Written by entrepreneur, writer, and content marketer Ryan Robinson, join him at ryrob.com and learn how to start a business while working full-time.
No matter how rewarding your full-time job may be, there’s one thing that’s even more meaningful than great pay and solid benefits: working for yourself.
Choosing the path of entrepreneurship is without a doubt riskier than being content with holding a 9-5 job, and requires way more sacrifice. However, once you’re reaping the lifestyle benefits of being your own boss and hustling your way into making significantly more money than you ever could at your day job, the hard work will have all been worth it.
The question I’m asked the most (by far) when I meet and speak with fellow entrepreneurs is, “How do I know which business I should start?” This one is always quickly followed by, “How do I start it while I’m still working my full-time job?”
This makes perfect sense. With how many businesses already exist out in the world, it can be difficult to come up with the right idea you should be spending your time on.
The majority of us don’t have the luxury of being able to quit our day jobs to pursue starting a business today, without having to worry about how we’re going to meet our financial obligations moving forward with no immediate income.
That’s why I’m a huge advocate of always starting a business while working full-time, so that you can test your way into your new product or service, get feedback, validate the business idea, and start generating income before you quit your job.
When I set out to start a new business, I always make sure it aligns with both my core competencies and my passions. It’s how I make sure I’ll be engaged, even when the going gets rough.
With that in mind, I put together this massive list of the 65 Best Businesses You Can Start While You’re Still Working a Full-Time Job, to help give you some starting points on proven business ideas that can be executed on while you still keep your day job – and primary source of income.
The big problem for many of us is that working a full-time job makes it too exhausting to even consider trying to find an alternative outlet.
Luckily, there are tons of ways to start businesses and make money on the side while still leading a well-rounded, meaningful life. If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to quit your day job and grow your side business into an empowering self-employed career.
Obviously some of these gigs have more earning potential than others, but what they all share in common are relatively low barriers to entry and the flexibility to work at them for a limited amount of time per week. I also tried to focus on businesses that have some sort of online component to them, since that’s what I love most. Check out what The Foundation is doing with entrepreneurs seeking to launch online businesses.
If I missed any good ones, please share your best ideas for side businesses in the comments below! If you’re ready to get started on a business while you’re still working, join my course on launching while working.
Here are my picks for the best businesses you can start right now, while you’re still working full-time.
1. Graphic Design.
While having a formal background in graphic design is absolutely going to be helpful, it’s also relatively easy to learn the foundations of graphic design on your own. An increasingly easy-to-use Adobe Illustrator and websites like Canva and Visme are making it so that just about anyone with two opposable thumbs, a bit of creativity, and motivation can get paid to create or alter images.
2. Web Design.
Web designers are incredibly valuable for technology companies. Web design is all about mastering the art of creating a beautiful, value-driven experience for the people using a website or app. There are always new websites popping up in need of professional web design, and companies like Skillcrush and General Assembly have proven online programs that’ll get up-to-speed quickly with this career path.
3. Web Development.
4. Tax Preparation.
It’s not the sort of job that’s covered in glory, but someone needs to make sure all the numbers add up at the end of the year. Every business and most individuals need someone with the domain expertise to help prepare tax returns, especially time or resource-strapped small business owners. The Income Tax School provides an array of training programs that’ll certify you with tax prep in as little as 10 weeks, and once tax season rolls around you’ll be able to charge an average of $229 per return as a freelance tax preparer, reports CNBC.
5. Commission-Only Sales.
If you have a knack for connecting with people and the willingness to take on some risk, a commission-based freelance sales role could be a great fit for you. Many startups seek part-time and commission-only salespeople, especially when they’re just getting started. Sell for nothing but commission and negotiate yourself a good chunk of equity, and you could profit big time if the startup succeeds. Check out Angel List and see if an opportunity aligns with your interests.
6. Online Courses.
If you’re an expert at something, there’s likely an audience of people online who would be willing to pay to become an expert in your field – just like you. Lewis Howes shares his strategy for creating and launching successful online courses in this post on his blog, right here.
