Author Topic: Generate extra income without sellable skills?  (Read 6845 times)

fadedsunrise

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Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« on: February 27, 2014, 04:11:06 PM »
Hi everyone, my question is: how do I generate extra income without sellable skills such as crafting/knitting, computer programming, or the like? Should I invest money to learn some of those things, or something else?

I'm currently 23 and in law school, living at home rent/expenses free at the grace of my parents. I will have 62.5k in unsub. stafford loans (6%) after law school, ~65k in an interest free loan to a relative. I have 10k in a savings account from random jobs throughout the years. My goal is to pay down my loans as much as possible during the rest of law school, or pay my parents as much as they will accept in living expenses. My current income is 700-800 a month from a part time clerk position. I can't see myself increasing my hours during the semester without cutting into my studying at this point. I am applying for scholarships and part time research positions, but the success rate is like shooting fish in a black hole.

 The only hobby I really make time for, aside from reading personal finance blogs, is taekwondo, which costs money. I remember really wanting to learn martial arts ever since I was 12/13, but there was never the time or finances to afford it. I currently attend the class at my university, which is $120 per year and $40 one time for the uniform. I try to go each day its offered, or about 60-80 times a year. That's like...$2 a class right? Its everything I thought it would be, and I see myself doing it for life, but I understand my debt is an emergency and will give it up if need be.

I've thought about a photography business, as I was gifted with a DSLR and 2 lenses for my birthday a few years ago. However, I'm not sure my basic DSLR and equipment could compete with the actual photographers who have more professional equipment, time to practice their skills, and established clients. Other than that, law school really only teaches writing, at its core. Law firms are really only open weekdays, so I'm limited to my current legal job. Should I consider a retail job? (for which I have zero experience-really only tutored throughout high school and college) Should I consider a blog? Should I invest in coding or craft classes?

Eric

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2014, 04:31:07 PM »
You're in law school full time.  And you work part time during the week.  So you want to add a weekend job as well?  This would mean that you're working every single day of the week for the next couple of years.  That sounds like the recipe for burnout to me.  Are you not already pretty busy?

DougStache

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2014, 04:35:49 PM »
Although I agree with Eric, here are a few thoughts for you.

1)  My brother in law generates money on the side through writing.  He writes little blurbs about products and the like; I don't believe it pays a lot per blurb but he really churns them out.  Sellable skill #1.
2) Online tutoring can pay fairly well.  You have a law degree, I'd imagine you could tutor law students online.  Sellable skill #2.
3) You won't necessarily have to compete with professional photographers unless you want to charge professional prices.  Seriously, the pro's charge 2-3k at the cheapest for a wedding gig.  My sister started a photography business with no portfolio beyond taking engagement photos for friends.  She priced herself low to start / build her portfolio / invest in some gear, then started upping the price.  This is an option, but it's a big commitment to an already busy schedule.

soccerluvof4

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2014, 04:44:06 PM »
I like Dougstache's Ideas but as Eric is saying would be my concern as well. All you can do is give it a try and see if you can handle it BUT you have to be honest with yourself and not burn out!!!!

Jack

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2014, 04:57:22 PM »
Other than that, law school really only teaches writing, at its core. Law firms are really only open weekdays, so I'm limited to my current legal job.... Should I invest in coding...?

On the contrary, law school also teaches you logical reasoning. Between that and the fact that legal writing is much more formalized and precise than normal language (they don't call it legalese for nothing!), you have much more in common with computer programmers than you give yourself credit for.

I suggest maybe taking an online "intro to programming" class from Udacity or Coursera or wherever (but only when you have free time -- don't screw up your law school grades!). If you finish the lesson on recursion without tearing your hair out, you have enough aptitude to do coding as a side gig.

[Note: I am a programmer who is politically active (and therefore reads legislation from time to time).]

sheepstache

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2014, 05:19:02 PM »
I don't have that type of career myself, but it seems like investing in your career in the early years is going to have the most payoff.  Putting extra work into your education and, once you graduate, continuing to read in your field and finding other ways to distinguish yourself are going to be more important to your earning power--and probably job satisfaction--than doing a couple days worth of skill-less work per month.
If you're going to do any third activity, I suggest it should be something you enjoy and might be interested in pursuing full time after FI.

anisotropy

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2014, 05:19:25 PM »
Although I agree with Eric, here are a few thoughts for you.

1)  My brother in law generates money on the side through writing.  He writes little blurbs about products and the like; I don't believe it pays a lot per blurb but he really churns them out.  Sellable skill #1.
2) Online tutoring can pay fairly well.  You have a law degree, I'd imagine you could tutor law students online.  Sellable skill #2.
3) You won't necessarily have to compete with professional photographers unless you want to charge professional prices.  Seriously, the pro's charge 2-3k at the cheapest for a wedding gig.  My sister started a photography business with no portfolio beyond taking engagement photos for friends.  She priced herself low to start / build her portfolio / invest in some gear, then started upping the price.  This is an option, but it's a big commitment to an already busy schedule.

