Side hustle ideas to make money online in 2020

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Intro

As SEO Hustlers we owe it to ourselves to teach you a bit more about side hustles, hence this guide around the topic.

Side hustles are growing enormously in popularity: nearly half of the American working population currently has some sort of side hustle.

Side hustle overview chart

This piece will be online-focused, as it is scalable, it offers a sense of freedom and of course it is what we are specialized in, which makes it a bit easier to tell something meaningful about 😉

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Why a side hustle in the first place?

Why should you actually consider a side hustle? There are many reasons why you should start a side hustle straightaway, but first contemplate a few things:

  • How much time do you have currently left? Or how much time are you consuming on Netflix?
  • What are some things you really enjoy doing (even Netflix can be your answer here, if you are willing to review series and films)? Your hobbies or your main job can be sources of inspiration for your side hustle.
  • A side hustle is achievable for everyone and if you don’t start yours, someone else will!

Then there are all these things in which a side hustle can fulfill your needs:

  1. Making more money:
    Pretty self-evident, but probably for most people one of the primary reasons to start a side hustle is to generate more income. With minimal effort this could easily grow to a nice $2,000 per month extra on top of your regular job, next to the fact that it can grow into your main hustle.
  2. Not relying on one source of income:
    The world is changing quickly and being too dependent on one work field of income stream can be challenging or even threatening in the future. As stated in the beginning, many people have a side hustle nowadays or aren’t dependent on a sole source of income anymore. This extra source of income can also serve as a way to even diversify further by investing in a smart way.
  3. Entrepreneurial aspirations:
    Yep, the so-called “wantrepreneur”, many people have aspirations and tell themselves, one day I will start this or do that. That ‘one day’ should be now, because there is no time to waste. Build that venture that you have been dreaming of.
  4. More freedom:
    First of all, within your side hustle, you have the freedom to choose directions, to choose the times that you do the work and you are responsible for results. This may also help to see if this is something you would like to commit to full-time and 100%. Next, to that, you’re not as dependent on a primary source of income anymore, which can make it easier to make important life choices.
  5. Doing something that brings you joy (and possibly meaningful):
    Don’t do anything that doesn’t bring you at least some form of joy; of course the process of starting a business or making money could be your source of pleasure, but it could very well be that your main job doesn’t give you a sense of purpose or belonging. You could create that yourself in your side hustle.

Successful side hustles are feasible for everyone

Often there’s the idea that such an (online) side hustle is merely achievable for extremely internet savvy people that have years of experience in developing websites or online marketing. However, nothing is less true. Anyone can do it, if you are willing to put in the effort, to focus and be consistent.

Some professions that might not be that obvious for side hustles actually have great opportunities.

Think about side hustle ideas for:

  • Moms: use your experience as your asset, blog and/or vlog about your experiences as a mum or within your family.
  • Nurses: telehealth or online health (consulting) could be one of the areas to use for a side hustle.
  • Teachers: obviously can start tutoring to kids, but also share their experiences with other teachers via a blog, vlog or online courses.

But first, where does your journey typically start?

The road to finding the right side hustle for you

Obviously, that’s why you are now reading this article. There are so many ways and the Internet is full of ideas. As you can see in the screenshot below in September 2020, Google provides you with ~54M websites that can provide relevant answers for side hustle ideas, quite a lot if you ask me…

Side hustle ideas serp

There are so many ways to start, so what would we suggest?

  • Narrow down your goal! Ask yourself “what do I want to achieve with this side hustle?
  • From there, do goal-oriented research to obtain more knowledge or experiences about your side hustle.
  • Back it up with search and trend data.

Narrow it down

Of course the first point is a bit trite, but it is a hugely important question to ask yourself and to search in the right direction. However if you answered it with “I need more money” there’s still a lot to choose from 😜
Think about topics you’re interested in, things you suspect to become trends and do a bit of niche researching. You can use our article with 21 SEO niches for some inspiration.

So what would “goal-oriented research” look like?

