I'm a single mum – I earn up to £25,000 a year from side hustles and only work part-time | The Sun

SINGLE mum Rebecca Catterall is the queen of side hustles.

For 30 years, she has made extra cash thanks to everything from surveys and mystery shopping to her most lucrative work as a virtual assistant for busy – and wealthy – business owners. 

A single parent to her son Rhys since the age of 18, she learnt to hustle to make ends meet when the crippling cost of childcare meant she couldn’t work full-time in her office temp role.

“I picked up some office management experience, but then I’d have problems with childcare, so I wondered about trying to do PA work in the evenings," Rebecca, now 48, told The Sun.

"I thought ‘why don’t I see if any local business people want help outside of the workplace?’”

Rebecca started out by helping her next-door neighbour in Colne, Lancashire, who was a roofer, with his admin, before approaching local businesses.

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“I’d do anything I could that would work around my agency job," she said.

"I found a list of directors of local companies – you’d get them from the Chamber of Commerce or the county council back then.

"I had a director who just wanted help with things like remembering his wife’s birthday.

"He didn’t want someone in the office, he just wanted someone on the end of the phone or on email."

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“Some of them would want help organising holidays or managing cleaners, or sorting out Mail Merge.

"Depending on what the job was, I’d charge a rate of £15 an hour back then or put my services into packages – because if you give someone an hourly rate, they’re going to guess how long it will take you to do stuff.

"I had no overheads, it was just me at home with my laptop.”

Rebecca, who now also has a younger son Jack, 23, has always been the main provider.

She split from Jack’s father and while she has been with her current partner for six years, they don’t live together.

“Whenever I need more money, I will find something to do,” she said.

“I’d see someone looking for help with their ironing and think, ‘Well I’ve got an ironing board, I can do that.’” 

The most successful side hustle

Over the years, she has also done mystery shopping, surveys, decorating, cleaning and decluttering, alongside having a career in the NHS for several years, and managing a bank of nurses on mental health wards around Rochdale.

In recent years, thanks to social media, her work assisting business owners has grown and grown. 

“Most things come through chatting to people I know, or through business groups on Facebook like the Female Entrepreneur Association,” she said.

“People come on there with their problems, and I’m a problem solver.

"It could be how to respond to a rude email from a customer, or a problem with an employee, and I’d get on a Zoom and give them advice.

"I’d do a lot of video calls, and they’d usually offer to pay me or, if not, they will work with me another time or refer me to someone else.

"Word got around and people would say ‘talk to Rebecca’.”

She’s also picked up work charging business owners £50 to help them with their travel preparation.

Rebecca said: “I help them decide what to take on holiday, put outfits together and give them lists of what to pack nearer the time to take the decision fatigue away.

"People panic about what to wear or take far too much, so I get them to think about what events they’re going to and help them coordinate their outfits, give them tips on how to get the creases out of their clothes and make sure they have their medication and books and so on.”

Another service is helping to look after pets, both fostering dogs and cats at her home through a service called Barking Mad, and getting free holidays while caring for them at their owner’s homes.

“I used to homeschool my son Jack from age 10-16, so we would go and do that a lot then, and I recently went cat sitting at a house in York when someone asked for help,” said Rebecca.

“I’ve always wanted a dog but couldn’t afford all the food and vet bills so I would foster dogs.

"It was only £6 a night, but it brought in a bit and, because a lot of the other people doing it were retired, they didn’t want young dogs, so I got all the cute puppies.”

Rebecca is now fully self-employed as an online business manager, doing strategy and operational consultancy for companies as well as the admin assistance.

She charges £25 an hour for admin work while an advice call is £150 an hour, through her brand The Business Wife.

She always has her finger on the pulse, looking at how businesses might need help.

“I just think ‘what are people talking about at the moment?’," she said.

"So, for example, podcasts are on trend and I offer people a service where I set up the Anchor software on their phone, and do their images on Canva for them.

"All they need to do is log in and talk."

 “And when Google business accounts were changing over from one server to another way of doing things, people were freaking out, so I just offered to sort it out overnight for £180, backing up emails and getting it organised so that when they came back to their desk the next day, it was all done.”

Rebecca earns around £25,000 a year while working on her own terms.

“I only work four days a week and I don’t fill my hours because I have a chronic health condition, so I get ill really easily, and my son has mental health issues,” she said.

“I just need enough to get by.”

She said she will always have side hustles on the go, whatever her employment status.

She added: “I love earning a bit extra and I love the variety of work I can do.”

Rebecca’s advice to others is to “really assess your skills and your knowledge. And look for what people are asking for, what they need, on business forums.” 

Also, she said, utilise contacts from the worlds you know.

Rebecca said: “You can do online teaching workshops, you can become a virtual assistant.

"I know someone who only works for farriers, for example, so, if you’re a horsey person and you’re good with admin and spreadsheets and you’re organised, put yourself out there.

"Give out all the information people would need and don’t make it difficult for them to find more details. And don’t undercharge.

"Just because someone is doing something for £30 doesn’t mean you need to do it for £25.”

Tax rules for earning extra income

Running a side hustle is similar to running a small business, so get clear on your rights.

If you earn more than £1,000 extra a year, you’ll need to pay tax on your earnings. 

You can operate as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company.

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The rate of tax you pay will depend on whether your side hustle is a limited company or not.

If you are trading through another platform, such as Amazon, eBay or Depop, ensure you fully understand the legal terms and policies.

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