Despite the improvement in the job market in the second half of 2020, there’s little doubt the situation remains uncertain as we move into 2021. While certain sectors of the economy are clearly improving, others are stagnating and some have seen an increase in layoffs.
If you’re in one of those occupations that’s hit on hard times since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, or even if you aren’t, starting a side hustle may be your best long-term strategy for dealing with that uncertainty.
A side hustle can both provide additional cash flow for those who have experienced a decline in income, as well as act as a valuable backup plan if the future of your job is in doubt.
With that in mind, let’s look at the nine best side hustles for 2021.
1. Tutoring – A Real Niche with Pandemic School Shutdowns
Ever since the pandemic hit, education has been in a state of flux. School-age children have been in school, attending school online from home, or combining both. In many cases, they’re even alternating back and forth between the two, depending on the level of COVID activity in the local school district.
The arrangement puts a greater burden on both teachers and parents. Teachers don’t have the capacity to provide as much one-on-one support for students, and parents may find themselves attempting to fill the gap with subject matter they know little about.
That’s created fertile ground for tutors. If you excel in a specific subject area, like writing, math, or science, you may be a valuable asset to a student who’s having difficulty keeping up with the rotating school situation.
“Tutors can set their own rates and schedules, so how much they earn is in their control,” reports Steven Cox, CEO at TakeLessons. “Just one example: After relocating four years ago, one woman had trouble finding a job. She began teaching violin, viola and cello as a side hustle, but after six months she was earning more than $8,000 and has been an online tutor ever since.”
An obvious limitation is face-to-face contact during the pandemic. But with the rise of apps like Zoom, it’s no longer necessary for a tutor to be physically present with a student.
According to Tutors.com, online tutors typically earn between $25 and $50 an hour. Much will depend on your geographic location (though that will matter less if you’re tutoring online), and the particular subject matter you specialize in. You can generally expect to earn a higher rate in more technical subjects, like math and science.
You can find students to tutor by registering your services with schools in your area. Once you get several students to tutor, it’s likely demand for your services will increase through word-of-mouth.
This can be an especially lucrative opportunity for retired and former school teachers.
2. Manage Facebook Ads for Small Businesses
Love it or hate it, Facebook has become the social media site where the world congregates. There are more than 3 billion active users worldwide – a statistic that isn’t lost on businesses. Any medium that draws and a large number of people is going to be a natural target for advertising.
Big companies are well aware of the value of advertising on Facebook. But there are hundreds of thousands of small businesses that can also benefit, but they are either unaware Facebook ads are a thing, or they don’t know how to make it work.
If you’re a frequent user of Facebook, you already have a built-in advantage. You’re comfortable with the site, and you know your way around it.
When it comes to Facebook ads, I’m not just pitching a concept I’m unfamiliar with. I’ve had success using Facebook ads to sell various products. And I know of people who are making serious money with this side hustle. I go into deeper detail on this in my YouTube video on Facebook ads.
There are plenty of other videos available on YouTube that will help you learn the ropes of Facebook advertising. But you can start by checking out the Facebook for Business webpage.
Once you become comfortable with how the process works, you can begin marketing your Facebook Ads service to small businesses. Those could include businesses in your geographic area, but you can also reach out to those on the web.
It should go without saying that any small business that has a Facebook page will be a natural candidate for your services. Though they have the page up and running, they may not be familiar with how to promote it and advertise directly to Facebook users.
3. Become an Online Freelance Writer
Have you seen all the content that’s out there on the web? Someone wrote every word of it. In fact, many people contribute content to the World Wide Web. And a surprising number of them are being paid to do it.
Though some of the larger websites do employ full-time staff writers, the majority of web content is written by freelancers who offer their services to multiple clients.
You don’t have to have a journalism degree or previous writing experience either (though both can help). But if your writing skills are above average, and you have one or more areas of expertise, you may be able to write content for websites in that niche.
As a blogger, I’ve done some freelance writing myself, so I know this is a legitimate side hustle. Though the fees started low when I began, I eventually found I could earn several hundred dollars per article, and even over $1,000.
One freelance writer I’m familiar with, Holly Johnson, has been providing freelance writing services for several years. It’s become a full-time occupation for her, fetching her over $200,000 per year.
Freelance writing doesn’t have to become your primary occupation. In fact, it can work perfectly as a side hustle that you can do in your spare time. Holly can even help you become a successful freelance writer.
4. Become a Freelancer in the Career of Your Choice
I just covered freelance writing on the Internet, but you can apply the freelance strategy to just about any occupation.
Think about the skills you’re proficient in – they can be what you currently do for a living, or as hobbies. As a general rule, it’s possible to make money freelancing with any skill you have that you’re better at than most people.
That’s a big misconception with freelancing, that you need to be an expert. Nothing could be further from the truth. You just need to be proficient, and willing to apply yourself. And of course, you can always work to improve your skills as you go along.
You need to think of any service you want to provide on a freelance basis as a business, and apply yourself, just as you would for a job.
“The key to successful, sustainable self-employment is to drill down to your career experience and detect a core strength that you can convert to a proficiency,” advises Joanne Clever, President of Wilson-Taylor Associates, and author of The Career Lattice. “Then, build that proficiency into a platform that will win and keep clients or customers. The key is to use the hot trends to fuel demand for your core strengths, not to pile up skills that are hot today but that will cool tomorrow.”
Finding your freelance niche
Take an inventory of all your skills. Think of those you use in your primary occupation, but also list any that you use off the job. That can include skills related to computers, marketing, building websites, budgeting, meal preparation, and even personal fitness. You may even be able to develop new skills based on your passions.
