With so many people now staying home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the way we all work is evolving before our very eyes. There are those who can work from home without missing a beat – as long as their companies continue operating. Yet there are others who cannot. They are the ones who are now desperately looking for other ways to make money.
Setting up a side hustle while in COVID-19 lockdown is one possibility. A side hustle can provide that extra bit of income to get someone through until life returns to normal. For others, what begins as a side hustle for generating supplemental income could eventually go on to become a very profitable full-time business.
This post lays out just some of the many ways you can set up a side hustle. There are no guarantees that anyone of them will make you rich, but even modest success could mean the difference between getting through COVID-19 with minimal financial stress and finding yourself in a deep hole when all this is over.
1. Affiliate Marketing
The internet has given rise to all sorts of businesses that did not exist just a few decades ago. Affiliate marketing is one of them. Affiliate marketing is an advertising model that relies on cooperation between top-level companies and third-party marketers.
As an affiliate marketer, you would use your online resources to sell the products of some other company. You would be compensated for every sale via commission. Your success lies in how well you market the products you represent.
Does affiliate marketing work? According to Investopedia, 15% of all revenue in e-commerce is generated by affiliate marketing. You can be part of it by setting up a side hustle that makes use of your savvy internet and e-mail skills.
How It’s Done
As far as business startups go, affiliate marketing is one of the easiest to break into. No, it is not a golden goose and yes, you still have to work at. But it doesn’t require a ton of money or a long list of business licenses. All you need to get started is a computer, internet access, and web hosting space.
Because this post is not a detailed guide on affiliate marketing, it will not explain exactly how to set yourself up as an affiliate marketer. Instead, here is a simplified version of the five steps for setting up your business:
- Choose a company or product you want to market.
- Search for affiliate marketing opportunities from that company.
- Sign up with the company to be an affiliate.
- Build a website and include links provided by the company when you signed up.
- Track the site and its performance, making adjustments as you go.
Again, this is a rather simplified description of the five steps to becoming a successful affiliate marketer. There is a lot more to it than that. If you want to know more details, check out this excellent video from an affiliate marketing expert.
2. Online Selling and Reselling
Shopping sites like eBay and Etsy can be a gold mine if you like selling and reselling. You can start listing items for sale within minutes of signing up, and listing fees tend to be very reasonable. Many of eBay’s most profitable sellers started out working a side hustle that turned in to a big business.
There are a couple of ways to approach this. The first is to sell your own products. Maybe you have a hobby – like soap making for example – that you can ramp up while you’re in COVID-19 lockdown. You have nothing else to do. You might just as well make more soap.
The other way to approach it is to become a reseller. As a reseller, you are not making your own products. You are listing products you acquire from other sources. Within this model there are a couple of possibilities.
Some online resellers spend their days visiting flea markets, garage sales, rummage sales, etc. They visit estate sales and auctions as well. They buy stuff really cheaply and then turn around and resell it online. This could be a bit of a challenge depending on how significant the lockdown is in your area. Obviously, if your state has decreed that everybody stay home, there will not be any auctions or rummage sales to go to.
Getting Started as a Reseller
You might not be able to get out to start buying things right away, so good way to start is by looking for things in your own home. Maybe you have clutter you’ve been dying to get rid of. Now is as good a time as any other to get that stuff listed for sale online.
Once shopping becomes possible again, zero in on one or two categories of products to start with. It is going to take some time, experience, and research for you to figure out exactly how much items are worth. You might also want to spend time on your marketplace of choice looking at how other people create listings. If you are working on eBay, look for resellers with the highest rankings in most sales. Then emulate what they do.
Reselling with Drop Shipping
Another option is to sign up with a drop shipping company. The drop shipping model allows you to sell a company’s products without having to buy and warehouse them. The drop shipper holds on to the products until you actually make a sale. How does it work? It is fairly easy.
You sign up with a drop shipper and look through its catalog of products. Then you list products of your choosing on eBay, Etsy, etc. When a customer buys and pays you, it is time for you to go to the drop shipper’s site and purchase the exact same product. But rather than sending the product to you, the drop shipper sends it to your customer.
The difference between what you pay and what your customer pays you represents your gross profit. The drop shipper handles all of the shipping on your behalf, charging you the cost of shipping and perhaps a small handling fee. Best of all, the packaging has your name on it – not the drop shipper’s name.
3. Start an Amazon FBA Business
The next option is to start an Amazon FBA business. ‘FBA’ stands for ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’. It is a business model that takes the best of affiliate marketing and combines it with the ideals of drop shipping. However, there is one significant difference with FBA: you need to have some money up front to get started.
