Earning a side income can completely change your life by relieving stress from bills, giving you more freedom to do the things you desire, and to help you toward your financial goals of getting out of debt and retiring filthy rich.
However, earning a side income can also be quite intimidating at first. In this post I want to share many of the things I’ve done to earn a side income, which eventually became my full-time income, as well as other ideas that I’ve seen work for friends and family.
[x_alert type=”success”]We have to apologize. If you came to this post expecting 50 side income ideas… we don’t have quite that many yet. But we’re going to keep this post up-to-date (recently added #43). Whenever we think of side income ideas that we’d be willing to do ourselves we’ll update this post so we get to 50 before you know it.[/x_alert]
Amazon Niche Site
This is the first one on the list for a reason. I started a little blog 7 years ago, and it has become my full-time income for the last 5 years. Much of my income comes from Amazon affiliate.
Anyone can sign up for the Amazon.com affiliate program. It works by you starting a blog and then linking to products on Amazon with a special trackable link. When someone clicks on your link and buys an item on Amazon, you get about 8% of the purchase price as a commission for sending the traffic.
How to Get Started: If you’re interested in learning about Amazon affiliate, check out this article I wrote about how I earned $147k on Amazon in one year.
Earning Potential: Extremely High. Many bloggers use Amazon affiliate as their only monetization method.
If you have a working knowledge of Quickbooks or know something about accounting, then doing the books for a small business may be a good option for you. Unlike preparing taxes where a license as a CPA would be necessary, bookkeepers generally are not required to be licensed.
How to Get Started: If you know any small business owners, ask them if they’d be interested in having you take over their books. This is an excellent side income that businesses are usually extremely glad to outsource.
Earning Potential: Moderate. You can get a few hundred or a few thousand dollars per month, but there will be a limit to how many clients you can realistically service while on the road and not wanting a full time job.
Writing a Non-Fiction eBook
The eBook market is not nearly as profitable as it was back in 2012, but it’s certainly still a viable market. I started my online business by writing eBooks and grew eBooks up to an $80,000/year business. However, eBooks are unlikely to be successful if you don’t have an established audience, which is why I’d recommend by starting a blog and getting an audience first.
How to Get Started: I’d start by getting an audience, so I’ll point you to my free article series on how to build a successful blog to start. Once you’re ready to write and format your book, check out Smashwords.com, which is the site I’ve used for years to distribute my eBooks to all of the e-readers.
Be a Virtual Assistant
I hire a virtual assistant to help run my customer support, scheduling, and email load so I can focus on my blogging business. A virtual assistant is basically a secretary who works remotely on their own schedule at their own computer.
As long as you can get an internet signal, you can be a virtual assistant. It’s a great way to earn some side money from the road.
How to Get Started as a VA: I’d start by talking to the busiest small business owner you know. Ask them if you could answer their email and scheduling, or do the financial books for the company for $11 per hour. Chances are, you already know someone who would be glad to make the deal.
If you want to earn an extra $100 this month, then online surveys are a great way to go. I don’t do these anymore because my business is up and successful, but this is actually how I earned my first dollar online.
Companies pay you to simply take surveys so that companies know what type of products to offer to the public. You’re just giving your feedback and they pay you for it.
If you want some quick cash this month, then the survey sites really do work quite well.
How to Get Started Taking Surveys: Read our full post on the best survey sites. I’ve used most of the ones we wrote about there and they were legitimate.
Graphic Design Contests
Do you have any experience as a graphic designer? If you know how to design logos then this can be a great way to boost your income each month.
The way it works is customers looking for logos give you some information about what they’re looking for. Then, you and other designers around the world design the logo that you think they’ll like. When the time for the logo contest is up, they get to pick the logo they like best and whoever designed the logo they picked gets the cash.
We’ve used both of these sites many times to design our logos and my talented stay-at-home wife has used her graphic design skills to win several of these contests. If you know a little graphic design, you can draw up a logo in about 30 minutes; if you’re good you can win the contests pretty regularly.
This obviously isn’t going to work for everyone. But with a little experience in graphic design, this is a quick and easy way to earn income on the side.
