A side business is something you do to earn extra money on the side of a day job. According to Zapier, 40% of Americans have one, and another 36% plan to start one in 2022.
Those with a side hustle spend 13.4 hours each week working on it, making $12,869 per year from their side business. You can use the money you’ve made to pay off debt, invest, or splurge on a treat for yourself.
Financial benefits aside, pursuing a side business idea gives you a chance to build a new skill set. Entrepreneurs also enjoy the satisfaction of creating a business while forging a new career path that gives greater security amidst layoffs.
Do you want to start a side business but aren’t sure about what you can make money from? Here are 22 side business ideas you can start today.
22 side business ideas
- Start a photography business
- Start a clothing line
- Sell your skills
- Become a virtual assistant
- Teach a language
- Start a cleaning business
- Become an event planner
- Start a house- or pet-sitting business
- Be a user tester
- Become a dropshipper
- Rent your space
- Sell thrift store finds
- Become an influencer
- Teach a class
- Start affiliate marketing
- Become a rideshare driver
- Deliver food
- Write an ebook
- Sell online courses
- Sell your art
- Private label your own products
- Sell handmade goods
1. Start a photography business
Turn a passion for photography into a side business. Promote your photography services in your local area and earn a few hundred dollars per photoshoot. Alicia Ho of Precious Ones Photography turned her hobby into a gratifying business. “The ability to get the creative juices flowing while creating heirloom artwork that will last a lifetime for families is such an incredible feeling” she says. You can follow her example and:
- Photograph newborn babies
- Work with local businesses to photograph their store or products
- Start a successful wedding photography business
- Partner with event managers to photograph local events
Expand your horizons (and make more money) by selling your photos online. Sites like Stocksy, Shutterstock, and Alamy pay photographers when their photos are commissioned, downloaded, or sold. It can be a very lucrative business if local people don’t typically pay for photoshoots.
2. Start a clothing line
The clothing industry is big business. Global consumers spend $775 billion on fashion ecommerce every year. Get a slice of that spend by using the print-on-demand model.
Platforms like Printful, Lulu Direct, and Printify allow you to upload your design onto t-shirts, sweaters, hats, and more.
The best part about this side business idea is you don’t need to invest tons of cash upfront. Whenever you receive an order through your online store, print-on-demand suppliers will print your design and ship it to the customer—no need to hold inventory yourself.
3. Sell your skills
Selling your skills is a profitable business idea if you’re on a budget. Most skill-based businesses are free to start since you don’t need inventory. You can also do free marketing by asking if anyone in your network needs help.
Look at the skills you already have and research whether they’re in high demand—either as a service or as advice through a consulting business.
Popular side hustle ideas you can start alongside a day job include:
- Freelance writing
- Online dating consultant
- Personal training
Ashley R. Cummings took this approach when starting her side business. “I was working as a full-time corporate trainer and also teaching Russian at the university,” she says. “My background was in English and I’d always loved writing, so I started taking on projects slowly. Eventually, I had enough clients to replace my full-time income from my 9-to-5 and teaching. So, I quit and started my freelance writing business.”
4. Become a virtual assistant
Do you have incredible organization skills? Monetize them by becoming a virtual assistant. You’ll manage the administrative side of a business remotely, making it one of the best home business ideas to do on the side of a day job.
It’s a virtual assistants’ responsibility to:
- Schedule appointments
- Arrange travel
- Manage emails
- Take and receive phone calls
Ariana Rodriguez started her virtual assistant business in April 2021. It cost $2,000 to get the side business up and running. That included a website, business course, and technology she’d need to run a virtual assistant business.
“In April, I began making $700 a month,” Ariana says. “By December I was making $6,000 a month and working a full-time job. I was able to hire a subcontractor to make the work more sustainable.”
5. Teach a language
The online language learning market is forecast to be worth $25.73 billion by 2027. If you speak two (or more!) languages, monetize your skill by starting a side business that teaches other people how to do the same.
