Making a side income (or several incomes) has never been easier than it is now. We live in a time when commerce and business are at our fingertips – all of ours – thanks to the digital era. As young professionals, building multiple streams of income outside of our 9-5 jobs is one of the best investments we can make in ourselves and in our futures.
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
Why side income?
I don’t know about you, but when I first started working after college, I thought I was just about the coolest thing since sliced bread, all because I had an income. It is a great feeling, being completely self-reliant. It doesn’t take long, though, to start feeling like that income is being stretched in a thousand directions.
Rent and living expenses aren’t fun to do paycheck to paycheck, you want to build a savings. You might have student loans (like I did). Maintaining a social life is important, but expensive. And, not to mention, that 401(k) word gets thrown around.
The point is this: these opportunities are amazing yet expensive. One source of income won’t cover them. Enter the side income (or side hustle, my favorite phrase around here). As my favorite money guru Ramit Sethi teaches, it’s more important to focus on making more money than saving the money you already have.
If you want to learn more of the ins and outs and realities of starting a side hustle, check out this detailed post by my friend and fellow Leah on how to start a side hustle.
Active vs. Passive
When it comes to income, you can make money actively or passively. Actively means you’re trading your time or services for money. This is the case with waiters, for example, whose wage and income depends on the hours that they work at their job. The same goes with attorneys, who bill their hours and are paid on how many hours they bill. They, and most professionals, make money based off their time spent working.
Passive income is when you are paid for something you’ve already done, but don’t actively need to do. A classic example of this is a book, which takes incredible amounts of upfront work, and then continues to passively bring you money without doing any more work once completed.
For us side hustlers, active income is a great option for quick money. You can actively make money without much upfront work, which means you’re earning money faster. This is a great strategy for specific saving goals like paying off student loans, saving for a wedding, a big vacation or paying off a credit card. In such situations, you’re probably prioritizing making money and are willing to actively work for it.
When you’re first starting out with side hustling, a good rule of thumb is to spend 75% of your time actively making money and 25% passively making money. Here’s how to begin actively making money today.
Active income ideas
Consulting is a buzzword with a simple meaning: sharing of knowledge.
You (yes, you) have knowledge in something that someone else wants to learn about. You don’t have to have a college degree in something to help others on a topic (and make money while doing so!).
While I definitely don’t endorse a “fake it till you make it” mentality with consulting, I still have no doubt that you have something valuable to offer to others.
For instance, my best friend served with Teach for America for 3 years after college. A way she could leverage that into consulting would be meeting with prospective or hopeful applicants to review their application and help them present the best overall package.
Another one of my friends is a young professional in the fashion industry. Her side hustle could be reviewing the resumes and professionals of college fashion students trying to break into the business themselves.
Think of your accomplishments. Think of what people often ask you for help or advice on. There’s something valuable in there.
How to get started consulting
To be a successful consultant, you need to establish yourself as an expert in whatever field you’re pursuing. That’s what will make people trust that the knowledge they’re paying you for is worth their money. Here are some of my favorite ways to establish yourself as an expert:
Build a personal website
A personal website is the foundation of your consulting hustle. (See my tutorial here on how to set one up in under 30 minutes!) This is not only how you’ll build up your credibility, but this is how you can display your experience, resume, and give your clients a way to get in touch with you and work with you. I recommend doing your research on consultants and influencers in your niche to see what skills of their own they’re highlighting.
Once you build your personal website, showing your publications as an expert will be an instant credibility boost. One of my absolute favorite resources for getting published is HARO (Help A Reporter Out). It’s a site that gathers queries from journalists looking for opinions of experts in their field. And, it’s free! Just sign up and three times a day you’ll receive an email with a list of topics journalists need input in. Reply to the inquiries that apply to you. If you’re the right fit, you have the chance to be featured. Make sure that when you are featured, the article or interview that features you links back to your personal website.
Publish on your own
On your personal website, it’s a good idea to blog occasionally about issues or relevant topics within your consulting niche. This will, again, show your expertise and knowledge within the topic.
