You know you want to own your own business. Now you just need the perfect side business idea.
And you don’t have to quit your current job or risk your life savings to start. It doesn’t matter why you want to start a side hustle. Maybe you want more money or freedom. Maybe you just hate your current job with a fiery passion.
Or maybe you want to be the master of your own destiny. And you know you’d be an awesome business owner. But you don’t want to jump in feet first into starting a business. You want to ease into it – and that’s a great plan.
- 1 Starting a Side Business
- 2 Side Business Ideas
- 3 Consultant & Small Business Support
- 4 On-Demand Apps
- 5 Freelancers, Consultants, and Independent Contractors
- 6 Services & Skills
- 7 Cleaning
- 8 Pets
- 9 Arts & Crafts
- 10 Tech
- 11 Writing
- 12 Selling/Arbitrage/Affiliate Sales
- 13 Health/Wellness
- 14 Teaching
- 15 Food
- 16 Misc
Starting a Side Business
Did you know that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both started their businesses in a garage? Many masters of the modern business universe started out as small, bootstrapped home businesses. So maybe you’re not the next Mark Zuckerberg, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build something fantastic.
The key is choosing a business that fits your skill set and market. A business that feels more like play than work. Your goal for a successful side hustle is to find a passion and then figure out how to get paid doing it.
Side Business Ideas
The following is a list to show you what possibilities exist and what would be the best fit for you. Some are much easier to pull off than others. But don’t let hard work scare you. Side businesses are the perfect training ground for any budding entrepreneur. Choose something that you’ll enjoy doing and it will never seem like work.
Consultant & Small Business Support
You’ll generally need experience, training or certification to start this type of small side business. Some need an actual degree, and you’ll be considered either a freelancer or consultant. These are great for anyone who is between jobs, retired, or stay-at-home parents who want to keep their hand in the game. Many of these are perfect small business support positions for companies who would rather outsource than hire a full-time employee.
Business Consultant: Time to put that business degree to work. If you’ve worked for others doing this job, you can do it for yourself. Here’re a few examples:
- Human resources
- Small business expert
Financial Planner/Investments Adviser: Check your area to see what legal requirements (if any) you’ll need to become this type of consultant.
Bookkeeping/Billing: You don’t need any special certifications, but a strong background in organization. Think of it as small business support.
Accountant/CPA: Again, if you’ve done this job for others, you can do it for yourself. Check your area for legal requirements, licensing, etc.
Affiliate Marketing: Some businesses will pay commissions for sales and it can be extremely profitable. There are a ton of online businesses that do this (including Amazon), but don’t expect overnight success.
Customer Service: Business support for those who outsource their customer service departments.
Medical Transcription: Great work from home opportunities if you have the right training.
Notary Public: It’s not just performing weddings, but you’ll also get paid to witness document signings. Check the requirements for your area.
Virtual Assistant (VA’s): VA’s work from home and the jobs range from basic secretarial work, personal assisting, to more complex assignments.
Social Media Manager: Another small business support option for those with the right skills.
Networking Host: If you know a lot of business people, and love to socialize with a purpose, hosting networking events may be your thing.
One of the fastest ideas for side businesses is the growing number of on-demand apps. These platforms connect users with a service they need right this minute. These can be great part-time side businesses as they have a ton of flexibility. But keep in mind that many are location-dependent and aren’t great options in rural communities.
Freelancers, Consultants, and Independent Contractors
There are hundreds of different types of freelancers, consultants, and independent contractors positions that can be turned into side business opportunities. But the overall description is the same. You’re paid to perform a service for a person or business. You may be hired for long-term contracts or short-term gigs. Either way, you’re basically selling yourself – and no I didn’t mean it like that!
Interior Designing: If you have a good eye for color and style, maybe interior design is your thing. Just make sure you’re in a high-priced market. This job is not for economically depressed areas.
Wedding/Event Planner: Love organizing, planning and throwing special events? This is the kind of side job that could be perfect in the right market.
Life Coach: This is nothing like counseling or offering therapy. But if you like helping people, you may want to consider becoming a certified life coach.
Graphic Designer: You don’t need an art degree, just talent. Create business logos, graphics, web designs, etc.
Photographer: With digital photography, virtually anyone with talent can be a photographer. And there are a ton of niches to specialize in: babies, weddings, senior portraits, families, pets, real estate, etc.
Beauty (hair, makeup & nails): Many hair stylist are considered independent contractors. They are hired by a salon, but pay to rent out their space. And you don’t have to work for a salon – you can offer a mobile service or work out of your home. The industry includes hair stylists, colorists, make-up artists and nail technicians. You’ll need specific training and adhere to state guidelines.
