How to Start a Successful Online Side Hustle on a Budget

Today’s world is more connected than ever before. There are few downsides to this, giving us greater access to the thoughts and ideas of cultures around the globe as well as the ability to communicate with people from many walks of life.

One of its greatest benefits, however, is the ability to work from where you want, with whom you want. If you have valuable skills that don’t mesh with your day job, you’re in luck: a side hustle can provide the outlet you need to earn money while doing something you love.

Getting started with a side hustle might sound daunting, but it’s easier than you might think. Let’s take a quick look at what it is, how to start and a few of the most popular types of gigs.

What Is a Side Hustle?

Side hustles are typically online ventures that give you the opportunity to make money through products or services without requiring a brick-and-mortar location or official employment status. You can work at times that fit your schedule, such as in the early morning, after your day job or on the weekends.

If you want to start a side hustle with little to no upfront costs, your best bet is to explore the service option. That way, aside from a phone, laptop and internet connection, you don’t need any materials to get off the ground.

How to Start Your Side Hustle

In addition to providing a fun outlet for skills that might go unrecognized at your job (or in your household if you’re a stay-at-home spouse or parent), side hustles can provide a significant source of income.

Many people make multiple five figures within their first few years and can transition their income entirely online, providing more freedom than ever before.

But how do you do it? Here’s a quick look at the first steps you should take.

Play to Your Strengths

A side hustle will already demand lots of your time. If you’re going to start something new, it will ideally build on skills you already have. For instance, perhaps you have a degree you’re not really using (a bachelor of business?) or a talent you honed in high school (A/V Club?).

Unless you have a strong urge to learn something from the ground up, base your side hustle on pre-existing strengths. Begin slowly, adding in new knowledge as needed – discussed below.

There are many options available today for learning online, meant specifically for people looking to start a side business online, such courses include dropshipping courses, affiliate marketing courses, and more.

Create a Clear Business Plan

Yes, you need a business plan, even for a side hustle. It’s best to go narrow at first, offering a single skill and creating a plan around that. As yourself questions such as:

How much money do you need to make for it to be “worth it”?

How many hours can you dedicate to your business, still making time for rest and play?

How much of your profits will you reinvest in your business?

Do you ever want to grow the business, or keep it a side hustle always?

Once you answer these questions, you can create a schedule for yourself. Having identified your saleable skill(s), you’ll also have a better idea of where to look for jobs or what kind of website to create. Consult with this one-page business plan to create your plan fast.

Explore Remote Work Options

There are so many remote work options out there that it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Rather than exploring every possibility at once, try your hand at one or two and see what works out. If you don’t have the income you’d like, try another option.

Pro Tip: It can be easier to start on a platform dedicated to the kind of work you want to do (think design, bookkeeping or freelance writing) rather than building your own presence and finding your own clients.

In time, you can branch out and work for yourself once you’ve built up a strong client base.

Acquire New Skills

Although it’s not the best use of your time to develop a completely new skill set, you may very well need a new set of skills to succeed in your online side hustle.

For instance, artists may need to learn how to keep their own books, or English teachers may need to brush up on grammar before they’re accepted as online teachers.

The best way to get these skills is to look for cheap/free online courses or check out community college offerings. These often cost as little as a few hundred dollars per term. Many other online gigs require no schooling at all.

Take Care with Finances

If you work in the United States, the IRS requires you to file a tax return for any income above $600. This is distinct from your W2 job. In other countries, other rules will apply – but you must be aware of them so you’re legally above board.

If you need help, seek advice or tax preparation services from an accountant or tax preparer.

10 Easy Side Hustle Ideas

Now that you know where to start, what should you do? Take a look at the list below and see what matches your skills and passions.

1. Become a Tutor

Many people find joy in helping others succeed. If you want to watch students learn and grow – from elementary to college – you can sign up to provide online tutoring.

That will involve educating yourself (if necessary) on the subject matter, then meeting with students by phone or Zoom to help them understand it.

2. Design Websites and Graphics

Designers are also in high demand online. Whether you create infographics for large companies or design websites for small ones, you can make great money with a set of digital art skills.

3. Work as a Social Media Manager

Everyone and their cousin has a social media account right now. If you have a talent for building relationships and growing accounts, people will line up at your door to bring you on board their teams. You can start with a site such as Upwork to offer your services.

4. Write Articles

The internet is an insatiable beast, and it always needs content to fill its hungry maw. If you have a talent for writing, this is an excellent side gig to start with.

Although most platforms will start you out at low rates, you can rise quickly if you’ve got talent, and build relationships with many happy clients along the way.

5. Develop Websites

Remember above, where we discussed web design? Many designers don’t have development skills – that is, they lack the ability to turn their pretty designs into functional websites with great UX (user experience).

If you know how to code, this can prove a very lucrative job.

6. Teach English

Around the world, more people decide to learn English every day. It’s today’s lingua franca, used even between people who both have non-English native languages.

For now, it makes the world run, so it’s a great online side hustle.

7. Work as a Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants are also in high demand, especially for other online entrepreneurs who lack an office.

In this position, you can work remotely for one person or several, helping to schedule meetings, load blog posts, field phone calls, fire paperwork or even manage social accounts.

8. Become a Notary

Everyone loves a notary public, and they can now work online. While individual services only net you about $20, it also doesn’t take that long to notarize something. If you perform 10-20 notarizations a day, that’s great money.

9. Be a Bookkeeper

Bookkeeping is a super unappealing task to most people, so they’re willing to pay someone else to do it.

If you’ve got payroll skills, can run accounts payable and receivable, or know how to prepare taxes, you can make a tidy income.

10. Create Content

Do you have a creative mind and want to build your own audience? If so, you might consider a blog, YouTube channel, eBook or online course.

Put your skills to use teaching others how to do something and they’ll love you for it. This allows you to build income through advertising, consulting, or sales of products and services.

Start Your Online Side Hustle Today

As you can see, side hustles might take some time to get off the ground, but they’re far from impossible to start. If you’re ready to make some extra cash and perhaps even transition your career, there’s no time like the present.

As Karen Lamb once said, “A year from now you may wish you had started today,” so go ahead and put your new knowledge to work changing your life!

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Drew Mann