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The 32 Best Side Hustles in America

Beverly Bird
The 32 Best Side Hustles in America
The 32 Best Side Hustles in America

Traditional 9-to-5 jobs provide a stable, steady income for many Americans. But life isn’t always steady, and some people need to find ways to make extra cash on the side to pay off debt or just to bolster their savings.

If you find that you’re not quite satisfied with your salary, you’re in luck: There’s no shortage of weekend jobs or side gigs you can try out to make money on the side. GOBankingRates surveyed 1,000 Americans and asked about their side work to find out the most popular side hustle jobs in the U.S. — and they’re gigs you can pursue too if you want your own side job.

Auto Mechanic

  • How much it pays: $17.45 per hour

Working in the auto industry is the most popular side hustle for Americans, with 4.4% working as auto mechanics, repair people, detailers or salespeople, the survey found.

Automotive mechanics and service technicians are responsible for diagnosing and repairing issues with automobiles, maintaining inventories of tools and car parts and working with customer service and sales teams. Although no college degree is typically required for this job, the diagnosis of automotive malfunctions now usually requires electronic testing equipment, so formal training is required for most jobs in the field.

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Bartender

  • How much it pays: $8.02 per hour, plus tips

Many people romanticize working as a bartender. What could be better than making drinks for friends, listening to a good playlist and pocketing cash tips?

However, as any bartender will tell you, the job isn’t as easy — or as fun — as it might seem. To get started as a bartender, you can enroll in bartending classes, but nothing can replace experience. Many bartenders work their way up to the position after working as hosts, bussers, servers or waiters. Most will work as barbacks — which involves carrying heavy buckets of ice and cases of alcohol — before they make it to that coveted spot mixing drinks behind the bar.

According to the GOBankingRates survey, 1.6% of Americans bartend as their way to make money on the side. It can be a good option for those who work an office job and are looking for a side hustle that doesn’t require a desk or screen.

Brand Ambassador

  • How much it pays: $15.45 per hour

If you’ve ever scrolled through the jobs section of Craigslist, you’ve likely seen a number of postings that call for a brand ambassador or brand marketing representative. According to Entrepreneur, a brand ambassador is someone who is passionate about the brand, builds brand awareness and connects and engages with customers.

Full-time brand ambassador jobs exist, but many of these opportunities pop up on a part-time basis to support special events.

Construction Worker

  • How much it pays: $15.09 per hour

If you don’t mind physical labor, working in construction can be a fruitful side gig. Construction workers perform various tasks at project sites, including loading and unloading equipment, clearing work areas and operating hand and power tools.

The training required depends on the specific gig, with some requiring apprenticeship programs and others simply requiring on-the-job training.

According to the survey, 2% of Americans have a side hustle in the construction business.

Craft Seller

  • How much it pays: Varies

Thanks to online marketplaces like Etsy, you can turn your crafting hobby into a successful side hustle. To sell on the site, you pay a small listing fee, plus fees for transactions and payment processing. But you’ll gain access to over 33 million buyers, which can help you to make a substantial profit. Some successful Etsy shop owners make six-figure revenues.

Data Entry Clerk

  • How much it pays: $12.88 per hour

Data entry might not sound too exciting — you’re essentially just filling out fields in a document — but it’s the perfect job to veg out to. Data entry clerks provide logistical support to large projects that require filtering through a lot of information. Brush up on your Excel and Google Sheets skills before seeking out this easy part-time job.

Sites such as Clickworker crowdsource at least hundreds of thousands of independent contractors to help with projects such as processing data. Data entry is a side hustle you can do without quitting your job.

Driver (Not Ride-Sharing)

  • How much it pays: $15.19 per hour for bus drivers

Most part-time drivers now work for a ride-share company but 1.8% have other driving gigs, including driving public transportation buses, school buses, trucks and limos, the survey found.

