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5 Side Gig Ideas To Get You Started

You’ve decided that you want to earn some extra money outside your day job, which is awesome. You’re excited, but maybe you don’t know what’s out there to try.

Or maybe there are so many opportunities that you feel overwhelmed. Where do you start?

In all the years I’ve been creating little side gigs, I’ve realized that there are so many possibilities, I needed a way to pare down the ginormous list.

If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t really do it

The way I do this when thinking about starting a new venture is that it absolutely must be something I will enjoy doing. If it’s not, I know it will feel like a grind and I won’t get very far.

For example, some people really enjoy selling third party products through the Amazon marketplace or their own website. It can be a great way to not only make extra cash, but some people build up their stores so it’s their sole source of income.

That sounds like a big ol’ snooze fest for me. It just doesn’t light a fire, you know? As much as I would enjoy making that (vegan) cheddar, I probably wouldn’t make much because I wouldn’t be driven to work at it.

When you’re looking for a side gig, consider that you’ll be working on it after your day job at night or on weekends. If it doesn’t light you up, it’s going to be really easy to push it off until the next day. And the next day. And the day after that, and so on.

Feeding your soul is key for success. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to take some hard work, but if you’re really into it, it won’t feel like drudgery.

5 side gigs to try

Below I list some of my side gigs. These may not all resonate with you, but they may help spark ideas to explore. 


I’m a freelance illustrator, which is one of my “day jobs” along with our screen printing business. I love illustrating and so it made sense for me to explore other, more passive ways of making money. One of those is by selling patterns on spoonflower.com.

It works like this. I upload a repeat pattern and make it available for sale in their online marketplace. When sewers and crafters buy the fabric with my patterns, I make a small commission, or royalty.

There’s a small outlay of cash in that to make something available for sale, you need to purchase a test swatch, which is about $5. Once you do that, you’re good to go.

If I don’t do any promotion at all, I make about $5-$10 a month. In months where I’m more active, I can make $30 or more. Some Spoonflower artists say they make thousands every month, but these are artists who have hundreds of patterns for sale. I’m okay with my small bit of cash flow for now, because it’s all passive. If I want to increase my revenue, I can get more into promoting my work and create new patterns.

Etsy Shop

This is another outlet for my art. I create paintings on wood, boxes and skateboard decks and sell them in my Esty shop.

This one costs a little money as well. It’s .20 cents to list an item (per month) and then they charge a 5% fee on a sale.

If you like to make stuff, Etsy can be a great place to do it. These days you’re also competing with larger sellers from China, but if you promote your shop well and you have something truly unique, you can still earn good money.


Hubrunner is a company that creates and maintains WordPress websites for customers all over the world. I’m a WP geek and I spent so much time setting up and maintaining my own sites that I thought I may as well do it for extra money. I signed up with Hubrunner to help maintain their customers’ sites. 

It works like this. I get notified by email that someone needs help with their site. I log in to my agent account and take care of whatever the client needs. I get paid an hourly rate, but typical tasks only take about 15-20 minutes. When I get a bunch I can earn a few hundred bucks a month doing something I enjoy doing and doesn’t take a lot of brain power (for me).

There are other gigs like this out there. For example, if you like to write, there are companies who work with copywriters in a similar way. It’s worth looking into because it’s work you can do from anywhere with a laptop (I’ve done it while watching Netflix at night).

Check out this list of 12 Best Freelance Websites for Copywriters.

Self-published and Kindle Ebooks

I love writing (you may have gathered that by now). I’ve written several books, all self-published. My go-to platform has been lulu.com, but recently I’ve been publishing books through the Amazon Kindle store.

The best part about publishing on these platforms is that it doesn’t cost anything to get your book into the world. You can also order author copies at cost.

For the most part, your earnings will depend on how well you promote your book. I promoted my last book to an email list and sold about 100 in the first day or two. Sales dropped significantly after that, mostly because the book doesn’t really have a big market outside of my particular audience. I mostly use it as a way to promote my screen printing business.

However, the great thing about the Kindle store is that with the right keywords and market-specific content, you can earn regular income from publishing on that platform.

There’s a great site with tons of free content that I highly recommend: Kindlepreneur

Little Side Gig

And of course, there’s this blog you’re reading right now. As I write this, I haven’t made a dime from Little Side Gig. It’s pretty new and right now everything I provide is free. In the future I’ll be adding some courses and products that will cost a little money.