Packaging your skills and knowledge into a downloadable eBook that delivers value to those seeking to learn a skill, advance in their careers, or start their own businesses, makes for a strong value proposition if you target the right audience. Check out Leslie Samuel’s great guide to selling eBooks online and start building your strategy.
8. Instagram Marketing.
Build up a following on your Instagram account and you could quickly be approached by major brands, gear companies, and other relevant businesses that sell products or services related to the type of content you share on Instagram. If you have hundreds of thousands of followers, you can easily charge anywhere between $500 to $5,000 per post or more. Check out this fashion Instagrammer on ThePennyHoarder, making a significant income from brand sponsorships.
9. Online Coaching.
If you have something you’re skilled at and very passionate about, you can turn that winning combination into offering your services with one-on-one online coaching. Regina Anaejionu will give you a step-by-step plan for putting your skills and experience to work by developing an online coaching business. Check out her content for a jump start on this career.
If you can create a regular audience for your podcast on a specific topic, this is a great way to get sponsors. At CreativeLive, I regularly pay $50-$250 (or more depending on audience size) per episode for a 30 second advertisement on relevant podcasts like The Tim Ferriss Show, the #1 business podcast right now. The podcast has even helped Tim secure his own TV show. Naturally, it helps if you already have an online audience you can tap for listening to your regular podcast, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of people from building successful businesses on the back of podcasting. Listen to this great episode of the Conscious Millionaire podcast for an interview with John Lee Dumas on how to make money podcasting.
11. Amazon Reselling.
Anyone can sell goods on Amazon, provided you have products to sell. If you’re the type to hit all the local garage sales each weekend, there’s all sorts of valuable things that can be resold online. If you want to step your Amazon selling game up, check out this detailed guide to Amazon Clearance Arbitrage on SideHustleNation featuring an interview from Travis Scott of StuffParentsLike.com.
12. Local Business Consulting.
If you’ve developed valuable skill sets or certifications within your industry over the years, consider putting your skills to use in your free time by offering your consulting services to local business owners. Whether you’re an expert marketer, business strategist, or manufacturing aficionado, there’s likely a local business owner who’s willing to pay you to help them solve an issue with their company. Start with this 18-step checklist to becoming a local business consultant from Karyn Greenstreet.
13. Phone Case Business.
There’s a huge growing market for mobile phone accessories, and plenty of handmade sellers are raking in 6 and sometimes 7 figures from their phone case businesses. With turnkey solutions available, you can now get ready to go kits that’ll give you everything you need to start your own phone case business. Once you’re up and running, you can sell cases on Etsy, Amazon Handmade, and Fancy.
14. Affiliate Sales and Marketing.
If you already have a website that’s driving in targeted traffic, a great way to make passive income from the content you’re already creating, is through affiliate marketing. Clickbank, Skimlinks, and Rakuten are all great affiliate marketing tools and networks that can help you make money from the content you already produce.
15. Virtual Assistant.
Have a knack for staying organized? If you’re a jack of all trades, you should consider working as a virtual assistant. You can find great gigs on Elance, Indeed, or become a Zirtual Assistant. It can be an awesome way to rub shoulders with some very important people, build up your professional network, and you’ll be able to work from anywhere.
16. Remote English Teacher/Tutor.
Teaching and tutoring English as a second language is a great way to make a solid side income, not to mention opening doors for you to travel the world if you’d like. While full ESL (English as a Second Language) accreditation is recommended, as long as you’re a native speaker, there are people in countries such as Hong Kong or the UAE who are willing to pay upwards of $25/hr for you to teach them English via Skype. Indeed, Learn4Good and Remote.co often have remote english tutoring jobs posted, check back frequently.
17. SAT Tutor.
If you had a knack for standardized tests and had no trouble acing the SAT, ACT or other college exams, why not start tutoring high schoolers on the side? Parents of all economic backgrounds are more than willing to shell out upwards of $100/hr to the right tutor, if it means their son or daughter will get admitted to the college or university of their choice. See this quick checklist for starting an SAT tutoring business from the Work At Home Mom. Whitney over at Rookiemoms also has a cool story to share about a stay-at-home mom making $40/hr helping kids out with homework.
