So you’re ready to start earning more this year? Whether you want to be more aggressive about paying off student loans, dig yourself out of credit card debt, or save toward a down payment or vacation, making extra money on the side is a smart strategy for working toward your goals.
While you could simply get a part-time job, I’m going to focus on entrepreneurial ventures — side jobs where you control your time and rates. Instead of working the shifts you’re given for a set wage, you’ll be your own boss, deciding what you do, when you do it and how much you make.
Whether you’re thinking of starting a side business that could eventually become your full-time job or you just want to earn a little extra cash on the weekends, I’ve got you covered. How will you earn more money this year?
Freelance With Your Skills
Use the skills you’ve already developed — maybe even those you use at a full-time job — to earn extra cash on the side. While you’ll want to make sure you’re not competing with your employer (you can’t poach your company’s clients; read your contract to make sure you haven’t signed a non-compete agreement), you could earn a significant amount of money by working directly with clients.
You can start a freelance business with a huge variety of skills. I’ve outlined quite a few below, but there are definitely more options!
If you’re great at crafting engaging blog posts or convincing copy, it’s time to put your writing skills to work. Writers looking to build up experience may want to start with content sites (though be warned, the pay can be extremely low) or by starting a blog of their own.
Research your target sites well before pitching their editors, and — I can’t emphasize this enough — read the guidelines. If the site wants you to pitch ideas, email the editor with a few ideas. If the guidelines ask for a draft, write a draft. If they want you to include a secret phrase in your email’s subject line, include the phrase. (I’m not making this up — many sites use this trick to screen out writers who don’t read the guidelines. No secret phrase means your email goes straight to the trash.)
How much can you make? Three cents a word for content sites, Some blogs — like The Penny Hoarder! — might even offer a bonus if your post performs particularly well.
2. Do Graphic or Web Design Work
Do you always know which colors complement one another best? Can you put together an amazing book cover or website homepage in 20 minutes flat? Is creating a beautiful blog header something you can do in your sleep?
Not only are you my hero, but you could be making serious cash from your skills.
Make sure your website or blog clearly states that you’re available for hire, and share examples of recent projects. If you can’t link to projects you did for your employer, mock up some designs on your own time. Ask friends for referrals, and consider offering your services on a marketplace like Elance. For more ideas, check out Mashable’s post on showcasing your freelance graphic design work.
How much can you make? Designers with a few years of experience and solid portfolios can earn $100 per hour, but designer Jessica Hische recommends avoiding hourly pricing in a detailed project pricing analysis in Fast Company.
3. Develop Websites or Applications
Can you build a WordPress plugin with your bare hands? Do you spend more time on Github than Facebook? If playing with code is your thing, you can definitely turn your skills into extra income.
The age-old business advice applies here: Find a problem and solve it. See a plugin that works, but not perfectly? Build your own improved version. Notice a recurring issue with a WordPress theme? Tweak it to find a fix. Want to be on-call tech support? Find a niche that needs tech-savvy help, and fill it.
Web developer Ben Meredith is a great example. “In the process of cobbling together a website for my church, I learned enough to get a degree in ‘how not to do websites.’ To save people from having to go through what I went through, I started writing down what I was learning.” The result is Church Web Help, a site “for churches who can’t afford to pay a full-time (or even part-time) webmaster,” which offers resources, training and custom WordPress sites.
Want to start your own blog? Check out: How to Make Money Blogging
How much can you make? High-quality freelance developers can charge anywhere from $75 to $150 per hour, says Meredith. You can easily double your rates for “crisis situations” or fast turnarounds, such as when a site has been hacked. In addition, the more specialized and server-side you are, the higher your potential rates.
4. Take Photographs
Shutterbugs, this one’s for you. If you have a decent camera (no, your iPhone doesn’t count), a basic understanding of photographic principles and experience with photo-editing programs, you could earn money taking photos.
Whether you’re keen to start a side business as a portrait photographer, would like to capture memories as a wedding photographer, or simply want to sell your pictures through a stock photography website, earning money as a photographer is a popular side hustle.
If you’re pursuing the portrait business, find clients through word-of-mouth and by posting an online portfolio on your own website or on Flickr. Breaking into the wedding business can be challenging, but start with word-of-mouth for that as well. Ask friends who are getting married whether their photographer could use a second shooter, or offer to spend a few hours taking engagement photos they can use on their wedding websites.
How much can you make? As a family portrait photographer, Susan Shain charged $100 per session, which involved about three hours of work, though she noted this was for friends and family. “I haven’t pursued this as a serious side business, but if I did, I’d probably charge a lot more.”
Wedding photographers charge a wide range of prices depending on location, experience, style and demand. A full-day wedding shoot in Whistler, Canada could cost between $1,500 and $6,500, and photographer JP Danko estimates that high-end wedding photographers can charge $9,000 or more per wedding.
5. Offer Calligraphy
Do you have beautiful handwriting? Have you mastered the art of the perfectly crisp pen stroke? Turn your calligraphy skills into cold hard cash by offering freelance calligraphy services. While handwritten envelopes, place cards and signs are most common for weddings, you may also be able to drum up business from baby showers, birth announcements and milestone birthday parties.
Expert calligraphers recommend practicing constantly, investing in quality tools and taking an introductory course. Find clients by promoting examples of your work on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and connecting with other calligraphers for potential referrals.
How much can you make? Hand-lettered envelopes run $2 to $5 each on Etsy, and signs go for $50 or more. Depending how much time you’re keen to devote, especially in the run-up to the busy wedding season, you could earn a fair amount of cash. Look at what other sellers are charging to figure out how to set your own rates.
