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Music Bingo? Selling Semen? The Side-Hustles That Help Women Make Rent

Rents are rising. Cost of living is increasing. But these women found inventive ways to bring in extra cash.


“I host bingo nights to make extra cash”
Kimberley Manning, 35, Sydney. Side-hustle income: $11,000/year

I was a full-time artist for five years, and even through Covid things were going well, but in the past two years it’s been an uphill battle to sell my work.

Increasingly, I’ve been feeling the pressure to have to make art to make rent. It was taking the magic out of it, and if I’m honest it was also a hit to my confidence.

When a friend of mine approached me about hosting a weekly music bingo night at the Enmore Hotel, I wasn’t sure I’d have the guts to do it, but I love music so I jumped at the chance.

I roped my friend Nick in, and together we started compiling weird, themed playlists with accompanying bingo cards each week. We’ve now moved to a new bar called The Magpie and we’re starting it up again next month.

I’ve also started doing art mentoring support work through the NDIS, after a friend started doing similar work. It iis really beautiful–I work on art projects with my clients, who have disabilities, and it’s very fulfilling. Now I have these other income streams, when I do paint I find so much joy in it, I can take a breath and fully enjoy it.


“I take gigs as extras in films to make extra cash”
Cherie Bennett, 40, Wollongong. Side-hustle income: $3000-7000/year

As a kid, I wanted to be an actress when I grew up, but I knew how hard it was to make it, so I became a nurse instead. I turned 40 last year, and something about that made me want to do more to fill my creative side – I also realised that you can actually make decent money from work as an extra and small acting roles.

A gig for an ad might be $1000, and another $1000 if they run the ad for a second year. Recently I was an extra in the Sydney Sweeney movie Anyone But You. Due to the nature of the industry you can’t rely on the money, and that’s ok. My career in the healthcare sector – one day a week nursing, plus working as a sessional academic with nursing students and as a medical educator – is my primary focus and I’m passionate about it. The money I make from acting work is what pays for my kid’s extracurricular activities and any extras that we otherwise would have to do without.

“I started a side-hustle cleaning Snoos. Now it’s a business”
Jessica Degadi, 34, Melbourne. Side-hustle income: $60,000/year

I was heavily pregnant with my second baby when my friend returned the Snoo bassinet I’d lent her, and I was amazed that I couldn’t find anywhere to clean it for me.

My husband and I did some research, dismantled it and cleaned it ourselves – and then I had a lightbulb moment that this could be a great way to bring in some money while we were on one income.

We had been really worried about how we’d manage, and it had begun to take a toll on our relationship.

Fast forward seven months, and now, with my business Snoo Daddy, I take in Snoos, prams and car seats from all over Melbourne and clean them while my two year old and seven month old are napping, and we also have 10 Snoos that we rent out.

My husband gets involved, too. The income has definitely made us more comfortable on one wage, it’s enough to at least cover groceries and petrol. I’m now expecting my third baby and honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to my old job!

“I started a business selling frozen horse semen”
When Karen Callinan, 48, Blue Mountains. Side-hustle income: $20,000+/year

I started my business in 2019 to help with expenses for my horse habit.

I live at the base of the Blue Mountains on a small farm, and have lived by myself since my husband and I separated. We built a media company together, which I receive dividends from, but it was very much his thing, and, since we separated, I wanted something to put my own stamp on.

I also wanted to diversify my income. I recently undertook a course that encourages women not to have all their eggs in one basket, and instead aim for five sources of income.

So I started a business in the area that I knew the most about: horses. I had connections in the US, having travelled over there occasionally as a spectator, and I approached some stallion owners about bringing frozen sperm from their stallions into Australia.

So I wrote a business proposal, and away we went.

The semen is extracted by training the stallions to mount a dummy, which looks like a piece of gymnastics equipment – like a pommel horse – and they slide an artificial vagina onto the stallion to collect what they need. Then it’s frozen and shipped to Australia before it goes into quarantine. Now, I have lots of doses of frozen semen stored in a facility in Melbourne.

Setting up the business, Genetically Gifted, has taught me so much. I’ve learnt lots about website development. Plus it’s a heck of a conversation starter. People ask me: What do you do? Um, I sell frozen semen.

“We rent out our spare room”
Naomi Barber, 41, Sydney. Side-hustle income: $8,500-10,000/year

When friends of ours started hosting international students in their home, I was instantly interested. I had two little kids at that point, and I was trying to work out how to delay my return to full-time work – and we had a spare room.

I did worry about how a young adult would react to toddler tantrums, but we decided to give it a go. Our first student, from Germany, stayed with us for 10 months and really embraced the experience of living with an Australian family.

We’ve had six students since then, and they’ve all been polite and lovely; some stay for a few weeks and some for months, on exchange, for internships, to study – they all want to further their language capabilities. It’s not totally hands off as you need to provide food for them, but you don’t need to be slaving at the stove: I just point them to the food in the fridge.

The money – right now it’s $330 each week – made a big difference back then by allowing me to have a slower return to work and it continues to make a difference now as life gets more expensive. But what I didn’t expect was that my kids would have a priceless educational experience of interacting with people from around the world, and that’s been the best bit.

“I find and resell furniture to bring in extra income”
Ellie Marks, 34, Sydney. Side-hustle income: $5000/year

I always have my eyes peeled for treasures. I’ve loved op shopping and restoring furniture forever, but when I was on maternity leave three years ago, I started selling what I’d found to make a little money on the side. I’m back at work as a clinical nurse educator now, but it’s not just for fun anymore; since we purchased our first home and the interest rate hikes happened, 60 per cent of our full-time wages go to the mortgage. After bills and daycare we have very little left over.

I find free stuff on the side of the road – my best score was a mid-century gooseneck lamp – or cheap pieces of furniture on Facebook Marketplace that need a bit of love and I flip them, plus I sell my son’s old clothes on an Instagram account I created (@alllittlethings.preloved).

Finding the time for the projects isn’t easy but it’s been a lifesaver – there have been some months when there wouldn’t have been enough money for mortgage repayments otherwise. It just takes the pressure off.”

“We rent out a caravan and make thousands”
Laura Blogg, 33, Mornington Peninsula. Side-hustle income: $9000/year

When we rented a caravan to go travelling in Perth in 2019, I remember chatting to the owner about what a great side-hustle it was. But it wasn’t until I was on maternity leave and my paid parental leave payments stopped that I seriously considered doing it myself.

I wanted something I could make money from, that fit around my kids and my two-day-a week job. My husband thought I was crazy.

But instead of upgrading our car, we spent $30,000 on a caravan and now we rent it out to holidaying families through Camplify – as well as using it ourselves for little trips. It makes us around $9000 each year, and there have been times that we’ve really needed that money.

This past Christmas it paid for our flights to see my family in Perth, and we’ve been able to pay extra onto our mortgage. All it requires from me is a one-hour handover, which I can do when my kids are at home with me, or during my lunch break on my work days, plus I wash the sheets and restock the tea and coffee. So far it’s been a great little business. 



Naomi is a writer, editor and post-partum doula

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