You can start and run a profitable business without a full-time commitment.
Here are 21 proven ideas as well as some of the easiest businesses to start. With a few hours of dedication each week, you can turn your dream of a side business into a reality.
1. Etsy Shop/Craft Business
Years ago, my Great Aunt Betty made a lot of creative craft items. For a while, she sold them through a small shop on her property; she also sold them directly to stores.
For example, I remember her taking her handmade basket-like pocketbooks to be sold at Bonwit Teller, once one of Boston’s most prestigious women’s stores.
Today, the Internet has dramatically expanded the opportunity and ease with which one can break into the craft business. With websites like Etsy.com, you can not only find a place to sell your goods but also get an idea of what other people are making money on.
You can open up your own shop without all the expensive overhead of having a storefront.
Before you open your business, I strongly suggest that you carefully plan it out. Just throwing up a few random items for sale is not the way to go about it. For example, you want to think about your target market, what will appeal to your customers, and how you’ll be different from your competitors.
Think about the “look and feel” of your shop, what products you’ll offer, and how you will price them. In short, you should come up with a well-thought-out business plan.
I also recommend that you do your own marketing to drive traffic to your online shop. Consider putting together your own website, building up an email list, and establishing a presence on social media.
This is a particularly cool business because you can start as small as you want, working as few hours as you like. Yet, if you create something that catches on, you could build a global brand — the upside is unlimited!
2. Dog Walking Business
Some people have told me that I shouldn’t even include dog walking on this list because it’s such as simple business. Humbug! You can make a lot of money with a simple business! Furthermore, dog walking has many characteristics of a great business!
Of course, it’s super easy to start this business. You could even start walking just one dog. And then you can grow the business at your own pace.
Furthermore, this is a repeat-customer business — Rover needs to be walked regularly! And a repeat-customer business means a nice flow of steady income for you.
Dog walking also requires a personal touch. People don’t want just anyone walking their dog. So if your customers like you, they will keep you forever.
I have a niece who started a dog walking business and quickly grew her client list. She also made more money by doing some overnight dog boarding at her house.
Another cool thing about dog walking is that even if you have a part-time dog walking business, you can sell it and make even more money. That’s because as you build up your client list, you’re creating a business with long-term value.
So how do you get started with dog walking? Put together your business plan and start marketing! Dog walking is a great business to promote with online marketing because you can pinpoint your target audience — local dog owners.
You can also use low-cost “guerilla marketing” such as passing out flyers at the local dog park.
3. Home Landscaping
What could be an easier way to make money than pushing a lawnmower around or sweeping a rake? Well, having someone else do it for you and still getting paid for it! With this business, you can have both! You can start out doing the work yourself and then hire others to do the actual work as you expand.
There are lots of great things about doing this business on the weekend beyond the most obvious: that you get to keep your day job. For one, your customers are more likely to be at home on the weekend. So, it’s easy to sell them and line them up on the weekend. Also, you get to work outside — a nice break from your desk job!
Also, on the weekends there’s the advantage of being more likely to see your clients while working on their lawns. Show off your friendly personality and cement the bond with them, ensuring they will be customers for keeps. Better yet, you can suggest some additional services you could offer. Wouldn’t a few new flowers or a couple new bushes be a nice touch?
This business is easy to market, too. Of course, you can have a website, but I’d also walk around door to door with simple flyers and a warm smile.
Landscaping Business Resource
Learn more about starting your own landscaping company
4. Start a blog
Plenty of people have made a fortune with their blog. For example the founders of the Huffington Post sold their blog for a cool $315 million. And it’s possible you could be incredibly successful, too. Plus, a blog is a very low-cost business — you can start one for just about nothing.
However, to make money with a blog, you’ll need to have a huge amount of readers. And ideally you should be focusing on a highly monetizable topic. While the Huffington Post is a general interest blog, most people will be more likely to succeed with a special interest blog, laser focused on one topic.
You could, for example, start a blog based on one of your hobbies. Or, you could focus on a professional/work related topic.
Another possibility is to create a local interest blog. There’s a lot of money out there in local advertising. My college newspaper was richly supported by local advertising — and today I see that market being replaced by local online websites and blogs.
I often vacation on the small island of Nantucket, where a local entrepreneur developed a widely read blog by flooding it with an endless stream of high-quality photos of island residents. Now, he’s selling an increasing amount of advertising. That being said, it seems anywhere you go on the island, there’s the entrepreneur, camera in hand, working tirelessly in his search for content.