Let’s say you’re passionate about dog products and want to start dropshipping them. Check out Reddit and Quora for your experiences and tips and see if this matches your expectations:

Reddit dropshipping dog products

This will provide you with real life examples, failures and successes. And you get an idea about the (type of) competition.

SEO and Trends data to determine your side hustle

We wouldn’t be SEO hustlers, if we wouldn’t advise you to also utilize search data, as it can tell you so many things, such as:

  • Keyword usage
  • Full scope of potential
  • Competition
  • Long-tail

Combining the data set above with a trendline from Google Trends will give you an idea on your possible target audience and if it is likely to grow over the upcoming years. For example, what can we extract from the chart below?

side hustles video doorbell
  1. Search behaviour has been growing YoY over the past five years and isn’t likely to stop all of a sudden.
  2. Around the end of November there are big peaks: so Black Friday is a very important time for this product (for what product isn’t it right? 🤔)

How to make time for this side hustle?

Many people like the idea of having a side hustle, but they will say they’re already “so busy” and “don’t have time to start something new”. However, it’s more a matter of prioritization than it is of anything else. We’re not promoting to stack up your today entirely and deprive yourself of sleep, just for the sake of a side hustle, because eventually that would work counterproductive and probably you wouldn’t get very happy from doing that. So what are we claiming then?

On average your day will probably look something like this during a workweek:

Side hustle time distribution

And of course in the “other stuff” bucket, there are some things that are pretty hard to avoid, such as eating/drinking (well not if you’re fasting 😬), commuting and taking care of your kids.

So let’s take a deeper look at this distribution of time and see if we can change it a bit:

Sleep
Don’t skip it. You need it. A good dose of it.

Work
Naturally it depends on your job, but often there’s room for improvement in one’s efficiency and productivity in a job and you can actually do those 8 hours in 7 or maybe even 6. So try it out. There are dozens of blogs about productivity, there are apps that can help. We sometimes use the pomodoro technique for instance. Going a bit off-topic, but the point is that in many instances you can already save time in your regular 9-5 job.

Other stuff
Again, very dependent on your living situation, BUT how many hours are you currently on your phone looking at Instagram? Or how many hours a week are dedicated to your new favorite series on Netflix? Often you can even combine things, such as all your domestic chores and listening to your favorite podcast. Use your time wisely.

Your new distribution of time could look more like this:

side hustle time distribution new

Now, suddenly, you have time to attribute 3 hours of a day to a side hustle. If you do this consistently, this equals a minimum of 15hrs a week (not even counting the weekends) and more than 750 hours a year. Imagine what you could build in such a timespan. The problem is that most of us don’t do it.

So how can you start doing this straightaway?

  • Ask yourself when you are most productive and build your day around that. If you know you get most things done in the morning, then wake up early!
  • Schedule time: by setting reminders and consciously booking time in your agenda, you create a sense of awareness and develop a system for yourself.
  • Start small: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Do know that all little things help and that if you have trouble overcoming procrastination, cut work into really small overseeable tasks.

Ok, so we have dealt with the time management and motivational part and you’re ready to really start 🤓

What type of side hustles can you choose from?

So you have researched niches, created time to work on your side hustle, but how are you going to monetize it?

Again, obviously there are numerous ways and the possibilities are basically endless. Selling lemonade from a stand could be your side hustle, but that’s not what we are focusing on. We want to help you to do something (1) scalable and something that could potentially create a (2) passive income.

So what areas could you look into?

  • Building a blog
  • Starting a vlog
  • Become an affiliate
  • Become a marketplace (Amazon) seller
  • Starting your own agency
  • Become a coach or tutor
  • Create a course
  • Start selling a subscription box
  • SaaS
  • Selling products via Etsy
  • Etc.

The bottom line of a side hustle and of actually any business is pretty simple if you think about it. You can basically break it down to:

  1. Target audience: building an audience or community and grow it
  2. Product: creating the right product or service
  3. Sales: monetize the above

That might sound a bit too generic and easy, but it helps to understand the process of what is needed for a successful side hustle.

