Best Side Hustles for 2021
For a young professional, one of the hardest habits to break is relying on your employer for money and happiness. If you want to get ahead in life, you need to work for both of these things. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
The truth is you’re probably not going to get rich on year-end bonuses. And there is a big difference between working for someone else and getting two weeks of paid vacation per year and being in control over your own schedule.
If you want to live the good life, with more money and flexibility, you’re going to have to become financially independent. And for most people, this requires taking on one or more side hustles in addition to your full-time job.
But where should you even start? This article provides some business ideas that you can consider to bring in extra income and start putting more aside to plan for your financial future.
First Up: What is a Side Hustle?
A side hustle is a part-time job that you take on to supplement the income from your day job.
In some cases, you can build off your full-time job and do things that are related to your profession and skill-set. In other instances, you may want to consider taking on a different line of work in your spare time to avoid burnout.
Is it Legal to Have a Side Hustle?
Generally speaking, it is legal to work one or more jobs in addition to your full-time employment. So, you won’t have to worry about breaking the law by working a side hustle.
That said, your employer may restrict working a second job depending on the nature of your profession. For example, if you are heavily involved with your company and bound by a non-compete clause, your hands may be tied when it comes to taking on a second job.
Best practices call for scouring your employment agreement that you signed when you started your full-time job. In certain cases, you may even want to consult with an attorney in advance to avoid any potential legal complications that may arise after getting started. If you fail to take the proper precautions, you could find yourself dealing with a potential lawsuit.
The good news is that most people don’t have to worry about binding non-compete clauses and can probably proceed without having to jump through many hoops. But it always pays to be careful before taking on a new endeavor.
Benefits of a Side Hustle
So, why should you consider starting a side hustle? There are many reasons for doing so, which we’ll briefly examine next.
Make More Money
By working a side hustle, you can bring in more cash and start socking it away toward retirement. The more money you bring in now, the less you’ll have to work later in life. There’s never a better time than right now when it comes to making money.
Pay Down Debt
Let’s face it: Being in debt is no fun. That said, there’s no reason to be ashamed if you fall into debt. Plenty of people do for various reasons.
By working a side hustle, you can pay down student loans or credit card debt and get yourself in a situation where you can start saving more. Starting a side hustle is an excellent way to pay down debt and create a better financial situation for yourself.
Expand Your Skills
We’re living in an unstable world, where many workers are at risk of displacement. The best way to protect yourself is to keep learning, growing, and expanding your skills. If you get complacent, you’ll get lazy. And being lazy is a terrible trap to fall into.
Working a side hustle can teach you valuable skills that you can use to improve your trade and knowledge and become a more well-rounded person.
Make no mistake about it: Investing in yourself is one of the most important things you can do in life. Try to learn something new every day — like how to become a blogger or how to open up a shop on Etsy — even if it’s something small and seemingly insignificant.
Build Your Own Career
In the past, people went to school, got a degree, went into a certain field, and then worked until retirement. However, the world has changed significantly. It’s up to you to build your own career and determine where you want to go in life. And by starting a side hustle, you can open doors that you never thought were possible.
Keep in mind that if you start a side hustle, there is a nonzero chance that you can become extremely successful beyond your wildest imagination. Plenty of people have done it before. And you can do it, too, if you set your mind to it.
Tips for Starting a Side Hustle
Here are a few important things to keep in mind before launching a side hustle.
Budget Your Time Wisely
One of the hardest parts about working a side hustle is time management — especially if you’re already working a full 40 hours or more every week. Starting a side hustle could require getting savvy about how you spend time in the mornings, evenings, and weekends.
That’s right — you might have to say goodbye to your Saturdays and Sundays if you’re considering a side hustle. You’re about to start working a lot more. But as millions of side hustlers who own small businesses know well, it can all be worth it.
A word to the wise: Make it a point not to work too hard or you could risk burning out. And if you absolutely need a day off, budget time for that. Go slow at first, so that you don’t bite off way more than you can chew for your side hustle and regret your decision.
