Marie Tueje's blog: short texts about all things.

Supplemental income vs alternative income streams

Defining what a 'job' is isn't straightforward these days. That notwithstanding, many of us would probably describe ourselves as having more than one job. The entrepreneurial among us, or even just the self-employed, will definitely know a thing or two about supplemental income, or alternative income streams. But, depending on your ambitions, there is a big difference between the two.

Personally speaking, I need the following from supplemental income:

1. Doesn't take up a lot of time, period.

2. Doesn't take up a lot of my time when I'm not actually doing it (e.g. travel time, preparation time, waiting time, thinking time).

3. It needs to fit around my commitments, rather than the other way around.

An alternative income stream, work and projects that fit into the overall arc of my professional career, can be more demanding of my time and my energy. However, until such a time as they start generating a stable and assured income, they'll not take up quite as much of my time and energy as my primary work area.

I was talking to someone recently who is in a very similar position to me, and we discussed the absolute necessity of supplemental income. This is true wherever you live, but particularly if you're in one of the more expensive cities around the world, rent, bills, travel and food can consume up to 70% of one's earnings. The flexibility that we generally seek, so that we can pick up our main job when the work starts coming in, often leads people to pick casual jobs in catering and hospitality (waiting tables, coffee shops, venue box offices). These are great, but it's good to know that there are other types of casual work out there if you need it. 

  1. Office temping
    Pay £7.50-£10.00 / hour 

  2. Mystery shopping
    Pay is variable (but, invariably, low). There are other perks, though. This article is a good primer.

  3. Transcribing
    Can pay equivalent to £10.00-15.00 / hour. Pay is, understandably, usually based on how many minutes transcribed rather than how long it takes you to do it.

Depending on your skills and your personality, any of the above could be right for you. The difference between ‘supplemental income’ and ‘alternative income streams’ is pretty clear in my mind: with the former you’re looking at topping up your earnings on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis. With the latter, you’re looking at building an alternative (or complementary) career path that can give you money earning prospects for a long time in the future.