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Is your cash flow a little lower than you would like? A side hustle can help supplement your income and give you a bigger financial buffer—and they’re a lot more common than you’d think. Numerous surveys from within the past year say anywhere between 45% and 55% of Americans have a side hustle to supplement their main sources of income.

That said, starting a side hustle can feel intimidating when you’re already struggling financially. After all, you don’t want to spend your remaining cash reserves starting up a business that’s not guaranteed to succeed. A “spend money to make money” situation doesn’t work if you don’t have money to spend.

Fortunately, many side hustles are cheap—or even free—to begin. 

Let’s go over some of the top side hustles that have little to no startup costs. These gigs can get you earning money quickly, plus most of them also let you choose your own hours and set your own rates.


Low-Cost Side Hustles

best side hustles teens online marketplace laptop

We’ve all heard stories of successful business people who proclaim to have started from nothing and turned a side hustle into a thriving business. But in many cases, their side gigs required a lot of money to get started.

I’m not promising these side hustles will ever make you filthy rich. But you can start the following jobs without much money.

If you’re looking for a way to earn some extra cash in your free time, check out these gigs that have a low barrier to entry.

1. Rideshare Driver

self employed driver

Ridesharing work has increased “nearly continuously” since May 2020, according to Bank of America data. Currently, the number of Bank of America customers who earn income from rideshare platforms is up more than 260% since the pandemic low. 

While being a rideshare driver is most popular among Gen X and Millennials, a licensed adult of any age can tackle this side hustle. 

Rideshare drivers get to choose the number of hours they work and when to take rides. It’s a great fit for someone familiar with their city who wants a highly flexible gig.

You usually just need to have an eligible 4-door vehicle, proof of residency, and vehicle insurance.

Uber and Lyft are the two big names for ridesharing services in the United States. Startup costs are minimal—assuming you already have an eligible four-door vehicle and auto insurance. (Proof of residency is typically required, too.) Some people simply need to fill up their gas tanks, and they’re good to go. However, depending on where you live and which service you drive for, you might need to get your car inspected (less than $40). Some cities may have additional requirements.

Just understand that while startup costs might be low, you will need to tackle ongoing expenses. In addition to consuming more fuel, all that extra driving will cause more vehicle wear and tear, so drivers can expect to need basic maintenance and repairs more often.

2. Sell Digital Etsy Products

summer teen home business

Popular online marketplace Etsy is best known as a place to find original items. Often, these are handmade objects that require skill, time, and potentially expensive materials to create. 

But not everything on Etsy is physical items. You can sell digital products too, such as E-printables.

You don’t even need to be all that tech savvy to get started, either. Gold City Ventures  offers a course a few times a year that can teach you exactly what to do. Unsure if this gig is a good fit for you? You can check out this free E-printables Ebook to learn more.

The best aspect of this side hustle is that after you set up your online store and add your E-printables, you earn a passive income every time they sell. Who doesn’t like to potentially earn money while they sleep?


3. Translator

landlord laptop property management software

Being multilingual certainly can make life easier in other countries and even some parts of the U.S., but many people don’t realize it’s also a highly marketable skill.

Translators help businesses tape a broader audience and make the most of a global economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the 2023 median pay for interpreters and translators was $27.45 per hour. And despite worries that digital translators are coming for these roles, translator jobs are still expected to grow, albeit by a modest 4%, between 2022 and 2032.

Freelance translation work rarely requires startup costs, though you might need to provide proof of language coursework completed to show proficiency. Some employers might also have you complete a translation test, which takes time but requires no money.

That said, money can help out in one particular way: Completing a translation certification, such as the one offered by the American Translators Association (ATA), can help you stand out. The exam registration fee for ATA certification exams is $525.

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4. Transcriptionist

stock picking service woman laptop computer

Audio files sometimes need to be transcribed into easily-readable text. Researchers may need a shortcut to listening to endless audio files or captions may be needed for videos.

While there is software that can take audio and turn it into text, it still isn’t perfect. As a result, humans still handle some transcription work.

Back in college, I landed a transcription gig by a friend’s referral, and I spent nothing to get started. To get hired, you might have to complete a sample transcription, which requires strong listening skills and attention to detail.

Ironically, transcription jobs often require you to download transcription software, but there are some free options, such as Audacity or oTranscribe. If you live in a noisy environment, you might also want to invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. 

While you might face some set deadlines, you can largely set your own schedule in this line of work..

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5. Online English Teacher

best jobs 15 year olds customer service headset teen

In a similar vein, there are myriad opportunities to teach English online, whether you prefer teaching children or adults.

Some programs, such as VIPKID, require a bachelor’s degree and prefer to hire people with teaching experience. However, other websites, such as Cambly, don’t require any type of degree or experience. 

A long time ago, I worked with Cambly and found it very simple. There was no cost to get started. I logged in and was matched with random people who wanted to improve their English. Occasionally, it was a student who wanted some help with their homework, but usually, it was a person who just wanted to practice through conversation. 

