Virtual assistant

Virtual assistant, copywriter and other easy-to-start side businesses

  • Today, online tools make it easy to test the entrepreneurial waters with a side hustle.
  • Insider has compiled a list of the easiest side hustles to start based on low overhead and access.
  • The list includes virtual assistance, freelance, reselling, and teaching online courses.

Today, online tools and platforms make it easy to test the entrepreneurial waters with a side hustle.

The costs of starting a digital business can be as low as the price of internet access, which has encouraged many people to start their own businesses amid the Great Resignation. Some have started selling homemade products on social media platforms like Instagram, while others are using expertise from previous jobs to become freelancers or teach online classes.

“You can become a freelancer so much easier now and have a better line of getting clients than we had before,” Jacqueline Kirtley, a management professor at Wharton, previously told Insider.

But with accessibility also comes greater competition, warned Cynthia Franklin, director of New York University’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship.

“The key word there is hustle and bustle — you have to really hustle,” she said. “You have to be super creative and very smart in how you get noticed.”

Starting a side hustle is fairly inexpensive, which is why Franklin recommends tapping into multiple platforms to generate passive income—that is, income that doesn’t require regular work or upkeep to be maintained. achieved. “Exploit and deepen a particular area,” she said. “Find ways to connect these different tools that make sense so you can dominate your space.”

Insider has compiled a list of the easiest online side businesses to start based on the following criteria:

  • Low overhead — Starting a business in any of these categories requires a small financial investment, such as acquiring a small amount of inventory or paying for a domain name and website hosting.
  • Accessibility — There is little to no red tape, like needing a bank loan or renting a storefront, to set up your business. Instead, you need to download an app, have internet access, or sign up for a monthly subscription that won’t cost much more than streaming Netflix.
  • Remote work — All essential business functions can be performed remotely and do not require a store or office to be effective.
  • Minimum expertise required — Although educational resources are widely available, these categories do not require any additional degrees or certifications to get started.

man smiles in front of a colorful mural of clothes hanging on a rack.  he is wearing a smiley face shirt

Nicholas Waskosky has been selling second-hand clothes on Poshmark since he was 14 years old.

Nicolas Waskosky


1. Sell digital downloads on Etsy

If you’re a skilled artist, graphic designer, or pattern maker, you can earn money by selling your designs as digital downloads on Etsy. A digital download often comes in the form of a PDF, like a wall art you can print at home, instructions for sewing your own dress, or a personalized sticker you can put on a t-shirt. Once you upload a design, customers can buy and download it indefinitely, which means you don’t have to worry about shipping or running out of stock.

“It’s a good way to avoid some of the overhead of shipping and producing physical products,” Franklin said, adding that Etsy businesses have an added challenge to stand out because the platform form is crowded with over 5.2 million sellers. “There are a lot of really interesting and compelling products out there.”

Digital downloads were the right format for Shelby Ashworth, who launched her Etsy shop in 2016. PaperDotInkDesigns sells prints and handwritten models, and last year Ashworth had sales of $2,494, which Insider verified with documentation.

2. Host online courses on Teachable or Skillshare

If you have expertise in a particular subject or industry, you can become an instructor and sell your courses online. Platforms like Teachable and Skillshare offer an assortment of on-demand courses in design, marketing, business, finance, personal development, and more.

“A lot of people have skills that they might not realize would be very attractive to someone else,” Franklin said.

Aubree Malick quit her job as an elementary school teacher in 2018 to become a virtual assistant and now runs online classes to teach others about virtual assistance. Malick generated $105,735 in revenue last year, which Insider verified with documentation.

3. Monetize your blog with affiliate marketing

Domain names are digital real estate, and with a little work, buying one can be a worthwhile investment. Some people also buy blogs with low traffic, revamp them with better SEO, and then resell them for a profit.

