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I’m a ‘raket’ man

By RICARDO PAMINTUAN Published May 19, 2024 5:00 am

In the grand tapestry of human existence, the good times have always been marred by adversity. Whether it’s the luxury of a bull market or the struggle of trying to find a job that doesn’t involve selling your soul, the hustle is real, folks. Back in the day, and now more than ever with ever-widening wealth gaps, the need to augment one’s income is one of the overriding pursuits of man.

If you weren’t born into a rich family, you need to educate yourself and act, instead of simply praying with your eyes shut and your hands clasped for your favorite numbers to win the lotto jackpot. Hey, even the heirs of Korean chaebol or Chinese taipans have to study hard and learn the family business from the bottom up. In the world of money, waiting for a handout is the equivalent of playing dead in a zombie apocalypse.

A small sari-sari store stands by the basketball court, a hub of local hustle and childhood memories.

Growing up in a tough part of Manila, I learned to dabble in more side gigs than a multitasking octopus:

  1. I was the guardian of Aling Mercy’s basketball courtside sari-sari store, paid in snacks and playtime at the pool table.
  2. With my friends, I waged war against sewer rats, collecting bounties on their furry heads offered by our barangay captain. They were the size of housecats, I tell you. The rats, not the village heads.
  3. I turned our garage into a kiosk for renting out komiks (local graphic novels printed on flimsy recycled paper).
  4. Sometimes, local products like bibingka (rice cake), sago’t gulaman, (sugared water with jelly and tapioca-flavored with banana essence), and ice candy, were offered to readers. Alas, the treats were as short-lived as the crumbly komiks.
  5. Recycling wasn’t just for hippies. I discovered early in life that there’s money in junk, which I validated time and again whenever I sold old bottles, newspapers and massive phonebooks, and metal scraps to ambulant buyers with carts that looked like they had raided a medieval flea market.
  6. Being the youngest in the family, I was allowed to trade used textbooks for cash along the seedy sidewalks of Manila’s University Belt.
  7. Come Christmas, I was the Santa Claus of firecrackers, delivering explosive cheer to the masses. At the time, there were no warnings with photos of missing fingers on the fireworks packaging.

As I matured (and survived with my paltry school allowance), I realized there were more ways to skin a cat for some cash than just chasing rats. Taking a page from the playbook of Andy Warhol, who said, “Making money is art,” I diversified my portfolio.

This was the inception of my career as a ghostwriter extraordinaire, crafting essays for cash and class credit. Lazy high school jocks relied on book nerds like me for their English (and Filipino) homework. It bought me goodwill and free trips to the mall and video arcade.

In college, I saved fellow students from academic doom by serving up term papers and theses, basing my professional fees on the grade desired. I was the OG ChatGPT, before Open AI’s Sam Altman even knew AI could compete with humans.

No matter what generation you belong to, making money online is all about imagination, originality, and good, old-fashioned hard work.

My friends would shake their heads and say, “Ruma-raket ka na naman,” judging me as if they didn’t benefit from my trade. The English translation, “You’re moonlighting again,” doesn’t quite capture the idea. But hey, desperate times called for creative measures.

Young entrepreneurs thriving in a co-working space.

For today’s millennials all the way down to the Alphas, the struggle is still real, albeit with a modern twist. These junior hustlers are hustling harder than squirrels in a nut factory. As COVID-19 shook things up like a washing machine on full cycle, everyone, especially the newly jobless population, tried to get a piece of the financial pie through their own innovative raket.

The sellers of food and drinks—champions of the SME world—did not disappoint when they launched “basic needs” businesses that sprouted like mushrooms after the rains, some of which soared to the top of the entrepreneurial charts. Because, let’s face it, when life gives you lemons (or a global pandemic), you make lemonade... and then sell it online for a tidy profit.

Online retail and delivery services became our knights in shining armor during those unpredictable lockdown days. I mean, how else could we have maintained our sanity amid the endless garbage spewing forth from the mouths of the people in power, if not for the untiring efforts of those multicolored riders delivering guilty pleasures straight to our doorsteps?

Delivery riders, essential heroes of the pandemic.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, traditional employment has been tossed out the window like yesterday’s leftovers. Now, young entrepreneurs are ditching the 9-to-5 grind for the wild world of e-business. Some strike it rich with genius ideas, while others make enough noise to attract sponsors faster than a cat chasing a laser pointer.

And let’s not forget the rise of telecommuting—it’s like the Industrial Revolution on steroids. Labor and education are morphing faster than a Pokémon evolving, all thanks to technology (and more recently AI) and some seriously progressive mindsets.

In the words of a millennial (who has a regular job but occasionally engages in his own raket), anything you can do online, remotely, with minimal supervision can be a source of additional or even main income. In this Wild, Wild West of the digital age, writing, data analysis and online marketing constitute some of the new gold rush activities.

Crafting content for YouTube and TikTok.

Speaking of gold rushes, it’s hard to ignore the burgeoning online influencer scene. Bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers — they’re all out there offering infotainment at an unprecedented scale. And if you can make a buck while showing off your cooking skills, dance moves, or body parts on TikTok, why not?

But let’s not forget the unsung heroes of the online world: the freelancers, social media consultants, and business gurus who are raking in fees that would make white-collar workers with master’s degrees weep with envy. They are the digital Renaissance masters, minus the powdered wigs and bespoke outfits.

No matter what generation you belong to, making money online is all about imagination, originality, and good, old-fashioned hard work. And whether you’re a seasoned pro or a wide-eyed newbie, there’s a world of opportunity out there just waiting to be conquered, as long as you are willing to adapt and work up a sweat.

Stop sulking and start hustling. Who knows? You might just stumble upon your next big dream, or at least a decent side gig to pay the bills.