With so many potential side gigs to choose from, the biggest problem most ambitious entrepreneurs face is making the right decision. If you manage a side gig successfully, you’ll be able to improve your skills, make an extra stream of revenue, and hopefully, enjoy yourself while doing it. But not all side gigs have the same potential to provide you with these benefits—and some might even hurt you in the long run.
So how can you decide which side gigs are worth pursuing?
One of the most common reasons for pursuing a side gig is to make extra money, so naturally, one of your most important considerations should be profitability. Most side gigs are inherently profitable, but this isn’t always the case, and the profitability may not be what it first appears.
For example, a common side gig is driving for a service like Uber or Lyft. If you do this, you’ll be able to make a significant amount of money for each ride, plus tips. But once you account for gas, insurance costs, a data plan for your phone, and depreciation on your vehicle, the average driver makes something like $8.55 to $11.77 per hour. Other side gigs may require so much in upfront costs and maintenance that you may end up making no money at all—so do your research before proceeding.
If you’re managing a business or if you have a full-time job already, you’ll need to think carefully about how many hours this side gig will take, and whether you can afford that extra time.
Some side gigs are deceptive in this way. For example, buying a rental property to collect income from tenants seems like a largely hands-off process—a form of passive income. But as a landlord, you’ll have many responsibilities to manage, including collecting rent, responding to complaints, committing repairs, and maintaining the property. With rental property investment, you can hire a property management firm to take care of these responsibilities and make this side gig truly passive—but this isn’t an option for every side gig.
If you start this side gig, how much flexibility will you have? If you’re out of work and you have minimal personal responsibilities, this question may not matter. But if you’re like most people, you’ll want to find a side gig that offers flexible hours; you should be able to work whenever you like, and for as long as you like. Make sure you understand the requirements before you commit to anything.
Potential for Advancement
How much room is there for growth in this area? Some side gigs are essentially “flat” opportunities; there isn’t much room for personal advancement, and there’s an upper ceiling to the income you can earn. But other side gigs have practically unlimited potential for upward growth. This is especially true of entrepreneurial side gigs; if you start your own business, make your own products, and provide your own services, there’s almost no limit to the amount of money you can make or the number of customers you can reach.
Potential for Knowledge and Skills
If you’re interested in becoming a better-rounded person, or if you want to improve your skillset for future career opportunities, you might want to choose a side gig that allows you to gain knowledge, or specific skills. For example, you could pick up a side gig as a freelance programmer to polish your programming knowledge. With enough experience, you could build a company around your own mobile app, or get a job as a full-time developer.
If you’re interested in building your professional network, or if you just love meeting and talking to new people, you might consider the social aspect of your side gig. Some gigs have far more social potential than others. For example, if you’re housesitting or pet sitting, you won’t have much time for personal interaction with new people. But if you’re live streaming with an audience of thousands, there will be no end to the new people you can meet.
Finally, don’t discount the importance of personal enjoyment. Too many people choose a side gig that’s profitable and reliable, despite the fact that they hate doing it. If you genuinely like your side gig, you’ll be much more likely to engage with it more often—and you’ll end up happier and less stressed in the meantime.
If you’re stuck on coming up with ideas for side gigs, consider talking to your friends, family, and colleagues to see if they have any ideas to add to your brainstorming. And whenever you come up with a new idea, give it a try—you rarely know for sure what you’ll enjoy until you try it.