Bus drivers are assigned to specific routes, and are responsible for safely transporting passengers while keeping to a strict time schedule. Requirements for this side hustle can include obtaining a specialized license, completing training lessons, passing health screenings and submitting clean background checks and drug tests.

Event Assistant

  • How much it pays: $14.50 per hour

If you’re the type of person who notices minute details — such as the fold of napkins at a dinner party — you might want to consider pursuing an event assistant gig. As an event assistant, you’ll be responsible for completing behind-the-scenes tasks that help make weddings, birthday parties, corporate events and more run smoothly.

While this side hustle idea might seem glamorous, be advised that event assistants work long hours, spending much of that time on their feet. Also know that event assistants are not event guests, meaning you will not partake in event happenings.

Fast Food Worker

  • How much it pays: $8.36 per hour

Fast food workers are responsible for greeting customers, taking orders, assisting with kitchen prep and cleaning the restaurant. A high school degree or equivalent might be required, though some positions require no education — just on-the-job training.

Approximately 1.7% of Americans work in fast food as their way of making money on the side, the survey found.

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Focus Group Participant

  • How much it pays: Varies, but can be over $100 per focus group

One of the easiest ways to earn money on the side is to become a focus group participant. Focus groups are small gatherings of select individuals organized by market researchers to garner feedback on a specific product or topic.

If you are selected as a focus group participant, you’ll have the opportunity to try out new products, taste test food and drinks and more. The best part? You’re paid for sharing what you do and don’t like. You can find focus group opportunities using resources like FocusGroup.com.

Food and Beverage Delivery Driver

  • How much it pays: $13.96 per hour

If you have a reliable car, a good driving record and free time on nights and weekends, consider part-time work as a food and beverage delivery driver — 3% of Americans work in delivery as their side hustle, according to the survey. While at one time delivery drivers were limited to pizza parlors and restaurants that offered take out, the opportunities for delivery drivers today are endless.

For example, you can consider working for popular delivery apps like Seamless, Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates, to name a few.

Freelancer

  • How much it pays: $23.67 per hour for freelance writing

Freelancing encompasses such a wide range of skills and talents that it can be paralyzing to figure out which one to market. Some common freelancing opportunities to consider include:

  • Editing

  • Writing

  • Photography

  • Graphic design

  • Business consulting

  • Web design

Check websites such as Upwork, Toptal, LinkedIn, Indeed and Craigslist for available opportunities. If you work as a freelance writer, you might even be able to turn your writing into a passive income stream.

Because of the range of talent and demand for particular jobs, it can be nearly impossible to assess how much a freelancing gig can earn you. Some sources even point out that dedicated freelancing can net you more than your 9-to-5 job. Freelancing gigs depend on a lot of things — such as experience, skill set and networking — but most of all, it depends on you.

Nearly 2% of Americans are consulting as a side gig, the survey found. Design and photography are also significant freelance jobs, with a total of 1.4% working in these creative industries on the side.

Hair Salon or Spa Receptionist

  • How much it pays: $10.16 per hour for salon receptionists

Hair salons and spas are often bustling on the weekends with clients who want to kick back, relax and pamper themselves. You can take advantage of busy weekends by finding a side gig as a hair salon or spa receptionist.

To be successful as a receptionist, you need a friendly demeanor, a great attitude, excellent customer service skills and the ability to stay organized and schedule appointments. Receptionists often get discounts on salon or spa services as well.

Host or Barback

  • How much it pays: $9.17 per hour for hosting

Securing a job as a host or barback is an excellent way to break into the restaurant business. These positions are ideal for individuals who have little or no restaurant experience but are interested in working their way up to waiting tables or working as a bartender.

Exemplary hosts have excellent customer service skills, as they are most often the first representative guests see when they enter a restaurant. They are required to keep track of reservations and waiting lists, to seat guests at their tables and to complete other miscellaneous tasks, such as cleaning menus. Hosts earn an average hourly rate of $9.17.

