Used-car salesmen unfortunately have some nasty stereotypes to live down, but you don’t need a tacky blazer or a fast-talking sales pitch to make money buying and reselling cars. People throw away perfectly good (or certainly good enough) cars all the time for all sorts of trivial issues. If you know a little something about servicing a car and can make one shine for a Craigslist ad, you could take advantage of massive opportunities to buy used cars and resell them for major profit.
Freelancing is the next best thing to being paid more for your full-time work, because professional work always pays more than unskilled. To find opportunities, let former colleagues or other personal connections that you’re available for freelance gigs. (Here are some ideas on how LinkedIn could be useful for that.) Or, post on marketplaces particular to your field. For instance, Mediabistro, a journalism site, allows freelancers to post profiles of their experience and services. Though these are more up to chance, designers can bid on jobs at 99Designs.com or submit a design at Threadless, to see if it will be crowdfunded. Elance-Odesk also lists many freelance opportunities, and you can also post your own services on Fiverr, although some freelancers say these services create a race to the bottom on fees and so are not very lucrative. If you're new to freelancing, here's how to set your rates, and here's how to negotiate raises with clients.
Participate in medical studies. If just the thought of this frightens you, know that the intensity of such studies varies greatly. Some studies ask participants (particularly those with medical conditions) to test treatments or medications that can have adverse side effects, but others ask participants to perform physical tasks with no lasting effects. If you are able-bodied and paranoid about keeping it that way, you can even participate as a control in a study at a nearby medical research facility or medical school.
If you’re serious about making money selling things online, it’s pretty much impossible to not recommend Shopify. The platform gives you everything you need to get your online store up and running in less than a day including a custom domain, beautiful templates (so you don’t need design skills), secure payment options, and they can even take care of marketing and shipping for you. Whether you’re promoting your own products, designs, or curating other products for people in your niche, Shopify is the best option for powering your online store.
Nearly all businesses understand the importance of maintaining a social media presence, but not everyone can afford to bring in a full-time social media manager. Contract yourself out as a social media manager and spend your days tweeting, posting to Facebook, and snapping Instagram pics. If social media is your second skin, this could be a great home-based business idea for you.
Starting a podcast, like making a YouTube channel or blog, comes down to telling interesting stories and building an engaged audience. I’m probably sounding like a broken record by now, but you need a niche that you’re interested in and there’s already a demand for. Come up with a list of topics you’d like to talk about and then search iTunes charts, Google Trends and other podcast research sites like cast.market to see what’s currently out there and popular.
As a teen, babysitting was my bread and butter. I would babysit my father’s co-worker’s children, the neighborhood kids, my siblings, as well as children from the church we attended. It was an easy way to make some money, and obviously, I didn’t spend any money on advertising my services. While most of my clients were from word of mouth referrals, I was also able to offer my child care services on the local bulletin board at our church, and I told everyone I wanted to work.
Another option that isn’t quite cash back but is along the same lines of “make money by saving money” — the Honey Chrome extension. Whenever you head to your cart to check out, Honey searches for online coupon codes or better deals from different retailers. That means no more wasted time Googling “[insert store name] coupon code” just to come up empty-handed. Honey does all the legwork for you!
In 2014, Caitlin Pyle made over $43,000 by working as a freelance proofreader…part time. When she wasn’t working, she even had time to go on several fun vacations. After she had a ton of success doing that, she decided she wanted to teach others how to do the same thing, so she started up Proofread Anywhere. Sign up for one of her free workshops to learn more about making money as a proofreader.
Strictly speaking, this isn’t really an at-home business, as most of the work takes place outside the home. But for dog lovers who don’t want other people’s pets staying overnight, dog walking is a viable business idea with a low barrier to entry. Still, there are considerations including researching the state of your local dog-walking market and addressing licensing and insurance concerns.
Do you enjoy fast food or going into retail shops? Many companies hire mystery shoppers to test the customer service of their stores. A common one is Subway, which hires mystery shoppers to ensure that "Sandwich Artists" are following all the franchise guidelines. If you have time and can travel to different places, this could be a good side hustle.
We don’t manufacture as much in America as we used to, but the phrase “American made” still means a lot to some people. Artisanal items are also popular, making now a great time to start a furniture-making business. This might not be the easiest idea to start from scratch, but if you already own the equipment you need, you can start producing pieces to sell at fairs and online on sites such as Etsy.