How to Get Started Designing Logos: Just go to 48HoursLogo and 99designs and sign up as a designer. Once you’re on there, you can start picking which design contests you want. Some people will offer more money for their logos. Just keep in mind that these contests also attract a lot more designers, so they also get more competitive.
Starting a podcast (internet radio show) can be lucrative, but it’s also a lot of work. I’ve been podcasting for 9 years and have seen this space become more and more competitive over time. It used to be that any new show could easily get to two thousand downloads per episode. Now, it’s best to launch a podcast with a significant marketing effort or an established blog audience.
How to Get Started: I’d highly recommend checking out Podcast Advance.
I paid for many of my living expenses in law school by doing photography on the side. I photographed weddings, events, portraits, etc.
Many photographers and videographers can be very successful and earn a good living–even six figures– doing photography. However, the vast majority of photographers do it on the side as a way to earn a little extra money.
Arbitrage for Amazon FBA
This is kinda cool. I know it sounds a little “too good to be true” but it’s a real thing and could be kinda fun (though a lot of work, too).
A bunch of people are doing what’s called “arbitrage.” There’s a mobile app called “Profit Bandit.” You basically use it to walk around the clearance isle at your local department stores and scan bar codes. The app will tell you how much you could earn if you buy the item and sell it on Amazon–after all the shipping and selling fees.
It takes a lot of practice to get good at this, but if you’re good at finding deals, there ARE people who make full time incomes doing arbitrage. The cool thing is you don’t have to actually ship all the individual items to customers. You put everything in a big box and ship it to Amazon’s warehouse, who sells it and ships it to the customer. Pretty cool.
Freelance Writing for Blogs
I hire about 15 different writers to write blog posts on my network of blogs each month. Most of them write for my photography blog. Website owners ALWAYS need new content, and if you can write decently well, there is certainly a blog out there that would be interested in paying you to write for them on a topic of your interest.
How to Get Started: What blog do you enjoy reading and are moderately knowledgeable about? Write a NICE letter to the owner and make it clear that you’re an avid writer and that you’d be willing to contribute two or three articles per month for a reasonable price. Bloggers get lots of email (trust me!) so make sure your email is customized to make it clear to the website owner that you actually read the blog.
Selling Factory Seconds or Returned Products
In college, I took a class that required us to get into teams and start a business. By the end of the semester, each of our businesses had to earn at least $1,000 in revenue. One of my teammates had a connection that could get him clothes from department stores at rock-bottom prices. The catch was that these were factory seconds or returned clothes and we didn’t get to pick what we bought. So sometimes you’d pull out a jacket and it would have a broken zipper. Or you’d have a small tear in a t-shirt. But it was fine because we could still make $1,000 off a box of clothes that cost us $50.
In that one semester, we made about $4,500 in revenue off of maybe $300 worth of orders.
A couple years ago, a buddy of mine started doing the same thing with electronics. He would buy a full pallet of electronics from an online auction and pay about $2,000. He would then turn around and sell the same products on Craigslist and Ebay and usually about double his money, even taking into account the fact that some of the individual pieces wouldn’t be able to be sold.
You can do the exact same thing.
How to Get Started Selling: Search for online auction sites. A couple of my favorites that I have actually used are Liquidation.com and TechLiquidators.com. Take a look at some of the items up for bid and run some numbers. Search Ebay to see how much those items are selling for. Make sure you factor shipping into your cost. Once you’ve figured out how much you think you can make, subtract out any shipping costs. If you want to double your money, then take the result and divide that by 2. That’s the maximum amount you should bid. Do this for several auctions and pretty quickly you’ll win one that has the potential to double your investment.
Invest in an Index Fund
This is probably the least interesting option on here but it’s probably the most important, especially if you’re still several years from retirement.
If you really want to grow wealth and have a stable and passive income in retirement, you absolutely need to start investing money for the long-term, and you need to start now. You are going to need to decide what type of account you want to open, and where to open it. My favorite online brokers for stocks, index funds, and other mutual funds are Scottrade, Vanguard, and Fidelity. All three of these brokers have great funds that have a lot of history.
