August 15, 2012

Entrepreneurship, Money & Career

Be Your Own Boss: 37 Side Hustle Ideas

This month, Tyler Tervooren did a great two-part series for us on some of the basic principles of starting a successful side hustle.

Today, I want to round out those posts by offering a list of concrete side hustle ideas for guys who need more specific inspiration on what kind of “microbusiness” to create. Remember, as Tyler explained, a lot of men never get started with their side hustle because they think their idea has to be unique and ground-breaking. It doesn’t. You just need a customer who’s willing and able to pay for your services and a strong work ethic to make your business a success.

You might think, “I’d like to start X business, but I can’t because so many people are already doing the same thing.” Well, I’ve seen half a dozen guys try to start a business with the exact same idea, but only one succeeded, because only one was willing to really hustle. Within any current niche, there is another niche waiting for you to dominate: the super responsive, super enthusiastic, non-flaky, on-time, quality producer. Seriously, how many flaky graphic designers and computer programmers are out there? Tons. And people who use their services are frustrated. By making yourself the super responsive, super enthusiastic, non-flaky, on-time computer programmer, you can put yourself head and shoulders above your competitors, and easily rack up referrals and dominate your niche.

Here’s an example: I had a dead tree in my front yard that I needed cut down and removed. I called a couple of places. No one answered the phone, so I left a message. A couple of days went by, no response. So I sent an email to another guy. He showed up at my front door within the hour and gave me an estimate. I hired him and he came the next day with his men to do the work.

The same principles apply to side hustles. And if you want to turn it into your real job? Then treat it like one. Take blogging, for instance. People think they can start a blog, spend an hour each day writing down their musings about the world, and crap out golden eggs. Yet after a year they still have two subscribers: their girlfriend and their mom.  I am often asked how I made AoM a success. Well, Kate and I each worked on it 30-60 hours a week…even when I was in law school and even when I had a full-time corporate job. Early mornings, late nights. We treated it like a job…until it became our job.

In trying to come up with a side business idea, the two richest veins are 1) hobbies you already do for free, and 2) stuff people are unable or unwilling to do themselves. That latter category keeps on growing, as people are increasingly “outsourcing” their lives and becoming averse to doing little unpleasant tasks and chores themselves. However you feel about this trend, the market is definitely there for more and more outsourcing niches.

The ideas below generally fall into these two categories. Most will allow you to stick with Tyler’s suggested $100 budget and can be started right away. Maybe one will pique your interest, or will give you another idea. Certainly don’t limit yourself to this list.

37 Side Hustle Ideas

Crafter of ____. The Industrial Revolution dealt craftsmen a terrible blow. But small, independent artisans have been making a comeback these days. Because of sites like etsy.com, it’s never been easier to set up a “shop,” and get your wares out there in front of people. What should you make? Whatever your imagination, skills, and tools can dream up. There are guys making simple lamps, shaving brushes and keepsake boxes, leather notebook covers, knives — you name it.

Editor/proofreader. Got an English degree? It’s good for more than a job at McDonald’s! (I kid, I kid). You can start freelance editing when you’re still in school – friends and classmates often need their papers and graduate school application essays edited. Once you’ve gotten some experience under your belt, branch out to other things. How do you find clients? Editor Jeremy Anderberg, left this helpful comment on one of the previous side hustle posts:

“Believe it or not, all my clients have come from three sources:

-Twitter search for people needing an editor
-Craigslists postings in the Writing / Editing Jobs
-Independent/Indie author’s forums

I found where the authors are, and went to them! It’s worked great so far.”

Graphic designer.  It seems like everyone and their mom is a graphic designer these days, but the number of professional, reliable, and affordable graphic designers is few and far between.  If you have a goal of becoming a full-time graphic designer who can charge giant corporations a million dollars to come up with a new logo, start off by doing projects for smaller businesses.  I know many folks who find clients by offering to do a small project for a business or website they frequent and enjoy. Once the business owner sees how awesome the work is, they end up hiring the designer for other projects. The one thing you can do to set yourself apart in this niche is to be super-reliable and responsive.

Personal chef/meal delivery. Personal chefs used to be the exclusive privilege of the rich and famous, but are now a service people of more modest means are signing up for. You can go into someone’s home to cook for them a few times a week, or make meals in your own kitchen that you deliver weekly or daily. The latter option is often done for those who are on a diet and want someone to prepare fresh, calorie-controlled meals for them. One thing to note about this, and any other side business that involves making food in your own kitchen, is that your state or city may have laws requiring commercially-sold food to be made in a commercially-certified kitchen. Getting that certification can be pricey. One way around this is that some cities offer a community commercial kitchen where you can rent a slot.

