The average full-time worker in America earns $47,216 annually , and for many, it’s not enough to live on. Consequently, people resort to using credit to get by and stay on top of their expenses, but that can lead to challenges with debt. A practical solution to not earning enough is increasing your income, but how do you go about doing this? Starting a side hustle is a good option.
- 48% of millennial workers have a side gig to earn extra cash.
- They aren’t alone as 38% of Gen Xers and 28% of baby boomers are doing the same.
- A Bankrate Survey  tells us 3 in 10 need the extra money to keep up with living expenses.
Maybe these are some of the reasons you’re considering a side hustle. However, just the thought of starting a side gig can be exhausting because, well, where do you start? There are millions of side gigs; how do you know which to choose? To make the process of elimination easier for you, we got advice from experts who turned side hustles into consistent income. Keep reading to find ideas for side hustles you can start with little capital.
How to choose a side hustle
If you’ve ever googled “side hustle ideas”, the results probably overwhelmed you. While there are endless side gigs you can do, it’s about choosing which is most feasible for you. Answering these three key questions can help you narrow down your options.
How much free time do you have?
Time is of the essence, so consider how much you have before pursuing a side gig. Although we glamorize productivity in modern-day society, rest is just as important. The last thing you want to do is fill up your free time to where you have no time for rest and leisure. The goal should be to find a side hustle that pays you a decent amount without you overworking.
What are your strengths?
Everyone has something they’re good at, no matter how insignificant it seems. You can sometimes turn these strengths or skills into a side hustle. Assess your skills and ask yourself which might be useful to an individual or business.
Biron Clark, Executive Recruiter at Career Sidekick advises about choosing a side hustle.
EXPERT: Biron Clark – Career Sidekick
“I recommend aiming to find one area you can specialize in. Write down a list of your skills, and then ask, “Which of these would help a potential client the most?”
This will help you identify skills you have that could be useful to other people. That said, just because you aren’t naturally good at something, doesn’t mean you can’t get better and turn it into a side gig. Eventually, you can invest in classes or coaching services so you can grow your side business and charge more.
What are your money goals?
This is major; knowing the purpose of your side gig is essential. Are you doing it because you want to save money to buy a house? Do you need more income to reduce your debt? The answer to this question can help you streamline your efforts and focus on a side hustle that helps meet your financial goals.
For instance, if you decide you only need an extra $200 a month, washing a few cars over the weekend may be ideal. However, if you want to save an extra $1,000 a month, you might put companies on a monthly retainer and wash cars for their employees.
Low-cost side hustle ideas
If you don’t have robust amounts of capital lying around, you should look for a side hustle that costs little to start. We asked our experts to share low-cost side hustle ideas; we’ve broken them into service-based businesses and odd jobs.
With service-based side hustles, you sell your labor or exchange services for money. They’re attractive as they often require little to no money to start. As Ashlee Anderson, Career Coach expert from Work From Home Happiness states,
EXPERT: Ashlee Anderson – Work from Home Happiness
“Many service-based side hustles don’t require a lot of extra cash to get started. Writers, designers, typists, bookkeepers, virtual assistants, and developers can all get to work without having to shell out a lot of money.”
Not everyone has the gift of writing, but if you do, it’s a skill you can monetize. We live in a technological age; much of the information shared requires one form of writing or the other. For this reason, freelance writing can be a good source of income and it costs close to nothing to start.
What do you need to start as a freelance writer? Just a computer or laptop, working internet connection, and Google docs.
If you aren’t sure what you could write about, think about what subject-matters you have in-depth knowledge about. Have you been working in customer service for the past 5 years? Consider reaching out to customer service companies and creating their blog content. Have you looked after pets for the last ten years? Then you could speak to a vet about writing their newsletters.
RJ Weiss from The Ways to Wealth expands on this:
EXPERT: RJ Weiss – The Ways to Wealth
“My favorite low-cost side hustle for beginners is freelance writing. Specifically, freelance writing in an industry or hobby that you have a lot of experience in. Having an in-depth knowledge of a particular niche can help you quickly get your career off and running, as it separates you from many of the other beginners.”
Are you good at web design? Can you put together a graphic for a book or social media? If yes, it’s another great side hustle. Individuals and businesses are constantly in need of talented designers to put together print and digital visuals. There is also a great deal of flexibility—you could take on projects when you have time or work part-time.
The average hourly rate for a freelance graphic designer is $29.35—not bad for extra income.
Just about every sector needs assistants; they make managing workloads easier. What skills do you need to become a virtual assistant? Organization, communication, and an ability to strategize are a few. Steffa Mantilla from Money Tamer sheds light on this side hustle.
