What’s the Most Profitable Side Hustle?

Content provided for general information. Always talk to your tax advisor before making important decisions.

I may receive a referral fee if you use linked products or services.

When you decide to take on a side hustle, making money is at least part of the reason. Here’s how to choose a profitable side hustle and a few to check out.

What to Look for in a Side Hustle

When you’re looking for side hustle ideas, it’s important to not just jump into the first one that sounds good. You should consider the earning potential plus a few other factors.

Pay

Figuring out your potential pay in a side hustle can actually be difficult. Most side hustles don’t have a set hourly range.

You might see an offer that says you can get paid up to $50 per hour. In reality, that might be the most you can make if everything possible goes right.

Your actual pay can vary based on how much work is really available, whether you’re available at the peak times that let you make the most money, and other factors outside of your control.

It’s really important to look beyond the advertised offer and try to find multiple reviews or other sources showing how much you can actually make.

Related: Need money fast? Check out the Best Same-Day Pay Jobs.

Expenses

You also need to think about how much money you’re spending on your side hustle. For example, Uber drivers have to pay for gas and wear and tear on their cars.

The money you make from an app like Uber is almost always before expenses. So if you’ve determined you want to make $500 in extra cash each month, you might actually need to make double that before expenses.

Expenses also come into play when you’re comparing one side hustle idea against another. The $25 per hour side hustle might not actually pay as much as the $20 per hour side hustle if you have expenses of $10 per hour on the $25 side hustle and $0 on the $20 per hour side hustle.

Taxes

Taxes will usually be the same for most side hustles. You’ll probably pay self-employment taxes plus your regular income tax rate.

One time that taxes might make a difference is if you have to drive into another state or different city with higher income taxes. That means your take-home pay for that side hustle could be lower.

Another common mistake is not worrying about your expenses because they’re write-offs. Even if you write off expenses, they’re still costing you money. For example, if your marginal tax rate is 30%, you only save about 30 cents in taxes for every dollar you spend.

Finally, don’t forget that most side hustles don’t take out taxes. Unlike a salaried job, the money that hits your bank account isn’t all yours to spend. You’ll need to pay estimated taxes to the IRS.

Your Skills

When you look at the best side hustle ideas, remember that the best ways to make extra money for one person may not be the best ways for you. Even when side hustles let anyone sign up, you still usually need to be good to make money, so choose a side hustle that matches your skills.

If you’re super organized and like dealing with people, you might look at jobs like shopping for Instacart. If you’re more of an artist, online graphic design jobs might be better for you.

Your Goals

People have various reasons for taking on side hustles including making the most money possible, doing something that’s a change of pace, or slowly reaching a specific goal.

If you’re a computer programmer that wants to make as much money as possible, you’ll probably want to stick to freelance programming jobs. If you’re looking for side cash but also to get some exercise, you might want to try becoming a sports official.

Most Profitable Side Hustles

If you’re looking for ideas to make money on the side, here are just a few ways to start a side hustle.

Rideshare

Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are one of the most popular side hustles because almost everyone has used them or at least knows about them.

In the early days of these services, they were among the best side hustles due to the pay. Because there are a lot more drivers now, average pay has fallen over time, but rideshare can still be a good way to make extra income.

Any time you have spare time, you can turn on the app and start working. The best times to work are usually when people are going to bars or special events at night, so rideshare usually pairs well with a day job.

Rideshare does come with very high expenses including not just gas but extra wear on your car. Read up on how mileage deductions work to see how much you’ll really be spending.

You can still make a nice profit doing rideshare, but you’ll have to carefully monitor your expenses and figure out how much you can make at different places and times.

Deliveries

There are several different types of delivery services that can make for a nice side hustle.

  • Full-service shopping and delivery services like Instacart or Shipt where you shop for one or two customers at a time and then bring them their orders.
  • Food delivery services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub where you usually pick up and deliver one order at a time.
  • Package delivery services like Amazon Flex where you usually get a batch of non-food delivery orders to deliver to several customers in a certain area.

Like rideshare, most of these services require you to use your own car and pay your own car expenses. So how much money you can make can depend on what kind of car you have and how good you get at picking profitable orders.

Most delivery drivers can still usually come out with a profit of $15 to $25 per hour.

Tutoring

If you’re looking for a side hustle with a little less hustle, being a tutor might be right for you. If you were good at even just one class or standardized test, there’s someone that probably needs your help.

There are many ways to be a tutor including local tutoring companies, online tutoring services, and finding your own students. You can choose to work with different grade levels, college students, or graduate students.

If you’re a teacher looking into starting a side hustle, you might worry that being a tutor might break your district’s policies. You can usually safely work with private school students, college students, or students in another district.

Tutoring is usually pure profit unless you need to rent a meeting space. You may have to do a little driving, but unlike rideshare, your driving will be about the same as commuting to any other job.

Social Media Manager

Running social media accounts for local businesses has a higher learning curve than most side hustles, but most small business owners can’t afford a full-on marketing agency even if their social media account helps them bring in more business.

You’ll usually need to be able to show that you’re active on social media and can effectively market the business’s latest deals. You can find jobs on your own, on freelancer platforms, or by reaching out to local businesses.

You might have some small expenses if you need to purchase graphic design software or attend meetings. Other than that, the money you make is mostly profit.

Online Surveys

Online surveys might be closer to beer money than a true side hustle, but if you’re not looking to make much money or have time that you need to fill, there are surveys that pay.

Most surveys pay a few cents to a few dollars to complete, so you may or may not make more than minimum wage.

