10 Side Hustles That Are Worth Your Time

Make sure your side hustle isn’t a waste of time. Learn what works (and what doesn’t) from my years of personal experience.

Happy Friday morning and welcome to 2020 everyone! I’m sure it will be a year filled with joy, laughter, and love, and possibly a little hatred, disaster, and destruction. Hopefully we’ll have more of the former than the latter. Today’s newsletter is for anyone looking for extra income outside of their main job.

Side hustles are a new reality of American life. For all but the highest-paid workers, real wages aren’t going up at all. Today’s real average wage has the same purchasing power it did 40 years ago. Making money outside of a primary job is a necessity for many American workers; 3 in 10 say that extra income from side hustles is required to pay living expenses, and nearly half of all Americans have side hustles.

Side hustles have the power to help you make ends meet and get ahead financially, but only if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, you could end up giving away your time for pennies on the dollar. No matter what your day job is, your time is a valuable resource, and I want to make sure you are making the most of it. I previously wrote about online side hustles that are worth it; this article will include all side hustles that are worth your time, online and those that require you to leave the house.

Here’s my list of all the best side hustles, brought to you by personal experience and trial and error, in order from least recommended to most recommended.

10. Driving for Uber/Lyft/Postmates/Etc.

Almost everyone has a car, which means almost everyone can make money by driving for a ridesharing company. It isn’t for everyone, though; after expenses, Uber drivers only make slightly above minimum wage. Driving for a ridesharing company often means working when everyone else is having fun, like late at night.

You should do it if:

  • You enjoy driving and don’t mind interacting with strangers, some of whom will be unruly and impolite.

  • Your car is a little bit older. If you’re driving a new car, the depreciation on your car will eat into some or all of your profit. Uber requires its drivers to have a car made no more than 10-15 years ago (varies by city), and Lyft requires cars to be from 2011 or later. Some food delivery services, like Postmates, don’t have vehicle age requirements. Whatever company you’re thinking about driving for, choosing an older, more reliable vehicle is the safest bet. Driving for a ridesharing company is only worth it if your car isn’t rapidly depreciating.

9. Upwork

Upwork is a spot for freelancers to connect with individuals or companies looking to hire them. If your work is quality and you know your value, you can make good money off of Upwork. Many individuals and companies on Upwork are looking to get a project done as cheaply as possible, so don’t let them take advantage of you. Know what your time and labor is worth and don’t sell yourself short.

You should do it if:

  • You don’t mind doing real work. Many side hustles on this list, like writing and passion projects, often don’t feel like real work. Upwork will feel like actual work. You’ll be doing something for someone else, and the only benefit you’ll receive is money.

  • You’re willing to pester and badger someone to get what you deserve. It would be great if freelancers were always paid what they’re worth, but they’re not. You’ll probably have to fight for your pay at least once. Individuals and businesses on the platform will try to get your labor at the lowest possible cost.

8. Landscaping

I promise this isn’t just a fancy way of telling you to mow your neighbor’s lawns. Okay, maybe you will start out mowing a bunch of lawns, but what’s wrong with that? Landscaping provides you with much-needed Vitamin D, exercise, and it can be easy to make money landscaping. You probably already have neighbors who want you to cut their grass or trim their hedges, so what are you waiting for? Rev up the mower and get to work.

You should do it if:

  • You enjoy physical labor. Have you ever noticed all the endorphins that are released after you work out? That’s what enjoying physical labor feels like. Only start your landscaping side hustle if you enjoy the feeling of a hard day’s work.

  • You enjoy being outside. I hate to break it to you, but if you don’t like being outside, landscaping isn’t the side hustle for you. I’m not sure if there’s any landscaping that can be done indoors - maybe look into interior decorating if you don’t like being outside.

7. Online Reselling

In the age of Amazon and eBay, arbitrage is a viable career path (arbitrage means buying goods or products and then reselling them at higher prices). You don’t have to be crafty or artistic to sell things online, but you do need to have an eye for value and an intuition for what items people are willing to pay top dollar for. You’ll also spend a lot of time going to the post office.

You should do it if:

  • You love shopping. Reselling products online means you’ll constantly be buying and selling things, and the best deals are often offline. This means that you’ll spend a great deal of time traveling to different stores and shopping for great deals.

  • You have a knack for trends. People are willing to pay a premium for the convenience of eBay and Amazon. If you can deliver hard-to-find and popular items directly to people’s homes, you can turn a profit.

6. Teaching Online

Tutoring kids online is a real job, but the hours are flexible enough to include it as a side hustle. There are often education requirements; you may need some sort of teaching experience and a bachelor’s degree to qualify. The money from teaching online is pretty good, though (at least compared to other side hustles). Sites like VIPKid pay about $20 an hour.

You should do it if:

  • You don’t mind dealing with uncooperative and bratty kids. What kid wants to wake up early and sit in a virtual class before school? Or what kid wants to do it after they get home from school? Not many, which is why your virtual students will often be in a bad mood. In order for tutoring online to be a viable side hustle, you’ve got to be able to put up with a lot of bad attitudes and kids that don’t want to be there.

