11 Creative Side Hustles That Make Real Money
Our annual Friendsgiving celebration has been put on pause this year, but one tradition lives on.
This is year 3 of a special Thanksgiving Side Hustle Show episode showcasing creative side hustle ideas that make real money.
If you like this format, I’d love for you to check out the first two in this series — those are episodes 310 and 363 — both are in the Top 10 all-time most popular episodes.
Ready? Let’s do it!
1. Piano Tuning
Josh Kemp explained that piano tuning, in his opinion, is one of the best ways to make extra money. He said:
- there’s almost no competition
- you can tune a piano by downloading an app
- you don’t need to know how to play the piano
Josh said he first thought of the idea after hiring a piano tuner on Craigslist for $135 to come and tune his piano. The guy didn’t even turn up, which made Josh wonder how much work must be out there if the guy won’t even show up for $135.
As a serial side hustler and someone who likes to learn new things, Josh told me he said to himself, “I’m going to learn how to do this, just because I want to try and I like learning new things.”
Josh bought a $750 online course to learn how to tune a piano. He said that course ended up being “horrendous,” but it gave him a starting point to figure out how to tune a piano.
To figure out how much to charge, Josh put an ad up on Thumbtack requesting people to make offers to tune his piano. The lowest bid he received was $70, and the highest was $160.
Josh said he decided to go with a lower price point of $80 as he was new to piano tuning.
Marketing the Piano Tuning Service
To get his first tuning gigs, Josh put up some free ads on Facebook marketplace, the Nextdoor app, and Craigslist. He ended up getting 17 piano tunings in that first month and made $1,500.
Over the next few months, Josh reduced the number of tunings he was doing. He has a number of other projects on the go and only has so much time to do them.
He said he started to increase his fee as he did more tunings and made about $8,000 in total.
To Get Started Yourself
If you want to get started tuning pianos, equipment-wise Josh said all you need is a tuning hammer, which costs around $50, and the tuning app which is about $300.
To save you going through a horrendous course as he did, Josh has put together a free course taking you through everything you need to know about how to tune a piano.
2. Virtual Babysitting
If you have kids in need of entertainment, you can book a virtual babysitter session with a wide variety of professional entertainers at VirtualBabysittersclub.com.
Admittedly, you can’t just open up the zoom call and leave your house for a date night, but these interactive video calls do aim to provide a little relief for parents — and a side hustle opportunity for those who’ve had income hit by the pandemic.
This service was created by actress/singer/dancer Kristina Hanford and her partner Kyle Reilly.
Kyle told Business Insider:
Kristina was having so much fun Facetiming with the young boy she used to nanny for. And she was helping the parents through the crisis. I said to her, ‘Why not start a virtual babysitters club?’ She thought it was a great idea, and we knew there was no one better suited to handle the job than performers.
Pricing on Virtual Babysitters Club looks like this:
- 1-hour public group sessions are $18 per child
- one-on-one sessions are $30 an hour
- private group sessions are $90 (5+ kids)
Business Insider also added:
Virtual Baby Sitters Club Sessions are led by talented performers with diverse backgrounds from musical theatre to television show hosts, singers, puppeteers, and more. All performers go through a rigorous background check before approval.
I’ve noticed that Sittercity and other childcare services have also added virtual options, with rates in the $10-20/hour range.
If you love kids and can keep their attention through a screen, here’s a new safe socially-distant side hustle for you.
3. Long Ring Finder
Dan Roekle is a professional lost ring finder, who’s helped find $250,000 worth of lost jewelry over the years.
Armed with a metal detector, Dan helps people find their lost rings and other precious jewelry, cell phones, car keys, hearing aids, and even the occasional cache of buried coins in someone’s backyard.
Inspiration from the Beach
He first got the idea to start this business when he was on vacation with his family at Siesta Key Beach in Florida. Dan noticed a guy walking up and down the beach with a metal detector.
He noticed the guy had a gold chain with about a dozen rings on it. Turns out, they were all rings the guy had found on the beach, and he wore them every day hoping to return them to their owners.
Back home, Dan’s son asked if they could get a metal detector. Dan had always wanted one, so it wasn’t a hard sell. He picked up a cheap metal detector and started scanning local parks, schoolyards, and other public areas with his son.
On a good day, they’d find over $1 in change.
Thinking back to the guy on the beach, Dan and his son thought it would be cool to find rings and other valuables and return them to their owners.
Connecting with Customers
Dan looked in the lost and found section of Craigslist and found someone who had lost a ring. They’d misplaced it while taking part in an Ironman race just outside his hometown, so Dan thought he’d try and find it.
After about 20 minutes of looking, Dan found the ring. He returned it to the guy and thought no more of it. A couple of weeks later, he received a nice thank-you note and a check for $200.
Dan used the $200 to buy a better metal detector, and that was the moment he realized he could turn this into a business.
Pricing the Service
Dan now charges a search fee, which ranges from $20-100 depending on how far he has to travel.
He then asks for a discretionary reward when he returns an item. He leaves it up to the person he returns the item to to decide how much they want to pay.
