Disclosure: This post about the best side hustles to start online may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of my links, I may receive a commission or credit at no additional cost to you.
So, you want to make money online? Okay, are you ready to work for it? If so, you’ve come to the right place!
First things first, I want to make something clear about a common term used when talking about making money online. There is no such thing as “passive income.” “Passive” implies that no work was involved, but this is simply impossible. Every dollar made on the internet requires an initial investment of time, and more realistically continued maintenance and/or promotion as time goes on.
Do not believe someone who claims to make x-amount of dollars in passive income. Just because a creator made a sale while they weren’t actively working on their side hustle does not make it passive!
I can’t stress this enough. Passive income is a huge selling point many creators use to convince people to start an online side hustle. Don’t get wrapped up in this false prospect/ideology of not having to work for your extra money, because you will ultimately be disappointed.
Now that that’s been cleared up, let’s get into the details of the 7 best side hustles to start online in 2020!
What Is a Side Hustle?
A side hustle is a business or enterprise started to make extra cash in addition to earnings from a regular job. The term has gained popularity over the past decade due to many full-time jobs not paying employees enough to make ends meet.
Not all side hustles are online. In fact, many consider summer lawn mowing or babysitting gigs picked up by middle/high schoolers to be the “original” side hustles. However, I’ve chosen to highlight the best side hustles to start online because they’re typically more accessible and have higher earning potential than in-person or brick and mortar gigs. Plus, anyone can start these side hustles from anywhere, as long as there’s internet access.
To me (and a majority of people on the internet), a side hustle is considered a long-term endeavor. You might be able to make immediate cash off of whatever side hustle you start, but they’re typically not a get rich quick scheme. All of the side hustles on this list require an upfront investment of time and money, and are most successful when approached strategically with long-term gains in mind.
If you need immediate extra money and don’t want to get into any long-term side hustle commitments, this post is not for you. Instead, check out these 9 Easy Ways To Make Extra Money.
Alright, let’s jump right in!
The 7 Best Side Hustles To Start Online in 2020
Of course blogging is on this list! Personally, I think blogging is the best side hustle you can start because there are so many opportunities to make money. You can display ads on your website, participate in affiliate marketing (covered later on in this post), write sponsored content, and more!
I started Life Lived Curiously to boost my income. Currently I make anywhere from $700 – $1000 every month from my blog. I plan to continue growing that monthly amount until I can take the dive to blog full-time.
Because most people are familiar with blogging, I won’t over-explain the concept here. But, I will provide some good resources for you to both start a blog and make money from it.
Before you decide on starting a blog to make money, just know that it might take longer to make any profit compared to some of the other side hustles on this list. It took me over a year to start making any noticeable money. Blogging is definitely a long-term gain side hustle, but it’s totally worth it if you stay committed.
My biggest tip to you who want to make money blogging is: pick a profitable niche. While you could make money eventually with any blog niche, picking one that is popular and lends itself to certain money-making strategies can significantly expedite the process. In my post How To Start A Money Making Blog, I write all about selecting the right niche and also give a step-by-step guide on starting a profitable blog.
Print On Demand
I thoroughly enjoy making money through print-on-demand (POD). It’s fun, easy, and gives you a chance to explore your visual creativity!
Print-on-demand is a process that allows you to sell products, such as t-shirts, mugs, hats, and stickers, with your original designs printed on them. The best part is that you don’t handle the products at all! You never physically see the goods, yet you’re still able to make money off of them.
How Does POD Work?
For the purpose of this example, let’s say you decide to sell a t-shirt. First, you create a design for the t-shirt – it could be an artistic graphic or even just a typed-out saying. Then, you make a listing for your t-shirt on the 2 platforms used to sell your t-shirt. You’ll need a web storefront to sell your products to consumers, such as Shopify or Etsy, and a printing provider. The printing provider integrates with your web store to automatically print and ship out your t-shirt once you receive an order.
I have an Etsy shop where I list my products (mostly t-shirts), and I use Printful as my printing provider. I’ve had nothing but awesome experiences with both companies, and would highly recommend them.
The great part is that you get to price your items at whatever profit margin you want! When an order is placed, the customer pays your set price to you through Etsy. At the same time, you automatically get charged the cost of the product and printing by Printful. Make sure to calculate Etsy fees and shipping costs into your figuring of what price to charge your customers.
And that’s it, in a nutshell! Essentially after you make a design and upload it as a listing to your store, your work for that design is done. You can choose how many designs you want to create, and once they’re uploaded, everything else is fully automated.
If POD sounds like something you want to learn more about, check out this article written by Shopify. If you’re ready to dive right in, I highly recommend investing in The Ultimate Print On Demand Guide. This course teaches you everything you need to know to get your POD store up and running quickly and efficiently!
