10 side hustles you can try while keeping your full-time job
I am a big believer in side hustles, they are like hobbies that keep me energised outside my day to day work. Sometimes they have overlapping elements with my day job but most of the time they are entirely in a brave new world.
They feel like mini-games inside the huge game of life - I am reminded of the challenges within the TV series Survivor, or Amazing Race, two of my favourite reality shows. Winning one is a bonus that gets you slightly ahead, but losing one does not necessarily do much damage.
The gig economy today, combined with the miracles of the internet has given rise to a whole bunch of opportunities you can try your hand at in your spare time. Given the impermanence of careers and rapidly changing demand for new skills in our current economy, I would argue that it might even be better to be a jack of all trades (aka side hustles) and master at none.
Everyone’s time availability and preferences are different, but I encourage you to try a few different ones. You will definitely learn some new skills along the way, or gain new friends and perspectives. Most of these side hustles have very little startup costs, but can quickly start to bank some real cash if you do them well. So instead of binge watching the next TV series five evenings a week, why not invest some time and actively move towards your financial goals and FIRE?
Selling online via your own eCommerce site / Etsy / Amazon
This is my favorite side hustle, because I love the thrill of building sites and selling something online to strangers. Getting to that first sale in a new business is so fulfilling. I have had multiple sites, some worked, some didn't work, but i learnt more each time. Along the path to financial independence, this has been my most lucrative and fun side-hustle.
With extremely user-friendly e-Commerce platforms like Shopify, Squarespace and Wix today, you don't have to know how to code to build a website online. Just sign up! Most of them have a 14-30 days free trial and play around within their interfaces to get a sense of how they work.
If you want to start small, you can opt for dropshipping - having a supplier ship the product directly from their factory to the end customers whenever you receive an order.
Otherwise, go the more traditional route of coming up with a product idea with your own private brand. The entire process of sourcing it from suppliers will take some time and you will have to handle shipping whenever you get an order.
No matter which option you choose, I would advise you to find a product you are at least slightly interested in, because you are going to be reading and writing a lot of content about it in order to market to your customers (think hipster metal flask versus a clean air filter). Write down a list of possible products you think you could sell, do research online and look at what competitors are offering. Note their price points and read the reviews they are getting. If you are great with your hands, and can produce your own unique handmade products - definitely start there!
Once you have ensured your shortlisted product is viable and in demand, start looking for suppliers either via dropshipping sites like Oberlo, or Aliexpress, or source in bulk on Alibaba.com. You should be aiming to sell your product at least 50-100% above the cost price because you will need your profit margins to cover shipping, packaging, marketing and refunds.
Before you commit to any large purchases, always make sure you order samples to check the real product. I have seen owners sink hundreds and thousands of dollars at this step without ever getting their business online, so please be careful!
Next, find or take some product photos. Pair them with some interesting descriptions in line with the brand image you wish to convey. You can also consider some pre-sale tests or surveys via your personal social network. Alternatively, run some simple Facebook ads to confirm market interest before you actually drop a few grand on ordering products. More details on this in my eBook.
Once you have figured out how to get the product into the hands of your customers, register your site and get your shop online! Post for free on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit, basically anywhere you can to get the word out. If you are lucky, you might get some customers this way.
If you need a little boost, budget for $100-$200 to run some simple ads using your best photos and descriptions to gain awareness among your target audience. Again, this step has the potential to be a huge money pit, so please learn the basics of advertising before committing to large spends. I used to run a lot of online advertising campaigns, so I will probably write about this at some point, else let me know if you need help!
Unless you are the next Dollar Shave Club, don't expect to sell out overnight. In e-Commerce, being consistent in your product quality and providing excellent customer experience will win you loyal customers over time.
My most profitable store took a few months to break even but one year to really start driving significant revenue. Once you have achieved a stable base of customers, you can expect a steady stream of revenue every month with just a few hours of work. Imagine how many years you can shave off your path to financial independence with a profitable side gig.
2. Affiliate marketing
We often tell our friends and family about products or services we’ve genuinely enjoyed. Affiliate marketing is a way to make money off this simple word of mouth process.
Instead of providing a direct link on your blog, Instagram or text messages to a product you love, sign up for Amazon affiliates or other affiliate programs and provide a unique tracking url. If someone ends up purchasing or even signing up via your link, you get rewarded. Payouts can be as high as a few hundred dollars per customer introduced!
The key to success here is not to go overboard with recommendations and only talk about products you truly like. If you go deep and publish a comprehensive, passionate review of the product on your blog or Instagram account, it might even catch the fancy of Google or Reddit and win you a ton of free traffic. The more people visiting your post, the higher the chance they will end up buying something using your link and send some sweet bonuses your way. Over time, they stack up significantly towards your financial independence goals.
3. Airbnb your spare room
Real estate doesn't have to be an investment vehicle reserved for the rich. Even if you are renting, you can use home-sharing services like Airbnb and Vrbo to monetize your spare room, your couch, or when you are out on your Christmas vacation. This is commonly practised as part of house-hacking. Just be sure to check your tenancy agreement to ensure you don't violate any rules.
I used to have a 2 bedroom apartment and I Airbnb-ed my spare bedroom to tourists. I screened every guest that requested to stay, and only accepted those with prior positive reviews. It was an incredible experience and I ended up meeting so many nice people from around the world, who often gave me small souvenirs from their home country.