Be Smart about How You Manage Money
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you’re successful, paychecks could start to roll in faster than you anticipate. If you’re not careful, this could create some unintended consequences.
For example, if you’re working under the table or freelancing as a 1099 employee, you’ll still have to pay taxes on the money you earn. Consider working with a tax advisor so that you don’t fall behind and owing a large chunk in earnings to Uncle Sam when tax season rolls around.
In addition, you may also have to start hounding people for money you’re owed. When you work a full-time job, it’s easy to get spoiled having checks roll in every week or two like clockwork. This is not always the case when you work a side hustle or found a startup.
Over time, though, you’ll learn to strike a balance and understand when to be patient and when to be aggressive about payment. If you’re not careful, some people are going to try to take advantage of you.
It’s also a good idea to set up a retirement plan if you haven’t already done so to delay having to pay taxes on capital gains and dividends when you start investing your side hustle money.
Be Careful About How You Promote Yourself
Even if you’re legally allowed to start a side hustle, your employer may not like the fact that you’re working extra on the side instead of devoting all your spare time to the company. So, it’s best to be smart about how you promote yourself if you want to avoid any awkward conversations. For example, broadcasting to LinkedIn that you’re working on the side may generate questions — mainly because it could signal that the company isn’t paying you enough.
That said, if you’re a savvy business person, you may be able to use your side hustle to your advantage when asking for more money from your employer when it’s time for a raise.
Only you can determine whether this is a smart move. But it is a potential way to get more out of your full-time job.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job (Yet)
As we said, there is a legitimate chance that you’re going to start bringing it a substantial chunk of money once you start a side hustle. However, be smart about quitting your day job and going to work full-time for yourself. This can be a risky move if you’re not prepared.
Before you quit and start working for yourself full-time, make sure you are in a position to absorb risk. You should also take a look at your side income, think about how stable it is, and determine how you can potentially bring in more leads for yourself.
Remember that working for yourself can seem great. But there are hoops that you have to jump through to make it work — like paying taxes, bringing in new customers, budgeting for seasonal dips, dealing with competitors, and more. Be smart before you take the plunge and turn your side gig into your full-time profession.
Best Side Hustle Ideas for 2021
Now that you have a basic understanding of how side hustles work and what you should consider before starting one, here are some ideas to help you make more money online or offline in 2021.
- Social Media Management
- Social Media Influencer
- Freelance Graphic Design
- Freelance Writing
- Online Bookkeeping
- Notary Work
- Online Proofreading
- Online Teaching
- Virtual Assistance
- Participating in Surveys
- Renting Your Assets
- Flipping Items
- Real Estate Investing
- Walking Dogs
- Performing Microtasks
Postmates, DoorDash, and Grubhub
Demand is at an all-time high for online food delivery, as many local restaurants have shut down their dining rooms and many consumers are staying home to stay safe. In some areas, you can make up to $50 per hour in your spare time once you optimize this side hustle by driving for apps like Instacart, Postmates, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
Uber or Lyft
Driving for a rideshare service is another excellent way to bring in cash on your own schedule at a decent hourly rate. As long as you have a solid car and a clean driving record, you can download Lyft and Uber and start driving around picking up passengers. This is a great option for people who live in populated areas.
2. Social Media Management
If you’re savvy on social media and you have a healthy following to prove it, consider starting an online business and working with companies as a social media advisor. Many companies are looking for help with their social strategies and they may hire you on a part-time basis to manage their accounts. That means you can make money acquiring new followers, tweeting, and posting on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
One thing to consider is that companies may want you to be available throughout the day as a social media advisor. If you can’t swing this, consider working as a consultant on a monthly retainer. Instead of making yourself available during the week, help the company develop a social media strategy and content creation plan to help drive more sales from their social channels.
3. Social Media Influencer
Another way that you can make money on social media is to become an influencer. This strategy involves building a social media audience and working with brands to promote products via photos and videos.