Flipping is the only side hustle on this list that physically involves dealing with products. The basic concept of flipping is selling a product online for more than what you bought it for. Of course, this is the basic concept of pretty much all stores, so it’s easy to understand.
You’ve most likely heard the process of “flipping” refer to houses. That’s when you buy a fixer-upper, make some improvements to it, and then resell it for a profit. It’s the same concept here, although you’re dealing with much lower-ticket items, and some won’t need any improvements at all!
In flipping, finding products to resell is called sourcing. You can source your products from pretty much anywhere. Goodwill, your attic, the dollar store, Facebook Marketplace, yard sales, Walmart, the side of the road – like I said, anywhere. The key is to find items that can make you a worthwhile profit.
What Strategies Can You Use In Flipping?
There are several different strategies you could potentially adopt in regard to flipping. Which one you choose is dependent on what kind of profit margins you’re seeking, what handyman skill you have, and if you want to put any work into the products you source.
Many people simply buy items that are under-priced and resell them as is. Other people like to give furniture or antiques a face-lift and then resell them. With that strategy, you’ll probably be able to make more profit in terms of actual dollar amount, but it certainly requires more work and time. Additionally, shipping large furniture is expensive, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.
After sourcing your products, you can list them on eBay, Amazon, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or pretty much any platform that allows you to list and sell items. You can sell your items at whatever profit margin you want, and have the power to negotiate or add a discount if you want to get rid of inventory.
Flipping can be an extremely lucrative side hustle, but not from the comfort of your couch. It involves going out to thrift stores and yard sales with the very real possibility of not finding anything. Then, once someone buys your item on Ebay, Amazon, or Facebook Marketplace, you will have to either ship the item to them, or meet up for the exchange. I’m not trying to deter you from getting into flipping, I just want you to have the proper expectations.
I’ve personally never done any flipping, although I’m considering trying it out before the year ends. I’ve come across many people on Twitter and other parts of the internet that have had great success with it. Here is a guide with more information about how to start flipping. Also, see my Twitter account follow suggestions at the end of this post to get started on Twitter!
Selling an Ebook or Ecourse
These days, it seems like everyone is selling an ebook or online course they’ve created (well, at least in the blogging world!). While that means there’s a lot of competition, it also means there are many potential customers out there.
You can write an ebook about literally anything and sell it online. But, this doesn’t mean you should write an ebook about anything and sell it online. Too many creators see ebooks as a way to make a quick buck, so they go out of their way to find something to write an ebook about.
However, if you don’t consider yourself an expert of a certain topic, you shouldn’t be selling your knowledge for money.
With that being said, here are 3 qualifications you should meet before writing and selling an ebook:
– you’re an expert in a specific subject area
– have quantifiable experience or success in that subject area
– can provide price-tag-worthy value to your readers
Before I get any further with this section, I feel compelled to disclose that I’ve personally never written or sold an ebook. My knowledge and advice comes from purchasing and reading many, many ebooks and courses. It’s easy to tell who wrote an ebook just to have something to sell, and who seriously considered what would provide value to their readers. After all, people are paying to read something you’ve written. Take that seriously!
The Dos and Don’ts Of Selling An Ebook
I plan to write an entire article about the dos and don’ts of ebooks, but for now, here are my biggest pieces of advice for anyone considering selling an ebook:
– Provide some exclusive and valuable information that is not readily available on your website or social media. Of course you can include writing from your blog, but it shouldn’t only be a combination of blog posts. Your customers won’t be happy if they find out they paid money for information they could’ve (or likely already did) read on your blog for free.
– Put a unique spin on the information you’re selling. Most likely there’s already an ebook out there with the same information as yours. However, if you spin it in a new way or explain it from an unusual perspective, it may sell better and provide different or more value.
– Even if you are an expert already, establish yourself as an expert online before you launch your product. You don’t need a blog or website to write and sell an ebook, but some online presence certainly helps! How else will you get word out? Twitter is an awesome place to make connections and grow a following quickly.
– PROOFREAD AND EDIT YOUR EBOOK. Please. I know this seems like common sense, but you would not believe the amount of ebooks that launch with misspellings and grammatical errors on every page. These mistakes compromise your authority and make readers lose trust in you. Just trust me.
There are endless ways to sell an ebook or course online, but my favorite platforms to purchase from are Gumroad and Teachable.
I’m sure you’ve heard of affiliate marketing – it’s a pretty popular way to make money online. Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting someone else’s products. This could be your favorite set of pots, daily moisturizer, books, credit cards, phone apps, ebooks, and more! Unless it’s a very obscure product, you can most likely find a way to be an affiliate for it.
