"Financial Planning ... it's not always about money."

15 Weird and Wonderful Side Hustles You Never Knew Existed

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David M. Brenner, ChFC®, CLU®

D. M. Brenner, Inc.
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If you've been hearing a lot about side hustles lately, you're not alone. The term has slipped into our common consciousness in recent years—so much so that Merriam-Webster added it to its dictionary in 2022. "Side-hustle is a word on the move," the entry says. "Although the precise definition of this term is still in a bit of flux, it appears to be centering on 'work performed for income supplementary to one's primary job.'" "In a bit of flux" is right. Having a side hustle means many things to many people. Some rely on the extra cash to pay their bills, others want a fun hobby that makes a little money, and still others want to build an entirely new business or career.



A 2023 Bankrate survey found that nearly 2 in 5 of all American adults now have side hustles, and more than half of all Gen Zers and millennials. Among these younger side-hustlers, 1 in 5 Gen Zers and 1 in 4 millennials hope to one day make their side gig their full-time job. Factors like the normalization of remote work and a general sense of economic instability have surely fueled this trend, but one thing is clear: It's not slowing down. As one side-hustler, Justin Cambra, told us: "In today's world, stability is from multiple sources of income. I'm trying to generate as many revenue streams as possible." Hopefully, the following ideas will help you do just that.

Breed bugs.

Just like this dad who makes $30,000 a year

If you don't get squirmy around creepy-crawlies, try breeding insects! Crickets, Dubia roaches, and mealworms are all easy to cultivate, and lizard-owners never stop needing to feed their reptiles.

Jeff Neal learned this in 2016, when he bought his daughter a bearded dragon. He was shocked by how expensive crickets were, so he researched how to breed them himself. "It was really easy, because crickets are rampant breeders," he says. So rampant, in fact, that he had a surplus to sell. Neal created a site on Shopify and promoted it on reptile-owner forums.

There were challenges — keeping crickets alive during shipping is tricky. But when the pandemic arrived, "It seemed everyone bought a bearded dragon," Neal says. "All the local pet shops were closed, so everyone went online looking for live insects." These days, he earns about $30,000 a year from his crickets. "It's profitable and gives me something to do with the kids."

Flip some furniture!

Just like this former manager making $19,000 a month

Some furniture-lovers scour Facebook Marketplace for those rare perfect finds. But what if you pounced on imperfect pieces instead? There's money to be made refurbishing and selling old stuff.

Lilly Skjoldahl discovered this in 2022, when she got hit with a $10,000 dentist bill — almost a quarter of her annual income as a program manager in public health. She needed cash, and fast. She started spending weekends and after-work hours searching for and refinishing furniture. Her first item was a $50-ish nightstand, which she sanded, stained, and transformed into a liquor cabinet. She sold it for about $195. "I really enjoyed the process and loved the cash, plus I had leftover supplies," she says, "so I decided to keep going."

In early 2023, Skjoldahl was able to quit her day job. By the end of the year, she'd earned over $235,000 from furniture flipping and related streams of income, like brand deals and social media content.

Teach a class online.

Just like this retiree making $250 per class

If you've used Eventbrite, it was probably to buy a ticket to an in-person event. But the platform actually hosts all kinds of events — including virtual courses (as do other platforms like Teachable, LinkedIn Learning, and more). So what's it like to teach? A retiree named Bill Reichman tried it out, and now makes about $250 per class.

Reichman always loved to bake, and after retiring, he started teaching at a local cooking school — "like a date-night function." During the pandemic, he offered a free class for kids on Zoom, which he advertised on Eventbrite. Later, he began teaching classes for adults at $25 a ticket. "Once I attached my checking account to the [Eventbrite] system," he says, "the money just flowed automatically."

Reichman prefers Zoom classes of 10 or less, so he can see what everyone is doing. "I use recipes to teach the science of baking," Reichman says. "So you'll know what's going on in your bowl and in your oven."

Upcycle old clothes.

Just like this student who made $50,000 in a year

If you have a creative itch, a love for thrifting, and an eye for potential, then revamping old apparel could be a lucrative — and environmentally responsible — venture. Many shoppers are looking for alternatives to fast fashion and are thrilled to find a one-of-a-kind item.

Maddy Clements realized this when she was studying fashion design in school, and using thrifted clothing for her projects instead of spending money on new fabric. "I enjoyed taking something old and drab and figuring out ways to make it new and exciting," she says. She didn't know if it would go anywhere, but she began posting about her creations on TikTok under an account called Junk Gold. She worried that, at almost 30, she was "ancient to the Gen Z crowd" — but after two of her videos got a million views, she was bombarded with customers . Within three months, sales soared from $500 to $10,000, and by the end of that year, she made $50,000.

