Occupational Therapy Side Hustle – Best Ways to Make Extra Money in 2020

A Detailed Guide to Side Hustles by OTDUDE

What is a Side Hustle?

Side hustles are becoming more popular, especially for millennials. Put simply, a side hustle is an extra way to earn additional income (either active or passive) besides your primary job. Why are they becoming more popular? Student debt. Even if you do not have a single penny of student debt (and good for you!), who wouldn’t want to earn extra money for spending, to save for a vacation, to pay off your student loan faster, or to retire earlier? Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about occupational therapists.

Mowing the lawn – the traditional side hustle

The OT’s Finances After Graduation

The average occupational therapist and OT assistant salary are not bad. Occupational Therapists made a median salary of $84,270 in 2018. The best-paid 25 percent made $100,890 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $68,760 (US News). Now add to that student debt, credit card debt, monthly expenses, a vacation, and you really don’t have much money left. On top of all that, you should be saving for retirement. The numbers just don’t work out – unless you want to be working as an occupational therapist until you are really old…which is fine, but I would rather not.

The other barrier is the lack of raises. Compared to nurses, therapists (at least in my area) are not unionized. My nursing colleagues automatically get raises, while us OTs are not as frequently.

There are so many opportunities with side hustles that it really is up to your imagination. Best of all, they allow you to even work from home or to earn passive income.

This also assumes that you have good personal finance literacy. Many people may have poor spending habits, enormous credit card debt, and are contributing to their first 401(k) when they get their first job. That was certainly the case for me.

Active vs Passive

Active side hustles demand your attention. You need to spend time doing work, but you earn extra money. The most obvious active side-hustle would be to work a second job, either in another industry or even as an OT. Many new grads to this, but I would be careful as this could easily lead to job burnout. That’s not to say that active side-hustles are bad. They are just one way of earning money. If you decide to start your own business, for example, then your energy put in could pay off and you are motivated to do well because the rewards all go back to you.

Starting a business is a side hustle.

Passive income allows you to earn money without actively working. Passive income may require that you put in some work in the beginning, or to manage it a little, but overall, you do not need to spend time working. Passive income is great because it gives you the gift of time. Time is not something we can get back! A classic example of passive income is writing a book that earns sales.

What’s better? There’s no right or wrong. I use both sources.

My Experience

I have been side-hustling in various industries since college way before OT school. It is never too late to start a side-hustle or to plan one, even if you are a student or young. My regret in life is not starting earlier.

  • I designed and built websites for clients over the Internet.
  • I started a videography company and filmed weddings.
  • I drove for Lyft.

As OT’s, we adapt to change to maximize independence and health outcomes for our clients. This is no different from side hustles. What may be very profitable and popular could fall out of phase quickly. Investing in side hustles requires research, determination, and adaptability. You’ll likely have these characteristics as an OT.

I stopped building websites because it became too time-consuming and new with the advent of tools like WordPress Themes, Templates, and beginner tools, the time was not worth it for me. Wedding videography can be very profitable too, but video editing became too time-consuming and less enjoyable for me.

COVID-19 kind of put the wedding industry on hold in 2020. However, my prediction is that there will be a large demand for wedding vendors. So if you are looking to get into wedding photography, videography, catering, etc. – you could make a lot of money in 2021! Start building out your portfolio or business plan now.

Side-Hustles to Avoid

Based on my opinion, experience, or research, these side-hustles are NOT recommended for the most time spent vs. earning potential. Explore these options only if my primary recommendations do not appeal to you.

Second Job

As discussed before, this could be very appealing since you have the skillset to do the work as an OT. However, to me, this offsets the work-life balance and you would be spending extra time documenting. Who likes documenting. You also don’t want to burn yourself out so early in your career while you have a lot of student loan debt.


This is actually not a bad side hustle. It is overall quite passive besides managing the rooms you rent out and keeping them neat and tidy. However, with the recent pandemic of COVID-19, the idea of having a stranger stay in one of my rooms is not appealing to me. Also, pay attention to your local laws regarding renting out a room with Airbnb. There are also risks involved including lawsuits, property damage, customer disputes, noise complaints, etc.

Uber / Lyft / Grubhub / Doordash / etc.

To me, the time you spend grinding on the road and in traffic is not worth it to me anymore. At one point, there was a sign-on incentive and the market was not as saturated. Now, I feel like there is way more supply than demand. This also depends on where you live. However, the loss of appeal is dealing with issues such as customers, vomit, people who cheat the system, and stress of traffic. I worked as an EMT and I would rather just not spend as much time on the road going from point A to point B. It also puts a lot of miles on your car. To me, time is better spent even just relaxing than worrying about catching the next fare.


When I was a student, a lot of the females in my cohort did this gig. It is not a bad gig. However, as an OT, you have much higher earning potential and skillset. You would be better off working a second OT job to earn more money. This, of course, depends on your location and how much the rate is. It may be worth it to you as the work involved is not too physical and is mostly idle time anyway, especially if you are in OT school.


YouTube was once a great way to make extra money. You make some videos, run some ads, and earn passive income. Why is this not appealing to me? Google raised the bar for monetizing your channel. There is also a lot of competition. As a previous videographer and editor, you should know that a lot of time can go into writing, producing, filming, and editing videos – with the goal of making quality content for your audience. This time investment is currently not worth it to me. However, if you have a great idea for a niche YouTube channel, give a try. After all, its free and you only invest your time. Making videos can be a lot of fun too. Just be warned – editing can take a lot of work if you want to make a really polished and unique YouTube channel.

Online Surveys

Online surveys can make you money, but the time invested in it is not worth it to me. The surveys can get brainless and some websites have a minimum requirement before you get paid. I found myself spending a lot of time filling out a pre-survey to qualify for the actual survey – only to find out you get rejected. However, when I was a student, I frequently read and participated in the Subreddit r/beermoney. This subreddit is a pretty good way to make some extra cash and to find inspiration, but like the title suggests, the money is usually just good enough to buy you a few beers.

Best Side-Hustles for 2020

This landing page contains links to upcoming posts for my recommended side-hustles in 2020 and why.

  • Blogging
  • Podcasting
  • Becoming an Influencer
  • Starting a business / Kickstarter
  • Writing a book or e-book
  • Creating an online course
  • Online tutoring and Consulting
  • Telehealth
  • Making an App or Software
  • Dogwalking / Petsitting / Housesitting

Have you had a successful side-hustle that you would like to share?
Comment below and share it with the community!

Additional Resources