Dog poop picker-upper. Yup, this is really a job. Some people’s full-time job, actually. All dogs poop, and some people don’t want to crisscross their yard every week searching for Fido’s droppings. I actually heard of a guy here in town, Jon Wood, who started his own dog poop scooping business –Poop 911 — while he was getting his biology degree from the University of Tulsa. He intended to go to medical school, but his side business became so successful that his previous plan was soon put on hold, and now he’s looking to franchise.

Soap maker. There seems to be a bunch of soaps available at the grocery store, but they’re really all about the same. That leaves a lot of special niches to be filled — folks looking for super natural fragrance-free soap, guys who want a unique and manly scent, and those who’d like their soap to come in a fun shape (like, say, guns or bacon and eggs) to name a few. Making your own soap isn’t as difficult as you might think. Let Bryan Schatz show you how.

Poem/letter writer. Not everyone’s got a way with words. If you do, start a letter/poem writing service where the client tells you what they’re trying to convey, and you bring it to life for them.

Computer troubleshooter. Some people (read: older people) find their computer to be entirely inscrutable, and do not know how to fix their machines when issues come up. They may know how to turn it off and on, but that’s often about it. Become a one-man Geek Squad for these folks.

Website/blog creator. In this day and age every business needs to have a sharp-looking, easy-to-use website or blog. But surprisingly, a lot of business websites still look like they’re stuck in 1999. Plus, ordinary people often want to start a personal blog, but don’t know where to begin. In addition to your site creation service, you can also offer help on making the site easier to find in search engines and getting connected to potential readers and customers with social media.

To find clients, consider combining your website-building know-how with a special area of expertise. For example, during law school I noticed that a lot of law firms in town had pretty terrible looking websites. While I never had time to execute it, I thought about offering these firms my services, as I could help them both build their site and offer the legal know-how to create content for their blog.

Dog walker/pet sitter. If people work long hours, they need someone to come walk their dogs during the day, and if they go on vacation, they need someone to both walk and feed their pets. There are people in NYC making six figures a year doing this. Six figures for walking dogs!

Pet taxi. People use a pet taxi when they don’t have a car or work long hours, but need someone to take their kitty or pooch to the vet, the groomer, or to and from the airport. Pet taxis pick up animals from their homes, and take them to and from appointments.

Pet baths. While all-out pet grooming requires training, you could specialize in giving people’s four-legged friends a bath. Many people really don’t like doing this chore themselves.

Window cleaner. Got some cleaning solution and a squeegee? You’re ready to be a window washer. No, not the kind that stands at intersections and harasses you into having your windshield cleaned. Stick to people’s homes or businesses.

Family history creator. Many people want to know more about their ancestry, but find the idea of tracing their genealogy intimidating. They may even have the software to do so, but are still confused about how to use it. Your business could be helping these folks create their family tree.

Music/instrument teacher. If you know how to play a musical instrument, give lessons in your home.

Music performer.  If you have a talent for music, perform at small business events or weddings. I have an acquaintance here in town that performs the violin both solo and in a quartet at various events during her free time.

Blogger. Making money from a blog isn’t easy, but definitely possible if you’re willing to invest a lot of sweat equity into it. I’ll do a post in the future on my best tips for creating a successful blog if there is interest (let us know in the comments!).

Auto detailer. While many people enjoy detailing their own car, there are plenty of folks who will gladly pay someone else to make their vehicle look like new.

Jerky maker. When it comes to small businesses that started out in somebody’s kitchen, women have cupcakes; men have jerky. In recent years, a lot of independent artisan jerky makers have emerged to offer an alternative to the big name, low quality, preservative-ridden jerky available in grocery stores. But there’s always room for another guy serving up his meaty creations.

Christmas lights/holiday display installer. Obviously this isn’t just a side hustle, but a seasonal hustle. It’s a job people really hate doing themselves, so you can make some good dough taking the work off their hands once a year.

Dial-a-Santa. Maybe you’re a skinny 30-something and couldn’t grow a beard to save your life. But, you sound a lot like Santa. Offer a service where parents hire you to make live, personalized phone calls to their astonished children.

Designer of t-shirts/mugs/posters. It used to be that if you wanted to create your own t-shirts and such, you’d have to screen print them in your basement. Now the cost to entry is nil with print-on-demand sites like Zazzle that allow you to slap your designs on everything from shirts to mugs. They take care of all the printing and shipping for you – all you have to do is come up with the design. Of course, with any POD service, the printer/distributor takes a huge cut and leaves you with a lot less profit. But, it’s a good way to dip your toes into something to see if there’s interest in your creations.

