Embarking on a side hustle journey in the vast world of online platforms can be a game-changer, potentially bringing in up to $9,750 a month for some Americans. From listing products on Etsy to offering services on Taskrabbit and Fiverr, the possibilities seem endless. According to a May Bankrate survey, this income can significantly surpass the average U.S. side hustle earnings of $810 per month.

However, before you dive in headfirst, there’s a crucial detail to consider—some of these lucrative side hustles come with a catch.

CNBC Make It recently had the chance to chat with a group of high-earners across various online platforms. These individuals, raking in six figures per year from their side gigs, shared a common experience of witnessing their profits skyrocket, only to plateau or decline shortly afterward.

The culprit behind this rollercoaster ride? It seems to be the ever-changing algorithms of the platforms they operate on. Shifts in algorithms can swiftly change your status from a top search result to buried on page five, significantly affecting your visibility and, consequently, your potential customer base.

While some high-earners have cracked the code and found strategies to stay on top, others express a sense of powerlessness on platforms they can’t control. Here’s a glimpse into what you need to know:

Quick Peaks, Potential Plummets

 Take Jim Battan, for instance, who in 2021 was the highest earner on Swimply, a platform for renting out swimming pools. His meticulous approach earned him an impressive $117,000 that year, averaging $9,750 per month. However, his earnings took a nosedive the following year, prompting him to close his Swimply profile. Changes in algorithms or increased competition might be at play here.

Algorithm Roulette on Gig Platforms

 Kingsley Onyemali’s success story on Taskrabbit took a turn when the platform altered its algorithm in the fall of 2022. Previously making over $108,500 annually, he saw a dip to around $7,500 per month. The shift in search result organization, now based on lowest prices, affected his visibility. Adaptation is key here, as he acknowledged by contemplating a price reduction to pick up more jobs.

The SEO Dance on Freelance Platforms

Chuck Brown, a voiceover artist on Fiverr since 2017, faced the ups and downs of algorithm changes. Despite earning up to $6,000 per month, fluctuations in search result rankings impacted his income. However, a recent email notifying him of eligibility for Fiverr Pro status has brought an influx of work requests. Each platform, as Brown wisely puts it, has its own game.

Navigating these algorithmic uncertainties is part of the online side hustle landscape. Fiverr, for example, emphasized that search rankings take into account factors like on-time delivery, client ratings and reviews, and the quality of work. So, as you embark on your online side hustle journey, keep in mind that adapting to the ever-evolving algorithms might just be the secret to long-term success.

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