6. Paint Murals
Skilled with a paintbrush? Earn extra cash while making your neighborhood a little more beautiful. Whether it’s showcasing an iconic view on a prominent downtown building or decorating a child’s bedroom, mural painting is an often-overlooked creative side gig.
Start by asking friends and family if any rooms could use an artistic makeover; perhaps a plain room could use a cool update before a baby arrives, or a baby-themed room needs redecorating as its owner enters elementary school.
To find other clients, ask satisfied customers for referrals and list your services on sites like FindaMuralist.com.
7. Officiate Weddings
Look outside the “hard” skills like your ability to write code or take amazing photos — can you talk to anyone? Are you a great speaker? Do you love celebrating love? Consider a weekend side gig as a wedding officiant.
Your business set-up will vary based on your state, and the legal requirements vary, but officiating weddings could be a fun side hustle. Once you’ve performed a few weddings for friends or family members, ask them to mention your availability to other couples they know.
How much can you make? Yvonne Doerre, who has officiated about 20 weddings in the DC area, usually charges between $300 and $500 per wedding.
8. Babysit or Nanny
Yes, this counts as freelancing — knowing how to wrangle children is certainly a skill! Parents, oldest siblings and former camp counselors: this one’s for you.
Whether you want to look after school-aged kids on Saturday nights or help tired parents as a night nanny, you’ll find lots of opportunities to use your childcare experience to earn cash. Look within your circle of friends and acquaintances first, as parents are more likely to trust someone they know. Ask friends if they know anyone else who could use a few hours to themselves, whether it’s to grocery shop without toddlers or simply to head to the gym.
How much can you make? Average rates for babysitters start at $12 an hour, according to The Boston Globe, but vary depending on the market — you could earn more for watching more kids, working late nights or simply living in a bigger city. Night nannies can earn between $15 and $25 an hour, depending on location and experience.
These are just eight of the many ways you can turn your skills into lucrative freelance businesses. And we’ve only scratched the surface of ways to earn money on the side…
Make and Sell Art and Crafts
Plenty of people earn extra money from something that started as a crafty hobby. Whether you love knitting, felting, soap-making, woodwork or metal-smithing, there’s likely a market for your creations.
Sell your crafts online, through your own website or on Etsy, to reach customers around the world. Look closer to home by pitching your products to local stores and renting a table at flea markets, and target a niche market by signing up for a dealer’s table at conventions.
What can you sell? Here are a few ideas.
9. Carve Walking Sticks
Using wood you’ve harvested from your own property, a friend’s or public land, create one-of-a-kind walking sticks. Adding special touches like stones, mirrors or leather straps will help you charge more.
How much can you make? It depends where you sell and how fancy your walking sticks are. Simple sticks could sell for $8 at flea markets, but fancier options could bring in $60 each at craft shows or even more online, according to Steve Gillman.
10. Make Jewelry
Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, crazy contraptions that wrap around your face — jewelry designers make all kinds of amazing products. Whether you work with metal, felt, old Scrabble tiles, origami cranes or even deer antlers, you’ll likely find a market for your work.
How much can you make? It depends on what you sell, but remember not to price your pieces too low. Make sure to cover the costs of materials, time, shipping, listing fees and other costs. Keep an eye on craft forums for advice from experienced designers and sellers on what sells well.
11. Create Holiday Crafts
Yes, I know the winter holidays are over. Start practicing holiday crafts now for next year, or create similar options for other holidays. While there may not be quite as many craft fairs before Valentine’s Day, Easter or Halloween, many people and businesses decorate for these holidays.
How much can you make? Anywhere from $11 for simple garlands to $80 for a wooden wreath, according to Etsy. Be creative and experiment with different price points to see what works for your creations.
12. Paint, Sculpt, Draw, Print and Make Art
Consider what other crafty creations you could sell. From screenprinted T-shirts to framed prints or comic books, find a creative product that works for you. Think outside the box here: Sculptor Aaron Lewis creates and sells latex monster masks for $60 to $400 each, depending on the design.
Package Your Knowledge
Are you great at something? Know a lot about a particular program, activity or hobby? The beauty of creating a digital product to share your knowledge is that when people ask for advice, you can point them in the direction of your ebook or course — where your knowledge is nicely packaged up and ready to go.
And the biggest bonus? You create these products once, and earn money from them with every sale.
13. Write and Sell Ebooks
You know enough about a subject to write a book, right? Writer Jeff Goins advises that ebooks be around 20,000 words, though many ebooks are even shorter.
Outline your ideas, then fill in your sections with more detailed advice. If you already blog about a particular subject, you may be able to turn your blog posts into a book! When you’re ready to sell, consider whether you’d prefer to sell through your own site or use a platform like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Apple’s iBooks.
How much can you make? Writer Steve Gillman has earned more than $2,000 from a short, self-published Kindle ebook; Amazon pays writers 70% royalties on ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Here’s a guide to royalty rates on other platforms.
14. Create an Information Product
More complex than an ebook, an information product is often a package of resources that provides in-depth advice on a particular subject. Sometimes including video or audio recordings in addition to text, info products pack a lot of training into one package, and their price often reflects that.
For example, Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guides generally include a PDF ebook, additional resource sheets, checklists, audio and video interviews with subject experts, and other tools.
How much can you make? Depends on your niche, target market, authority and information. For example, Guillebeau’s Upgrade Unlocked guide to luxury travel on a budget starts at $39. Authors Joanna Penn and Roz Morris sold their How to Write a Novel training for $99 (before recently discontinuing it due to new EU VAT laws).
What are your favorite easy side gigs to make more money? Let’s talk in the comments!