The following is a guest post I recently wrote for The Money Mix.
Side Hustle Ideas for People Who Are Way Too Busy
FYI — This page includes affiliate links — which means I may receive some sort of compensation (at no cost to you) if you sign up or make a purchase through these links.
So you’re trying to make some extra money on the side, and are looking for side hustle ideas to cash in on the entrepreneur lifestyle. Because everyone’s doing it — hustling to make a few extra bucks, trying out a couple of side gigs or work from home jobs here and there.
But if you’re already working a regular 9-to-5, aren’t you already way too busy?
How do you find the time to do all of this hustling … and still enjoy living your life?
It’s true that a lot of side hustles focus solely on the “hustle” part. For example, you’ll find suggestions all over the internet about becoming a driver for Uber or Lyft ridesharing, and Amazon Flex or Prime Now delivery services. GrubHub and DoorDash are popular services for restaurant delivery.
But what if you don’t have the time or bandwidth to do all of that physical hustling? What if you already work a full-time job, therefore only have a few hours a week to dedicate to side gigs?
Prefer to Listen?
Click below for the podcast version of this post:
Why Some Side Hustle Ideas Just Don’t Work
Additionally, there are some people who may not have the flexibility or convenience of doing extra work outside of the home.
There could be many different reasons for this, such as:
- Not having reliable transportation
- Caring for children or older family members
- A physical or emotional disability keeping them at home
- Unpredictable or longer hours during their full-time job
- No familial support for working an additional job
I’d like to play devil’s advocate to the high-powered motivational gurus who say things like “Your Only Limit is Yourself” and “If You Really Want it Badly Enough, You’ll Find a Way to Do It“.
I call total BS on that sentiment.
Because many people are over-stressed, overworked, undervalued, and underpaid.
When you’re already teetering on the edge of financial chaos, you will grasp at whatever lifeline you feel you’re capable of grabbing a hold of.
And it’s totally unhelpful for a self-proclaimed money expert to declare you’re just not working hard enough.
The Anti-Social Media Influencer
In addition, I’d like to throw something a little bit controversial out there. Some people (not naming any names) just don’t like … other people.
There, I said it.
Because there are those of us who just really value our “alone time”. So working 40+ hours a week for someone else, and then having to dedicate another 10-15 hours for an external side hustle — will not last very long.
You can only force yourself into uncomfortable situations for so long before you finally throw your arms up in the air and yell “Screw it!”. (or another similar phrase).
Human interaction overload can send some anti-social butterflies into an anxious tailspin.
Like, if you need me, I’ll be locked away in my bedroom for the next two days, recovering from all the “people”-ing I’ve had to do lately. Just leave a pizza and a few bottles of water by the door. And maybe a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. As long as I have my phone, my laptop, and my dogs — I’ll be pretty self-sufficient. Okay, and maybe my Kindle. That’s all I’ll really need. But don’t worry about me, because I just need to recharge for a while. Build up that outer shell of protection that’s chipped away after too many back-to-back in-person events.
The Introvert Advantage of an Online Side Hustle
If you happen to be a people person, then much of the above probably did not make a whole lot of sense.
But if you found this article because you’re looking for ways to make money online — without a lot of human interaction — then there’s a good chance you know what I’m talking about.
Because there definitely are ways to make extra money on the side, on your own terms, on a part-time basis.
And it is absolutely possible to work from home, at your own pace and on your own schedule, without having to leave the house whatsoever.
Now, don’t get me wrong — it most likely will not make you rich.
Let’s just say that again —
It is highly unlikely that you will become rich off of a part-time, online, side hustle.
Others may tell you differently. Most likely, they are trying to sell you something. But I don’t want your money.
I mean, I could definitely use some money, but it’s not yours that I’m after.
What I’d really love is for you to read my articles, and pass them along to your friends.
But I’m not selling anything. I don’t have a course, or an ebook, or online coaching sessions.
I’m sharing this information to get it out there to the people who have one (or two, or three) too many bills.
Or are strapped for cash due to an unexpected expense. Or maybe went a little too crazy this past holiday season, and are still trying to dig out from under their credit cards.
I’ve been there, you’ve been there, we’ve all been there. And if you haven’t … then you’re probably a Kardashian, or something.
Side Gigs That Require a Lot of Hustle, with Little Gain
When so many online articles offer “99 Easy Ways to Make Extra Money on the Side” or “Top 25 Side Hustle Ideas to Make You Rich”, it can be utterly discouraging to find side hustle ideas that can actually work for you.
Because so many suggest ideas such as tag sale/flea market flipping, selling handcrafted products on eBay or Etsy, or selling wholesale on Amazon FBA, where you have to package and mail these items out.
