Personal Finance

7 unique side hustle ideas you might not have considered

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The art of the side hustle has seen exceptional growth. One in three Americans now have a side hustle, and that number could continue to grow before the year is through.

However, not all side hustles are created equal. If you pick one you’re not interested in or aren’t qualified for, you’ll have a hard time earning any kind of money from it. It’s best to look at your available options before diving right in, and we’re here to help.  

We're kicking off a series of personal finance articles on how you can make more money and do more with your money. To start things off, here are seven side hustle ideas you might not known about that could lead to some nice extra cash.

Host a game night or trivia night

The games and puzzles market exceeded $11 billion in 2020, and is on pace for $12 billion this year. It’s hardly surprising — with so many of us practicing social distancing by staying at home, we needed more activities to do. Putting together a puzzle or learning a board game is a natural solution. 

However, a lot of these games are best enjoyed with a group of people, and many newer games don’t even require everyone to be in the same room. That opens up a nice opportunity for you to host your own game night.

Here’s how it works: you’ll create a room on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or another online space and serve as the MC for the evening, charging a modest entry fee for participants. If you host a trivia night, you’ll create questions and answers. You can make a slideshow to show the questions and use a tool like Google Forms for people to submit their answers.

If you’re extra crafty, you can contact local businesses in the area and ask them to sponsor the trivia evening with a gift card or discount in exchange for promoting their business during the night. You’d be surprised how many businesses would be willing to part with a few dollars to get exposed to a ton of people.

If you host a game night, your job is to introduce the games and make sure everyone knows the rules. Luckily, there are plenty of online options. Check out the Jackbox Games party packs, which let between 2 and 16 people participate in irreverent games that will leave everyone in a good mood. Or use Tabletop Simulator to run a variety of classic games from your computer. Alternatively, check out Last Call Trivia for additional ideas to get a trivia night started.

There’s no limit to the amount of money you could make doing something like this — ask a few friends what they think a reasonable price is and then set your entry fee accordingly. 

Test websites

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As of November 2021, there are more than 1.9 billion websites online. By the time you finish reading this article, there are probably going to be a few more added to that total.

The quantity of websites can make it difficult to wade through the noise when you’re trying to find good content to read. But it’s good news for you if you want to make some extra money while browsing the internet.

With all those websites, companies that run them want to make sure they’re delivering not just useful content, but also smooth functionality and a strong user experience. Sites like UserTesting, Enroll and Respondent partner with companies that will pay you to take these websites for test drives, sometimes doing specific tasks like visiting a certain page or buying a product, and then offer your feedback on the experience. 

In most cases, you only need a computer or phone and a strong Internet connection. And you could earn anywhere from 10 cents for a few seconds of work (which adds up quickly) to $100 for each website you test.

Assist medical professionals

It’s no secret that being a doctor is a lot of work. After all, medical school is another four to seven years of studying and practicing as medical professionals prepare to enter their respective fields.

But all that work can be very time-consuming, too. And sometimes, doctors need extra help with research. Through the collective intelligence of those helpers, who can discuss symptoms, explore medical history and make smart diagnostic solutions, doctors can offer more robust advice to patients.  

A site like CrowdMed lets “medical detectives” help diagnose problems by talking with patients and other medical detectives to solve potential medical conditions. CrowdMed founder Jared Heyman started the company after he almost lost his own sister to a medical mystery that took nearly three years, two dozen doctors and more than $100,000 in medical bills to diagnose.

Now, he’s offering a collective hive mind to help doctors so families don’t have to go through what his did. CrowdMed claims one user earned $52,658 for helping out on a case, though your take-home pay will likely be closer to a few hundred dollars per case.

Pick up garbage

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Have you ever walked across a plaza or near a big commercial building and noticed trash in the parking lot? A busy worker may have scarfed down some fast food and dropped the bag in a hurry, or someone could have opened their car door and lost a receipt or a napkin.

Instead of letting that trash just sit there, you could offer your services to the owners or property managers of these commercial or large residential buildings and come pick it up. Set a recurring time, like once a week or once a month, and help remove any extraneous trash that’s piled up outside the building. 

It doesn’t take a lot of equipment to get started, either. You’ll just need a broom, a garbage bag and perhaps a hand tool to help you grab items. 

If this sounds far-fetched, someone actually did this. Brian Winch started CleanLots to do this exact service, and he’s offering guidance on how to start your own business doing the same. Per CleanLots, you could earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, though it largely depends on how many companies you contract with and how frequently you work. 

Be someone's friend

Let’s face it: making friends as an adult can be hard. We don’t often have the familiar settings from growing up like a classroom or playground. The fact there’s been a global pandemic to navigate hasn’t helped matters, either.

So, wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to make friends, no matter the situation or location? 

Services like RentAFriend.com let you...well, rent a friend whenever you need. Maybe you’re visiting a new city and want someone to hang out with as you explore. Or perhaps you’ve got tickets to a sporting event or movie and need a pal to join you. There are plenty of people who are looking for that same kind of companionship, which provides an opportunity to earn some extra cash.

If you prefer to continue keeping your distance, RentAFriend also offers “Virtual Friend Services” over video chat. Whether in person or virtual, you can snag $10 an hour for hanging out, and you may get free entry into cool events. 

Invest in royalties

There are countless ways to listen to a song. You could stream it on an app like Spotify or Pandora, turn it on the radio, hear it at a department store or even catch it in the background during a scene of your favorite show.

Every time you bob your head to that song, the performers and songwriters are earning royalties from it. And with an influx of artists selling their catalogs, you might be able to score some major moolah.

Sites like Royalty Exchange and SongVest offer the opportunity to bid on these musicians’ catalogs, with the winning bidder earning money every quarter. While the majority of those catalogs require a significant upfront investment, there are some bargains to be found.

You can invest in the performance or songwriting elements of a song. You’ll likely make more from the songwriting side of things, though a heavily streamed artist or one with an extensive back catalog of songs can lead to some big earnings, too.

The currently available catalogs on Royalty Exchange have earned between $243 and $78,748 (a selection of songs from Lil’ Uzi Vert and Playboy Carti) over the past 12 months.

More resources

Interested in some more tips for making (and managing) your money while keeping your day job? Check out these resources, and keep an eye out for future installments in our series The Side Hustler's Handbook. 

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Joey Held
Joey Held

As a writer, Joey Held has specialized in business, marketing, sports, music and insurance topics for more than a decade. He's also a podcaster and author of Kind, But Kind of Weird: Short Stories on Life's Relationships. His first car was a Buick Regal with an inconsistent radio but pretty good gas mileage.