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The Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Side Business

The Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Side Business

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The Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Side Business

Beginners Guide To Starting a Side Business

So, you want to start a side business, but deciding which kind of business to work on and figuring out how to get your new venture off the ground isn’t exactly easy. 

If that’s a challenge you’re facing right now, this guide is for you. 

Below, we’ll talk through a simple exercise that can help you decide which type of side hustle is right for you. We’ll also share with you how to start 10 popular businesses and provide you with a detailed list of good side hustle ideas so that you’ll have everything you need to get started.

Why Start a Side Business?

Before we take a single step further, there’s something very important that you need to know: 

Starting a successful side business can be a lot of work. 

Yes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the endless exciting possibilities to make extra money doing something we love. 

Trust me, that’s why I’ve experimented with so many different side gigs over the years. 

There’s something quite thrilling about the hustle and bustle of starting a new venture and the things it could lead to that I get a major kick out of. 

However, as I’ve learned the hard way, actually making good money from a side hustle takes serious effort and a lot of invested hours. 

So, if it really is such a challenge, why bother in the first place? 

There are any number of reasons why it pays to launch a side business:

1. Pay the Bills  

You may be one of the millions of people impacted by the soaring cost of living, in which case starting a business can prove to be an effective way to make ends meet without the complications and potential for burnout of taking a second job. 

2. Save for Early Retirement 

If you’re a F.I.R.E (Financial Independence, Retire Early) devotee, saving the additional income from your side hustle earning is a great way to build a nest egg for the future. 

3. Transition to a New Career 

Let’s be honest; a lot of people hate their jobs. 

In one survey, nearly 40% of Americans said they wouldn’t wish their job on their worst enemy, while in another, only 33% of respondents claimed to feel engaged in their work

Suppose you’re one of those countless people dissatisfied with the 9 – 5. In that case, gradually growing a small business on the side is a great way to transition out of your day job and into getting paid for something you genuinely care about and enjoy. 

4. Create a Self-Sustaining Hobby 

A few of my friends are very talented artists who are passionate about what they do but are happy to keep it as a hobby rather than turn it into their full-time job.

Still, I often bump into them selling their art at various fairs and events.

Why?

Because paints and canvases aren’t cheap, selling their work covers their costs, ultimately meaning their hobby pays for itself

This doesn’t just apply to creative types.

Let’s say you’re incredibly passionate about running and spend a lot of money signing up for races and paying for the latest running gear. 

You could make YouTube videos documenting your race day experiences and offering training tips or start a blog reviewing running equipment, monetize your efforts through ads or affiliate links, and offset the costs of your rather expensive passion.  

Related: 8 Things to consider before starting a side hustle

How to Decide What Side Business to Start

For many people, the first significant challenge to starting a side business is deciding what type of business to start in the first place.

In fact, head to any forum, subreddit, or social media group relating to topics such as starting a business, entrepreneurialism, or side hustles, and I almost guarantee that the most commonly asked questions are all from people who are eager to start earning extra income but haven’t yet figured out how they’re going to do it. 

If you’re one of those people, the easiest way to answer the million-dollar question of “What side business should I start?” is to ask more questions, namely: 

1. What Can I Offer That People Will Pay For?

You can answer this question by listing everything that you can do, that you know and have that you could use to make money.

Grab a sheet of paper and divide it into three columns or create a three-column spreadsheet and label the columns like so:

1. Skills

In this column, make a list of your skills and abilities.

Obviously, any unique talents you possess, such as playing a musical instrument or building websites, would go in this column, but so too would things that you may not immediately think of as skills but which are undoubtedly monetizable, such as fixing and repairing things around the home, being a fast and accurate typer, or even mowing the lawn and keeping a tidy yard.

The goal here is to identify anything you can physically do that people might pay good money for you to do for them.

2. Knowledge

In this column, think about what you know. 

What subjects do people come to you with for advice or information?

What subjects do you know a lot about and could happily talk about with a degree of authority for hours at a time?

These subjects could be ideal for starting a tutoring business or becoming a content creator. 

3. Resources.

Finally, list the physical resources you have that could help you earn an extra income stream.

Here, don’t just think about things that you could sell, like product inventory, but also tools that you could use to create those products or provide a service. 

For example, the same device you’re reading this article on can be an invaluable asset for your new venture. After all, if you can access this website, you can also access a plethora of online tools to help with everything from marketing to accounting. 

2. What Can I Do That I Won’t Get Sick and Tired Of?

There’s an oft-repeated mantra that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. 

That certainly isn’t true in my experience, and I suspect the same goes for many side hustlers.