18. Social Media Manager.
We’re all guilty of spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest sometimes, so why not get paid to put your expertise to work? Lots of companies, especially startups or those in retail or travel, have heavy social media presences and are constantly in need of people to help build their brands online. You can find these types of opportunities on sites like Flexjobs and CareerBuilder.
19. Google Paid Ad Specialist.
If you know a thing or two about paid internet marketing and are comfortable with Google, a great way to make some extra income on the side is to manage a company’s Google Ad Campaigns, and gradually start bringing on more clients as your consulting business grows.
Think blogging is no longer a viable source of income? Think again. Tens of thousands of bloggers, creating content on topics as diverse as scrapbooking, home cooking, travel, film, lifestyle, and more are launching self-employed careers thanks to a combination of blog subscribers, affiliate marketing, sponsorships, and other revenue streams. Start with Amy Andrews’ ultimate free Guide to Making Money Blogging.
21. Presentation Design Consultant.
Yes, even the lowly PowerPoint requires outside consulting every now and then. I know I would happily outsource the visual layout of my presentation decks for work meetings, investor pitches, and lectures. Adam Noar from Presentation Panda is living proof that you can turn your passion for slideshow presentation design into a legit side business.
22. Travel Consultant.
If you love to travel and find yourself randomly searching for airfare sales or browsing Lonely Planet, why not carve out a niche for yourself as a private travel agent? Take my friend, Mark Jackson’s lead with what he’s doing to build a travel consulting business. Start with word of mouth recommendations from friends who know they can count on you for the cheapest flights, and don’t forget to set up an account with Plansify to start getting paid for your travel expertise in your free time.
23. Landing Page Specialist.
If you have a way with words and know how to make the keyword-friendly, beautifully designed, SEO-optimized landing pages, why not charge other companies for your services? Even a short landing page is worth a couple hundred bucks in most cases. Just check out what Freelance Copywriter Mike is up to for some inspiration.
24. Interior Design Consultant.
Someone out there is remodeling their kitchen and needs to know which shade of granite will match best with mahogany flooring. That someone will often be happy to pay you for your advice, especially if you’re the kind of person that subscribes to websites like Contemporist.
It’s not exactly a way to make consistent great money, but housesitting—exactly what it sounds like—is a fantastic way to live in exotic locales around the world without paying a dime in rent. Did I mention it’s a way to travel and live rent free? Here’s a list of four great websites from the legendary Nomadic Matt, to start your housesitting search.
No, babysitting isn’t just for teenagers and college students. Quite on the contrary, if you call yourself an Au Pair instead, you can make some pretty good side money working nights and weekends.
27. Property Manager.
Know someone who rents out property to others? Perhaps they could use a hand managing their property. If so, you can make a decent amount of money on the side with relatively little work on your part. From collecting rental checks, to managing repairs and improvements, or simply being on call for emergencies, a property manager is essential for most real estate investors.
28. Etsy Selling.
Have a talent for crafting or creating other handmade goods? From bracelets to phone cases, rings, furniture, and more, Etsy is one of the world’s largest independent marketplaces that’s perfect for anyone who is creative and willing to sell their handmade creations. Consider these 5 steps to starting an Etsy store, from Handmadeology.
29. Ebay Sales.
Similar to selling on Amazon, eBay is a place to make money selling just about anything you can think of, with the added excitement of using the auction selling model to sometimes get way more than you expected for that antique baseball card you picked up at a local street fair.
30. Fiverr Gigs.
Fiverr is a great place for first-time freelancers who might not have tons of experience and want to build up a portfolio of their work. You’ll be able to complete simple tasks ranging from logo design, to creating animations, or even drawing a company logo on your forehead.
31. College Admissions Essay Writer.
If writing 500 word essays on topics such as “You were just invited to speak at the White House. Write your speech,” seems like a compelling way to spend your free time, trust me – tons of parents will pay you to write or edit admissions essays for their children.
32. Portrait Photographer.
If you own a camera, starting a freelance portrait photography business could be a very natural way to make a side income. Start with doing free shoots for friends and family to build up a strong online portfolio, then you’ll be able to get paid for photographing professional head shots and celebratory family moments. Check out this men’s portrait photography class on CreativeLive.