I recommend doing some research on specific pain points or issues arising within your niche. You can do this on free sites like Quora, where people post questions to various topics every day. If people are posting questions they have about your niche, there’s a chance others have the same questions and that some would be willing to pay for those problems to be solved.
If and when you do write these posts, you can repurpose and republish them on different platforms so that they’re seen by a larger audience. Medium and Contently are two excellent places to publish for free that gain a lot of exposure.
Offer to work for free
As you probably know, millennial consumers have become very accustomed to buying products and services based on reviews. In fact, studies show that over 90% of millennials rely on reviews to sway their purchasing choices.
The quickest way to get reviews is to offer to work for free for those similar to your future clients in exchange for an honest review. This is also an effective way to get some feedback on your work while it’s in the beta stage so you know that when you begin charging, you’ll feel totally confident in your pricing and worth.
It’s time to sell, baby, sell! Reach out to friends, family, classmates, co-workers, and anyone else that you think could help you. Want a networking boost? Take Urban20Something’s free, 7-day networking challenge here.
2- Drive for Uber
This is one of my favorite side income methods because, for many, it’s something that we would be doing anyway: driving! As it turns out, I live in NYC, so this isn’t the case for me. But, I am from Colorado and many of my friends that live there are Uber drivers on the side. They love it and make good money! It’s easy to turn on or off as you wish and you make your own hours. Bonus: it’s good for the environment!
How to get started driving
Becoming an Uber driver is simple, click here to start today. You must meet the following criteria:
- Be 21 years of age or older.
- Have 3 years driving experience.
- In-state car insurance in your name.
- In-state car registration. It does not need to be in your name.
- You must have an in-state Driver’s License.
- You must have a Social Security Number for a background check.
- Clean driving record.
- Pass a background check.
Once approved, here are some ways to maximize your profits:
Drive during high demand hours
Uber entices their drivers to go out during high demand hours by paying them more during those times. Supply and demand for the win! Plus, the likelihood of you having constant work during those times is high. It might mean giving up a happy hour or two a week, but what side hustle doesn’t?
Have a tip jar
From personal experience, I know that I’m pretty likely to leave a tip in a jar that has USB charges on it (like this one does). It’s not required for riders to provide tips to their Uber drivers, but if you have the tip jar over a charger that they use, riders are likely to tip anyway. This signifies to riders that they are paying money for a service they used, which is natural.
Use your tax deduction
As an Uber driver, you are, in a way, running your own business. That means that you can deduct your business expenses from your annual income and will be taxed less overall. This may include your cell phone bill, the gas used, car insurance, car loan payments, and anything else that is a business expense (used to run your business).
3- Freelance write
Of the various ways I make side income now, this was my very first. It led me all the way through traveling through Southeast Asia alone, jobless and confused. It’s a wonderful way to make extra money, learn how to freelance, improve your writing skills, and enter the world of online entrepreneurship.
You don’t have to have an English degree or be a journalist to be a successful freelance writer (though it can’t hurt!). I do have a degree from a highly ranked university, which I do think helped me when I was just starting out. But, I actually found that freelance writing was a wonderful way to improve my own writing skills, as I had been out of college for a couple of years. Bottom line: you don’t have to be a writer to be a freelance writer, or to have freelance writing benefit your day career. I highly recommend it!
How to get started freelance writing
Freelance Writing Websites
I got my very first freelance writing job on Upwork. Upwork is one of the biggest and most famous freelance work platforms, where you can advertise and find freelance work in nearly any niche. Other similar websites to find freelance writing are Freelance Writing Jobs, Contently, and Craigslist. I did not have a portfolio or even much sample work, I just made my profile and, honestly, got pretty lucky.
Read more about how I got my first freelance job on Upwork here.
Create a portfolio
In your portfolio, you can include anything you think would be helpful to your potential clients. This should be articles you’ve written that reflect your strength in writing, and, if the topics are a bit random, that’s okay.