Here’s how it works: You, the affiliate marketer, own a product you love and would recommend to everyone. You apply to join that company’s affiliate program, which may be apart of a bigger affiliate network (more on that in a minute). Once accepted to the program, you get a unique URL to that product’s web page. This unique URL will track any sales that come from it, meaning if anyone buys through your link, you’ll earn a percentage of that sale as a commission! Boom, money in your pocket.
An affiliate network is a third-party that connects companies with prospective affiliates. You apply to the network and then have access to hundreds or thousands of companies/products to be an affiliate for. Here are some networks that are easy to apply to and a great starting point for beginners:
– Commission Junction
Where Can You Post Affiliate Links?
The only universal requirement to participate in affiliate marketing is having an audience. That’s it! This is why so many people take up affiliate marketing as a way to make extra money. Of course having an audience doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be successful, but it’s the first step.
There are so many places to find an audience, if you don’t already have one (so don’t let that discourage you!). Some popular platforms to build an audience for affiliate marketing are Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, a blog, Twitter, or pretty much any other social media platform.
The main ways I promote my affiliate links are through my blog posts and on Twitter. Twitter has an incredible community of affiliate marketers, many of whom are found on what is called “Money Twitter.” If you don’t want to create an entire website, this is definitely the place you should go to get started with affiliate marketing. Actually, for any of these side hustles, Money Twitter is an awesome online community to network, get free information, and make sales. See my Twitter section at the end of this post to find my suggestions on who to follow for each side hustle.
There are two important things you need to know about affiliate marketing before you get started:
- You are required by law to disclose your affiliate links. Every time. Whether you’ve placed a link in a blog post, posted one on twitter, or in an Instagram story. You have to indicate some how that you are an affiliate of the product and may receive a commission if a purchase is made through your link. You can see my disclosure stated in the first paragraph of this post. On Twitter, Pinterest, or other social media sites, it suffices to put “(aff)” or “#affiliate” after a link. But on a blog post, you have to have a written out disclosure placed before any affiliate links appear on the page.
- You should only promote products you have personal experience with. Again, you should only promote products you have personal experience with.
Dropshipping is the process of delivering a product direct to the customer from a retailer/manufacturer rather than holding inventory in your home or a warehouse. Basically you’re listing the same items as another store for a higher price on eBay or your own online storefront. The most popular retailers to dropship from are Walmart, Amazon, and Home Depot.
At first, this type of business model sounds somewhat unethical or deceptive. That’s how I felt about it at first, too. But, after realizing that this is the exact premise of every business selling a product to make money, I came around to the idea.
The most popular platform to open a store for dropshipping on is eBay. Why? There are several reasons. First, it’s free. You don’t pay any fees until you sell an item, and can choose to upgrade to a paid account later on if you’ve had some success, but aren’t required to. Second, you already have a free customer base of over 180 million users. If you open say, a Shopify store, you’d have to run serious (and expensive) ad campaigns to get your products in front of so many eyes. Third, there are many programs for automating dropshipping that easily integrate with eBay, making your business that much easier to manage.
If you still have questions about how dropshipping works exactly, let me spell it out for you.
You open an eBay account. After searching through some online retailers, you decide to sell a blender (random item I’m using for this example) you found from Walmart. You use the exact same photos and description from Walmart to post the item for sale on eBay with whatever price you deem fit. Once you get an order, instead of shipping it out of your home (remember, you don’t have any inventory!), you order it from Walmart’s website with your customer’s shipping address. You pay Walmart with your credit card, and eBay/Paypal pays you the money from your customer.
Seems almost too good to be true, right? But that’s truly the entire process.
The key to making money with dropshipping is finding the right products to sell. Not all items from Walmart (or wherever you decide to source from) will sell with a padded price on eBay. You’ll have to find deals, and do some cost-benefit analysis on each product you decide to list.
Thankfully, there are more knowledgeable people out there on the topic than me! To learn more about the knitty-gritty of dropshipping, check out this free course. Also see my Twitter section at the bottom of this post to find great accounts to follow in this niche.
Freelancing is the ultimate side hustle, in my eyes. You can start freelancing in any marketable skill, for the prices you set, on a schedule you control. Woah – talk about potential freedom!
I say potential, because it takes a lot of hard work to get to the point of being a successful freelancer. Essentially, you’re building a business from the ground up without all of the other platforms and structured advice the other side hustles on this list offer. Yes, there are many blog posts and ebooks with advice and tips. But, ultimately every aspect of freelancing is in your control, which means your processes will mostly come from trail and error.
The main reason freelancing can be such a hard side hustle to build is due to the absolute reliance on clients. Your entire ability to make money hinges on having clients. Without them, you have nothing. With that being said, it’s crucial to understand that until you establish a loyal client base, the majority of time you spend on your side hustle will be recruiting new clients.
This is why people usually only freelance in a skill they really enjoy. If you decide to jump in on a skill you don’t enjoy, it might be hard to stay motivated in finding clients.