I also mentioned that you need to decide on the type of account. For the purposes of long-term investing, I would recommend either a brokerage account or a retirement account. Actually, I recommend both. Brokerage accounts are accounts where you buy and sell shares in funds and even individual stocks. In these accounts, you pay a fee each time you buy shares, which is how the broker makes money, but then you make money as the value of the fund or stock grows. In general, unless you’re an experienced investor I recommend just investing in index funds and just adding to it on a regular schedule each month. The nice thing about brokerage accounts is that the money is available to you if you decide you want to sell some shares.
This is different from retirement accounts. Individual retirement accounts—called IRAs—have other advantages. They limit how much you can invest each year (currently the max per individual in the USA is $5,500) but you some tax advantages for using these accounts. For traditional IRAs, you get to deduct any money you invest on your taxes this year, and defer taxes on both your investment and growth until you pull the money out someday. For Roth IRAs, you don’t deduct your investment on your taxes right now, but you don’t pay any taxes on any of the growth when you pull your money out.
The downside of retirement accounts like this is that for the most part, you don’t have access to your money until you’re 59 1/2 years old unless you want to take a significant tax penalty. That’s why I recommend having both retirement and brokerage accounts. No matter how old or young you are, you should invest as much as you can in a Roth IRA. Once you hit the limit, start investing in index funds using a brokerage account.
If you start investing just $170 per month when you’re 25 years old, then by the time you’re 65 you will have invested a total of $81,600. Yet, if you can earn just 10% interest annually, you’ll have over $1,000,000 in your account. If you started making the same monthly investment when you were 20, then at 65 you’d have almost $1,800,000. This is why you can’t afford to wait.
How to Get Started Investing: Simply go to Scottrade.com and use referral code DTAM5754 to get your first 3 trades for free. Or go to Vanguard.com or Fidelity.com and sign up for an account. To open an account you’ll need anywhere from about $250 to $1,000 available to deposit depending on the type of account you open.
Babysit or Nanny
If you like working with kids and are responsible, then picking up a babysitting or nanny gig could be a great way to boost your income.
There are a lot of ways you can approach this. There are some people that just advertise in local classified and on Craigslist, but chances are you won’t find many customers this way. And even if you do, the odds of picking up a babysitting job you really don’t want go way up.
So what do I recommend? Network. Reach out to the people you already know who might need a babysitter or nanny. This is going to be the easiest and least expensive way to get started. If you want to go big, then you’ll need to setup a legitimate nanny or daycare service with a website, business insurance, permits, and all that jazz. But going down that route is much more costly and really would be a full-time business.
There’s a woman that I attend church with and who lives in my neighborhood who takes kids from a few different families in the neighborhood while both of their parents are at work. It’s an inexpensive alternative to daycare for the parents, and it’s a regular income generator for the woman who already cares for her own kids throughout the day anyway.
This isn’t a great option for everyone. If one or two kids in your house is enough to frazzle you, then don’t do it. But if you’re home with your kids anyway and you could stand to pick up a few more, then this could be a fantastic source of regular side income.
How to Get Started Babysitting: If you want to just earn some side income without completely changing the way you live, then the best approach will be to reach out to the people you already know. Let them know about your availability for babysitting or nannying.
Selling information products is not what it used to be. When I sold my first online courses back in 2011, they would usually sell out $15,000 of spaces in under 5 minutes. It was absolutely incredible! Now, it’s much tougher as more and more people use Youtube as their sole learning source.
However, it’s absolutely still a viable business. In fact, about half of my income is from selling online video courses on a variety of topics from my blog. If you want to see a breakdown of where my income comes from read my income report from a few years ago.
Selling information products and training courses is much easier as an affiliate, where you simply refer the customer to someone else’s product and then get a commission (often 50%) for your referral. The other option is to create them yourself, which can be tough. It’ll likely involve hiring a video crew to film you teaching something, or else becoming a quick study on video production.
How to Get Started Selling Information Products: Check out incomeschool.com/start. It’s a free 10-page tutorial that shows you everything you need to do, step-by-step.
Computer/Cell Phone Repair
I’m certain you’ve noticed how nearly every strip mall in America seems to have a cell phone repair business popping up. Most of their money is made from screen replacements. A screen replacement typically costs $120 and only costs the repair business about $15 in parts.