The most popular languages include:
- Chinese (Mandarin)
Create your own website and offer one-to-one virtual classes. Or join an online language learning platform like Skooli, VIPKid, or Qkids. Tutors can earn up to $23 per hour teaching English on the side.
You could also host group classes in a free-to-rent space, such as a community center—many of which are keen to make education accessible to locals.
6. Start a cleaning business
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported almost 800,000 maids and housekeeping cleaners in the US during 2020. It’s a low-cost business idea that’s easy to get off the ground. A $100 investment in cleaning supplies can quickly be earned back.
Take it from Brian Winch, author of Cleanlots, who started a cleaning business on the side “with little money, skills and education, but plenty of passion, patience and persistence.
“I provide a parking lot litter cleaning service for property management companies. My service is performed on-foot using simple hand tools. Almost as easy to do as going for a walk! We walk the exterior property outside commercial properties and sweep up litter material into our collection tools then empty into waste bins on site.”
It cost Brian $250 to start the company. Eight weeks later, the side business idea ended up making more money than his full-time job. It now grosses between $650,000 and $700,000 per year.
“I started my business on the side because I wanted the security from the income of my day job to pay the bills while I gained experience growing my business,” Brian says. “The income I generated from my side hustle was invested back into it to grow.”
7. Become an event planner
People spend over $3 billion each year in the event planning sector. From weddings and birthday parties to corporate events, taking over the organizational aspect of hosting an event can earn you extra money.
Amber Sironen-Massey took this approach when starting her side business, Epic Elopements. The wedding planning business handles everything from legalizing the marriage, organizing vendors, and signing contracts.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sustain a full income and needed more money to get the business going, so quitting my day job wasn’t an option,” Amber says. “I also wanted to make sure that I was on the right track with my market audience and that I was building traction before jumping in head first.”
Amber’s event planning business is going so well, she plans to quit her full-time job in a few months’ time: “By the end of this year, I will have tripled my sales from our first year, so our growth rate is strong. I know I can’t continue that type of growth while being dedicated to someone else’s business full time.
“It’s a little scary taking the leap, but I have the demand and I know that being able to focus on my own business full time, I will grow even more.”
8. Start a house- or pet-sitting business
More than 80 million people in the US own pets. Many of those people also take vacations without their pet, which means they need someone to take care of them while they’re away.
Owners often look for a dog walking business or pet boarder on platforms like Rover. It’s an added bonus if you have pet-related qualifications, such as first aid or animal behavior. But most of all, you need to reassure potential clients their pet will be safe in your care.
If you’re not confident with pets, offer to take care of someone’s home while they’re on vacation. House sitters can earn between $25 and $30 per day, though this increases for overnight stays, the size of a house, and its location. Combine this with a full-time job that allows you to work remotely to earn extra income with minimal disruption to your job.
9. Be a user tester
A user tester gives feedback on a website, app, or product. Companies look for user testers to improve software before releasing them to the general public, and give compensation in return for their time.
Become a user tester through platforms like:
Tests can take between 10 and 30 minutes, making it a side business idea worth pursuing if you have some spare time. One user test each day can quickly add up to a few hundred dollars per month.
10. Become a dropshipper
Dropshipping is an ecommerce business model with minimal startup costs. Find products to sell through dropshipping apps like DSers or Spocket. Then, make an online store to sell them. Your provider will automatically pick, pack, and ship products to your customer whenever an order comes through.
Thomas Sleeth, founder of Dropshipping Hustle, “worked full time for 14 years as a disability support worker before attempting dropshipping as a side hustle. I was fascinated by the business model and completely immersed myself in it and spent all my free time and even some work time learning all I could.”
It took Thomas five months to start seeing consistent profits through the small business. “However, I did not quit my full time job for almost a year,” he says. “At the time I found it extremely stressful to quit my long-term job, but in hindsight, I should have quit several months earlier.
“I was in the dropshipping and ecommerce space for four years and made more than I could have if I continued at my regular job.”
11. Rent your space
If you don’t have much time to invest into a side business, consider renting space in your home. More than two million people rent vacation rentals through Airbnb each night. A spare room, vacant home, or guest house can fetch upward of $200 per night, especially in busy tourist towns.
