5 side businesses you can start quickly and affordably

The way that we work is changing. Whether it be for financial gain, personal fulfilment or the desire to test a new business idea, people are jumping on the side business bandwagon. 

This is proven by the fact that one in four people in the UK currently has a side hustle, which generates £72 billion or about 3.6% of the UK GDP. 

But, starting a side business means you will most likely be working more hours, giving you less time for extracurricular and family activities. On the other hand, it can be an incredibly rewarding venture that challenges you to try new things and earn more money in the process.

The COVID-19 crisis has also driven people to look for ways to earn extra cash or replace income lost from being furloughed. Luckily, people were working from home in record numbers before Coronavirus hit, so there are plenty of ways to pull in extra money working a side business online.

In this article, we’ll explain what a side business is, the benefits of a side business, what makes a great side business and whether or not you should turn your side business into a full-time job. We’ll also outline five side business ideas in detail.

Top Tip: If you want to learn more about what separates a good from a great business idea, as well as how to stand out from the competition, read our guide to 15 business ideas you can get started with today💡

Table of contents: 

5 side business ideas:

What is a side business?

A side business is a secondary job that people have on top of their primary job. Why would somebody want to work more than one job? The answer is nuanced.

Many people are financially unsatisfied with their income and open a side business to pull in more money. Others are incentivised to explore a passion beyond the hobby stage. And many more are driven to see if they can prove that their small business idea will be successful before choosing to leave their job to start their own small business.

With the advent of the internet, it’s easier than ever to start a small business, especially if it’s online. And if you can make extra cash from home, why not diversify your income and explore your options? 

Top Tip: To take a deep dive into what it takes to come up with and validate a winning business idea, how to register your business, how to put together a business plan, the steps you need to take to get your first customers, and the tools that will make your life as a business owner easier, read our ebook that details the process of starting a business in the UK ⚡️

According to a report by the Henley Business School, 2030 will be the era of “Employee-Preneurs”. 

“With 25% of adults side-hustling today, there is no way back. The genie is let out of the bottle. Those who are underwhelmed and under-financed by their work, but have the appetite, if not the confidence, to go it all alone as an entrepreneur, will not let the chance slip.”

Further, the report notes that 66% of the survey respondents state that having a full-time job is specifically what has allowed them to pursue their passion. In this case, day jobs provide the financial stability needed to develop a side business. 

In all, side businesses offer the opportunity to break the glass ceiling, explore monetising a passion or hobby and significantly increase your overall income. 

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What are the benefits of a side business?

A side business can give you more independence and financial freedom. Moreover, it opens up an opportunity to see what it feels like to work for yourself or earn money from a passion project. 

Here are some of the top benefits of a side business:

Financial freedom

If you are earning income outside of your main job, you become less reliant and dependent on your employer. 

But this doesn’t mean that you will necessarily become unhappy with your current job. In fact, 47% of people state that even if their side business took off, they would stay in their current role.

Why? Because a steady salary, no matter the size, is something you can count on, making it difficult to give up. Working for yourself can be financially challenging and unstable at times, making it a risky endeavour.

However, a steady paycheck does not always equate to a healthy income. Hence, working for an employer and exploring a side passion at the same time can combine the best of both worlds. 

Henley Business School survey respondents noted that 20% of their total income comes from their side business. That second income stream can go a long way in granting you financial freedom as you don’t have to rely on anybody else to accrue that extra income.

Top Tip: With financial freedom also comes financial responsibility. When you work for yourself, you need to keep on top of your business finances to ensure that you are following the government guidelines and maintaining a steady cash flow. To learn more about business accounting, read our complete guide to accounting for startups 📈

Unlimited earning potential

In a regular job, unless you work in a commission-based structure, you are often constrained by a salary cap.

When you run a side business, the sky’s the limit in terms of earning potential. You can always make more money over time, depending on how much effort and hard work you put into your business.

As you don’t have to rely on anybody else, you get to make all of the decisions. From the way you scale to the clients you take on to the amount of money you put back into your business, you have the final say.