However, by knowing that you don’t have a successful side hustle yet. Therefore we’re going to tell you what crucial elements will help you:

Combining skill sets for optimal results

To any of those business opportunities mentioned above, there are many facets and skills involved. Similarly many platforms can be used to apply the same ‘trick’, whether you’re using Shopify or Amazon, it comes down to those three same elements: reaching your target audience, creating a product and selling it.

Examples of this could include the following:

If you make sure you master one of the skills from each category, you create a skill set that will allow you to grow any business. So instead of looking for that one hidden gem or niche that you think will certainly make you money, try to develop a combination of skills that are
vital for creating a business.

For reaching your target audience of course you’re here mostly because of SEO. What makes SEO such a unique skill for reaching your target audience, is that:

  • It’s “free”: you don’t have to invest in ad spend. No set-up costs can be a benefit for a lot of people starting a side hustle.
  • You can do it reasonably well without any paid tools (although paid tools make your life easier)
  • It is all about user experience in itself and will allow your potential customers to already interact in a better way with the product.

However, we’re definitely not advocating that SEO is the only way to go. If you have a fair amount of budget for ads, you have a good product and a highly optimized funnel, paid traffic can actually be easier to measure, as you can just report on ROAS (return on ad spend), calculate your margin and scale up the spend.

Can you automate or outsource your side hustle?

Mastering a skill from all three verticals in the table above can be quite challenging. Therefore sometimes help is needed and this can be done easier than you think.

Obviously not everything can be outsourced or automated – although it might not take long anymore given the fact that AI is developing so rapidly that even business ideas can be generated:

Side hustles AI business ideas

However, we still recommend to do your own niche research and have your own idea before you delve into AI, automation and outsourcing.

But what can you do to save time or skills you don’t have (yet)? And when should you do it? The rule basically is that when a task feels repetitive or like it’s not using your cognitive power for the good, you shouldn’t do it. Except of course if you like it too much 😇

Outsourcing

There are so many people in the world that offer their services and sometimes for a lot less than your own hourly rate would be if you think about it. There are many freelancing marketplaces out there, but a few of the notable ones are Fiverr, Freelancer.com and Upwork. Examples of outsourcing could include:

  • Website creation
  • Logos
  • Design
  • Copywriting
  • Translations
  • Tool creation
  • Software

Automation

Sometimes the sustainable option is to automate a specific task or operation. This can be provided by third-party tooling, partner networks, outsourced or created by yourself. Examples include:

  • Product feed implementation
  • Product comparison templates
  • KPI dashboards
  • Automated ad strategies

How much can you make with a side hustle?

Anything between $0 and as much as you can think of 🤑
It all depends on how much you are willing to invest consistently and how much of a success it becomes. Stating the obvious.

Of course there is always some sort of cap on what is possible within the niche that you’re operating in. Referring to our own niche article, determining the revenue potential is a crucial step to get a rough idea of what would be possible.

Therefore before you start:

  • Do some general research online around your target audience or find similar experiences (Reddit, Quora etc.)
  • Get a rough idea of the current target audience size, using search volumes
  • Check Google Trends to see if there’s a YoY upwards trend around your product, service
  • Get an idea of the competitiveness: in terms of SEO we think Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty is a nice method for this. If you are willing to advertise, get an idea about the average CPCs.
  • Think about the share of the total volumes that would be feasible to obtain.
  • Have an idea about the pricing of your product or service, the average value per sale or per lead.

With the information above you can make a calculation with the estimates about possible traffic to your website, an average conversion rate in your industry and the average order value. This will determine a very rough estimate of the revenue potential of your side hustle.

From side hustle to main hustle?

Growing a side hustle into a successful business takes consistency and focus, which could be hard next to a full-time or part-time job. However, by choosing the right project, dedicating consistent time and effort to it, you will definitely see the results. It could very well be that your so-called side hustle grows to be your full-time income and deserves more attention. That moment is there when your side hustle is (close to) replacing your main income, when it has huge potential, when you need to hire employees to keep it running or just when you are feeling that is the right time to have a career switch.

A side hustle can definitely be a stepping stone to having your full-time business. Have a good eye for the need within your target audience and don’t be scared to pivot if needed.

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