In a time of high gas prices, rising inflation, and an uncertain economic outlook, many people are looking to make more money. While the most obvious way to earn more is to improve on your primary employment (through a raise, promotion, or new job), it’s not always practical to change the terms of your job. In that case, what you need is a side hustle.
A side hustle is work you can do while keeping your main job to boost your income. Think of a side hustle as bonus income, rather than income you depend on to make ends meet. This attitude keeps the pressure off and allows you to experiment freely, and find what works.
What type of side hustles work best? Here are 3 of the top contenders:
1. Sell Digital Downloads
One of the best side hustles is selling digital downloads. These small digital products make big money on Etsy, where printable worksheets are a top-selling product. Any kind of specialized paper product that can be printed by a standard home printer can be sold as a digital download. Consider creating notebook pages for students, journal pages, workbooks, calendar planners, and budget tools.
The main challenge when selling printable digital downloads is creating unique designs. You’ll need some visual design skills, but you don’t need to be an expert designer. Start by assembling visual references—existing designs that appeal to you and are similar to what you’re going for. Once you have several designs for inspiration, pull out the pieces from each design that connect best to your goal. Pretty soon, you’ll have a new piece of work on your hands. Note: While it’s fine to be inspired by a piece, you should not copy something wholesale.
Design software such as Can plays an important role in the creation of printables. Many designers use professional-grade tools like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop; a more affordable option is Affinity Designer. And at the most accessible end of the spectrum, you have Canva which is available online or as an app. Whichever tool you use, spend time learning the software in detail in order to bring your visions fully to life. You’ll find a wealth of free design tutorials on YouTube for your chosen software, which will be worth your time as skill-building exercises.
2. Sell Used Cell Phones Online
A great side hustle to make money is to buy used cell phones and resell them. The basics of phone reselling can be summed up as: buy low from wholesalers and sell slightly higher on marketplaces. Phone reselling is a low-margin business, so you’re not going to make a ton of money on each transaction after you’ve accounted for your costs (such as shipping, marketplace fees, and the price you paid for the phone). But while no single sale makes big bucks, the market for used phones is large and growing, so you can quickly turn around a high volume of sales once you’ve found a good wholesale phone source and established a reputation as a seller on an online marketplace.
Used cell phones for sale have variable quality, and different wholesalers use their own assessment systems (called grading) to indicate quality levels. To have a successful reselling business, you must be able to source accurately graded devices at a reasonable price. That means building a relationship with a reliable wholesaler.
To make a go of selling used phones, it’s critical to understand where the opportunity lies in the used phone ecosystem. Different business strategies can work, but you have to be intentional about which strategy you’re pursuing, with an appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen approach to the market.
The two main styles of selling are high-volume phone flipping vs value-added reselling.
Phone flippers are focused on quantity and try to move as many units as quickly as possible. They have the lowest margins in the industry but the most sales. Because they make little effort to improve the phones they purchase, it’s vital that phone flippers purchase accurately graded phones.
Value-added resellers make determined efforts to improve the quality of their stock, by regrading, making repairs, or complete refurbishing. Because they invest in their phones, they are able to charge more and receive a higher profit margin on sales. This approach takes experience, skill, and time.
3. Create an Online Course
The most common teaching format is a video course, in which you film yourself talking to the camera for introductions and explanations. For the rest of the time, you train the camera on the main activity of the class, whether that’s coding, design, gardening, hand-lettering, or a thousand other niche topics. An online course can be a powerful money-maker because as a digital product, you only have to make it once, while you can sell it many times (at zero marginal cost).
Popular hosted marketplaces for online courses are Udemy and Skillshare, while tools like Teachable and Podia are platforms that make it easy to host and market your course independently. The choice of whether to use a hosted platform or strike out on your own comes down to a trade-off between control and marketing reach.
If you’re part of a platform like Skillshare, students may find your course by searching Skillshare for your topic or by seeing the class featured on the Skillshare website. This means there’s the potential to reach more students than you would through your own promotional efforts. The downside is that you lose some degree of control over the appearance and user interface of your course, and become subject to comparison shopping, as alternative courses are listed next to yours.
The simple (but not easy) keys to success as an online course teacher are to have a marketable skill, natural or acquired ease on video, an engaging teaching style, and an audience you can market to. If you nail these factors, you’ve got a great side hustle in the making.
The Side Hustles Are Waiting
We’ve seen there’s ample opportunity for you to convert a bit of elbow grease into reliable side income. Whether you choose to sell digital downloads, used cell phones, or online courses, the internet offers you a way to connect with buyers all over the world. The time is ripe to start your side hustle—get out there and share your talent with the world.