You know the grind never stops; but how do you get the grind to start? In addition to my main job guiding you through the ins and outs of personal finance here at Lifehacker, I’m also hustling. Every year I can depend on additional money from humour writing, copy editing, voice-over work, and even a pet sitting gig or two.
It’s difficult to gauge how much extra income you can actually earn from a side hustle, since payment varies wildly depending on your expertise, location, and amount of time you have. It’s also important to mention that the most lucrative side hustles require a hefty investment up front, especially if you’re trying get a small business off the ground. Similarly, many “be your own boss” side hustles require having wealth in the first place, like already owning property in order to be a fruitful Airbnb host.
Luckily, plenty of side hustles require little to no starting costs. Let’s take a look at some of the most promising side gigs today, how you can get started, and what you can reasonably expect to get out of it.
Online side hustles with low starting costs
According to Side Hustle Nation, the most popular ways to make money on the side are often all done online (a fact that only became increasingly true over the pandemic).
If you have experience with administrative support around the office, you can turn that into freelance virtual assistant (VA) work.
What you put into it: A virtual assistant typically does general admin work like answering emails, booking appointments, managing calendars, and the like. More experienced VAs might also do customer support, data entry, social media management, and a range of other remote office-related tasks.
What you can get out of it: VAs can set their own hours and pay rate and choose the clients they want to work with. The average hourly pay for a Virtual Assistant is $US17 ($24).
Transcribing audio and video
What you put into it: Basic typing skills and tech savvy, usually one-three hours per gig (but this can vary greatly).
What you can get out of it: Transcribing averages at about $US15 ($21) per hour.
Plenty of people out there are looking for a second pair of eyes on their writing, whether that means web content, research papers, business presentations, legal documents, and more.
What you can get out of it: According to Fiverr, the average rate for a full-fledged, completed project is $US50 ($69)-$US75 ($104). Most writers on Upwork charge $US0.01 ($0)–$US0.40 ($1) per word.
Tip: You need to stand out among the thousands of other freelancers vying for a quick, well-paying proofreading job. Use your social media channels to self-promote and rack up positive reviews and testimonials.
What you put into it: Several hours doing market research, taking good photos and writing descriptions for items, handling buyer interactions, and then physically packaging and shipping items to buyers.
What you can get out of it: Income varies depending on item; you have tons of flexibility in terms of what, how much, and when you sell.
Tip: Good customer service can turn you into a top seller; conversely, one negative review can have a (potentially unfair) negative impact on your sales. Here are some of the best sites to sell all your old stuff.
Examples: Paid research studies, online focus groups, anything on Survey Junkie.
What you put into it: Not a lot! Most surveys will take about 20 minutes of your time, and involve little to no real effort.
What you can get out of it: Not a lot! Think $US2 ($3)-5 per hour. Considering these can be mindless and you can do them whenever you have downtime, they’re a little pocket change.
Tip: Never, ever pay money to join a survey-taking site. That’s a sure sign of a scam.
In-person side hustles with low starting costs
Consider some of the following odd jobs available to you out there in the real world.
What you put into it: With dog walking, ideally you have some animal experience (and love!) as well as the ability and desire to get your steps in.
What you can get out of it: HomeGuide reports the following average rates for dog walkers, depending on the additional pet care provided and the sort of clientele you’re working with:
- Low-end dog walking services: $US10 ($14) per 30-minute walk
- Mid-range dog walking services: $US20 ($28) per 30-minute walk
- High-end dog walking services: $US35 ($49) or more per 30-minute walk
Like with all the side hustles here, how you advertise your services and your flexibility with your business will greatly impact how much money you get to take home — and that’s after dog walking apps take a cut of your earnings.
Tip: To find reliable clients in your area, I’d suggest making an account with Rover. Once you have a routine, pitch the idea to establish your business with them off-app.
What you put into it: Organizational skills and the ability to transport to your clients. Go big with all the types of organising services you can provide: Offices, garages, and kitchens all require different kinds of re-arranging and decluttering. You should also probably brush up on some Marie Kondo.
What you can get out of it: The average hourly pay for a professional organiser/consultant is around $US20 ($28)-$US25 ($35).
Tip: Advertise your services in different types of local community groups on Facebook (so long as it’s permitted by group moderators). Another way to spread the word about your services is to publish a Craigslist service ad for only about $US5 ($7).
Mobile notary services
What you put into it: Before you start travelling to people’s homes and offices to notarize their documents, you do need to meet your state’s specific requirement for becoming a Mobile Notary. The application may be closer to $US40 ($56)-50, which is over the promised $US20 ($28), but I’m still including it in this round-up because of how reliable and high-earning becoming a mobile notary can be.
What you can get out of it: Notaries typically charge $US75 ($104)-200 per appointment.
Tip: Yet again, how you market yourself directly impacts how much business you get. Once you get your mobile notary business up and running, consider ways to expand your offerings, such as I-9 and apostille services.
Oddly specific odd jobs
What you put into it: A specific set of skills. This one totally depends on you.
What you can get out of it: Pay varies greatly. If you have expertise in a specific subject, you might earn $US20 ($28) per hour as an online tutor. But if you’re, say, an experienced graphic designer, you may can set rates at several hundred dollars per project.
Tip: Think about what sets you apart and get creative with the sort of services you can provide. Create a profile that showcases your specialities and browse freelance gig sites like Editorr, FlexJobs, and Upwork.
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