There are decent margins and lots of interested customers as replacing a screen at home usually doesn’t work too well (I know from personal experience).
The real challenge with this type of business is not learning how to repair the phones–it’s MARKETING! If you can find clever ways to bring in customers, it could be a nice business despite the competition.
How to Get Started: Start by doing some repairs on Craigslist for people. Maybe consider doing a mobile cell phone repair service out of your car.
Ok. My bias is coming out here. This one encapsulates selling tupperware, makeup, homeopathic stuff, handbags, and other stuff. This is where you become an independent seller for a product and hold “parties” where you hold up your friends and make them feel guilty for not buying stuff from you.
Can this be a legitimate business? Of course it can! Can it be done honestly and well? Of course! But my personal experience with many friends who have done these in the past is not good. I felt like the friendship was being exploited for a paycheck.
The real way to make money in these deals is NOT buy selling the products. That’s rarely where the money is. The real money comes from being a RECRUITER of other people who will come on as sellers. That’s where the truly successful people make their money in these deals, and to me is a sign that this is not a healthy business model.
I probably haven’t been fair on this one. I’m sorry–not trying to be offensive to anyone. But I have personally had some very negative experiences with friends doing this in the past in a sneaky/unfair way and it has left a bad taste in my mouth. Some people do it well and honestly and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
How to Get Started: Just talk to your friend who invited you to their last “party.”
Flipping on Craigslist
Craigslist flipping is a great way to make some extra cash. It’s really as simple as buying used items on Craiglist and selling them for more. Last week I bought an iPhone on Craigslist for $220 less than the cheapest used iPhone was selling for on Amazon. That’s easy money! Just buy the phone on Craiglist and sell it on Amazon. You could obviously sell it again on Craigslist as well.
I paid for most of my undergraduate degree by flipping on Craigslist.
Vending Machine Business
Starting a vending machine business is very simple to do and can be lucrative if you get a lot of machines in great locations. You might check out School Spirit Vending, which has franchises available and looks like an interesting company which I heard about on Smart Passive Income.
If you’re good with tools and know your way around basic home repairs, then opening a handyman business could be a great option for you. A lot of people use a handyman whenever something breaks down at their house. They know that if they call the plumber first, they’ll probably pay $100 just for the plumber to show up. And that’s a lot considering that sometimes it’s just a nut that needs some tightening.
How to Get Started: The first thing you need to do is learn the laws in your state. Go to the Contractor’s Board website for your state and country and find out if you need some sort of license to work as a handyman. They’ll also be able to tell you what sort of work you can and can’t do with a handyman license. Once you cover your bases there, do some investigating to find out what other handymen charge in your area. Then, just post an ad on Craigslist and/or you local classified ads and that should be enough to get you started.
Become a Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents can do really well financially. Depending on what your local real estate market is like right now, it could be a great opportunity to boost your income whether you sell houses on the side, or make a career change to real estate.
How to Get Started: You’ll need to look into your local laws. They vary a little from state to state. Getting a real estate license can be as simple as sitting through a weekend class and taking a test. However, to actually work as a real estate agent, you’ll have to work with a broker who actually brokers your transactions. The broker will take a cut of your commission on house sales, but eventually you will be able to become a broker yourself.
Sports Lessons/Personal Training
If you’re a skilled tennis player, how about teaching private tennis lessons? If you’re in shape and love working out, how about taking the NASM test and becoming a personal trainer at a local gym?
I personally pay nearly $500 per month for twice-weekly sessions with my personal trainer. It’s a lot of money, but I feel like spending on good health is worth the investment.
Buy a Blog
I have purchased 5 blogs from others over the last several years. Some have been tremendous investments that have paid for themselves 5 times over. Others have not performed well.
Buy a blog that is earning an income can be a great side-gig. Blogs businesses typically sell for about 25 times their monthly earnings. So if a blog is earning $400 per month, it would likely sell for $10,000. So if you hold the site and aren’t able to get it to grow AT ALL (unlikely) then, you’d still double your money in 25 months (because now you have the value of the site, AND the 25 months of income that it has brought in).