33. Wedding Photographer.
Wedding photographers command premium rates – after all, you are capturing one of a couple’s most important life moments. Many professional wedding photographers charge between $2,500 – $10,000 (or more) to shoot a wedding. The Complete Wedding Photography Experience will give you everything you need to launch your wedding photography business.
34. Online Dating Consultant.
Believe it or not, some people have such a difficult time at dating, that they can’t even handle the online component of it. If you’re a smooth talker, why not leverage that skill into a paid match maker? People are paying.
35. Writing Erotic Fiction.
Werewolves, stepbrothers, and tentacles—the demand is high. As odd as it may sound, if you’ve got the imagination (and a clever pseudonym), you can make upwards of $5,000 a month writing erotic fiction.
36. Writing Greeting Cards.
Fancy yourself a poet? You can earn $300 for every poem you write that this greeting card company publishes.
37. WordPress Website Consultant.
Countless small businesses start out their web presence using a WordPress hosted website before needing to upgrade to other solutions for various reasons. Many of them will pay several hundreds of dollars for someone to get them set up online. If you have the patience to learn how to do it yourself, it’s an extremely valuable skill.
38. Drive for Uber or Lyft.
Driving for one of the two globally expanding app-centric taxi alternative services, Uber of Lyft can be a very lucrative way to earn money on nights and weekends – working only when you want.
39. Rent Your Car on RelayRides.
If you own a car but barely use it, you can make some easy cash on the side by renting it out on RelayRides. Before you freak out, know that there’s a $1 Million insurance policy on all cars, plus drivers are prescreened, so you can have peace of mind.
40. Art Collector.
Not to be confused with hoarding, this one takes a lot of time, patience, and passion. If you have an eye for good art, it’s easy to get in on the ground level by visiting the studio department at your local university. Many art students are more than happy to sell their work for a bargain, and in as little as a few years, there’s a chance that piece you bought for a couple hundred bucks may be worth well into the thousands.
41. Catering Business.
EatWith is a great way to test the waters as a chef, and if you have enough rave reviews you might be able to turn your knife skills into a full-time business.
42. Develop an App.
Sometimes it seems like there’s an app for everything. Yet somehow, new ones keep popping up and selling for lots of money, all the time. If you spot a niche that hasn’t been filled to its potential just yet, and you can learn the coding skills (or know someone who already has them), you could be on to something. Just make sure you validate your app idea before jumping too far in.
43. Online News Correspondent.
You don’t need to have a degree in journalism to be a reporter these days, and there are many news websites that can always use a bit of help on getting local coverage. Some of them, such as The Examiner or HuffPost, will compensate contributors based on ad revenue generated per article written – a great incentive to provide compelling content.
44. Patent Something.
Kia Silverbrock has been granted over 4,665 US Patents in his lifetime (so far). You don’t have to invent the wheel to make good money from your patented concepts – just make sure that your idea can be produced affordably, or it will never stand up against a lawsuit in the future.
45. Buy and Sell Domain Names.
Domain name trading has been around for the last couple decades, and while the slam-dunk names have long been sold off (Insure.com went for $16 Million in 2009) there’s still plenty of others that you can get your hands on for relatively cheap. Imagine owning desirable domain names for the next decade’s worth of innovative companies.
46. Start a Popup Shop.
While the barriers to entry for a retail shop can be very high, one way to keep costs down and limit your time investment while you keep your full-time job, is to set up a weekend popup shop. More of whatever it is you’re selling—donuts, clothing, antique baseball cards, or anything else—will stay in your pockets instead of going to pay for operating expenses such as rent or utilities. This guide from Shopify will give you a step-by-step process for getting your popup shop off the ground.
47. Brew Your Own Beer.
Like drinking beer? Why not try making it yourself? With patience and skill you might end up brewing something that others are willing to pay to drink. Pick up an easy-to-use starter kit from Mr. Beer online.
48. Freelance Proofreading and Editing.
As long as there is still the written word, there will always be editors. Freelance editing and proofreading not only pays a decent hourly wage, it also gives you the chance to read about potentially interesting topics too. You can find lots of postings from companies in need of these services on Upwork.