For my writing portfolio section on my personal website, I include links to this blog and my articles on the Huffington Post, which illustrate the topics I most often write about. I also include an essay that was awarded first place at a competition at the United Nations and articles I’ve written for health blogs about my scoliosis. The latter two have little to nothing to do with the topics I usually write about. But, they show that I’m a diverse and strong writer.
Write for free
Similar to consulting above, writing for free is a great way to get momentum going in your freelance writing career. It’s a way that you can receive honest testimonials that you’ll give to future clients later. When you do this, also ask whoever you publish for to link back to your writing portfolio, which will build traffic toward your writing.
4- Tend bar or waitress
I worked at a fun Time Square bar all throughout college. When I graduated and began working full time, I still kept my bartending job two days a week, Tuesdays and Saturdays, to pick up some extra cash. I still, three years later, have never made as much money as I did then. Bartending is great money, but the nights are long and it can be tiring. I was only able to do it for about six months before it became too much. Still, this is an excellent source of income if you can find a bar that closes at a reasonable time and/or you only want to do it for a little while.
How to get started
If you have service experience, you’re probably in a pretty good position to get a job if the right position comes around. Getting a job that is only at night and only a couple times a week can be tricky, so this might take some patience. A quicker alternative is to apply for a catering company that exclusively hosts events at night or on the weekends.
Truthfully, this is a very hard industry to get started in without experience. That’s just the reality. If you don’t have any experience but really think this is the side hustle for you, I recommend trying to get a position at a bar that’s more entry level. Something like bussing or hostessing. Then, you can work your way up. This will take time, but tending the bar is a great way to make money and awesome skill to have.
Tutoring is a great, classic way to make extra money from the comfort of your home. And, it’s an ideal side hustle for professionals, because the peak hours that tutors are needed during are the evenings when students are studying, and when you’re done working.
You can either be an in-person tutor or a tutor online/ via Skype. I’d probably recommend the latter because it can open you up to a much larger market than your own, in-person community.
You don’t have to have majored in a particular subject to tutor in it (though that can’t hurt!). Do you speak a second language? That’s something you can tutor in. Did you score well on your ACTs or did you take the GREs? Also subjects that need tutoring!
How to get started as a tutor
In the spirit of full transparency, I have never used a tutoring website to get tutoring jobs. With some research, several have claimed that tutor.com and Wyzant are useful and credible websites and have made lots of money tutoring off of them.
I used to tutor French back in college (I speak French). The way I got that job was actually through a babysitting website (that I’ll discuss below). I simply mentioned in my profile that I was fluent in French and was able to teach it. When I was hired for a babysitting job, I was asked to spend an hour of each day teaching French, and I was able to charge nearly 4x as much for that hour! The point is, don’t be quiet about your skills. You never know when someone will be willing to pay to learn it.
Here is a useful article to gauge how much you can charge for your tutoring services.
6- Start a blog
One of my personal favorite side income options on this list is blogging. You can blog about anything, and you can make money blogging about pretty much anything, too.
When I started this blog, I didn’t really intend to make money off of it. I started it to document the road less traveled I was about to take in declining my law school acceptances. I was scared about what was next and new I couldn’t be alone amongst millennials feeling lost in their careers.
Monetizing my blog has become one of the greatest perks of my blog- which is simply writing about what I love. But don’t take my word for it. Bloggers like Melyssa Griffin, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, and Pat Flynn all rake in 1 million plus/year from their blogs.
How to get started
The hardest part of starting a blog is simply starting. It can be paralyzing trying to figure out where to begin, what to write about, how to make it look, what social media strategies to use, the list never ends. So, just start! You’ll learn as you go (which is half the fun).
If you have any interest in blogging, about anything, I recommend getting started quickly and easily with Bluehost (see my tutorial here). Bluehost has been super easy to use from day one for me. I host all my websites on it and all my personal website client’s websites on it, too. It’s very affordable and has excellent support, which is necessary for non-techie people like myself.
If you have any questions about blogging, you can always e-mail me here. I want to help!