Invent something niche.

Just like these retirees making $80,000 a year

Maybe you have an idea for a simple product that could be improved. You don't want to start a full-blown company, but you'd happily sell something in your spare time. That's how retirees Patricia and Barry Farris started making $80,000 a year selling cat water fountains from their home.

Barry worked as a pharmaceutical rep, but always had an innovative streak. After retiring, he wanted to invent something. "That's when he came up with the idea for the cat fountain," Patricia says. "He'd lost a number of cats to kidney disease, which is related to cats not drinking enough water." Cats prefer chilled, flowing water. So in 2009, Glacier Point Pet Fountains was born.

Today, there are hundreds of cheap pet fountains on sites like Amazon. But the Farrises source nontoxic, pharmaceutical-grade materials like high-fire ceramic with antimicrobial tubings and fittings, and assemble the fountains at home. They sell 300 to 400 a year for $120 to $340 apiece.

Start a blog with affiliate links.

Just like this retiree making $6,000 a month

If you spend hours online browsing and screenshotting things you can't justify buying — but think someone should because they're so cute, or funny, or nifty — you could turn your mindless scrolling into pocket money.

Chanda Torrey did this after retiring in 2019. "I was incredibly bored," she says, "so I started a blog of unique gifts for those who have everything." She named it Gifter World, and scoured the internet for items to delight and surprise. Then she started monetizing with affiliate partnerships — where a website links to a product, and earns a commission if someone clicks and buys. Torrey joined the Amazon Associates Program and affiliate networks like Awin, Skimlinks, and ShareASale, which offer access to thousands of retail websites.

"At first it was just a hobby," Torrey says, "but now I make about $1,500 per week with Gifter World, and during the holidays, it goes up to around $3,000."

Rent a parking spot.

Just like this investor making $1,300 a month

Have some extra space? An app called Neighbor lets users rent parking spots, basements, attics, and garages to others looking to store personal items or vehicles.

Justin Cambra , an investor who recently left his job at Amazon, is making over $1,300 a month doing this. He lives in Seattle, where he had an unused, paved lot on his property. One of his first Neighbor customers was going to the Philippines for eight months. "Airport parking is about $10 a day, so that's $300 a month, and I was half that at $150," Cambra says. "It's only a $20 Uber to the airport from my place, which saves you a lot of money. So I get people like him who are long-termers, and then I get people who are taking an extended trip and need parking for two to four weeks at a time."

With 20 spots, he's experimenting with prices. He started at $200 a month, and then dropped incrementally to his current rate of $125. "Now I'm getting more traction," he says, "so I may even drop it to $100."

Drive for a high-end car service.

Just like this retiree making $1,000 a month

Maybe you've considered driving for Uber or Lyft — but aren't crazy about chauffeuring strangers in your own car. Well, you might be interested in Alto, a high-end ride-sharing app that makes drivers actual employees, with training and hourly pay — and gives them all-white Buick Enclaves to drive on their shifts. Alto is currently operating in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington, D.C., and is swiftly expanding.

Larry Mack lives in Dallas, where he's retired. The idea of driving appealed to him, but the one time he tried Uber, someone threw up in his car, and he was stuck with the bill. So when he heard about Alto in 2019, "It seemed like a no-brainer," he says. He drives 20 to 30 hours a week, which comes out to about $1,000 a month. "I'm an explorer, and driving for Alto has allowed me to see places in the DFW area that I didn't know existed. It doesn't even feel like work!"

Share your knowledge.

Just like this antiques dealer making $10,000 a month

Do you know a lot about something? Your knowledge is valuable. The site JustAnswer hosts more than 12,000 experts across 150 categories, who are paid a dollar amount per question based on their category and quality rating on the site. JustAnswer says the average expert makes $2,000 to $7,000 per month, with the biggest earners hitting as high as $20,000 per month. (Other sites serve more targeted niches, like Paperial, where you can answer students' questions.)

Jennifer Sheffer , a New England-based antiques dealer, has been working as an appraisals expert on JustAnswer since 2012. She makes $10,000 to $20,000 a month, and typically puts in 40 hours a week. "The great thing is that JustAnswer treats the experts equally, whether they work a lot or just here and there," she says. To become an expert, the platform has you fill out an online application.

Tutor kids online.

Just like this teacher making $12,600 a month

If you have a teaching background or a passion for kids, there's never been more need — or methods — to connect with students. Outschool is a platform that offers live, online classes on everything from core subjects to fun after-school activities.

Elementary school teacher Tara Laczynski was laid off during the pandemic, so she started teaching math on Outschool. "The biggest challenge is getting 'seen' in the search engine," she says. "Most of my early students were friends, family, and classmates of other early students. Social media is also a great way for families to find you. You can create tips to share as reels."