Alternatively, list spare commercial space on Peerspace. Companies host photoshoots, galleries, launch events, and workshops through renting:
They often have bigger budgets than independent travelers, making it a side business idea that can quickly generate cash.
12. Sell thrift store finds
People donate unwanted items to thrift stores. Money made from sales goes to charity. But if you’re looking for a business to run on the side of your day job, scour these second-hand stores and flip items for a profit.
Popular items to flip include:
- Kids’ toys
Kim Hawkins, president of EventsWholesale says, “I originally started selling items on eBay, and my goal was to get enough additional income coming in to quit my day job so I could stay home with my children.
“I started from scratch and invested very little money—under a hundred dollars—to get started, and then I would just reinvest the profit off of what I sold.
“Very quickly the business grew into more than a full-time job. Within two years, my husband was able to quit his day job to help with the business. Business has grown through the years. Today, we have seven employees and we are still growing.”
13. Become an influencer
An influencer is a popular social media user with an audience they can influence into buying or doing something. Almost every industry has influencers, from fashion to gaming. Brands dish out big money to convince an influencer’s audience to buy their products and services.
While brands pay more to reach bigger audiences, you don’t need a large social media following to make extra money as an influencer. Popular ways to monetize a small following include:
- Affiliate marketing. You promote a brand’s products and earn commission on sales you make.
- Sell your own merchandise. TikTok influencer Charli D’Amelio launched her own line of fan merchandise to monetize a 145-million-strong TikTok audience.
- Paid partnerships. Influencers with less than 10,000 Instagram followers can demand $193.74 per sponsored post.
Abha Chiyedan is one small business owner who ran with this side business idea. She founded The Werk Life in 2017 with $300 for web hosting and a domain. It’s a place to share her personal experience on navigating work and life.
“I started The Werk Life because I was in serious need of a creative outlet on top of my corporate 9-to-5 job,” Abha says. “Once I learned the ways I could monetize the blog, I began to venture out to different forms of media, including Pinterest, Instagram, and more. We have a weekly newsletter with over 25,000 engaged readers, and we’re continuing to grow week over week.
“The Werk Life has grown to an omnichannel media company, with a newly launched ecommerce arm, The Werk Life Shop, where we sell digital planners to help people streamline their planning routines.”
14. Teach a class
Tutoring is a great way to make money on the side while also helping other people. Evaluate the existing skills you already have and put together a class that teaches others.
If you’re a skilled guitarist, for example, package music lessons into:
- One-on-one tutoring
- Online group workshops
- Junior college courses
- A class you can teach through a coworking space or community group
If you’re hosting a group class, list it on websites like Eventbrite or Meetup. Local people use those platforms to find nearby classes, making it a great marketing channel to reach potential students for your side business.
15. Start affiliate marketing
If you’re a good marketer, becoming an affiliate can be a very lucrative business. Affiliate marketing works when you earn commission on a product you sell for another company. This commission can range anywhere from 5% to 50%.
- “Depending on what type of blog or website you want to start, it can be relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance. You can start with only a $3 per month hosting plan and a free website. Depending on your skills and expertise, it could take you 20 hours or more per week to maintain your site and create content that will rank.” —Oscar Rodriguez, digital marketer
To start an affiliate marketing business on the side, choose a niche. You’ll need to create supporting content around the products you’re promoting. It’ll be easier to choose an industry you’re passionate about. Oscar Rodriguez, a digital marketer and blogger, has some expertise with the benefits of affiliate marketing, “Depending on what type of blog or website you want to start, it can be relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance. You can start with only a $3 per month hosting plan and a free website. Depending on your skills and expertise, it could take you 20 hours or more per week to maintain your site and create content that will rank.”
Next, find companies with affiliate programs you can join through sites like ShareASale, ClickBank, or Awin. Grab your referral links and promote them online. You’ll get a kickback on any sales you make.
