If you've ever tried to make a dollar out of 15 cents, you know that it takes grit and grind to generate income. These days, online classes, coaching certifications, and virtual programs promise you can start a side hustle and end up reeling in the dough—after you enroll and commit to a sizable investment for their course, that is. But if you had that money to begin with, would you even need the training? No. You'd just start that business you've been dreaming of, or open that brokerage account everyone's been talking about.
Trying to make enough money so you can start a side hustle, so you can…make enough money? It can be a vicious and discouraging cycle. But you can break it now by starting a side gig that requires precisely zero start-up funds. Check out these five simple avenues to becoming a successful entrepreneur—with no money down.
Become a Bookseller
What house doesn't have a few books lying around? Books are beloved, but they take up space and collect dust if they're not regularly and repeatedly put to good use. Instead, trade in those paperbacks for greenbacks. List your items on book-flipping sites such as Book Scouter and Amazon, both of which allow anyone to add books by ISBN and create a "storefront" to find the right buyer.
Sites like Decluttr also offload old tech equipment, DVDs and Blu-ray players, game consoles, and even Legos. Once you're done with what you can find in your house, get others to donate to your cause. Build inventory and income by owning a virtual store for pre-loved goods.
Pet Sit, House Sit, or Babysit
You thought selling books was old-school? Wait until you consider this idea. You can make hefty stacks of cash doing what you may have done before for free—sitting for the neighbors. While it might sound glamorous to house-sit for a stranger halfway around the world with sites like trustedhousesitters.com or nomador.com, few of those jobs pay. They're considered a mutual exchange (they get the care, you get the glam house for awhile), which is great when you already have some green. But local is the way to go if you want to make a few bucks. Try neighbors, friends, and colleagues who might be willing to pay for the peace of mind that someone will be around if the sink springs a leak.
Pet-sitting and babysitting, on the other hand, are generally assumed to be paid endeavors. Offer to undercut the local kennel at a price that's mutually agreeable for you and the pet owner—or sign up for Rover jobs within a five-mile radius. Plus, parents are always eager to find convenient childcare options just in case commitments pop up at the last minute. Bill yourself as the neighborhood helper, always available to pitch in when plans change. That strategy will likely earn a lengthy list of trusted clients (and maybe even enviable holiday bonuses).
Create a WordPress Site
Many freelance writers, translators, transcribers, and editors only need their current computer and a touch of creativity to turn their bright ideas into cash. Fiverr and Incluzion are project portal sites that attract business for a percentage of the payment price. Consumers flock to such sites for talent, which means there can be stiff competition from seasoned veterans in your field. So instead, build an online resume using a free Wordpress site. Simply claim your name and showcase your talent.
Be sure to embed a "contact us" page, where future clients can reach out directly to submit their scope of work. How do clients find you in the first place? Be sure to include this WordPress site in your signature on every email; put it on your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, too. Apply for gigs and list them as part of your portfolio. Essentially, tell anyone and everyone within earshot that you're open for business. When you book clients on your own, there will be no splitting commissions with a middleman. Only after you've received a few hundred dollars, should you consider upgrading your site with any preferred bells and whistles.
Become an Influencer
You don't have to do makeup tutorials on TikTok to make a living. Instead, there are a few brand ambassador sites that allow you to be your authentic self and to market products you care about to people already in your circle of trust. If you're relatively well established on social, AspireIQ might be a perfect fit. To qualify, you'll need at least 500 average likes per post, 3,000 followers, and at least 50 total posts on Instagram; on TikTok, you'll need 1,000 followers; on YouTube, it's 2,500 average views. And if Pinterest is your poison, the minimum threshold is 10,000 monthly viewers or 2,500 followers.
Alternatively, try Mavrck's Influencer Index to be paired with like-minded brands that align with your style. Otherwise, get in touch with the marketing team behind the small businesses or indie brands that you already follow. Ask if they would like to partner on product placement or promotional videos. To keep this launch securely priced at "free," watch out for offers that ask you to pay shipping and handling or a reimbursable fee. Only agree to deals if the company will send merch without you chipping in a dime.
Design and Drop-Ship
Print-on-demand is the best thing that ever happened to side hustlers. Using a site like Printful, anyone can design a uniquely customized product, which can range from a T-shirt with interesting lettering to a mug with your original artwork. The site offers mockup photos you can use on your existing Instagram or Facebook account to drum up some buzz.
People link their print-on-demand storefront to a Shopify, Wix, or WordPress landing page that might use free plugins like WooCommerce to give your page a polished look and feel. Even better, you'll never have to print a packing label, since the orders made on your site go directly to the vendor, who prints and ships these pieces straight to the customer after payment has been made. There is virtually no way to lose money with a plan like this and, thankfully, you don't need any to start.