In that scenario, the income potential is as big as you’re willing to take it. 

Monetise a passion

Most people pick up skills throughout their life that are unrelated to their career. These skills can be anything, from playing an instrument to making handmade crafts to editing photos. 

Some people reach a point where they wonder if their skills could be turned into a successful side business idea and earn extra money. If you spend a lot of your free time playing an instrument, for example, you may wonder if you could earn some extra cash teaching music lessons as a side gig.

Or, if you’re engaged in the tech world and enjoy reviewing the latest products, you could start a YouTube channel where you compare and contrast the latest trends to your followers. Or, if you’re an expert on using these tech products, you could create an online course that teaches others how to maximise these tools to reach their greatest potential. 

And if you love to write, you can start a blog on a topic that excites you, like food, travel or technology, and earn money from it. You can even grow a passive income stream, too, by adding affiliate links throughout your content (more on affiliate marketing in a later section).

There are tons of side hustle ideas that allow you to monetise your passion and earn extra money from doing something you love. It’s not guaranteed that it will work, but you have little to lose from trying.

Explore self-employment

One of the best ways to decide if working for yourself is right for you is by starting a side job. 

This gives you the chance to explore how it feels to work for yourself, which is key to understanding whether you’d enjoy it full time. Plus, it allows you to start small and slow, which is also an important part of validating a business idea to see if it will work.

One of the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make is diving headfirst into an idea without proving that it will work pre-launch. This can be detrimental to your financial health and set you back. 

Exploring self-employment while maintaining a full-time job is a more cautious way to approach working for yourself, which is not a bad thing. It can take a long time to earn a robust and stable income from self-employment, thus leaning in a steady paycheck while ramping up a business is often essential.

Top Tip: If you want to be self-employed but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. Learn about the benefits of working for yourself, how to be productive when working for yourself and five signs you’re ready to become your own boss in our complete guide to working for yourself 🙌

What makes a great side business?

There are a multitude of dynamic side business ideas, and some side business ideas are more entrepreneurial than others. 

For example, running a side business as an online business coach is different than driving for Uber or Lyft. In the former, you need to find clients for yourself. In the latter, you are connected to a third-party company’s customer base. One is not better than the other, they simply differ in terms of how much preparation and marketing they require from you.

If your idea is more entrepreneurial, you should make sure that there’s a need for it. Since you already have a full-time job, you don’t want to spend too much valuable time and energy on launching a side business that nobody will buy into.

Therefore, make sure you do your research to set yourself up for the best chance of success. Read stories from other side business owners who launched ideas in your desired space. Make sure that you find your target audience so that you are promoting yourself to the right people. 

Top Tip: Not entirely sure how to conduct market research? You’re not alone. Check out how to get started, along with several research best practices, in our guide to how to conduct market research for your business idea 🔍

Once you know who your audience is, consider interviewing industry experts to see how they found success in your space. And you can even get involved in the conversation with your future customers to see if you can identify any gaps in service where you can provide a solution. 

Finally, create a robust go-to-market strategy to attract your ideal audience, generate interest in your product or service and convert leads into paying customers. 

Here are five side business ideas that you can get started with today.

1. Freelancer

Freelancing is a great way to boost your income and turn your passion into a business. The best part about freelancing is that you can often do it from a computer remotely, giving you ultimate freedom over where and how you work. 

You also get to choose how many clients you want to work with and how many hours per week you feel comfortable contributing to your projects. You can work on your projects at any time throughout your day or week as long as they are delivered by the deadline. 

Here are the best and worst aspects of being a freelancer, according to Money Super Market:

Freelancing as a side hustle removes every single drawback that full-time freelancers may experience. You still have consistent cash flow, pensions (dependent on your company), and job stability from your full-time job. A win-win. 

There are many types of freelancing gigs with high demand on the market. A few of the most popular ones are:

  • Freelance writer. This role varies depending on what type of freelance writing you want to do. You can be a copywriter, copy editor, journalist, technical writer, film critic, author, and more. There are many freelance copywriting sites, like Upwork, Fiverr and ProBlogger, where you can create a profile and apply to jobs at your leisure on a busy job board.