If you enjoy taking photos or writing content and don’t mind selling advertising (which can be a challenge if you don’t like being rejected), you might be able to eke out a reasonable second income at this. And who knows — maybe you will become the next blog millionaire!
5. Become a personal trainer
If you’re into working out and keeping fit, then this could be a great business for you. You can offer your personal training online, over Zoom for example. And, of course, you could offer it in person at your customers’ homes, at your house, or at a nearby health club.
If you have a passion for a particular sport, you could focus on that instead of general fitness. For example, I have seen soccer coaches charge a lot of money coaching aspiring teenage and preteen soccer stars. They either coach them at the customer’s home or on the field of a local school.
This is still another great repeat customer, steady-income business. Keeping customers happy should be pretty easy. The challenge is landing customers to begin with. For general fitness training, you’ll want to come up with a compelling marketing message — such as “12 weeks to ultimate fitness.”
You may want to experiment with different marketing messages and different offers and pricing. I would recommend primarily focusing on digital marketing — which is easier to do than you might think. But you could also try more simple marketing techniques, such as putting up a flyer on local bulletin boards and doing personal networking.
With just a very few regular clients, you could make an excellent side income with this business. Who knows, you might even decide to do it full time.
6. Catering or Bartending Service
Personally, I’d think about a bartending service before a full-fledged catering service — catering sounds like hard work to me! One of my longest-duration jobs ever was the eight weeks I worked as a busboy when I was 16. One of the shortest-duration jobs was the two weeks I worked as a dishwasher when I was 17. Both were a lot of work. But, if you really like cooking, you could consider catering or maybe just renting yourself out as a personal chef.
Of course, I might be a little more inclined to start a catering business if I had ever learned to cook anything beyond a hotdog! One of my friend’s sons, on the other hand, learned how to cook at a young age and started his own catering business when he was about 12 years old — successfully running it for a number of years, despite attending school on a pretty regular basis. So if he can do it — and you can cook a little bit more than I am able to — then you could start and run your own catering business, too.
Catering and bartending services are in particularly strong demand on the weekends — perfect for allowing you to keep your day job as you build your clientele.
7. Mobile Car Washing and Detailing
I thought about opening a car wash business (well, to be honest, there aren’t too many businesses I haven’t thought about going into). They can be lucrative, but they’re a huge undertaking — car washes require a significant investment and aren’t always easy to get approved by the local zoning board. Also, they require lots of water, which costs more than you would think.
On the other hand, a mobile car washing and detailing business has basically no expenses (other than a little soap, a couple of sponges, and old towels). Plus, you get to use the water at your client’s house! No investment, no overhead, and high demand! Now that’s my type of business.
Furthermore, most people want to have their car washed at home on the weekends. So it’s a great candidate for a part-time, weekend business.
I see the key to making this type of business happen is using guerilla marketing to get the word out. I would try every cheap marketing trick possible. But most of all, I would focus on building up a regular clientele who want to get their car washed every week or every other week. If you seek long-term clients, you can even afford to give away the first week trial wash for free so they can see how awesome your service is!
Remember that the benefit for your client is not only that you do a fabulous wash, but also that they save a half hour driving to the car wash!
8. Candle Making/Candle Selling
There are many ways to make money with candles. The easiest way is to buy candles from a manufacturer and resell them on an online marketplace, on your own website, or maybe even at a popup store at the holidays. Or, you could make the candles yourself. Then you could sell the candles online or through existing retailers.
This business costs little to start. You get to create or sell some cool products. You also get to control your work schedule. And it’s a good home-based business.
But is it really possible to make a good income with candles? Consider Michael Kittredge. He started making a few candles as a hobby, giving his first candle to his mother. Over time he turned his candle making into a business called Yankee Candle. He sold this business for a sweet 500 million dollars.
Sure, candle making is competitive. Most product businesses are. But I have found that a product business can have a huge financial upside. Just as importantly, a product business can be incredibly satisfying to run. So to get started, carefully plan out your business, including finding your competitive edge, and then launch your business with a few awesome candles.
9. Freelance Writing/Content Marketing
Today the big exciting market for freelance writing is for so-called content marketing. Content marketing is creating insightful reading for websites, blogs, emails, and social media. The more you can learn about content marketing, the more marketable your skills will be.
For example, I would suggest you start by learning basic SEO (search engine optimization) techniques. With just a little bit of knowledge about SEO, you can help your clients’ articles and blog posts show up more prominently in search engine results.
