5 Side Hustles That Can Be Turned Into Full-time Careers

Ask someone what a side hustle was 10 years ago and you’d be met with looks of bemusement and hushed whispers asking earnestly if it’s some kind of street scam. Fast forward to the age of the millennial and the uncertain economic situation we find ourselves in means that a lot of people are taking up second jobs as part of the ‘gig economy’.

These hobbies often start as a labour of love, something you’re passionate or enthusiastic about, but often lead to friends or family paying you for your time and effort. This starts a domino effect and eventually you’ve got their friends and their family members then asking for your services! At this point, your hobby has escalated into a side hustle.

Bringing in some extra pocket money is all well and good, but what if you could turn your hobby into a genuine, bona fide, full-time source of income? What if you could work from home, manage your own hours, and be your own boss? Here are five side hustles you can easily turn into a career.

1. Graphic Designer

If you fancy yourself as a budding artist and know your way around software such as PhotoShop, Illustrator, and InDesign then you can start offering your services as a professional design guru. Starting small with friends and family requests works great, especially if anyone in your immediate circle owns their own business. After that, you can start looking at places such as Fiverr and PeoplePerHour to get some more freelance work under your belt.

You can specialise in a particular area, such as illustrations for children’s books, or you could operate more generally in a role such as offering corporate design including business cards, flyers, and promotional materials. A popular area of work is logo design for other companies. Populate your own website or online profile with a handful of company logo mockups for made-up companies to demonstrate your ability and price yourself competitively, but fairly.

A lot of freelance designers warn against using auction or contest sites such as 99Designs and Design Crowd. These sites ask for designers to work for free on a complete design and then the person or company who posted the initial brief chooses which design they like the most which means that you aren’t getting paid for the work you’ve completed.

The next step on your road to becoming a full-time designer is to start scaling up your operation. Print out some flyers with your social media details, email address, and phone number on and go around all of the local businesses near you and hand the flyer in face to face to the shop owner or manager. Takeaways always need flyers, logos, and menus designed. That hip organic vegan shop will need web design, product design, and social media artwork for promotions. There’s a wealth of opportunities around, just look at what’s near you locally first and build up a portfolio before tackling national/international clients.

2. Videographer / Photographer

Let’s face it, we all love a good video or photo from a big occasion, but sometimes the ones we take on our smartphones don’t quite match up to what we had in mind. If you’re handy with a DSLR or video camera, then you could be making some money using those skills as a side hustle.

For photography there is a variety of different fields of work; product photography, portraits, and wedding, to name but a few. Perhaps the most accessible way to start in your spare time is by taking stock photos. You might have in mind some of those slightly awkwardly posed couples or workplace stock photos and, while there is certainly a market for those, perhaps the most accessible route into photography as a side hustle is taking photographs of textures. Designers and artists are always looking for images with great textures such as tree bark, stone walls, crumpled paper, and ‘grunge’ textures. Uploading these to stock photography websites such as iStockPhoto and Shutterstock is a great source of passive income and all you need to do is update your library of images as and when you can.

To scale up your side hustle, consider offering evening or weekend sessions where you can photograph families or offer portraits/headshots for actors, writers, business leaders and anyone else who needs high-quality, professional looking headshots. Create a website with a portfolio of your work, where your photos have been featured, and have a clear way to be contacted (email address or an online form usually works best) and you’re good to go!

Video work is similar but is perhaps a little tougher to break into. The biggest asset you can have is a body of high-quality work which might mean having to do one or two free or low-cost jobs until you have that evidence you can do the job. Product videos are always popular, as are pitch videos for websites such as Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, and there is a niche market for stock videos much like with still photos through sites such as Videoblocks.

Big occasions in people’s lives also result in a desire for videos. Wedding videographers are becoming more commonplace and believe it or not some people actually request that their loved one’s funerals are captured on film. Conversely, you might find opportunities as an editor working on footage that others have filmed. Find your niche and start from there.

3. Developer

Software development is arguably the most technically involved on this list but also the most lucrative in the long-term. Some side hustles require you to have the equipment already at your disposal, all software development needs is your time. If you have experience in programming languages already you can jump straight to working on some open source projects on places such as GitHub to get some experience.

