Side-Hustle Scholarship: How I’ve Leveraged a Startup into a Debt-Free Master’s Degree

Author: Amanda Hutchison

Not long ago, I found myself at a point in my life where I needed to take a hard look at where I was and where I want to be. How could I become my best self, and what meaningful changes could I make? Friends, family, and colleagues were all encouraging me to dream big, and I set my sights on a strategic professional challenge: earning a master’s degree.

As I started researching graduate schools, the program at Pepperdine University nearly jumped off my laptop screen and yelled, “APPLY HERE!” I had found where I wanted to go and which degree I wanted to work toward, but the reality of how I was going to pay for this important investment in myself was top of mind.

In all honesty, there were certain aspects of my finances that I was not willing to compromise to pay for school – like my annual trip to the Caribbean, my health and fitness budget, my charitable contributions, or my overall lifestyle – so flexibility to earn extra money in my free time was a must. Something that I could do from home would be even better – I didn’t want to have to drive somewhere or have a rigid schedule that would compete with my already busy calendar. I also wanted something with little to know no up-front investment costs that didn’t involve any multi-level marketing or a lot of follow up.

I simply wanted to be paid for my time and effort when I could conveniently fit it in.  

Finding a low-impact side hustle

Within a few weeks of beginning my search, a friend posted about an online teaching opportunity for young students in China on social media. The minimum requirements were only a bachelor’s degree and 1-2 years of experience working with children (such as Sunday school volunteering, babysitting, or direct teaching).  As I looked into it further, I realized that with the time difference, the peak times for children in Beijing aligned with my mornings before my full-time corporate job. I love working with kids and this opportunity looked like fun, so it seemed like it would be a great fit.

Unlike other opportunities, there was almost no monetary investment required in order to get up and running: all I needed to purchase was a headset for my laptop. A few clicks on Amazon and $18 later, I was ready. For the interview, I did a mock lesson on the colors red and blue by grabbing a few coordinating items from around my house. I nailed the interview, passed the required background checks, and was hired! To get started with teaching, I spent $15 at a dollar store for kid-friendly supplementary items such as flashcards, a white board, and a few other fun props that the children would enjoy. That brings my up-front investment to about $33 and only a few hours of my time.

Over the past few months I have spent an hour or two in the mornings teaching Chinese students English through a guided program on an interactive content platform. I have opportunities to be creative and have fun with it so both the students and I enjoy our time together, and there’s been no negative impact on my corporate position – in fact, this side hustle has only enriched my life more!

To top it off, by working just a few hours in the mornings and an occasional evening, I have been consistently making $1200-$1500 a month, annualized at $15-20k.

The experience has been so much fun that I can’t help but share it with friends, and you! It checks all of the boxes on my list: flexibility, low upfront investment and impact on my day-to-day life, and work that I can feel good about. I choose when I want to open up availability and can do as little or as much as I desire. The experience feels fresh and current, designed for younger generations. The students are learning English as a second language, and I really enjoy being able to facilitate their education and learn about Chinese culture. And I get paid to do it – it’s win-win!

I’ve also really enjoyed working for this particular company. Gogokid is a startup, but backed by a bigger company, Bytedance. I’ve enjoyed the excitement of being part of a new company that is regularly making changes and improvements to their platform and user experience. Being a part of smaller, but growing, company is also exciting, and there are more opportunities to apply for advanced positions. I even won a TESOL certification through Arizona State University through one of their contests, something that only helps build my skills, both in my side hustle and professional life.

Find your hustle!

If the idea of paying off debt before the rest of the world finishes their coffee is of interest to you, feel free to use this link or email me at [email protected] to learn more!

There are plenty of reasons to look for a side hustle - extra cash is just one of them. But earning money in the quiet morning hours as the rising sun warms my awaiting beach chair, I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  Maybe I’ll even order a mimosa.


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Amanda Hutchinson on Money & Mimosas

About the author:

Amanda Hutchison is a leadership and self-development maven and business professional. She loves learning, talent development, goal setting, and human behavior related topics. Her professional passion lies where the intersection of people and business strategy meet. She is certified through several national organizations, such as the Association for Talent Development and Human Resources International.

She holds a management position at DEFENDERS, a company built upon the founding principle that “Businesses Don’t Grow, People Do.” By following this cultural mantra and developing herself as a consummate professional serving others, Hutchison was named an Associate Partner of the organization in 2013.

Amanda has a heart for serving the community and is an advocate for volunteerism. In addition to supporting many local organizations with her time and talents, she is the Executive Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for Kids’ Voice of Indiana.

She is also currently pursuing her Masters in Organizational Leadership and Learning at Pepperdine University. This program originated out of the institution’s nationally top ranked Organizational Development Doctoral program.

Amanda loves filling her vibrant social life with world travel, live music, sporting events, laughing with family and friends, and spending time her sweet rescue puggle, Paisley. She lives in Fishers, Indiana. You can connect with Amanda on LinkedIn or contact her directly at [email protected].