The coronavirus pandemic has made life very difficult for a lot of us, but it has also presented some unique business opportunities.
Some people have taken advantage of this, launching their own side hustles to fill the hours in lockdown and maybe make a few extra bucks.
We asked our readers on Facebook Messenger how they had been using their free time.
Here’s what you told us.
A lot of you tapped into your creative sides
I do pet portraits! I would love to keep it up and see where it goes!
“I’m making ceramics! It’s been great money and great for mental health :)”
“I’ve reignited my art practice which has not yet delivered financial gains but instead has given me deep focus and a sense of purpose.”
Melbournian Rachel Ettridge has been working remotely as a cybersecurity consultant since March.
She said while she loved digital illustrations, she had never tried doing anything particularly creative until the lockdowns hit.
“I wanted something to distract me and a creative outlet in isolation, so I decided to invest in an iPad with the hopes I would love it,” she said.
“And turns out they actually look kind of cool!”
She posted a few of her pictures on her Instagram account @halleillustrations and followers began approaching her for commissions.
“It has ended up being a great side income,” she said.
“It turns out there is a huge art community on Instagram and so many of them began in COVID.
“I can’t believe the amount of creatives who have reached out to me and also begun in March.”
A lot of technically minded people kept busy
“No money yet. With the additional time I have been able to work on my data analytics looking at the real estate market and the performance of agents. When the market comes back online it will be a perfect time to get the analysis working and reporting to agents on their performance.”
“I started an alternative funding model for start-ups and [small and medium enterprises] where we will pay for their digital advertising and split the revenue. Many companies tried to go online for the first time during the lockdown and had excess inventory with no way to sell it to generate income, so we gave them a way out.”
“Science communication! I’ve always been passionate about it, but COVID has given me a great opportunity to work on my website and social media. The money isn’t great at the moment but I’ve also been working on ways to make money and grow, especially through selling items/subscriptions. Absolutely will continue after COVID! This is a whole new career direction for me.”
“Selling computers and accessories to the simulation motor-racing community. When all other sports shut down, motorsport had a sort of get-out-jail-free card.”
Software engineer Jay McMullen had been living near Hyde Park in Sydney before the pandemic began, but has moved back in with his mother to save money while working remotely.
In his spare time he has been building a website to help companies simulate phishing attempts and train their employees about cybersecurity.
“I got the idea during isolation after seeing some poorly designed cybersecurity training and hearing about scammers using COVID to trick people into downloading viruses and hand over personal information,” he said.
“I’ve been wanting to create my own software service for a while now but I struggled coming up with a solid idea.”
He said he was about halfway towards launching his website and he expected it to generate revenue, but he would keep going with his current role.
Some of you turned something unwanted into something valuable
“I’ve been upcycling small pieces of furniture that had been thrown out by their previous owners. Thus far it is a labour of love. Most pieces we have kept as we loved the outcome! I have one item up for sale, yet to have any offers. Loving it though and, yes, plan to continue as I still have more items to upgrade and I have lots of ideas.”
“I’ve started restoration work. So far I have completed a 1960s rocking horse, I’ve repaired my mother’s car/scooter (first time using fibreglass!) and I’m now working on much-cherished statues that need fixing.”
Clinton Bishop, from Perth, has been upcycling unwanted pallets by turning them into tables, bars and planter boxes and selling them through Facebook Marketplace for a while.
But when the pandemic hit, orders for his planter boxes went through the roof.
“When it looked like we were all going to get locked down, they went nuts,” he said.
“People were wanting to grow their own veggies, like [the pandemic] would be something out of The Walking Dead. They were getting ready to be self-sufficient.
“The planter boxes have been so popular to the point I couldn’t keep up for a while.”
Some of you are making more money than you expected
“[I’m] making dog treats and selling them. Making more money than I ever expected! I ended up having to leave work in April due to being pregnant and COVID being unpredictable, so I started this business and it has kept me going!”
“I’ve been making cross-stitches by commission, and while they are cheap to make and can yield $80-plus, postage and time-consuming work sort of balance it out. I still have a few on my list but they’ll get done when I run out of other things to do.”
At least one business was created out of spite
For Kaitlyn Lewis, an unhappy situation with a property manager led to her starting her own cleaning and landscaping business, VayKate Cleaning Services.
“I came up with it when a property manager forced my hand on vacating a rental,” she said.
“They insisted on an accredited carpet cleaner but I didn’t have that much money.
“I did some research and found out WA doesn’t have an accreditation body so I found an online course and got certified for carpet cleaning.
“I used the bond money to purchase equipment and launch the business.
“Spite is an amazing motivator.”
Ms Lewis was previously a winery warehouse manager and left her role a few weeks before the coronavirus crisis took hold.
“It started as a temporary solution to the unemployment crisis that was already in a really poor state before COVID,” she said.
“It became clear that COVID wasn’t going away and finding a job would be nigh impossible.
“I launched a Facebook business page and started marketing myself with business cards and flyers and more work started coming in.”
But she found the work really picked up as the pandemic hit.
“All of a sudden people needed a cleaner and now I do it pretty much full time,” she said.
“I’m happy to be working for myself and I’m doing much better than I was eight months ago.”
The extra time meant you could diversify
“At the start of lockdown one I started taking on freelance graphic design work. It was nothing glamourous but helped [me] to feel comfortable. That has all dried up now, but through all of the lockdowns I have kept up with a cooking schedule for my Instagram and am now partnering with a distillery to create a marmalade from their by-products. So maybe I’ll make some money still.”
Catherine Gardner-Gaskin worked in events management in the greater Melbourne region, but when the pandemic hit and mass gatherings were banned, she had no work and was instead left with a lot of spare time on her hands.
She has since used her sewing skills to make facemasks, but it’s her pantry chooks — little fabric hens filled with spices — that have become a cult hit on her Facebook page Cotton & Bobbin.
Ms Gardner-Gaskin says she did not want to go back to her day job once things returned to normal.
But she isn’t being naive about taking her side hustle full time.
“For me, there are huge challenges ahead if I want to take this full time,” she said.
“You might find a bubble to start with and then the market’s gone.
“It’s about finding a … marketplace where you can get a high volume of turnover for what you’re doing and the people to purchase your produce.
“I can’t just make pantry chooks for the rest of my life; that’s living in la-la land.”
Others found time for a labour of love
“Loss of job (due to COVID-19) coincided with the deteriorating health of my mother-in-law (late 80s). It has been a blessing to have the time to care for her and spend time together. She’s been my rock for over 20 years. Now it is my turn to be hers.”
“Myself, my father and some friends set up a non-profit gift card platform for businesses affected by lockdowns/border closures so that they could get some extra cash flow from their beloved customers. We will probably keep it going as it’s a useful service for small businesses who otherwise don’t have access to this technology.”
“I’ve been making reusable face masks along with other volunteers. They will be made available to people who cannot afford to buy them.”
“I’ve been working my day job from home at my elderly mum’s place and revamping her 50-year overgrown gardens. At 49yo, I had never gardened in my life until now!”
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