6 best side hustles to start on a shoestring budget

If you have a side hustle, you’re in good company.

According to Bankrate, about 45% of Americans work outside of their day job. It’s safe to say the COVID-19 pandemic threw everyone for a loop. That explains why nearly 30% are doing something extra in their spare time just to make ends meet. However, there’s more to side hustles than that.

People enjoy the freedom that being your own boss brings. You can set your hours and determine your workload based on your needs. Many take on a side hustle to do the job that they’ve always wanted to do instead of the 9-to-5 grind that pays the bills or student loans. Some are pulling in decent cash in the process. The average gig brings in $1,122 a month in addition to their full-time job — according to CNBC.

Of course, it’s important to acknowledge the difference between side hustles and hustle culture. We’re all about people exploring new work and monetizing it if that’s what makes them happy. But be careful not to fall prey to the pressure to be constantly working harder and more often. Side hustles give you a chance to explore a different skill or industry while earning some extra cash. Hustle culture puts you on a direct path to burnout.

Keep in mind that even the best side hustles can sound more romantic than they actually are. Some require specialized experience and skills in order to get work. According to Fiverr’s Freelance Economic Impact Report, the average skilled worker has 8.7 years of experience. It takes time to build up your portfolio and learn the ropes.

There are also downsides to every single gig. After all, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. As your own boss, you have to deal with the more challenging clients. Unfortunately, a lot of scams also try to take advantage of inexperienced gig workers. However, your experience on the job will help steer you clear of many of the hurdles.

Side hustles come with upfront costs

It’s essential to understand that you’ll likely need to make an investment in time and money to start a side hustle. If you’re creating something, you’ll need to build an inventory. The same applies if you’re going to flip things online. If you want to get creative with web design or graphic art, you must work on your skill set and follow the trends.

Getting certifications, doing background checks, or getting bonded all take time. These are the things you must research before you start. If you want an online business, you need reliable high-speed internet. Likewise, if you’re going to use your vehicle for a side hustle, you may need to get it serviced and caught up on its routine maintenance.

Some side hustles are easier and less expensive to start than others. If you want to start a blog or work as a freelance writer, you can segue into those gigs and begin making money quicker than selling stuff online. The important thing is to choose something you enjoy. That’s the point of making your own path. You can do anything, whether it’s filling out online surveys, proofreading, or helping people with their work.

We suggest starting with what you’re passionate about and letting it guide your path. Let’s discuss what you need to know about some popular gigs to help you find a lucrative side hustle.

1. Start an ecommerce store

If you have an existing website, you can easily add an ecommerce store with a plugin or website template. Even if you don’t, many online platforms offer website builders to help you with the task, even if you have no experience in coding. The best part of using a website builder is that they can manage the behind-the-scenes security for you, which potential buyers will appreciate.

Selling on Amazon is another simple option. You photograph your item, list your stuff and ship it when it sells. You don’t need advanced internet skills, although it helps to create more attractive listings.

You pay a set fee for everything you sell with closing fees. If you want to make some serious cash, opt for the subscription-based Amazon pro plan. You can list more items for sale and create bulk listings. Using a site like Amazon for your storefront takes advantage of its brand recognition, which can translate into more sales. It’s also easier than building a website from scratch.

Another option is to explore dropshipping, where you focus on order fulfillment instead of maintaining an inventory of goods. That’s the supplier’s end of the business. Dropshipping doesn’t make as much as other side hustles. However, it’s a reasonable gig if you have the know-how and do your research.


  • Easy to start on existing sites
  • Low fees


  • A lot of effort to set up on your own site
  • Time-consuming fulfillment
  • Platform updates vital

Tip: Sign up for Amazon’s affiliate program for creating links on your website or blog to earn more cash.

2. Create a membership website

If you have expertise in a particular field, you can put your knowledge to work by creating a membership website through a platform such as Webflow. You don’t even need coding skills to start. You can offer online courses, white papers, or just about anything digital and make money by charging a subscription price. Alternatively, you can set up a job board website based on the same principle.

The challenge you’ll find is marketing. You have to get the word out there if you’re going to succeed, and that takes time and effort. Most people find that social media is a godsend for getting followers and subscribers. You can also offer something for free to create an attention-grabbing hook. It could be an ebook, tip sheet, or anything that can entice people to sign up for the membership site.

You have to create new content continually to maintain your subscriber base. You also must produce something of value. While you can use WYSIWYG editing programs, it still takes a lot of effort. However, setting up a membership site has long-term earning potential as an extra source of income even if it feels like a part-time job.


  • Work from home
  • No coding skills necessary
  • Long-term potential


  • Work to create site and content
  • Requires consistent updates

Tip: Try out a few sites before deciding on one website builder. Check out what features they offer for free or with a subscription, such as an ecommerce plugin or marketing tools.

