TL;DR: Working an additional 5 to 20 hours a week in extra shifts can be a great way to add cash to your wallet. Mobile apps make it easier to pick up open shifts, but vetting these apps — to make sure you’ll actually get paid — is essential. And don’t forget to get the sleep you need!
Pick up extra shifts? How?
If you work at a restaurant or in catering, hospitality, or other shift-based work, picking up extra hours can be an easy-ish way to make more money. Whether you’re trying to make ends meet, saving to move to a new place, or just want to build up a nice cushion of spending money, grabbing another 8-12hrs a month may be a solution to helping you get there. Traditionally, shifts — like being a server at a restaurant — have been assigned by managers through phone trees, text chains, and scheduling charts. But in recent years, mobile apps like Bacon, Upshift, Bluecrew, and Shifts by Snagajob have made it easier to sign up for extra shifts — at a variety of companies, across several industries. So it’s also a great way for you to try out different fields!
While some mobile apps are hyper-specialized, focusing on one or a couple of industries, others offer a broad range. Generally, you can expect to find shifts in hospitality (housekeeping, front desk, kitchen staff), catering (crew members, cooks, dishwashers), restaurants (servers, bussers), and retail (sales associates). (Btw stay tuned for an entire Make More Money article dedicated to warehouse and grocery packing and delivery)
Compare your resume/work experience to what kind of shifts are offered. If you believe your work experience aligns well, apply right on the app and interview with a representative from the app. If you’re accepted, you’ll get notified about upcoming shifts in your area offered by businesses that need hourly staff, like hotels, bars, catering companies, and restaurants.
Some apps will also consider you a W-2 employee, meaning taxes will be taken out of your paycheck, and you’ll be eligible for benefits like health and dental insurance, paid sick leave, and worker’s comp. Not all do of course, so be prepared for a bunch of 1099 forms and putting aside money so you can pay the taxes that aren’t being withheld.
*Shifting* into high gear
First, make sure the app you’re using operates in your state and that local businesses in your city or town are participating. After all, a long commute outside your area just for an extra shift might not be worth it. Next, make sure you’re clear on the app’s payment terms. Many apps pay weekly, but you should still confirm frequency and what day of the week your cash will hit to avoid overdrafts or other surprises.
Speaking of getting paid, does this app require you to have a checking or savings account to receive wages? Will it pay your cash card, if that’s what you prefer? If a P2P payment like PayPal or Venmo is an option, get clear on how the app guarantees on-time and secure payment.
Once you start working, you’ll have your own profile with ratings and reviews from businesses where you’ve worked, so you’ll be able to build up a reputation over time. Glowing reviews and high ratings can lead to more and better-paying shifts. In fact, while some apps only offer entry-level jobs, others have higher-paid gigs that you can “unlock” when your rating gets high enough.
Avoid these shift-y red flags
Speaking of reviews, you should also check out the ratings and reviews of the app you want to find work through. Read the reviews in the App Store or on Google Play, but don’t stop there. Search Glassdoor, Indeed, Consumer Reports, the Better Business Bureau, and Reddit to see what workers are saying about their experience on the app. Search the app’s name in the news (for example, using the News tab on Google) to see if there are any scams or scandals associated with it. You could also do the same with the local businesses offering available shifts within the app, but there might not be much published about them.
If you live in a large city, competition for open shifts might be intense. (But you probably already know this, based on other jobs you’ve worked.) If you’re having a hard time getting shifts via a more popular app, consider applying to a less-popular or newer competitor app — after vetting it through the ways we describe above, of course.
Don’t burn out
Okay, you got some extra shifts as a prep cook at a popular restaurant. Congrats! But don’t forget to take care of yourself. While picking up extra shifts means more money, it can also eat into your r&r time and lead to burnout. If you’re working in a windowless environment (like a kitchen), you can start to lose track of what time of day it is. Changing your phone clock to the 24-hour setting can prevent you from confusing AM with PM.
Also, everyone needs rest. So be real with yourself about the amount of sleep you need. While some people can survive on a less-than-average amount of sleep or by sleeping in several short shifts, most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day. If you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to make mistakes on the job — forgetting customer orders or worse, risking your safety if you’re working with heavy or dangerous equipment. You don’t want to get fired or hurt because you aren’t getting enough sleep.
Working night shifts? A lack of sunlight has been associated with lower rates of alertness, higher rates of depression, and less sleep (since you’re sleeping during the day). Look into light therapy using lamps that mimic the intensity and color temperatures of the sun.
To prevent burnout generally, find people who can relate. Join (or just lurk on) Facebook groups, Discord channels, subreddits, and Quora. And for support IRL, find a local MeetUp group of shift workers where you can trade stories, get and give advice, and just unwind…you know, off the clock.
Yes, extra shifts can be lucrative. And thanks to shift apps, you can choose from a variety of open shifts offered by a range of businesses across different industries. As always, make sure the app is legit, and understand how and when you’ll get paid. And be sure you’re getting all the zzz’s you need.