The truth is there will always be those days when, no matter how much you love what you do, it feels like really, really hard work. 

Whether it’s a demanding customer, a tight deadline, or an unreliable supplier, challenges are inevitable. So, the goal isn’t to start a side business that never feels like work; it’s to create one in which doing the work is always worth it, even, or rather especially, when the going gets tough. 

With that in mind, your next task is to go through that list you just created and eliminate anything that you’re not 100% confident you’d be willing to stick with when those unavoidable challenges rear their ugly heads and anything that you suspect you might quickly get sick and tired of.

For example, you’re a whiz at accounting. However, if you’re doing this to get away from your 9 – 5 job at an accountancy firm, starting a side hustle as a freelance accountant may be the absolute last thing you want to do.

Related: Can a conflict of interest stop your side business?

3. What Can I Afford to Do Right Now?

Although starting a business with no money isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, you’ll have a much easier time if you can inject at least a few dollars into your new business idea, even if it’s only to get some business cards printed. 

To answer this question, do a little research into potential startup costs and assess the financial feasibility of getting your business off the ground. 

For example, if you want to start a side gig as a mobile DJ but don’t have any of the equipment, you’ll probably need to spend hundreds, if not thousands, to buy it.

If your finances won’t currently stretch that far, put that on the back burner and focus on something you can afford to do right now. After all, you could always pursue a more affordable side hustle idea to fund your superstar DJ dreams. 

Related: How to get your idea off the ground quickly

Putting it All Together

By working through these questions, you’re looking for those ideas that hit the golden sweet spot: 

A business doing something you’re good at, something you can afford, and something you won’t easily get tired of. 

If that still leaves you with too many options (or not enough!), the following 30 side business ideas should help you decide once and for all.

10 Best Side Business Ideas and How to Start Them

1. Virtual Assistant Services

Virtual assistants (VA) typically provide administrative and marketing support to other small businesses and solopreneurs, delivering all the benefits of an in-house employee with none of the HR headaches and financial overheads. 

how to start a va service

One of the best things about becoming a VA is that you can offer a diverse array of services, often using basic computer skills that you likely already have. 

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Booking travel arrangements 
  • Bookkeeping and accounts
  • Content creation
  • Creating and managing to-do lists
  • Creating travel itineraries
  • Creating and editing documents
  • Preparing presentations
  • Data entry
  • Marketing and advertising 
  • Organizing files
  • Online event coordination
  • Social media scheduling

When it comes to attracting clients, you’ll benefit from being a specialist rather than a generalist. 

While some VAs can make a jack-of-all-trades approach work, most will find that focusing on a specific niche or skillset helps them carve out a reputation as an expert, ultimately leading to better-paying clients. 

How Much Can I Earn as a Virtual Assistant?

ZipRecruiter notes that work-from-home VAs make an average of $59,153 per year, though that figure is based on an assistant working full-time hours. 

Meanwhile, the average rate charged by virtual assistants on Fiverr is around $10 per hour. 

That said, the amount you make will depend on a variety of factors, including your skills and experience and the amount of time you spend on your VA side business. 

How to Start a VA Business 

Use the exercise above to begin identifying your skills and the types of services you can offer. then start by creating examples of your work to demonstrate your expertise to potential clients. 

You’ll stand a good chance of finding your first clients by creating a fully-optimized profile on freelancer marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork, though expanding beyond those platforms by creating a website, printing business cards, and writing personalized pitches to businesses who may need your services will really help your new VA business to flourish.

See our complete guide to starting a virtual assistant business

2. AirBNB Rentals

If you have a spare room, converted garage, or, indeed, any liveable space you’re not currently using, you’ve already got almost everything you need to make money through AirBNB rentals. 

how to start an airbnb business

If you’re not already familiar Airbnb vacation property rental platform, Airbnb allows you to rent out a room, your entire home, or another property to travelers who are looking for a unique (and often more affordable) alternative to hotel accommodation. 

As long as you adhere to the company’s guidelines, almost any space can be listed as an Airbnb property, and the company actively encourages those that have their own independent charm about them. 

I once used the platform to stay in a moored canal barge in Amsterdam and just recently rented a tiny home that a couple had built in their spacious backyard for the sole purpose of hosting Airbnb guests. 

Both times, I paid around $100 per night plus a cleaning fee of around $20. Airbnb takes 3% of the booking subtotal (booking fee + cleaning fee), meaning our hosts netted an easy $116.40 USD just for making sure our place was clean, tidy, and ready for our stay. 

How Much Can I Earn as an AirBNB Host?