Flipping rental properties, renting out your vehicle, house sitting/pet sitting, house cleaning (when our own houses may have dust bunnies that should be paying rent by now). Again, these are all notably profitable side hustle ideas. But they also require a fair amount of time, physical activity, and effort.
Side Hustle Ideas That You Can Do from Home
Okay, so if you’ve made it this far and you’re still with me, then I can only assume you’d like to hear more.
We’ve established the difference between in-home, online side hustles and external, physically busting-your-butt side hustles. Neither concept is right or wrong, it’s really just a matter of preference.
And I prefer the flexibility of working at home, according to my own schedule. Especially since my day job is also from home. If your regular 9-to-5 has you out and about, then your preference may be different.
For example, I have a friend who does amazingly well with a mystery shopping side hustle. So well, in fact, that she is currently writing a book about it. She travels around the state quite a bit, and is able to cash in by scheduling several shops back to back. That’s a perfect way to maximize efficiencies, and get the best bang for your buck (+ better gas mileage).
But if you have a situation that’s better suited for working from home, then read on for some different side hustle ideas.
Working Entirely from Home
The following side hustles can be done entirely from home, according to your schedule. While there is a certain level of effort involved — you can basically make your own hours. Plus you can do as much or as little as you’d like.
First let’s start with an obvious one, to get it out of the way —
Who hasn’t tried online surveys? I think out of all the side hustle ideas out there, “taking surveys” takes the cake in terms of getting a bad rap. Online surveys have gotten some negative press over the years, simply because they’re the absolute easiest way to make a little bit of money. Emphasis on “little bit”. But … it’s still money.
Because all you have to do is provide your opinion. Something each and every one of us has. The hard part is finding a company that will pay you top dollar for the least amount of your time. And for my money, I’ll take my chances with Survey Savvy every time. Why? Because out of all the companies I’ve tried, Survey Savvy has consistently sent me the most surveys in the $1, $2, and $5 price range.
Most other companies will either give you pennies, or award points you need to accumulate & convert into a few dollars. Additionally, joining the Survey Savvy team will allow even more money-making opportunities. For example, their Cash for Junk Mail program, and also various online research communities.
IntelliZoom is kind of a cross between online survey and website user testing. You’re assigned a task, which usually involves evaluating a website. All steps of the task are recorded with either screen recording software, webcam video, or both. You walk through all of the task steps, answering questions and explaining your thought process. They really want you to “Think Out Loud”, to understand the average customer mindset. And the reason I’m specifically including this company here is because the payout is $10 per study. With other online survey or web testing sites, you might be lucky enough to stumble across a $10 study. But it definitely isn’t something offered on a consistent basis.
Are you more of a creative type? If you love to write stories, you should consider self-publishing on Amazon. You might think getting a book published would be a complicated process, but it really isn’t.
Using the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, they take care of all of the technical details. You upload your completed document, add a cover image and description, and Amazon takes care of the rest. Many people make a great side income by writing short stories. And the beauty of this is — once you have your book listed on Amazon, it will stay there for years to come, earning income with no additional work on your end.
If you watch prime time television, you may have seen the popular CBS show “Bull”, starring Michael Weatherly. It’s a courtroom drama about a trial-consulting firm that assembles mock juries to help predict potential trial outcomes. Sound interesting? Well, you can have the opportunity to do the same thing, entirely online.
eJury.com brings together online juries and focus groups to help attorneys develop their case strategies, based on valuable data and information that YOU provide. You can sign up to be an eJuror right on the website, and will be contacted once a qualifying case becomes available. A typical case consists of a written description — facts, diagrams, pictures, and questions. The average case study takes 35 minutes, and you are paid $5 – $10 per case, depending on length.
Affiliate marketing, if done correctly, is pretty much a “set it and forget it”. A certain amount of work is required up front, and then after that will be totally passive income. So what exactly is affiliate marketing? It’s basically when you vouch for a product or service, recommending it to others. And then that company offers you a reward for bringing in new customers. It could be a certain dollar amount, a free product, or a free service, depending on what the company sells. And it’s something everyone can do, even if you don’t have a blog or professional online presence.
I’m sure you’ve heard of cash back or refund programs like Ebates (aka Rakuten), where you get money back from making purchases online. But did you know you can also make money as an Ebates affiliate? You sign up through their affiliate program, and are given your own personal affiliate link. Then you promote your link on social media, or by email to family and friends, and yes, even on your blog, if you have one.
And for every person who signs up through your link with a qualifying sale, you will earn $25. That’s huge!
And it’s also why sooo many people promote Ebates online. It’s a heck of a lot easier to earn $25 referrals, than to actually earn $25 cash back after making online purchases.
Fun fact: Ebates has been officially renamed / rebranded to “Rakuten“, which means “optimism” in Japanese.
