With prices going up, and wages staying stagnant, most Americans are at least willing to consider picking up some extra work to help make ends meet. However, with unemployment at an all-time low, it's not always easy to grab that second part-time job. Most people would prefer their extra income include a little more flexibility so they're not working on someone else's schedule 12 or more hours a day and losing out on time with family or a life of their own.
That's where the side hustle comes in. And with the gig economy in full swing, there's never been a better time to tap into it and start earning some extra cash on your terms.
The following list of ideas includes a number of small business ideas that have been standbys for people with an entrepreneurial spirit for years. But, you'll find they're easier and less expensive to get into today than ever before. The list also contains some ideas that have only recently become possible or practical but that show a ton of promise for solid income as we head into 2020.
Finally, we'll highlight a few of these ideas that have proven viable as full-time businesses, in case that's the real goal behind why you're interested in a side hustle in the coming year. Let's get started.
Ways to make cash with what you have, where you are
These ideas should require little or no investment at all, because they're based on things you already own, or activities you're already doing anyway. It's really just a matter of making the most of what you have.
- Renting out a room (or a whole house) on Airbnb. The Airbnb craze shows no signs of slowing (despite the company's internal drama), and homeowners the world over are making an impressive side income letting strangers stay in a room, floor, or property they're not really using anyway. Extra points if you happen to live near a popular tourist attraction.z
- Becoming a rideshare driver. You see them all over the place, and you've probably ridden with them a time or two at least. If you own a car, don't mind driving, why not get paid to cart people around for a few hours in the evening or on a weekend? Especially if you live in an urban area where lots of people prefer not to drive or where there are a lot of tourists or business travelers, you can make a pretty good wage, all from the comfort of your car.
- Delivering food. While it used to just be Chinese takeout and pizza parlors that delivered, apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats have made it possible for anyone to order just about anything, from almost any restaurant, and have it delivered to their door. You could even do this in conjunction with ridesharing to multiply your earnings.
- Renting out your car. Much like Airbnb, it's now possible to temporarily let strangers use your car with apps like Turo. Since there's likely plenty of time that expensive possession is just sitting in a parking spot doing nothing, many have found letting someone else use it offers welcome extra funds with zero inconvenience.
- Hauling. If you own a truck, you know from experience that all your friends need one once in a while. If you're willing to drive around and use a little elbow grease getting things in and out of it, you can start monetizing that universal truth by helping people move furniture, haul junk, or whatever else they can't fit in the back of their Prius.
- Answering questions online. This might seem odd, and it's definitely not going to break your bank. But if you enjoy contributing to online discussion forums like Quora, and getting into quasi debates on Facebook, you should check out com. You can get paid for doing exactly that.
Ways to monetize your hobbies and skills
For the following ideas, you may need to invest a little bit in supplies and marketing to let people know what you do (although it's not necessary in all cases). But, the upside is that you already have the skills you need and probably enjoy doing the work. Now, you can get paid to do it!
- Writing articles online. Whether you start your own blog and monetize it or sell your wordsmithing abilities to companies and individuals who need it, there's a constant demand for fresh content to be created and distributed online. If you know how to write well and enjoy doing it, there's always going to be work for you.
- Self-publishing. Taking the writing idea a step further, if you want to break out on your own by creating content for yourself, you can either publish it on your own website or put it together into an e-book or information product and sell it. Platforms like Amazon make it incredibly simple to publish your own books about anything and sell them in print or electronically. If it gets a lot of readers, it can be a nice passive income that lasts for years.
- Freelance editing and proofreading. Maybe you're not so interested in writing, but you love to read and have an eye for errors and ways to improve the written word. There's probably even more of a market for freelance editing and proofreading than there is for writing because not as many people have that valuable set of skills.
- Translation. If you're bilingual, you can make money translating for customers who aren't. This can be written, verbal or both. This can be especially lucrative if you're fluent in a less common language with an underserved population in need of translation services.
- Teach English online. Similarly, if you're proficient in verbal English, you can teach others online how to speak it more fluently. MagicEars is an example of a website that makes this possible, but there are others as well.
- Transcription/captioning. With the huge boom in audio and video media being produced daily online, there's a huge need for fast typists to accurately and efficiently turn this media into text. This allows podcasters and YouTubers to earn the benefits of search algorithms that are still highly text-based, and to repurpose the content they've already created, so it's very valuable to them. com is a great site to check out.
Arts and crafts
- Selling homemade crafts. When Etsy hit the scene, it was a Godsend to crafters and flea market hounds everywhere. Suddenly, there was a tailor-made audience looking for the kind of handcrafted, unique items they can't find anywhere else. And crafters could set up an online shop and take orders 24/7. Etsy is still going strong, and there are a dozen similar sites now that offer the same opportunity.