For those with less or zero experience, you’re in luck! Because of a well-documented digital skills gap, governments and private businesses are desperate to train up as many skilled tech workers as possible and there are now myriad places to learn for free or for a very low cost online. Codeacademy is a great starting point to understand the basics and create a handful of portfolio pieces, while places such as Udemy go into a little bit more detail and can get you up to working proficiency with a language or technology.

The great thing about computer languages is that they are the same all around the world so from your home office you could be working with others on projects based all over the world! A lot of the top developers are also self-taught so don’t feel like not having a degree will put you at a disadvantage because it won’t.

Once you have a portfolio and some open source credentials under your belt, you can start offering your services out in your spare time to clients on crowdsourcing websites such as Fiverr. Once you’re more confident in your own abilities, there are sites out there that will help you find jobs in some of the most popular languages and after three or four years as a junior developer you could see your salary double.

4. eBay seller

As far as digital side hustles go, this is one of the oldest tricks in the book. The basics involve using tools like Google Trends to monitor what people are searching for at which times and buying items in bulk from overseas from sites such as Alibaba.

You then either design your own logo (or pay someone else to do it for you) and put it on your products with cool branding and marketing on sites such as eBay, Etsy or Fulfilled By Amazon. Your product has just gone from basic to premium with the simple addition of a logo and a cool brand name.

For selling on eBay and Etsy, you just need a space to store all of your products and the right equipment for printing and packaging, such as a printer, tape, address labels, boxes, and packaging slips.

For selling on Amazon, you can actually ship all of your products to an Amazon Fulfillment Centre where they will store, pack, and ship products to customers. Doing this also makes your products eligible for Prime delivery, which can be a dealbreaker if you can’t offer next day delivery. Power sellers can utilise apps such as Jungle Scout to really maximise their profits, though this does come at a one-off cost. Another useful and brilliant tool you ought to check out is IO Scout, where you can easily browse Amazon products with high margins and low competition. 

Reports of how successful sellers are vary depending on who is talking (and who they’re talking to…) but 2-3 hours a week could give you a return of $500 / month which certainly isn’t to be sniffed at. This does require some initial investment to start off with as you have to purchase and ship the products to your location in the first place but if you have the capital and want to invest in a side hustle that can scale as much as you want it to then this could be an opportunity for you.

5. Writer and Blogger

If you have a way with words or have a particularly unique point of view, you can always forge a career as a freelance writer. The popularity of blogging and the rise of online influencers means there is a market for contributors for reviews, previews, opinion pieces, and writing on behalf of clients.

Now, being a professional writer is a very proactive profession. The onus is on you to reach out to websites, newspapers, media outlets – anywhere that accepts freelance work, really – and pitch them your great ideas. Be prepared for rejection, especially at the start when your portfolio isn’t as strong, but if you persevere you can definitely fix that.

If you have a particular hobby, area of expertise, or niche interest then you can use this as a starting point and build up authority in that field. There are a number of websites that pay for high-quality content so do some research, email some editors, and see how you get on. When you build your reputation up you can potentially book regular work with the same site and if you get a couple of paying clients then the fees soon add up!

If you want to look for freelance writing gigs, there are a few websites such as Freelancer, UpWork, and Pro Blogger and places like Craigslist and Gumtree can also be good places to look when you’re just starting out.

Outside of news or journalism-based writing, there is always the opportunity for long-form writing. Have you ever fancied writing a book set in your favourite film, TV or comic universe? Amazon’s Kindle Worlds offers writers the chance to get their fan fiction published and authors can earn between 20-35% of all sales in royalties.

It can be scary when you’re starting out on your own, but know that everyone who has trodden this path has been where you are now. Don’t underestimate your own abilities, don’t undervalue your work, and go out there and turn your side hustle into a full-time career!

Jamie Mercer

Jamie is a freelance technology, careers, and lifestyle writer living in the UK. With a background in journalism, PR, and the charity sector, Jamie is passionate about helping others achieve their potential and sharing that learning.