How to make money
I, and many other bloggers, make money through affiliate links. This means that I may receive a small commission when someone purchases something I recommend through the link on my blog. Now understanding how affiliate links work for bloggers, I make sure to purchase through their links when the recommend something useful and am happy to do so. I want their blogs to stay in business so the bloggers can continue providing valuable content.
One of the most passive ways to make money blogging is by advertising on your website. It can take a lot of traffic to even make a little bit of money with ads. So, it might take a while before you have the momentum to use this method. The appeal, though, is that you literally have to do nothing to make money this way. Ads are placed for you and your readers do the rest.
You can use your blog to advertise services you have. This includes tutoring or consulting as I wrote about above, or it can include another service you want to provide. A lot of business bloggers also offer business consulting. Productivity bloggers can offer time management coaching. Career bloggers can offer resume and cover letter consulting services.
You get the idea. No matter what you want to blog about, you can definitely find a way to provide a one-on-one service to readers so that your advice and knowledge is customized to them.
One of the most lucrative but labor-intensive ways to make money blogging is by creating and selling digital products. This is something that can take a lot of upfront work creating the product. But, because it’s digital, it can take almost no money to produce and can be sold over and over again.
For instance, ByRegina.com makes her money off of the Ebooks she’s created. She blogs about monetizing info products and, when readers are ready to take action on what she blogs about, she has Ebooks on the fly for them to purchase. Or, I sell this Boss Life Business Plan.
If you want to blog about baking, you could have baking Ebooks ready for purchase. If you want to blog about self-care and self-love, you could make digital gratitude journals ready for purchase. You get the picture.
7- Walk dogs or pet sit
This has to be the best side income options on this list. Who doesn’t love dogs?! Go out and play with these adorable furry creatures and get paid to do it. Dream. Life.
Walking dogs and pet sitting is especially popular in bigger cities like New York, the Bay area, and so on, but the service I mention below has options all around the United States. You can make your own schedule, spend time outside, and dogs simply make you happier!
How to get started
Rover is one of the most popular, flexible and lucrative dog-walking services out there. You can make up to $1,000/month on Rover and their support is unmatched, so you don’t have to worry if anything goes wrong while you’re watching the dogs. This is all while enjoying the freedom to schedule your own working hours and work as little or as much as you need the money to do.
If you don’t want to go through a service, your local Craigslist page is always worth a try. I typically am an advocate of Craigslist for freelance work because it cuts out the middleman and can maximize your profits. In this case, however, I would stick with Rover. If anything happened to the dog, yourself, or someone else while you were with the dog, you’d appreciate the support from an organization. You don’t want to find yourself in a bad situation with no one to back you up.
Okay, I know it might sound a little unglamorous to babysit after age 21, but I actually think it’s a super undervalued for side income.
First of all, a benefit that can come with babysitting is a feeling of community and building relationships with another family. This can be especially valuable if you’re on your 20s living away from your own family, like many of my friends are in NYC. It’s also a way to network!
One of my best friends put up flyers in her large apartment building here in New York offering to babysit and she has felt so much more at home in her building and neighborhood from the connections it’s brought her. I am still very close with one of the families I babysat for in college and they have become my family away from home.
Another huge perk of babysitting is it has the possibility of double hustling time. When the kids go to bed, wha-BAM, you’re there side hustling for another project while still getting paid for your first hustle of the night. That’s nothing to snuff at.
How to get a babysitting job
Throughout college, I used the site SitterCity and I was really happy with it. It was easy-to-use, had plenty of options, and has the option to run background checks which make the whole thing feel safer. I highly recommend this website from my own experience.
The way my friend found a babysitting job in her building was by putting up flyers in the neighborhood and throughout her building and having people call her. I love how personalized this idea is and think it shows a lot of initiative. I’m moving next month and will probably do this in my new building. You can use Fiverr and have a beautiful flyer created for you in 24 hours for only $5.
Readers- what do you do for side income?
Here’s a list of ideas from side hustlers themselves on their own favorite ways to earn income.