Mild spoiler alert: Viewers of the TV drama Orange Is the New Black might remember that the show’s main character made amends with one of her fellow prison inmates by making her a soothing lotion. Hopefully you won’t find yourself in prison, but if you find yourself wanting to start a home-based business, consider hand-making soaps and lotions yourself.
No matter how you earn your income, you may need to report it to the IRS at tax time, so keep good records and track expenses. And remember that you shouldn't let your part-time or gig work detract from any full-time or salaried position you already hold. Says Sullivan: "Make sure to be diligent with your time, so you are still able to do your full-time job while making deadlines for side hustles and freelance work."
As an Instacart personal grocery shopper, you will actually be doing the grocery shopping yourself (so don’t crush anyone’s avocados!). Your compensation depends on several factors, like the average size of your orders and average number of miles driven per trip. You can also get tips in addition to the pay that comes directly from Instacart (most people report an average earnings rate of $15 per hour).
Try Uber EATS or DoorDash. Uber EATS offers part-time work that’s similar to driving for Uber or Lyft. Instead of picking up passengers, however, you will pick up food orders and deliver them in your area. Pay works similarly, letting you earn a per-job rate plus tips. Door Dash works similarly, letting consumers order food from restaurants and connecting drivers to pick up and drop off their meals.
Do odd jobs around your neighborhood. Mowing lawns, babysitting, raking leaves, snow shoveling, washing cars, and bathing pets are all examples of services that many people are willing to pay someone else to do. If you can do some of these things and you have some spare time, knock on the doors of family members or neighbors you know well, and offer your services.
There’s no need to be an artist, just an expert in some form of art. Visit galleries. Get on their email lists, and go to their parties. Get to know their clients. Gallery owners will love you, even recommend your services, because you’ll be telling people to buy art from them. You don’t have to own any inventory. It’s pure consulting. There is almost no overhead cost for a business like this. It’s really about having a passion for art and a knack for earning people’s trust. And it’s fun!
City-dwellers often don’t use their cars for days or weeks at a time. That idle time can translate to money with services like Getaround and Turo, which let you rent out your car by the hour or day. Earning potential varies by car and location, but standard vehicles typically rent for $30 to $50 per day. Luxury cars and sport-utility vehicles command even more money. Just be sure you talk to your insurance provider before signing up to make sure that you don’t run afoul of the policy.
You can generate a small side income taking online surveys — but don’t expect to be rolling in the dough. Survey sites don’t typically offer a big payoff, unless you invest a lot of time, and many sites are more useful for earning gift cards than cash. Some of the more popular survey sites include Swagbucks and Global Test Market. Read our analysis of a dozen survey sites to find out which one is best suited for you.
Find a profitable niche: We’ve talked about this a lot. But, where are you most comfortable. What niche do your skills, values, and interests intersect? Do you have 10 years of experience as a technical writer? Do you have long-standing PR relationships that’ll be invaluable in helping startups launch a successful crowdfunding campaign? Determine what makes your value unique, and lean heavily on showcasing that strength to your potential clients.
Even the portrait and general-interest options, though, aren’t really for beginners. Photography businesses can be complex operations, with lots of equipment required and years of portfolio and relationship building necessary to really get steady income flowing. Still, if you’re a hobbyist already, starting a photography business as a side operation is a great way to make some extra money and possibly begin a career change.
It’s kind of like going the tutoring route, except you’re teaching English with a company like VIPKid (a big favorite of fans in our Ramsey Baby Steps Community on Facebook). Now if the word teach makes you a little nervous, don’t worry. They’ll handle all the lesson plans and grading for you. But you do need to have an interest in helping others learn and the ability to guide a class online. Getting paid while helping others? This one truly is a win-win!
If you own a camera, starting a freelance portrait photography business could be a very natural way to turn your skills and passions into a profitable business idea. Start with doing free shoots for friends and family to build up a strong online portfolio, get familiar with your gear and the editing process, then you'll be able to get paid for photographing professional head shots and celebratory family moments as your side business idea. Get started by checking out this men's portrait photography class that regularly broadcasts for free on CreativeLive. Plus, once you have all the photography gear, you can earn a little extra side income by renting it out when you're not using it through online marketplaces like Fat Lama.