An FBA business owner buys products at wholesale prices from suppliers, then ships those products to Amazon by way of the nearest the fulfillment center. Customers who buy from Amazon receive the products directly from them. You get paid for every purchase. However, you do not have to deal with the hassles of shipping and handling returns.
Amazon essentially acts as your storefront. They do all the heavy lifting of retail so that you can concentrate on the wholesale aspect of your business. In order to be successful as an Amazon FBA business owner, you have to:
- Put time into researching products
- Develop solid relationships with your suppliers
- Maintain sufficient cash flow to cover your inventory
- Be willing to put time into online marketing.
Of all of the side hustles in this post, setting up an Amazon FBA business is probably the most difficult. Yet the potential payoff might be well worth the effort. Just think about Amazon’s reach. They are the single largest online retailer in the world. The amount of money you could make as an FBA business owner could, over time, allow you to quit your full-time job and work exclusively for yourself.
How to Get Started
As with affiliate marketing, this post will not go through all the details of setting up an Amazon FBA business. There are plenty of other great posts with all the necessary information. Here is a simplified list of the steps for getting started:
- Sign up for an Amazon seller account.
- Choose your niche and products.
- Research specific products you might want to sell.
- Find suppliers for your products.
- Buy and ship your products to Amazon.
- Create your Amazon listings.
- Market through your own website, social media, PPC advertising, etc.
Note that selling through Amazon does cost. A professional account includes a monthly charge, and you will pay associated fees for every sale. You might want to consider sales fees when choosing your niche and products as some categories are more expensive to sell than others.
4. Live Streaming on Twitch
Believe it or not, some very tech savvy people have found a way to make decent money by live streaming on Twitch. If you are not familiar with it, Twitch is the world’s foremost streaming site for gamers. The vast majority of all streaming content on the site has to do with video games. So while you could live stream on another topic, most Twitch users are techies into video games or other technologies.
Making money directly through Twitch streaming is both time-consuming and difficult to do. You have to become a Twitch partner, which requires that you build a sizable audience. You also have to be invited to become a partner. But no worries, there are other ways to use Twitch to generate some income.
A lot of Twitch streamers incorporate their live streaming with affiliate marketing. They advertise on their own streams, encouraging viewers to click their affiliate marketing links to buy products. If this sounds appealing to you, Amazon has a program known as Gear on Amazon. It allows you to directly connect your Twitch streaming to reselling on Amazon.
It helps that Amazon owns Twitch. As such, the two are tightly integrated. The program allows you to advertise Amazon products right on your Twitch page whether you are streaming or not. You get paid a percentage of any sale facilitated by your Twitch site.
Other Ways to Earn on Twitch
If combining live streaming and affiliate marketing doesn’t thrill you, there are other ways to make money on Twitch. These include:
- Selling your own customized merchandise
- Selling subscriptions to private videos
- Selling sponsorships to companies who might want to advertise on your streams
- Soliciting donations from people willing to pay you to keep your stream online.
If you do build an audience large enough to become a Twitch partner, you can earn extra income through Twitch subscriptions, paid content, selling games and in-game items, and placing video ads on your site. For more information, check out the Twitch Partner program.
5. Freelance Writing
Freelance writing has become a good source of income in the digital era. In fact, this writer makes a full-time living churning out blog posts, news articles, and all sorts of online content. It is not as easy as it sounds but earning good money as a freelance writer is entirely possible if you have good writing skills and the ability to promote yourself.
The tricky thing about freelance writing is finding the right avenue. There are multiple ways to go about it:
- Blogging – You can create your own blog. Write about whatever interests you, then pitch your blog to advertisers willing to pay to place ads on your site. To make this work though, you have to build a significant audience that is large enough to attract advertisers.
- Guest Posting – There are plenty of websites that offer writers opportunities to produce guest posts. Some of those sites actually pay for posts. You may have to write a few for free in order to get some attention, but that is the nature of the business.
- Writing Services – You could also produce content for well-known writing services. Textbroker is an example of one such service. Note that you will never get rich writing for a service inasmuch as they pay pennies per word. But you can earn a decent amount of money and build your reputation as a writer simultaneously.
- Feature Articles – Websites, newspapers, and monthly periodicals are always looking for quality content. Pick a few and pitch an article idea. You can make hundreds of dollars per piece if you pitch the right ideas to the right publications.
- Freelance Sites – There are plenty of writing jobs available on freelancing sites like Upwork and Freelancer.com. You bid for the jobs you are interested in doing. If you win the bid, you submit the completed work through this site. You also get paid through the site. Note there are fees involved.