Most pieces of content marketing are written by freelance or staff writers who aren’t industry experts. You usually don’t need specialized industry expertise to write on a particular topic. You can base your writing on information you get from your clients and from your research.
To get going with freelance writing/content marketing, I would start with a simple website highlighting a couple pieces of your best writing. Then I would start reaching out to potential clients, such as by email or through LinkedIn.
10. Online Boutique/Drop Shipping/Amazon Store
It’s no wonder that online marketplaces such as Amazon are selling products from over a million entrepreneurs. And plenty of these entrepreneurs are making a very good living at it. You can set up an online store on an established website and be in business in minutes. You can also have your own “look and feel” for your store. And, for an additional fee, Amazon and some other service providers will also stock, pack, and ship your products.
Now, if selling your own products through online marketplaces like Amazon is still too much work for you, there’s an even simpler option: dropshipping. With dropshipping, your sole responsibility is to get the order and accept payment. Then you forward the order to a third party who actually ships the order to the customer. The third party may be the manufacturer, a wholesaler, or even another retailer.
Both an online store and a dropshipping business can be extremely profitable and successful businesses — incredible success stories abound. However, many entrepreneurs go into these businesses ill-prepared and with unrealistic expectations and don’t achieve the success they had hoped for.
So how do you succeed with an online store or with a dropshipping business? The same as with any other business. You first learn about the basics of how to run a business. Then you carefully analyze your marketplace, your target customers, and your competition. Next, you develop a well-thought-out business plan. And finally, you set in motion your marketing.
Because online selling is so competitive and fickle, you’ll have to experiment with different approaches to find out what works. You’ll likely need to try different products, different marketing messages, and different pricing. It may take some patience to find out the magic formula that works best for you. But if you stay at it, this business could be really successful.
Starting a business with little or no money?
Dropshipping is a business that you can start with little money.
11. Cleaning Service
Let’s roll up our sleeves, do some good, solid cleaning work, and make a bucketful of money! Sure, cleaning is tedious, non-glamorous work. But it pays well. In many areas, you can make as much money with your own solo person 20-hour-a-week cleaning business as you can with most full-time entry level professional jobs. Why? Because most people don’t want to do this work.
Furthermore, it’s a great repeat-customer, steady-income type of business. In my experience, most cleaning services charge by the job based upon a rough estimate of how long the work will take. Customers are generally not super price sensitive — if they were, they would just do the cleaning themselves.
On the other hand, most clients will expect a top-tier job. So be sure to charge a high enough price that allows you to make good money while doing a thorough job. And after the first couple jobs, ask the client what they thought of your work. That way, if there is any particular aspect of your work they want you to give more attention to, you can be sure to please them.
You might not want to do the cleaning work yourself forever. Once you start to make some money at this business, you might want to hire other people to do the actual cleaning work. Or, you may want to take the money you’ve made and go start another business.
12. Resume Writing/LinkedIn Profile Writing
Anyone with decent writing skills can easily become a master resume and cover letter writer! And there are always people who could benefit from your help!
As an employer, I often see one sloppy, poorly written, inadequately proofed resume and cover letter after the next!
Furthermore, so many candidates have resumes that are basically attendance records! A resume instead should be a sales pitch that trumpets achievements, skills, and abilities. A great resume and a standout cover letter can go a long way to helping people find a job — and you can help.
My Adams Media book publishing company became one of the largest selling publishers in the U.S. of resume and cover letter books. We sold millions of these books! The demand for helping people in this space is insatiable.
The different ways of delivering this service are almost endless. You could set up a small office, meet clients at their homes or in coffee shops, transact your business online, or even sell your services as part of an outplacement service to companies laying people off.
Most people seeking a better resume and cover letter will still have a job, so demand for this kind of service will run particularly high on weekends — a great advantage if you want to keep your day job while you get started in this business.
You could also offer to write online profiles or develop personal websites to help promote your clients.
13. Personal Shopping Service
Well here’s a fun little business that I haven’t actually considered myself. Why? To be honest, I don’t really like to go shopping — except for new accessories for my model railroad, and there isn’t a demand for personal shoppers for model trains.
But if you like shopping, there are plenty of people (typically busy business executives and the like) who want to hire you to do their shopping for them! With this business, I’d particularly emphasize the personal touch when seeking customers.
Reach out to all possible contacts, and don’t be shy to push them to pass the word on to everyone they know. This business is an obvious candidate for social media promotion. I would also consider starting a fun blog on what cool styles you are noticing in the stores today!
