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- Melanie Lockert graduated from school with $US68,000 of student loan debt remaining.
- She cut her spending as much as she could, but realised she needed to earn more if she was going to make a dent in her debt.
- She found side jobs working as a brand ambassador and as an event assistant to supplement her income, and found they were well-paying gigs that weren’t very hard.
- Credible can help compare offers to consolidate and refinance your student loan debt »
In 2012, I was living in Portland, Oregon, wondering how I was going to pay my remaining $US68,000 in student loan debt.
I had graduated with my MA in Performance Studies from NYU the year prior but struggled to find full-time work. I was making $US10 to $US12 with temp work. I shared a studio with my boyfriend at the time, didn’t have a car, and didn’t have health insurance (pre-Affordable Care Act).
I cut back in every way I could and hit my limit. I knew that my only shot at paying off my debt was earning more. So I focused on side hustling.
While I did a lot of side hustles over the years, I did two main side hustles that helped me pay off debt.
Becoming a brand ambassador
Right before I left New York City at the end of 2011, I got my first gig as a brand ambassador. I found it on Craigslist under the Gigs section. There was an ad that said there was an opportunity to earn $US20 per hour to hand out flyers for a pet adoption event for a major pet retailer in Central Park. They paid within two weeks. I was lucky to get the gig after playing up the volunteer experience I had with events.
I got it, showed up, and made some of the easiest money of my life. I got paid $US20 per hour to hang out in Central Park and hand out flyers about a pet adoption event. After that, I got a gig as a Columbia Sportswear brand ambassador during the holiday season in Bryant Park. I got $US500 worth of free clothes and helped people try on jackets and sing karaoke in a freezer, as a way to prove how warm the clothes were. This was another easy and fun gig. So when I moved to Portland, I continued my search for brand ambassador gigs.
Being a brand ambassador meant being “the face” of the company in public. Typically, as a brand ambassador you work public events like sporting events, concerts, or in public places with lots of people, like parks.
I realised that brand ambassador gigs varied between $US17-25 per hour, depending on the gig. Many of the gigs were between four and eight hours, for one to two days.
All I needed was the ability to talk to people, show up on time, and wear a branded t-shirt. Being a brand ambassador was great because I simply signed up with marketing agencies, got emails for gigs, and applied for the ones I could do.
There was a flexible schedule that could work around my 9 to 5 and paid more than what I was earning during the day.
Working as an event assistant
After working for a couple of years as a brand ambassador, in 2014 I found a TaskRabbit gig to help out at an event at a Jewish Congregation. I am not Jewish, which worked in my favour as there were no conflicts for me to work the holidays. I did the first gig, helping prepare and set food, move chairs, clean up, etc.
They liked me and offered me a part-time job. This was also nights and weekends and a job I could do around my 9 to 5. I would work one to three times per month for about five hours at a time.
As an events assistant, I helped with set up, food prep, cleaning, and breakdown. Not exactly glamourous stuff, but this job helped me experience a new culture and new traditions.
It only paid $US12 per hour but every event, I got a feast of leftover food and wine. The extras would easily last me a week, which would help my grocery budget.
I kept my side hustles for years
I continued these side hustles until I paid off my debt in December 2015. It took me nearly five years to pay off the rest of the $US68,000, and while it was stressful working full-time and spending nights and weekends doing these side hustles, for an extrovert like me, it also gave me energy.
In the beginning, I made $US10 to $US12 per hour and these side hustles helped me survive and continue to pay off debt. In mid-2013, I got a job as an events and communications coordinator at a nonprofit making $US31,000. Having that job as well as these two side hustles helped me pay off debt faster. During that time, I kept my expenses the same and focused solely on earning more.
I found that frugality was a great beginning strategy in my debt payoff journey, but earning more really helped me get where I needed to go.
Need help with your student loan debt? Credible can help compare offers to consolidate and refinance your debt »
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