Whatever skill or skills you decide to pursue as a freelancer, think about how you can use it to help prospective customers and clients. Once you come up with a concrete plan, begin marketing your services. It only takes one client, then a second and a third, and from there referrals will keep the cash coming in.
5. Create an Online Course
Because of the Internet, the world is awash in information. But what people really need is instruction. They may be looking to learn specific job skills, better money management, healthier eating, personal fitness, how to set up a new computer, or how to perform basic maintenance on their cars.
Those are niches increasingly being filled by online courses. With their busy schedules, people don’t have time to take a college course to learn everything they need to know in life. That’s why many are willing to pay for an online course that will help them to learn at home, in their own time, and at their own pace.
“I believe that creating an online course is a great side hustle opportunity in 2021,” advises Derek Tharp, President of Conscious Capital, Inc., an owner of the website Retirement Prof. “Think about what you know well. You don’t need to be the world’s foremost expert on a topic to create a valuable course. Just think about what you know better than 95% of people and you can likely create something on that topic that will be useful to others. Then think about how you can efficiently teach people something that they can put to use to improve their life.”
You can market your program on social media, but you should also look into affiliate marketing. That’s where you market your program through websites that are related to your course content. Instead of paying advertising fees, you’ll pay the website or blog a percentage of the price paid for each course that’s downloaded from that site.
You can make thousands of dollars each month with affiliate marketing of an online course. And that will be possible without much effort from you, once the affiliate program is up and running on multiple websites.
6. Become a Social Media Manager
While it’s probably true most people think of social media as something of a communications toy, it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses.
Small businesses can use social media to gain greater market exposure, and increased sales. But it’s also become an important communications channel. A customer may need information on how a product or service works, or to resolve a problem.
If you’re fluid with Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media platforms, you may be able to provide valuable services to small businesses. Those could include marketing, handling customer contact and complaints, promoting the business’s website, or improving the social media pages of the business.
You can start by taking on two or three small business clients, then increasing your clientele as your skill level grows. Compensation may be on an hourly basis, or a monthly fee, or whatever is agreeable between you and the client.
If you’re successful in helping small businesses generate new sales through social media, you can bet your services will be in demand.
7. Provide Local Services
One of the obstacles that prevents more people from starting profitable side hustles is coming up with an idea. Many would-be side-hustlers get hung up trying to come up with the next new, big idea. But that’s totally unnecessary.
A side hustle can be nothing more than providing services in your local community. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated either.
“Think of “unsexy” local services, like pressure washing, pet waste removal, gutter cleaning, and mobile car detailing,” recommends Nick Loper, founder of Side Hustle Nation. “More and more homeowners are outsourcing these types of tasks, which means new service providers don’t necessarily have to go and conquer market share from existing companies. For example, one mobile detailer reported that for most of his customers, it was their first time getting a car detailed.”
Once again, think about any skills you have that you use in your work or your personal life. If it’s something you like to do, something you’re good at, you can sell your services to people in your own community.
8. Voice Acting
You probably didn’t see this one coming, but voice acting is actually a thing. In fact, it goes to show the potential options there are for site hustles. There’s practically no effort, skill, ability, or talent that can’t be converted into an income-generating side hustle.
What does voice acting involve?
“For anyone who has been told their whole life that they have a great voice and should be on radio, consider the exciting world of voice acting,” suggests David Ciccarelli, Founder and CEO of Voices.com. “More than just talking, voice acting requires the ability to connect with an audience and bring a script to life, the technical capability to record, edit and export high quality audio and the business know-how to reply to jobs, negotiate gigs and follow-up for future work.”
He indicates an income potential rang from $100 to $10,000 per job, depending on if the work will air on broadcast television or for non-broadcast uses such as phone system recordings or internal corporate training videos.
Ciccarelli adds: “Annually, most talent earns about $40,000, however those who dedicate the time and effort to making a full-time career out of voice acting can consistently earn more than $100,000.”
If you think you have a voice for voice acting, this may be the side hustle you’ve been waiting for. And like other side hustles on this list, the potential is real to convert it to a primary occupation where you can earn six figures.
Copywriting is a bit difficult to define precisely. But it’s basically a writer who creates content for the Internet. It’s something like being a freelance online writer, but it’s more specific. For example, you can specialize in creating advertising, technical, or medical copy for the Internet.
And while the content may be designed to inform the reader, it commonly contains a call to action – or convincing the reader to take the next step.
Given those specializations, it’s hardly surprising it’s potentially lucrative.
“A solid second stream of income can be produced, all while flexing your creative muscles in a business setting,” is how Copy Accelerator Co-founder, Stefan Georgi, describes it. “You can make anywhere between $60 to $1,000 per hour as a part-time copywriter, depending on the piece you are working on.”
What kind of qualifications do you need to be a successful copywriter?
“The best part about the copywriting side hustle is you don’t need any formal education,” Georgi adds. “In fact, some of the most sought after and highest-paid copywriters in the world never took a writing class in their life and clear six figures a year. I myself never received a formal education in the copywriting field and have made millions doing it.”
Whether you’re looking to increase your income, add stability in an uncertain job market, or even begin building your next full-time occupation, give serious consideration to starting a side hustle.
Sure, it will be a challenge when you get started. But once you find your first few clients, you’ll begin to realize the potential a good side hustle has. The most important step is to get started, and once you do, don’t look back. New careers and thriving businesses have been built from what started out as side hustles.