According to a recent study, self-employed Americans, of which there are 14.6 million, now account for a whopping 10% of our total workforce of 146 million people.
What’s more is that these entrepreneurs and the employees they hired, make up over 44 million jobs in the US alone. That’s 30% of the entire workforce in America. Small business owners have long been a significant driver of the US economy. Without jobs from growing businesses, we’d no doubt have a higher rate of unemployment, and stagnant economic development.
Through my research, I’ve met and interviewed dozens of established business owners, to try and land on the exact ingredients it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. One thing I’ve found in common with many of them? They launched their first businesses on the side, while still keeping their day jobs.
Aside from the obvious benefits of not immediately losing your steady income, starting a business while keeping your day job can afford you many more luxuries. It gives you adequate time to validate your business idea without risking everything, you won’t immediately be under a significant amount of stress, and it’ll teach you an incredible amount of discipline.
It can be difficult to land on that perfect business idea, so here are 15 real businesses you can start while keeping your day job.
I can personally attest to the fact that web developers are in very high demand today, especially contract developers. Within my own online business, I have a regular need for talented web developers to help integrate new features, upgrade functionalities, and fix bugs.
Online education platforms like CreativeLive, Treehouse, and CodeAcademy are great places to start with picking up the essential skills to becoming a web developer.
In today’s competitive marketplace, both tech startups and recognizable brands, have the need to differentiate themselves by creating flawless, great experiences for their users. That’s where web designers come in.
If you can create an experience for a website or app, that leads to increased engagement, a higher purchase rate, or a bump in sign up rates, then your services will be in high demand.
General Assembly and Skillcrush both have incredible online programs that can quickly teach you the essentials of web design, and provide you with a foundation for launching your own web design business around your hours at the day job.
Online Course Educator
If you’re proficient in your field, an expert with a specific tool or topic, I can guarantee that there’s an online audience that’d be willing to pay for access to your expertise.
If spending a few hundred dollars on an online course translates into accelerating their learning curve in a lucrative industry or brings them closer to launching their own business, that investment pales in comparison to how much time it can take teaching yourself a new skill.
There’s even a free online course from Teachable, for deciding on your profitable course idea, and it gives you a framework to having a successful launch to your new online course business.
If you’ve got a knack for writing, and have the ability to build a rapport for yourself within a specific industry, then launching a blog could be a great side business for you. Once you have a regular audience of readers, you’ll have countless options on how to monetize your site with advertisement, your own eBooks, online courses, sponsored content, and personalized consulting services.
Whatever you do, just make sure the content you’re creating for your audience is actually useful to them. That’s the only way you’ll be able to build a meaningful relationship and hope to eventually monetize your audience.
Pro tip: Choose a well-established niche topic to regularly create content about, and you’ll have a much easier time building your reputation and growing the size of your audience.
There are literally thousands of jobs available for freelance graphic designers online, right now. From sites like Upwork to Bahance, if you have the skills to create high-quality design work, you’ll be able to find gigs. Start with this list of 71 websites with the best freelance jobs.
Even if you’re lacking a trained background in graphic design, with the emergence of increasingly easy-to-use tools like Canva, Visme, and even a more intuitive Adobe Creative Suite, it’s possible to teach yourself the foundations of graphic design in time with relative ease.
Similar to launching an online course business, taking your domain expertise and packaging them into an aesthetically appealing, downloadable eBook series, can make for a great business model. For one, it’s a source of passive income that requires little effort from you, once it’s polished off and live on your site.
If you make a conscious effort to structure a curriculum for your readers to follow, that delivers value to those seeking to learn a new skill, move up in their jobs, or learn specific tools, a reasonably priced eBook can make be super successful with the right target audience.
Starting a podcast and building your authority within your specific niche is a great way to grow a personal audience of listeners who regularly engage with your content. Since Apple’s podcast store has a built-in audience and ranking system, if you can launch your podcast with a high volume of listens, you’ll rise to the top of the rankings and gain a huge amount of exposure.
Once you have a regular audience (ideally in the thousands), you’ll start to develop a lot of value to potential advertisers. If your podcast frequently talks about life as an outdoor photographer, it’d be a very natural fit to reach out to relevant magazines, gear companies, and camera brands, to see if they’d be interested in advertising on your podcast of targeted listeners. The more niche your podcast topic, the better – for future sponsorship opportunities.
Etsy Store Owner
Etsy has quickly become a powerful marketplace for buying and selling handmade goods. With over 54 million members and a robust backend system for optimizing your product listings, running internal advertisements, and getting organic exposure for your great products, Etsy is the best place to test out the validity of a new product business.
If the products you’re thinking of making are handmade by nature and appeal more to women, you’ll have a much better chance of success on the Etsy platform. A whopping 86% of Etsy sellers are women, and a similar figure is true of the average shopper as well.
Remote English Teacher
It may seem an unlikely career, but taking your command of your native language and offering up personalized instruction to those seeking to learn english in other countries, can be quite lucrative. Not surprisingly, it can also open up doors for you to travel the world, and take more in-depth gigs once you’re ready to make the leap to self-employment.
If you’re going to take this opportunity, I recommend getting full ESL accreditation. Start exploring Indeed and Learn4Good, you’ll quickly see that there are people in Hong Kong, UAE, and elsewhere who are willing to pay more than $25/hr for personalized English lessons over Skype.
If you did well on standardized tests while you were going through high school, then offering your expertise to eager parents looking to quickly prepare their children, can be a great side business.
I remember friends in college making well over $60/hr for their SAT and ACT tutoring services. Parents very quickly see the value in test prep tutoring, since you’re upping their kid’s chances of getting into a better college or university. Check out this checklist for launching your own SAT tutoring business.
To charge even higher rates, broaden your own standardized testing knowledge beyond just the SAT and ACT, and get into even more specialized fields. GMAT and GRE tutors can command exorbitant hourly rates, since they have such specialized knowledge.
If you’re well-traveled or live in an area with a high volume of tourists, offering your travel consulting services can be an awesome side business. Plansify recently launched a great platform for experienced travelers to connect with people looking for advice and recommendations on places to go while they’re abroad.
If you own a DSLR camera, or have access to affordably renting one, charging friends and local professionals for great new headshots can be a very effective side business. Many successful photographers started out by shooting on the side and building up their portfolio of work, establishing a local reputation, and have been able to launch into their own full on photography business.
This men’s portrait photography class will give you an excellent foundation for techniques, finding your style, and bringing in new clients for your business.
With the introduction of easy-to-use app development software that requires zero coding, building and selling an app has become a relatively easy business to get into. Don’t be fooled into thinking any old app will be an instant success, just because you think the idea’s great. There’s an art and a science to building engaging apps.
To make things even easier, there are tons of templates available for making apps and there are tons of ways to monetize your free app with in-app purchases, external sponsorships, and advertisements.
Not only can you start sourcing freelance writing gigs on the side from sites like Upwork, Cloudpeeps, and Flexjobs while holding onto your day job, but once you’ve built up your client base enough, it’s a business you’ll be able to run remotely from anywhere around the world. All you need is a laptop, internet connection, and solid list of regular employers.
Getting your first set of clients can be a challenge, but once you build up your freelance portfolio and perfect your style of pitching, you’ll be well on your way to breaking out into your own self-employed writing career.
Personal Fitness Trainer
Love working out and staying physically fit? Turn your passion into a side business and help others get into great shape by using your techniques. This is one of the most physically and financially rewarding career paths, once you build up a reputation and client base for your business.
The American Fitness Pros put together a great piece, offering up tips to creating a sustainable personal training business.