My bookings included a cleaning fee as well, which went towards my outsourced cleaner (so my entire apartment got cleaned at the same time). The two times there was some minor damage to the bedroom (out of over 100 stays), I wrote to Airbnb and they credited me some money immediately to cover the repair - they take really good care of their hosts.
I know a lot of people might be resistant to sharing their personal space with strangers, but honestly, it’s a great way to monetize your home and meet new people. Try it once or twice and decide for yourself. Once you get the hang of it, you might even consider moving to a new place with an attractive location, relatively private living spaces, and aim to be a superhost on Airbnb to monetize it semi-professionally.
4. Instacart shopper
Live near a major grocery store? With this side-hustle, you could help out a mum staying at home with kids, or someone who lives far from grocery stores by doing their shopping for them.
Sign up to be an in-store shopper to pick out items in the grocery store and hand them to a delivery driver. If you like, you could even deliver them too (but I think that’s much more work, to be honest). Apparently, you can earn around $9-$14 an hour as an in-store shopper.
5. eScooter charging
If there are eScooter companies in your city, this is a pretty neat way to spend some of your evenings. Basically, you help charge the e-scooters overnight in your house and get paid around $5 per scooter which nets you around $100 per night. I have not done this before because San Francisco has very little scooters after the city kicked Bird and Lime out but it’s almost like a game to hunt down eScooters near you and ‘capture’ them for the night. Great way to put that car of yours to some use in the evenings and get some exercise for those biceps!
6. Driving with Uber/Lyft
I don't think this one needs much explaining because you have probably seen an ad (or fifty) to sign up to be a driver. If you don't have a regular full time job, or have some downtime between contracts, this could be a good way to make some quick cash. I have met plenty of drivers who commute 2 hours in from Sacramento to San Francisco to make good money for the weekend this way.
If you don't want to use your own car, you can even lease a car to drive and receive the lease fees back in bonuses once you hit the required number of rides. One such leasing company is Fair (use my referral code YGLGTCSH to get $100 off).
If you have an eye for certain types of products, collectibles or even gadgets, you could consider this unique side hustle. The idea here is to scout for underpriced items online or at garage sales, buy them over and list them online on eBay or buy/sell sites like OfferUp for a profit. If you identify the right types of products and hit a sweet spot with your audience, you could eventually scale this into a full eCommerce operation.
I find this particular side hustle a little more time and resource intensive as you often have to negotiate and take inventory, but some people can get really good at this over time - check out their subreddit on Flipping.
Anyone who can write can start a blog. However, to create a successful blog that generates some (or a lot of) income, you need to write about a topic you are passionate about in a way that appeals to a selected target audience. Obviously, this blog is about financial independence and all tips related to it.
You cannot write about anything and everything under the sun. Imagine if you walked into a store that sold everything from leather briefcases to fresh bananas to designer coffee tables, you might find it a little odd and confusing. But if you walked into a menswear store that only sold men’s clothing, neckties, tuxedos, you might trust them a little more to recommend you a coherent outfit. That's how I would recommend you think about your blog, focus on a topic you are interested in and go deep into that topic to try to add value to your users.
Over time (often years), as your readership grows, you will start getting some revenue from placing some ads on your site (Adsense). If your topic is appealing to certain brands, you might even snag some brand sponsorship deals.
Before starting a blog, I recommend that you simply start writing a few articles on a topic of your choice and see if you can get your words to flow easily. Re-read them a few more times or get a friend to read it before you take the plunge to start a blog. Other than great writing, consistency is key to creating a blog you can monetize. To begin with, you should aim to publish at least one new and interesting post every 1-2 weeks.
Again, with the amazing tools on the internet today, it costs very little to start a blog using sites like Squarespace or Wordpress. I plan to write an article about this later on with more details.
9. Instagram / Facebook / Pinterest account management
If you already spend way too much time on social media, why not get paid doing it? Every brand and business needs a social media account nowadays and most business owners are struggling to keep up.
If you are a social media natural and always on top of the latest viral hashtags and hottest influencers, you can easily take care of someone’s social media account. All you have to do is take some nice photos (or use some free stock images), pair them with descriptions, add some hashtags and remember to post regularly. You can use various automation tools like Hootsuite and Tailwind to automate the postings such that you can manage multiple accounts in a scalable manner.
List your services on Fiverr or contact your local small business and try it out.
10. Create how-to YouTube videos
I met this Uber driver once who told me that he created a series of simple how-to videos for using an industrial machine he needed at this full-time job, posted them on YouTube and ended up making a few grand a month. The key here is that he created a useful video about something a niche topic which many people needed to know about.
Creators on YouTube get rewarded for the number of views and amount of time spent on each video. That’s why how-to videos are such a great way to get audiences watching and re-watching your videos while they try to learn a process or skill. It could literally be anything - not too long ago I watched a how-to video on how to use a tire pressure gauge (yes I didn’t know how to do it) and that video has over 519,000 views! Or you could also just sit at your desk and video yourself studying - like this guy.
Don't want to show your face? It’s also easy to be anonymous and just video your screens and talk through it.
I hope one or more of the side hustles above have piqued your interest. Having multiple income streams is a great way to help you achieve financial independence faster, and it also gives you something to do after you have reached FIRE.
Have a different side hustle of your own? Tell me about it in the comments below.