Making Money on the Side: The Best Side Hustles
Thirty-seven percent of Americans work a side hustle to make extra income and an even larger percentage of millennials hold at least occasional side hustles. Some people need the extra income just to pay their regular bills and put food on the table, while some use a side hustle for shopping sprees and travel. The nature of the side hustle is just as diverse as the people working them.
But how do you determine what jobs are worth your time and which are fads you want to avoid? The answer is more complicated than it seems. A side hustle can be a natural extension of your full-time job, or it might be something you’ve always wanted to try. They can be professional or creative. In this article, we’ll explain how to make money in a side hustle and provide some ideas for a job that might be perfect for you.
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What Is a Side Hustle?
A side hustle is a type of job taken on top of your regular, full-time job. Generally, it’s freelance work or project work you do in your free time. It might be something you’re passionate about, but wouldn’t be able to make a full-time living with.
A side hustle is almost always supported by a full or part-time job that pays for most, if not all, regular living expenses and bills. Side hustles are used to generate supplemental income, supply a source of “fun money” for frivolous purchases, or build savings for a larger purchase. It might also be a way to work on your passion, build a nonprofit, or test out entrepreneurship.
In general, side hustles are not part-time jobs, as a part-time job often requires you to work under an employer with little flexibility in your schedule. Alternatively, side hustles, by design, are flexible and usually self-owned, with entrepreneurs completing their work autonomously as an independent contractors.
How To Make Money on the Side
To make any significant income from your side hustle, you’ll want to ensure you pick a venture that fits your goals, skills, and availability. Since a side hustle is worked outside your regular job, your work will need to be done on your own time, such as in the evenings and on weekends.
If you’re already skilled at something like coding, graphic design, or writing, then freelancing might be the best course for you. If you have already worked a significant amount of time in business, marketing or any other specific industry, consulting could be a lucrative side hustle. But if you’re just looking to make supplemental income after the kids go to bed, during the summers, or after work, consider a gig like driving, dog walking, or grocery delivery.
Take a close look at what you’re already good at. What do you currently do in your day job? What did you study in school? Are you an artist with skills in digital illustration? Do you speak another language fluently? What are you good at and what do you have experience in?
You can start your own business by building a website or growing a client base through word-of-mouth. Or you can choose to operate through a third-party company like Rover, Fiverr, or Upwork. There are also on-call or contract options, depending on your skills and availability.
There is so much flexibility in side hustle jobs that it’s impossible to list all of your options. To decide what side hustle you want to start, take some time to consider what you want to do, what you can do, and how much time you want to put into it. Then take a look at the lists below for a few ideas.
The Best-Paying Side Hustle Jobs
The point of your side hustle is to make extra money, so you want to ensure that whatever you do is profitable. Keep in mind that the best paying side hustle jobs will often require many years of experience and expertise.
- Financial Controller: If you have high-level accounting experience, you could start a side hustle as a controller working part-time or even remote helping businesses with their budget, record keeping, and financial reporting. This job can potentially pay a high hourly rate but that will depend on many factors such as your experience, the specific industry you’re working in, and the type of clients you have and their needs.
- Consulting: If you have highly-desirable skills or certifications in business or within your industry through years of professional work in a full-time role, consider starting a consulting business on the side. Local business owners may be willing to pay your for your expertise and advice on marketing, strategy, manufacturing or any other aspect of running a business. While it is very difficult to determine exactly how much you can make as a consultant, national figures show that independent consultants can make an average of $97,000 annually.
- Photography: Maybe you’re passionate about photography but chose another path for your career? This might have been an excellent choice on your part. While great photographers can turn their craft into a full-time career, many find success just doing it on the side. Professional wedding photographers, for example, can work whenever they choose, and can charge as much as $2,500 or more per wedding.
- Babysitting: Babysitting isn’t just for teenagers anymore, an au pair can make a viable living just working nights and weekends, as long as you’re comfortable with kids and working odd hours. The U.S. Government states that au pairs must be paid at least $195.75 per week while more qualified applicants can earn more. While the base salary isn’t that impressive, it’s a great side-gig for students and young professionals.
In most of the best-paying side hustles you will come across, you might notice that pay ranges can vary widely. The best way to determine how much you can make, or how much to charge your clients, is to research your industry and find out what other professionals are charging for the same or similar work. This list also represents a number of professions that you can be done full time, so current annual salary figures will help determine how much you can charge in your freelance business.