Services & Skills
Ideas for a side business can come from anywhere – even your pastimes. Some of these are hobbies you can take to the next level. If you’re an amazing seamstress or you just love refurbishing furniture. But there are many on this list that requires a strong back and a truck. Just check your local area for any regulations and be sure to talk to an insurance agent to see if you need specific coverage.
Sewing and Alterations: Many think that sewing is a dying art. But who doesn’t need the odd repair or custom job? Take in clothes for folks that have lost weight. Make custom curtains or slipcovers, or even repair expensive jackets. All from the comfort of your home!
Designated Driver: All you need is the right market (close to local bars), a trustworthy car and the right insurance. And probably a lot of patience!
Handy Man: Or woman, as the case may be. These folks are versatile, trustworthy, and a lifesaver. Sometimes advertised as “Hire a Husband” or “Rent a Husband”.
Home Inspector: These are the folks who inspect homes for insurance or financial reasons. You’ll need training or certification, and check out the regulations in your area.
House Sitting: Sites like Trusted House Sitters has transformed this service into a real job. This could also be in the Pet category, as many folks prefer house sitters to putting their pets into kennels.
Laundry/Ironing: Great outsourcing business for the right market, as many cleaning services don’t offer laundry.
Junk Hauling: If you’ve got a truck or trailer and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can offer to get rid of people’s old junk. And some stuff, like metal, you can sell for a profit.
Mover/Packer: There are a lot of people who hate packing and moving and don’t mind hiring someone to do it for them. You can get a lot of referrals from real estate agents, property managers, etc.
Yard Work/Lawn Maintenance: This isn’t the same as gardening (below) but includes mowing, raking, and overall yard maintenance.
Gardening: Although this service can be combined with yard work, gardening is a more precise skill. Many want a garden, but don’t have the time or inclination for DIY. They would rather pay someone to do the dirty work for them.
Snow Plowing: If you live in the Great White North, snow plowing may be a great side gig. Each driveway, parking lot and road needs snow removal services in the winter. Although that may mean pulling all-nighters, it’s a huge market.
Antique Refurbishment and Furniture Repair: These are really two separate side jobs, but the principles are the same. There are two choices: buy antiques or furniture, refurbish or repair them, and then sell them yourself. Or someone hires you to refurbish or repair their existing pieces. Either way, the potential profits are high.
Christmas Lights/Holiday Display Installer: Sure this one is seasonal, but there are many businesses and home owners that want the look but don’t have the time/energy to do it themselves. That’s where you step in. Good niche for handymen.
Caregiver: With the aging population, caregiving is a growing field. There are some certificate courses, and you’ll need first aid/CPR training.
Childcare/Babysitting: This is a classic side business, but can often grow into a full-time job. Plus, there is a wide variety of possible specialties: before/after-school, infants, evenings (for 2nd shift workers), weekends only, etc.
Organizer (home & business): This is another service that has a ton of certificate options. This is a high-end service business, so be sure to check out your local market first.
Painter (indoor/outdoor/home/business): Although painting work can be a full-time job, there is a need for skilled painters for smaller jobs.
Fence Repair/Installation: Help homeowners with fencing issues, including keeping pets and kids safely inside the property.
Graffiti Removal: It’s a great side business for certain urban areas.
Childproofing Service: Although you need the right market, it’s a great side business especially if you have networking opportunities with new parents.
This section is really an offshoot of services, but there are too many specialties within the cleaning industry to list it as one side-business. And the great thing is that many of these services are reoccurring – so you only need a few steady clients to make a decent monthly profit and they are easy side businesses to start. Here’s a sampling of the types of cleaning services home owners and businesses need:
General Home: You can offer general cleaning (basic floors, dusting, cleaning, etc.) or create a specific list of things that you will or will not clean (ie: dishes, laundry, etc.).
Business: You’ll probably be working during off-business hours, which may mean nights and weekends. But the profit may be higher.
Carpet: Many cleaning services don’t offer full-service carpet cleaning. Partner with a cleaning service to get referrals.
Pools: There is high demand for pool services in the right areas.
Window: If you’re not afraid of heights, this can be a great location-specific job. Think urban areas with office buildings with multiple stories, or high-end coastal communities.
Seasonal: Think spring cleaning.
Eco-Friendly/Non-Toxic: With the increased market need for eco-friendly products, this is a niche that can be applied to any cleaning service.
Exhaust Hood Cleaning: Consider this if your area has a lot of restaurants in need of this service, as it can impact their health inspector reviews.
Gutter Cleaning: Mostly seasonal, but you could work up a reoccurring income by putting homeowners/businesses them on a multiple-service contract.
Restaurant Washroom Cleaning Service: No one wants to eat from in a restaurant with unclean restrooms.
