The idea of a “side hustle” is appealing; in theory, you’ll spend a few hours a week participating in superfluous work (or even a hobby) to make some extra income. You can do this while maintaining a separate full-time job, or use this as a kind of runway for your freelance business to take off on its own.
Of course, as you might imagine, the cultural concept of a side hustle is somewhat overinflated. In reality, while many side hustles can be profitable, most of them require a significant upfront investment—in time, money, or both—before they can become a success. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it; rather, you’ll need to be prepared before you jump in.
Side Hustles That Demand Investment
Before you pursue these side hustles, you’ll need to be ready for an investment:
1. Airbnb rentals.
If you’re an existing homeowner, or a renter with a landlord who’s flexible on subletting, Airbnb can seem like an easy way to earn more money every month. Hypothetically, you could rent any room of your house to a guest, consistently, and make hundreds to thousands of dollars per month. However, competition on Airbnb is tight, and you’ll need to have exceptional ratings if you want to continue attracting guests; that’s why it’s a good idea to invest in remodeling a section of your house before proceeding with your plans to build an Airbnb empire. Depending on your choices, that could cost thousands of dollars.
2. Becoming a landlord.
Being a landlord also sounds like a hands-free way to make money; you’ll pay a fixed amount for a mortgage every month, and charge your tenants more than you’re paying. You can pocket the difference as a source of steady income. However, you’ll need to save up for a significant down payment before you can make that happen, and because it could take you months to find a suitable tenant, you’ll need to prepare for some early monthly expenses. On top of that, you’ll need to budget for ongoing maintenance and repairs.
3. Uber/Lyft driving.
Driving for ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft is relatively easy; you don’t need any special qualifications, and you can get started within weeks of applying. However, Uber and Lyft are semi-strict with their vehicle standards; if you have a vehicle built within the last few years, you’ll probably pass, but otherwise, you may need to invest in some serious upgrades.
Who wouldn’t want to make a living writing about what they love? Hypothetically, if you can generate an audience, you can make a significant stream of revenue simply by writing new material on a regular basis. With advertising, affiliate links, or sponsorships, you’ll have multiple possibilities for that revenue as well. However, before you can be successful here, you need to build a significant audience—and that will take months, if not years, of effort. You’ll need to build up an archive of content for your readers to see, a personal brand with a strong reputation, and an ongoing series of improvements based on the feedback you get.
5. Selling arts/crafts.
If you enjoy making art, or crafts like furniture or jewelry, you can probably make a living selling those products on Etsy. However, before you launch your store, you’ll need to do some upfront work; you’ll need to build up a small archive of materials to sell, you’ll need to document your costs and potential profit points, and you’ll need to spend time creatively branding yourself and your store.
6. Anything that requires a personal brand.
Almost any side hustle not already listed here—including child care and consulting—will require you to have a personal brand. This personal brand will serve as your resume, telling people what you can do, and also a branch of marketing and advertising, to earn you more visibility. Building a personal brand takes months to years of effort, and includes creating content, networking with new people, and cultivating a reputation in your chosen niche; it’s not something you can improvise overnight.
Doing the Math
Almost any side hustle can be worth the effort if you enjoy doing it, but if your main goal is striking a profit or a consistent line of revenue, you’ll need to do some math before you get started. Understand exactly how much time and money is required of you before proceeding, and estimate how much money you’ll make from the endeavor, in the short term and long term. If you can, talk to people who have done it before, and acquaint yourself with the nuances of your chosen niche. Side hustles can be fantastic, but they aren’t get-rich-quick schemes; the more you know going in, the better.