Financial Health

11 Ways to Bootstrap Your Finances With a Side Hustle

A survey conducted by showed half of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. Some are stuck in a cycle of debt payments or medical bills that would stop if they could only get ahead a little. Others are in a situation with no clear way out. Some haven’t curbed their spending. 

Whichever situation you’re in, a ​​side hustle can help you improve your financial situation.

The trick is choosing the side hustle that fits your life, your family, your likes and dislikes, and your other responsibilities.

Fortunately, there are lots of options. Here are a few of our favorites.

11 Side Hustles to Get You Moving Forward Financially

1. Virtual Assistant

Busy executives and entrepreneurs need somebody to handle and track small details so they can focus on the big picture. Thanks to the internet, those assistants no longer need to be physically near the people they assist.

The kind of assistance you provide depends on the gig you get. Virtual assistants organize electronic documents, manage scheduling and communication, post on social media, perform research, edit emails, and do many other office tasks. 

  • Pay Scale: Good – $20 to $30 per hour on average
  • Flexibility: Good – some flexibility, but on your client’s schedule
  • Skills Required: Online communication, essential office software proficiency, time and project management

2. Uber/Lyft

These ride-sharing apps let ordinary people earn extra money by turning their vehicles into taxi cabs. It can be an ideal gig if you like driving and meeting new people.

It’s not without its barriers to entry, though. Both companies require a late-model vehicle and maintain strict requirements for a safe driving record. The specifics vary by city, but you need to prove riders’ experience with you will be safe and positive.

  • Pay Scale:  Fair – $14 - $24 per hour on average
  • Flexibility: Good – you control your hours, but some time slots pay much more than others
  • Skills Required: Smartphone use, driving, navigation, people skills

3. Sharing Skills

If you know how to do something exciting or valuable, you can share those skills online in many different ways. Common options with easy entry include:

  • Creating and selling e-books
  • Online tutoring
  • Selling online courses
  • Answering questions on sites like JustAnswer or Maven
  • Online coaching via Skype or Google Hangouts
  • In-person coaching and teaching
  • Teaching as an adjunct professor or for local parks and recreation programs

Despite the wide variety of options, the basic concept remains the same. You know something — anything from how to play the kazoo to which rivers are best for rafting to scrapbooking tips ​​— and you teach others about that thing. This can be especially fun because you make money doing what you love. 

  • Pay Scale: Varies – different models pay different ways. For example, you could charge per hour for online instruction or start a YouTube channel for ad revenue. 
  • Flexibility: Excellent – you choose the method and the schedule
  • Skills Required: Teaching/public speaking, expertise in a particular field

4. Food Delivery

In the past, almost anybody could make a few extra part-time bucks delivering pizzas for their local Dominos or Papa John’s. That model began to expand in the past decade and has exploded in the no-contact era of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apps like DoorDash and GrubHub work on the same model as Uber, but you deliver food to people. The pay is lower than for Uber and Lyft, but the barriers for entry are also lower. Food delivery companies don’t care as much about safe driving or a newer, cleaner car.

  • Pay Scale: Low – $12 to $18 an hour on average
  • Flexibility: Good – you control your hours, but some times pay better than others
  • Skills Required: Driving, navigation, smartphone use

5. Pet Care

People love their pets, but many don’t have enough time to care for them. They need dog walkers, pet sitters, people to run pet-related errands, and similar tasks, and they’re willing to pay someone to do it. 

One of the nice things about this side hustle is you can often double-dip. If they get along, walking three dogs doesn’t take three times as much effort or time as walking one dog, but it pays three times as much. 

It can be hard to break into this gig, but referrals will come once you do a good job taking care of one owner’s pets. 

  • Pay Scale: Good – $20 to $40 on average, with potential for much higher
  • Flexibility: Fair – some flexibility with hours
  • Skills Required: Promotion, pet care, pet safety, people skills

6. Language Lessons

You might think you need to be multilingual to make money teaching a language online, but you would be wrong. You’re reading this blog in English, which means you speak English. Millions of people worldwide want to improve their English skills. 

If you’re fluent in other languages, that’s even better. You can offer instruction in multiple tongues. 

Online language platforms like Preply and FluentCity connect students with tutors for remote lessons. You get to make money while making friends from exotic places. 