Unlike hosts, barbacks do not usually interact with guests. Instead, they can be seen stocking the bar with ice, glasses, alcohol and other necessary items. Barbacks sometimes also clear dining tables, though this is usually reserved for bussers. While working as a barback is much more strenuous than working as a host, the pay is roughly the same. The average hourly rate for a barback is $9.61 an hour plus tips.

House Cleaner

  • How much it pays: $11.12 per hour

Some people thrive on cleaning and organizing, so working as a house cleaner could be the ideal side hustle for this personality type. According to the survey, 4.3% of Americans do this as a side hustle, making it the second-most popular side gig.

Many housekeepers work for an agency, though some are self-employed. Either way, the job often allows for a flexible schedule, as you can typically choose how often and when you work. This job can be strenuous, so it’s best for people who don’t mind being on their feet and doing physically taxing work.

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Lawn Maintenance Worker

  • How much it pays: $12.74 per hour

If you want to make extra money on the weekends but don’t want to spend your time indoors or inside your car, consider a gig as a lawn maintenance worker. About 3.7% of Americans work in landscaping as a side hustle, the survey found.

To get started, you can contact landscaping companies near where you live, or you can look for opportunities on services like GreenPal, which connects individuals who need yard services with lawn professionals via its website, YourGreenPal.com.

The pay you’ll earn when working for private clients might vary, so do your research so you know what an acceptable hourly rate is.

Lifeguard

  • How much it pays: $9.49 per hour

Another great outdoor job is that of a lifeguard. Working as a lifeguard at a local pool, gym, water park or beach is not exclusively for high school students on summer break. In fact, any person certified through an accredited lifeguard training and certification course — which includes CPR, first aid and automated external defibrillator (AED) training — can do the job.

Musician

  • How much it pays:$46.52 per hour

If you’re musically inclined, you can turn your talents into some extra cash. Musicians and singers can get paid gigs performing at a variety of venues, including theaters, lounges and orchestras. It’s helpful to secure an agent if you want to get paying gigs regularly, but you’ll likely have to begin performing for free before you can charge to be an entertainer.

According to the GOBankingRates survey, 2.4% of Americans pad their income by working as a musician on the side.

Nanny or Caretaker

  • How much it pays: $10.23 per hour

Even families that employ full-time nannies or use day care services often need extra help taking care of their children on the weekends. You can help fill this need so parents can get more done — or simply go on a date every now and then — by working as a nanny, caretaker or baby sitter.

Word of mouth is still a powerful method for finding good work in this field; however, you can also sign up with reputable resources like Care.com or Sittercity.com. Be advised that caretaking experience is expected. Some parents might also prefer candidates with certifications in CPR and some early childhood education or training. One perk of this job is that you might be able to watch your own children while watching the children of others, making it an ideal job for stay-at-home parents.

The survey found that 2.8% of Americans work as baby sitters for their side hustle, and an additional 2.4% work in other care services.

Online Reseller

  • How much it pays: Varies

If you’re looking for side-business ideas, this can be a lucrative one. Buying and selling items online is tied with auto-related side hustles as the top side gig among Americans, with 4.4% supplementing their income this way. Online resellers buy items on sites like OfferUp, Craigslist, eBay, Amazon and other online retailers, as well as garage sales and discount shops, and then resell them for a profit.

To be profitable, you’ll need to have an eye for a good deal and take the time to find items you’ll realistically be able to resell. But the pay-off can be high, with some online resellers earning six figures, Yahoo Finance reported. One woman cited in the article is a retiree who scours thrift stores and makes an extra $600 a month selling these items on eBay, while another now resells full time and made $144,000 in a single year. You can also learn a lot of side-hustle lessons by opening your own eBay store.