As I’ve just discussed, AirBNB hosts make 97% of the booking and service fees paid by guests. The company makes most of its money by charging those guests additional service fees.

How much you charge will depend on factors such as the type, size, features, and locatioAmericar property, though the average per-night rental price in North America is $208

How to Start an Airbnb Rental Business 

First, identify a space that you could rent out on Airbnb and invest in making it as attractive and comfortable as possible. If it’s been a few years since the guest room had a fresh lick of paint, do it now before you list it.

Ensure you have the right insurance. If your state or local area requires a short-term rental license, you’ll need that too.

Consider what additional features you could add to increase your listing’s appeal. Most AirBNB hosts offer free Wifi and smart TVs with access to Netflix. Some will provide games, minibars, access to beautiful gardens, and more. 

Finally, take high-quality photos of your property from as many different angles as you can, list your property on Airbnb, and you’re ready to go.

3. Property Management

Did you know that you can make money from property or vacation owners without owning real estate? 

Property management companies are growing in demand, especially with more and more property owners looking for a way to make truly passive income by outsourcing the day-to-day management of their properties. 

Requiring a combination of organizational skills, problem-solving, marketing, and hands-on work on the property itself, running your Airbnb property management business will involve some or all of the following: 

  • Finding property owners or Airbnb hosts as clients
  • Promoting properties to attract bookings
  • Managing bookings
  • Maintaining the property to high standards
  • Cleaning the property after each guest leaves and preparing it for the next guest (vacation rentals)
  • Being on-call, should guests or tenants have any problems. 

This makes it an excellent business for side hustlers already working in fields like property management, domestic cleaning, and home maintenance. 

How Much Do Airbnb Property Management Businesses Make?

Airbnb management businesses generally charge between 20% to 35% of their client’s total monthly revenue, meaning the more you do to attract guests, the better you’ll be paid. 

For example, let’s say you take on three clients, and they each make $1,000 per month due to your efforts. 

At the lower end, you’d be making 20% of $3,000, which is $600 in your pocket. 

At the higher end, you’d be making 35% for a total of $1,050.

How to Start a Side Business in Airbnb Management

You’ll have an advantage here if you already have some experience as an Airbnb host, as not only will you understand the trials and tribulations your clients go through, but you’ll also have a proven track record that can be invaluable for getting those first-paying management gigs. For this type of business, you will need a flexible schedule, especially on the weekends. 

how to start a property rental business

If you don’t have any experience, you’ll benefit from creating a solid business plan and effective marketing highlighting your unique selling point as a property manager. 

You can advertise your services on sites such as Cohost Market, though you’ll also want to invest in advertising and other forms of marketing to really grow your business. 

4. Instructor / Tutor 

Do you have a specific skill, talent, or specialist knowledge that others would want to learn? 

If so, there’s a great side hustle waiting to happen. 

A talented musician, for example, can always pick up some extra cash teaching people how to play musical instruments, while budding entrepreneurs with an academic background can start a side gig as an educational tutor. 

If no specific skills or knowledge come to mind, think about the things people often ask you about. 

A few years ago, I realized I spent an awful lot of time answering questions from friends, family, and even folks I hardly knew about how to do certain things on their computers. 

I figured if I was spending all this money anyway, I might as well try and make a bit of side cash from it. 

So, I built a website, got some flyers printed, and started advertising home computer lessons at $20 an hour. 

How Much Can I Make as an Instructor or Tutor?

This will vary widely depending on what you teach and how good you are at it. 

I didn’t spend a lot of time growing my computer tutor side hustle (mainly because showing people how to set up Skype and format spreadsheets isn’t something I’m passionate about), but I made just over $500 in my best month, and I’m sure that could have been more with enough investment.

Elsewhere, tutors can bring in anywhere from $40 – $80 per hour.

How Can I Start a Side Business as an Instructor or Tutor?

Your first task should be to check whether the industry you want to tutor in requires you to have any qualifications. 

Related: How to start a music lesson business.

Even if it doesn’t, you’ll find that having certifications relevant to your industry is an excellent way to demonstrate your expertise and attract clients. 

From there, you can follow my path of using traditional low-cost marketing methods like websites and flyers, or sign-up with online tutoring sites such as Cambly, which pays $10.20 per hour for helping people improve their English skills.

Other sites for different skills include: 

  • TakeLessons – Music lessons
  • TutorOcean – Academic subjects, languages, and hobbies
  • Preply – Over 100 subjects, including academic, hobbies, and art.

Related: How to start a private tutoring business.

