With the rise of online craft marketplaces like Etsy, people with decent artisanal skills like sewing and woodworking have an always-open market to sell their products as a side business idea. If you’ve always wanted to design and make clothes by hand, then you can start turning those fashion ideas into real, hand-sewn garments and earn a little bit with this side business idea while you sleep and customers from around the world browse your Etsy & Amazon stores.
Potential challenges: Starting a food business can be complicated, as you’ll have to deal with permitting requirements and health department regulations. Other obstacles include securing a desirable location and fierce competition, although these factors may depend on your local market.
If you don’t mind parading yourself around in public places as a side business idea, and enjoy a little attention, then working as a human billboard can pay a surprising amount of dividends. Renting out your beard, for example can earn you as much as $5 a day while having a brand logo tattooed on your shaven head for five years could pay as much as $7,000—though this type of earning opportunity is admittedly rare. This business idea is definitely not for the faint of heart, and is a little extreme for me, but nonetheless it’s been done as a side hustle for many people. You can start by holding a placard or wearing a sandwich board. If you think this is a good side business idea, you can go all the way and turn it into a full on small business idea with enough hard work—plus you won’t have to deal with all the issues other more complex businesses have to constantly think about (like reducing churn).
College counsellors come in all shapes and sizes. Their primary duty is to help guide students through an important period in their lives. Some counselors focus on admissions, career advice, financial aid, athletics, extracurricular activities, and other concerns. There are institutions looking out for part-time college counselors, making this a fantastic side business idea, or you can even start your own practice and charge anywhere from $25-$100+ per hour for your consultative services if you’re well-versed on the subject.
I’ve owned a lot of boats (and even built a couple) and I’ll tell you most boat owners want their boats totally ship-shape! And yet boats tend to get dirty easily! Which leads to a great demand for boat maintenance and cleaning. To make a go of this, you want to have a good concentration of boats in one town, at one harbor or ideally on one dock. So, do a great job (this is a finicky crowd), don’t sell on price, be dependable and you will build word of mouth. I would also do as much work as possible wearing my company T-shirt, when boat owners are around cleaning their own boats…such as on Saturday mornings.
Carpets make your home warm and cozy. But they also tend to gather dust, grime, stains, allergens and bugs over time. You can tap into this opportunity by launching a carpet cleaning side business idea or serving as an independent contract cleaner in your free time. Either way, you’ll need to invest in proper equipment such as vacuum cleaners, carpet brushes, and cleaning chemicals in order to launch this business idea. Look into the possibility of renting equipment for a full weekend and lining up 5-10 clients to service, to offset your rental costs. If you turn a healthy profit, you’ll eventually be able to invest in owning your own equipment and increase your margins, thus going from side hustle to serious business.
How will you create your product? Is it a service that you are offering, or if it’s more complex— software, a physical product like a toy or a toaster — how will it get built? Define the process, from sourcing raw materials to assembly to completion, packaging, warehousing, and shipping. Will you need additional people? Will there be unions involved? All of these things must be taken into account.
Investment: Startup costs will depend on the type of services you provide. The upfront costs should be lower if the business is nonmedical and assists seniors with basic daily tasks, although training and licensing may still be required.
A large proportion of homeowners and small businesses have lawns to tend to. Many turn to independent providers of yard work services to take care of their lawn care woes. To start and sustain a yard work services side business idea, you need training, equipment, and a growing network of customers. In the U.S., a full-time landscaping and groundskeeping worker reportedly earns a median wage of around $25,000, while those working on this as a side business idea largely during evenings and weekends can expect to make substantially less.
This is a great business and I can’t tell you how many times I have used pest control services for my residences as well as commercial locations. The rates vary hugely from one locale to the next, so carefully survey nearby markets to determine which market may be the best opportunity for you.
Apply for an employee identification number (EIN). An EIN is an assigned number for IRS purposes, similar to a social security number. EINs are used for small business and corporations to account for employee tax withholdings. However, an EIN is not required if you do not have any employees and you are a solo member LLC. If this is the case, you can simply use your Social Security number instead. Another option, aside from hiring employees and applying for an EIN, is to hire only independent contractors. Independent contractors are not considered employees and therefore no EIN will be required. If you do plan on hiring employees, you can apply for an EIN by:
I met Wally Amos who made a blockbuster success out of famous Amos cookies, which he launched after a career as a Hollywood talent agent. Wally eventually lost control of his company to outside investors. However, he came back again with still another cookie line. Everyone loves a fancy cookie and it’s an easy food to both differentiate and to charge a premium for.
Resource Recommendation: There is so much more to be said about small-business marketing than what we’ve mentioned here. To learn more about the points we discussed and many other topics, head over to our definitive guide!
Local: Many cities and counties also require permits or licensing for individuals and firms conducting business within their jurisdiction. To learn about your requirements in this area, consult your local county clerks and city clerks. You can also search by keyword and zip code here.
Sykes hires agents to work from home throughout the United States and Canada. The company encourages you to “join the team of 6,000 agents across North America who accept inbound calls routed virtually to their homes.” Apply to work for the company here.
This is very specialized and you need to have a good amount of expertise to get started. But what a fun way to make a living! Visiting clients’ homes, viewing and researching their art: what could be a more fun business than this?
Early childhood learning seems to be the rage. Even many games have an educational bent. With such high interest this is a competitive space, so you need to specialize. Perhaps specialize in children with learning disabilities, slow learners, creative play, or “gifted” kids.
Freelance writing is one of the most flexible of the non-phone options, and it’s an easy field to break into without any experience at all! This is also an industry that can pay well, especially if you forgo content sites (such as the ones below) and work on finding private clients that will agree to the rates you set. The content sites don’t pay that well, but they can still help you get valuable writing experience and earn a weekly paycheck.