Antique refurbisher. If you enjoy refurbishing antiques in your spare time, why not have people pay you to refurbish theirs? My grandpa actually started two side hustles after retiring from the Forest Service that involved refurbishing antiques.  He mainly did it to pass the time, but made a bit of money in the process. The first was restoring old wagons and carriages; the second was restoring and refurbishing antique phonograph players.

Teacher/public speaker. Teaching gigs aren’t reserved for those with the credentials to teach in public schools or colleges. If you have a skill or area of expertise, you can turn it into a class given through continuing education programs, rec centers, and libraries. Also check out a new site called dabble that lets you host one-time classes for interested students.

What could you teach about? Origami, drawing, basic computer skills, conversational foreign language, photography, and electrical safety were just a few of the classes I found by flipping through a Tulsa Continuing Education catalog. Think outside the box, as well, regarding where you can give your class. For example, I’ve thought it would be cool to offer a safety or straight razor class from time to time at a local barbershop.

If you’d like to get into public speaking, check out this SYWMJ interview.

Jack of all trades handyman. When you live in an apartment, there’s one guy who takes care of all the minor things that go wrong in the complex. When you move into a house, you have to call a specialist to fix every little thing. Here’s a winning idea I’m surprised I don’t see more often: set yourself up as an all-around handyman for homeowners. You might try the retainer model: having people pay a monthly fee to be able to call you whenever, for whatever, just like they did as apartment dwellers.

Gofer. Gofers are people who run errands. Usually the errands involve things like picking up dry cleaning or dropping stuff off in the mail. Gofers were once primarily hired by businesses, but more and more individuals are hiring them to do the errands they just don’t have time for. If you have a flexible schedule, you might consider signing up with TaskRabit and offering your services.

Photographer. With a good camera and a lot of practice, you can start documenting people’s weddings, birthdays, and family moments. You can also license your shots of all kinds of things for commercial use. Flickr makes doing this easy.

Tutor. If you’re knowledgeable in an academic subject, amiable, and able to explain difficult concepts to others, look into tutoring. This is something you can do when you’re still a student yourself; in college I tutored my classmates in Spanish, for instance. I got the word out about my service by putting up flyers in the building where foreign language classes were given. I easily got a few clients and made a nice bit of extra money each week. You can also try calling the offices at public schools; some keep lists of available tutors to offer to parents who are looking for one for their kid.

Odd and unpleasant jobs guy. There are a lot of little unpleasant jobs that people are either unwilling or unable to do. If you’ve got a strong stomach and work ethic, set yourself up as the guy who will do anything. Clean the cobwebs out of a garage. Clean a shower that’s so dirty the owner too embarrassed to even call a maid. Be creative about the gross things you can do.

Knife/blade sharpener. Put an ad on Craigslist offering your services. You don’t need to limit yourself to just knives; offer to sharpen any edged tool and the blades of manual lawn mowers, too.

Freelance writer. Not all blogs or websites pay for freelance submissions, or if they do, pay very little. But you can make money if you’re willing to boost the quantity (and probably lower the quality) of your output. And traditional magazines still pay well for topnotch stuff.

Personal shopper. Sorting through the thicket of choices available for every single consumer item these days can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming. What credit card is best for me? Where can I find a sweater like this one? What’s the best laptop for my needs? Let your client tell you what they’re looking for, and then you’ll go to work combing through the options and presenting to them the three best choices, or, depending on their level of trust, making the purchase for them. You can specialize; for example, I think a good side hustle would be setting yourself up as the guy who finds and books airline tickets. Full-on travel agents do this too, but this would be your sole service.

Videographer/video editor. More and more couples not only want their wedding photographed, they also want it filmed and edited professionally. As people watch more and more video online, the demand for quality videographers and video editors is only increasing. If you have a hobby of making and editing short films, offer your service to friends who are getting married. Another source of potential clients are local businesses. Offer to make a short YouTube commercial that a business could share with customers or put on their webpage.

Computer programmer. Now that even your Aunt Myrtle has an idea for an iPhone app, computer programmers have never been so in demand. But reliable ones are still hard to find. Be that guy!

Lawn care and landscaper. Many young men have found success with a pick-up truck, a mower, and a weed whacker. But I also know grown men who do lawn care on the side to make a few extra dollars in order to pay down their debt or increase their savings.

Personal trainer/fitness instructor. Being a personal trainer requires getting some credentials, but once you get them, you can start helping people work out at a local gym. Or you can start an outdoor boot camp. A lot of people are looking for more unique forms of exercise than going to the gym, and I see a big untapped market for trainers offering “outside the box” kind of programs.

Monkey phone call maker. I came across this the other day, and it’s still cracking me up. Incredibly random, and proof you can make a side business out of anything.

What kinds of side hustles have you done personally, or have heard about from others? Share more ideas with us in the comments!


Show Comments

Site Meter