Side hustles can help supplement your full-time income by earning extra money (anything from a few dollars, to thousands) as well as improve your quality of life.
Depending on what you need, a side hustle could be a way to earn a bit of disposable income, a way to meet new people, learn new things, or it could be something you ultimately want to become your full time business and potentially become a wealthy, successful entrepreneur.
Whatever you're after there are a few commonalities in every idea that we're going to explore here as we explore a few interesting examples.
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Combined with the fact that times are pretty tough and a lot of people really need the extra money, side hustles have started becoming widespread because they're exciting.
They're not a job.
They can give you an outlet to explore things you love doing without risking too much. They can bring great satisfaction to people who are otherwise unsatisfied with the corporate rat race. Most importantly, it can put you on a new career path with exciting new opportunities and the chance to build a successful profitable business.
What is a Side Hustle?
Before we begin, I'd like to give my own definition of a side hustle (just so we're all reading off the same page). It's actually quite important because there is a big difference between taking on an extra job and a side hustle. A job on the side (i.e. gig) means you work for someone else. A side hustle is something you're the boss of - like a small startup business.
Definition: A side hustle is an independent business venture with flexible work requirements.
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The most important part of this definition is that a side hustle must be independent. It's your own business. You're not an employee.
How to Find a Side Hustle
Finding the perfect side hustle shouldn't be too hard. If you find that you're sitting around struggling with the entrepreneur's equivalent of writer's block, then you're most likely doing it wrong.
Remember, a side hustle doesn't have to be a million dollar idea.
There's a lot to be said for taking on something that might earn less but genuinely improve the quality of your life. A great example comes from this Money article entitled, This man's side hustle came with an unexpected bonus – he lost 30 pounds. Losing that weight and becoming fitter and healthier is infinitely more valuable than earning huge amounts of cash (often at the expense of your well-being) just so you can spend it all trying to fix lifestyle related health problems in later life.
Don't avoid exploring side hustle ideas that might offer significant lifestyle benefits because you believe they don't have as much earning potential.
Doing something that improves the quality of your life right now is arguably of greater value than something that makes more money. If it grows into a million dollar business, well... that's just the icing on the cake. Here are a couple of hints to get you started.
Ask Yourself These Questions
Shaan Patel, a full-time medical resident and the founder of Prep Expert, suggests answering these four questions,
- What topics would you consider yourself an expert at?
- What is something you worked extremely hard at in your life?
- What are some of your greatest accomplishments in life?
- What questions do your friends and family always ask you that they consider you to be the go-to person to offer advice?
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"If you can answer at least 3 out of those 4 questions with a solid amount of detail and confidence, then you've more than likely stumbled upon at least an area of expertise you've developed, if not a specific business idea itself. Figuring out what passions you have that can also dovetail into a marketable skill is the first thing I'd look into when tackling this problem."
Look for Existing Opportunities
You might be really surprised to find opportunity in almost every aspect of your life. It could be anywhere, from what you do on a day to day basis, to who you know and work with, to something you enjoy doing. Here's an encouraging thought I like to tell myself,
There is a "shortest" path to success from wherever you are right now.
Work in an office and cook your own food? There's probably scope to cook a big meal the night before to bring into the office and provide lunches for colleagues. Simply tell everyone what you're cooking that night and take orders to work out how many portions to bring. Healthy home cooked lunches that are convenient and cost effective might prove to be a real hit in your office.
If you have success in your own office, why not check other offices in the building. Supplying lunches to an entire office block five days a week will without doubt bring in a healthy amount of cash. The beauty of this is that you can start off with little to no extra cost and effort since you are cooking for yourself and going into the office each day anyway.
Talking of going into the office each day. Why not start charging for a ride share into your office or building each day. If you're driving anyway, finding three or four extra people who start and finish their daily commute in nearby locations will more than cover your monthly fuel costs (depending on how much you decide to charge) and offer them convenience (i.e not having to find or pay for parking) and a way to save money (since they are sharing the costs of the trip, not paying to drive their own car to and from work).
