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18 Side Business Ideas You Can Start Today

By Heather Levin

woman walking dogs businessWhen you’re on the path of frugality, you’ve basically got two options when it comes to padding your bank account: you can either trim expenses to save more money, or you can try to earn more money. Doing both will, of course, greatly increase the chance you’ll achieve your long-term financial goals, whether that’s to pay back your student loans or save up for your dream vacation.

Coming up with a side business is a great way to earn extra money. I’ve started several businesses in the past, from a successful blog to a professional organizing business, and can tell you first hand that not only is becoming an entrepreneur incredibly rewarding, but it can also be very lucrative.

The biggest question, however, is what kind of business should you start? There are literally thousands of options out there. Some are relatively easy to get into. Others require significant time, and small business capital, to get off the ground. I’ve listed some ideas below to help get your creative juices flowing.

Side Business Ideas to Start Now

1. Public Speaking or Teaching

When I had my professional organizing business, I often gave classes at a local rec center. I taught people how to set up organizing systems in their homes, how to declutter and downsize their home, and how to set up filing systems they’d actually use. And I got paid well to do it.

The courses I taught were two hours. And let me tell you, creating them was a lot of work. But once I had my outline created, and came up with several activities for the group to do, I didn’t have to do anything else for each new course. I just taught the same material again.

You can teach a class about anything – knitting, how to do your taxes, how to plan a wedding – just think of a skill or hobby you’re already doing. Chances are, someone else wants to learn how to do it. Public libraries, adult education (which usually takes place in local high schools), and rec centers are good places to start.

2. Tutoring

Tutoring is not only a great way to earn some money on the side, but it’s also a hugely satisfying job. Students of all ages need tutors for math, science, reading, foreign languages, and other subjects. If you’re skilled in a certain area, then why not help others succeed in school?

To get started tutoring, put up flyers at local schools and libraries, as well as on Craigslist. You might also want to sign up with Tutor.com to become an online tutor. Once you tutor a few families, the best way to get additional business is through referrals.

tutor girl

3. Child Life Coach

OK, you might think I’m making this up. But children’s Life Coaching is actually a real field. And yes, it is relatively new.

Here’s how it works: some parents (more than you might think) are incredibly busy with the demands of work. And often, their kids miss out on important skills like learning how to ride a bike, pee in the potty, or throw a baseball. So these busy parents hire a child life coach to fill in; the coach teaches their kids these important skills. You don’t need sterling credentials, and the amounts parents are willing to pay for a quality coach is incredible!

4. Sell Your Creativity

Do you love drawing or designing t-shirts? Why not turn your creations into a great income? Sites like CafePress and Zazzle take all the hard work out of it; they do the printing and shipping…all you have to do is submit the design.

What can you make and sell? T-shirts, mugs, bags, shoes, stamps, hoodies, binders, skateboards, and more. It’s super cool and can get really addicting!

5. Personal Assistant to Seniors

Seniors have a hard time cleaning their home, redecorating, going to the grocery store, and even cooking. You can earn extra income assisting seniors with these basic tasks.

And this is a field that’s only expected to grow as the Baby Boomer population continues to age. After all, life expectancy in the U.S. is now at 78. And as of 2008, 1 out of every 8 Americans is over 65. However, that number is expected to go up rapidly now that the Baby Boomer generation is starting to hit this milestone.

How much can you earn? Well, most seniors watch their spending carefully, so plan on earning around $10 to $15 per hour as a senior assistant. But helping out a few seniors a couple of times per week could at least add a little padding to your budget.

assist senior puzzle

6. Freelance Writing

I started freelancing in college as a way to earn some extra money on the side. Now? It’s my full-time career.

You can earn great money as a freelance writer, especially if you get into commercial copywriting (i.e. writing for businesses and corporations). Blogging is also a great way to earn money as a writer, especially if you align yourself with an established blog.

Keep in mind that competition is fierce right now; many people turned to freelancing when the recession hit to earn some extra money on the side. So you’re going to have to fight your way into this market. The good news, however, is that quality writing never goes out of style, and there’s far more bad writers out there than great ones. So if you’re good and you’re persistent, you’re going to find work.

Check out sites like Elance.com to get started, and learn more about factors to consider when setting freelance writing rates.

7. Dog Waste Clean Up

Dog waste cleanup is actually a booming business. Why? Well, because no one really wants to pick up pet waste in their yards. If they can afford it, they’re going to pay someone else to do this dirty job.

These pooper scoopers generally charge $15 or more per dog, per week, for an average yard, and they’ll show up once or twice per week for clean up. Of course, large yards or yards that haven’t been cleaned in a while can earn you more money.

8. Catering

According to Inc.com, the catering business is a $70 billion industry. Yes, more people are cooking at home to save money, but there are still plenty of busy families and professionals out there who simply don’t have time to cook healthy, delicious meals. If you’re a whiz in the kitchen, you could earn some great money catering on the side.

