Work from home side hustles are all the rage right now, with popular search results promising that you can easily make an extra $1,000 a month without ever leaving your house. Do they REALLY work? Keep reading for the TRUTH about side hustle income.
Can You REALLY Make $1,000 a Month From Side Hustles Withouth Leaving Your Home?
If you’ve searched for “how to make money with side hustles,” chances are you’ve come across the dozens of YouTube videos promising to show you how to make hundreds- even Thousands- of dollars every single day from the comfort of your home.
Are work-from-home side hustles really that lucrative? Can you make millions just by becoming an influencer, dropshipping products or starting a blog? It’s HIGHLY unlikely (most of the people who claim to make that much are trying to sell you a course on how to make money, and THAT is where they actually get their money).
How about $1000 a month, though? That sounds a bit more realistic, doesn’t it? Surely you can make a single grand on side hustles, right?
Yes, you can…but with a WHOLE LOT of caveats.
Below, I’ll go over 7 of the most popular work-from-home side hustles and share my own experiences trying them (or working with clients who tried them, in a few cases). I promse to tell you the blatant truth about each, even if it’s not something you want to hear.
Use the table of contents to jump directly to the hustles that interest you. I included a short “final verdict” at the end of each section if you just want to check that out first, then decide if you want to read all of my “blah blah blah.” 😀 I also included some resources to help you get started if you decide you want to try out one (or more) of these methods.
OH! Last note, I did include some affiliate links in this post (I mean, I talk about affiliate marketing, so it only makes sense to do so, right?). If you buy anything from them, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Enough chit-chat, let’s dive in.
1. Can You Make Good Money Blogging?
Given that half of my income comes from my blog- and I make enough (barely, but enough) to support myself, my son, and my mom, yes, you CAN make money blogging. HOWEVER, (and it’s a REALLY BIG however), it’s not nearly as easy as it used to be.
When I first started, I was able to survive off just my blog and a few little clients here and there. Today, I spend roughly 40 hours a week writing for others on top of writing my own stuff.
Why is it so hard to make money blogging these days?
There are just so many other bloggers now than there were even 10 years ago (when the mom blog first rose to popularity). I’m not bitter about that at all. I think it’s great that more and more people are finding ways to use their voice.
Still, it does make the competition a lot stiffer, and I’ve just lost the energy to chase sponsors or to write 1,000-word essays begging them to “pick me! pick me!” in the very few remaining sponsored post networks.
Since sponsored posts have all but dried up for most bloggers, ads are the next biggest money-making. Unfortunately, you have to be willing to run a lot of ads if you want to make money. I’m talking an ad after every paragraph.
You also have to be willing to let an ad network basically set ALL of the rules for your content. They dictate length, formating, style, SEO practices, and even the font size. One popular network that most of my clients and friends use insists on having an admin user account on your blog and they add all sorts of random custom CSS without any regard to the existing CSS.
I’m just not willing to do any of those things or give up that much control. I care more about user experience, and that’s hurt me a lot over the years. I’m not trying to sound like a martyr. It is what it is.
That said, I know bloggers who are still killing it. I work for a few of them. But every single one of them has their eggs in more than just the blogging basket. Some sell recipes, others have courses. Some sell POD, others have day jobs. And so on.
Final verdict: Can you make money blogging?
Yes, but it’s nowhere near as easy as it used to be, and if you’re working with an ad network, you have to be willing to give up a lot of control over something that’s supposed to be yours. It’s also not really a “side hustle,” as most bloggers who actually make good money do it practically full time.
Resources and tips on making money with a blog:
I’ve written a lot on this topic, so pardon me while I do a little shameless promotion here. 😀 I’ll include other resources to bloggers that I adore, too, though, for balance.
- Very old (but still mostly applicable) post on how to run a successful blog without losing your mind.
- Another oldie buy gooding: Blogging for profit without selling out.
- Neil Patel: How to Make Money Blogging
PS: If you’re at all serious about making money blogging, you’ll need a really good host. See why I HIGHLY recommend Knownhost.
2. Affiliate Marketing: Is it a Good Way to Make Extra $$$
Since I rarely run ads on my blog (see above), affiliate income is basically my “bread and butter” here on Pretty Opinionated. Depending on how you approach it, you actually can make decent money this way. But it’s not as easy as it used to be for many affiliate marketers.
Now, as I’ll explain below, I’m not a fan of Google algorithsm in general because I feel like they’ve ruined writing (and the internet as a whole). However, I do have to give them credit for their recent review algorithm update that’s ending the whole “let’s set up a niche, throw a bunch of crappy product reviews on it, and sit back while the money flies in” thing. It made it easier for people who really care about the products they promote actually rank higher than the fake reviewers.
See, that algorithm update has actually given even more priority to real reviews, so things are really turning around for those of us who write said real reviews and don’t just harvest info from Amazon.