If you decide to put up a blog, know that it takes time to build an audience. You’re not going to start earning money from day one (unless you do, then awesome). It takes patience and a lot of work. Think about something you love to do or talk about and put up a blog. It doesn’t cost very much to get a domain name and set up a WordPress site.

For example, if you like wine and you have some knowledge, think about starting a wine review site. If it becomes popular, you may find wineries who want you to review their wine and will send it to you to sample. You can give classes on pairing and tasting. You can publish a book about wine. The possibilities are only limited to your imagination.

There are so many more side gigs and ways to earn extra money outside your day job. If you expand on these five, you can probably come up with many more.

I want to hear from you! Ask a question or add a comment below, or send me email at dj at littlesidegig dot com.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

My First Space, or: The 90s Were Rad

When I first decided that I wanted to create animated films, we lived in a tiny 1-bedroom apartment in central Phoenix. We had a toddler and a baby on the way. If there was a space in that apartment that didn’t have wipes and stuffed toys in it, I don’t know where it was. Maybe the tiny patio.

I don’t know if you know anything about making animated films, but a crucial part of the process involves the use of a flat surface, bare minimum. Also a chair, if you’re really serious. Being short on those things, I had to make do with our kitchen table and sometimes a coffee table and no chair. We also had a computer and a desk, but because this was the 90s, our computer monitor was the size of a VW Beetle. Not a lot of space left for drawing things.

I had to make something work. The only option was to just not do it and since I couldn’t imagine myself working as a bank receptionist into my 30s, I made a space for myself. Thankfully, Jenni was supportive and knew that I needed it. So even though my working surface shifted around, I had a little file box dedicated to my drawings and ideas. My animation studio was housed in a little magenta accordion file thing. I still have it somewhere.

Getting that file box and making it mine was a little thing, but it made me feel like I was really going after my dream. After a few years of hard work using any available flat surface and my file box, I got a couple films into festivals, did some freelance gigs and eventually got hired at Nickelodeon.

Start With Your Space

When you’re starting a side hustle or business (freelancing is a business), it’s tempting to think that you first need a business plan, or maybe some capital, or like all really real businesses, a Costco membership. You don’t. Those things are for later. You can get stuck in those steps because they’re big steps. 

The first thing you start with is your space.

Tell it to Your Brain

When you start by creating your own space, you’re basically telling your brain that yes, you really are doing this and no, we can’t get a Costco account yet, no matter how much you would love a 10-quart jar of pickles.

Maybe you tell yourself that you’re going to start your thing every hour of every day. That’s great, but the problem is that your brain doesn’t believe you. Your brain yawns and says, “Mmm, pickles.”

When you plant your stake in the ground, when you carve out your own space for your thing, your brain wakes up a little and says, “Oh, you were serious about this! Well, that pickle jar is really too heavy anyway.”

No Desk, No Problem

Maybe you have the wherewithal to dedicate an entire room to your thing. That’s awesome and you should take advantage of it. Get rid of those funny beer cans you kept from college and make it your space.

If you don’t have an entire room, it’s totally okay. You can still do this. Hey, I had an accordion folder, and those things have come a long way since the 90s. Okay, actually they haven’t changed at all but if that’s what you’ve got, you can make it work.

You might have to share a room with a sewing machine or a yoga mat and that’s fine, too. The important thing is that you claim your territory. Whatever it is that you choose, it must be dedicated to your business. Tell your brain you’re really doing this.

Sacred Ground

Now that you’ve claimed your space, it’s time to burn some sage in small, concentric circles to get rid of the bad jou-jou. Just kidding, although if that’s your thing, go for it.

You don’t have to do a ceremony or host a ribbon-cutting (although that could be fun), this space is now officially yours.  

It’s a good idea to tell the people around you that it’s off-limits for other activities. Establish rules right up front so there’s no confusion. This also tells the other brains in your home that you’re really doing this thing. You will likely get more respect and support, and possibly even help carrying that 10-quart jar of pickles when it’s time.

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

Today was kind of a weird day for me. It’s Monday, and usually coming off of a weekend (wait, what’s that?) I am all kinds of productive. For me, Mondays are my git-er-done days. I don’t really know why. I drink just as much coffee on those other days that don’t start with M.