Totally agree. You have sellable skills! Writing and tutoring came to mind since you are in law school. Are you good enough to teach TKD or are you just starting? 3) is true too. I have a co-worker who does photography on the side, she is semi-pro (good but not pro). She only charges like 25% of what pros charge. Market yourself through your circle of friends or virtual community first (like this website).

For the longest time I was searching for a side income gig too. Not so much anymore but here's what we did:
I did some contract work but it was still work related. Then we tried to sell things on the internet and it wasnt really that great (we were making like 150 a month at most). These days I "play" on OTC with very small money and make maybe 50 to 100 a week, but that's mostly a hobby and for fun.....

All these take time though, so is it really worth all the hassel? You are only 23, try to keep spending down and you "should" be on the right path once you are done school. From my personal experience I would advice you study hard (try to aim for top 5-10%), and your efforts will pay off with a higher income job once you graduate.

meteor

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2014, 05:25:19 PM »
I'm still recovering from the shock of all the loans required to go to law school.  Let's hope you like that career.

I work self-employed in the crafts industry and it is very hard to make money unless you work at it full time plus. If I were in your shoes, I'd do things like help people write a will or contract for a $100-$200 a pop.  I'm amazed at how many lawyers I've called who do not want to help me with a will because they consider it a small time job not worth their time.  It's hard to find people to do that.  Maybe you could work under a lawyer if you have to.

ch12

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2014, 05:35:40 PM »
Hi everyone, my question is: how do I generate extra income without sellable skills

Other than that, law school really only teaches writing, at its core. Law firms are really only open weekdays, so I'm limited to my current legal job. Should I consider a retail job? (for which I have zero experience-really only tutored throughout high school and college) Should I consider a blog? Should I invest in coding or craft classes?

Writing is a skill. I had two writing-centric jobs in college. I thought that I was going to go off and become a technical writer full-time for a software company. I tutored for the vast majority of college.

Lucrative niches:
  • College application essays
  • SAT Writing tutoring
  • Nonnative speakers who are fresh off the boat - parents are millionaires and the kids drive Audis

You can definitely make side income. Depending on your LSAT score, you can get a job tutoring for the LSAT. If your score was above 173, Powerscore will pay you $25/hour with flexible hours.

http://www.powerscore.com/instructor.cfm

phred

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2014, 05:39:09 PM »
There is a learning curve to knitting, programming & photography; your plate is already quite full with legal studies.  I also would not add the stress of paying off your loans while still in school.  Remember that you will need to buy a top-notch wardrobe after graduation.
  Your best bet is to get a good summer internship that pays well.  Other than law firms, look into internships with the legal departments of most big corporations.  Government agencies also seek legal interns.  A quick Google shows the transportation authority in Queens want a legal intern.
  So, what to do during the term?  Can you tutor any 1Ls?  Will any professors hire you to do some occasional library research?  Is there a law library open on Saturday that needs an assistant.  Can you tutor any beginner taekwondo students who need help with a certain routine?
  Working retail doesn't pay very well.  Waitressing weekends in a sports bar should be better.  A flexible, free-lance gig would be to help non-profits apply for grants.  This would be a much faster learning curve for you, and can be done on weekends after initial contact with your client(s).  Your pay would be a percentage of the grant.
  No-one expects elegant dinners from a student.  Wait until working full-time.

fadedsunrise

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2014, 10:46:11 PM »
Thank you so much for all the responses!

To answer a few of the questions I've seen in the responses:
1. I am a 2l, and no where near top 5-10% Somewhere under top 50, with a constant upward trend. I absolutely bombed the first semester of law school (about 3.0 average on a 3.3 curve), and have basically been killing myself since then to change that. My LSAT was also terrible (162)...I think I got in based on my essay alone. I do go to a top 20 law school in the area I want to practice, and have been networking furiously since 1l. Am on good terms with about 10 attorneys, 3 of which I've worked for and know me well.

2. Law was not *the thing I've always wanted,* but now that I've read MMM maybe FI was the thing I always wanted, and early retirement. I remember in college my first counselor asked me what I wanted from a career, and I answered her something along the lines of: "a separation between work and play. I want to work enough to pay expenses, and then eventually do what I want to do." I could have gotten to FI with a much cheaper degree, but too late now, I have to work with what I've got.

3. I began taekwondo last year, so its been 1.5 years at about 5 hrs a week. I teach the ultra beginners in our club because I enjoy it, but I'm not good enough to teach for any pay. Ideally, I would teach taekwondo or do personal training after FI.

