by Jennifer Luna, MSSW
Over the past three years (2020-2023), we’ve seen a good increase in social work jobs nationwide. While jobs are plentiful and salaries are going up, so are opportunities for social workers to make more money by taking an additional job. Throughout the years, many social workers have worked one or more jobs to make ends meet. Yet, now these decisions could be made for other reasons.
Before we dive into the opportunities and challenges of working a side hustle, it is important to remember that we shouldn’t “need” to have a side hustle to make a living wage. As a career coach for more than 25 years, I can attest that our profession is thriving. If you find yourself in a position in which you need to make more money at your primary job, you are in a great position to negotiate your salary, or seek another position that pays a living wage.
If you are considering a side hustle, an additional job can also be a great way to gain new skills, knowledge, and experience. However, there is only so much time in a day, and an extra job can come with costs. So, what are the opportunities and challenges of working a side hustle?
Having a side hustle can provide opportunities that can enhance your personal and professional life as a social worker. If you are considering an additional job, it is important to get the most value out of the time you will be putting into extra work. Side hustles can be a great way for social workers to make a difference while also earning some extra income and gaining valuable experience. To get you started, the following are a few examples of part-time social work jobs to consider.
If you are a licensed social worker, you might consider working in a private practice group to provide counseling or a therapeutic group on the side. This can be a great way to earn clinical supervision hours, earn extra income, and/or build a client caseload, especially if you are thinking of doing private practice full time in the future.
If you have the credential to supervise LMSWs (this title may vary by state), building a clinical supervision practice can be a great side job, especially if you like to mentor other social workers. In this role, you may choose to supervise in groups or individually. Clinical supervisors can also be contracted by organizations to provide supervision for their social work staff. Although there are fees and continuing education needed to gain and maintain this credential, it is well worth the investment
Macro and clinical social workers can offer their services as consultants to organizations that need help in many different capacities. These can include employee wellness programs, diversity and inclusion initiatives, board development, strategic planning, grant writing, and professional development, to name a few.
Social workers who have training experience can also be hired to provide continuing education workshops at conferences, keynote speeches, or online trainings and webinars. Depending on your level of expertise, public speaking skills, and network, this can be a lucrative side job that can include travel expenses and media coverage.
Freelance Writing or Blogging
Social workers can share their expertise by writing articles or blog posts related to their experience or field of practice. This type of work can help to increase their visibility, establish them as thought leaders in the profession, and potentially increase their income.
For many social workers, teaching is a natural career progression. You can serve as an adjunct for your local university or community college to teach on social work or your area of practice. This can be a great way to impart knowledge to the next generation of social workers and stay connected to your alma mater or local educational institution.
Benefits and Pitfalls
The benefits of working a side job are many. The most obvious is extra pay. Although social work can be a fulfilling and noble career, low pay has been a longstanding issue for many in the profession. As mentioned above, we should not settle for less than a living wage, and our time is just as valuable as everyone else’s. If you are seeking an additional job to make ends meet, it could backfire and lead to stress and burnout. Always assess your current situation to assure that you are seeking a side hustle for the right reasons. If you find yourself in a good position to take on extra work, an extra job can provide additional income that can help you achieve financial goals, reduce student debt, and have a nest egg for the future.
Having a side hustle can also help you diversify your skills and gain additional experience, which could help to propel your career or open up new career opportunities in the future. You will undoubtedly expand your professional network with professionals in other areas, which could also lead to additional opportunities. These types of experiences can also increase personal job fulfillment, especially if you are able to explore your passions and interests outside of your regular job.
There are also potential downfalls. Having just one social work job can be emotionally and mentally taxing, and adding another can lead to burnout. Without proper self-care, a social worker may become overwhelmed and unable to provide the level of care needed for clients, organizations, and communities.
Additionally, social workers must be cautious of conflicts of interest between their primary job and their side business. For example, if a social worker is seeing clients who also cross over for services in the social worker’s side job, such a dual relationship could be seen as unethical or potentially harmful to clients. There may also be ethical concerns around using a social work position to promote another business or using confidential client information for personal gain.
Finally, an additional job can take up a significant amount of time and energy, leaving little time for a social worker to rest and recharge. This can negatively impact ability to be present and focused during both jobs. A good self-care plan is essential for every social worker, but when working an additional job, there may be less time to rest and recharge.
In summary, having a side job can be a great way to supplement income. Social workers must be mindful of the potential pitfalls to ensure that their extra job does not compromise their ability to provide quality care to clients. It’s essential to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and having less time in your schedule makes it tricky to do so. If you are able to balance both effectively, a side hustle can provide a variety of benefits to your personal and professional life.
Jennifer Luna, MSSW, writes about social work career development. Jennifer is a social worker, career coach, keynote speaker, and trainer. She serves as Director of the DiNitto Center for Career Services at the University of Texas at Austin, Steve Hicks School of Social Work. Jennifer utilizes a collaborative yet strategic coaching approach to assist social workers in identifying their strongest skills, areas of knowledge, key strengths, and leadership characteristics.