Before you start making extra money, ask yourself: Do I want to start a small business? Am I ready for that level of commitment and responsibility?
Or do I just want to earn a little extra cash doing tasks that require a low level of obligation and responsibility?
There’s no “right” or “wrong” answer – you need to be honest about your goals and your spare time.
I recently wrote about ways you can earn extra money on the side, doing mostly “weekend-only” jobs that require minimal responsibility.
But if you want to start a small business – either part-time, seasonal or full-time – here’s a list of ideas.
#1: Blogging – It’s tough to make money blogging, so I recommend this only for people who don’t “need” to see a penny in blog income within their first year! Blogging is like growing any business: during your first six to 12 months, you’ll probably work 20 hours a week, invest some cash in hosting and web design, and see very little for your efforts. You’ll also be in “learning mode” as you discover more and more about other blogs within your niche.
But after several months, you’ll (hopefully) start to see advertising revenue roll in. Try this if you’re interested in a long-term business with the potential for great reward, as long as you’re patient about your progress.
#2: Cleaning Homes or Offices – If you work a standard 9-to-5 job and you’re looking for extra work in the evening, cleaning offices could be a great match. After all, most businesses want their offices cleaned during the nights and weekends, when their employees aren’t around. You can also water the plants as an “upcharge,” and if you’re ambitious and successful, you could even start an office-cleaning company and hire assistants. And unlike many other contract jobs, cleaning can’t be outsourced to a virtual assistant.
If you work odd hours and you’re free from 9-to-5, reverse course and consider cleaning homes. People generally like to have their homes cleaned when they’re not around and won’t get in the way. Again, you have the potential to launch a company and hire assistants. Don’t forget the mileage deduction!
#3: Furniture Assembly – You know how some people get frustrated trying to assemble a crib, cabinet, bed or bookcase they brought home? (I certainly do – I’m awful at assembling things.)
If you’re good at assembling furniture, why not post an ad on Craigslist offering to do it for them? You can assemble anything from IKEA bookshelves to those frustrating cribs that come with instructions that say “Put Appendix IA-2 into Column 4B.”
Like office cleaning, furniture assembly is a business that you can start solo and eventually grow into a multiple-person operation once you collect enough clients.
#4: Set Up People’s Electronics – Furniture isn’t the only thing people need assembles. Computers, wall-mounted television sets, home theater sound systems – all these electronic devices need to be set up, and many people are willing to pay for someone technically-competent who will do that.
You don’t need to be a computer programmer to start this business; you simply need to be comfortable enough with computers to be able to set up PC’s and Mac’s and help even the most techno-phobic clients feel comfortable.
#5: Photography – Plenty of stock-photo websites allow users to upload their best high-resolution photos. Clients – such as magazines, websites and public relations firms – search through these photos and pay a small fee to use an image in their company material. The profit margins can be small, but if you have enough photos on site, it could generate a small amount of passive income.
#6: Wedding Cakes – Have a talent for cake-making and gorgeous presentation? As long as love is in the air, there will always be a demand for wedding cakes, especially in the spring and summer (the traditional wedding season.) Wedding cupcakes are also en vogue.
This could be a fun business to build, but check your state’s laws first – each state has a different requirement for what kind of food-prep area you must have, and some states will only let you foray into the cake-making world if you have access to a commercial kitchen.
#7: Landscaping – Planting flowers is the fun part, but a landscaping company also needs to haul dirt, place rocks and flagstones, mix soil with compost, dig French drains and – perhaps most importantly – collaborate with the homeowner on landscaping plans. They also do a lot of lawn maintenance: cleaning the sprinklers at the end of the season, blowing and raking leaves, trimming the edges of the yard.
You’ll almost certainly need a crew to help you with landscaping: you might want to start this business with a partner since it's so time-and-labor intensive. Soon you’ll be doing most of the organizational work: finding jobs, invoicing, and coordinating logistics such as making sure the right equipment gets to each job.