The one thing you should absolutely avoid as a new freelance writer is something known as the ‘content farm’. You can do an online search of content farms to figure out which organizations to stay away from. Content farms are bad news inasmuch as they pay very little and are willing to accept low-quality content. A content farm will get you nowhere. It might also harm your reputation as a writer.
One last thing to know about freelance writing is that it’s best to choose a niche. Trying to be all things to all people doesn’t allow you to develop any area of expertise. If you choose a niche though, your content should improve with every piece you write.
6. Write an E-Book or Educational Course
Along the same lines as freelance writing is writing an e-book or educational course. E-books are wonderful because you do not have to go through the hassle of working with a publisher. You just write, edit, and publish your e-book in digital format.
For the record, an e-book is a digital book that is read on a computer, mobile device, or dedicated e-book reader. E-books do not have to be structured in any specific way. You can save an e-book as a PDF, an EPUB file, or any other format you choose. Note that PDFs and EPUBs are the most popular.
Your e-book can cover just about any topic. But don’t just run with the first idea that comes to mind. Like anything else, your e-book has to be something that people will want to buy. Choose a topic that you believe will interest enough people to generate sales.
Also note that research is key to creating a good e-book. You have to know what you are writing about in order to compel people to read. And of course, you are going to want people who read your book to recommend it to others. Make sure you give them a reason to do so.
You might be someone who is considered an expert in your field. Or perhaps you have been pursuing a specific hobby for decades, having amassed enough information to pass on to others. Either scenario makes you a good candidate for publishing an online course.
The point of an online course is to teach others what you already know. Maybe you are very good at managing personal finances to the extent that you live nearly debt-free. There are a lot of people who would love to know how you got to where you are with your personal finances.
Once you choose a topic, writing an online course is similar to writing an e-book. You lay out the lessons in a series of chapters, if you will, presenting each chapter in succession. Your online course can include text, YouTube videos, audio files, and so on. You can even include test questions at the end of each chapter.
Publishing Your Work
Both e-books and online courses are best marketed through websites that specialize in the digital publication format. These are sites where you can list your works for sale. You can also market your e-book or online course using your social media pages and your own website.
The hardest part about writing an e-book or online course is getting started. So if you’re going to do it, make a commitment to start on a specific date and continue working at it until it’s done. Do not linger because it is too easy to fall behind and give up before you finish producing your masterpiece.
7. Sell Your Skills on Fiverr
This next side hustle is one we will not spend a lot of time on. Why? Because it is pretty self-explanatory. It involves selling your skills on the Fiverr website. Fiverr is essentially a marketplace for low-priced goods and services. It is a great platform for freelancers looking to supplement their income.
Fiverr’s claim to fame is its low-price model and upfront pricing guarantee. You describe whatever service or products you offer along with your price. Customers viewing your listing know exactly what they are getting and how much it will cost. There is no bidding, no negotiating, etc.
What can you sell on Fiverr? Just about anything. Sell lawn mowing services to people who cannot get out of the house. Offer to handle grocery shopping for others in the neighborhood. Sell yourself as a dog walking expert. Offer to design a website logo. There are no limits.
8. Start a Delivery Business
If nothing else, the COVID-19 outbreak is giving a lot of people new opportunities to work as delivery drivers. Between grocery stores, restaurants and all sorts of retail venues, delivery drivers have more business than they can handle right now. You can get in on the deal.
You can sign up as a self-employed contractor making deliveries for Amazon, DoorDash, Instacart, etc. Or you can establish your own delivery company from scratch. To do so, you would need to set up a small business, buy a vehicle, get insurance, and so forth.
Because this is intended just to be a side hustle, you might want to skip setting up your own delivery company from scratch. Doing so requires a fairly significant investment and quite a bit of time. Instead, look to the gig economy. There are plenty of app-based gigs to choose from.
According to Well Kept Wallet, the top app-based delivery companies right now are:
The details on each of these gigs can be found on their corresponding websites. Needless to say you must be at least 18 years of age and have a reliable car and insurance. Other requirements vary by gig.
The best part of starting an app-based delivery service is that you are still self-employed. You can decide on your own schedule. You can also make use of more than one gig at a time. You do not have to limit yourself to just one.
The COVID-19 outbreak is no fun for anyone. If things go on for too long, financial problems could be significant. That means you might need a side hustle to get you through in the interim. Hopefully the ideas presented here have sparked your creativity. Hopefully there is a side hustle here that appeals to you.
As always, remember that nothing comes easy. Your ability to make money in a side hustle is directly related to your willingness to work. Put in the time and effort and you could do very well. If you are looking to get rich quick, look elsewhere. Even side hustles require effort.