Evolve Existing Ventures
Scott Bates recommends taking what you learn from one side hustle and using the skills and knowledge gained from that to create additional opportunities. His example involves taking what you know about flipping stuff on eBay and turning that into an estate sale appraisal business.
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"Anyone who is flipping items on eBay on a regular basis can run a side hustle helping families who want to know the value of their items before putting them up for sale in an estate sale. For specialty items or antiques, you can network with other specialized appraisers and re-sellers to help those families get a fair price or deal for there rare collectibles. Charging an hourly rate for your service means you can also help families organize the estate sale because they save money - instead of hiring a big estate sale liquidation company that will take 40 - 60% commission."
Test a Side Hustle Idea
You've got an idea; but will it work?
You are able to test if your idea is viable before investing precious time and money in getting it off the ground. For this to work you need to drive traffic and capture leads in order to prove whether your target audience is willing to take some sort of action based on the promise of what you're offering.
This is only a short term trial intended to check whether the people you want as your customers and clients are actually interested in your offering. The traffic you drive here is paid for but it is at least highly targeted.
Here's a basic outline.
- Create a landing page with a CTA (Call To Action). This could be a newsletter signup, a purchase, a donation, whatever.
- Drive targeted traffic to that landing page. You'll need to pay Google Ads or Facebook Ads to send exactly the type of person you want to attract.
- Measure conversion rates. Conversion rate optimization tasks (like measuring conversion rates) are all handled using tools like Leadpages (see below).
- Determine if the idea is viable based on conversions & estimated revenue.
It's very quick and easy to get all of this done for very little (depending on the size of your advertising budget - needed to drive targeted traffic from Google or Facebook).
Side Hustle Viability
Quickly find out if your side hustle idea is viable and worth investing in.
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Use SEMRush to research and understand how well market players/competitors are established and what their online network looks like (SEMRush has a limited free plan). Get an idea of the potential size of the existing market (if any) using Google's Keyword Planner.
Quickly find out if you can drive sales & revenue with CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) using Leadpages and Google Ads or Facebooks Ads to drive traffic to your landing page(s).
At the end of your viability test you should be able to determine whether or not it is worth pursuing your idea and turning it into a startup. If it looks promising you can start planning in depth, creating a website, marketing, and so on. If not, at least you've saved yourself a lot of time, money and effort setting up a whole new business.
Side Hustle Ideas
Coming up with ideas is a whole art form in itself. But, the best way to make this as quick, fun and painless as possible is to give your brain new ideas, concepts and connections to work with. A good place to start is by browsing over a big list of small business ideas to see if anything sparks. The more information you gather, the more likely your brain is to make a new and interesting association that might have value for a specific target market.
You can learn more about this strategy by checking out how to come up with good business ideas. You probably also want to check out some passive income ideas that should also highlight the pros and cons of aiming for passive earnings (hint: it usually takes a heck of a lot of work to setup).
Otherwise, here are a few examples to get you started.
Flip Items from Thrift Stores
Dustyn Ferguson from Dime Will Tell recommends finding and selling stuff you find in thrift stores or even yard and estate sales on online platforms like eBay, Craigslist, LetGo or other sites.
"The absolute best thing about this money making side hustle is that you don't need to have a ton of experience or have much money to start. Simply go to your local thrift stores with any money you can gather and your phone. Find items, look them up, and if they are being sold at a higher price online - buy and resell it."
You can get really scientific about pricing by doing research on GoPennyGo. GoPennyGo is a fast, free price comparison site that quickly lets you compare prices and deals on related products. This enables you to understand exactly how much specific products are selling for at their absolute best price right now.
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Dylan also goes on to say that a lot of times things that people have left in their attic or basement for 20+ years or so can actually have greater value now than they did then, making yard sales a great place to potentially find items that may be of interest to collectors who would pay a premium.
Sell Custom T-Shirts on Amazon & Etsy
Stacy Caprio of Growth Marketing says she has made anywhere between $200 and $2000 a month selling tees.
"I found it to be a great side hustle that allows you to control your own hours. I also continue to make recurring revenue from these platforms even on months I skip uploading anything."