Early on, Laczynski put a lot of time into her curriculum, but now works about 32 hours a week — 27 teaching, plus another five on administrative work, content creation, and meetings — and makes an average of $12,600 a month. "In the traditional classroom, I worked 40-to-50-hour weeks."

Rent out your pool.

Just like this couple making $84,000 a year

If you're fortunate enough to have a swimming pool at your house, you may be looking at a liquid cash opportunity. The online marketplace Swimply lets people rent out their pool — or other private recreational spaces like tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts — by the hour.

When Stuart Doty heard about this, he knew he had the perfect setup. He works in healthcare and lives with his wife in Portland, Oregon, where they have an indoor pool and a tennis court. In December 2020, after hearing about Swimply, Doty says, "I entered my pool's info quickly and arbitrarily named it the Mad Men Pool. The bookings started rolling in." On weekends, they charge $80 an hour for access to the pool and $40 an hour for the tennis court, and offer a 20% discount on both during the week. Because the pool is indoors, groups book the space all year round. The income varies by month, but in their first year, Doty and his wife made $84,000.

Sell 'printables' online.

Just like this former teacher making $65,000 a month

If you have a hobby — say, word games, knitting, meal planning, or anything that can be rendered in templates — your pastime could translate to passive income. Put your best ideas down on paper, and sell them as "printables" on sites like Etsy and Shopify.That's what Lisa Fink started doing in 2017. As a full-time middle-school teacher, she wanted a side hustle, so she began designing printable games for kids that teachers could use in their lesson plans or parents could print off on rainy days. Fink tried to create the experience of an "escape room" on the page, with reading passages, ciphers, and comprehension questions. She sold her creations for $4 to $5 on her own website, ThinkTankTeacher, as well as Etsy and Shopify. Sales trickled in at first. But within six months, she was making five figures a month. "The best part about printables is that the income is passive," she says. "One single lesson can sell over and over again."

Work events as a brand ambassador.

Just like this actor making $25 to $35 an hour

Calling all extroverts! If you want to build your own schedule and meet new people, then representing brands at events like festivals, sports games, conventions, and conferences could be the perfect side hustle for you.

A decade ago, Tremont Turner was in college, working at Chipotle and Panera, when he heard that being a brand ambassador paid double his hourly wage. The work involves stuff like handing out products (say, samples of Aperol Spritz at a music festival), taking pictures with fans, and getting people to download an app or follow a brand on social media. "Probably my favorite jobs are summits where CEOs get together to network," Turner says. "Our job is to facilitate them meeting each other and having a good time."

Turner says groups on Facebook are the best place to find these jobs (search "brand ambassador" in your city, or "promotional models"). And once you've worked for a brand, you'll get on their email blasts.

Become a loan- signing agent.

Just like this retiree making $66,000 a year

Do you have a car and some time to kill? You've got what it takes to become a loan-signing agent. They guide people through the process of signing paperwork, mostly on real estate transactions—everything from reverse mortgages to home equity loans.

Barbara Hill became a loan-signing agent while working a full-time software sales job. But after being laid off at 62, she upped her loan-signing game, and now makes about $66,000 a year. Signings pay between $50 and $175 for beginners, and $100 and $250 for agents with experience.

The first step is getting commissioned by your state as a notary public. (Find instructions on your state's Department of Revenue website.) Then, educate yourself a bit. "I came across this guy, Mark Wills," Hill says. "His course 'Loan Signing System' taught me, step by step, everything I needed to do and all about the documents, and where and how to get work."

Find a way to make AI tools useful.

Just like this financial analyst making $4,000 a month

We're still in the early days of figuing out how to use AI in our lives, so pay attention if you notice an application that would come in handy.

Soon after ChatGPT launched, financial analyst Dhanvin Sriram observed that "ChatGPT is only as good as the prompts you give it, and there was no database where you could find these prompts. So I was like, Let me build something very simple and see what happens ." He compiled prompts from Twitter and Reddit threads, and created a simple website called PromptVibes, where users can search for prompts by category, or explain their "task" to a chatbot that helps to identify a prompt.

Within a few months, the site had gotten 100,000 organic visitors, so Sriram started sending a newsletter on ChatGPT prompts five days a week. He began selling ad spots in the newsletter: a big one for $300 and a small one for $70. He now has 19,000 subscribers, and makes about $4,000 a month in ad sales.

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David M. Brenner profile photo

David M. Brenner, ChFC®, CLU®

D. M. Brenner, Inc.
Phone : (858) 345-1001
Schedule a Meeting