Want More Soccer — And Money? He Makes $1,500 a Month as a Referee. How It Works

an image to accompany a story about side hustles. Courtesy of Ruben Seyde
Ruben Seyde has refereed soccer as a side hustle for years — and even used his earnings to pay his way through college. Here are his top tips for how to get started.
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Has the World Cup left you feeling inspired? Continue to get your soccer fix — and make extra cash along the way.

Ruben Seyde has worked as a referee since he was 11 years old. “It was my first source of ‘real’ money,” he says. The entrepreneur, who has refereed youth, amateur, NCAA, and semi-professional soccer matches, says the side hustle is a great way to get exercise and stay connected to a sport he loves. Seyde was able to work at this young age under the same child labor laws that allow kids to have paper routes or act in movies or TV shows.

Refereeing games is a side hustle Seyde used to pay for college and continued into his adult years. It softened the blow and generated residual income when Seyde decided to quit his job in order to start his business. As more Americans grapple with an inflation-induced higher cost of living, having a side hustle that is connected to an industry you love is an increasingly popular solution.

If getting paid to referee games sounds like something you could see yourself doing, here’s how it works.

The Side Hustle Paid His Way Through College 

Seyde, center, with fellow referees at a weekend event. (Photos courtesy of Ruben Seyde)

Seyde has always felt pulled toward side hustles. Becoming a referee and making $500 a weekend was the opportunity he was looking for to make money consistently. 

“Eleven was the age at which you could sign up for the class and get certified, so my father took me to do it,” he says. “I passed the test and started officiating for 10 hours every Saturday and Sunday. At eleven, I didn’t need to ask my parents for money for anything — it was great.” 

During his junior year of high school, Seyde says he started to take his side hustle more seriously. He took classes to learn how to get better at refereeing, listened to monthly seminars from professional referees sharing how to be better, and changed his wellness routine to become healthier and build up the endurance needed for soccer. His father, who had also been a referee, helped him develop his skills, and talked to Seyde about making sure he was saving a portion of his earnings for emergencies, college, and investing for the future. 

“I went to college, and I continued to referee as a side hustle,” says Seyde. “Instead of going out partying on weekends and doing what typical college people do, I would work every single weekend to referee and continue making $500. That money ultimately helped pay for my tuition and everything I needed, like food and housing, while attending Boston University.” 

Use Your Side Hustle to Keep Career Options Open 

Seyde graduated college in 2018 and got a job as a paralegal. He did both the job and side hustle until 2020, when he decided to quit his 9-to-5 to pursue starting a cannabis business. During the two years that he juggled both jobs, he set aside everything from the side hustle to build his emergency fund and business startup sinking fund. He says his side hustle earnings helped form the initial business investment, as he didn’t want to take out loans, and taught him good savings habits.

Seyde, right, with fellow referees. The now-entrepreneur was able to pick up additional shifts and create residual side income during a career transition.

“Very few people have parents who taught them about money, in large part because most of their parents weren’t taught about money,” says Beau Henderson, a retirement specialist and CEO of Rich Life Advisors. “I deal with retirement planning, and can say first-hand a lot of struggles people are dealing with in their 50s and 60s could have been avoided if they were taught financial literacy when they still had time and the power of compounding interest on their side.” Henderson says that an alarming number of people have little or no savings for retirement, and that some of this distress can be avoided in future generations via personal finance literacy.

Starting a cannabis business means going through a lot of regulation hoops to get the company legally registered. During this time, Seyde says his side hustle has helped him pay his bills. He’s refereeing two games a day now while working on the business, and occasionally gets to travel to referee tournaments.

“It’s been my outlet to get away from day-to-day life,” he says.

How to Become a Referee

To become a referee, you must take a one-day class with your state governing association. Here’s the one Seyde did, for reference. After the class, you have to pass a 50-question, multiple-choice test based on what you learned. 

“When you take the class and pass the test, you’re certified as a grassroots referee,” says Seyde. “Grassroots is the entry-level where you ref younger children—the lowest level on the referee ladder.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. When you’re certified, you’re connected to “assigners” in your state.
  2. You send the assigners your availability, and they assign you initial games. 
  3. As you referee a few games and gain experience, you’re given the opportunity to be assigned more games and work with older, more established leagues. 

Seyde currently works with seven assigners for the leagues he referees. He says there’s an excess of games and not enough referees, so there’s an opportunity to be assigned many games. You make $45 a game starting out, he says, but the amount you make builds as you climb the referee ladder. He also notes that this process is similar for referee jobs for other sports and leagues if soccer isn’t your thing.

Job openings for umpires and referees are projected to increase 32% by 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There will be a projected 3,600 openings for umpires and referees each year, on average, over the next decade. 

Make Extra Money Doing What You Love 

Being a referee has been a constant in Seyde’s life. He learned how to earn money at a young age, paid for his college education, and had a safety net in place when he decided to quit his job and start a business. 

“Do it to have fun, and don’t focus on the money starting out, because the money will always follow your passion,” says Seyde. “Assigners will give you a few games a week to see how you do. Once you prove yourself, this side hustle could easily bring in $250 to $500 every weekend.” 

If you enjoy sports, this might be the perfect side hustle for you. A passion-based side hustle could be the key to paying off credit card debt, saving for the future, and creating financial independence in the long run.