Having a passive or semi-passive income like this can make a real difference, but I suspect that there is a lot of competition in this area. Perhaps try to come up with a specific style or make designs that are satirical and on trend. You never know if people decide to start buying your design in huge numbers because it speaks to a particular event or political inclination.
Refurbish, Restore & Flip High End items
Rachel Mullins has a passion for fashion and uses this to supplement her income.
"I make great money buying and refurbishing Chanel, Louis Vuitton & Hermes. I love doing it and it puts to use my crazy level knowledge of luxury goods."
This is a great example of turning existing knowledge and passion into something that can generate an income. While you might not know how to restore a Louis Vuitton (I certainly don't), you might be a really good carpenter, or chef, or... whatever. Take something you love doing and go pro.
Use a Gig Economy Service
Some businesses actually leverage the growing demand for side hustles by providing ready made gig opportunities. Trish McDermott explains how BabyQuip, a company that provides baby related rental equipment for entrepreneurs, helps people looking to make some extra cash on the side.
"BabyQuip is a gig economy baby gear rental marketplace, like an Airbnb, but for cribs, car seats, strollers, toys, high chairs, books, games, etc. Through our platform, we help entrepreneurs build their websites and drive customers. We train them about baby gear safety and cleanliness as well as how to do local marketing and public relations to grow their business.
People select the gear they want to rent and their rental and delivery fees. They pick their own hours too. This kind of side hustle generates a passive income, as your baby gear is making money for you every day it is out with a family, but you're only doing the delivery, pick up and cleaning work on the first and last days of the order."
Promote Exciting Companies
There are new startups coming onto the market all the time. Many of them are actually genuinely great businesses that offer good value products and services. Unfortunately, the world doesn't always reward the best business - especially when it comes to bootstrapped startups that have limited means to promote and market themselves.
You might be in a position to recommend and promote any number of businesses that would compensate you in return.
This is good news, because it means there are companies out there right now that might be more than willing to enter into some sort of partnership with you (it may be in the form of an affiliate relationship that rewards you a share of revenue for each paying customer/client you bring in). So, if you have contacts, connections, influence, knowledge, information or experience in a specific niche there are likely going to be businesses out there that would pay you for mentioning or recommending them.
John Harper manages the Solar Ambassador program at Green Solar Technologies. He says,
"Solar Ambassadors only need to be able to share some of the many benefits of solar (primarily saving money on their electric bill) to their social media channels and/or network of contacts and merely generate initial interest before the Green Solar Technologies sales team takes over. There's no obligation and it's easy since the ambassadors are not selling anything, just educating their connections on how they can save/make money by going solar. That 5 minute conversation pays out commissions to the referring ambassador of $50 should one of their connections have a proposal and quote sent, and $1000 should one develop to a solar installation. There's absolutely no cost to sign up and it is entirely their business with Green Solar Technologies offering a complete backup of corporate services for zero cost."
Not all companies offer affiliate programs like this one, but that doesn't mean you can't take the initiative and look for mutually beneficial relationships to approach companies with proactively.
A good example comes from the startup, Optergon. Optergon provides real-world, enterprise level route planning at significantly lower costs than existing services. Route planning software that is completely flexible and allows companies to accurately model their unique business requirements to produce optimized routes that are achievable and realistic (as opposed to most route plans that only cater for a limited number of possibilities to produce largely theoretical optimal route plans) can save any company that has a significant transport component a huge amount of money.
Let's say that your day job brought you in regular contact with delivery and/or logistics companies. You could simply contact Optergon, tell them a bit about yourself and why you're in a position to bring in new clients for them, and negotiate a referral fee for any successful paying clients you brought in. Optergon may or may not be in the market to start a relationship like that, but you get the point.
Side Hustle Success Stories
This section is going to grow over time so it's worth bookmarking and checking back now and again if you're interested in seeing specific examples of how people turned their side hustles into great successes. If you have any specific success stories you'd like to share, feel free to add them in the comments below.
Niche YouTube Channel
Mathew Ross, COO of RIZKNOWS started out with a YouTube channel back in 2014, reviewing wearable tech (something he and his business partner were extremely interested in).