But some days I’m just not feeling it and today is one of those days. I don’t know why, maybe my chakra is misaligned with the snow moon in my seventh house of cards. No real reason I can point to. But there it is.

I still got the work done. I had client work that I couldn’t just ignore, because there are other humans counting on me. Of course I had to do that work. But my moving-forward stuff, my hustling, my passive income-building activities are just kind of floating around my head like drunken bees singing, “I don’t wanna work, I just wanna bang on me drum all day…” I didn’t even want to write this post, but it’s on my calendar so if I don’t, I’ll probably have nightmares about notification badges pounding on my front door. Wouldn’t be the first time.

One of the things that people don’t realize about starting a freelance career is that it’s not all watching YouTube makeup tutorials in your underwear and sipping expensive teas from Mawlamyine. If you get kinda lazy on the 9-to-5, you can usually get by without anyone noticing – sometimes for a few days, even. But when you freelance, any time you spend being lazy is time lost bringing in new clients or marketing. Then you have to make it up later, and no, you don’t get overtime because it’s a national holiday, like Super Bowl Sunday or the Oscars. No soup for you!

So yeah, I’ll do the stuff. Maybe today won’t be one of those Shining Glorious Mondays where I accomplish ALL OF THE THINGS and still have time to invent a better method for stirring natural peanut butter. But at least I’ll know that I am moving forward, one step at a time. There will be another day where I can channel a carpenter ant on an endorphin high. Today is more… sloth on espresso.

Looking at you, Tuesday.

A Super Simple Method for Tracking Your Monthly Income

Update 08/2023: I am currently revising this site and the spreadsheet I offer in the article.

Do you know how much money you have coming in this month? I mean, from all sources. Your paycheck, your business, your side hustle, poker nights, all that yarn you have on eBay… whatever.

If you have one job or contract and you collect a regular paycheck, it doesn’t take much mental energy to get a sense for how much you’ll have to pay your bills and keep your cupboard stocked with chocolate and whiskey. When you work consistently, you typically get paid consistently and that’s super cool.

However, when you work on multiple projects, and you’re not working under any longterm contracts, your pay may not be so regular and it can be harder to know. Suddenly it’s the 28th and you have to check your account balance to figure out if you can pay to live another month. I hope that’s not the case and you have so much money coming in that it’s a no-brainer. Still, documenting your earnings and knowing what’s coming down the pipeline is a good practice.

I’ve been freelancing on many different projects for the past 12 years. Like all businesses, my income has had its share of highs and lows. For a long time I spent a good part of my weeks obsessively tracking my billable hours and worrying about when my next project would start. I never had a clear picture of what the next few months would bring. That was stressful and I wasted a lot of time worrying about stuff I could actually track.

Then I learned about tracking my monthly income using a pipeline spreadsheet. I’ve been using this method since 2014 and it’s made things much clearer for me.

As you’ll see, this thing is super simple. Each month is laid out in columns. In the first column under the months, you list your different sources of income, each with its own row. In the next columns within those rows, you enter the amount of income you expect to have come in that month.

An important distinction is that you’re not listing what you hope you’ll make, but what you actually have coming down the pipeline. As in, what you’ve already earned and is either in your checking account or on the way.

The last columns and rows calculate totals for you. At a glance, you can get a really good picture of what you’ll be paid in the very near future. As a bonus, when you look back over the year you can analyze your earnings. Because I’m a geek, I create charts of income for different categories through the years.

If you’re a spreadsheet wiz, you can make this yourself pretty easily. The formulas are simple sums. If you hate setting up stuff like this, I created one for you as a Microsoft Excel file. It’s a free download right here: Pipeline Spreadsheet under revision!

How it Works

I’ve added all kinds of fancy arrows and callouts in the image below, but I’ll also give you the rundown.

The top row is just the months of the year. Easy peasy.

The first column is where you will list your sources of income. You can see from my example that I list four. This is really up to you, you can split up different contracts or projects or just combine them all under “Freelance.”

In each monthly column, you simply list any income you know is coming for that category. I update this every time I have something new come in. Below that, I list each client and the amount I expect to receive from them. It’s not necessary but I find it helpful. Again, the amount you put in the income cell is only what you know is coming in that month. Not what you wish will come in or a lofty guess. This is for any money that’s going to hit your account for sure.

