Karl Hughes

Karl Hughes

30 Side Project Ideas: Earn Money and Build New Skills Without Leaving Your Day Job

30 Side Project Ideas: Earn Money and Build New Skills Without Leaving Your Day Job

I started many side projects of varying success before going full-time on my own business last year. Each of these side projects helped me learn new skills like marketing, sales, and content that I wasn’t going to get from my day job as an engineer.

While none of them made me very much money, they absolutely helped me expand my knowledge and learn about new career opportunities.

So this week, I wanted to share a few side project ideas that you can explore. Most of these are things you can work on without having to leave your day job, and each presents a unique opportunity for growth and learning with a relatively low barrier to entry.

Why Are Side Projects Helpful?

Doing side projects, even if they’re totally unrelated to your career background, can provide a variety of helful benefits to your personal career and psyche:

  • They’re fun. They’re essentially hobbies that you can earn and learn from!
  • They can help you enrich your career or start a new one.
  • Side projects foster learning and encourage creativity.
  • Personal growth and self-improvement increases positivity in other areas of your life as well.

30 Side Project Ideas You Can Try

So, with these benefits in mind, let’s take a look at a few ideas you can get started with relatively quickly:

1. Landscaper or Yard Worker

Regardless of the season, you’ll always find people who need to have yard work done. If you’re familiar with landscaping, this can be one idea to go with. Landscaping or yard work can be a year-round activity and it would provide you with a great way to spend some time outdoors and get some exercise.

Landscape work as a side project

2. Public Speaking Coach

If you’re an experienced storyteller, presenter, or public speaker, you can try your hand at becoming a public speaking or presentation coach. In this consultative role, you’ll help professionals improve their storytelling skills and communicate their ideas clearly and confidently.

I used to speak regularly at conferences a few years ago, so let me be the first to tell you that many of us on the stage could use a good speaking coach.

3. Marketing Consultant

Small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) have a major contribution in most economies. According to the World Bank, they’re responsible for approximately 90% of businesses and over 50% of employment worldwide.

However, many SMEs rarely have the means to recruit and hire top-notch, in-house marketing professionals or the top agencies. So, they often turn to consultants for help in coming up with and executing strategies. If you’ve had prior experience in the industry, this can be a lucrative side hustle and doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time if you limit the number of clients you take on.

4. Private Tutor

If you’ve done well academically or are still a college student, you can try private tutoring. I did this for a while while I was in college and found it to be a very fun and rewarding way to make some extra money. While I was never a great student myself, I was good enough in math and science to tutor high school students. Having a positive attitude and lots of patience will help you here.

5. Freelance Writer

Freelance technical writing was the successful side hustle that led to me starting Draft.dev, and it’s a great option for those looking for flexible side project ideas.

No matter your background, there is a form of writing for you. You can opt to be a content writer, technical writer, journalist, copywriter, or even a greeting card writer. As a freelance writer, you’re free to pitch your work to different publications - both online and print - or you can sign up for and find jobs via freelance websites like Upwork, Fiverr, or Guru.

6. Financial Auditor/Bookkeeper

As a small business owner, I can tell you how challenging finances and bookkeeping are. As small companies scale up, it’s difficult for them to handle important administrative tasks like financial management, proper accounting, regulatory reporting, preparing monthly statements, etc.

If you hold a finance degree or an MBA and know accounting, then this could be the perfect side project. I’ve had several friends start accounting businesses as side projects before going out on their own full-time.

7. Landlord/Airbnb Host

Do you own a property or have some extra space in your home?

You might want to look into renting it out. Whether you opt to rent out a room or your entire house, property rental is a reliable option for generating additional revenue. There are some risks associated with allowing strangers into your property, but this can be one of the more passive forms of side projects if you do it right.

8. ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher

More than 1 million immigrants arrive in the US every year, which makes teaching English a constantly in-demand role. Being an ESL teacher goes beyond teaching your students the basics. You’d also help them gain a better understanding of the fundamentals of American cluture and help them improve their reading comprehension.

9. Fitness Instructor

Gyms and Health and Fitness clubs are a sizeable industry, with a market size that’s valued at over $30 billion in 2021 alone. Given its sheer size, this industry presents a number of opportunities for those looking into becoming a personal trainer or a home fitness instructor. Throw in the increased interest in virtual fitness training thanks to the pandemic and now is a perfect time to start a side gig in this field.

10. Graphic Designer

Having professionally-designed graphics can make a huge difference in branding and marketing communications. If you’re familiar with using illustration and photo editing software, like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, you can try your hand at freelance graphic designing.

Graphic design as a side project

11. Freelance Consultant

If you’ve mastered a skill in your previous job or if you’re simply looking to try something new, you can try freelance consulting. With freelance consulting, you can start small and take on a few projects or you can scale up and turn it into a full-time gig, especially if you’re getting more clients. That’s basically how I scaled Draft.dev to 30 clients in less than a year.