Aquariums: This could be for either homes or businesses, and could build into a profitable reoccurring profit stream.
Car Washing & Auto Detailing: Some people treat their care like their baby – and that’s your market! Travel to clients homes to wash and wax the outside of their vehicles, plus shampoo carpets, clean upholstery, polish chrome and shine tires.
If you love animals this is an easy side business for you. The pet industry is worth billions. People can go nuts over their pets and that’s where you step in. These are just a few options if you love animals and want to build a business around your passion:
Dog Walker: Great service for those busy working folks. Plus, you get the bonus exercise yourself!
Pet Grooming: You’ll need training and the right set-up (either mobile or in your home). But this is a service many pet owners (both dogs and cats) need.
Pet Sitting/Doggie Day Care: You can either pet sit at someone’s house or watch pets at your own home. This is great for pet owners who don’t want to put their “babies” in a kennel.
Pet Waste Removal: Don’t shake your head at this one. In the right market, this is a great service that pet owners will spend a lot of money one each week. Again, think reoccurring income.
Dog Obedience Trainer: With the right skills, you can train dogs in a class or offer private lessons.
Arts & Crafts
This is the ultimate hobby turned business! It’s a good side business for anyone who is already working on their art. It’s just switching the focus to include a profit.
The side business potential in the arts and crafts category is endless. Sites like Etsy have taken crafters to a whole new level. Even Amazon is getting in the craft business and has launched Handmade. Plus, there’s craft shows, home parties, teaching, and wholesale opportunities. Here’re just a few products crafters and artisans are selling:
- Slideshow making
- Soap making/spa
- Candle Making
- Designer Pillows
- Dried Flowers
- Mosaic Tile Creations
- Wind Chimes
- Wine Rack Manufacturing
Dreaming of being the next Silicon Valley wizard? While you do need skill and experience, you don’t need a lot of capital upfront. Remember, Apple and Microsoft started in garages!
App Development: You obviously need a strong tech background, but the potential is incredible. Check out Build Your Own Web or Mobile App In Minutes With These Cloud Based Tools
Building websites: More than half of all small businesses still don’t have a website. So the market is HUGE!
Computer repair: And it’s not just computers. Think all tech – iPod screens, iPads/tablets, and smart phones.
Videographer: The old school videographer was mostly weddings. But now they also film birthday parties, live TV, small commercials, corporate videos.
The scope of freelance writing is huge. It’s one of the most common online side businesses, not only for writers buy anyone who has experience to share. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are hundreds of specific niches. If you’re a competent writer, you can find freelance writing gigs.
- Cover letters
- Hyper-local newspaper
- Proof reading
- Kindle ebooks
- Sales copy
- Content marketing
- White papers
Hate the thought of sales? Selling doesn’t have to be stressful, as there are a million ways to make money selling. Forget the perception of high-pressure sales, and reconsider starting a sales business.
Craiglist: Everyone’s heard of Craiglist, but may not know the wide range of sales opportunities. It’s perfect for selling local, but also has sections for services, community, gigs, and résumés.
eBay: The ultimate auction site.
Ruby Lane: The world’s largest site for vintage & antiques.
Vinted: Easy to use peer-to-peer marketplace to sell, buy and swap clothes.
Dropshipping: Bypass the retailer and ship wholesale products directly to customers. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping
Estate sales: There are several ways to sell estate items (online, direct to auction houses, consignment, etc.) but find the right items and you can hit the profit jackpot.
Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) or Direct Sales: It’s not your mother’s MLM. Today, there are a million different MLM businesses. Here are the top ten global direct selling companies:
Lawn/garage sales: Don’t scoff at this incredibly easy sales opportunity. With the right location, you could easily make a few hundred (or more!) a weekend.
Online affiliate marketing: Commission-based marketing. You do a bit of marketing, add in your affiliate link, and when the customer buys – you get paid! Check out CJ’s What Is Affiliate Marketing for a complete explanation.
If you like to help people live a better life, a heath and wellness would be one of the best side businesses for you. And you don’t have to teach yoga or lead fitness classes to join the industry. There are many different possiblilities in this industry.
Massage: You needs specialized training, but there are a lot of niches opportunities including sports-related, help recover from an injury, pregnant women, the elderly and more.
Reiki: Another skill that needs special training. Reiki is an energy-based healing technique. Think new-age, but moving mainstream.
Meditation: If you love meditation, you can lead meditations, form groups or conduct one-on-one services.
Angel/intuitive readings: Maybe a little out there for some, but if you’re a true believer than this may be something you’d love to do.
Nutritionist: You definitely need the right certification (check your local laws). Another niche opportunity – you could specialize in diabetic diets, weight loss, athlete performance, etc.
