Lisa A. Flam
The partial government shutdown is affecting the financial lives of some 800,000 federal workers who are not receiving a paycheck. They’re worrying about how to pay their bills while not knowing when their pay will return to normal.
“For a lot of people who are affected by this, it’s really frustrating and scary because most people don’t have the kinds of emergency savings that you need in order to cover missing a paycheck or two,” said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert for NerdWallet.com.
“Most people, they really rely on their paychecks to make all of their monthly expenses, and so when it doesn’t come in, it causes a ripple effect of financial stress,” added Palmer, who wrote about finding a side hustle in her book “The Economy of You.”
To help stay afloat during the uncertainty, some workers may dip into their savings or rely on a relative for help, but those may not be options for every worker. Part-time, one-time, contingent or temporary work may be an alternative for some people.
Start thinking about what skills you have, what you enjoy doing, what resources you have and who’s in your network.
Before looking for a side job, the most important first step for federal workers to take is to check with their agency to see what kind of work they are permitted to do and to make certain they would not be violating their agency’s rules with any new work.
“A lot of federal agencies have really strict rules about the income that employees can earn outside of their federal paycheck,” Palmer said. “You might actually be prohibited or severely limited in the type of part-time or gig work that you can do.”
If you’re primarily focused on earning as much as you can, Palmer says the best approach is to seek freelance and client work that puts your current skills to use.
“If you want to really maximize your income, focus on the skills that you have been trained for, that you practice in your day job, and how you can translate that to the freelancer marketplace,” Palmer said.
Areas with demand include being a virtual assistant, a language translator, working in software development and coding, and writing and content creation, Palmer said.
Some people may want to branch out in their work life and make money from an activity they find enjoyable. Check out neighborhood Listservs and social media groups to find babysitting, or take a look at dog walking jobs, such as Rover or Wag.
Palmer suggests spreading the word that you’re available. If arts and crafts or baking is your specialty, consider selling your goods through emails to neighbors or on a website like Etsy.com.
“If it’s something you enjoy doing anyway, it’s a relatively easy way to earn extra money,” Palmer says. “Think about what you enjoy doing on the weekends. That’s when you get into things like selling cakes to your neighbors.”
Take advantage of the shared economy to find work using the resources you have. If you own a vehicle that meets ride-sharing standards, consider working as a driver. If you’re handy, consider picking up work through TaskRabbit, Palmer suggests, or if you have an extra bedroom, you can rent it through Airbnb.
A great place for federal employees who are not working to look for work is in their own networks. “They can think about, ‘Where are my colleagues, where are people that I’ve worked with in the past, where is my network, and is there a way for me to maybe get a project or consulting agreement and work as an independent contractor during this shutdown?’” says Diane Mulcahy, author of “The Gig Economy” and an adjunct lecturer in the MBA program at Babson College.