If you’re willing to put the time and energy into writing about a product AND you have something to say that hasn’t been said a million times before about it, then yes, it’s a good little stream of income. Not the most stable (you’ll have really good months and really crappy ones), but better than most of the other side hustles on this list.
What works for me:
Semi–Pro Tip: If you want your reviews to stand out, you can’t just rehash what everyone else says. When you write about a product, try to find something unique and special about it and relate that to your life.
For example, I’ve done a bunch of CBD oil reviews. Every brand does at least ONE thing different that makes them stand out from the competition. Penguin has the best-tasting stuff, Diamond is among the most affordable, Extractlabs has a super generous discount program…etc and so on. If you can find the difference, you can easily write a dozen unique reviews about the same general product.
Tip for tech reviewers: When it comes to writing tech reviews, you will NEVER beat sites like PC Mag, CNet, Tech Radar, and such if you’re just focusing on the specs (unless you’re actually a tech expert). Instead, focus on writing a relatable piece that covers what YOUR audience really wants to know.
I personally write tech reviews for people like me: busy moms who don’t have time to figure out what “benchmarking” or “quad-core processor” means (I actually do know what it means but that’s not the point) and who just want to know, “Is this worth buying for my family? How will WE average people use it?” Check out my Tivo 4k Streaming Stick review to see what I mean.
Verdict: Can you make money with affiliate marketing?
Yes, you can make money with affiliate programs, but like freelance writing, you really have to put the work into it. You can’t just throw up a niche site with a bunch of products, grab reviews from Amazon (which I think is actually against Amazon’s TOS anyway) and watch the money fly in.
I highly recommend checking out Shareasale. Not only do they have an awesome platform and amazing support for newbies, but they also have a really cool browser plugin that makes grabbing images easy (and legal). All of my Cratejoy and Etsy posts are through Shareasale.
Resources & tips for making money as an affiliate
There is a crap-ton of courses on how to make money with affiliate marketing. I’m not saying all of them are junk, but be careful. I took a popular one recently (paid for by a client) that was loaded with outdated or downright shady techniques.
Before you drop a grand or more on a course, check Kindle Unlimited. There are TONS of books on the topic(some suck, some are great, but at least they’re free if you have a KU membership). Other free resources:
- Ahrefs: Affiliate Marketing for Beginners (some info in the beginning is a bit outdated and they do try to sell you stuff, but the section on getting started is pretty good).
- Pennies Not Perfection: Complete Beginner’s Guide to Making Money with Affiliate Marketing (geared more towards YouTube and Instagram affiliate marketing, but still a good read)
I love this video below because she does a great job of walking you through everything. Just don’t expect to make that kind of money right away (or maybe even ever, I’ve been at this for 10 years and don’t make nearly that much in a single month).
3. Freelance writing as a side hustle
Can you make money freelance writing? Since I make my living between this and what I earn from my site, yes, it’s possible. Again, though, it’s not anything resembling “easy money.”
Over a decade ago when I first started freelancing, I was making about $20 per 500-word post. Not exactly megabucks, but I could typically write 10 of them a day as long as I stuck to writing what I knew. Clients focused more on good content rather than SEO. I wrote to topics, not to a set of awkward keywords.
Then came the rise of the Google algorithm…
I maintain to this day that Google has completely and utterly destroyed quality writing. People focus more on ranking than the do on writing, and it’s led to a lot of crap making it to the top of the page while the good stuff ends up somewhere on page 54.
How does all of that translate to making it harder to make money as a freelance writer, though? Today, many clients expect a lot more than just a beautifully written piece. They want extensive SEO research (not just regular research, which I can understand), formatting that would make your high school English teacher cry, internal links with awkward anchor text, long-tail keywords that are even more awkward, content with a specific “score” (as judged by AI)…the list goes on and on.
Oh, and they want to pay you A LOT less for all of that work.
Bottom line, ever since SEO became the buzzword du jour, I spend more time trying to figure out how to cram crappy keywords into content and headers than I do writing the actual content. With each new algorithm came a brand-new set of rules on how to beat said algorithm and a brand-new set of requirements for writers.
That said, if you can research and write relatively quickly in a niche that you already know pretty well and can handle dealing with all the Google-related crap that comes along with it, you can earn enough to pay the bills with freelance writing. It’s not “easy” money, though.
If you do go this route, I strongly recommend finding a small handful of clients that give you regular work versus a bunch of different ones that offer sporadic assignments. A good chunk of your time goes to figuring out your client’s preferred style so you can write to their specific standards. It’s just easier to learn one or two styles than adapt to dozens of them.
Final Verdict: Can you make money as a freelance writer?