- Selling your photos. If you have a gift for photography, there are numerous places online where you can sell or license your images. Shutterstock, for instance, is one of the largest and most popular stock image providers online, and they pay photographers up to $180 when a visitor licenses an image they captured.
- Selling your art, designs, or illustrations. Selling fine art, drawings, and illustrations was notoriously difficult prior to the internet because it's so subjective. To find an audience who loves what you do, you need an incredibly wide reach. The internet provides that, and there are dozens of sites available that allow you to upload images of your art and sell or license them in many different ways. RedBubble and Threadless are just two examples of sites that let people buy your designs on T-shirts, mugs, and other products.
Another catch-all option in this category is building an online course using platforms like Udemy or Teachable. They make it incredibly easy to share your unique skills and experience with an eager audience of students who want to learn at their own pace. You create the course and, for the most part, it becomes a stream of passive income.
Without going too deep into the possibilities, suffice it to say that just about any hobby or skill can be monetized with some ingenuity and a platform to stand on. The key is whether or not what you do can enlighten, educate, or entertain people, and whether it's solving a legitimate problem people struggle with. If so, someone is willing to pay you to do it.
Ways to make good money helping others
This category will require a more focused dedication of time and effort, although these jobs still offer a lot of flexibility and some can even be incorporated into other activities you need to do anyway. It includes services that are in dire need under certain circumstances. Some are more universal than others, and a few are available everywhere. They're worth investigating to see if there's a need in your area.
- Cleaning. Whether it's residential, commercial, industrial or sweeping up a parking lot, everywhere people live and work gets dirty and needs to be cleaned up. If you don't mind doing the dirty work, there's always going to be a need for professional cleaners. There's an opportunity here to specialize as well. For instance, a lot of generic cleaning companies won't do windows. Window washers can earn a premium.
- Doing handiwork. If you're mechanically inclined and know your way around a toolbox, there are plenty of homeowners (me included!) who need your help and are willing to pay for it. The Handy app has become really popular for bringing you and your customers together, and there are other similar apps out there.
- Doing chores. In this case, it's less about lack of knowledge or skill, and more about lack of time. Some people are so busy between work and the rest of their life, they can't stand the idea of tackling that growing to.do list at home. They'll pay you to do it. Check out the TaskRabbit app for an eye-opening list of available work you can do whenever it's convenient.
- Shopping for hire. This is technically a version of the idea above, but it's carved out on its own because it's one of the most popular chores people outsource these days. Instacart is probably the most popular app for this, but people have had success just putting an ad on Craigslist and answering the phone. The best part of buying and delivering other peoples' groceries is the fact that you need to go to the store regularly yourself anyway, so why not get paid to pick up some extra items along the way?
- Pet sitting and walking. If you have a way with animals, there are millions of pet owners who would love for their fur babies to get more exercise and attention, especially while the owners are at work or on vacation. Check out mobile apps like Rover and Wag for opportunities near you.
- Giving walking tours of the city. If you live in a big city with a rich history or gorgeous architecture, there's no doubt tourists will pay for a guided tour. You can set up an Airbnb Experience for a quick and effective way to market your services.
- Testing software and websites. Technology is big business, but investors and owners alike want and need to make sure their ideas and their execution is solving a real problem for consumers. That's why they pay average people like you and me to test their creations before releasing them into the wild. Check out UserTesting to learn more about these opportunities.
- Participating in research studies. You can earn cash for your opinion as part of a research study or focus group. Popular connection apps for this opportunity include Cashback Research and Toluna.
Big business on a small scale
This final category straddles that line between a little side hustle and actually starting your own business. Technically, just about anything on this list can be turned into a full-time occupation under the right circumstances. To explore the possibilities, try searching for any of the above (or any that come to mind that aren't listed above) at the Businesses For Sale online marketplace. Chances are you'll find at least one large-scale business for sale right now that started as someone's side hustle. But the following options really lend themselves to doing so because they're far less effective when you're just moonlighting at them, and they can scale quickly.
- Opening an e-commerce store. The barriers to entry into ecommerce have all but collapsed with the convergence of platforms like Shopify and the dropshipping app Oberlo. If you're willing to invest in the necessary marketing and concentrate on excellent customer service, you have a good chance of success in selling physical products online.
- Reselling popular products. Another similar option is to use popular sites and apps like Poshmark (fashion), Gazelle (electronics), eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace to buy and sell popular products for profit.
- Investing in real estate. Whether you're interested in staying behind the scenes as a silent partner or digging in and getting your hands dirty, there's plenty of money to be made buying investment properties and collecting rent or "flipping" properties for profit.
Whatever direction you decide to take your side hustle ambition, don't hesitate to get something started in 2020.