How to Get Started: My favorite way to buy a blog is from EmpireFlippers.com. I’ve bought three from them. I like buying from there because they vet the sites pretty well. However, they are usually more expensive sites. If you’re looking for something on cheaper, then check out Flippa but caveat emptor! Flippa has TONS of scam sites on there from unreliable sellers.
Drop Shipping and Importing
This is another one that I’ve tried my hand at. The idea is that you go to Alibaba.com (an extremely large company that connects manufacturers in China with sellers in the United States) and find a product you’d like to sell. You’ll likely have to order 500 or 1,000 of that product, but you’ll get it dirt cheap.
In my case, I imported 1,000 bluetooth selfie sticks from China for $2.40 each. Then I listed them on Amazon for $9.99 each. Because I had an article on my blog about selfies that gets a decent amount of traffic, I pointed that article to mention the selfie stick. I shipped all 1,000 selfie sticks to Amazon, and Amazon ships the selfie sticks to the customer whenever they’re ordered.
My plan didn’t work out as I’d hoped. I really only earn about $60 net profit from the deal each month. Obviously many thousands of people do much better than I did, but that was my experience.
Drive for Uber
Uber is basically a taxi service where you request a car from an app and then the person comes and picks you up. It’s much cheaper than a traditional taxi and this service is really taking off in bigger cities.
You won’t earn a ton from driving for Uber, but it’s a nice paycheck on the side if you want some extra cash and have a decent car. Plus, it’s extremely flexible. You drive when you want.
How to Get Started: Just so sign up on Uber’s site. Here’s a link. They are going to run a background check to make sure you’re a decent driver. Once you’re past that, you just download the app and turn it on when you want to earn money!
Earning Potential: Moderate. You could earn a couple thousand in net profit a month, but with all of your costs, you won’t net much more than that.
Lawn Care Business
Sometimes it’s the most boring businesses that make the most money. I can’t tell you the number of rich retirees I’ve met who spent their careers as owners of small businesses in blue collar industries like plumbing, fence installation, lawn care, etc.
Small businesses–even boring ones–can bring in a lot of money if you work to grow them over time. They are a lot of work and stress to get going, but once you do, it can be a very nice pay-out.
Build an App
The app business is not at all what it used to be. There was a time when building even simple apps could bring in simple income, but now it’s a very competitive marketplace.
Personally, I feel the need to warn you that this is a risky proposition that will cost a lot of money to get started. However, I currently am trying out the waters in apps right now. I’ve hired a developer for about $7,000 to build my app and hope I’ll get my app to sell because I have a large audience on my blog that I can push to the app.
My car was ALWAYS for sale when I was in college. As soon as I’d buy a car, I’d put it up for sale. It would often take a while for my car to sell since I put the price pretty high, but they would eventually sell. In many states, you can sell personal cars per year without being a licensed seller.
I sold 3 or 4 cars per year and usually made between $800 and $1,200 per sale. It was awesome! It’s too much of a hassle for me to bother with now, but it was great money when I was driving older cars. Just make sure you earn enough to cover the sales tax you’ll have to pay on the next car you buy.
Sell Handmade Products Locally
Are you crafty or good with tools? A while back, I found a great design for a sandbox that has a cover that folds up neatly into seats. I went ahead and built it for my kids. In no time, I started getting all sorts of compliments on this great sandbox.
So I started building.
In a couple months, I sold 7 sandboxes that I just built in my free time. Then I started noticing other things that we had made that people that were just so neat. From that, a business was born. It’s still just a little side gig I do in my free time, more as a hobby than anything. But it’s an income boost and it’s something I enjoy.
Is there something you can make that people might like to buy in your local area?
How to Get Started: Think about things you’ve made, or could make, that people have expressed interest in. Build one and take pictures. Make a Facebook page. Put out Craigslist ads. Check out local outdoor markets where small business can setup and sell on weekends. Before you know it, your hobby may be earning you a real income.
Decorate Custom Cakes
My wife makes awesome cakes. She did this castle for our daughter’s first birthday with hundreds of tiny fondant flowers. For my son, she did a cake with a rocket blasting out of it when he turned 3. For her own birthday, she loves to make these delicious ice cream cakes that put any ice cream cake I’ve ever bought to shame.