EXPERT: Steffa Mantilla – Money Tamer
“You can become a virtual assistant (VA) for little startup cost. If you have a special skill such as copywriting, social media management, or graphic design, you’ll be able to charge more. General skilled VAs can earn between $15 to $25 an hour doing tasks like list compilation, online post formatting, or other easy tasks.”
You can also find freelance or part-time administrative and personal assistant gigs online too.
When you’ve become an expert in any field, consulting can be fairly easy money. All you have to do is share your expert knowledge with people who need it. Most consultants charge an hourly rate, so make it worthwhile. If you need help determining your rates, do a quick Google search to check your niche industry rates.
If you are into technology, Nick Loper from Side Hustle Nation suggests offering software as a service.
EXPERT: Nick Loper – Side Hustle Nation
“Pick a software tool you love, with bonus points for being an early adopter, and start answering questions about it online. Paul Minors did this with Asana, Pipedrive, and a couple others, creating written and YouTube content, and ending up building a really healthy location-independent consulting operation.”
Other types of consulting you can do are marketing, HR, financial, operations, IT, legal, and social media.
Web developers are critical in the digital world. Thanks to them, you can read this article and find other information online. Web development skills are always in demand, so you should have no problem finding work. Basic skills you’ll need to thrive in this side hustle include programming, SEO, testing, and design to mention a few. To get started, put together a portfolio you can show prospective clients. If you know your stuff, you could bag $61-80 an hour.
Niall Doherty of eBiz Facts gives a real-life example of how you can earn as a freelance web developer.
EXPERT: Niall Doherty – eBiz Facts
“My friend Justin started learning web development from scratch and landed a client at $9/hour within two months. He then started learning Google Adwords and a year later was up to $50/hour.”
Driving is a way to rake in a few extra bucks during your free time. Uber, Lyft, and Amazon are just a few brands that rely on drivers to fulfill customer needs. Perks for driving include flexible schedules and a chance to engage with people. Glassdoor tells us Uber drivers make an average of $13-$16/hour. However, tips, promotions, and how often you drive influence how much you make.
If you can’t think of any specific skills you have, selling items online could work for you. All you need is knowledge of products in demand and an ability to market. As Eden Ashley from Mint Notion shares:
EXPERT: Eden Ashley – Mint Notion
“One of the easiest side-hustle ideas is to sell items online. Whether it’s used furniture, clothing, household appliances, or collectibles, you can sell these items online to make extra money.”
To start, choose a platform to sell on, be it eBay, Shopify, or WooCommerce. Think about products that people are interested in buying and find out where you can buy them at an affordable price. Invest in a good camera, as presentation is important when selling items online.Take quality photos and write a good description to help increase your sales. You can sell items on eBay, Craigslist, Mercari, or Poshmark.—Eden Ashley of @MintNotion Click To Tweet
What if you don’t have a huge budget to work with? If you’re savvy, you can source quality items for cheap, which reduces your need for large amounts of capital. This could mean getting items at the thrift store or in clearances and then reselling them at a higher price.
Kat Lewis from The Wary Worker, a platform that shares remote opportunities, shares helpful tips on doing this. “As far as side hustles that require a bit of start-up capital, my first thought is item flipping. This can be flea market flipping on eBay, selling on Amazon through their FBA program, or creating a craft and selling it on Etsy or Fiverr. All these item-flipping ideas require you purchasing something before you can sell it for a profit.”
Keep in mind, an e-commerce business isn’t only about selling products, you can sell services too. Amazon Home & Business Services is a primary example.
Humans are visual beings, thus gravitate towards images. If you can take pictures, that’s a skill you can monetize. Aside from doing photography, you can take pictures and sell them to stock sites. Decide what types of images you want to take and what the best platform for your niche is. For instance, Nature Picture Library Is great for nature images while Shutterstock would be good for images of people.
If you love cooking, taking pictures of food is another avenue for generating income. Says Steffa Mantilla of Money Tamer: “If you love to cook and can take great pictures, you can snap some in-process photos and final pics of your meals. You can then sell your pictures and recipes online to food bloggers. The best way for a new person to sell is by joining food content buy/sell Facebook groups. Semi-exclusive photos can be sold for around $30 to up to four bloggers. If you offer exclusive well-edited photos, you can earn up to $300.”
Teaching is another side hustle that could earn you a lucrative income. students young and old often need help with core subjects while others need help learning languages. Sarah Wilson from The Budget Girl suggests teaching as a side hustle.