Selling Photos & Stock Footage
If you were to look at your phone right now, how many photos do you think would be on there? I just looked at mine, and I have 668 photos, plus 104 videos. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could somehow make money on a few of these photos? I don’t mean by selling out your bestie, or posting a bunch of selfies online. But if you have high-quality photos (in focus, non-blurry) of outdoor scenes, foliage, nature, animals, flowers, sunsets — you name it — you can make money by selling them online.
Websites like Shutterstock, Pond5, iStock/Getty images, and Fotolia will pay you for your still pictures or stock footage (short video clips). Each company has its specific guidelines. But in general, they look for quality photos that are generic and seasonal, which others can then purchase for commercial or personal use through their website. Also, if there are people in your pics or footage, then a model release form also needs to be completed.
Merch by Amazon
One of the quickest and easiest ways to sell a physical product online is through Print on Demand. This means you provide a design, and the POD company takes care of printing, shipping, and customer support. Merch by Amazon is the platform I recommend for getting started with POD, since it’s user friendly and extremely popular. I mean, everybody has shopped on Amazon one or two times, right?
To get started selling on Merch, all you need are a few creative ideas and an app to mock up your design. There are so many designing apps out there, accessible for computers and also for smartphones. Some free and popular programs are GIMP, Canva, Stencil, Over, and WordRabbit.
Side Hustle Ideas that are Mostly Passive, Working from Home
This next group of side hustle ideas can also be done from home, and are very close to being entirely passive. Some additional work may be involved, but something that can totally be handled while multitasking.
ThredUp Clothing Consignment
The only real work involved with this side hustle is washing and folding the gently used clothing you plan on selling online. ThredUp will mail a shipping bag and postage-paid shipping label right to you (in what they call a “Clean Out Kit”). You place all of the items in the bag, seal it, and schedule a free pickup from USPS or FedEx.
Upon receipt, ThredUp will inspect all of the items, determine prices, then list them for sale. And as each item is sold, you’ll receive the cash into your linked account. Which is way easier than listing individual items online on eBay, and then having to ship purchases to buyers yourself. ThredUp takes all of the grunt work out of the process for you.
This is something you need to remember to do, but it’s pretty quick & no thought is involved. The next time you spend a day grocery shopping or erranding, make sure you save those paper receipts! There are several smartphone apps where you can scan your receipts for cash. So remind everyone in your family to keep their receipts as well. I do this at home — everyone drops their paper receipts on the kitchen table, I scoop them up & scan into all of my apps.
Some of the most popular receipt scanning apps are Receipt Pal, Receipt Hog, and Fetch Rewards. You gain points for scanning paper receipts, and can also connect an email address to include email receipts from online purchases. Depending on how frequently you scan, it may take a few months before you can cash in. But again, this is such a low amount of effort. And you’re doing the shopping anyway, so already have the receipts. Instead of crumpling them in a ball and throwing them away, make them go a bit further for you and cash in.
Search Bar Rewards
How often do you use Google to search online? Once a day? Several times a day? Well, some companies will actually pay you for using their search engine. Two examples that immediately come to mind are Swagbucks and Bing. In fact, one of my peers uses Bing exclusively for searches, for the purpose of accumulating Bing Reward points.
He has teenagers who play video games on Xbox. And apparently you can use your reward points to pay for your Xbox Live monthly subscription. He said he’s used points to pay for an entire year of Xbox Live up front, and has done this for several years.
Now that’s impressive — solely from doing online searches that you’re going to do regardless. So instead of asking someone to “Google it“, maybe instead say “Bing it“!
Picky Domains is a site I’ve recently discovered, and have been trying out. I’m including it in this post because I thought it was such a fun concept, and I’d never heard of this side hustle idea. Customers sign up with Picky Domains when they are looking for brand name or domain name suggestions. They provide a short business background and lay out the parameters — like associated keywords, and maximum number of words or letters.
And as a Picky Domains contributor, you would suggest names that they might like. If the customer picks your suggestion, then you get paid between $20-$75, depending on the type of order. In addition, you can make a small amount of bonus money even if the customer likes your suggestion, but ultimately doesn’t select it. If you have a creative streak and are good with words, it should be easy to make dozens of suggestions for each company. Something you can totally do while watching TV at night, with really no effort involved.
Amazon Influencer Storefront
If you are active on social media, whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, you may want to consider becoming an Amazon Influencer. This is slightly different from their affiliate program because as an Influencer, you get to create your own storefront on Amazon, with a custom Amazon URL. (With the Amazon affiliate program, you have a unique link to specific products that you place in other online locations.)
When you set up your storefront, you’re basically curating all of your favorite Amazon content to display in your store. And you can create separate Idea Lists, that serve as categories. For example, you can create an Idea List of Best Summer Reads, or Must-Have Hair Care Products, or Cutest Dog Halloween Costumes. Then you can share your Amazon storefront link wherever you have an audience or followers. And when customers shop through your storefront, you earn money on qualifying purchases.