Dan said he’s not making enough to quit his day job, but he’s covering all of his expenses — and making some people very happy when they’re reunited with personal items.
4. Peer to Peer Storage Space
Coach Dom Costa wrote a very nice post for the Side Hustle Nation blog a couple of years ago on storage unit auctions, but what if you actually owned the storage space?
Seems like an interesting way to generate some relatively passive income, right?
That’s where Neighbor.com comes in, which bills itself as “Airbnb for storage.”
The company has been around since 2017 and lets you monetize the extra space in your garage, attic, basement, etc. by renting it to other people who need to store their stuff.
Top “hosts” are earning $1000+ a month, but most of the nearby listings I found were in the $20-200/mo range, depending on how much space was for rent.
5. Camper Van Rentals
For a while now, companies like Turo and GetAround have been letting you basically start your own peer-to-peer car rental service. However, with air travel a shadow of its former self thanks to Covid, the car rental business has been decimated as well.
The one exception? Camper vans and RVs.
Keith Leimbach from Dincpie.com sent me a note about renting out his Sprinter van this summer. These things can cost north of $100,000 to buy new, but they’re renting for $200 a night or more.
(Getting a used one may be an option, if you can find one, and upgrading it to make it camping-ready.)
Let’s say you have 50% occupancy … $200 a night x 15 nights a month is $3000 a month, or $36k a year.
If you could finance a used one, turn it into a #vanlife camper, you could still clear $2000 a month.
Compared to traditional rental real estate, this one pencils out with much higher ROIs. To be fair, there’s some depreciation to take into consideration, and obviously insurance.
(Although, if you rent through a platform like Outdoorsy, which Keith recommended, or RVShare.com, they’ll handle the insurance for you.)
6. Dumpster Diving
As you know, I think the Flea Market Flipping side hustle of buying low and selling high is one of the fastest ways to multiply money.
Suggested Playlist: Flipping Profits
Buying low and selling high is the fastest way to multiply money. Here’s how to get it done.
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But what if instead of “buying low,” you got your inventory for free?
Tiffany Butler is known as Dumpster Diving Mama on TikTok and Instagram. She told Yahoo News she made around $30,000 in 2018 just selling her dumpster finds.
Examples of treasures she’s found in the trash include:
- A $3000 armoire
- Brand new unopened makeup
- A Michael Kors handbag
- Hundreds of pounds of unopened bags of pet food
The mom of 4 from Texas uses platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Mercari, and Poshmark to resell the items that have value.
As far as strategy, I’d think the dumpsters behind higher-end stores in more affluent neighborhoods would probably be your best bet, but Tiffany stressed consistency is key: “I just go every day and it’s a hit or miss,” she said. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s part of the fun!”
Be sure to follow along @dumpsterdivingmama and DumpsterDivingMama.com for more.
7. Parking Lot Striping
Dan Zurcher is the owner of AmericanStriping.com and has been striping streets and parking lots full-time for 28 years.
He does most of his striping jobs alone, earns $165,000 a year, and takes winter off. It’s easy to see why Dan thinks striping is the “all-time best small business startup ever.”
Dan has even written a book about how he started and grew his business: How I Stripe a Parking Lot 28 Years By Myself.
If this is a side hustle that appeals to you, Dan shared some tips on how anyone can get started:
- Start to take notice of the parking lots in your city. Every bank, school, fast food restaurants, coffee shop, grocery store, etc.
- Find a self-standing building with a car park that can fit between 10-30 cars where the owner or decision-maker is inside.
- Approach the owner and explain you have a striping machine and can come back after hours and stripe their car park.
This is exactly how Dan landed his first job. He said you can also call your local school system and ask to be put on their bid list for striping jobs. This is how Dan secured 150 schools along with a bunch of playgrounds and a couple of football fields.
In his first year, Dan earned $4,000 and was able to pay back his mom for the money he borrowed to buy his striping machine. In his second year, he earned $13,000, his third year $30,000 and he quit his job, the fourth and fifth years his revenue doubled, and it’s been going up from there.
8. Lawn Aeration
This creative side hustle comes from Ken Elshoff who shared this story in the Side Hustle Nation Facebook Group.
Ken’s 16-year-old son went door-to-door selling lawn mowing for his summer business last year. But he got of “no’s” … almost every homeowner already had a lawnmower.
Looking for a slight pivot, he started watching YouTube videos on how to run an aerator. Since most homeowners don’t have an aerator, his success rate improved dramatically!
He continued cold calling, only this time with a couple additions:
- A print out showing another local company charging $200 for aeration services. (He priced his service at $175 to undercut “the big guys.”)
- A ziplock baggie of some dirt plugs from his high school field after it was aerated. This was to show the homeowners what they could expect to see laying all over their lawn when he was done.
He ended up with 6 homeowners (within a 4 block radius) agreeing to pay to have their yards aerated.
Ken went with his son to Home Depot and rented an aerator with insurance for 24 hours at the cost of $110.
His son aerated all 6 lawns in about 5 hours. After paying for the rental he cleared $820 for one day’s work. (If you do the math, you’ll notice a couple of customers with smaller yards negotiated him down a bit.)
