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13 Side Hustles for Earning Money If You Live with Chronic Illness

COPD Basics

October 26, 2023

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by Kathy Reagan Young


Fact Checked by:

Jennifer Chesak, MSJ


by Kathy Reagan Young


Fact Checked by:

Jennifer Chesak, MSJ


Here are my tips for earning extra income and avoiding scams in the gig economy.

Is your social media full of videos and ads for get-rich-quick gigs that will take you no time at all? Yeah, um, that’s not true. Don’t buy it. And I mean that quite literally because oftentimes, these are actually ads for “how-to” courses that will take your money. They may give you a taste of what is possible, but certainly won’t make you rich.

Lest you think all “side hustles” are scams, I want to share the good news with you that they are not. There most certainly are ways to make money that don’t require you to leave your job or spend an inordinate amount of time. As with all things, this is relative. The less time and skill required, the less money you will make.

There are generally four reasons people want to find a side hustle or gig:

  1. I need more money for my day-to-day living costs (financial security).
  2. I need more money for a specific bill or desire (think medical bills or holiday gifts).
  3. I want to have something in my back pocket in case I lose my job or am unable to perform my job (hello, chronic illness).
  4. I have time on my hands and would like to have something to do, feel productive, and generate some money.

Regardless of your reason, side hustles, also known as freelancing or gigs, can be a great way to supplement your income. But you need to be aware of those scammers I mentioned.

So, how do you know if it’s a scam or not? There are certainly some telltale signs.

Signs of a scam: 6 things to ask yourself

  • Does it sound too good to be true? Does it promise a lot of money for very little effort?
  • Are you required to purchase something upfront before you can begin?
  • Is there a hierarchy that requires you to both report to someone else and recruit others?
  • Does it request upfront fees or personal information?
  • What do online reviews say?
  • Does it have a Better Business Bureau rating?
  • Are there clear payment terms and customer support contact details?

If the signs are there, run (don’t walk) away.

I’m a big proponent of having multiple streams of income. That way, if one goes away for any reason, you’ve got others to fall back on. I’m also a big fan of freelancing in the world of chronic illness, in particular.

The benefits of having multiple gigs are being able to set your own schedule, working when you’re able and during your most productive time of day, and making money based on your own efforts. Whether you are not able to play the “9-to-5” game anymore or simply wish to add a little something to your pocket, it can provide us with some sense of security in the future.

Let me be very clear: If you choose to start your own business or do freelancing as your sole income producer, that can add a level of stress that may not be good for your health. Additionally, if your source of income goes away, there is no safety net. For instance, if you’re doing freelance work for a company and they decide to bring that work in house.

You would have to rely on your savings and cannot file for unemployment if you are a “gig worker,” also known as a 1099 contractor. If you are employed by a company, you are a “W2 employee,” and you would have access to unemployment should you lose your job.  

As a contractor, you also have to provide your own health insurance, and that can be quite expensive — especially given that we use our health insurance a lot.

OK, that’s the warning I like to provide to people considering freelancing. Now, onto the good stuff.

Right now is as good a time as any to dip your toes into this endeavor. Who couldn’t use a little extra shopping money?

Here is a list of vetted companies offering legitimate opportunities that involve doing surveys, offering your opinion, playing games, testing UX design, and more.

Side hustle sites: 13 vetted options

  1. Swagbucks: Earn rewards for taking surveys, watching videos, and shopping online.
  2. Survey Junkie: Share your opinions and get paid for it.
  3. Pinecone Research: High paying surveys with a focus on product testing.
  4. InboxDollars: Get paid to read emails, take surveys, play games, and complete offers.
  5. Toluna: Share your opinions through surveys and product testing.
  6. Opinion Outpost: Earn cash or gift cards by sharing your thoughts.
  7. MyPoints: Redeem points for gift cards, PayPal cash, or travel miles.
  8. Amazon Mechanical Turk: Perform microtasks for pay, like data entry and content moderation.
  9. Upwork: Freelance by using various skills, including writing, design, and programming.
  10. UserTesting: Get paid to share your thoughts and experiences.
  11. Try My UI: Help companies understand real-world experience on their websites.
  12. User Interviews: Get paid for participating in surveys, user groups, and studies.
  13. User Lytics: Test product usability for some of your favorite brands.

There are a number of job sites on the internet that promise flexible, remote, hybrid, and work-from-home opportunities. Many of these are not to be trusted. One that is trustworthy and legitimate is FlexJobs. I recommend this site to all of my one-on-one coaching clients. Many of them have found exactly the kind of employment opportunity they need.

If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and worry that making money could disqualify you, you’re not alone. This fear stops a lot of people from adding any additional income. Fear not. The Social Security Administration created a program just for you: the Ticket to Work Program. This program provides guidance on adding income to your SSDI income and even helps you search by providing employment resources.

Bottom line: If you’re interested in additional income for your household, go ahead and jump into the gig economy. Whether you want to start a “chronicpreneur” business of your own or you just need some extra money, it can be fun and profitable. Just be aware of the potential pitfalls I shared in this article.

Kathy Reagan, creator of the FUMS website and podcast, founded Patients Getting Paid in 2021. Her mission is to help people with chronic illness find and create work that accommodates their health and generates income. In this Patients Getting Paid column, she shares advice, resources, and stories to help others navigate the world of work while living with a chronic illness.

Fact checked on October 26, 2023

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About the author

Kathy Reagan Young

Kathy Reagan Young is a prominent patient advocate and the founder of two innovative organizations, and She has become a leading voice in patient advocacy, driven by her personal experience with multiple sclerosis and having founded the Patients Getting Paid membership community to help people with chronic illness find and create work that both accommodates their health and generates an income. You can also find her on Facebook.

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