You can make a lot of money as an influencer and you can also get some great perks like free products and services. However, the tradeoff is that it’s hard work and requires a big commitment to do a good and consistent job.
4. Freelance Graphic Design
Talented design professionals who know how to work with programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Gimp should consider working a side hustle as a freelance designer.
You can bring in a healthy income designing things like t-shirts, mugs, and hats. Or you may want to go into website, logo, or email design.
Freelance design is an excellent way to bring in extra cash and make a name for yourself in a particular niche industry. With the right approach, you’ll be able to sell your artwork and put your skills to the test.
5. Freelance Writing
Freelance writers can also bring in money producing digital content for companies. Organizations often like working with writers as 1099 employees because they are flexible to work with and cost less than full-time employees. If you’re good and capable of turning around work quickly, you can make up to $0.50 per word with scalable potential.
Regardless of whether you’re in design or writing, here are some sites to check out.
- Fiverr – Fiverr is a leading freelance marketplace connecting businesses with workers.
- Upwork – Upwork is a marketplace like Fiverr, where businesses and freelancers can connect and form partnerships.
- Toptal – Toptal is another leading service that all freelancers should explore.
If you have particular industry knowledge or an area of expertise and a way with words, you should consider starting and managing your own blog.
Here’s the trick to making money with blogging: advertise. You can use a service like Google AdSense to host ads. And if you start to build content and a regular audience, you may even be able to negotiate your own advertisements with partnering companies.
7. Online Bookkeeping
If you are digitally oriented and love numbers, there is a growing demand for online bookkeeping. Much like freelancing, this can be especially lucrative and secure — especially if you can partner with organizations that are making a lot of money and are in high demand.
8. Notary Work
For roughly $100, you can get certified to be a notary in most states across the U.S. As a notary, you can be an impartial witness when people sign loans and other documents. This is something that you can do in your spare time by visiting homes and businesses. This is a great way to make an extra $1,000 to $2,000 per month.
9. Online Proofreading
Working as an online proofreader is an excellent way to earn money for yourself. Just like blogging, you can start off slow and work your way up the ladder to earn more money.
As an added bonus, you’ll get paid to learn about exciting things like technology, food, or cars while helping others hone their ideas and present great work.
If you want to learn more, I recommend this FREE 76 minute workshop that will teach you how to create your own proofreading or copyediting business.
Amazon isn’t just for buying cool items and gifts. There are a few ways you can make money on Amazon, too.
Amazon Handmade is a service that makes it easy for artists to sell wares and handmade gifts. You can use Handmade as a platform to offer your items to the general public. It’s kind of like Etsy, online Amazon-style.
Kindle Direct Publishing
Another way for creatives and even industry experts to make money on Amazon is to use Kindle Direct Publishing, a platform that lets you write content and sell your work to the public. If you have a following online, this could be a great way to keep more of your profits compared to a traditional publishing arrangement.
If you have a community, blog, or website, you can make money by working as an affiliate. This involves strategically linking to Amazon and receiving commissions when someone buys products after clicking your link.
Want a glimpse at just how many affiliate programs are out there? Check out my list of 101 awesome affiliate programs.
11. Online Teaching
If you have a specific area of expertise and you’re good at working with others, you should consider teaching a course online. People are willing to pay decent money to learn new skills, meaning you could make a killing if you can plan material and connect with others.
Teach English with VIPkid
VIPKid is a platform that lets you get paid to teach English to students in one-on-one sessions. You can set your own schedule so that you can work where you want and when you want without having to commit to specific hours.
Host Online Courses
Another site that pays you to work as an instructor is Udemy, a platform that lets people create online courses and tutorials for global audiences. Udemy is a great way to earn money as an instructor on a flexible basis.
12. Virtual Assistant
Working as a virtual assistant can be a steady source of cash — if you have the time and flexibility to devote to the job during the day. This is great for people who work nights or at odd hours and are looking for another gig to bring in some extra cash.
