12 Side Hustles You Can Start On a Budget

female small business owner standing in her coffee shop with arms crossed
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Starting your own business is a dream many people share. However, actually being able to do so often seems impossible due to the perceived costs. What you might not know is there are several businesses you can start on a budget.

And today, we’re going to discuss 12 of them in-depth.

1. Affiliate Marketing

You know when you load an online article and there’s a disclaimer (usually at the top) saying it includes affiliate links? This is how you know a website engages in affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing can be an incredibly low cost way to earn money. All you need to get started is an online platform with a good amount of visitors/viewers and an affiliate agreement.

These two requirements go hand-in-hand, as almost all affiliate partnerships require proof of steady traffic. This means you do need to invest time and effort into building a following before you can start raking in cash through affiliate marketing.

For affiliate marketing via blogs and websites, your only expenses are generally website hosting and internet – making it a great business to start on a budget.

2. App Development

In early 2018, over 6,100 new apps were released every day on average. By early 2019, more than 2.6 million apps were in circulation. And 2019 saw 204 billion app downloads worldwide.

The point is: there’s money to be made in app development.

There are a couple ways to go about becoming an app developer, but they generally all start with learning how to code. Then there’s the question of how you want to monetize that skill.

Most people will choose a free app over a paid one. And most people will stop using apps that throw loads of ads at them.

So what you should do is invest some time into becoming an app developer (there are free ways to do so) and start marketing yourself as one. This way, you can charge others to build their apps for them!

3. Bookkeeping

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If you have a good head for numbers and want to work from home, consider offering bookkeeping services.

To do so, you won’t need to become a Certified Public Accountant – though of course, if you already are one, it certainly won’t hurt!

So long as you’re good with numbers and have some knowledge of financial aspects, you can easily use free bookkeeping tools to keep costs down. Freelancer platforms like Upwork and Fiverr will help you find your first few clients until you’re ready to start your own website and market yourself.

4. Content Writer

One of the most versatile business models out there is content writing.

Another way to describe content writing is SEO content writing, though the term you’re probably most familiar with is blog writing. There is a slight difference though – and it’s all in how you make your money.

A lot of blog writing involves working on your own blog. To generate an income, you need to attract a lot of site visitors and enter affiliate partnerships, add a drop shipping e-commerce section to your site, or use platforms like Medium to host your blog.

Content writers, on the other hand, do all of this and more: they write blog and website content for others. This can involve paid guest blogging and/or ghostwriting (where you provide the content, but the site owner gets the writing credit).

However you go about starting your own freelance content writing business, you need to do some serious marketing to attract clients.

5. Copywriter

Copywriting isn’t exactly easy, but it isn’t impossible either. In fact, we’ve got a Beginner’s Guide to Copywriting for Fun & Profit that shows just how easy it can be!

But while the formula is simple and it’s easy to find copywriting resources online, there’s one thing that can’t really be taught: a flair for words. To be sure, copywriting is nothing more than advertising – but writing compelling copy is more complicated than simply shifting words around to fit the formula.

However, if you’re able to master the basics and continue to improve, copywriting is easily the most lucrative industry for writers. Copywriters with a proven track record can easily charge 3x as much as SEO content writers do!

With that said, poor copy quality can also quickly sink your copywriting business. The industry is all about reputation, so you need to invest time (and possibly money) into marketing your services. Just as important, you might also need to invest money into learning more than the basics of copywriting.

6. Cybersecurity Consultant

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Everyone should be taking cybersecurity seriously. Not many possess the necessary knowledge to do so, however.

This is where you (potentially) come in.

You stand a better chance of being successful if you invest time and money into earning some of the in-demand cybersecurity certifications. However, if you can prove you have experience in the field (perhaps by taking over your current employer’s cybersecurity), then some companies will be willing to hire you.

This will start as a slow trickle of income, but once you have 3 years of experience – which you can easily develop part-time – you can start earning a lot more, even without those certifications.

7. Drop Shipping

Thinking of selling stuff online, but don’t have the capital to buy stock?

Drop shipping has become a very popular workaround. If you’ve ever bought anything off a site like Wish.com, then you’ve already interacted with drop shipping!

In a way, it’s similar to affiliate marketing, except instead of providing a link in your blog post or website article, you set up an e-commerce store.