If you don’t want to offer a full line of meals, why not focus on one thing? For instance, there are plenty of shops on Etsy that sell homemade gourmet cookies (e.g. Earl Gray Sandwich cookies, Cupcakes in a Jar, or gourmet caramels). I’ve been thinking about selling homemade gourmet jam (i.e. home canning recipes) during the summer months. I’ve read of other people who have started a gourmet cocktail catering business, where they come to parties and make gourmet cocktails. Fun!

There are plenty of ways to get into the catering business without starting a full-scale restaurant. Specialize. For example, you could even learn how to start a candy or chocolate making business.

cater plates business

9. At Home Day Care

When my good friend had her first child, she found herself house-bound, taking care of her newborn. She planned on not working once her daughter was born and becoming a stay at home mom, but she was surprised at how much she missed earning an income and contributing to the household finances.

So, since she has a friend who commutes 5 days a week into work, she started watching her friend’s daughter as well. It’s a win-win for everyone: my friend earns good, regular income caring for an additional child, and her friend saves money because she’s paying less than a commercial day care center.

If you’re interested in starting a home child care service, even a small one, keep in mind that your state might have strict regulations.

10. Editing and Proofreading

It’s hard for writers, professionals or otherwise, to proofread their own work. So many people hire editors and proofreaders to look over a piece before it goes to print.

You can advertise as a proofreader on Craigslist and Elance, or on the job board at FreelanceFolder. You can also flyer college campuses, since professors and academics are always looking for good proofreaders.

11. Sewing or Tailoring

I have no idea how to sew, or how to tailor my clothes so they fit better. But I do have a friend who’s brilliant at it. When I need tailoring done, I simply pay him to do it.

If you already know how to sew and you’re skilled at tailoring or hemming clothes, you could easily turn this skill into a side business. Why? Because a lot

of people don’t know how to use a sewing machine. You could also earn extra money by teaching others how to sew with small, at-home classes.

sewing materials

12. Dinner Cook

This unique idea is slightly different than catering. As a dinner cook, you go into someone else’s home once (or more) per week and cook a complete meal for them. You also do all the cleanup.

What do they get? A night off from cooking and cleanup, and more time to spend together relaxing instead of racing around the kitchen. Bliss!

13. Create a Website

Starting a website can be a great way to build some side income in a fairly passive manner. Start a blog if you have interesting, unique, and informative stuff to tell your readers. You can then make money on advertising or having people pay for educational products or tools you produce. Or create a website that brings together buyers and sellers of a niche product from which you can charge a subscription or transaction fee. The key is to think outside the box and come up with an idea that can provide a unique solution for people. And even if you want to produce a website that is similar to ones already out there, do it bigger and better and find a way to differentiate yourself!

14. Egg Donor

Ladies, did you know that you can earn $3,000 to $5,000 or more by donating your eggs?

If you’re relatively young and in good health, this could be an option for you to add some significant income to your budget. Keep in mind, however, that this option is fraught with physical and emotional consequences; make sure you think about egg donation carefully before moving forward. This is also a process that, once you’re accepted into an egg donation program, usually takes 3-5 weeks, or longer.

You’ll have the highest chance of success if you’re under 30, in perfect health, and have good looks and a higher IQ. Families seeking egg donors will also require you to pass a medical and psychological test before requesting eggs. As you might imagine, college students are usually the most coveted group.

15. Dog Walking or Pet Sitting

Starting a neighborhood dog walking or pet sitting business is a great way to add some extra cash to your pocket. After all, people aren’t afraid to spend money on their pets, even in a down economy.

According to the American Pet Products Association, over 46 million households in the U.S. own a pet. And in spite of the recession, household spending on pets keeps going up. In 2008, right when the recession started, we spent $43.2 billion on our pets. In 2010, we spent $48.35 billion. In 2011, pet owners are expected to top $50 billion.

16. Landscaping and Yardwork

Do you love being outside, planting flowers and pulling weeds? Many people find this a chore but others (myself included) love doingyardwork and planting. If this is you, then you could think about starting a landscaping and yardwork business on the side. You could offer to design beds, plant flowers and shrubs, cut grass, pull weeds, and rake leaves.

landscaping yard grass

17. Holistic or “Green” Housecleaning

50% of Americans suffer from some kind of chemical sensitivity. That, coupled with growing awareness of the importance of eco-friendly cleaners, is contributing to the rise in holistic housecleaners. Holistic, or “green”, housecleaners come in and clean your house using only natural cleaning products.

There are a ton of housecleaners out there. But if you let your potential customers know you only use natural organic ingredients to safely clean their home, you’re going to stand out.

18. Christmas Lights Installer or Seasonal Decorator

Putting up holiday lights or seasonal decorations can be a pain, especially to businesses and retailers who are already getting busy with the holiday shopping season.

Starting a holiday lights and decoration business is a great way to earn some seasonal income on the side.

