Side hustles have historically been spoken of as a way to make ‘some extra cash’, but this year they took on an altogether more urgent quality for many. According to a study by Upwork, although some were forced to put their freelance work on pause this year, an incredible 12% of the US workforce started freelancing for the first time.
In our roundup of the best side hustles for 2021, we’ll include some freelance opportunities (that you may well not have considered before), but also plenty of ways to bring in some extra cash with no prior experience and (crucially) no equipment other than a laptop or smartphone*.
*Apart from number 7, where we cheated a little but it was totally worth it.
You will not find dog walking, Uber driver, litter picking, or selling cookies among our suggestions. Just smart ways to make extra money, in your pajamas, and from the comfort of your own home.
23 Best Online Side Hustles for 2021:
How to Build an Online Store – nine easy steps to start selling online
5 Best Ecommerce Website Builders – our top picks for building your online store
7 Best Free Ecommerce Platforms – the platforms that let you start selling for free
When it comes to making money online, writing for the web is an obvious route to take (I mean hey, we may be a bit biased). But when you don’t have a lot of experience, it can make pitching for freelance work tricky, and it can become a bit of a catch-22. So where do you start?
A blog is a great place to show how you can write about something you’re passionate about, but we also really rate Medium as a platform for posting (or reposting) your articles. It’s a great way to build up a portfolio of work, and you can actually make a buck or two in the meantime through Medium’s Partner programme.
The way Medium calculates earnings is pretty unique, and benefits both niche writers and those with mass appeal (or those with ‘viral’ stories to share). Put simply, your earnings depend on the proportion of their total read time that Medium members spend reading your article. While only 8% of active Medium writers earn more than $100, there’s scope to get a lot more than that – the highest paid Medium author for the month of November 2019 earned $22,658.57. Whoever that is can officially call Medium their main hustle.
You’ll see a lot of articles about side hustles that suggest becoming an ‘Instagram influencer’ in order to make some extra cash. While this may have worked five years ago, the reality is that Instagram is pretty saturated with this kind of account now. Unless you already have several thousand followers, you’ll find it hard to get in on the influencer action.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be made on Instagram (and quickly) – you’ll just need to get a little more creative. As we see it, niche accounts are now the best way to approach Instagram. You can harness the power of an existing platform or popular series to quickly gain a loyal fan base; our favorite examples are @chandler_holding_ur_fav_album, @depopdrama, and @meme_appetit. Each of these accounts has quickly gained several thousands of followers, and two rely exclusively on content submitted by followers.
Once you’ve got a good following, you can monetize your account in one of many different ways. @depopdrama takes payments to promote different Depop stores on its stories, @chander_holding_ur_fav_album has a donations page, and @meme_appetit has started selling merchandise via RedBubble, which is a platform we’ll talk a little more about later on.
Think you don’t have any skills to offer? Think again. If you’re fluent in English (or, indeed, any language), then you’ve got something that someone else wants to learn. As English is such a popular language, this is where there’s the most opportunity. There are plenty of people willing to learn remotely, and plenty of companies ready to act as the middleman.
Teach Away, VIPKID, and QKids will all pay up to around $25/hour for your services. You don’t need any teaching experience to join these sites, but most do require you to have a Bachelor’s degree. Once you’ve picked up a few regular clients and made a name for yourself, set yourself up with tutor website (we love the template ‘Private Tutor’ by Wix), so you can start charging your own rates and keeping your full fee.
We’ll be super upfront about this – doing surveys online won’t bring in the big bucks, but it is very easy. Almost mindless, in fact. It’s the perfect activity to fit into chunks of downtime – your commute, while watching a rerun on TV, etc. Survey Junkie is a popular survey company, and is one of the few that will pay you within 24 hours of your payment request, either via PayPal or in the form of a gift card.
Each survey will earn you between 50 and 450 points, with 100 points equating to $1. Keep in mind that some of these surveys will be pretty extensive, and take around half an hour or more to complete.
If you’re lucky enough to speak more than one language, you’ve got even more options when it comes to choosing a side hustle. Translating is a competitive but lucrative business, and while you’ll probably find it hard to pick up literary translations or large commercial projects without a relative degree, you can work with an agency (or strike out on your own) to pick up smaller projects.
