The average salary in the United States is almost $48,000. But with the cost of living slowly creeping upward, it’s no surprise you’re turning to the internet with one question: “How can I make my first $100 on the side?”
Rest assured, you’re not alone. A 2019 survey from BankRate found that 37% of Americans have found extra ways of making money—each earning an average of $686 per month. People with successful side projects may have been more likely to respond, but it still demonstrates that money can be made on the side of most full-time jobs.
However, the attraction of a side hustle isn’t just limited by the opportunity to pad your wallet. Sure, you can use the extra cash to grow your savings account, travel more, and eventually quit your job if your venture becomes successful. But learning how to build and sell products and services on the side also offers several related benefits:
Security. A day job can offer stability, but it also puts your earning potential all in one basket. If you lose your job, you lose your only source of income. Diversifying with a job on the side means you’ll still have cash if the worst happens.
A new hobby. A hobby is something that you want to do but don’t have to do. Creative people tend to cross-pollinate their hobbies and day jobs. Hobbies are something fun to do, yet they sometimes have spillover benefits for your day-to-day work. They give you another place to learn and grow, even if your day job (or another important activity) has hit a wall.
Building your money-making skill set. Making money is its own distinct skill—one you need to practice if you want to turn interests and talent into a sustainable business. Even if a specific side project doesn’t reach its full potential, you’ll still build valuable skills that can be applied to your next idea.
Can everyone make money on the side?
There’s a misconception that people need to be extremely skilled or need to quit their full-time job to make money on the side. The truth: you don’t need either of those to start a venture on the side.
Take Sandy from this episode of Guess My Hustle. Spoiler alert: We’re going to give away the answer.
Sandy’s an accountant by trade and started her own dog boutique store that curates different canine-related items—such as leashes, collars, and treats—from all over the world. She sells the products her pup wears on her website, Spotted by Humphrey.
Sandy’s side business grew from an Instagram account that shared the products Humphrey loved. Her content has attracted over 100,000 followers and led to her online pet retail store being profitable while she was still holding down her accountancy job.
Or look at James Yurichuk, the pro CFL footballer. Like many other players in the league, James needed additional work to support the income from his “day job.” He and his wife were living in an apartment, with a child on the way, and needed extra cash to support their growing tribe.
But James didn’t have any knowledge about how business works, especially the fashion business—which is the industry he entered when he started Wuxly Outerwear.
The idea sprung to mind when the cold Toronto weather led to James looking for a coat for his wife. The only problem: he couldn’t find one made without animal-derived materials. He partnered with an old friend who happened to be a tailor and created Wuxly Outerwear as a solution to premium winter coats that don’t contain animal products.
12 creative ways to make money
Below are 12 unconventional ways to earn your first $100 on the side. They prove you don’t need any remarkable skills or experience, or tons of spare time:
Sell your photos
Print on demand
Reach online classes
Sell food waste
Recommend your favorite products
Rent your unused space
Sell your services
Productize industry-specific skill
Host tours in your city
Sell your art
Train your dog
We’ll break down each side business idea by:
Business type: whether the idea is product-based or service-based, or driven by an audience.
Effort: how much time, skill, or experience you’ll need to put into the idea.
Leverage: how well positioned you are to turn the idea into a money-making one that increases in value without needing your direct attention. A high-leverage idea isn’t a 1:1 trade of time for money.
Startup costs: the upfront budget you’ll need to launch the idea.
Profit potential: how much profit you can expect to make from your idea per year.
1. Sell your photos
Business type: Product-based
Startup costs (out of 5 ?): ?
Profit potential (out of 5 ?): ??
Modern smartphones have high-quality cameras. The iPhone 11 Pro, for example, has a triple lens with wide angles and optical zoom.
It’s no surprise then that the ever-increasing quality of smartphone cameras has crashed the camera industry. Mid-level cameras were made obsolete when your phone began offering the same quality with 10x the convenience. You carry your smartphone wherever you go.
But instead of leaving your photos to sit idly in the cloud, you can potentially turn your snapshots into cash—and your smartphone is all the equipment needed to make money on the side while expressing your creative side.
Photographs are like any other product, and in order to successfully sell your photography you need to target an audience of potential customers who want or have a need for them. Start by thinking about the photography style you’re most interested in, whether that’s landscapes, portraits, or pets. Then, depending on how you plan to monetize (e.g., by selling prints or offering rights to stock photography sites), see if there’s a specific lane or niche you can identify. For example, you may notice that photos of papercraft creations are in demand on stock photography sites but that the current supply is limited. That’s a potential opportunity.
The Haute Stock library was born out of this concept. Its founder, Rachel Rouhana, was “frustrated with the lack of stylish stock photography available for women business owners.” So she created Haute Stock to fill that gap in the market.
Once you’ve found your niche, start building a following on visual-heavy platforms like Instagram or Pinterest. Snap some niche-specific photos, use a free photo editor to polish them up, then sell them on sites like Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, and TourPhotos.
Monitor which style works best through the platform’s analytics. Pinterest, for example, shows how many link clicks a photograph has had. Are there any similarities between your top-performing photographs?
Use your social media accounts to tease your paid content—bloggers and business owners always need stock photos. You could pitch directly to your target business owner, asking whether they’d be willing to pay for your photos—and how much they’re willing to pay. For example: you might identify the audience for your pet-related photos as dog retailers who are willing to pay $25 per stock photo.
Bear in mind that you’ll need to price your stock photos on three factors: The demand for photos in that industry, the price competitors are charging, and the fees you’re paying to take the photos themselves. If you’re shooting people, you’ll need to pay them, and if you’re shooting locations you’ll usually need permission or to pay a fee. Build this into your pricing to make sure you’re not losing more money than you’re making.
By selling your images through one of these platforms, you could turn your hobby into your first $100 on the side.