  • Freelance developer. Similar to a writer, freelance developers have many trades to choose from. You can be an iOS mobile developer, a website designer, a web developer, a WordPress specialist, and so on. Like writing, there are also many freelance developer sites where you can scan job boards and apply for jobs. Some of the popular freelance developer sites are Toptal, Gun.io and StackOverflow Careers.  

  • Freelance graphic designer. Graphic designers are often skilled in Photoshop and Lightroom, but may have mastered additional programs on the market. The more versatile you are, the more opportunity you grant your clients. As a freelance graphic designer, you can head to sites like Dribbble or Fiverr to promote your work and find new clients.

  • Freelance translator. If you speak two languages or more, you can make money translating documents from one to another. As the world is becoming more globally connected each year via the Internet and online platforms, there is a constant need to translate documents into many languages. You can use the above sites like Upwork and Fiverr to find freelance translation jobs, or sign up with an online agency like Gengo or Smartling.

Whatever type of freelancer you become, make sure you are choosing projects you’re interested in so that you enjoy investing your time in them. The more devoted you are to your freelancing side business, the better work you’ll produce.

The best part about freelancing? There’s barely any start-up costs. If you have a computer and an internet connection, you can easily apply to freelance jobs. You may need to pay for some basic software, and you also may need to contribute a percentage of your fee to a third-party site (if you use one), but that’s about it. 

And if you really enjoy it, there is ample opportunity to turn your freelancing gig into a full-time business.

Top Tip: Freelancing is a great way to test the waters with a passion to see if you enjoy earning money from it. To learn more about how to jumpstart your success as a freelancer, read our guide to 32 proven ways to increase your clients as a freelancer 💥

2. Virtual assistant

Virtual assistants help entrepreneurs and business owners with multiple tasks. As a virtual assistant, you may help with invoicing, social media management, proofreading, responding to customer inquiries, and much more.

To be a successful virtual assistant, you’ll need to be highly organised, a great communicator and have interpersonal skills. You should also pick what services you want to offer and focus on a niche in order to highlight your specific expertise. This will make it easier to market yourself and guarantee that you are finding clients who need your unique services. 

As a part-time virtual assistant, you will most likely work for clients who are either just ramping up their business and don’t have a big budget to hire full-time, or clients who only need help with a small number of tasks a week. 

One of the best places to find a virtual assistant job is VANetworking.com. They have plenty of resources for aspiring virtual assistants as well as a robust Virtual Assistant Career start-up system to help you land your first job.

You can also build your own website to grow your online presence and market yourself via platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook groups. 

Top Tip: Virtual assistants are just one of many online business options that you can delve into as part of your side business. To learn more, read our in-depth guide to starting an online business 💻

3. Start a blog

Blogging is one of the most popular side businesses to do from home.

When you start a blog, you are building your own personal brand. If successful, it gives you a chance to market your passion or expertise to an engaged audience.

Top Tip: To learn what it takes to build a brand from scratch that will resonate with your target audience, read our 7-step guide to building a brand that customers love 😍

You can write about literally anything. The most popular topics are travel, fitness, yoga, marketing, cooking, health, business, beauty, productivity hacks, and so on. No matter the topic, the best blogs are those that provide tons of value through a unique voice. 

You’ll need to buy a domain and choose a platform to post your content on. Some of the most popular blogging sites are WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and Web.com. Then, customise it so that it’s aesthetically pleasing, well organised and easy to navigate. Also, make sure your website considers SEO best-practices to give you a better chance at ranking in Google. 

DIY Inspired by Dinah Wulf is an example of a popular and successful blog. She was named one of Mashable’s 10 Mom Blogs Full of Inspiring Advice and has appeared on and in many news shows, magazines and videos. 

Example of a blog to start as a side business

She’s a successful blogger because she has found a way to captivate a niche audience by using stories from her own life to personalise her content. She talks about highly relatable daily struggles, like the never-ending fight to get your kids to clean their rooms. 

