On the final day of #ThePerfectStorm, our series on debt, we spoke to four Londoners who have turned their passions into profit
With stagnant wages and rising living costs, one job often isn’t enough to keep us afloat. And now, as social distancing comes into full effect, our income has taken yet another hit. It is unclear what the world of work will look like in the coming months, and even more uncertain once lockdown is lifted, though it is fair to say many of us will be looking for new ways to boost our income. And in the side hustle era, where work and play can often interlace, creating a second stream of income won’t need to feel like bringing the office home. We spoke to four Londoners about their side hustles success stories.
“I am the voice of commercial barbie”
Emily Jardine, 31, lives in Crystal Palace and works as a television audio producer, but for a few hours every evening she disappears into her home-built studio, where she undergoes a mini metamorphosis. Since her first gig in 2012 when she recorded the lullaby programmed into a singing toy – she has been a voice artist and jingle singer, taking on a plethora of roles, from the butter-wouldn’t melt Barbie adverts, to the voice on the 2013 SATS exam tape.
“In any one week I can do up to six voice-overs,” she says. “I’m about to do a film where I play an evil siren, so I have to sing very creepy stuff.” But how does she embody her characters?
For her role as Barbie, she says, she eats a lot of sugar and carb heavy food, giving her the energy for that excitable and high-pitched tone. “It’s really sapping so I make sure that I have lots of honey and warm water, and sleep well the night before, and eat a massive lunch before I go in the studio to record.” Emily was also able to use the extra money to put towards buying a new house. “The pay is ridiculous. Sometimes I can make £4000 in an hour. If I have a good week I could go on holiday.”
“I do haunted walks and murder tours”
Nick Richmond, 51, from Selhurst, has been doing spooky walking tours every other weekend for the last seven years, sandwiching them between jobs in social care, teaching English teaching online, and giving tours of the Houses of Parliament. “I’ve always been interested in the supernatural and horror and the macabre. I started reading Edgar Allen Poe at 10 years old.”
“I wanted to make a bit of money on the side. I’d been in amateur dramatics but didn’t get paid for it. And then I came across the guided tours and thought, ‘actually I could make a bit of money doing this.’” But his murder tours aren’t filled with the predictable Jack the Ripper spiel – as a historical buff he started out spending hours trawling through library books searching for lesser known murders to dramatise.
And despite never crossing paths with the supernatural world, dark nights and spooky haunts can still get under his skin. His tour of the “very disturbed” Clapham woods in Brighton, riddled with stories of cults, UFO sightings, murders and ghosts, is led by battery powered candles, and once all his group has gone home, he dreads returning to collect them from the darkness. “I’ve got a good imagination and the wood plays tricks on you, after telling people all the terrible things that have happened there, it gives you the creeps.”
“I am a life model”
Amy Sherman, 26, from Crystal Palace, first became a life model in 2016. Having just left university, she was living at home, but hoped to start renting a place of her own. Though her job as an assistant in a neurology hospital didn’t pay badly, her earnings from life modelling helped moving out become possible – £15 to £30 an hour to pose for artists from all walks of life.
But it has also been a source of empowerment: “Even if someone hasn’t made me look beautiful, there’s something quite empowering about being naked in front of lots of people, and them attending to you. You’re being objectified but in a non-sexual way.”
She has, however, found a few people who don’t quite get it: “Recently I was using Hinge, and found some men were asking questions in a way that showed they saw it as a sexual thing. One man said because I am a model, I must be really open in bed…”
But for Amy, it has been a way of seeing herself through different eyes. “One of the nicest things about it is going around and seeing all the drawings of yourself – it’s never what you think you would look like” Amy says. “I’ve always been quite open with being naked. I think it’s quite important…I think everyone should try it.”
“I build retro arcade machines”
Jacob Meyer, 40, from Tulse Hill, found his niche in the nostalgia of bar top retro arcade machines, building selling or hiring them to pubs, bars and private buyers. Working mostly in the evenings or on weekends to make a little extra money, his creative process fits snuggly around his day job, working as a community development manager for mental health charity, Certitude.
Sparked by a new year’s resolution back in 2018, he taught himself through basic coding how to emulate the pixelated surrealism of old-school gaming. And from there, purely through online tutorials and help from his stepfather, he learnt how to wire and build an authentic cabinet, fitted with garish joysticks and a laminated wood finish. Investors were quick to catch on, and within a matter of months, his brand Viper Arcades was born.
“Retro 80’s and 90’s is having a renaissance” Jacob says. “Hipster bars love them. They bring people together. For my 40th birthday I had four machines in a local pub and about 40 friends played retro games and got wasted… it was a lot of fun.”