Still, if a 16-year-old kid can make $820 in one day without any leads, that’s a pretty creative side hustle!
9.B2B Print on Demand
Tammie Chrin is the founder of KDP4b2b.com, and that stands for Kindle Direct Publishing for business to business.
Tammie helps businesses harness the power of Amazon’s print-on-demand service. Primarily by helping businesses create their own branded booklets that will help their business stand out from the competition.
Both KDP and print-on-demand have been around for many years at this point. When Tammie got started with KDP a few years ago, she was excited to start selling low-content books; think journals and notebooks.
However, orders were practically non-existent.
She thought about when she had her own business and how much she would have liked having this service available to her. It would have been a “game-changer” Tammie explained.
Having Amazon’s print-on-demand platform available is what makes this business so easy for anyone to get started in. You can create and purchase books one at a time, make any changes and update the listing whenever you want, and you don’t have to store a stack of booklets
An example of an industry Tammie works with is realtors. She creates booklets that they can essentially use as large business cards and hand them out to customers selling their homes.
She creates a booklet with the realtor’s branding, a checklist inside for homeowners in the process of selling, the realtor’s contact information and bio, etc.
The way Tammie makes money is by charging a $600 setup fee. She then lists the books under her KDP Amazon account and adds a $5 royalty to each booklet being sold.
Tammie, and her husband Rob, have been sharing their KDP for B2B business model for over two years now with great success. If you want to get started doing this yourself, you can find all the information you need at KDP4b2b.com.
10. eBay Brokering
We probably all know someone who has something they’d like to get rid of, but put it off because they don’t want to take pictures, create a listing, or deal with shipping. Let’s face it — eBay can be a pain.
For a fee, the eBay brokering business model takes that pain away. Jamie McGlothlin of Brodjam.com has been doing this for years, and it’s turned into a full-time income.
It all started in 2005 when Jamie decided to sell a few personal belongings on eBay. One of which was an old frame sketching that she’d picked up years prior at a flea market for $35.
It ended up selling under auction for $700. “I was flabbergasted,” Jamie explained.
Her First Customers
The next day, she shared her excitement with some coworkers. One of her coworkers asked if she would be interested in helping them sell some dolls they wanted to get rid of.
Jamie agreed, and under their instructions, she took pictures and listed a dozen or so of these dolls at a starting price of $9.99 under auction. Almost all of the dolls sold for between $100-150 and both Jamie and her coworker were thrilled.
This was the beginning of her side hustle, which eventually became a full-time business.
Her coworker kept giving her more items to sell on a weekly basis, and Jamie started meeting other doll collectors through her online interactions.
More people started asking if she could sell their items on eBay for them. After about a year and a half, Jamie was making enough money to where she felt comfortable quitting her job.
Pricing the Service
Jamie charges a 37% commission, which covers all eBay and merchant fees, photography, listing the items, and shipping the items. Although, the buyers always cover the shipping costs.
Her average annual gross sales amount is around $350,000, and last year was her best year-to-date selling $480,000 worth of items.
Growing the Business
Jamie was very private when she first started her side hustle. She didn’t use social media or any form of online marketing, all her business came from referrals and word-of-mouth.
In fact, her cat Henry was listed as her CEO and featured in her eBay profile picture for a long time. In 2013, Jamie created her website and a Facebook page to make it easier for clients to find her.
She now shares bits and pieces of her story and how she got into this business on her site. The response from her readers has been “surprising and heart-warming,” and she’s happy she decided to start sharing her journey.
So much so that Jamie said she’s finding connecting with her customers more rewarding than growing her business monetarily. She’s putting her spare time into connecting with her customers on a deeper and more personal level and hopes to write a book one day.
Oh, and she’s considering having a doll made in her likeness — one that’ll come with a little Henry the cat.
11. Yard Signs
John Dillon is no stranger to side hustles–he currently has 5 income streams and managing them is his full-time business.
One of his newest side hustles is a yard sign greeting business. His business is called Yard Cards Tupelo, and you can find him on Facebook and at BookYourSign.com .
He helps people celebrate special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and gender reveals by spelling out phrases using letters — usually positioning them in the customer’s front yard.
John got the idea over the summer for this business when he met someone who was already running a yard sign business and doing very well.
So, he asked a lot of questions, did some research, checked out his competition, and decided to pull the trigger. John ordered all of his signs and decorations from Amazon, set up his point of sale with Square, and used Google forms for his order forms.
His total investment to get his business off the ground was less than $1,000.
When his signs arrived, John set up mock events outside empty homes for sale to take some pictures. He started posting them in Facebook groups, and when he started getting traction, he also used Facebook ads.
John charges anywhere between $55-80 for 24-hours rental. He made his investment back within the first 3 weeks, and by the third month, he was averaging $300-400 a week.
His short-term goal is to grow the business to $1,000 a week. Down the road, he’s got his sights set on franchising so he can expand into other cities.
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Big thanks to Josh, Dan, Keith, Dan, Ken, Tammie, Jamie, and John for sharing your stories!