12. Ecommerce Store Owner

Selling items online has never been easier or more accessible wherever you may be in the world. You can try dropshipping, selling on Amazon, flipping old items and selling them on eBay, or crafting handcrafted items to sell on Etsy. Depending on your performance or how quickly you can keep up with the demand, this can be a very profitable venture that won’t require you to abandon your day job.

13. Online Course Creator

Are you an expert in your field? You can leverage your knowledge and skills and create online courses on platforms such as SkillShare or Udemy. You can also expand this venture by looking into marketing other information products such as eBooks, templates, webinars, workbooks, and paid subscription newsletters.

14. Blogger

Starting a blog is relatively easy and affordable. If you have a knack for writing or taking great photos, you can become a blogger. Keep in mind thought that with blogs, money may come in slowly. Once you’ve built an audience through your consistent and value-adding posts, you can generate revenue through ads, affiliate marketing, subscriptions, or sponsorships. The great thing about blogging is that you have total freedom.

15. YouTuber

With over 2 billion monthly users, YouTube presents a host of opportunities for earning. Like blogging, there’s a possibility that you won’t earn much from this, especially if you’re just starting out. As your channel grows, however, you can start generating substantial income. You can make videos about anything on your channel, from tutorials and reviews to music videos.

Becoming a YouTuber as a side project

16. Podcaster

Like blogs and YouTube channels, podcasting is a great avenue for you to share your knowledge and expertise. And yes, it’s possible to earn from podcasting as a side project. You can make money from sponsorships or advertising partnerships.

17. Editor or Proofreader

Are you detail-oriented? Do you have a good grasp of the English language?

If so, you might want to look into freelance editing and proofreading as side project ideas. With the surge of freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, it’s become easier for individuals to look for clients who are in need of editing and proofreading services.

18. Virtual Assistant

Being a virtual assistant (VA) is a fantastic opportunity for you to develop new skills and broaden your professional network. Virtual assistant duties range from scheduling appointments to making phone calls. Some VAs also offer content writing, graphic designing, and marketing services. If you have a lot of free time and if you’re very organized, this is worth looking into.

19. Photographer

If you’re great at taking stunning photos and have a high-quality camera, you can try becoming a freelance photographer or sell your photos to stock image sites. You can market your photos to local publications or produce art prints for sale. You can also venture into specific categories, such as wedding photography or product photography.

Photography is a great side project

20. Translator

If you speak more than one language, then you can offer your services as a translator. Translating is a very flexible side gig that you can do remotely. Plus, you’d be able to connect with different people and grow your network.

21. Babysitter or Pet Sitter

Babysitting and pet sitting are classic side project ideas that you can do in your spare time, no matter your age. They don’t necessarily require technical or digital skills, and they’re ideal for people who love kids or pets.

22. Dog Walker

More than 60 million households across the US own a dog. As one of those houses, I can tell you, taking the dog out every day and helping her get her energy out is a huge chore. Dog walking can be a profitable side project that won’t require you to leave your day job if you can do it during your spare time or on weekends. It’s also nice because it doesn’t require a long-term commitment.

23. Uber or Lyft Driver

If you have a car, you can drive for ride-sharing platforms such as Uber and Lyft. Once you’ve signed up for your preferred platform and you’re cleared as a driver-partner, you can start driving people around as a legitimate side project.

24. PostMates Driver

Another side project that gives you the freedom to work whenever you want is delivering for PostMates. While you may not earn as much compared to the other side project ideas on this list, you have the opportunity to earn tips, which can become sizeable fast especially if you’re living in an area with high demand.

25. Website Developer

You can learn how to code (or attend a developer bootcamp) and build websites in your free time. This is how I got started in the industry, and the internet is full of resources for those of you who want to learn HTML, Python, Javascript, or CSS. Once you build your portfolio, use it to pitch clients on their own startup website.

26. Website Designer

A good web is essentially the modern business card, so it’s relatively easy to find potential clients who need help with designing their site. If you’re creative, analytical, and are familiar with UX design, then you can help businesses and organizations create engaging and effective websites.

27. Social Media Manager

Are you a digital native who has great creative and management skills? If you’ve had prior experience in creating content for or maintaining social media pages, you can use your experience to help influencers, brands, organizations, or local establishments to build a solid social media presence.

28. Music Teacher

If you know how to play an instrument, you might want to consider offering music lessons. You can start as a private music tutor or use YouTube to upload tutorials.

29. Video Editor

If you know how to use digital editing software, you can edit videos as a side job. You can advertise your skills on social media, market your services to local establishments, or join freelancing platforms to showcase your craft to a wider audience.

30. Makeup Artist

If you’re into makeup and want to help people look their best, working as a freelance makeup artist can let you leverage your passion and skills for extra income. Once you’ve built a loyal customer base, you can earn significantly from this side project. You also have the potential to scale up your venture, especially if you start getting more clients.

Final Thoughts

Not everyone wants to have more work to do after their day job, but I’ve found side projects to be a tremendous way to increase my skills and network. By using your existing strengths and being open to learn new things, you might just be able to make good money or find a new career path.

Looking for more good reads to help you get started on your new endeavor? Here are my recommendations for some of the best startup books for founders that you can start with today.

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