Park Ranger

  • How much it pays: $15.37 per hour

It’s hard to beat getting paid to walk among nature. There are certainly people who prefer to spend their time outdoors year-round, but park work can also be seasonal. Park ranger duties might include general surveillance of the park, cleaning up trash and ecological projects such as restoring wildlife habitats. If you work in an area with a high tourism rate, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, expect to field a lot of tourists’ questions.

The National Park Service offers seasonal employment opportunities, though salaries depend on the park, the scope of duties and the type of position itself.

Pet Sitter

  • How much it pays: $12.95 per hour

Pets are part of the family, and some people are willing to shell out cash to ensure their fur babies receive endless love and care. If you have experience caring for animals like dogs and cats, you should consider a side gig as a pet sitter.

Websites like Rover.com and Petsitting.com can help you find pets that need care in your area. Services offered by these websites range from daily walks to caring for an animal in your home while the pet owner is away.

How much you make as a pet sitter depends on many factors, including the service you are providing and your experience with animals. Rover.com says its pet sitters can earn up to $1,000 per month. You might even be able to pay off thousands of dollars of debt by working as a dog walker. With such high earning potential, it’s no wonder 1.6% of Americans work in pet-related services as a side hustle, according to the survey.

Repair Worker

  • How much it pays: $14.69 per hour

Thanks to sites like TaskRabbit and Handy, it’s easy to find side gigs doing repairs and performing other handyman services. With TaskRabbit, you can search job tasks to find ones that fit your skill set, set your own rates and choose your own schedule. But before becoming a Tasker, you must register online and attend an onboarding info session in your city.

Working as a repair person is a popular side gig, with 3.6% of Americans doing repairs to earn extra cash, according to the survey.

Retail Sales Associate

  • How much it pays: $10.43 per hour

Retailers are often busiest on weekends, which presents a great opportunity for those looking to bring in a little extra cash. Retail sales associates work in the customer areas of stores to help maintain orderliness and appearance, and to assist shoppers with any needs they might have. Retail associates spend the bulk of their shifts standing and are often required to be able to lift items weighing up to 25 pounds. In addition to their hourly pay, most retailers give their employees a discount on store merchandise.

According to the survey, 2.3% of Americans work in retail as their side hustle.

Security Guard or Bouncer

  • How much it pays: $11.76 per hour

Clubs, bars and music vendors are always on the hunt for extra muscle on weekends and for major events. To increase your chances of being hired as a security guard or bouncer, sign up for a training course that culminates with licensure. Physical fitness is another requirement of the job, as you’ll need to be able to handle unruly and, oftentimes, inebriated patrons.

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Server

  • How much it pays: $6.63 per hour plus tips, for servers

It’s easy to squeeze in shifts working nights and weekends as a server, waiter or other restaurant worker if you work a traditional 9-to-5 job.

Working as a server usually requires on-the-job training, and you should be prepared to be on your feet for long periods of time. Having good people skills is also a must with this side gig, which 4.1% of Americans do, according to the survey. It’s the third-most popular side gig in the U.S.

Stylists, Massage Therapists and Personal Trainers

  • How much it pays: $9.79 per hour for hairstylists

The survey found that 3.6% of Americans have side gigs in personal or cosmetic services, which includes jobs as hairstylists, massage therapists, nail technicians, makeup artists and personal trainers.

Hairstylists need special training and certification, plus the ability to be on their feet for long periods of time. It also helps to be outgoing and good at making conversation, to keep clients coming back.

Survey Taker

  • How much it pays: Varies

Sites like Swagbucks allow you to get paid to take surveys in your downtime. Companies, brands and organizations work with the site to get consumer opinions, and you get rewarded with cash back and gift cards for your time. The pay per survey varies, but some pay up to $50. This side gig is an easy way to earn some extra cash, and you don’t need any special skills to do it — which could be why it’s one of the most popular side hustles, with 2.3% of Americans taking surveys as a side gig.

Telemarketer

  • How much it pays: $10.70 per hour

There are countless part-time telemarketing jobs available for anyone willing to work nights or weekends. Even better, these jobs sometimes allow you to work from the comfort of your own home — which is perfect if you’re looking for jobs that offer work-life balance.

