Having a side hustle is a great way to pull in some extra cash. In fact, according to data by GoDaddy, one in two millennials makes an average $258 in extra income from odd jobs－some are just a bit more creative.
While the study reveals the most common gigs include selling items online and cleaning, one woman decided to try something a little more outside the box: Snuggling.
Sam Varnerin of Boston found herself in a similar position as many people in her generation. Though she had a full-time position as a construction engineer, Sam wanted to make a little more dough to help reduce her student loan debt.
“When I graduated from school,” says Sam, “I had $35,000 worth of debt that I wanted to get rid of as quickly as possible. My full-time job certainly helped cover the bills, but didn’t help with my goal of getting rid of this student loan debt fast.”
With that goal in mind, the now 27-year-old decided to look around for a flexible side hustle, and says finding snuggling was “a sheer accident.” Sam subscribed to entrepreneur Jason Zook’s email list where he once joked about a professional snuggler.
“I read it and thought it was a joke,” says Sam. “But there was a part of me that realized if this was a legitimate business, I’d be good at it.”
So, she started searching online to see what others were saying about professional snuggling and came across the Snuggle Buddies agency. “I found that there were a lot of people looking for someone to snuggle with in my area,” says Sam. “I reached out to the company and explained that I worked full-time, but that I was interested.”
To her delight, the college grad learned that most clients also preferred snuggling sessions outside of traditional nine-to-five work hours and the pay was hourly. “I loved how flexible the gig was,” she says. “And I could make $40 an hour.”
Other, more traditional side hustles, such as driving for Uber or cleaning homes, pull in about half that hourly rate or less. Uber drivers make around $19 an hour, DoorDash Dashers can make between $15 and $25 an hour, and house cleaners make around $10 an hour. It was a hard wage to pass up.
“Once I expressed my interest, the agency interviewed me over the phone, gave me [a] training manual and code of conduct, and explained how snuggling works,” she says. “It’s legitimate work, and you have to go through all the same onboarding processes as any other job.”
Two weeks later, Sam had her first client.
“My first session was with someone who has used the snuggling agency in the past and could report back on how I was during the session,” she says. “I got a good review and started booking regular clients.”
At this point, you’re probably wondering exactly what a snuggling session entails. According to Sam, it’s similar to a therapy session with more physical contact (obviously). “With new clients, I have a pre-session to understand what type of support they need,” she says. “Some people just want to talk where others want to cuddle.”
Sam makes it clear she is not a therapist and makes sure her clients understand she is there to talk and listen more like a friend. From there, she meets the person outside of the location where they are snuggling (sometimes at the client’s place, sometimes at her place) and takes care of payment before the session. She and her client also establish where the client doesn’t like to be touched.
Also, for safety, Sam checks in with an off-site supervisor, sharing where she is, who she is with, and what time she will be done. She then checks back in with the off-site supervisor when the session is over. Sessions last one to two hours on average and, occasionally, overnight.
The actual session starts with a conversation to understand what the client is emotionally experiencing and what they need. “When the conversation dies down, I tell them to lay down on my shoulder or chest,” says Sam. “I’ll ask if they’re comfortable and will move around until they are happy with the position. We may spoon or big chair, but this isn’t cuddle-sutra. We’re not doing 50 moves, and I have the freedom to move, if I’m not comfortable.”
And, yes, it’s just snuggling.
Regarding clients, Sam has worked with a wide range of clients, from a real estate law firm owner to an autistic college student who needed comfort. “Snuggling is helpful for people who have some disconnect in their lives,” she says. “It could be people with spouses that may be going through something and can’t be physically affectionate, or someone who found traumatic news recently. I’ve worked with 18-year-olds to 70-year-olds.”
Sam even explains there’s a “high season” in the snuggling world. “I’m always super busy around the holidays,” she says. “People tend to feel especially lonely around then.”
Of course, there’s bound to be some odd experiences in such a unique line of work. “One time, I had a guy in a full suit with tails who didn’t want to change but didn’t want his suit wrinkled. I had to laugh,” says Sam. “You also have to have a sense of humor since weird things will happen.”
Though her friends and family were hesitant about her new side hustle, Sam loved that she was able to help people, while earning around $500 a month working around three hours a week. “I could pay rent without even trying,” she says. “I also started paying down that student loan debt faster than I could have imagined.”
Sam found snuggling to be so lucrative, she decided to pursue it full time. After a year and a half, she quit her full-time job, created the business Snuggle With Sam, and now exclusively snuggles for work. “I work around 18 hours a week, charging between $80 and $100 an hour, and make between $3,000 and $4,000 a month,” says the snuggling enterpriser. “I’m making so much more than I was in my previous career.”
Working full time as a snuggler, Sam was able to pay off most of her student loans in under five years when it would have originally taken 10 years. “I’m about three years or less from paying the rest off,” Sam says.
Sam’s success inspired her to expand her business by helping others get into professional snuggling. She’s working on creating a professional snuggling start-up manual to demystify what people might think of snuggling, and explain how to start snuggling on the side.
“There are no start-up costs to begin snuggling, and it’s good money,” says Sam. “If you’re keen to help people, are a good listener, and don’t take yourself too seriously, you could be a great professional snuggler, too.”
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