If you have a talent for decorating cakes, why not put it to use earning you a side income. You can go to the store and buy a basic cake with a printed picture on it and pay $40. A wedding cake from the local grocery store bakery starts at $500, and that’s for a pretty basic 3-tier cake.
How to Get Started: You just need some decorating tools, some of which you might already have if this is a hobby of yours. From there, you just need to get the word out. Facebook and Craigslist are two great ways to go. Another idea is to invite others over for you kids’ birthday and when they comment on the awesome cake, let them know that you decorate custom cakes for other people too.
How do you feel about painting? If you’re any good at it, you can easily make a full-time job out of painting people’s houses.
With minimal equipment—some brushes, rollers, and a few drop cloths—you can get started painting people’s rooms. If you want to really go big, get an airless paint sprayer and then you can make quick work of exterior painting as well.
How to Get Started: Start by looking up the laws for your location. Go to the Contractor’s Board website for your state and country and see if you need any license or permit to be a painting contractor. Some states have rules about the size of jobs you can take if you don’t have a license. Other than that, some paint and supplies and a good Craigslist ad is enough to get going.
Are you skilled with a pair of scissors?
I’ve known several people who worked in a hair salon at some point and learned to cut hair. If you’re one of those people, don’t let that skill go to waste. If you didn’t learn at a professional salon, oh well. Watch some YouTube videos and practice on your kids.
Once you’re comfortable with your ability to cut hair, then advertise to the people you know that you can cut hair for a reasonable price. A lot of people would love to save some money on their haircuts and hate the wait at the salon. If you’re good, then you can even charge close to what the salons do. Over time you’ll build up your clientele and end up with quite a few regulars.
Here’s another twist on the idea. Offer a mobile service. You go to them to cut their hair. No, you won’t have your spinning hair cutting chair, but that’s alright. There are definitely people who would pay for that if you don’t have to be home during the day.
How to Get Started: If you know how to cut hair then a hair cutting kit is all you need. Post an ad on Craigslist, reach out to your friends and coworkers, make a Facebook page, and you’re off to the races!
If you’re good on a sewing machine, and if you know moms and dads with little kids, then this could be a great side income for you and a lifesaver for those parents.
Kids are always tearing clothes, and a lot of parents just can’t afford to be buying new clothes for their kids every month. It’s bad enough they grow so fast… So if you know your way around a sewing machine, then why not make a little money mending clothes.
Now, if you’ve got some more experience with a machine, you can take this to the next level. When I was in high school, I would have two or three friends every year that would have my mom sew them a custom prom dress. My mom would charge less than most of the department stores and the girls would get the dress they wanted in the color they wanted while my mom would earn a couple hundred bucks. Add in all the dresses from the department stores that my mom would alter and it really did become a bit of a side business.
Today, my mom owns a long-arm quilting machine and does sewing and quilting as a full-on business because she enjoys it.
How to Get Started: If you don’t have a machine, you’ll need one. Then, just reach out to people you know with kids living at home. Make a Facebook page and invite your friends. Post an ad on Craigslist. Just get the word out that you offer a sewing service. It’ll probably start small, but over time you can build a fairly substantial side business.
If you live somewhere with a lot of outdoor recreation then this could be a treasure trove of opportunities.
You can go a lot of directions with this. If you love the outdoors and know you way around a public wilderness are, then you can run guided hikes. If you live near a good lake you could start a business to rent out canoes, kayaks, jet skis, boats. Do you have good cliffs nearby? How about a rock climbing equipment rental and instruction business. The opportunities really are endless depending on what’s available where you live.
How to Get Started: Depending on what direction you go, you’ll probably need to get some equipment. But more importantly, you’ll need to cover yourself from a liability standpoint. With outdoor recreation comes risk. You’ll want to form an LLC to protect your personal assets in case your business gets sued. And, you’ll probably need to buy business insurance, which covers you if someone gets hurt or someone’s property gets damaged. So talk to your insurance agent about business insurance. Then, just get the equipment and put an ad on Craigslist, Facebook, and even setup your own small business website to get the word out.