  • Pay Scale: Low – $10 to $20 per hour on average for English. Often higher for other languages.
  • Flexibility: Good – some flexibility but must coordinate with students
  • Skills Required: Online communication, fluency in at least one language

7. Cleaner

Some people are too busy to clean, while others don’t want to. 

Opportunities for this side hustle don’t stop at essential maid service/cleaning person/toilet scrubbing. Landlords need apartments and rental homes deep-cleaned between clients. Professional organizers hire cleaners to handle the first steps of big jobs. Real estate agents need homes cleaned and staged.

Whatever kind of cleaning you like most — or hate least — you can find somebody who will hire you to do it. 

  • Pay Scale: Low – $10 to $15 on average
  • Flexibility: Fair – usually set on the client’s time frame, often with deadlines
  • Skills Required: Cleaning skills, basic knowledge of cleaning supplies and chemicals

8. Teaching Online

Online teaching and tutoring platforms like TutorMe and BuddySchool connect experts with students who need help. From a side hustle standpoint, one of the great things about this is that you don’t need to be an expert in complicated subject matter. You can still help second graders with multiplication if you never got past high school algebra. 

Although you can manage this independently, the easiest path is through online tutoring platforms, which connect you with students and pay you most of what the students pay them. You set your hours, subjects, and expectations and let them handle the logistics. 

  • Pay Scale: Low to Excellent – $10 to $15 per hour for common subjects, $40 per hour or more for specialized, in-demand expertise
  • Flexibility: Fair – some flexibility within the hours needed by clients
  • Skills Required: Online communication, expertise in at least one subject

9. Rental Income

If you own something somebody needs or wants, you can rent it out for a profit. Renting a room in your home or renting property on Airbnb are the best-known options for this, but they’re just the beginning. Other examples include renting out:

  • Storage space in your home
  • Parking space in your driveway or on unused property
  • Your car through platforms like Getaround and Turo
  • Expensive tools and equipment for offices, yard work, or home improvement
  • Recreational gear like bounce houses, tents, or hot tubs
  • Hobby equipment like musical instruments, sporting goods, and fishing gear

Online errands apps like TaskRabbit could also be considered a form of this side hustle. In those cases, you’re renting yourself and your time.

  • Pay Scale: Varies depending on the demand and rarity of what you rent
  • Flexibility: Excellent – other than time spent for delivery and return, this is passive income
  • Skills Required: Promotion and sales, expertise in what you rent

10. Flipping Collectibles

The concept of this is simple: Find collectibles for sale at a low price, then sell them at a higher price to people who value them. Most successful collectible flippers use one of three models. 

Some comb yard sales, estate sales, and online marketplaces to find valuable collectibles for sale for cheap. They then post them online to sell them at a higher price. 

Some look for high-ticket items sold in large groups or lots, often online or in estate sales. They then sell the prize pieces at a profit and batches of the more common goods at or slightly above cost. 

Some buy damaged collectibles, then carefully restore them. Once they’re fixed, they can fetch a price well above the cost of purchase and repair. 

It can be a profitable and fun side hustle with whichever model you choose. 

  • Pay Scale: Varies. Knowledgeable, focused collectible flippers can make a full-time job out of it. However, there is a risk of losing money if you make mistakes. 
  • Flexibility: Excellent – the hours you work are entirely up to you
  • Skills Required: Business management, online research, online communication, strong knowledge of at least one collectibles market

11. Home Repair

Some people need repairs to their homes but lack the skills. Some have the skills but lack the time. Both need somebody to come and fix things but don’t want to pay the price for a plumber, electrician, or carpenter to do the job.

If you’re handy, you can advertise yourself online or work through apps like AllBetter and Porch. Either way, you show up with your tools, do what you know how to do, and get paid. 

Those choosing this option should know precisely how good they are at various home improvement tasks. The cost of making mistakes with something just beyond your skillset can be well above what you make in a month or more.

  • Pay Scale: Excellent – $22 to $45 per hour on average
  • Flexibility: Good – work when you want, but in windows given by the client
  • Skills Required: Home repair and general handyman skills, online communication

Final Thought

Whatever side hustle you choose, you’ll have better chances of making a real change if you approach it with a plan. 

Know how much you want to earn, how you’ll pick up any slack this commitment leaves in your schedule, and how you’ll make sure the money goes toward financial progress instead of optional expenses.

If you begin this journey with a plan in place, your progress is more likely to be in the right direction. This means you’ll be in a better position a year down the road.

Janet Bethel is a New York-based journalist who has several side hustles.