5. Course Creation and Education

Another way to monetize your skills and knowledge is to build online courses and educational materials. 

how to start a course business

This is a particularly great side business if you’re already working as a tutor, as you can take your existing lesson plans and convert them into a course that you sell online, meaning you make money over and over again from the same material without having to physically teach students in real-time. 

How Much Money Can I Make Creating and Selling Courses?

Course creation platform Learnworlds claims that successful course sellers can make anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 per year. 

They also note that selling higher-priced courses sold to a small audience tends to generate more revenue than selling lower-cost courses to a wider audience.

How to Start an Online Course Business

After deciding what your course will teach, your next step is to create a course structure. 

From there, focus on developing high-quality content such as video lessons, worksheets, and supporting materials and selling the whole package on a top course seller platform such as Udemy, Teachable, or Thinkific. 

While you may pick up potential customers via those platforms’ internal search features, you’ll have a lot more success using social media, YouTube, and other channels to actively promote your courses.

6. Freelance Writing

Thanks to a combination of multiple factors, not least of which being the rise of AI-generated web content and Google’s firm stance on prioritizing high-quality content, making money as a freelance writer is a lot harder than it used to be. 

Still, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. As someone who has made good money from writing for the better part of a decade, I can confirm that there’s still a market for talented writers with a level of expertise in a specific niche. 

How Much Money Can I Make as a Freelance Writer?

Entry-level pay for a freelance writer is between $0.05 and $0.25 per word. This means that a typical 1,000 word article would earn you between $50 and $250. 

how to start a writing business

At one point, I used People Per Hour to find some new clients. Although I’ve long since moved on, you can see in the screenshot above that I made over $40,000 over the course of the three years that I was active on the platform.

While that only works out at around $13,000 per year, this was in addition to income from clients that I found via other channels. 

How to Start a Freelance Writing Business 

Start by using the How to Choose a Side Business exercise at the start of this article to determine a niche you can specialize in as a writer. 

Next, create a portfolio with examples of your very best writing. If you don’t have examples, start a blog or write on Medium to demonstrate your abilities. 

You can then begin to search for clients using any of the freelancer marketplace sites listed in this guide, or follow another strategy of mine which was to find businesses in my niche who hadn’t updated their blog for a long time, and offer to help them with it. 

See our guide to starting a freelance writing business for more tips and suggestions. 

Other Freelance Side Businesses to Start

Of course, writing isn’t the only service you can offer on a freelance basis. 

Here’s 5 other freelance side business ideas you might want to look further into:

7. Self-Published Author 

Writing and selling your own ebooks is a whole different ball game than doing freelance work, but it can prove to be a very effective way for skilled writers to make extra money. 

You’ll need to learn about book formatting, content creation, and book marketing, which makes it a much more time-consuming endeavor. 

On the upside, self-publishing gives you the freedom to write about the things you really like, build an audience, and create a valuable asset that keeps generating income long after you hit publish. 

How Much Money Can I Make as a Self-Published Author?

The few books I’ve self-published earn me between $100 – $150 per month. 

how to start a business writing books

However, that’s long after I stopped doing any marketing for them, and when I do put the effort into promotion, those figures certainly go up. 

What’s more, communities like R/SelfPublish are full of stories of successful writers who put more time into their self-publishing career than I do and make three, four, five, and in some cases, even six figures from their books. 

How to Become a Self-Published Author

The world of self-publishing can seem quite alien to newcomers, so I suggest learning as much as you can about how the industry works before you begin. 

Once you’ve written, edited, and proofread your book, you’ll benefit from paying a freelance editor and proofreader to ensure it’s completely error-free.

From there, you can either hire a graphic designer or make your own book covers on Canva, then self-publish your books via platforms like Amazon KDP and Smashwords

8. Online Selling

There’s an abundance of opportunities to make money selling both physical and digital products online.

how to start an ecommerce business

One of the most common routes is to start an eCommerce business, which involves either creating and selling your own products or buying ready-made products at wholesale prices and selling them at marked-up prices via platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce for WordPress. 

The last few years have also seen the process known as “flipping”  experience a huge boost in popularity. 

In a nutshell, “flipping” involves snapping up low-cost items at thrift stores, yard sales, flea markets, and similar locations and selling them for profit via online retail sites such as:

  • Amazon
  • Ebay
  • Poshmark
  • Craigslist
  • Facebook Marketplace 
  • Etsy.

How Much Can You Make Selling Items Online?

Niche, product quality, and marketing will ultimately determine how much you make with online selling. 

