When you decide to become a therapist, it is important to consider your finances. You need a plan for how to make ends meet. Ben made the point in Saving Psychotherapy that our field is mostly comprised of wealthy people, in part because those are the people who can afford to take on the financial burden of grad school and the years of low income while working toward licensure. One of the main reasons people drop out of our field before licensure is that same financial burden.
Some of us are fortunate to be able to lower our cost of living by moving back in with family or having a spouse’s support to draw from. The rest of us aren’t so lucky. We need side income to make it through to graduation.
In the first semester or so in grad school, it seems doable to balance a full-time job with a few classes each week. But then practicum starts, and you realize that the hours asked of you each week quickly add up if you include supervision, documentation, treatment planning, and maintaining competence in the needs of your clients. And then your caseload grows, especially as colleagues finish (or drop out of) their placements, and some of their clients are forwarded to you. At some point, that full-time job that you had has to be sacrificed. And without it, you’ll need to find side income to avoid going further into debt.
Does a flexible, high-paying job, one that you can keep while finishing your graduate degree, exist? It might! It all depends on your skillset, and what you are willing to do. I’ve been asked many times how I’ve been able to get by, and I’ve come up with a working list of ideas to consider. I haven’t personally done all of these, of course, but I’ve done some of them. And the ones I haven’t done I have seen work for others who have.
Utilize your previous career
Some people who have had jobs in marketing, finance, or law have been able to turn their skills into a consulting or freelance practice. One woman who was in my program was a nurse. She maintained a steady income by continuing to work a few shifts a week.
Utilize your education or training
If you have your degree and a clean background check, you can be a tutor for $20-100+ an hour. A colleague of mine used his guitar skills to start a guitar lesson business while he was in school.
Jobs with tips
You might have had the thought: “If only I could be a stripper and make easy money.” That dream is probably short-lived when you consider your professional reputation. However, there are jobs that can get you big tips such as bartending, waitressing, food delivery, or being a tour guide (if you live in a big city).
Services with flexible hours
There are a number of newer work options where you can control your own hours. The more you choose to work, the more money you can make. And when your workload is more stressful, you can choose to work on the side less. From what I have heard, drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft commonly make around $20 an hour in Los Angeles. Postmates and DoorDash services pay $8-25 per task. Dog walking services such as Wag and Rover pay $7-30 per dog walk. If you are a legal document server, you can make $30-250 per assignment. Of course, when considering these or any other side jobs, it’s important to consider factors such as wear and tear on your car, the impact on your body, and any potential risks to your safety.
There’s never a shortage of child care jobs. You can make $15-50 an hour, depending on who you are willing to work with, and there are plenty of part-time opportunities for parents who work at different times of the day. If you have a family of your own, it’s not uncommon to negotiate having your own children around too, to save on your own child care. This job usually requires previous experience or education in child development, which many of us in the therapy field have! Some sites to find these jobs include Care.com and SitterCity.com.
I can’t tell you how many house-sitting, babysitting, and pet-sitting jobs I picked up from word of mouth through my family and friends. This takes some humbling of yourself to share with people that you’re looking for extra cash, but you may be surprised how eager people are to help you (and how much they would like to have things done for them). I’ve been paid to run errands, wrap gifts, organize closets, you name it! A good place to pick up odd jobs is the app TaskRabbit. You can make $40 for something like assembling someone’s Ikea table. Do you live in a big city with those motorized scooters everywhere? There are opportunities through the companies to pick up and charge scooters that are low on batteries. You can make a few dollars for every scooter that you find and recharge. Another intermittent job you could sign up for is survey-taking. There’s no guarantee on how often you will be called, but you can make $20-100+ an hour of your time.
Capitalize on your hobbies or crafts
Do you know how to knit? Make jewelry? Woodwork? Throw some of your art on Etsy and see if you make any extra cash. Do you enjoy thrift shopping or garage sales? I know people whose sole income is through buying and re-selling stuff on sites such as Ebay. In order to make a sustainable living, a significant amount of time needs to be invested, so this is only recommended as something to consider for side income if you already spend a lot of time on Ebay or similar sites.
I hope this list sparks some creative ideas for your own side income. In our clinical work, it is important to get creative with our clients, to find different ways for them to meet their goals. The same applies to us while we’re trying to achieve our own.