There are many alternatives for turning your interest in photography into a lucrative side hustle. You could, for example, do freelance photography for businesses. Businesses with constant demand include real estate firms and auto dealers. But with every business needing pictures for their website, almost any business will need some high-quality photography.
You could do photography for special events, such as weddings or sporting events. You could do portrait photography. You could just do passport photos. You could specialize in headshots for online profiles. You could also sell your photography through large stock photo companies, which usually will pay you only after they sell your photos to their clients.
Photography is competitive, so you’ll want to develop a focus or a niche. And you’ll need to do some marketing to attract clients. So think through who your target market is, what kind of photography you’ll offer, how you’ll differ from your competitors, what kinds of packages and pricing you’ll offer, and what your marketing message will be.
Even though everyone with a smartphone thinks they can take great pictures, there’s still a big demand for professional photographers.
15. Handyperson Business
I did a little bit of handyperson work myself when I was a teenager. A woman who operated some rental cottages noticed me working on my boat and asked if I could help her with some basic repairs. So I got started by accident.
A handyperson business is a great side hustle because you’re doing small jobs. And unlike fixing plumbing leaks or electrical problems, the kind of work you’ll typically do doesn’t have to be done immediately — so you can usually schedule it for a time that’s convenient for you.
Also, when customers hire a handyperson, they should understand that you’re not a highly qualified expert in any particular type of work. And they shouldn’t expect you to necessarily be the fastest at what you do. But you should be willing to do very small jobs. And you should be willing to do a wide variety of work, but not everything — don’t be afraid to say a particular job is too difficult for you.
The demand for handypersons is huge. You could try to promote your services by putting up flyers or business cards on local bulletin boards. I would talk up what you do at the local hardware store, too. Then I would dive into online marketing. You could put up ads on places like Craigslist. And you could put together your own simple website — optimized for local searches.
16. eBay Business
You can make good money on eBay or other online marketplaces. I met a high school student, for example, who made enough money to pay off a good chunk of his college tuition with an eBay enterprise. However, while an eBay business seems very simple, there are also plenty of people who have gotten tripped up in the process, made key mistakes, and had a rough go of it.
Like other part time businesses, I recommend starting small — with an eBay business I would recommend starting “in miniature.” Really get a feel for your market space with just a few items. Get a feeling for how customers will respond to your wares, how pricing will work, how bidders tend to respond if you go the auction route, and how to master the important details of processing transactions, packing goods, and shipping these wares.
You need a marketplace or a specialty. Even if at first you have access to a lot of unrelated items for good prices, try to develop some focus. You will get to know what sells and what doesn’t sell; you will learn what sells quickly; you will learn how you should price and describe your wares; and you will learn what to expect from customers. With a specialization, you can ideally acquire some repeat clientele, developing a good reputation and building word of mouth and confidence in the process.
An eBay business could be built into a sizable enterprise, but don’t rush it! Watch your gross margins and ship and pack carefully. Don’t touch any items that might possibly be counterfeit or of questionable quality. Finally, if you’re going to specialize, try to find some area that you really enjoy!
17. Virtual Assistant
There is constant demand for virtual assistants. And the work is great for a part-time gig. You can work remotely, and you can usually set your own schedule. Since there’s a constant flow of virtual assistant opportunities, you can also decide if you want to work temporary assignments or longer-term ones.
You’ll need basic knowledge of simple computer applications like Word and Excel or Google Docs and Sheets but usually nothing special. You’ll also need to be organized and responsive to the work requests that you are given. And, of course, even for a simple business like this one, you should first learn the basics of how to start a business.
Since the work is virtual, you will be competing with everyone that speaks your language all over the globe. And that includes people from countries where rates for wages and business services tend to be lower. As a result, your pricing ability will be limited for routine virtual assistant work.
So, if you want to do virtual assistant work longer term, I suggest you build up a specialty or expertise so that you can charge higher rates. Another possibility is to really impress your customers with your initial assignments and then request higher rates moving forward.
The bottom line is that being a virtual assistant may not be a fast track to getting rich, but it can provide a very flexible way to earn a little money.
18. Tutoring Service
Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a genius to tutor. You just need to know a little bit more than your students. There’s plenty of demand for tutors all the way from the first-grade level to the postdoc level. And if you didn’t even make it through first grade, you can still have a tutoring business — you’ll just have to hire other people to do the actual tutoring for you!
You can offer tutoring services online, or you can meet your clients in their home or at a public place such as at a library or a coffee shop. While you might be able to tutor a vast amount of different levels and subjects, you’ll probably do better in attracting clients if you emphasize one popular specialty in your marketing.
