on some math finance stuff and get paid. If readers have ideas on how to move in that corporate direction, please tell us!

  11. chacha1 Says:

    Writing is my side hustle, but it’s mostly for my own entertainment at this point. :-)

  12. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    #1 occasionally picks up $100 or $500 here and there to review a paper or a grant or a book.

    Honoraria are typical for grant review by some federal and private agencies, but I have never been offered anything to peer review a manuscript for a journal. But regardless, how would any of this be a “side hustle”? Peer review is part of your professional effort as an academic, and as such goes on your CV, correct?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My figuring is that I’d do it for free (and put it on my cv for free), so any of the additional money is just gravy. Same with popular press articles and briefs. Like I said, I don’t seek things out.

      Plus some of these projects (like books) are bigger and I might say no if not offered something in return. I’m currently getting a tonne of requests for reviewing and I’ve already got that line on my cv for most if not all of the major journals. I do say yes more than I ought to because I’ve been told that for full it looks good to be on the editorial board of a journal and since I’m not currently at one of the top schools I need to do it the hard way by being a good citizen. (Also, like I said before, I have a hard time saying no to personal emails from editors and to cash $$. Of course the journal that gives cash $$ is also the top journal, so I probably wouldn’t say no anyway.)

  13. Calee Says:

    Writing (or illustrating, depending on skill set) has been a solid side hustle for a number of our people. I pay royalties quarterly and send out lots of checks ranging from $200-$500 to people who have published a picture book or two through my company. And we’re always looking for people who can write about scientific things for kids without a) talking down to them and b) giving the wikipedia version of a topic….

    Also, since I’m hustling: I would really, really like to publish a “performance theory for teens” sort of book. I know that graduate work in English is very different from the sciences, but I would have loved if my 16-year-old self could have read about performing gender. Any one want to write it for Xist? End hustle.

  14. plantingourpennies Says:

    My MIL “side hustles” by chairing PhD dissertations in her department these days. She gets an extra $3K or so per dissertation committee that she chairs (and she claims it’s a LOT of work, actually). In years past she didn’t think it was worth the money, but she has really done as many of these as possible the past few years in order to max out her last 3 years worth of earnings (which is what her retirement pension is based on). So the extra $3K*8 or so that she’s doing this year actually has a multiplier effect and she’ll be reaping the benefits of these 3 years of hustling for as long as she lives.

  15. Leah Says:

    Pre-baby, my most lucrative side-hustle was proctoring the ACT/SAT. That pays $125 or so for about 5 hours of time. To get in, you have to just know someone who runs a test. Maybe contact a few local high schools? Some schools need proctors like woah, and some schools have their teachers lining up to proctor.

    I also was a ropes course instructor, which paid $25 an hour but was a lot of work. I did science outreach classes too, but now those are part of my job description, so I sadly don’t get paid extra for that. I also led birthday classes at a local nature center for awhile for $10 an hour. That was a lot of fun but time consuming.

    Right now, my only side hustle is trying to save money on necessary baby expenses.

  16. Leah Says:

    Another potential side gig is being a reader for AP courses. Pays $1600ish sometime in the summer. Not sure what the requirements are for non-AP teachers (for us, we need three years+ of experience), but they do accept college profs as AP readers.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My friend, a college prof, does that. Every year she goes to “camp” where they grade AP exams all day. She says it’s actually a lot of fun to hang out with the other readers, do silly stuff, and earn pretty good money.

  17. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I’m making tutus! That’s been really fun and busy lately. I am a tutu factory this month. And I think that because I like making things and selling them I’ll keep playing with that but I might venture into other things. Why not you know? I have some weird ideas in my head :) I need to get better at sewing though.

  18. Katie Cross Says:

    I never got this far, but during a stretch of unemployment last year I was thinking about trying eJury.com or http://www.jurytest.com/. Allegedly, you could be a “test” jury to see how jurors respond to a case, etc. Do tell if you try it! ;o)

  19. plainandsimplepress Says:

    The freelance editing bidness was always my side hustle as an academic. If you don’t mind living dangerously, you can sneak an occasional adjunct gig with a junior college or for-profit proprietary school. Proprietary school would be safer if you work for a state or county institution, though — less likely that the accounting department would spot the moonlighting.

  20. RBOC | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] feel unloved by inside higher ed.  Our last few academia posts have been completely ignored.  […]


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