According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, "Graduating in a recession leads to large initial earnings losses." In other words, the surplus labor force allows employers to be more stingy on offering relatively competitive wages and benefits. As a result, many millennials, including millennial planners, are making considerably less than planners who entered the labor force during "good" times. In addition to wage stagnation/deflation, millennials are also saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an urban planner is nearly $67,000. However, this is not uniform across the country and this figure is inflated due to larger salaries for upper management. It is not uncommon for a Planning Director to earn 90-100k while the entry-level planner is earning 40k. If you want examples of low planner salaries, check out this thread over at Cyburbia.
We've compiled a few side gigs that planners can explore to maybe put some extra dollars in their pockets or maybe try to pay down their student loans faster. Keep in mind, your employer may have issues with you taking another gig if it is closely aligned to your current job. Be sure not to jeopardize your career for a few extra bucks.
1. Tutoring (online or in real life)
Planners come from diverse backgrounds and are very knowledgeable in many subjects. Furthermore, our profession often calls for us to inform, advise, and assist the public with complex processes and procedures. There are many options to make extra money tutoring, and now it is easier than ever. Tutor.com is an online-based tutoring service in which tutors communicate electronically with students. All you need to do is take any of the subject tests and if you pass, you might be contacted to do a mock tutor session. Tutor.com pays around $10-12 per hour and allows their tutors to schedule their own hours. Care.com is also a clearinghouse for tutors, it is often in-person services but you get to set your own hourly rate.
2. Freelance your skills
Planners have many unique skills. Maybe you're a ArcMap guru, you can make sweet site plans, or maybe you can design 3D structures that others can use. There are many ways to make money online through freelancing your design skills. Fiverr.com, Freelance.com, and Outsource.com are all good examples of you putting your skills out there, and others paying you for it. You could also try Craigslist, however that might be too close for comfort with your employer.
3. Technical writing
This is kind of like freelancing, however it is simply getting paid to write content about a technical subject related to planning. It could also be writing articles about planning and receiving royalties from the website that publishes it. You could even start your own blogging website that can generate money from web traffic. Be advised that if you choose this route...remember who gave you the idea ;)
Yeah, I know, with what money? But there are many ways to invest small amounts of money and get a good ROI. Planners are often politically-inclined and therefore playing around on websites like PredictIt could make you some quick cash. A minimum investment of $10 could turn into $90 if you make the right pick at the right price. You could also try your hand at penny stocks, which is essentially the same thing but is riskier.
Of course there are always other options. You could always get that part-time job or weekend gig, but I think most planners would prefer to try their hand at an internet-based side gig. Try making things and selling them on Etsy, grow a following on YouTube, or just do your own thing and hope someone will give you some money for it. Patreon.com is full of people doing cool things and getting $1-2/month for it.
urban planning blog