To get going, set up your website and take a stance — experiment with a marketing message that clearly trumpets your specialty. Then optimize the website to rank well for local Google searches. You could also try online advertising targeted at your best audience — which might be parents of students of the age group you’re focusing on. You could also network with teachers and perhaps tutors that offer different specialties.
With tutoring, you can earn an excellent hourly rate. But, especially if you’re traveling to meet your customers, you need to take that time and cost into consideration. You’ll also need a policy for when a student makes last-minute cancellations. Overall, it’s an excellent business.
19. Interior Room Painting/Wallpapering
I started a house painting business with no experience, so why can’t you?
For this part-time business idea, I am suggesting you focus on interior rooms and wallpapering because these interior jobs, especially if they’re for just one or two rooms, can often be finished in a day or two. However, if you really are starting this with no experience and tend to be “a little sloppy,” you might be better off starting with exterior painting.
Nobody loses sleep over a little spilled paint on the lawn, but you really don’t want to be dribbling wet paint in places it shouldn’t be inside the house! So be extra careful if you’re doing interior painting — spread your drop cloths out carefully. Or, maybe just stick with exterior house painting, possibly focusing on smaller houses that you can do in a few weekends. Or, maybe you hire a couple helpers (a lot easier to hire for weekend work).
This is another simple, easy-to-start business. But nonetheless, I suggest you take the time to learn the basics of what makes for a successful business before you get started. This will not only increase your chances of succeeding with your business, but it will also impact the level of success that you’re able to achieve.
20. Car or Boat Resale
I’ve never tried to make a business out of selling used cars, but my college girlfriend said it was just the kind of business she envisioned me going into. However, I did buy and sell used boats during a couple of college summer vacations.
I had no prior experience, making it a little scary at first to lay down my meager savings to buy my first used boats when I wasn’t sure if I would ever get my money back. But I gained confidence quickly. More importantly, I learned to specialize in faster-selling popular models (in my case Boston Whaler outboard power boats) that everyone wanted and that I could turn over quickly. I even sold a Boston Whaler to the famous author, Norman Mailer.
I would typically clean up and polish each boat, and maybe even do a little cosmetic work like replacing some of the fancy mahogany decorative wood. Sometimes, I’d do a little repair work. Most of all, I would boost the price — I very carefully bought the boats cheap enough that I could mark them up and still sell the finished product at a reasonable price.
One key to success in this kind of business is not getting overeager. In other words, you need to patiently wait for the best deals that offer you a high probability of making a good profit margin.
Of course, part of the fun of this business is having a constantly changing collection of very cool cars or boats at your disposal to take for a spin now and then!
21. Social Media Service
If you’re having fun with Facebook and the like, why not get paid to play with social media?
Many small business people who could really benefit from social media don’t have the time or energy to get involved with it, and particularly don’t have the time or expertise to do it well!
Different small business owners will have wildly different demands, expectations, and budgets. Some businesses will have no idea what to promote on social media and will look for you to develop ideas from the ground up. Others may have a good idea, but simply lack the time to keep up with their postings.
Be sure to clarify and set realistic expectations with each client.
To get going in this business, I might offer a couple of very basic “starter packages,” where for one price you get a client up and running. I’d tend to keep the price low, “over deliver,” and make the client happy — then try to build a long-term relationship, offering a fixed package of services for an annual subscription or monthly price.
22. (Bonus Idea) Party Planner
Demand just goes up, up, up in the party business. Kids’ parties, office parties, and adult celebrations! What a fun way to make money!
For example, for one of my daughter’s early birthdays we hired a “Barbie doll” look-alike.
Bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs are on a whole other level — these celebrations are in a class by themselves! I’ve been to some of these events that are as large and sophisticated as a small circus!
I met a fellow working in the clown business, exclusively focusing on bar and bat mitzvahs. He mostly works on Saturdays and pockets a pretty $200 an hour. He actually went to clown school — I bet I could have excelled at that kind of school! Now he’s built up his business to include a whole carload of fellow clowns he rents out.
You don’t really need to go to clown school to get started. Just rent a clown suit, blow up a few balloons, learn a few magic tricks, and away you go! You don’t even have to smile — you can paint a smile on your face. But then again, making $200 an hour for having fun with kids should be enough to make anyone look happy!
Would you like to see more business ideas?
Check out our most popular article, best small business ideas. This comprehensive multi-page article offers advice on many business ideas. The list includes home-based, online, steady-income, low-cost, product and service ideas. Many of the ideas in this long article can be started part-time.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
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