3. Start a blog

The blogosphere is a crowded space, with an estimated 600 million blogs. However, don’t let that statistic scare you. There’s always room for more, especially if you can find your niche. The income comes from any digital products you offer or affiliate marketing for relevant sites. Some bloggers make decent cash with sponsored ads.

Again, marketing is vital. Many ecommerce sites prefer existing blogs with a strong following before they’ll accept bloggers into their affiliate marketing programs. However, the best part is that placing ads on your blog makes passive income for you. Your only work is adding the code to your site and providing engaging content to sell the stuff.

Like several side hustles on our list, blogging has a promising long-term outlook, especially if you generate a lot of passive income with affiliate marketing. And the bigger your following, the greater the potential for more passive income from monetizing your blog.


  • Free options to start
  • No coding knowledge necessary
  • High earning potential
  • Work from home


  • Takes time to build a following
  • Requires consistent updates

Tip: Set up your blog on your own domain instead of a free site. It’ll look more professional with your website name alone in the URL.

4. Start a YouTube channel

Starting a YouTube channel is a lot like having a blog. You find your niche and build a brand to monetize with services, such as Google AdSense and affiliate marketing. One of the best ways to get followers is by making a teaser video or podcast that shows the type of content you’re producing. One of the more popular YouTube niches is home repair. If you’re a DIYer in your spare time, you can build an audience quickly with demo videos.

Other options you might consider include:

  • Tutorials
  • Product reviews
  • Travel videos
  • Online courses
  • Interviews

The keys to success are well-produced videos and consistent content. That will mean learning how to use video editing software. You can also make money by selling merchandise related to your channel. Sometimes, being direct is the best approach. You can put a PayPal.Me link or start a crowdfunding campaign on your site to make even more money online.

Alternatively, you can offer your video creation services to companies. Nearly 50% of businesses outsource this facet of their marketing strategy. Either way, video creation provides potential for a long-term side hustle.


  • High earning potential
  • Work from home
  • Long-term outlook


  • Marketing effort
  • Consistent content creation
  • Video editing skills

Tip: Set up a recording area that is clutter-free and well-lit for professional-looking videos. If you sell merchandise, make sure the items are visible to generate impulse buys.

5. Freelance

Freelancing can put your expertise to work. You’ll find a broad spectrum of available jobs, whether you’re an expert in web design, writing, or graphic design. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr can help you hone your skills if you’re just starting. Bear in mind that freelancing marketplace sites often pay lower wages because they are acting as the go-between between you and the client. These platforms are also highly competitive.

Word of mouth and marketing are vital if you want to offer freelance services on your own. However, the advantage of freelancing is setting your schedule on your time. We suggest creating an online portfolio, whether it’s on your hosted website or a web offering, such as Coroflot or Behance. This side hustle has the potential for long-term work, with a decent income and a high hourly rate.

Ghostwriting is another option for writers. You’ll likely find steady work, even if you don’t have a byline. You’ll find it useful to learn basic SEO no matter what work you do. It can help you market your own services as well as create more compelling content for your clients. If you write, consider investing in a grammar-checking application such as Grammarly. You’ll get more freelance writing assignments with clean work.


  • High earning potential
  • Work from home
  • Specialization possible


  • Low pay to start
  • Highly competitive

Tip: On your portfolio site, link to your work published on third-party sites, especially if you are identified as the creator.

6. Become a pet sitter

If you’re a pet lover, you can meet more dogs and cats by becoming a pet sitter. You can choose to do just dog walking or bring them into your home for doggie daycare. Some pet sitters opt to visit the pets at their home or stay at the house to provide the pets with 24/7 care and companionship. You can find gigs through word of mouth or by using an online pet sitting platform such as Rover.

Using these sites gives you a marketing edge to put you in touch with customers in your area. You can choose the services you offer and the types of pets you prefer to handle. Pet sitting platforms can deal with any issues that may occur while you’re caring for the pets, including veterinary care.

Many pet sitters offer a wide range of additional services, such as checking the mail or watering the plants. You can increase your income even more by making yourself more helpful to your clients. The more you do, the more referrals you’ll get to keep you busy. If you can pet sit during busy seasons, like the holidays, you’ll earn even more money.


  • Excellent for pet lovers
  • Flexible schedule


  • Unruly pets
  • Training required to give medications
  • Veterinary care reimbursement

Tip: Send a birthday card to your client’s pet for a personal touch.

Choosing the right side hustle for you

If you need extra income, numerous opportunities are available with side hustles. No matter what you like to do, chances are you’ll find a side hustle that will fit your skill set and lifestyle. After all, the essence of these gigs is flexibility for both you and the person needing these services.

When it comes to side hustles, marketing yourself is so vital for success. Referrals are the foundation of success, whether it’s an online review or a neighbor looking for a pet sitter. Many side hustles offer passive income, which makes them even more attractive and an easy way to score some extra cash. Fortunately, several online sites cater to particular side hustles and make it easier for your business dreams to come true.

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