4. Photography, especially nature photography, is my other "hobby" that I would love to pursue more often. My favorite memories are from a family trip to rural Yunnan, where I would wake every early morning and walk around with my SLR, capturing daily life. I have no practice with posed models though.

5. Finally: I appreciate the concern about burn out, but I am more hair on fire at the prospect of unemployment and no way to dig myself out of my loans. I would rather risk extra work during law school and while I'm young enough to handle it, rather than be an unemployed, overqualified oaf. Furthermore, as my parents are housing me rent/expenses free, and have refused my repeated offers to contribute expenses, I feel even less entitled to take it easy.

phred

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2014, 08:44:38 AM »
Learn by doing is frequently an effective learning method.  While it doesn't pay anything, can you volunteer at Legal Aid?  It would really enhance the resume and bring you better offers.

While anything creative can be personally fulfilling and satisfying, there are already too many nature photographers trying to earn money.  A Google on 'blogs on nature photography' brought up about 90 million hits.

If it really was your essay that got you into law school, then don't ignore this strength.  Writing can be quite rewarding.  As already mentioned you can charge for critiquing admission essays, resumes, writing for grants.  The ABA - Law Student Division offers several writing competitions each year with cash awards.  Look also for the 'T C Williams Legal Essay Contest Catalog'.

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2014, 09:21:35 AM »
I don't have that type of career myself, but it seems like investing in your career in the early years is going to have the most payoff.  Putting extra work into your education and, once you graduate, continuing to read in your field and finding other ways to distinguish yourself are going to be more important to your earning power--and probably job satisfaction--than doing a couple days worth of skill-less work per month.
If you're going to do any third activity, I suggest it should be something you enjoy and might be interested in pursuing full time after FI.

+1. The following is a great article that really brings this point home:
http://goingconcern.com/post/year-resolve-finally-decide-what-you-want-be-when-you-grow-public-accounting

CommonCents

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2014, 09:37:37 AM »
If I were in your shoes, I'd do things like help people write a will or contract for a $100-$200 a pop.  I'm amazed at how many lawyers I've called who do not want to help me with a will because they consider it a small time job not worth their time.  It's hard to find people to do that.  Maybe you could work under a lawyer if you have to.

NO!

As a law student you can get into HUGE trouble for practicing law without a license.  Do NOT do this by yourself.  (Sorry for shouting.) 

I'd recommend getting to know the professors better, and seeing if any of them needs a research assistant or tutor, etc.  That way you're paid+building skills and resume.  My health law professor recommended me & and a friend to the Wharton health law professor, knowing we were interested in health law.  We TA'd a class for him, then later did research for the health law professor after graduation but before taking the bar.  I also got a one-time gig editing an article someone wanted to submit to journals, but that was random happenstance.  My bioethics listserve also sends out opportunities occasionally to students to help for pay or credit on things, ranging from talks to papers to books to a class.  (That's how I taught a Coursera class.)

Don't do to much.  I think you're supposed to keep your hours to 20/week for the law school to be ABA accredited.

MrMoneyPinch

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2014, 10:46:39 AM »
I will join others here to advise you to focus.  At 23, you have a lot of time to do all that FI stuff later than you actually have a career. 
Your #1 top action right now to be FI earlier is to ace law school.  A 120k$ diploma is worth nothing if you are in the bottom of your cohort.

Being a TA or a research assistant would be my suggestion if you insist on getting a job right now, since it would give you extra experience, which should help you with your studies.

I consider side gigs something one should do only when they have an excellent grip on whatever is the main gig.

minimalist

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2014, 11:02:29 AM »
I think you should focus on bringing your grades up, which will impact your earnings potential far greater than a few thousand you could make with side gigs.

anisotropy

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Re: Generate extra income without sellable skills?
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2014, 11:16:51 AM »
I will join others here to advise you to focus.  At 23, you have a lot of time to do all that FI stuff later than you actually have a career. 
Your #1 top action right now to be FI earlier is to ace law school.  A 120k$ diploma is worth nothing if you are in the bottom of your cohort.


This is very true. Big income jobs will come if your grades are good. Competition is fierce and I've heard that many graduates don't end up with any jobs simply because of lower grades.....


5. Finally: I appreciate the concern about burn out, but I am more hair on fire at the prospect of unemployment and no way to dig myself out of my loans. I would rather risk extra work during law school and while I'm young enough to handle it, rather than be an unemployed, overqualified oaf. Furthermore, as my parents are housing me rent/expenses free, and have refused my repeated offers to contribute expenses, I feel even less entitled to take it easy.

Sounds like your parents are Asian? :P You mentioned you got in due to your essay, maybe you could help people (for a fee of course) with their college application essays.