Working as a virtual assistant can be demanding at times and it’s important that you interview the individual to make sure that it’s a good fit. You’ll be doing things like scheduling meetings and speaking engagements, arranging transportation, and handling logistics. It might not be glamorous work. But it’s a great opportunity to network and meet new people while also bringing in more money on the side.
Oftentimes, you can find virtual assistant opportunities through sites like LinkedIn and Craigslist.
If you want to learn more, here’s a 30 days to Virtual Assistant Success course.
Dropshipping is a type of business model that allows you to sell items without having to maintain any stock.
In short, the customer places an order from an online store. Then your store automatically routes the order to a dropshipping partner. From there, the partner processes and fulfills the order — giving you a cut of the proceeds without having to do any of the work.
To start a dropshipping business, you’ll first need to find an ecommerce provider that lets you host an online store. For example, Shopify is one company that can serve as a dropshipping enabler.
14. Participating in Surveys and Online Focus Groups
If you’re looking for an easy way to make a few bucks without putting out much of an effort, consider working with sites that provide access to online focus groups and surveys.
These sites don’t have super high payouts. But they’re a great way to earn small monetary rewards and even gift cards to your favorite stores.
- Swagbucks – Swagbucks is a site that pays you to take surveys and shop at your favorite stores.
- Survey Junkie – Survey Junkie is a similar site that pays you to share your opinions and act as an influencer. You can also test products and participate in focus groups.
Disclaimer: These two sites are legitimate. But there are a lot of scams out there, so be careful when using survey sites to make cash.
15. Renting Your Assets
Rent Your Car
If you’re working from home or in an office during the day, consider putting your car to use on a site like Turo, which lets you rent your vehicle to anyone in the local area. This can help make you make car payments or pay for gas and repairs.
Rent Your House on Airbnb
If you have a house or rent an apartment, you can make your private space available to people from around the world who need temporary lodging using a site like Airbnb.
Airbnb is a great service because it gives you the flexibility to set house rules and vet who is renting your space. The site offers great visibility and safety services and makes it easy to accommodate guests.
This is an excellent way to pay down your mortgage or reduce rent by bringing in extra cash without having to do much at all besides keeping a clean and welcoming space. It’s also a great way to meet world travelers and grow your personal network.
Craigslist is a bit like the Wild West in that virtually anything goes, so you have to be careful when using this site to find work. However, if you’re savvy about using Craigslist and willing to sort through scams, it’s a solid go-to source for work.
You can use Craigslist to find virtually any type of employment, ranging from temporary labor jobs to long-term arrangements. You’ll be surprised at what you can find on this helpful directory. Just be safe about who you do business with on Craigslist, as it’s loaded with scams and could even put you in physical danger.
17. Flipping Items
If you have a lot of collectibles or electronics, consider selling your unwanted treasures on a site like eBay.
The way to make money on eBay as a side hustle is to sell an item, use the proceeds to buy another item, and then turn around and sell that at auction. If you get good at this, you can bring in steady money without having to do much work at all. eBay is a trusted platform and it can be a solid revenue generator if you have an eye for good deals and are good at online marketing.
You should also look into ItsWorthMore, a site that lets you sell your used electronics for cash.
It has never been easier to flip books online thanks to new apps like Bookscouter, which enables you to scan any book and find out how much you can sell it for across many different used book buyers. So, if you are a book lover with a full library at your disposal, consider putting some of those on the market. Side note: Jeff Bezos started selling books, too…
Like a blog, a podcast can be an excellent source of revenue if you can identify a niche topic that provides value, create strong content, and sell advertising space.
People are often intimidated by the idea of starting a podcast because they think they need professional-grade audio quality. However, the truth is that anyone can start a podcast. It’s the quality of the content that counts.
For example, maybe you are an amazing storyteller or you have friends and business connections that can offer value in the form of business content or comedy. All you need is a condenser microphone, an audio editing platform, and a site to host your material and you’ll be on your way to launching a program.