"To cut a long story short, the wearable technology category exploded and we started making more and more money. Needless to say, our side hustle has now turned into a legit business. We’ve been able to grow top line revenue to over $2.5 million. We’ve been able to hire ten full-time employees and recently moved the company’s headquarters to a new state-of-the-art office in Reno, NV."
Mathew goes on to offer this advice,
"I think there are two key qualities that people should look for in side hustles. First, the side hustle shouldn't be high maintenance. In other words, you shouldn't need to work on the project every single day. Let's face it, when you first start a side hustle, you're already have a full time job so a lot of days you simply won't be able to dedicate time to the project. If the side hustle requires daily maintenance, it will likely fail.
Second, great side hustles should provide some sort of instant gratification to keep people motivated. If it takes longer than 6 months to earn any money, chances are you won't last that long. That's why we liked YouTube. We almost immediately started earning ad revenue. All in all, it's just nice to see the fruits of your labor early."
Not all side hustles come with zero startup costs. Some require a bit of capital input at the start to get things going, but this shouldn't put you off. As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money.
Andrew Herrig of Wealthy Nickel related this story about how he and his wife have increased their net worth by over $1 million using real estate,
"My wife and I started a real estate side hustle about five years ago that has added over $1M to our net worth and continues to grow. We purchased a rental property in 2013 with the intention of diversifying our investments for retirement, but soon caught the real estate bug. We have continued to add to our rental portfolio over the years and done some house flipping and wholesaling (flipping contracts) to generate cash.
My wife got her real estate license mostly just to save money on our own transactions but has turned that into an additional side hustle as well, earning $15-20k per year on the side while raising 2 kids at home."
This is a great story because it demonstrates two key features mentioned earlier,
- Evolving an existing role into something that opens up new opportunities for earning (in this case, Andrew's wife got her real estate license with the intention of reducing their own business expenses and ended up turning that into additional revenue)
- Control over your time (in this case, being able to make money on the side while still raising two kids)
Start a side hustle doing something you love sooner rather than later because it may lead you to greater opportunities down the line.
So I actually wanted to avoid blogging as a side hustle suggestion because the Internet is littered with the broken dreams of a million aspiring bloggers. However, there are so many people who have succeeded in turning their blogs into significant earnings that I simply had to include a few examples.
Russel Barbour and his wife Maleah from Unconventional Prosperity, like many people, found themselves struggling to pay off student loan debt. Russel found that as a PhD research scientist he was simply not able to meet their financial obligations and was essentially compelled to look for an alternative source of income.
They began trading stocks as a way to make money, but found that blogging about the what they were doing ended up also being profitable.
"We started blogging about the ways we were trying to make money trading stocks and found that we could monetize our blogging by writing reviews on the courses that we had used to learn trading strategies. The companies that owned these courses would pay us a commission for every sale we referred to them from our websites. We now earn 5-figures every month.
It took several years of hard work before I could quit my day job and focus on blogging and trading full-time. The secret was hard work. Putting in time before work and every evening after work."
Russel goes on to share his number one tip for starting a side hustle, invest in specific education that will help you achieve success in your business".
Documenting your journey to success is ideally suited for a blog. Ben Huber over at dollarsprout graduated from nursing school with $115k in student loan debt and began earning $36k per year. Despite being extremely frugal he found himself going backwards.
Along with a friend, he started blogging about his side hustle journey to get out of debt - everything from flipping wholesale computer parts on eBay, to being a semi-professional online poker player. According to Ben,
"We went from $0-$180,000/month in about 3 years blogging."
With more than simply financial reward up for grabs, starting a side hustle can be a catalyst for change in your own life. Everything from self-satisfaction, better quality of life, better health, meeting new people, and simply becoming a more active, connected and engaged member of your community, can be added into the mix.
With all that's on offer my question is, why wouldn't you start a side hustle today? I'd love to hear more stories of side hustle success that don't only relate to monetary rewards but also fundamental improvements for the better in your life as a whole. Share your experiences in the comments.