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5 Online Side Hustles I’ve Tried Over The Years (And You Can Too)

So, you’re looking for a flexible way to work from home — perhaps an online gig that doesn’t come with a set schedule, something that lets you login and work whenever you have the time?

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, the truth is, these jobs do exist.

For starters, freelancers get the opportunity to work on the projects of their choosing and for whom. They also get to set their own rates and work anytime, day or night. Independent contractors also have a lot of freedom in when they work, as long as they meet deadlines. You could even start your own online business that brings in a full-time income working part-time.

Come to think of it, just about every work from home job outside of employee-based positions come with complete flexibility and autonomy — how’s that for awesomeness?

But, getting up and started as an online business owner or solopreneur can take some time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably the most sustainable way to earn a living online, and gives you a chance to make a scalable income. But, if you’d rather test out the work-from-home waters, so to speak, consider one of these gigs first.

The benefits?

Every type of position listed below gives you the opportunity to work whenever you want. Plus, I’ve tried them all at some point in time and can say, with certainty, that these are beginner-friendly ways to piece together an income while working on your own schedule. Plus, it gives you a sneak-peek into what it’s like to earn a living online before jumping in and going solo — definitely a bonus.

1. Search Engine Evaluation

Search engines use highly sophisticated algorithms to give you the best results when you type something into Google or Bing. But since computers aren’t perfect (at least not yet, anyway) humans are needed to rate the relevancy of ads and search results based on queries.

That’s where Search Engine Evaluators come into play. Most of these gigs pay between $11-$15/hour and, you guessed it, are super flexible, allowing you to login anytime, day or night, to complete assignments.

If you are up-to-date on pop culture, comfortable navigating websites, and don’t mind repetitive work — search engine evaluation might be perfect for you. I’ve worked on smaller projects for both Appen and iSoftStone. And, honestly, I have nothing bad to say. The work was monotonous but, as promised, was flexible enough to allow me to work around my busy schedule — exactly what I needed!

2. Writing

There are a lot of ways to get started as a writer, even if you have no experience. Perhaps one of the easiest way to get going is to join what’s called a ‘content mill.’

Keep in mind, you don’t have to write for a content mill forever. I like to think of them as paid writing internships — you get to earn money while refining your skills. My favorite content mill is Textbroker because it pays once a week, provides feedback that helps you improve, and gives you a chance to work on higher-paying projects and team assignments. You can even work your way up to an online editing job.

But, I’d also recommend any of these content mills to jumpstart your writing career quickly:

Although I started out writing for content mills, I quickly outgrew them and started freelancing on marketplaces and sourcing my own clients — and that’s where the real money comes in! At my highest, I was earning about $5,000/month writing content for lawyers all while working my own schedule that revolved around raising a little one.

Freelance Writing Training

My blogger buddy, Elna Cain, has the best advice around for launching a freelance writing hustle. In fact, through her e-course, she’ll show you how to make your first $1,000 with your freelance writing side gig. If you’re serious about side hustling as a writer (and hope to go full-time), check it out.

3. Virtual Assistant

Typically, virtual assistant (VA) jobs aren’t that flexible. After all, most VAs help out busy professionals and solopreneurs, so being available during standard business hours is a must. However, there are two notable exceptions.

First up, Fancy Hands. I worked for Fancy Hands for six months. And, I definitely would do it again if I had to. But not all former Fancy Hands Assistants share my neutral point of view.

You’ll find some former VAs, like me, who don’t have anything bad to say. But, there’s others who weren’t so thrilled with their experience as a Fancy Hands VA.

Remember It’s a Side Hustle

Honestly, I think it boils down to how you use Fancy Hands to earn. If you’re hoping it will become a full-time job, you’re going to be disappointed. If you look at Fancy Hands as a super-flexible way to make money 24/7 — then I think you’ll be okay. There’s work almost always available, and you get paid every two weeks. I was able to make a part-time income consistently (between $200-$300/weekly).

The only way to know for sure is to give it a try. There’s no commitment, and you don’t ever have to take a minimum number of tasks per week. You can learn more about the position and get started on your application here.

Another flexible VA company is a company called Time Etc. This isn’t as flexible as Fancy Hands, but it only requires a minimum commitment of 3-4 hours a week. So, if you’d like to give virtual assisting a try, you might want to consider applying at Time Etc — you may be able to bump up your hours, if you like it and they need the extra help.

Virtual Assistant Training

While many of the companies you can contract with as a VA don’t always offer tons of flexibility, starting your own VA side hustle does. But, as a beginner, the thought of starting from scratch might be a little intimidating. Gina Horkey gets that. In her 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Course, she shows you how to build a scalable virtual assistant side hustle when you have no idea where to start.

4. Phone Mystery Shopping

Of all the flexible gigs I’ve held over the years in order to cobble together a living, phone mystery shopping was probably the most interesting.

The concept is super simple: You place a call to a business, ask some questions, document your experience and, bam, quick cash. I did shops with Perception Strategies. These were all medical-related. For example, I’d have to call a hospital under the premise I was bringing a friend in for a procedure in a few days. I’d have certain questions to ask like:

  • “Where should I park?”
  • “How long should we expect to be there?”
  • “Do we need to bring anything in particular?”

And, while on the phone, I’d have to take notes about everything right down to the number of rings before someone answered and how long I was on hold, the names of people I spoke with, and even their tone.

At first, I was really into this gig. Each ‘shop’ would pay near $20 and would take, maybe, 20 minutes to complete — and while there wasn’t a ton of work to go around, I was getting a decent number of assignments each week.

But, I burned out after awhile because, quite frankly, I felt like a jerk calling in and pretending to be someone I wasn’t. And, more often than not, people on the other end of the line were often frustrated with me for calling into the hospital and asking a lot of questions and always pressing them for more answers, even if they said they didn’t know.

If you have a thick skin, you’ll probably find it no problem to keep up with the calls ?

In addition to Perception Strategies (who isn’t always hiring), you should check out:

Phone mystery shopping is flexible, as long as you can make calls during business hours. And, if you have kids in your care or loud neighbors, no problem. These gigs don’t require complete silence.

5. Transcription

A lot of people use transcriptionists — authors, marketers, insurance agencies, doctors — to help put recordings into permanent written documents. It goes without saying transcription is a hugely in-demand service. If you can type fast, have a strong grasp of grammar, and an eye for the written word, you might just make a great typist (and can find plenty of work to keep you busy!).

There are a number of companies that routinely hire transcriptionists to work from home. And, since most of these openings are independent contractor jobs, you get the flexiblity to work when you want. Many times you can even choose how much you work!

Transcription Training

While contracting with a company that hires transcriptionists is an easy way to gain experience, it often comes with a much lower pay rate than if you struck out on your own. If you’re intimidated by how to go about starting a transcription hustle from scratch, you can’t go wrong with a step-by-step ecourse. My two favorite free mini courses include:

Both of the mini courses are offered through Transcribe Anywhere and will give you a good idea if transcribing is right for you, before you jump in!

Side Hustle to Start

If you’re not sure yet what your work from home goals are try side hustling to start. I truly believe everyone should have a side hustle to contribute extra income, stash money for a rainy day or help pay down existing debt. And, when you’re new to the world of work from home, side hustling is a much easier (and less intimidating) way to get started! And these simple side hustles are a great way to try your hand at earning an online income. Once you get comfortable with this new way to work, you can always scale to full-time!

For even more extra money making ideas, don’t forget to check out my list of 101+ ways to earn extra money online!


P.S. This post contains affiliate links. What are they and how do I use them? Read my disclosure statement for more details! 

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About Carol St. Amand

Carol St. Amand

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