EXPERT: Sarah Wilson – The Budget Girl
“If you have a college degree, online teaching can be one of the higher-earning hourly ways to work at home. Companies like VIPKid and MagicEars pay $12-26 per hour to go through their English-learning curriculum with non-native speakers. Also, as most of their customers are based in China, the highest paying hours fall early in the morning, allowing most people to do it outside their normal work hours. Some of these programs require a teaching certification, but those that don’t can be started within a couple weeks and pay quickly.”
You don’t need creative or technical skills to have a side hustle. There is a market for odd jobs, so consider taking that route. Think about finding one odd job you want to focus on instead of taking up tons of different ones. Biron Clark gives insight, saying,
“I do think you should aim to specialize in one thing, though. Doing all sorts of odd jobs is going to leave you underpaid and unable to optimize your workflow and improve your processes, since you’ll be doing something completely different on each project.”
See if one of these odd jobs below is something you can do.
Pets are a major responsibility, and sometimes owners need help. They often hire pet sitters to help them care for their pets while they’re away. This is a great opportunity for pet lovers, and they charge anything from $15-30 hourly.
Every business needs to manage their data, and many have it in excess. If you have a computer or laptop, consider doing this part-time. You could also try transcribing, taking surveys, or perform data collection for extra income. These are jobs that don’t require creativity and are somewhat straightforward.
Kyle Kroeger, founder of Financial Wolves, gives useful advice:
EXPERT: Kyle Kroeger – Financial Wolves
“If you feel like you don’t have a ton of high-value skills, you can always do things like transcription where you write out audio or video clips into text. This area is growing rapidly, as vloggers and podcasters want to turn their posts into more “evergreen” content. Also, there’s a ton of people that need help with data entry and virtual assistant type work as the world moves to a more distributed workforce. To find these jobs, you can use Rev.com for transcription or Upwork for more virtual assistant data-entry work.”
Most adults are busy and don’t have enough time for home maintenance or management. You could offer a lending hand by cleaning, cooking, or running errands. Some household helpers also help with transportation and childcare, too. Wages are typically hourly, so it’s left to you to negotiate a good rate.
As long as people are tired of cooking or want a taste for something different, we will always need food delivery. You can look for work delivering food for local food restaurants or join companies like DoorDash, Instacart, or UberEats. The pay ranges from $8-$18 depending on tips.
Do you have a natural-born talent for fixing things? Try doing handy jobs like assembling furniture. It’s a service people always need, and you won’t need much but a toolbox to get started. Light plumbing and electrical jobs as well as hanging a TV are other types of handyman jobs you can do.
Finding well-paid freelance work
So, where do you find a platform to find freelance work? Start with finding out if there’s a platform that caters to your niche. As Kat Lewis from The Wary Worker suggests:
EXPERT: Kat Lewis – The Wary Worker
“If someone has a niche talent, like writing, graphic design, or web design, it’s in their best interest to utilize freelance platforms that cater more to their skill instead of a catch-all platform. For instance, Toptal is a great freelance platform if your talent is in development or design, Pro Blogger’s job board is one of the most reputable places for freelance writers to find paying gigs, Aquent caters to freelance marketers, and Belay is a company that pays freelancers up to $18.00 an hour to perform bookkeeping, web management, and executive assistant work.”
Here are other platforms where you can find freelance work.
Sometimes, companies hire remote talent to reduce overhead costs. Hubstaff Talent is a free platform that enables individuals and employers to source freelancers with the skills they need.
Dave Nevogt of Hubstaff expands on this, explaining:
EXPERT: Dave Nevogt – Hubstaff Talent
“Hubstaff Talent has a wide range of jobs that are 100% remote. Design, writing, customer support, and social media management job postings are all currently seeking applicants. You can also track time and get paid using Hubstaff to make sure you’re getting exactly what you’re owed.”
A hidden gem people often overlook when looking for freelance work is Facebook. There are groups for just about everything, so see if you can find business-related ones. Business owners are always looking for freelancers to complete projects or work with on an ongoing basis. Whitney Bonds of Tried and True Mom Jobs bolsters this point.
EXPERT: Whitney Bonds – Tried and True Mom Jobs
“Facebook groups are HUGE! I’m in many entrepreneur Facebook groups, and I often see business owners reaching out to see if anyone knows anyone that can do editing, writing, graphic design, website work, and the list goes on. If you’re active in Facebook groups like this, you can easily score some freelance work and from people who are willing to pay a nice price for quality work.”
Be active in the group and look out for any ads or opportunities. Have your portfolio ready in case a prospect asks for samples of your work. Also, check for groups in your niche as they may post opportunities or suggest platforms where you can find gigs.