Yes, you can, IF you can write, you actually LIKE writing, AND you don’t mind putting up with all of the other stuff I mentioned above. Otherwise, no, you can’t.
Resources & tips for making money as a freelance writer
- Gathering Dreams: How to Become a Freelance Writer
- The Write Life: Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Freelance Writer
- Penny Hoarder: Top 20 Sites Plus Proven Freelance Writing Tips
4. Can you Make Money with Influencer Marketing
It looks so easy, right? Just find someone to pay you to talk about a product you love, take a few pics or a short video, pop it up on Instagram (or Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, whatever), and rake in the dough! Believe me, it’s NOT that easy.
Before you can even think about finding sponsors, you need to build up an ENGAGED audience. Not just followers, but people who actively like and comment on your content. That alone can take months to YEARS.
Yes, there are exceptions. I have friends who went “viral” with a single post and saw their engaged follower count explode overnight, but for the most part, it takes a lot of time and energy just to get people to notice you.
How much can you make once you do have an engaged audience?
The good news: you don’t need millions of followers to make money. In fact, many brands seek out nano influencers (with under 10K followers) because their audiences tend to be more engaged overall.
The bad news? Nano influencers get paid less per post than the big fish. A LOT less. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, influencers with under 10,000 followers make roughly $10–$100 per post.
Now, let’s go with the average, about $50. You’d need 20 sponsors per month to make $1,000 as an Instagram influencer. That alone is a major challenge, but let’s say you pull it off. You’re thinking, “This is awesome! I’ll snap a few pics of each and slap them online. BOOM! Easiest $1k ever!”
Not so fast, my friend. First, expect to spend AT LEAST three hours photographing, editing, and posting EACH product. That three hours is the bare minimum. I know influencers who spend upwards of 12 hours getting the perfect shot.
If you manage it in just three hours, you’ve made roughly $16.50 per hour. Not too crappy for what amounts to a part-time job. Not exactly enough to support a family, but still, it’s a good start, right? Now you just have to sit back, wait for the “likes” to come in, and collect your cash!
Again, not so fast! See, since you are a good citizen who follows Instagram’s policies and FCC laws, you’ve tagged your content “sponsored.” Facebook (owner of Instagram) doesn’t like when you cut them out of the deal. If you’re making money, they want some of it too.
So, they essentially throttle your post until you pay up. If you want it to show up in feeds, you’ll have to “boost” it. Let’s look at an example of what you’ll get with a $10 boost (which is 20% of your payment, if you’re keeping up with the math). Here’s an example of what Facebook is offering me for $10 on one of my page’s recent posts.
In my experience, when they give you a range like 189-545, expect it to be on the lower end of that range (or even lower, in my experience).
So, for 20% of your income, you’ll reach about 200 people. That’s just people who see your post, not people who actively engage with it. So now you’re down to about $13 an hour IF you only spent three hours on your post.
Basically, to make $1000 GROSS PAY at that rate, you’d need roughly 76 sponsors per month. If you want to make $1k after taxes, most like 102 sponsors per month, at least until you establish yourself.
Verdict: Can you make money as an influencer?
Yes….but with major caveats. Making money as any type of “influencer”- be it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tiktok, or whatever other random network is popular at the moment- is absolutely possible…but it’s INCREDIBLY challenging.
Unless you’re a mega influencer with millions of engaged followers, expect to make roughly $13 an hour max before taxes. Also expect to literally hustle like crazy just to earn that much.
Give it a try, though! You may get lucky! If not, hey, at least you’ll realize exactly how much work influencers actually do and stop mocking them so much. 😀
Resources & tips for making money as an influencer
- Influencer Marketing Hub: Instagram Influencer Sponsored Post Money Calculator
- Hootsuite: How to Make Money on Instagram
- Oberlo: How to Make Money from Instagram
5. POD products: Lucrative or a pain in the butt?
Print On Demand (POD) products are basically like the t-shirts you find on sites like Redbubble, TeePublic, and Amazon Merch. It’s different from dropshipping (below) because you actually design the products (or buy designs with a POD license, like most of those on CreativeFabrica).
I’m actually still in the process of trying this, and honestly, I haven’t put a lot of work into it. I’m not really a great artist, but this is one of my designs on Redubble that’s actually sold a few t-shirts.
However, I did work with a client that designed literally hundreds of t-shirts. She’s making a few bucks here and there but ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth focusing on. So it just sits passively making her a little here, a little there.
I do know of people who make great money with print-on-demand short-content books, though, and I’m also working on giving that a try. Things like journals, planners, and even printable games do well, but again, you have to have a unique angle. The market is supersaturated right now with that sort of thing right now.
Verdict: Can you make money with Print on Demand products?
Yes, but you’ll either need some raw talent to create unique items that people want or the patience to create literally hundreds upon hundreds of products that maybe sell once or twice here and there. That said, if you DO have that kind of patience, after the initial work it’s pretty passive income.