The average revenue per customer generated by the popular eCommerce platform Shopify is $89, though those in the top 10% of Shopify sellers bring as much as $328 per customer

Elsewhere, Amazon sellers are reported to make anywhere between $1,000 to $25,000 per month, while readers of our guide to selling Canva templates on Etsy may recall that the artisan marketplace generates $100 at the low end and over $45,000 at the high end.

How to Start Selling Online

First, choose a profitable niche and conduct thorough market research to find trending or in-demand products within that chosen niche, paying close attention to factors such as quality, affordability, and potential profit margins. 

Next, evaluate different eCommerce platforms and select the one that aligns with your business needs, offers user-friendly features, and provides reliable customer support.

Use those platforms to start selling your products while investing in marketing and analyzing industry trends and customer preferences to stay competitive and attract more customers.

9. Domestic and/or Commercial Cleaning

A cleaning business is one best side hustles to pursue for anyone looking to get away from the computer and out doing something physically active. 

Ultimately, there are different types of cleaning side gigs you could set-up in your free time. 

While your bread and butter may come from providing weekly household cleaning services, you can also pick up additional part-time income offering Move-In, Move-Out cleaning, which is where you really go to town, giving a property a thorough and comprehensive clean before new homeowners move in.

You could even branch out into commercial cleaning, providing your services for offices, stores, and other places of business. 

How Much Money Can I Make From a Cleaning Side Hustle?

The average pay for a self-employed cleaner is between $17-$25 per hour, meaning you’d only need four or five clients to bring home around $100 extra dollars each week. 

Related: How to Start a Cleaning Business

Your first step to starting a cleaning side business should be deciding which type of cleaning services you want to provide. Are you going to focus on general domestic cleaning? Move-out cleaning? Maybe you’re going to offer specialized cleaning services (e.g., carpets, windows), or a combination of all of the above. 

From there, check what licenses and insurance you’ll need for your new venture before stocking up on equipment and eco-friendly cleaning supplies. 

With all that done, it’s time to focus on marketing and advertising to get your first clients and hit the ground running with your new venture. After your business gets established and you provide a reliable service, word-of-mouth referrals will keep you busy.

For more tips, see our guide to starting a house cleaning business.

10. Arts and Crafts 

Finally, selling homemade arts and crafts can be an exciting and rewarding side business for anyone with a passion for creativity. 

how to start a crafting business

As well as selling your products online via sites like the aforementioned Etsy, you can also make good money at art fairs and local vendor events.

There’s also extra money to be made by accepting commissions for bespoke pieces. 

Related: Turning Your Passion to Profit

How Much Money Can You Make Selling Arts and Crafts?

The sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to making money from your creativity, though your artistic skill set and the quality of your work will influence your earnings. 

One artist I know very well just recently made $2,000 for a commissioned painting, while in the same week, a friend of mine took home $600 from a local art fair.

How to Start an Arts and Crafts Side Business

Social media will be your best friend when it comes to showcasing your art. Most of the artists I know focus on Instagram to promote their work, including a link in their bio to an Etsy store or other website. 

Joining a local art group can be a great way to not only expand your professional network but also help you learn about events and other opportunities to promote your work. 

Related: Do I have to charge sales tax at a craft fair?

20 More Side Business Ideas:

If none of the ideas above are right for you, here’s 20 more possible side businesses you could start today:

  1. Consultant
  2. Bookkeeping and accounting
  3. Musician For Hire
  4. Mobile DJ and Entertainment
  5. Wedding Planner
  6. Event Planner
  7. Content Creator
  8. Content Production and Editing
  9. Life Coach
  10. Dog Walking
  11. House / Pet Sitter
  12. Gardening and Landscaping
  13. Interior Design
  14. Home Repair and Maintenance
  15. Voice Over Artist
  16. Furniture Restoration
  17. Drone Photography and Videography
  18. Personal Fitness Coach
  19. Pressure Washing
  20. Driver / Delivery Driver

For more ideas, check out our business library, with over 300 types of businesses to start.

The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Side Business: Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful in determining which side business to start and what steps you need to take to begin bringing in that extra money. 

Although I’ve shared a wide range of side hustle ideas with you, the basic startup steps are pretty much the same for all businesses: 

  • Create a solid business plan
  • Identify who your customers are
  • Gather your equipment, tools, and other essentials
  • Create and implement a marketing strategy
  • Deliver first-rate service for your clients to boost your reputation and generate repeat business.

Depending on the type of business you want to start, you may also need to secure funding to help you buy the necessary equipment or pay for expensive business licenses. 

For help with this, see our guide to finding the money to start a business.

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The Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Side Business

The Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Side Business

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