Sites like Fiverr are great for getting started quickly, but with most competitors charging around $5 for every 500 words, it’ll take you a while to build up some cash – and with so many competitors, it’ll be hard to lock in those all-important reviews.
We’d definitely recommend trying to pick up agency work instead, or reaching out to companies/answering ads independently. And to look credible, you’ll want a website to show examples of your work, and positive testimonials from clients. We love the template Sofia by Squarespace for this – it strikes the ideal balance of personal and professional.
Google ‘how to tie a tie’, and the top result is a YouTube video. In this video, a normal looking guy has filmed himself tying a tie, with a voiceover explanation. He hasn’t used any fancy equipment, and the video is under six minutes long. It has over 66 million views. Assuming that most people watch this video to the end, this savvy tie tyer has earned himself between $200,000 and $450,000 purely from the adverts that YouTube is running at the start of his video.
To be able to monetize a YouTube channel in this way, however, there are some requirements.You’ll need a channel watch time of over 4,000 minutes in the last 12 months, plus over 1,000 subscribers, all of which will take some time. Use tools like ‘TubeBuddy‘ to help you identify content gaps you could fill, and go for it!
Okay, we’ve cheated a little here. Fat Llama is a site where you can ‘rent (almost) anything’. So to use it as part of your side hustle, you’ll need to have something to rent out. Tech equipment tends to do really well on Fat Llama; think fancy camera lenses, drones, DJ equipment, projectors, and even musical instruments. The only non-anonymous account on the Fat Llama earnings leaderboard is a photographer renting out almost exclusively camera lenses for around $15-$20 a day, and earned several thousand dollars in the last month.
Tools and machinery tend to fetch less money, but are in high demand. Pressure washers, carpet cleaners, soldering irons – chances are you’ll have something that someone else needs, but doesn’t want to buy.
And if not, take some time looking around Fat Llama and assess the market; is there something you could buy that would quickly pay for itself? Can you undercut competitors, and offer something they can’t – like free delivery? You can post items on Fat Llama for free, and you’re covered for damages up to the value of $30,000.
If you’re a people person and enjoy encouraging others, coaching and mentoring are both potentially lucrative side hustles.
A coach should have a basic coaching qualification from an organization such as The OCM. The role of a coach is to help you work through problems and achieve your goals by finding the answers within yourself, and by holding you accountable.
A coach has a core set of listening and questioning skills, but doesn’t need to work in the same field as the person they coach. Established coaches can earn upwards of $100/hour (reportedly up to $325/hour for executive coaches).
A mentor, on the other hand, is someone who offers first-hand advice, having already progressed within that industry. While this typically works on a 121 basis, there are some creative ways to approach group mentoring, such as with paywall-protected Instagram accounts, Slack channels and materials (How to: by Emma is a great example of this in action, charging $4.75/week for access).
Website user testing is as easy as taking online surveys, and potentially a lot more lucrative (although you’ll have to pay more attention). Sites like usertesting.com will ask you to carry out an action on a client’s website (such as purchasing a specific product) and narrate your experience, as well as give your impressions of the site.
Each video will take between 10 and 20 minutes and will earn you $10, which can then be transferred into your PayPal account. You’ll be matched with clients based on your location and demographic, and there’s no need to worry about your level of tech understanding or experience – they just want to hear honest thoughts from typical customers in order to iron out frustrating glitches.
Affiliate marketing is where you add links to products or services within your own content, and then earn a small commission if your readers go on to buy these products after clicking through to them from your site. Fashion bloggers, for example, will post links to the outfits they wear, and make a small profit if their readers go on to purchase the same clothes.
When it comes to making money through affiliate marketing, we have similar advice to starting an Instagram account – go niche.
Affiliate marketing can be really profitable, but the competition is fierce. You’ll need to search for content gaps, and keep an eye on emerging trends, in order to find your own niche.
For anyone who’s ever held down an office-based job, the idea of signing up to receive emails voluntarily may seem completely alien. But creating newsletters can be big business for anyone with creative flair, a good idea, and the willingness to put in the hours.
Starting a newsletter isn’t a quick way to make a buck – but it can certainly be a good one. Once you’ve built up a loyal database of subscribers (using a tool like MailChimp or TinyLetter), you can begin to monetize your newsletter. The most popular way to do this is by adding affiliate links (see above for what these are, and how to go about it), or earning money from a sponsor by including a section on their product or service.