You then contact suppliers such as AliExpress to enter a drop shipping agreement. When your visitors purchase something off your site, your drop shipping supplier is the one who receives the order and sends the product to your client on your behalf.

This does require a fair bit of marketing, of course. You’ll want to pay attention to things like SEO and PPC, as well as social media marketing, in order to attract clients.

8. Editorial Services

If you have a gift for words but don’t fancy becoming an SEO content writer or copywriter, you might consider offering your services as a freelance editor. This isn’t to say you can’t do both, of course – many freelance writers supplement their income through editing!

The requirements are mostly the same: a stable internet connection, solid marketing, and a command of the English language.

What sets editors even further apart from copywriters is the endless possibilities for finding clients. SEO content writers can easily switch niches – and so can editors.

You could do editing in any specific topic (such as Medicine or Law, for example) or in all of them. Similarly, you could offer your services to authors, newspapers and magazines, website owners, or even other freelance writers!

A good way to start gathering testimonials is to find clients on Upwork and/or Fiverr before setting up your own website and using professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to find higher-paying clients.

9. Graphic Designer

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Graphic designers are always in demand. Even though there are a host of ways for companies to create graphics for free, these are very limited and don’t generally result in the kind of branding quality major companies enjoy.

This is why, if you have a good eye for visual elements, it’s worth starting your own graphic design business.

While it’s better to use design tools like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, you don’t need to start sweating about the software’s license fees. Don’t resort to crappy pirated versions either though – simply start off using a reliable tool like GIMP, which is free to download.

It’s also worth spending time researching graphic design online and tinkering around with platforms like Canva. This will give you a good idea of how to get started and some of the basic design possibilities.

10. Interior Decorator/Designer

Everyone – from homeowners and renters to small businesses and commercial companies – wants their space to reflect their personalities and values. But not everyone knows how to do so in a cohesive fashion.

This is where interior decorators and interior designers come in. There’s a slight difference between the two, though.

Interior decorators do not need any formal education. As long as you have an eye for color schemes, fabrics, and textiles, and you’re willing to research different trends, you can easily start offering your services as an interior decorator right away.

On the other hand, interior designers typically need a relevant Associate or Bachelor’s degree before they can even think about designing their business cards.

Other than that, the two businesses are almost identical. An interior decorator can get away with knowing less, but both need to be people persons and have an innate talent for pulling a room – or even a home/office – together.

You will need to spend time putting together a portfolio and getting references before you can start making any real money. It’s usually a good idea to get a day job to pay the bills until then!

11. Personal/Virtual Assistant

It might not sound glamorous, but being a personal or virtual assistant can result in a very respectable income.

Virtual assistants, while having more freedom than personal assistants, share many of the same responsibilities. As a general rule, you can expect to be answering emails, booking meetings, and managing your client’s schedules for them. Not all virtual assistants handle phone calls, but if you find a single client paying enough to warrant spending all your time assisting them alone, you could choose to do so.

The easiest way to find clients is through online freelancer platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork. However, don’t forget the power of marketing yourself elsewhere online – you can easily find higher-paying clients this way.

12. Tester/Reviewer

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Entrepreneurs and start-up companies tend to be even more eager than bigger, more established companies in looking for people to test and review their products. Sometimes the same can be said for services, though this is less common.

This creates ample opportunity to make money by offering your opinion.

It’s also really easy to get started – all you need is a profile on one of the many freelancer platforms available. LinkedIn is another great way to go about making contacts with other entrepreneurs, though you’ll want to build a rapport with them before asking for paid work.

Another option is to use a tool like the eGrabber eMail-Prospector Pro. This allows you to find the correct email addresses for decision-makers. However, you’ll only get 50 emails for free before needing to pay for a license, which costs $1,195/year.

However you go about contacting entrepreneurs and start-ups, make your sales pitch and see if they’ll hire you as a reviewer! This is typically easier if you’re willing to become an influencer on social media and/or have your own blog.


While there are many other possible businesses you can start on a budget, we tried to highlight those with the best opportunities for growth. Especially if the learning curve isn’t too steep!

You’ll also notice we mostly focused on businesses you can run from home. This is to help you keep costs low and get started as soon as possible.

Good luck!

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Mandee is a talented copywriter, web designer, and all around digital guru. She has lived all over the world and is currently an American expatriate in Eastern Europe.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel Dan on July 17, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Nice read, thanks!

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