This platform provides access to remote jobs across various industries. It’s free to browse the job opportunities, but if you’d like access to more perks, become a member. They have a 14 -day free trial, after which it costs $14.99/month. With that comes online courses, freelance resources, and discounts on industry events. Additionally, Media Bistro offers Freelance Connect where you can create a profile and make yourself visible to thousands of employers.
Upwork is a job board that allows you to submit proposals to individuals and businesses looking for services. You can bid for jobs and charge an hourly rate or flat fee for the project. How do you beat the competition and stand out from the crowd?
“I recently hosted copywriter Daniel Throssell on The Side Hustle Show, and he shared his tactics for getting noticed on Upwork. Instead of applying for every gig, he’d go overboard researching and applying for the ones he thought he’d be the best fit for, even to the point of creating custom portfolio pieces to share,” Nick Loper shares.
Upwork , so the more you earn, the less they charge. More specifically, they deduct:
- 20% for the first $500 billed with a client
- 10% for lifetime billings with the client between $500.01 and $10,000
- 5% for lifetime billings with the client that exceed $10,000
Another platform to add to the list is FlexJobs. They update their platform daily and have tons of jobs you can browse through. Their services start at $6.95, making it relatively affordable.
Toni Frana from FlexJobs says:
EXPERT: Toni Frana – FlexJobs
“For those quick, task-based, short-term jobs, FlexJobs has created a guide to freelance and gig job platforms to help people identify which gig job sites might be the right fit for them.”
If you want something long-term, FlexJobs can help you find that too.FlexJobs is a great place to go for more professional-level and ongoing freelance work, and we’ve created a list of high-paying side jobs to help get people started.—Toni Frana of @flexjobs Click To Tweet
Fiverr is like Upwork, as it’s also a platform with hundreds of thousands of freelancers bidding for jobs. Because there are so many freelancers competing for work, employers will settle for the cheapest bidder. However, to avoid being at a loss, ensure you price your services high enough. Keep in mind Fiverr charges 20% of the total amount you earn plus PayPal fees.
Daniella Flores from I Like to Dabble expands on this, suggesting you consider all costs before setting your prices on platforms like Fiverr.
EXPERT: Daniella Flores – I Like to Dabble
“You have to price their services high enough to pay for any expenses, admin work and overhead, and the fees that those platforms take.”
Another strategy is starting low and then increasing prices once you build trust.
Steff Mantilla shares a pricing strategy that could work for you. “…If you’re using a platform like Fiverr, lower price points typically attract new clients. To make it worth your time, only offer your skills in packages that make sense at lower pay. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you can offer a simple outline logo for $50. Then once a client trusts you and likes the quality of your work, you can offer more in-depth design packages at your normal market rate.”
How to get quality odd jobs
Don’t feel left out if you don’t have any creative skills. Several platforms that cater to the needs of people looking for odd jobs, too.Appen, Lionbridge, and iSoftStone are great sites for people who aren't creative or feel like they have a particular skill they can market and sell to clients.—@AshleeWrites of Work from Home Happiness Click To Tweet
Browse these sites for odd jobs and you may come across ones you can do. Ashlee continues, “these companies have a lot of freelance virtual tasks ranging from ads assessment, online research, data collection, social media assessor, and web content judge. You don’t need previous experience to work on a project as training is provided.”
An ultimate site for odd jobs is TaskRabbit. You’ll find a variety of jobs from planting flowers to fixing a running toilet. “TaskRabbit is perhaps the most common odd jobs platform. You can find any nearby job from assembling Ikea furniture to running errands to yard work and more. The platform makes it easy to find local tasks within your area of expertise,” says Dave Nevogt.
The good thing about Facebook groups is you can use them to find creative or odd jobs. Loper suggests posting on your local community Facebook group, NextDoor page, or popping flyers in mailboxes to help improve demand.
He continues, “Erica Krupin built her poop-scooping side hustle to $1,000 a week by advertising in local Facebook groups and getting in front of her target customers where they already were — pet stores, vet offices, dog parks.”
Have you ever scrolled down your timeline and seen someone advertising their services? They’re onto something as letting people know what you do can land you jobs. Sharing what you do will keep you at the forefront of their mind in case they need your services. Even if your followers don’t need your services, they could refer you to someone who does.
You can find almost everything on this site—jobs included. Scroll the job board and look for any odd jobs that match your skills. Ben Huber from Dollar Sprout shares his point of view:
EXPERT: Ben Huber – DollarSprout
“Sites like TaskRabbit and Craigslist are good if you’re handy or comfortable with manual jobs. Instawork is perfect for those in the foodservice and hospitality industries.”