Diet planning: Similar to a nutritionist, but without the certification.
Stress relief: Similar to life coaching. Teaching specific stress relief skills (there’s a huge variety) to reduce anxiety, depression and general stress.
This is an incredibly huge industry right now. It’s also a fun side business you can do from home. Along with teaching at a center, adult education class, or as a tutor, the number of online learning opportunities is growing every year. Check out 15 Platforms to Publish and Sell Online Courses (and Counting). You can even teach a class a niche site like Craftsy, which has a wide variety of cooking and crafting courses.
Here are just a few examples:
- Computer tutoring
- Personal training
- Martial arts
- Arts & Crafts
- Adult Ed
- Substitute teacher
There are a million good side business ideas for home bakers and weekend chefs. One of the best reasons is that it’s very expensive to open a restaurant. You’ll still have to jump through some hoops to sell food (like cooking in a registered kitchen) but it’s a great way to start a passion business.
Baking: The opportunities are endless for an enthusiastic and talented baker: cookie gift baskets, candy, wedding/birthday cakes, gluten-free, even cannabis brownies (this is a growing niche if you don’t mind baking with pot!). One happy baker even sells fresh, homemade donuts to local convenience stores on a daily basis. If you love baking, this could be the perfect opportunity!
Catering: Special events, including weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, retreats, business meetings, etc.
Personal chef: In the right location and with the right clientele, this is a great gig.
Lunch truck/food cart: This is a fun and growing industry. If you’ve always dreamed of starting a restaurant but don’t want to risk thousands, start with a unique lunch truck.
Hot Dog/Ice Cream Stand: Traditional versions of the lunch truck or food cart.
Recipes & Cook Book Creation: Start a blog or sell an eBook. You can even bundle local or family recipes and sell them in local gift shops.
Vegetable Stand: Start a garden and see what grows! This is a very profitable idea if you’re a talented gardener. Sell from your own farm, or join a farmer’s market. And you’re not limited to fresh fruits and veggies. Can your own pickles, make your own goat cheese or even sell jams & jellies!
This oddball section has some weird, but profitable side business ideas. There are a million crazy things people can do as a side business. So before you roll your eyes, let your mind open to the possibilities!
Doula: A doula is trained to assist another woman during childbirth. So you would be there to help your client plan for the birth, and attend the birth (either at home or a hospital).
Event DJ: If you don’t mind working nights and weekends, and love music, this can be a great part-time gig.
Human Billboard: In the right market, you could make a decent profit doing this.
Modeling: Again, in the right market and with the right agency.
Movie/TV Extra: Depending on where you live, there may be a market for this job. But don’t discount this because you don’t live in Hollywood. Many major cities have a bustling movie/TV industry.
Rec Sports Officiating: You’ll need certification, but you can make a decent wage referring or umpiring.
Sports Coaching: Many schools hire teachers to coach their sports teams, but there are opportunities for outside coaching. Check your area for possible openings.
Tour Guide: In the right tourist locations, becoming a tour guide can be a fun, easy business to start. Think niche opportunities.
Translation/Interpretation: With the right skills, this can be a great business opportunity.
Public Speaking: If you’re an expert on a certain topic, or have a valuable experience to share, you could start offering to speak at public events. The potential profits are huge, but it does take time to build a credible business.
Family History/Genealogy: Great side business for anyone who loves digging deep and researching.
Musician: This side-hustle has a huge range of options. Anything from playing in dive bars, playing in high-end hotels, or selling your own music or playing as back-up on recordings. If music is your thing, there’s a way to find profits.
Santa: Someone has to do it! If you fit the profile, you may make a decent wage during the holiday season. And you don’t have to be limited to being a mall Santa, because you can also perform at private parties or business events.
Surrogate: There’s a lot of money in the surrogacy business – you just have to have the right physical and mental well-being for this to be the right gig for you.
Bartender For Hire: Think private parties, weddings, business events, anniversary celebrations – any event that needs a bar.
Gift Basket Maker: These are great gift ideas for baby and bridal showers, birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special occasion. You can sell from your own home, or see if you can wholesale your baskets to specialty shops.
Body Piercing and/or Tattooing: You need some serious skill to make it as a tattoo artists, but it can be a great part-time business. The same goes with body piercing. Great job for the right person.
Personal Shopper: There are a few variations on this, as it can range from grocery shopping for the elderly/disabled to high-end image consulting.
Cannabis Grower: No judgments – this is a growing industry in areas where it’s legal. But be sure to check the local laws, plus your local and national competition. If you’re a skilled grower, you have a good chance at making some decent cash.
Vending machine business: Check out this guide: How to Start a Vending Machine Business