Pay Your Selfie – program retired as of 2019
This is a fun one that you can totally do while multi-tasking, and can help you earn a few extra bucks every month. With the Pay Your Selfie app, you earn money by posting selfies of certain everyday situations. For example, a “BBQ Grillin’ Selfie“, or “What’s For Breakfast? Selfie“, and even a “Where Do You Keep Your Marshmallows? Selfie“. You’ll receive anywhere from 25 cents to $1 for each approved selfie. Again, not a huge amount of money, but a chunk of change that can add up, for very little effort!
Working Mainly from Home, Minimal Human Interaction
Here are some side hustle ideas where you can make money from home, but may need to engage in a small amount of human interaction. Which wouldn’t be an everyday occurrence, but may happen every once in a while.
Online or Telephone Focus Groups
Online Focus Groups are a great way to make money from home for providing your opinion. They’re similar to online surveys, except they pay a lot more. Like, it wouldn’t be difficult to locate an opportunity where you can make from $50 – $200. But in general, you need to qualify for a particular demographic. So you more than likely will need to complete a short survey up front, to make sure you fit the criteria needed for the focus group. The focus group may take the form of an online community or forum, where they want you to post your opinion on something. Or a company may mail you a product to use, and then you need to tell them what you thought about it. It could even be a brand new smartphone app that they’d like you to try out & give your opinion on.
A lot of this communication will be done entirely online. But sometimes companies may offer phone interviews, where you need to talk to an actual person in order to answer questions. There are even in-person focus groups, like the ones you see on TV in car commercials. When you register with a research organization, you typically set your preferences — whether you prefer online, text, telephone, or in-person focus groups.
Another not-so-common suggestion for working from home is to be a Census Taker. I know what you’re thinking — There’s no way I’m going door-to-door, counting everyone who lives in each house.
But hear me out.
That’s only one aspect of what the Census Team does. And I only know this because I actually got the chance to speak with a 2020 Census Recruiter a few weeks ago, when I attended a local ChooseFI meetup. So while they do have door-to-door Census Takers, there are also plenty of online research positions, where you can work from home, part-time. Basically, they train you how to use online tools to verify information. In certain situations, you may need to drive to a location and take a picture of a house or building. This would be in situations where they cannot validate that someone lives in a residence. For example, in the case of foreclosures or if a previous resident has passed away. But the majority of this verification can actually be done online.
If you check out their website, you can see the pay grade that applies to your location. In the county where I live, the pay would be $21 per hour — which is not bad at all, right?
Totally Passive Income
These next few side hustle ideas require basically no effort, and produce totally passive income. But they may not be for everyone. They require a certain level of transparency, allowing these companies into your daily online behavior. So if you’re a little hesitant about “Big Brother” watching you, these may not be a good fit for you. However, if you don’t mind sharing a few of your online habits, you can cash in by receiving money for doing nothing.
And I will tell you, I currently participate in both of these. (But then again, my life isn’t terribly interesting, so they’re probably not discovering a ton of useful information!)
With Digital Reflection, you get paid for having a hardware device connected to your computer router. In addition, you earn bonus quarterly payments for validating any online devices used in your household (laptops, cell phones, tablets). According to the company website, they gather data to create research reports for businesses around the world, and the reports never contain any personally identifiable information.
As far as the pay, you’ll receive $20 for signing up and installing their device, the “internet meter”. Then you receive $5 for each month that the meter is plugged in. Every quarter you get a $20 bonus. And they also throw out a few extra bonuses every once in a while, for installing updates and validating your information. I’ve been a member for roughly a year and a half, and have made $365. For doing nothing but keeping a device plugged in.
Similar to Digital Reflection, Savvy Connect pays you money when you connect their program to your devices. They collect data as you surf the web, and track trends in online search, shopping, and entertainment. And in return, you earn cash rewards. Savvy Connect is part of the Survey Savvy program.
Working a side hustle doesn’t have to take every spare second of your day. Especially if you already have a full-time job. Because your time is just as important as money. And you need to have a healthy balance between work time, fun time, and downtime — or else you may find yourself in an unhappy situation.
Also, if you’re not a super-social go-getter, you don’t have to work the hustles that put you out in the spotlight. Because there are tons of ways to make money on the side. The side hustle ideas in this post are merely scratching the surface on how you can earn extra income.
This article originally appeared on The Money Mix and has been republished with permission.
Robin is a full-time business professional who has worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years. She is also a personal finance blogger who shares her first hand experience with the struggles of money and debt. On Mastering the Side Jam, she focuses on ways to maximize efficiencies to make & save money, pay off debt, and live your best life.
She has been been featured on The Money Mix, Rockstar Finance, The Financial Diet and Women’s Money Talk, and has been quoted in various online publications.