Best Side Hustles From Home
Depending on your specific needs, you might need a side hustle that can be done completely from your own home. If you are mobility-impaired, trying to work in retirement, or simply don’t want to commute to work every day, there are still ways you can earn extra income. Here are a few examples of side hustles you can work from home.
- Freelance Writing: Writing freelance can be a highly lucrative side gig if you are an expert in your industry or craft. Almost any topic or industry can translate into a viable writing niche like technology, science, health, sustainability and more. While many writers make very little money, industry specialists can turn their knowledge and experience into a profitable side gig. Indeed states the average pay for freelance writing is about $30 an hour, but varies widely based on your skills and chosen niche.
- Etsy Seller: Selling crafts and products on Etsy is a fun and creative side hustle you can do completely from home. The income you make will depend on the products you sell and how much you can sell, so consider learning all you can about social media marketing to get your seller’s page on the map.
- Website Building: If you’re good at website development and design, you could build websites for clients found on Craigslist or on freelance sites like UpWork. Part of the appeal to this side hustle is that not only can you charge a flat fee for the website but you can charge a monthly rate for continued maintenance and updates. Freelance work is highly unstable, so determining average pay is nearly impossible — that being said, employed full-time web developer salaries range between $51,000 to $76,000 annually depending on experience.
- Blogging: If you love writing but don’t want to work at the whim and call of clients, you might be better off starting a blog. Just keep in mind that starting a blog won’t make you money quickly. It takes a long time to produce high-quality content and build a readership. However, if it’s something you’re passionate about, starting a blog could earn you extra money while providing a creative outlet.
- Graphic Design: You don’t have to have a degree in graphic design to learn the fundamentals and start freelancing on the side. Plus, graphic design work can be done completely from home. Similar to freelance writing and website building, you can find clients who need graphic design work on Craigslist, UpWork, or even through personal connections and friends. You can even create your own designs and sell them on Etsy instead of working with individual client needs. Since freelance graphic design is so diverse, it’s difficult to determine how much you can make. You will be the one to determine your rate based on your skills and whether you choose to charge hourly or per-project.
The Most Flexible Side Hustles
Most of the side hustles listed above will take a high level of education and experience in order to successfully launch and gain clients. But that doesn’t work for everybody. Maybe you’re still in school and need something that’s both flexible with your schedule and skills. Or maybe you’re a parent looking to make more money without building a freelance business. Luckily, side hustles are diverse and designed to help anybody earn extra income. Here are a few examples of flexible side hustles anyone can do.
- Drive for Lyft or Uber: One of the most available and flexible side gigs is driving for Uber or Lyft. As long as you qualify as a driver, you will be able to turn on and off your availability as you see fit, but you’ll only make money while driving, meaning that your earnings are up to you. A recent survey showed that Lyft drivers make an average of $17.50 per hour while Uber drivers make $2 less.
- Deliver for UberEATS or Other Food Delivery: Whether you’re delivering pizzas for Domino’s, UberEATS, or any other food delivery service, this is a great way to earn extra cash. UberEATS delivery drivers can expect to make around $8 – $12 an hour.
- Dog Walking: If you love dogs and need a way to get in some more physical activity outside, consider starting a dog walking side hustle. Sign-up for a service like Rover or start your own business and start building your client base. To make more money as a dog walker, and to ensure the safety of the dogs, you should pursue certifications like CPR for dogs and pet first-aid.
- Create a Course or eBook: Can you teach a subject or skill better than anybody else you know? While online tutoring or coaching can be a great side-gig, it’s not as flexible as creating a course or ebook and selling it online. You can create your course or ebook in your off time, at whatever pace suits you, and set your own rate. To increase your income, get a website and start a marketing campaign to share what you have to offer and gain sales. Setting a price to maximize your profit can be tricky, so you should research your market to determine the best price.
Side hustles can range from highly-technical and specialized professions that will demand the highest rates for your work, to flexible weekend jobs that put a little extra cash in your pocket. We hope these suggestions have helped you pick your new gig.
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Tylene is a freelancer in Boise, Idaho. She's a self-taught personal finance hacker with zero debt. She eats avocado toast for breakfast.