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There are advantages to starting small:

  • You can start work there, then scale upward.
  • You’re able to test what works and what doesn’t, with minimal risk.
  • If you can do it part-time, it’s much easier to finance your activities.

If it’s side work, you don’t need to scale upward.

  • Sometimes, the market is sparse enough that you can’t scale upward.
  • However, if you’re willing to move, there’s often a culture somewhere on the planet where you could work full-time in that capacity.

You also won’t need to subject yourself to as rigorous a requirement to break even.

  • Low costs give the freedom to experiment with simple, little ideas.
    • It also gives very little pressure to over-invest into an idea that may or may not work.
  • If you lose money on some of them, you’re fine as long as you do other tasks that pay the bills.
  • Like investing, small one-off jobs and ideas will diversify your income streams.

However, for many industries, you will need to invest a certain amount of money and time.

  • To offset the money you’ll need, budget and save for the business as much as possible before you start into it.

As you work on a small-scale, you’ll be able to adapt your long-term plans to conform with constraints as they arrive.


If you’re trying to make a living off a hobby, you will very likely not succeed if that hobby is:

  1. Whatever people do anyway for fun (e.g., video games, reading stories).
    • However, you can still make a living on the tedious experience of making things that are fun.
  2. Easy to do (e.g., writing articles about movies, giving lectures on a video).
    • If you want to make a living at easy things, do something that’s very hard with them.
  3. Abstract enough to be impractical (e.g., philosophy, art appreciation).
    • You can make a living at it if you can find a practical use for the abstract idea.
  4. Low-demand (e.g., medieval-period armor fabrication, VR headset consultation).

Unless it’s a hobby you enjoy, your side hustle is only worth your time relative to other things you could do:

  1. Track how much time per week you spend on that hobby.
  2. Count the income you make every week.
  3. Figure out how much you’re “paid” per hour.
  4. Compare that number to a low-wage job (e.g., fast food) or extra time at your day job.

If you’re a artistic creator and want to sell your work, spend at least as much time on supporting and promoting the art as you are on building it.

  • If you don’t, you’re trusting someone else to do it for you, and they often are not qualified to see your vision like you do.

Side Hustle Ideas

Low-skill labor that’s quick to start:

  • Custodial (especially window cleaning)
  • Manual labor
  • Trench digging
  • Pet sitting, grooming or walking

Low-skill odd jobs that only need a car or computer:

Specialized skills:

  • Work on cars
  • Repair electronics
  • Fix computers
  • Clothing alterations and tailoring
  • Brew or distill beer/liquor
  • Travel consultant or tour guide
  • Trades like plumbing, welding, painting, roofing, or HVAC

High-demand certifications:

  • Tax preparation
  • Notary public
  • Become a teacher
    • Teach high-demand trade skills
    • Do private tutoring, which typically avoids most legal requirements
    • Teach English in another country
  • Healthcare roles like caregiver, nurse’s aide, and medical assistant
  • Commercial driver’s license (CDL)

Artistic and creative skills:

  • Performance arts:
    • Busking (playing a musical instrument in a public place)
    • Dancing
    • Singing/rapping
    • If you’re performing publicly, keep at least a few dollars in your jar/case and store the rest.
  • Create and sell drawings, designs, and crafts
  • Sell stock photography
  • Teach with web videos, podcast or blog.
  • Sell a subscription service for paying members.
  • Build an app.

Rent a room in your home or secondary property:

  • If you hire a management company to rent it out, be careful who you hire and what their contract stipulates.
  • Alternately, you can rent them out as temporary vacation lodging.

Save and invest extra money.

Other Ideas

Some things won’t necessarily make much money, but can add a small amount of income:

  • Look for tax-favored improvements and tax rebates for various lifestyle decisions.
  • Cash in your company’s paid vacation days in at the end of the year instead of using them.
  • Read the terms and conditions of many of your contracts, since some include a $1000 prize for anyone who notices.

Sell things you never use, don’t need, or can find affordably:

  1. Routinely look through consumer goods you haven’t used in at least a year:
    • Clothing and seasonal wear
    • Books, movies, video games
    • Toys
    • Electronics and computer equipment
    • Specialized tools
    • Furniture
  2. Calculate the cost and time to replace or reacquire it.
  3. Determine the item’s sale value:
    • Unless it somehow became more collectible, you will not get the retail price for it.
    • You might be able to quickly sell it if it’s commonly sold as like new or rarely used.
    • If your item is usually sold used but is still new, you may have trouble selling it unless you dramatically lower your price.
  4. Use other similar items for sale to determine where to sell it:
    • Community sale, garage sale, flea market, swap meet – observe which days more customers show up.
    • E-tailer site, classified ads – be prepared to haggle and lower your price.
    • Auction – you have zero control over the final sales price except for a minimum bid, whether online or in-person.
    • Estate sale – the best approach when you have many high-value items.
  5. Add features to give more appeal to your product:
    • Learn to write attention-grabbing content to distinguish your product.
    • Place the minimum bid on an auction as low as possible to draw more attention to it.
    • If you can, use a Vickrey auction, where the top bidder pays the second bidder’s price.
  6. Only give things away when you can’t sell them or you know someone who legitimately needs them:
    • Unless it’s something someone specifically wants, donating money is usually far more meaningful and useful than valuable possessions.
    • Most charities will sell that item instead of you, so you’re simply giving them more work than giving them cash.

Next: Maximizing Productivity