It’s hard to put a number on how much you could earn from your newsletter, but keep in mind that for some people, this is their full time job – so it’s safe to say there’s some serious earning potential here. By the same token, you’re up against some serious competition, so we recommend doing your research and signing up to as many newsletters as you can. Next Draft and What We’re Reading are two of our favorites.
You’ll want to create a simple site to provide a place for people to sign up to your newsletter, and to post examples of past content. We love the template Foundry by Squarespace, as it’s quite typography-focused – perfect for letting your words do the talking!
If you’re interest was piqued by the idea of a newsletter, or publishing on Medium, then chances are you could make some money from freelance writing.
A lot of people are nervous to market themselves as a writer. There’s a misconception that you have to be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald for your work to be worth paying for. But the reality is that a lot of commercial writing is just about being able to explain things concisely, and in plain English. And of course, good spelling and grammar is a must.
Once you’ve built up some experience as a freelancer, you can expect to earn between $0.12 and $0.20 per word. But to get to this stage, you’ll want to build up a good profile, and that includes – you’ve guessed it – a website! This is where you can display past examples of your work, write blog posts to show your interests, and give people a way to get in touch with you. This website by Wooden Writing is a great example, and our favorite portfolio template is Henson by Squarespace.
Dropshipping involves selling products online, but without ever actually handling or shipping the products themselves. A dropshipper builds an ecommerce site and does all the marketing, but the order is shipped to a customer directly from the manufacturer.
Dropshipping can be seriously lucrative, with reports of stores making up to $100,000 per year. But it’s also an increasingly saturated market – don’t believe anything you read online claiming it’s easy to make that amount. We’ve written a practical guide to getting started with dropshipping if you want to read a little more about the setup process and options.
Are you an eagle-eyed master of grammar and spelling, but not a fan of writing? Proofreading could make the perfect side hustle.
But getting started in proofreading isn’t always an easy ride. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need an English degree to pick up work as a freelance proofreader, but you will need to prove your worth. As a writer, this is easy – you can just post examples of your work in a portfolio. But for a proofreader, you’ll have to show your skills in a different way. To get your first job, you’ll have to offer a really competitive rate, and/or lean on your network. You can check for freelance proofreading jobs on sites like Freelance Writing Gigs.
Make sure you collect testimonials from happy clients. That way, you can build up an online CV detailing the projects you’ve worked on, and present it to future clients as proof that their copy would be in safe hands. Again, there are loads of templates that would work for this – our favorite is Suhama by Squarespace, as it puts your clients front and center for maximum impact.
‘Flipping domains’ is the process of buying unused domain names at the regular price (around $10/year), and then reselling them at an overinflated price.
Of course, there are infinite domain name options out there, so you’ll want to make sure you’re only buying ones that people will likely want to buy from you in the future. This is part art and part science – you’ll need to do your research, and feel comfortable with the prospect of potentially paying for a domain name for several years before someone wants to buy it from you, if ever.
Domain names that ‘do what they say on the tin’ are usually your best bet. You can see how the domain name writerresources.com has been bought and put up for auction in this way.
The domain name carinsurance.com was actually the most expensive domain name ever sold, selling for $49.7 million in 2010!
The good thing about this process is that domain registrars normally have a built-in auctioning platform, so putting your domain name up for sale is really easy. We’ve put together a guide to domain name costs which will come in handy for budgeting in the beginning.
If you’ve skimmed over the writing-centered side hustles, begrudging your lack of ability in this area, then listen up: here’s where you can make money off almost any skill you possess, provided you’re willing to share it.
In-person courses are staggeringly expensive, so it’s no wonder that more and more people are turning to online courses to upskill. Udemy is one of the biggest sites for this kind of course, offering everything from Photoshop tutorials to self-confidence tutorials, with prices ranging from around $15 to several hundred.
These courses can take a while to put together, but once they’re done, it’s largely hands-off. You’ll have to reply to questions, and occasionally update sections, but the hard work will effectively be done. Udemy even has an Instructor support team to help you along the way – and it’s no wonder, considering they’ll be taking a cool 50% of your sales through their platform. That’s why again, once you’ve gathered a bit of buzz on a site like Udemy, we also recommend offering the course on a platform of your own, by setting up a simple website to house your content.