49. Buy Used Electronics and Refurbish Them.
Many people give up on their faulty laptops, mobile phones, or cameras without even looking into the cause of their malfunctions. If you have the skills to fix them, consider starting a side business refurbishing and reselling used electronics.
50. Data Analysis.
Got a thing for numbers? Plenty of companies need to hire someone who’s good at data analysis. Upwork and Digiserved are but a two of many websites that are great for freelancers with an analytical prowess, looking for extra work.
51. Acquire Parts from Electronics Stores.
There is a treasure trove of valuable items being thrown away by big box stores around the world. Electronics stores toss out everything from printer cartridges to tablets, and if you’ve got the stomach for rummaging around in dumpsters you can easily make money rummaging than you ever thought possible.
52. Copywriting for Websites.
Every website owner (including myself) hires copywriters to write content for things like about pages, FAQ’s, or blog posts. Hourly wages for novice copywriters are not very high, but with experience and a great portfolio, you can start charging more than you make at your normal job. Pick up this free guide to launching a freelance writing career.
53. Licensed Product Distributor.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but licensing a foreign product for sale domestically, can lead to a big payoff down the road. Invest intelligently, sell a product you believe in, and you can reap the rewards for years to come.
54. Fill Out Online Surveys.
It’s not very engaging, or mentally stimulating, but online surveys do pay out, believe it or not.
55. Airbnb Host.
Not only is Airbnb a great way to make money by renting out your spare bedroom or living room couch, but you also have the benefit of meeting new people and making new friends.
56. Personal Fitness Trainer.
If you’re a fitness buff and have the right combination of charisma and business sense, working as a part-time personal trainer can be both physically and financially rewarding. Once you build up a reputation and client base for yourself, it could easily turn into a full-time endeavor for you. Check out these tips to a successful personal training business by the American Fitness Professionals and this interview with several fitness blog owners who are making a living online, from MonetizePros.
57. Yoga or Meditation Instructor.
Yoga is getting ever more popular, which means yoga instructors are more in demand than ever. Pursue emotional and physical balance with others, during your free time while helping your bank balance, too.
58. Start a YouTube Channel.
If you can create value-driven, entertaining video content and grow your subscriber base to a few thousand subscribers, your videos can start generating pretty substantial income from all the ads being displayed on your videos. Many YouTube users make well into the millions each year.
If your mastery of another language is good enough to have the grammar and spelling down, translating is a great side business to set up for yourself and can be done remotely. Flexjobs has literally hundreds of freelance, remote translator jobs available right now.
60. Tour Guide.
Live in a destination where travelers frequently visit? If you love meeting new people from around the world and also love the city you live in, starting your own local tour business will give you both of those perks. Take a unique spin on your local tour business like Erik from Vantigo. He was starting his VW van tour business in San Francisco while he was still working a full-time job, and grew it to being a sustainable source of full-time income before quitting – now he’s running a multiple van tour business for himself.
61. Music Instructor.
Do you play a musical instrument well enough to teach it to others? Private music instructors charge upwards of $20-100/hr, and you don’t necessarily have to do them in person, either.
62. Stock Photographer.
If you have a fondness for taking pictures of smiling families or laughing children blowing bubbles, consider selling your images to a stock photo company like ShutterStock and iStockPhoto. You’ll get royalties every time someone licenses an image you’ve submitted.
Ghostwriting pays pretty well, and if you’re talented at researching and creating great content within a certain subject domain, you can quickly build a roster of high-paying clientele. Writers like Jeff Haden have created very lucrative careers for themselves by writing for business executives and CEO’s.
64. Online Subcontracting.
Once you’ve established yourself in any number of freelance verticals online, subcontracting your jobs out to other freelancers can help you significantly grow your client list, and revenue generating possibilities.
Take the time to develop your skills at either making your own music, or becoming a pro at mixing, and your side business of dj-ing local events could turn into a much bigger business.
66. What Did I Miss?
Share in the comments if I’m missing any great business ideas that you can start while working full-time! Bonus points if you’ve already gotten started on it, and share the link to your website.
If you’ve got your business idea and you’re ready to get started, join my online course Starting a Business While Working Full-Time.
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