If you’re looking for online surveys, never pay to get on a list or to take surveys. There are many legitimate surveys out there, and they don’t ask you to pay.

If you’re near a college, you might also want to check if they have research studies either online or in-person. These will often pay a little better than online surveys.

Virtual Assistant

Many small businesses need some sort of virtual assistant to perform miscellaneous tasks. These can range from basic data entry to answering phone calls or emails.

Virtual assistants often have less flexibility than other side hustles. You might have to commit to specific hours or finish tasks within a certain timeframe each week. You may also have less ability to take time off especially if you’re the only virtual assistant for a business.

Pay for virtual assistants often starts around $10 to $15 per hour and can vary widely depending on the complexity of the work and skills needed. The good news is you usually won’t have any expenses.

Pet Sitting or Dog Walking

Pet sitting and dog walking can be great side hustles for animal lovers. Many people treat their pets like family and are willing to pay to make sure they’re well taken care of.

The level of commitment can vary based on what kind of work you take on. If you pet-sit cats, you might just need to drop by once at any time during the day. If you walk dogs, you’ll probably need to show up at a regular time.

You can usually maximize your monthly income if you get the word out in your neighborhood and take on your own clients. There are also pet-sitting apps that will pay you a little less because they take a cut, but they make it easier to find clients and take time off without leaving the owners hanging.

Rent Out Your Car

Do you live in a city where you don’t drive or work from home all the time? If so, there are services where you can rent out your car when you’re not using it.

You can list when your car is available and then get paid when someone who needs a car rents it. They might be tourists, people who don’t regularly need a car, or people who need your bigger truck or SUV for a few errands.

Most services include insurance that covers any potential damage and will charge the renters for any cleaning costs. One important thing to check is whether the app has mileage limits or charges to make sure you’re making more money than the wear and tear renters are putting on your car.

Freelance Writer

Freelance writing is a very broad field with jobs ranging from requiring that you did OK in high school English to highly technical jobs for professional experts in a certain field. No matter where you fall in, it’s usually a great way to make money online.

You may be asked to write blog posts, email newsletters, website content, or anything else that helps business owners market their services. You can either approach local businesses or digital marketing agencies on your own or work through a freelance platform.

Pay ranges from $15 per hour to $100+ depending on your expertise. Most freelance writers don’t have any expenses unless they decide to subscribe to an SEO tool.

Referee Sports

Refereeing a sport you played can either be a really fun side hustle or not. You’ve probably seen videos of psycho youth sports parents gone wild. Some leagues can be pretty chill.

If you’re able to find a good league near you, pay can be $20 to $50 per hour. You’ll usually have to buy a uniform and equipment like a whistle.

Some youth sports organizations want you to pay $100+ for a certification for the chance to work for them. You’re usually better off finding another league that won’t make you pay.

Start a Blog

Starting a blog or vlog is a good way to make passive income. You can make money through ads or signing up for affiliate marketing programs where you get paid when people buy your promoted products.

You might post tips about how to do your job or another talent, share recipes, or even just record your ordinary day like towtrucker.

No matter what kind of content you share, you usually need to post consistently to make this a lucrative side hustle. The good news is that it’s not the end of the world if you take a break, and some of your subscribers may even want to see your vacation photos as a change of pace.

Blogging and vlogging expenses vary widely. You might start out posting on a free platform, or you could need to buy web hosting, travel to new locations, or hire a full-time graphic designer.

You’ll usually get about a penny each time someone views your content, but if you see how many views and subscribers some online channels get, those pennies can add up.

Teach an Online Course

Online courses used to be for teachers and industry experts, but COVID-19 brought a lot more learning online. People are now looking for things like cooking classes, language lessons, and even personal training over platforms like Zoom.

If you’ve never run an online course before, remember that you can teach people who are total beginners. You might also want to take a few online classes yourself to see how people are doing things.

To run an online course, you’ll probably need a professional camera and microphone. You may also need a few supplies, but you won’t have to worry about buying supplies for students.

If you can charge $5 to $25 per person and get at least 10 people per session, you’re on your way to success.

Rent Out a Spare Room

Renting out a spare room is like side hustling without the work. If you’re only looking to earn extra money, you can be picky and wait until you find the perfect roommate.

In the current real estate market, it’s easy to make $1,000 per month or more with minimal extra expenses. Just make sure you sign a formal lease agreement in case anything goes wrong.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you start a side hustle when working full time?

There are three things you want to think about before starting a side hustle when working full time.

  • Scheduling — you’ll need a side hustle that lets you work when you want or schedule hours that don’t conflict with your main job. The less predictable your day job is, the more flexibility you need in your second job.
  • Conflicts — your employer can generally stop you from working for a competitor or in a job that can hurt your employer’s reputation. Some employers ask you to get approval for outside work to prevent potential issues.
  • Burn out — Taking on a side hustle means less free time. That’s why many people go for fun side hustles even if they don’t pay the best.

What’s a good side hustle for a couple?

There are two approaches you can take if you want to do a side hustle as a couple.

First, you can do something that you both enjoy and are good at.

Second, you might have one spouse lead the way while the other is the assistant or business manager. It’s like when a doctor’s spouse becomes the office manager.

Which approach is right for you depends on your skills, the opportunities you have, and how you work together in your relationship.

Thanks for reading.

If you found this post useful, please help others find it by sharing on social or linking from your blog.

Get monthly tips and tax reminders in your inbox.

Leave a Comment

You can leave an anonymous question or comment below. All comments are public, so please don't include any sensitive information. If you need personalized advice, please talk to a tax advisor or other appropriate professional.