Note: I have a separate spreadsheet for all my passive income sources. I think I mentioned that I’m a geek.

On the far right in column N is the sum of your monthly income for each category. This calculates automatically because there’s a formula in that cell that tells it to. If you edit the cells in column N, they will cease to function and you’ll have to go old school and add them up yourself.

Similarly, Monthly Totals and Year Total update automagically, too. Isn’t that fun?

That’s really it. Super simple. As you do this throughout the year, I think you’ll find that you can better predict what’s coming and you’ll lose a little tension about it. Even if you see that June is looking a little weak, at least you’ll know that you need to do something about it. “Knowledge is power,” as the inventor of the spreadsheet famously said. Yes, I just made that up. But it feels true.

If you have any trouble with the download, the spreadsheet, or just frikkin’ making it rain every month, let me know. I’m here to help.

Photo by Shine Xiong on Unsplash


I grew up in a library. Okay, I didn’t actually grow up in one, like some weird, Dickensian mongrel child raised by librarians and hiding in the dumpsters at night. I just went in them a lot.

Yeah, I was that geek. As a kid I spent most of my time outside of school riding my bike to the library (on my own, which in 2020 is apparently a capital offense in several states) and burying myself in the stacks. There were also Saturday movie matinees (on a 16mm projector back then) and records to listen to. You could even check out puppets. No kidding. Puppets.

As parents and homeschoolers (double geek), Jenni and I fostered a love for the library in our kids. Any time we’ve moved to a new city, the first thing we do is go get library cards. Often before getting our new driver’s licenses, because the DMV sucks and books are forever.

The past year, our youngest was involved in two local youth productions. My job was to take him to rehearsals and make myself scarce (mostly at his request). Since rehearsals lasted about two hours in the late afternoon, I would haul my laptop and work stuff to the local library so I could at least get some work done while I hid my shameful adultness from the youths. Our local Los Angeles County library has decent WiFi, big tables, and outlets. It’s basically a 100% free co-working space. Sound cool? It kind of is cool. However, there are some trade-offs you make when you work out of a library. Not deal breakers, more like little compromises.

First come, first served

You have to grab a table fast. Most libraries have ample table space, but sometimes you’re competing with someone who brought their entire law library and schematic diagrams with them. Real estate is precious here. Kind of like outlets. Similar to a coffee shop, you have to snag your power fast.

No Coffee

Speaking of coffee, they don’t serve it. You have to bring your own. No, you can’t check out a Chemex. I’m not sure you can even get puppets anymore.


It’s usually pretty decent if you’re not on BitTorrent or doing some crazy downloading. That’s sort of frowned upon anyway. You usually need a library card to log in, but that’s free. Sometimes it can take some fanoogling to get hooked in, and don’t count on the library staff to help you. They can give you the basic instructions, but they’re not your personal IT department.

Headphones. Headphones. Headphones.

I wrote that three times so neither of us will forget. The couple times I forgot, I seriously regretted it. Libraries have changed since the 1970s. No longer is there a sweet old librarian gently shooshing people when they get loud. They don’t do that anymore. So unless your ears are plugged and cranking The Sex Pistols, you’re going to hear every detail of how Clive’s Toastmasters meeting went.

The other thing that’s changed is that children are now encouraged to play freeze tag in the stacks. Somewhere, right now, thousands of sweet, dead librarians are spinning in their graves. I don’t blame the kids. They aren’t allowed to play outside their homes anymore without a government-approved guardian standing watch, so they have to get their yah-yahs out somewhere.

Headphones will save your life.

Oh yeah. Books

Did I mention that they have books? They do and they’re all free to borrow. You can’t do that at Starbucks or CoWorkNation. It’s pretty cool because sitting in the middle of a library with all those resources at your fingertips can inspire new ideas. It does for me. I can’t visit the library without browsing a few titles at random. You can borrow CDs and DVDs, too. Did I mention it’s free? It’s free.

Do yourself a favor and go get a library card. Take your laptop or Bullet Journal or giant schematic diagrams and give working at the library a try. They’re still an amazing resource and the more we use them the better chance they’ll stick around for a while.