As you likely know, telemarketers call potential customers over the phone in the hopes of persuading them to buy products or services. Sales skills are a plus, though not necessary, as most companies provide their workers with a prepared pitch. Thick skin, however, is a must.

You can find telemarketing opportunities online on FlexJobs.com and via internet job boards.

Theater Usher

  • How much it pays: $8.98 per hour

If you love the cinema and enjoy order, ushering might be the perfect side gig for you. Theater ushers are the last lines of defense between a popcorn fight and a pleasant viewing experience. A good sense of customer service and patience will serve you best in this gig, as well as a willingness to be on your feet most of the time.

Look up theaters such as AMC or Cinemark for usher jobs, or check in with your local theater. Benefits likely include free movies and popcorn.

Tutor

  • How much it pays: $17.63 per hour

According to the survey, 3.3% of Americans work as teachers, tutors or other instructors on a part-time basis.

Tutors provide an invaluable service to those seeking academic help or alternatives to professional help. Customers, most of whom will likely be students and their parents, will want you to field their questions and concerns about math, English, history or science. You’ll have to take their class schedule into account, working primarily after school or on weekends. Tutoring might work best if you live on or near an academic campus. Sites like Care.com can link up tutors with prospective students.

Read: Match Your Side Hustle With How Much Free Time You’ve Got

Uber or Lyft Driver

  • How much it pays: $17.50 per hour for Lyft drivers

Ride-sharing apps have become so popular that “Uber” is now used as a verb as well as a noun.

You must meet several requirements to become a driver for a ride-share service. For example, to become a Lyft driver, you must be at least 21 years old, own an iPhone or Android phone and meet other requirements that vary by city. As a driver, you’ll set your own hours and generally choose the area where you want to drive. Drivers make an average of $17.50 per hour with Lyft, while UberX drivers make an average of $14.22 per hour after tip, according to Ridester.

According to the survey, 2.7% of Americans work as ride-share drivers as their side hustle.

How To Get Started Finding a Side Hustle

The first step in determining the best side hustle for you is figuring out how much time you have to dedicate to it — you should match your side hustle to the amount of free time you have. Next, figure out what marketable skills you have: Are you a people person who would do well in the service industry? Are you artistic or crafty? Do you love to write? Once you hone in on your available time and the skills you can monetize, you should have a good idea of the best side hustle for you.

Always keep in mind, however, that if a side gig seems too good to be true, it might be. Multilevel marketing companies like Mary Kay, Avon, Herbalife and The Pampered Chef are a side hustle many Americans — 1.7% — use to add to their earnings. But before you sign up for any sort of MLM sales gig, make sure it’s a legitimate business and not a pyramid scheme. Signs that a company is a pyramid scheme include paying you simply to recruit more salespeople, charging you huge startup costs and allowing five or more levels of distributors to collect commissions, according to How Stuff Works.

Click through to read about the side hustles of these top 15 athletes.

More on Making Money With Side Gigs

Sean Dennison and Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: GOBankingRates conducted a poll with a sample size of 1,000 respondents from across the United States, asking them a series of nine questions: (1) Have you ever had a “side hustle” (aka a second job or gig in addition to your full-time job); (2) Please list all side hustles you currently have; (3) Which statement most applies to you?; (4) Why did you take on a side hustle? Select all that apply; (5) Approximately, how many hours per week do you spend on your side hustle? (6) Which of the following statements apply to you? Select all that apply; (7) Has the money you earned from your side hustle helped you do any of the following? (8) Do you know how to file taxes for your side hustle? (9) Which state most applies to you? This article is based on the responses to question (2).

Average hourly pay and salary information is according to PayScale, which uses real-time, market-enabled compensation models to provide salary information for workers and employers unless otherwise noted.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The 32 Best Side Hustles in America