Resources and tips on making money with POD:
- Clean Cut Finance: Make Money with Print on Demand
- Stashlr: Is Print on Demand Profitable?
6. Can You Make Real Money Selling Your Photos?
This is one I’ve never tried because I’m a crappy photographer. My grandfather was a pro photog. I inherited a lot of my traits from him, but that was not one of them. My ex was also a professional (news videographer, mostly, but also did a lot of still work). No matter how many times he tried to teach me how to move beyond “auto” mode on my DLSR, it just never took.
However, if you DO have actual skills, then yes, I believe you can make really good money selling photos online. I actually know quite a few people who do.
You’ll have a few different options for making money selling pictures:
- Sell your photos to a stock site, like DepositPhotos, Shutterstock, etc. Most of them have an “exam” that you have to pass first, though, where you upload samples and they decide if you’re good enough for their platform. This is the most passive way, though. You upload your photos, they handle the rest.
- Sell photos on sites like Etsy, Patreon, and such.
- Sell directly to clients. There are a ton of buy/sell Facebook groups for this, just search “sell photos” and click on groups. Not all are legit, though, so be wary).
If you’re REALLY good, you can also sell your photos as fine art prints, too, either through own site or Facebook page (my friend sells hers on Facebook, check them out) or on Etsy and other marketplaces.
Final Verdict: Can you make money selling photos?
Yes, but only if you’re a really good photographer. You’ll also want to invest in a great camera. Your phone doesn’t count, sorry. I know people say you can make money selling phone photos, but honestly, you’ll take better pictures (and, in turn, sell more) with an actual camera.
Resources and tips on making money selling photos:
- The Penny Hoarder: Sell Photos Online and Make Money
- This Mama Blogs: How to Make Money Selling Photos of Yourself (no, not like that, get your mind out of the gutter).
7. Is Dropshipping a Good Way to Make Money?
I didn’t even bother trying this one because I have clients, family, and friends who were already burned by it. One of my clients followed the advice of a so-called dropshipping “guru” to the letter. (Side note, don’t listen to people who call themselves gurus. It never ends well.)
She signed up for Shopify, spent hours identifying potential suppliers and products to sell, days setting up “inventory,” and a good solid month getting her store “ready” (adding products, designing the shop, etc). She even ran ads on Facebook to draw visitors to her shop.
I don’t know exactly how much she spent getting it all set up, but I know it was A LOT more than what she made by the time she shuttered the shop 4 months later.
Within a month, the cost of running the store outweighed the income it brought in. Shopify alone cost her $79 a month, plus took a cut of the profits. Facebook ads ate up any profits that remained.
Can you make money dropshipping on Amazon?
What if you skip Shopify, though, and go right to the big players? After all, Amazon allows dropshipping. Surely you can make big bucks there, right?
Again, maybe, but it’s not easy. First, Amazon is incredibly saturated with third-party sellers, so chances are pretty high that you won’t be the only one selling your product.
Second, people are more likely to look for products shipped and sold by Amazon because they’ve been burned by 3rd-party sellers one too many times. While I’d say the vast majority are genuine and legit, there are a lot of really crappy and unscrupulous sellers on Amazon. You know what they say about one bad apple…
Last, you have to consider Amazon’s cut, which is roughly 10-15% of your profit PLUS $0.99 cents per product. You can cut that extra buck out by paying $39.99 a month for a pro seller account, but that only makes sense if you’re sure you’ll sell more than 40 products per month.
If you want to try it, I suggest going with Amazon versus setting up your own store. While you still face the challenge of people preferring “shipped and sold by Amazon” products, customers are more comfortable shopping from a retailer that they know than trusting a small business they’ve never heard of.
Verdict: Can you make money dropshipping?
Maybe. I mean, the internet is filled with blog posts and videos about people claiming that they make $1000 a DAY dropshipping. But I personally don’t know anyone who actually has even managed to break even.
You’ll also have to put a ton of time, money, and energy into it, at least at first. So if you’re looking for a fast way to make $1000 a month, this isn’t it.
Resources and tips for dropshipping success:
- Amazon’s blog for sellers: Droppshing in 2021
- Niche Pursuits: How Much Money Can You Really Make Dropshipping
- Jungle Scout: Dropshipping on Amazon
Final Verdict: Can you make $1000 a month with home-based side hustles?
Theoretically, yes, if you play to your strengths and you’re willing to put in a whole lot more than just your “spare” time at first. Eventually, some methods can lead to the magical unicorn we call “passive income.” Others can become significantly more lucrative once you’ve established yourself. But none of them will bring you money overnight.
So, if you’re brand-new to any of the most popular side hustles and you need to make $1000 RIGHT NOW, you may be much better off finding part-time job.
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