At the end of 2017, Vanessa Garcia was living in San Diego, working three jobs and struggling to pay bills.
As an actress, she auditioned daily for TV shows and commercials. She worked an additional six hours per day as a personal assistant. And while she hoped to pick up extra work building furniture and organizing people’s closets through freelance platform TaskRabbit, her limited availability meant practically nobody hired her.
On the brink of getting evicted, Garcia entered “survival mode,” she tells CNBC Make It.
Her urgent need for cash forced Garcia to invest more time on TaskRabbit, and lucrative results followed. She upped her hours and prices, helping her find and take on organizing jobs paying up to $1,200 apiece.
Today, those jobs are Garcia’s primary source of employment, accounting for $65,200 of her 2021 income, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. Those funds enabled her to quit her assistant job and move to Los Angeles in 2019 to pursue more acting roles, which net her an additional $10,000 to $20,000 per year, she says.
“Now, not only can I change and control my schedule, but I can control how much I want to make,” Garcia, 29, says. “Instead of having to work six hours [per day], now I only have to work three to meet my personal income quota.”
But that depends on the job and the day. Some months are better than others, due to her work’s freelance nature: In July of this year, she had her best month yet, making $9,165.
Here’s how she built her closet-organizing business, and how she manages finances that fluctuate monthly:
Garcia moved from Mexico at age 19 to study biology at San Diego Mesa Community College. She took a couple of classes at San Diego State University, too, but dropped out in 2015. To earn money, she started a small homeschooling business.
She stopped teaching in order to take a personal assistant job she hoped would help her focus more on her acting career, which she had dreamed of pursuing from a young age. Finances were still tight, so Garcia started running errands for friends, picking up groceries, organizing their closets and driving them around to earn extra cash.
That summer, a friend suggested Garcia join TaskRabbit, so she could do similar jobs for strangers. Business slowly grew until she quit her personal assistant job in 2019, freeing up more hours for TaskRabbit gigs.
She earned nearly $45,000 off the platform that year, up from just $19,000 in 2018.
Part of her secret is offering a variety of different services, Garcia says: She offers 26 different skills on the platform, ranging from planning parties to building furniture and mounting lightweight objects.
Her favorite is organization, and one of her most popular services is organizing closets. She sees it as both an element of interior design and a pillar of mental health.
“I’ve walked into clients’ homes where I could tell they’re in a bad place from the way their space looks,” she says. “They see it as stress — but when I see a messy room, all I see are possibilities. [Organizing] is like creating a clean template.”
Next on the call sheet
Through October, Garcia has made $65,000 in 2022. She says she averages roughly 100 hours per month, spread across 25 jobs.
But her daily schedule varies based on her acting gigs. She also still receives organizing jobs from former clients who no longer use TaskRabbit to book her services. Garcia estimates she has five hours worth of TaskRabbit jobs per day. But between acting, helping former clients and new jobs on the platform, she says she sometimes works 10 hours per day.
Approximately 80% of those jobs are small: She’ll make $200 spending three or four hours building furniture or organizing someone’s closet, bathroom or pantry.
Sometimes, returning clients request larger projects. In September, Garcia made $1,200 from a 21-hour job. Over the course of two days, she organized an entire home, from the kitchen and bedrooms to the closets and bathrooms.
Relying on freelance jobs as her primary source of income comes with challenges. Garcia isn’t paid for sick days and vacations. Making different amounts of money each month makes it hard to budget, and it can be difficult to plan the rest of her life when the number of hours she works varies from month to month.
The L.A. traffic isn’t ideal either, she adds: 10-minute trips can sometimes take nearly two hours.
Still, she says the ability to have a flexible schedule is worth it — especially since she can book gigs around her audition schedules, hopefully helping her land more lucrative acting jobs in the future. Garcia also has used some of her built-up savings to travel around Europe and to China.
Recently, Garcia says she was chosen as the lead for an upcoming project, which she hopes will be her big break. Even so, she says she doesn’t see herself quitting TaskRabbit until her acting earnings “surpass those that I make” through the platform and other clients.
Until then, she says she’ll keep working to increase her reputation and prices on the freelance platform.
To be successful on TaskRabbit, “you have to be confident in your work,” Garcia says. “You have to have the self-discipline to show up and treat it like any other job.”
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