Review: The Ultimate Side Hustle Book — do your jobs

When I saw that ex-colleague Elana Varon had released The Ultimate Side Hustle Book I knew I had no choice but to review it. After all, The Swellesley Report is the ultimate side hustle.

The Natick-based writer’s first book weighs in at just over 300 pages, but you’ll hustle through it in no time. You might also find yourself returning to it again and again, as the book serves as both a primer on the gig economy and side hustling, as well as a reference meant to be revisited. The book includes advice on time management, risk, and taxes. And it’s packed with 450 side hustles, from lei greeters (we need more of those in Wellesley) to real estate agents (not sure we need more of those) and from life coaches to tire reclaimers.

If you’re not familiar with the term “side hustle,” it is what it sounds like: a side gig, typically borne out of your skills and passions. Some side hustles bloom into full-time jobs, and that’s actually the case with our blog for Mrs. Swellesley. Varon advises making sure your side hustle will be profitable from the start.


“Side hustles are out of the shadows finally, but with all the books, blogs and articles on the subject, there wasn’t a comprehensive resource to help people figure out what they could really do, or how to go about it,” says Varon, who has written extensively on technology and workplace issues for magazines and websites.  “Some side hustlers are entrepreneurs, but a lot of people are simply looking to make some extra cash, or finance a hobby. They can all use the book to get ideas that fit with their skills and interests, available time, and financial goals, as well as get tips for finding and managing their gigs.”

(Varon did, by the way, write the book on the side of her editorial consulting business, Cochituate Media. She doesn’t classify the book as a true side hustle, but does hope to make a few bucks off of it.)

One of the most fascinating aspects of the book — beyond the fact that there are so many side hustles from which to choose — is the data on how much you might expect to make doing these jobs, which are organized by sections such as driving, entertainment, service and teaching. You might find some of the earnings figures disheartening, down at the minimum wage level. Non-union actors, for example, can expect to get about $10 an hour as TV or movie extras. Then again, making $1,000 as a bounty hunter on a $10,000 bond might inspire you to venture into an exciting new line of work.

I couldn’t bear to look at the blogging or writing sections…

Varon gathered wage and salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job sites, industry trade association surveys, and by asking people.

Anecdotes are sprinkled throughout the book, too. Carol, a crafty marketing writer for a software company, described how she started a clothing upcycling business by making Christmas ornaments from sweater materials.

During the writing process, Varon polled people about their side hustles ideas and experiences whenever she found herself in a group.

“Inevitably someone would ask whether the book would include vices (it doesn’t) or start listing outright illegal types of work (also not in there),” she says.

One person recoiled at the idea that her job, which requires lots of training and practice, could be lumped in with classic side hustles such as driving for a ride-sharing service like Uber.

“I ended up having a lot of provocative conversations not just about what it means to have a side hustle, but about how people think about work in their lives,” Varon says. “People really opened up. I didn’t have room for it all in the book, but it got me thinking about what else to write.”

MORE: Mr. Swellesley gets back to work, Mrs. Swellesley rejoices

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