Affiliate marketing – a type of advertising that pays a website host to direct visitors to their site – may not reap the benefits immediately, so Franklin recommends it to someone who already has a successful or ongoing business and who wants to generate additional income. “You’re basically selling your followers,” she said.

Graphic designer Morgan Overholt started a travel blog in 2020 and grew traffic to the site so she could monetize it through affiliate marketing. In 2021, his site generated $205,642 in ad revenue, which Insider verified with documentation.

Annalize Abell works from home

Annalize Abell works from home.

Courtesy of Annalisa Abell


4. Be a virtual assistant for other business owners

As more and more people start businesses, the market for virtual assistants has exploded along with it. You can leverage your skills in administrative tasks, content creation, communications, event planning and writing to earn an average of $2,000 to $5,000 per month, according to a American Association of Virtual Assistants report.

“We’re seeing this whole shift to remote work and the appreciation of the ability to have dispersed teams, so virtual assistants are very much in vogue,” Franklin said.

Annalisa Abell helps small businesses with their administrative tasks. She launched her virtual assistant business, High support, in 2019 while working full-time. It posted six-figure revenue last year, which Insider verified with documentation.

5. Resale on Poshmark, Depop, Instagram or Facebook Marketplace

Resale is booming as more sellers pop up across the world to sell second-hand clothes, decorations and accessories. The used market is currently worth $36 billion and is expected to reach $77 billion by 2025, according to a report by a resale company ThredUp.

Franklin advised resellers to pay attention to the fees charged by each platform, as they can vary. For example, Poshmark charges $2.95 for most items, while Depop charges 10% on every sale. “Track your expenses and time very closely to make sure your hustles are actually going to generate what you hope to generate,” she said.

Nicholas Waskosky has been selling clothes and accessories on Poshmark since he was 14 years old and continued to run his side business while attending college. In 2020, he made $34,607 in sales on the app, which Insider verified with documentation.

6. Stream on Twitch, Popshop Live and Instagram

Hosting live streams can make extra money for the time you already spend on a passion or hobby, like practicing an instrument, playing video games, or collecting toys. It can also be an additional source of income if you already have a business and want to increase sales or market your brand.

Franklin suggests that people interested in


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find a niche community. “Identify people who are into something that interests you a lot,” she said.

Miguel Rivera turned his love for collecting FunkoPop figures into a side hustle by broadcasting auctions on live shopping app Whatnot. He earned $40,648 on the app between December 2020 and August 2021, which Insider verified with documentation.

a man with a backwards baseball cap smiles and holds two FunkoPop figures in boxes

Miguel Rivera is the owner of Master Poppins, a company that sells FunkoPops.

Courtesy of Miguel Rivera


7. Freelance on Upwork or Fiverr

If you’ve been working in a particular industry for a while, you can use those skills to do freelance work like writing, marketing, or web design through the work-for-hire platforms Upwork and Fiverr. As more and more people start their own businesses, they will need help with their websites, blogs, ads, and social media campaigns.

Franklin cautioned that it can be difficult to manage client expectations on these platforms, so keep track of how your rates justify the time you spend on each project.

Freelance writer Jaime Hollander got her start on Upwork after working at major media companies for more than a decade. She’s grown her client base, raised her rates, and now runs a six-figure marketing agency.

8. Monetize your art through merchandising and NFTs

Most artists don’t make thousands selling a few expensive items. That’s why offering smaller pieces like prints, t-shirts, and stickers can make up the bulk of regular sales. Meanwhile, some artists have booked serious income by selling their work as NFT.

Although the market is relatively new, NFTs offer artists a bigger payout over the long term, Franklin said. “You get royalties from future sales,” she added. “It’s a brave new world, so while there’s a lot of potential out there, it’s still pretty early days.”

Artist Isaac Pelayo sold 50 paintings in 2020 and made more than six figures by the end of the year, according to documents verified by Insider. In addition to commissioned pieces, he sells tattoo prints and designs on his website.