If you’re a qualified expert in your field, but don’t fancy the idea of creating an online course, you can make some easy money on the side by providing expert answers to queries. Sites like JustAnswer and PrestoExperts let you register as an expert in anything from Finance to Animals, although you’ll need to apply with evidence to support your choice.
Once you’re up and running, this can be a pretty lucrative side hustle. On JustAnswer, you can expect to earn between $20 and $50+ per question, while on PrestoExperts, you can earn upwards of $2 per minute.
If you consider yourself a pro gamer, chances are you’ve already heard of Twitch. If you haven’t, we’ll fill you in briefly.
Twitch is a site where you can stream yourself playing video games, as well as watch other people play video games. It’s a thing that doesn’t sound like it should be a thing, but it’s actually a pretty huge deal; Twitch has more than 15 million daily active users.
Like YouTube, you can make money off displaying adverts at the start of your Twitch videos. Because it’s an Amazon-owned platform, it’s also really easy to create affiliate Amazon links to games or other products. You might even be able to pick up sponsorship deals if you can rack up enough views.
Everyone knows that one person who always has really good t-shirts. If you have a suspicion that you in fact might be that person, then listen up: you can make money selling t-shirts online, without ever having to process a payment – or even hold a t-shirt.
Yep, we’re serious. With RedBubble, all you have to do is upload your design – they’ll take care of the rest. Sure, your cut will be pretty small – but considering you won’t have to invest in stock, or pay for an online store, we think it’s a pretty sweet deal. This setup is ideal for a small side project that will largely take care of itself, and it’s not just t-shirts, either – you can also upload your designs for phone cases, wall art, and a whole bunch of other products.
The only downside? Well, let’s just say one or two people got there first. RedBubble is super competitive, so you’ll want to do some marketing of your products as well. We’d love to say that your awesome designs will sell themselves, but with so many pages of products on offer, even the best styles will need a little boost.
While investing in stocks and shares may sound like a very grand activity that’s only for those willing to put in the mega bucks, the reality is that using any amount of money wisely is the best way to make a little more money.
So, if you’ve made a little extra cash from one of the side hustles on this list, why not make it go a little further by investing it? Once upon a time, finding success on the stock market required hours of detailed research, and the constant monitoring of trends. And sure, this is still an option – but we prefer the app approach.
Robinhood is a fee-free investment app, but is better for those with some idea of what they’d like to invest in. Swell Investing, meanwhile, focuses on investing in companies which have a positive impact on the world. There’s basically an investment app for anyone, no matter your level of experience.
If you’re talented typist, transcribing might be a good way for you to earn a few extra dollars. You’ll want to be a fast typist, as most sites will pay you per hour of transcribed audio or video, rather than per hour you spend working on it.
TranscribeMe is widely considered to be one of the best paid platforms for transcribers, paying between $15 and $22 per audio hour (those with a Legal or Medical background will earn a higher rate). Transcribe me reports average monthly earnings for transcribers to be $250, and the highest monthly earnings were reported to be $2,200.
Most people don’t have a second home going spare, but maybe you have a spare room? Even if you’re just planning to be away for business or on holiday for a few weeks in 2021, renting out your house or apartment temporarily can be a great way to make a little extra holiday money. In fact, you can make some serious money this way – especially over peak times (Christmas, New Years Eve, Thanksgiving, summer vacation), and in big cities.
Take a look at Airbnbs in your area to get a feel for how much you could earn in this way.
While you can earn money renting out your house or apartment, you can also earn money from taking care of someone else’s – especially if they have a pet!
A lot of these opportunities are unpaid, but there are also paid opportunities floating around, too; take a look at House Sitters America for the US, Cat in a Flat (operating worldwide) for cat lovers.
Paid opportunities may be harder to come by, but even free opportunities can present a way to make money or save money; you could put your own space on Airbnb, or save on the cost of a hotel or holiday rental. Some remote workers or travelers have even been able to give up renting permanently altogether, and just travel from property to property instead.
Thanks for sticking with us as we unpacked our 23 best online side hustles for 2021 – we hope there was a little something for everyone in there!
As always, we’d like to throw it back out to you, our wonderfully savvy readers – any top tips for making a little cash? Any ‘get rich quick’ schemes we should be avoiding like the plague? Have you managed to turn your side hustle into a full-time job? We’d love to hear from you! Please share your experience in the comments, so we can continue to keep this site as a useful and collaborative resource.