20. Real Estate Investing
If you have enough money saved to put a down payment on a house and pay a mortgage, you may want to consider buying a rental property. This is a great way to make passive income if you find a place in an area with a steady stream of tourists — like a beach town or ski town.
Just keep in mind that real estate can be risky and expensive. If you don’t have the means to get involved with real estate, you should consider investing in real estate through a real estate investment trust (REIT). This can be immensely profitable with far less hassle. You can buy into a REIT through a brokerage firm like Fidelity or Schwab, or use a REIT-focused platform like Diversyfund.
21. Walking Dogs
For an animal lover, there’s nothing better than getting paid to take care of furry critters. You can make a decent income walking dogs or petsitting animals like cats and birds.
Starting a dog walking business is something that you can do pretty easily — without having to set up a website. However, you may want to take out insurance to cover yourself in case something bad happens.
As an added bonus, dog walkers are typically paid under the table for added flexibility. Of course, you’ll still have to pay money in taxes. So it’s important to keep a running record of your income to avoid running into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
If you’re better working with kids than animals, then you should look into babysitting. Being a sitter is another flexible and convenient way to get paid for doing relatively easy work (assuming the kids aren’t total nightmares!).
Working as a babysitter may require you to give up your nights and weekends, so make sure that you’re available during those times if you decide to go this route. Also, keep in mind that consistency and availability are requirements for this job if you want to do well. Above all else, parents want babysitters that are patient, able to work with kids, and around when their services are needed.
23. Performing Microtasks
There is always a strong demand for handiwork. So, if you are good at doing household work like shopping for groceries, raking leaves, or painting, you should look into a service like TaskRabbit.
- TaskRabbit enables you to hook up with local homeowners who are willing to pay for menial tasks they do not want to do. You’ll have to hustle to make money. But it’s flexible and convenient.
- Field Agent is another gig finding service that connects workers with field marketing type jobs, such as mystery shopping, in-store retail auditing, and virtual product demonstrations.
Can you make a lot of money with a ridesharing service?
It largely depends on who you are driving for and where you are located. Keep in mind, too, that if you work for a company like Uber or Lyft, you’ll have to give them a cut of every ride.
It can potentially be more lucrative making a side business driving people around town. Consider starting your own business and shuttling around people as a personal driver. This is a great way to cut out middlemen and earn more cash.
Is side hustling respectable?
The short answer is that it doesn’t matter. In fact, you don’t even have to tell other people that you’re working more than one job to make ends meet or get ahead. What you do to earn a living is your business and your business alone.
How can you make money with ecommerce?
The best way to make money with ecommerce is to leverage an existing platform like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon and offer great products. It can take time to master this hustle. But if you are selling great products, come up with successful marketing strategies, and put in the work, you can earn a significant amount of income.
How do I narrow down my side hustle ideas?
It’s easy: Have a brainstorm and think of all the various ways you can make money. Think about what you really want to do and isolate the top two or three moneymakers. Stick with one at a time and master it so that you don’t put too many irons in the fire. You’ll know when you are ready to expand and take on more work.
What is passive income?
Passive income is money that you bring in without having to spend too much ongoing time or money. For example, renting properties can be an example of passive monthly income, particularly if you hire a property management company to take care of all tenant relations.
How do you get ahead in the gig economy?
The only way to get ahead in the gig economy is to hustle. At the same time, you have to manage money wisely and put your money to work in the stock market or in a high-interest savings account. Let your money grow as you bring it in and resist spending all of it. It can disappear faster than you think.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re trying to get ahead in life or make up for lost time, working a side hustle is an excellent way to bring in extra income. The bottom line is you have unlimited earning potential, and you most likely have the skills to start making more for yourself.
Remember that the best side hustles are the ones that let you bring in extra money while giving you complete control over your schedule. A great side hustle complements your full-time job while pairing you with local business owners and community members who need services. With the right side hustle and the determination needed to make it succeed, you can make a lot of money working for yourself in your spare time.
And take my word for it: There’s nothing better than the feeling of being your own boss.