Turning your side hustle into a business
You’ve found a side hustle and are generating a steady flow of income, what’s next? Should you turn your successful side hustle into a business? The answer is, maybe. It all depends on your goals and the nature of your business. You also need to weigh out the pros and cons of each option.
Scaling your side hustle
If you want to scale your side hustle, registering a business is a good idea. For example, there are but so many clients you can take on as a consultant, so you may consider starting a full-on consultancy. As Biron Clark states, you’re trading time for money as you’re limited to how many hours you can work daily.
Biron then explains how you can scale a service-based hustle and earn more without having to sacrifice time you don’t have.
“You can overcome this by hiring staff in the future, or by expanding to offer books, courses, and more. (I did this successfully, and now sell an online course and multiple e-books in the job searching and careers niche; I no longer offer individual coaching and no longer trade my time for money, and profits have grown exponentially since making this shift).”
That said, if you aren’t interested in scaling and just need extra cash every month, then you may not need to register your side gig as a business.
EXPERTS: Melissa & Murphy – FitnFunds
“If someone wants to start a side hustle to earn some extra cash, then there is no need to start a formal business.”
Get legal advice
If you decide registering a business is the way to go, seek professional advice. It’s critical you’re aware of the legal and tax implications of running a business.
As Melissa and Murphy advise, “if someone wants to turn that side hustle into a full-time career, then we would recommend they go through the necessary steps and possibly seek legal guidance to make sure that side hustle is registered as the appropriate type of business. For example, a fictitious business name statement at their local municipality or converting the side hustle business name into a sole proprietorship.”
Kyle Kroeger suggests where to start if you want to convert to a business.
“I think a single member LLC is a good place to start. Especially if you believe that your business might have some liability risks associated with it. If you are doing simple work via a freelance platform, you are fine to be just a sole proprietor.”
Tax implications of freelance business
When you start a side hustle, it’s easy to forget about taxes. However, if you don’t want to pay a large sum unexpectedly, you must keep it in mind. Freelancers are considered self-employed, so their income is taxable and you must pay business taxes.
How much are taxes?
If you earn $400 or more in freelance work, you pay self-employment tax of 15.3%, plus income tax. It goes towards covering Social Security and Medicare.Freelancers must pay taxes in their side business. You are responsible for paying taxes on money earned — not the person paying you. Taxes are not withheld from your earnings.—@AshleeWrites of Work from Home Happiness Click To Tweet
Also, note, for tax brackets, freelance income, and employment income are often combined.
Mantilla explains in detail stating, “everyone’s tax implications will be different depending on how much they earn in their full-time job and other factors. Usually, you have to make a certain threshold before you’re required to pay quarterly taxes on your business income. Depending on your current tax bracket, adding a side income could push you over into the next highest tax bracket. This additional tax amount would only be applied to the percentage of income that is in that threshold and not your entire earnings.”
How to file taxes
If you decide not to register a business, then you’ll be filing as a sole proprietor. Weiss suggests you get an EIN number (which is free), if you don’t want to use your Social Security number when completing tax forms.
You will need to use one of two forms when filing as a freelancer or self-employed; a 1099 or a 1040.You'll likely receive a 1099 since you'll be an independent contractor. You should save some money from your earnings to pay taxes down the road on these earnings...—Kyle Kroeger of @financialwolves Click To Tweet
Keeping track of your taxes
To avoid falling behind, you should set aside money every time you get paid and use software or an Excel sheet to keep track of your income. Keep in mind that the IRS expects you to pay estimated quarterly taxes every quarter. If not, you’ll find yourself looking for money to pay taxes last minute and you’ll end up paying a higher rate.
“That means you have to keep accurate records of payments received and make quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS. Software, like QuickBooks, makes it easy to keep track of money coming in and going out of your freelance business and will even help you estimate your taxes due every quarter,” Ashlee continues.
By setting aside tax money, you save yourself stress when it comes time to file. Also, do enough research so you know what your responsibilities as a freelancer are.
Toni Frana has great tips on getting organized. “… Be sure to save everything, and develop an organizational system that allows you to keep receipts, pay stubs, invoices, etc. all in one place, so when it comes to doing your taxes, everything is ready and where you need it to be. And it may be worth talking to a tax professional about your freelance work to make sure you’re meeting your obligations, like paying quarterly taxes, finding the right deductions, and other details.”
As you can see, a great deal of research, time, and effort go into running a side hustle. Hopefully, the financial gains make it worthwhile.