If you have the right touch, this business can be a goldmine, and very personally rewarding. One of my business school classmates changed into this career later in life and did very well, specializing in putting together highly talented teams for well financed startups, and early stage ventures. The typical head hunter makes endless cold calls–but at the higher end firms networking is much more important.
Is the URL available? Check to see if the name of your LLC is available so that you can reserve your domain name. Even if you don’t plan to make a website today, you may want to buy the domain name in order to prevent others from acquiring it.
While the barriers to entry for a retail shop can be very high, one way to keep costs down and limit your time investment while you keep your full-time job, is to set up a weekend popup shop as a side business idea. More of whatever it is you’re selling—donuts, clothing, antique baseball cards, or anything else—will stay in your pockets instead of going to pay for operating expenses such as rent or utilities by choosing to pursue retail as a side business idea with a short-term rental. This guide from Shopify will give you a step-by-step process for getting your popup shop off the ground.
If you buy a franchise, they may come with back-office support to help you run your business, including with money transactions. If you’re running the business on your own, you could use a service like Paypal to conduct any transactions.
One of my friend’s mothers who had performed as a Radio City Rockette, founded a highly successful dance studio for young girls. She was successful enough to rent large commercial space, but this is a business you may want to start in your home.
Everyone knows legal proceedings take forever, can be very expensive, and the outcomes can be uncertain. I became involved in litigation with a service vendor and it looked like we had no alternative but to go to court. However, our opposing attorneys agreed to hire an arbitrator and we ended up with a much better result, with much less time and agony. A great business—and a great service for individuals and businesses.
Despite quickly earning a promotion and establishing myself as a top performer, I felt I was supposed to be doing more. At this point, I thought to myself, “I think I can do this on my own. No, I need to do this on my own.” Once I had that realization, there was no turning back.
Food trucks and food carts are booming! And no wonder! They allow you to get into the food service business with a lot less overhead than a restaurant, and increasingly people are willing to buy more gourmet fare from food trucks.
Needing to increase the size of your premises. This happens more often than expected. Once the stock starts piling up, you may find it ends up in your living room, bedroom and the garden shed. Think rental of storage premises if needed.
You need to set up your business in an area that is most profitable for your business or most convenient to your business. A location in the right city can be selected for a shop or an office is most known for the type of product or service you are dealing with.
Expenses. These are the costs for operations that occur during the start-up phase. They include tax-deductible costs such as travel, payroll, rent, office supplies, marketing materials, etc. They also include initial organizational costs like legal fees and state incorporation fees. Many (but not all) of these costs are tax deductible, up to $5,000 in the first year of doing business. You can deduct the remaining costs in equal instalments over a period of 180 months (starting with the month in which your business opens).
Don’t just hire the first person to come along with the basic qualifications you need. Look for someone with motivation, creativity and the right kind of personality to make it in your industry and fit in with your business. Then, once you’ve found that person, treat them well, engage them and make sure that you create the environment that they will thrive and give their all in.
It may seem like all of the good business ideas or the best small ideas have been taken, but they are not. Most successful small business ideas come from individuals who work for someone and they believe they can do better.
People are always searching for one-of-a-kind venues for meetings, parties and weddings. Why not earn some extra money off the space you already have by renting it out for events as a side business idea? If you own a unique venue, like a studio, warehouse or boat, UK-based company Tagvenue will connect you with clients looking for somewhere special to host their event. Not a bad low-effort side business idea.
Cover the financials. The financial statements translate your marketing and operational plans into numbers — profits and cash flow. They identify how much money you will need and how much you might make. Since this is the most dynamic part of your plan, and perhaps the most important for long-term stability, you should update this monthly for the first year, quarterly for the second year, and then annually after that.
Start planning ahead. Where do you hope to see your business in 6 months? What about 3 years down the road? Life is full of surprises and there’s plenty that you can’t plan for, but setting realistic goals is still an important practice.
LLC: LLCs are the most popular business structure because they offer the protection of a corporation without the double taxation or extra paperwork. California allows SMLLCs (single-member LLCs), so you can form one even if you’re the only member of your company. Read our guide to more about how to form an LLC in California.
When you’re searching for B2B partners, you’ll have to choose very carefully. These companies will have access to vital and potentially sensitive business data, so it’s critical to find someone you can trust. In our guide to choosing business partners, our expert sources recommended asking potential vendors about their experience in your industry, their track record with existing clients, and what kind of growth they’ve helped other clients achieve.
One thing that most small towns have in common is grass, lots, and lots of grass. Since small towns tend to be in rural areas, more residents are likely to have lawns and larger gardens. That means people will be on the hunt for lawn and gardening services. A few of the benefits to starting a business such as this in a small town is its predictability, reliability, and scalability. Once you begin finding customers, as long as you have quality services that are reasonably priced, you’re likely to keep the same customers for years. You’ll also be able to predict the repeat services that customers will need. Not only does grass need to be cut repeatedly, but lawns need to be fertilized and treated for weeds and bugs on a regular basis. Lawn care is also an ideal small town business idea that will scale well. You can start off by offering a few services such as lawn and shrubbery care, but can later expand to offering landscaping services as well.
Know your target market. We already discussed this briefly in Step 1, but it’s worth drilling in. If you don’t know who you’re selling to — specifically — there’s no way you’ll be able to market to them successfully.
Luckily, there are tons of ways to start businesses and make money with a side hustle while still leading a well-rounded, meaningful life. If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to quit your day job and grow your side business idea into an empowering self-employed career.