An online side hustle can help you weather a financial storm or even change your life.
This year has been tough, and that’s an understatement. If Covid has taught me anything about finances it’s that a three to six month emergency fund, as important as one is, doesn’t always cut the mustard. Financial self-reliance dictates that we have multiple skill sets and streams of income. And that brings me to the importance of side hustles.
Thirteen years ago I started a personal finance blog. The goal wasn’t to make money; it was more of a hobby. Over time, however, it turned into a side hustle and then a full-time business. What started as just a blog enabled me to retire from the practice of law in my 40s. It’s one reason I believe everybody should start a side hustle.
With that in mind, here are the 5 best side hustles for 2021. The are all online side hustles as they require very little investment and are life-style friendly.
1. Start a YouTube Channel
Forbes recently published the highest paying YouTubers of 2020. While the odds of making millions of dollars from YouTube are slim, countless people are making extra money making videos about everything from cats to painting. My channel, which is about financial freedom, made about $250 last month. That’s not life-changing in and of itself, but I’m on my way.
You can start your own channel with nothing more than an iPhone. In my case, I invested some money in a camera and lighting. Here’s a list of the gear I use:
- Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera
- Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Lens
- Elgato Key Lights
- HEiL sound PR-40 Dynamic Studio Microphone
- Heil Sound PL-2T Overhead Broadcast Boom
- Screenflow software
To buy all of this at once would cost about $1,500. Again, however, none of this is necessary. If you have an iPhone, you can start a YouTube channel. A good example of this is the Idaho Painter, who has renamed his channel Paint Life TV. He started back in 2011 with a very basic video on paint sprayers. Today, his channel is a full-time business with more than 300,000 subscribers.
Once you reach 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time, you can monetize your channel with Google Adsense. You can also make money from relevant affiliate links you place in the description of your videos.
2. Create a Product Website
The second side hustle is to start a product website. Virtually every product sold today will pay bloggers a commission when the blogger’s website generates a sale. For example, a blogger can create an affiliate link to just about every product on Amazon. Send a visitor to Amazon via an affiliate link, and you’ll earn a commission when they buy the product.
Starting a website today is extremely easy. Most blogs and even many company websites run on WordPress. It’s free and very easy to set up.
A great example of a product website is the Digital Photography School. The site reviews and ranks cameras and related photography gear. While I call this a product website, it’s a lot more than that. For example, they’ve created their own courses and eBooks. There’s also a ton of content on the site that talks about how to use the gear they review and how to become a better photographer.
With a product website, you can pick something you’re passionate about. Anything from golfing to mountain climbing could be the subject of a profitable blog that both instructs and markets relevant gear.
3. Publish an Informational Website
An informational website is similar to one focused on products. The difference is that the focus of an information website is not to sell physical products. A good example of an informational website is the site I started back in 2007, Dough Roller. (I sold the site in 2018.)
The site focuses on information to help people make the most of their money. Content ranges from how to invest or improve your credit score, to which online banks pay the best rates. As with a product website, one can start an information-based site on just about any topic. Some of the most lucrative topics, in addition to finance, include health, fitness and productivity.
4. Book Review Website
The fifth online side hustle is what I’m going to call a book review website. I really list this one as a way to give you an idea of all the different ways you can make money online in a side hustle. A good example of this type of site is one called Brain Pickings.
Founded in 2006 by Maria Popova, she created what I’m confident is a full time business reading books and sharing her insights into those books on her blog. It’s frankly unfair to call her site a “book review” website. The insights she draws about life and living are far more profound than just a review. That said, she generates income from, among other things, donations and Amazon affiliate links to the books she discusses.
Brain Pickings is a great example of somebody making a living doing what she loves.
5. Sell Your Own Product
The final side hustle is to create and sell your own product. Many bloggers have made a fortune selling online courses and eBooks that help people learn a new skill. One example of this is a good friend of mine who runs the blog, My Wife Quit Her Job.
Several years ago, Steve and his wife started an online business selling linens. You can check it out here. Following the success of that business, Steve started his blog to teach others how they can start their own online product business. This second business has been incredibly successful, and he’s helped countless people launch their own side hustle.
Whatever idea you pursue, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and work. Any of the above ideas can be successful, but you’ll have to learn a lot along the way. These are not get rich quick schemes. They are more like work harder then you can imagine, build a steady stream of income, and achieve financial freedom over time schemes.
The best time to start a side hustle was 20 years ago. The second best time is today. Be prepared to work hard with very little to show for it at first. Keep with it, however, and over time it just might change your life.
Check out my video on side hustles where I discuss two additional strategies.