Final Word

Starting a side business can be a great way to earn some quality passive income, and may even turn into a full-time business if you focus on growing it. Moreover, if you choose a business that you’re interested in, it can be a ton of fun as well.

Do you have any ideas for a unique side business you’d like to share? Or, have you started a side business? If so, tell us about your experience!

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • http://www.thedebtfreebaby.com The Debt Free Baby

    I started doing my own remodeling about 5 years ago, I got pretty good at tiling and started doing tiling jobs for people. The last few months I have made just as much tiling as I have at my full time job.

  • http://profiles.google.com/prgreen33 Rebecca Green

    I would really love to get into the freelancing and the teaching is a great idea. I could teach a technical writing course!

  • http://twitter.com/BlogandSave Savings.com Blog

    tutoring is a great idea, especially during the summer months when kids are out of school!

  • http://www.askanthonyjohnson.com AskAnthonyJohnson

    Freelance writing and blogging is one of my favorite if you are dedicate to blogging you can really earn a full time income online and have recurring income come in form work you have done in the past. Great post you provide alot of detail information

  • Art

    Where do I find info on goat rentals?

    • Heather

      Art, you could Google “goat rental” along with your city name…hopefully a list would come up! :)

  • Trebor_zal

    did you check the “goat rental section”?…is this for riding or companionship?

  • Trebor_zal

    did you check the “goat rental section”?…is this for riding or companionship?

  • http://www.manhattancalumet.com/ Dennis The Menace

    I like the idea of a business that has limited liability. That requires little money to start. A business that is not subject to many government regulations. Does not require many special permits or licenses to operate. A business that can be quickly and easily shut down if needed. And a business that has limted contractual liability after its shut down. Requires not a very great deal of knowledge or experience to start or operate.

  • Candlegirl123

    people talk about starting a side business as if it is as easy as 1, 2,,3. What overwhelmes me is all the details like: having to register a business name so the IRS knows about you, and business insurance in case you get sued. Anyone have these worries? I wanted to start a side senior errand service and always get caught up on that. Any input would be appreciated. And to be a tutor: do you have to have a teaching degree?

    • Samuel Peck

      As for tutoring, no way do you have to have a teaching degree. It might impress some people and be a helpful credential, if you’re going into business yourself, it’s certainly not. And if you want to be an employee but still have some of the benefits of being in business for yourself, try on online tutoring site like Wyzant. I’m getting my first job through Wyzant now, and I am essentially working for myself and paying them a commission to deal with billing and help me find people, but I will never have to worry about legal aspects of starting a company working for Wyzant. You just need to convince people you can do a good job. I’m sure there are similar sites out there as well.

  • http://www.jaysonlinereviews.com/ Jayorban

    great tips I am a profitable affiliate marketer I have been applying this for years to make money online. Affiliate marketing is very low startup cost you can get started for free basically at first.

    You can sell to the World from your house, all it takes is a little learning curve and some determination. But great tips in your post very helpful.

  • http://www.knowlimitlearning.com/in-home-tutoring/ In home tutoring

    great post! there are lots of online business that one can try nowadays. Offering tutorial services, for one, is in demand these days.

  • http://www.sidejobideas.com/ [email protected]

    These are great, legitimate ideas. The senior market is huge and many need help. I found during my research women can start profitable niche businesses like house painting for seniors. Since there are many single senior women, they usually don’t want to hire strange men into their house for help. And women owned businesses have shown they take more responsibility with others property and have a sharper eye for detail. Referral generation could be big!

  • http://www.manhattansgreatest.blogspot.com/ Greatest Blogs And Websites

    Interesting information. Their are lots of good ideas when it comes to making money full time or part time .Any business that can bring in some extra income is a great thing.

  • http://twitter.com/KsenijaR Ideas for Business

    Great ideas, really quiet easy to start and promising. But the egg donor… Well, not for everyone…

  • http://rumahanbisnis.com/ Bisnis rumahan

    can also be used as inspiration. so help me, thanks to the author of this article

  • Batman

    These are great ideas

  • Really?

    Hey dipshit, a side business is a great way to earn passive income, but none of the ideas listed create passive income.

  • http://www.forestcotton.blogspot.com/ Jim

    Interesting suggestions regarding the types of businesses that you can start with little money. Cannot go wrong with that it does not have to take lots of money to start a business.

  • Enitjoy

    good suggestions

  • david and goliath

    is it difficult to start a message/small package delivery service. Are there federal regulations on doing this?

  • Lina

    I liked everything except the egg donation idea. Though she cautions about it’s perils, those perils aren’t easily conveyed in 50 words. Donor clinics PREY on college students. Women feel the loss of that child forever.

    • Samuel Peck

      seems that “fraught with physical and emotional consequences” as the article said is pretty bad, but it’s a very vague warning. I would certainly not want my wife to do it. For her sake. What it would do to her mentally/emotionally would be unpredictable.
      Other good ideas though. I guess I’m boring because editor is the one I’m looking at.

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