When I was in college, I spent every day waiting tables at a restaurant right off campus. What started off as something quick and easy turned into the job I carried throughout my entire college career – and I’m so glad it did.
Years later, whenever I think about earning extra money, I consider going back to waiting tables as a side gig. I know this isn’t exactly the most glamorous side hustle out there, but it sure is effective. Here are seven reasons why waiting tables is a great side gig for making extra money.
1. You earn extra money without investing in skills
A lot of side hustles sound really nice, but require some serious skills and startup costs.
For example, a lot of people write about making extra money by doing things like freelance writing, designing or building websites.
That’s perfectly fine – if you know how to do those things. But what about everyone else?
Even if you didn’t go to a four-year degree program to learn things like writing or web design, just taking a class online or at your local General Assembly (GA) could cost you. For example, GA is offering a front-end development class for $4,000 – or $1250 if you take a similar class online.
Although you need some skills to wait tables, they’re skills a lot of people can learn – no online or in-person class necessary. Essentially, if you like people, can handle pressure, and are willing to try something new, you can learn how to wait tables.
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2. The average pay is more efficient
When I was in college, I waited tables, worked in retail, and had a few internships. Of all the things I did, waiting tables paid the best by far.
Earning minimum wage for waiting tables isn’t always the best. As of May 2015, the median hourly wage for waiters and waitresses was $9.25, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, when combined with the average amount I made in tips, I earned well over $20 per hour when I waited tables. And that was from 2001 – 2006.
That said, if you live in a city with high-end restaurants, you may be able to command a lot more.
Check out this story of a restaurant in New York that sees its servers bringing in six digits every year. That may be full-time, but imagine what you could earn at that type of restaurant even working just two nights per week!
3. It puts cash in your pocket right now
Speaking of earnings, one of my favorite things about waiting tables was that I went home with cash in my pocket every time I worked.
And if I ever needed to make money quickly (say if my car broke down, which happened more than a few times in my college career), then all I had to do was pick up an extra shift.
4. The hours are relatively flexible
Depending on where you work, the hours and shifts for waiting tables can be pretty flexible.
I worked a variety of shifts ranging from three hours to seven hours per shift. And since a lot of people wait tables because of the flexibility, it can often be easy to find someone to trade shifts with you if you need it.
What’s more, if you work 9-5 and are looking to make extra money, you can work a few nights or weekend nights waiting tables. Then you can make money quickly and do it without interfering with your day job.
5. It’s a social activity
If you’re an extrovert and want a side gig that keeps you from feeling cooped up at home or in an office, waiting tables is for you.
Not only is waiting tables a great way to make friends with coworkers (since they’re often social as well), it’s also a great way to get to know your community.
In my case, waiting tables even led to my first career-oriented job after college.
One of my regular customers happened to be the branch manager of the bank where I deposited my tips. When I graduated, he gave me a job as a teller and then promoted me to personal banker all in one year.
Thanks to that experience, I now get to do the two things I love most: write and help people achieve financial freedom.
6. You get a job and a workout
An unexpected side effect of waiting tables is the workout. I still remember the first time I picked up a tray – because I nearly dropped it. By the time I left the restaurant, I could carry a tray and stacks of plates on my arms.
And, since I often worked an afternoon shift in between morning and evening classes, I found this job to be a great way to get my blood pumping so I could focus on a few more hours of class or during all-night essay-writing sessions.
7. It teaches you to think on your feet
There’s no getting around this one: waiting tables is fast-paced.
When a lunch or dinner rush would hit my restaurant, I could barely even stop to take a sip of water. As someone who got intensely bored working in retail (my store was painfully empty most of the time), this was my preference.
While there were many days that threatened to take down the whole staff from stress, it taught me to think on my feet in ways I never could before. And those multitasking skills I learned really came in handy years later when I started working in startups.
Many side hustles carry additional benefits
If you need a bright side to keep you going while you work more than one job, consider what else your side hustle does for you.
And remember, this situation doesn’t have to be a forever thing. Do what you can now to get your money where it needs to be. Then find another job that’s better for your overall career goals.
Like the idea of boosting your income, but waiting tables doesn’t sound like your thing? Here are even more ways to side hustle your way to extra money.
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