  • You’re willing to wake up early and teach or teach at night. VIPKid, one of the most popular sites for tutoring online, is based in China. That means if you’re in the U.S., there will be a huge time difference between you and your students. Kids will often be getting out of school in China at the crack of dawn in the U.S., so you’ll probably need to wake up early to tutor online (if you’re tutoring Chinese students, at least).

5. Network

Talk to people you know and see if they have or know of any opportunities for you to make some extra money. If you hear someone mention something they need done that you have the ability to do, offer to help out. Older people especially may need help taking care of their homes and yards. If you’re a great cook, try selling some of your baked goods to family and friends.

You should do it if:

  • You want to help people out and not take advantage of them. Sure, you may be able to get away with overcharging people for services or goods you provide, but your enterprise probably won’t last very long. Charge as much as you think your time and effort is worth, but don’t get greedy.

4. Writing

It’s hard to make money writing. Trust me. There are many different platforms where you can try to monetize your writing; Medium (obviously), Substack (create your own newsletter), blogging, and guest blogging are a few. Unlike other side hustles, you won’t come out of the gate making real money writing. It’ll take months (or years) of hard work and dedication before your income from writing is substantial.

You should do it if: 

  • You are a great writer and passionate about writing. If you only view writing as a potential income stream, you’ll burn out and give up before you start making any real money.

  • You’re willing to put in the work required to be successful. At times it will feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. Success with writing isn’t linear and will often come and go. You must have the patience and drive to make it through the tough times.

3. Pet Sitting

Not everyone can be a babysitter (not my rule, but unfortunately society frowns upon men babysitting), but everyone can be a pet sitter. Pet owners would often rather leave their beloved animal in the care of a friend or family member rather than pay to board them, and it’s usually cheaper as well. If you want to be a pet sitter I would recommend starting with family and friends, and then if you do a good job they’ll recommend you to others in need of your services.

You should do it if:

  • You love animals. If you’re allergic to dogs and cats, this isn’t the side hustle for you. Not everyone is an animal lover, and that’s okay. If you love animals, pet sitting is an ideal side hustle. You’ll get some mischievous or ill-behaved pets from time to time, but you should enjoy most of your time spent pet sitting.

  • You don’t mind hanging out in strange homes. Many pet owners will want you to pet sit their animal at their house, which means you’ll need to be comfortable with sleeping in and spending time in an unfamiliar home.

2. Passion Projects

If you are really good at something, better than almost anyone else, you can probably monetize it. Are you an artist or really crafty? Start selling some of your projects on Etsy. Are you really good at video games? Start editing and uploading some of your greatest hits to YouTube or livestream on a platform like Twitch. 

You should do it if:

  • You do something better than anyone else you know. That could be anything, from painting or drawing, making candles, or even solving Rubik’s Cubes. If you are great at something, people will pay for your work. Or watch it on YouTube.

1. Plant a Garden

You’ve probably never considered growing plants as a way to make money (unless you’re a drug dealer), but planting a garden can be a rewarding way to save money and possibly make some money. Growing plants is really popular right now. Plants also make us happier and healthier, so there’s really no reason not to start your plant collection right now. You can potentially make money by selling plants you grow to your plant-crazy friends, or selling fruits and vegetables at your local farmers market.

You should do it if:

  • You enjoy plants and/or being outdoors. Who doesn’t love plants? Nobody that I know, but if you do hate plants for some reason you should probably avoid planting a garden.

  • You aren’t in it for the money. It’s probably unlikely that you’ll get rich selling plants to your friends or selling vegetables at the farmers market. Don’t start a garden if you are trying to turn a hefty profit. Do start a garden if you’ll enjoy all of the many benefits of plants, like free food and natural beauty.

Obviously not every side hustle I tried was worth it. Here’s a few that didn’t make the cut that I recommend avoiding.

Online Surveys

I used to be really into online surveys, especially when I was a teenager. They promised great rewards and real money from simply filling out surveys online. Most of the promises are lies, and even the reputable survey websites don’t pay the equivalent of minimum wage. I don’t think taking surveys online is a viable side hustle, but if you’re a teenager with a lot of free time, they might be worth a look. Prolific, Pinecone Research, and Google Opinion Rewards are the only reputable online survey platforms I’m aware of.

Amazon Mechanical Turk

Like taking surveys online, I’ve also spent a decent amount of time on Amazon MTurk. There are surveys on MTurk, but most of the tasks aren’t. Transcribing audio and receipts are two of the most popular tasks on the platform. The work can be done by anyone with two hands, a brain, and a computer, but it is almost never worth your time. Corporations turn to MTurk to crowdsource human labor and time at the lowest possible price, which means the money you’ll receive for completing a task is always as little as the company can get away with.

What to look for in a good side hustle

A good side hustle should provide some value to you outside of money. What you do in your time away from your main job is up to you; if you choose to take on a side hustle, make sure it’s something that provides either enjoyment or a lot of money (and hopefully both).

If you don’t need the extra cash from a side hustle, don’t feel like you need to have one. You may be happiest spending your free time indulging your hobbies and interests, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. A side hustle shouldn’t feel like a full-time job.

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