The more relatable and solutions-driven your blog, the more people will enjoy reading it.

4. Dog walker

A great part-time gig is walking dogs. You get to be outside, enjoy some exercise and play with extremely cute furry friends.

But you’re also providing a much-needed service. 27% of adults in the UK have dogs, and many of these dog carers have to go to work all day. This means that they need somebody to take their dog out in the middle of the day to use the bathroom and get some exercise.

You can either go it alone by creating a website or flyers to market yourself via networking and word-of-mouth, or you can join a dog walking agency. The most popular dog-walking apps and websites in the UK are Rover (previously DogBuddy) and Pawshake

Screenshot of online dog walking service

Using a site like one of these gives you automatic credibility as you are recommended and verified by a third party. It’s like Taskrabbit for dog walking. 

This is important because many people consider pets as part of their family and need to fully trust the person they are letting into their home to walk and care for them. 

As a dog walker, you can build up your client base steadily over time. Simply by doing a good job, being on time and providing consistent updates, you can build trust and brand loyalty, leading to an ongoing stream of steady work.

5. Affiliate marketing

One of the fastest ways to make money online is through affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketers drive traffic to a merchant’s website via unique affiliate links.

According to Software Findr, the US accounts for 39% of the affiliate marketing market, followed directly by the UK with 15%.

You can use affiliate links in blogs, emails, social media posts, ads, and more. Many vendors or clients will even send copy to you to promote your affiliate link. Because of this, you don’t need to be a great copywriter in order to strategically market your affiliate links.

First, you need to choose an affiliate network. A few examples of affiliate networks are ClickBank and Amazon Associates. You can also find independent affiliate programs through entrepreneurs or companies who are offering their own programs in exchange for affiliate promotion.

You should choose a niche that has a lot of product vendors to boost your chances of making money. Start with a few products at a time so that you can become an expert on said products which will help you develop an effective marketing strategy for them. 

Always track your metrics to see what products are selling and which ones are falling flat. Use social media platforms to broaden your reach and consider buying the product and conducting a live demonstration to validate your expertise. 

Should you turn your side business into a full-time job?

While many people start a side business with the goal of transitioning it to a full-time job, many more have no intention of leaving their job in pursuit of running their own business.

The best part about a side business is that it’s flexible, allows you to earn additional revenue streams, can be a great creative outlet and helps you grow your skillset and expertise. 

Whether or not you choose to turn your side business into a full-time job depends entirely on your personal aspirations and goals. If you are having success with your side business and are making a lot of money, it may be worth exploring how much you can scale it up. 

If you don’t love the idea of working full time for yourself, aren’t making too much money or simply have no desire to walk away from a steady paycheck and a career you love, then there’s no reason to expand your side business. 

Check-in with yourself before you make any big decisions. Running your own full-time business is often a 24/7 effort that requires tons of emotional and financial sacrifice, constant focus, the ability to think strategically and follow a well-thought-out process and plan. 

Running your own business is a lot of work, but done right, can be one of the most rewarding things you do in your life. 

Top Tip: If you’re still on the fence about what it will be like to launch your own business, we’ve compiled tons of expert insights and tips from new business owners like yourself. There’s nothing more reassuring than hearing from somebody in a similar position. To learn more, read our 8-step guide to surviving your first year in business 🎉

Wrapping up

Side businesses are gaining popularity. People are starting their own side business to earn side income, monetise a hobby, explore a passion, challenge themselves and examine if they enjoy being their own boss.

There are endless possibilities for side business jobs. From online to in-person jobs and direct to passive income streams, people are getting creative with how they earn additional money on top of their day job.

You can go it alone or join a third party agency to acquire clients quickly. Either way, make sure you choose an industry and a niche that interests you so that you enjoy what you’re spending a big chunk of your spare time on. 

When you start a side business, you get to taste what it feels like to be your own boss. Done right, a side business can be the perfect blend between a steady paycheck and a flexible working environment. 

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Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova, published on Pexels

Valentine Hutchings

Valentine Hutchings

Head of Community and small business enthusiast

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