I’ll point out that while Cambly doesn’t require a degree or experience, I do have a teaching degree, which might have helped me enter the program quicker than people without one. Also: Cambly is currently limiting the number of new tutors it’s adding to its program, but that’s OK—it’s just one of many such platforms.

Teaching English online allows you to create your own schedule. However, keep in mind that most of the people wanting your services might be in a very different time zone, so you might need to work late at night or early in the morning. The number of hours you work is up to you, and you can work anywhere with a stable internet connection.

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6. Dog Walker or Pet Sitter

dog walking pet sitting senior retiree

A lot of popular side hustles involve sitting in front of a computer screen or being stuck in a car, but not dog walking

Dog walking is an excellent way to enjoy some sunshine and get some exercise while making some extra cash. Rover and Wag! are two of the most popular dog walking apps, but options vary by city, so it’s important to see what’s available in your area. You typically don’t need to pay to join these apps; instead, they simply take a cut of your profits. To get approved, you usually need to pass a pet care quiz and background check. 

You can also be a pet sitter, which may involve feeding pets, playing with them, and giving them extra attention.

You don’t need to use an app to start dog walking or pet sitting, either. You can have friends spread the word that you’re interested in pet care, or post about your services on Facebook, Craigslist, and local neighborhood groups.

7. Food Delivery Driver

side hustle uber lyft food delivery driver

While food delivery has been around for decades, the practice was rapidly stepped up during the pandemic, leading to a proliferation of food delivery services. But even with lockdowns well in the rear-view mirror, many Americans don’t want to wean themselves off of the convenience. 

Based on Bloomberg Second Measure consumer transaction data analytics, in April 2020, combined observed sales for major meal delivery services spiked by 162% year-over-year. While growth has moderated since then, it has still continued with little interruption; observed sales for those services were up another 8% year-over-year in March 2024.

DoorDash owns the biggest share by far, at 67% of observed U.S. meal delivery sales, followed by Uber Eats (23%), but the popularity of different food delivery apps varies by city. 

You can get started driving for DoorDash in any city with just a car, driver’s license (with a clean record), and insurance. In some places, you don’t even need a car! Some food deliverers transport themselves and the food on a bike or e-bike, motorcycle, or scooter—making the barrier to entry lower, in some places, than driving for rideshare services.

Third-party food delivery apps let you create your own schedule, and in addition to your regular payment, you receive tips.

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8. Virtual Assistant

young man checking laptop cafe

Small tasks like responding to emails, scheduling appointments, and entering data add up. That’s why a lot of busy professionals hire a virtual assistant to handle those time-consuming responsibilities. 

Virtual assistant jobs can be full-time or part-time positions; the latter make for excellent side hustles. There are no startup costs, assuming you already have a working computer and reliable internet service.

VA jobs are attractive because you can typically work from anywhere with stable internet. Depending on the position, you might get to set your own hours, though you might need to be available during certain time frames. Also, this type of work looks great on a resume; previous work as a virtual assistant can help you earn an executive assistant role or similar work in the future.

But you might not want to believe what you’ve heard on TikTok, where people claim to have made $10,000 a month as a VA. Those numbers simply aren’t realistic. Based on ZipRecruiter data, the average hourly rate for a virtual assistant in the U.S. was around $24.50 per hour.

9. Social Media Management

best side hustles teens social media manager phone emojis

Businesses both large and small increasingly need to have some sort of social media presence. Sprout Social’s 2023 State of Social Media Report states that 80% of business leaders think their business’s social media budget will rise in the next three years, while 44% believe their social budget will jump by more than 50%.

A part-time social media management role can be a wonderful opportunity to people who excel at using social media. There are no must-have costs to get started. Software needs are minimal; you might need image-editing tools, but many free options are available (including some directly built into social platforms).

From an experience perspective, you might be able to land work with a small business by merely showing off your personal social profiles. But larger companies will probably want to see previous experience handling a professional account. (If you have no professional experience, consider reaching out to a local nonprofit organization to offer your assistance and build your resume.)

This gig can be done on your own schedule, from anywhere with the internet, and it allows you to be creative with your work.

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10. Teach Your Hobbies to Others

fading things dslr camera photography

Do you know how to play an instrument? Have you won several chess tournaments? If you excel at a hobby, you can help others improve their skills as a side hustle. 

Let’s take music lessons as an example. You don’t need to be a world-class musician to start teaching others the basics, and while music lessons are typically better given in person, you can do some teaching online.

You don’t need much to get started. You might need to print off some beginner sheet music; that’s not always free, but you can find free scores available online. A metronome or metronome app may also be useful. Depending on the instrument, a tuner can come in handy. 

A few perks of this side gig include the ability to set your own rate, choose your availability, and the satisfaction of seeing your pupils progress. Plus, you get to share your passion with others. Just be sure to have a policy in place for cancellations.


Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper has been a professional writer since 2016 and has worked with WealthUp (formerly Young & the Invested) since 2019.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, she was still immersed in words through previous roles as a library specialist and teacher. Her background in education helps her take complex topics and turn them into easy-to-understand text.

Hannah holds a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. When she isn’t writing, Hannah is usually found playing with her niece and nephew, traveling, or brewing more coffee.