16. Become a rideshare driver
The rideshare industry is expected to grow to $185.4 billion by 2026. Becoming a rideshare driver is one side business idea that can help you capture a slice of that growing market.
Uber customers alone take 6.3 billion trips per year. If you’re in a busy city or tourist town and have a car that meets Uber’s requirements, register to become an Uber driver and get paid to transport people around the city.
The best part about becoming a rideshare driver is you’re in control of your own schedule. While night times and weekends tend to be peak times for customers, since you’re your own boss, you can earn extra cash during any free time.
17. Deliver food
People use food delivery services like Uber Eats, Postmates, and Deliveroo to order food to their home or workplace. Become a delivery driver for those platforms and get paid to transport food to hungry customers.
The barrier to entry to become a food delivery driver is low. In most cases, you’ll need:
- A scooter, car, or bicycle
- A car license and insurance
- A smartphone
Ridester estimates that the average Uber Eats driver earns $17.74 per hour, though this can increase with tips and gratuities. Deliver food as quickly (and safely) as possible to increase income from your side business.
18. Write an ebook
If you’re a keen writer, self-publish your own ebook to earn money on the side. Self-publishing platforms allow you to upload your book’s contents, along with a cover and author biography.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), for example, lets independent authors sell books on Amazon. You don’t need to invest money upfront into producing the book. KDP will print, assemble, and ship your book to a customer whenever an order is placed.
Alternatively, package your book into a digital file. Create your own website to sell your ebook. As soon as customers pay for it, they’ll receive the digital download to read instantly.
19. Sell online courses
An online course teaches people how to do something. Look at your hobbies, skills, and personal interests to see if you can put together an online course.
Even the smallest niches can be monetized through an online course. You’ll find online courses that teach:
Michael Keenan is one entrepreneur who sells online courses on the side. Creative Class teaches the business side of freelancing. Michael says, “I sell the Creative Class course on the side of my day job as a marketer. It’s a great creative outlet to sell products online—instead of services—while also helping people build their own career.”
20. Sell your art
Selling your art online is a great way to make money on the side. Popular ways to package your art include:
- Greeting cards
- Digital art downloads
- Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
- Fabric, paper, or wallpaper prints
Online marketplaces like Etsy are crowded with buyers looking to purchase unique art. List your products for sale there, but be aware Etsy takes a cut out of any sale you make. Operate an online store alongside your Etsy profile to maintain strong profit margins from your side hustle.
21. Private label your own products
Private labeling works when you outsource production of a product to a manufacturer. It’s their job to create the product with your branded packaging.
Popular items to private label include:
- Pet products
- CBD gummies
- Hair growth vitamins
- Makeup and skin care
- Supplements and essential oils
To start your own business using the private label model, find a trustworthy manufacturer and have a sample of your product made.
If you’re just starting out with minimal budget to invest, balance cost and quality. It’s often easier to make money selling inexpensive items at a markup. You can reinvest profits into higher quality products as the side business grows.
22. Sell handmade goods
Handmade goods are amongst the most profitable things you can sell online. Take raw materials and turn them into something of higher value—be that clothing, jewelry, or skin care products—to sell through an online store.
Sydney So Sweet founder Jen Greenlees started a side business selling handmade children’s products when her first daughter was born: “At the time I was a high school chemistry teacher. I ran my new business while teaching full time and also raising five kids.
“It took very little money to start since I was making everything myself. Time was another issue. There were weeks during the fall where I was staying up until 2 a.m. to make and fulfill orders, and then getting up at 6 a.m. to get ready for work.”
Jen eventually took her side business idea full time. “It was a huge risk at the time,” she says. “Teaching provided a great salary and benefits, and I gave up a lot leaving my job. But the risk has paid off, and the freedom I enjoy being an entrepreneur is worth more than any paycheck!”
Start your side business today
A side business is a great way to earn extra cash on the side of a full-time job. It also provides a space to expand your skill set and build something that could eventually become your main income source.
Starting a business on the side of your day job gives room to test. Figure out which ideas, business models, and products you and your customers like best. That increases the chance of success when you quit your day job to work on a side business full time.