How to start a side hustle online to make extra money from home

  • Stephanie Smolders is a marketing and business coach as well as a writer and traveler alongside her partner Peter Beukering.
  • As full-time traveling freelancers, Smolders and her partner have become experts at finding different ways to make money online from anywhere in the world.
  • From online tutoring to creating digital products, Smolders shares several easy ways anyone to get started earning money from home.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amid the pandemic, many people around the world are currently working from home or have lost their jobs.

In times like these, it’s more difficult than ever to deal with losing part or all of your income. However, there are opportunities to make the best out of the situation and do what you can to earn extra money from home — and maybe even replace your entire income.

My partner and I have been traveling full-time for four years, and during that time have always worked from “home”; which, at most times, would be poolside at a hotel or even the beach. During those four years, we always managed to generate an income for ourselves. We started with freelance gigs that would generate as little as $5 an hour, and have eventually increased that to generate an income of $15,000 a month, all working remotely and while traveling.

We are used to working from anywhere and finding ways to earn when times are tough. During the lockdown, we’ve thankfully been able to maintain our income and keep most of our clients, we have even gained some new clients.

If we can do it, you can do it too. Here are ways you can make money during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

1. Teach a skill

Stephanie Smolders

The author teaching virtual workshops.

Stephanie Smolders

I first started with teaching my native language Dutch. I have a bachelors degree in education, but you don’t necessarily need one to teach a language, especially if you are fluent or a native speaker. You can start easily by having casual conversations with others in your native tongue, and get paid for it. I started on the Italki platform. 

As people lose their jobs, highly skilled workers are becoming more valuable. People are now incentivized to improve their skills to prevent them from losing their job — or to learn something new to boost their resume and apply for new positions. Others want to pick up a new hobby just for fun, such as painting or playing a musical instrument.

This is a chance for you to teach something that you have already mastered. You might feel unqualified, but even if you’re not an expert, I can guarantee you there is someone out there who wants to learn and reach your intermediate or advanced level. 

Share your skill(s) online on social media, tell your friends, and charge for a private session. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to find your first few clients. 

This is exactly how I got my first social media management clients five years ago. I started to share what I knew and implement it for myself, and people started to reach out to me. 

Some ideas to get you brainstorming: Teach people how to cook a special recipe, create art, play an instrument, edit photos, master Excel, DIY, etc. 

2. Sell a digital product

Are you good at playing a certain game? Create a quick guide with all the tips you’ve learned. Or maybe you’re a breakfast enthusiast and can create an easy five-minute breakfast cookbook. 

The internet is flooded with digital products, e-books, and whatnot. That’s because it’s much easier to create digital products than you think. And the things you could talk about or teach online can also be put together in a guide.

One simple and free way to get started is by using tools like Canva. You don’t need professional graphic design skills to put something together that still looks professional. 

I created a printable and a Google Spreadsheet content calendar to plan out social media content. I’d been using them myself for years, and decided to polish them and put them on my website. I made them once, and they keep on generating money, month after month. That single product is sold between 25 and 30 times a month, generating up to $200 monthly. 

My partner Peter wrote a book about how to start in e-commerce. He will also be launching two new books later this year about finding funds for your startup and how to take your ideas and turn them into a business.

Stephanie Smolders' partner Peter working from a hotel while on their travels.

Smolders and her partner Peter working from a hotel while on their travels.

Stephanie Smolders

Tip: Don’t expect to sell thousands of copies of your digital product right away. Take it easy, get feedback, and build on that. Treat every sale as a win. Collect testimonials from your customers and share those to gain more momentum.

3. Create alternative entertainment

Even Netflix and chill gets boring when you’ve been doing it for weeks in a row. People are hungry for entertainment that is new and out of the box. Last Christmas, we created an easy and fun Christmas-inspired board game we could play with friends; it was a self-print board game that includes all the questions and task cards.

Create something of your own and sell it for a small price, like James Veitch, who created a Kickstarter with a game called Lockdown. People will be lining up to try something different. Etsy is a great marketplace to offer printables and your own creations. 

You could also host a show from your own home; think an online concert, magic show, stand up comedy, or even theater. Put together something with your family or by yourself, and promote it on social media, selling tickets to watch the show. Creating a private Facebook group is an easy and free way to host your live stream and control who is watching. Twitch is another great platform to entertain and get paid through donations or even subscriptions.

Some ideas: Be a DJ for a night and host an online disco party and ask people for a donation. Who knows? You might be picked up as a natural talent and play at Tomorrowland next year. But even if you don’t go viral, it can be a fun way to earn extra money.

4. Online gigs

When we first started traveling we had no idea what we were doing, and were introduced to a platform called Fiverr. It is a place where you can offer almost any kind of service, starting at $5. From editing a photo to writing a story or designing a website, you can find almost anything you can think of there. Creating a profile is easy and free. 

Simply browsing through it can give you some ideas of what you can do. Gigs that we have done in the past are: create a video of us cooking, voice acting, swim lessons, answer questions about our home countries, and teaching an AI natural human movement for a game. 

If you are struggling in the current times, use that as an opportunity to do something new. The process itself is fun and exciting, and who knows where it might lead you? Having to let go of some of your insecurities can be scary but remember that those who take action during difficult times will emerge stronger and ahead of the rest. 

5. Freelance

Stephanie Smolders digital content calendar

The author working on creating a digital content calendar to sell online.

Stephanie Smolders

Like, and are other websites where you can find freelance work. If you are great in copywriting, translating, or social media, these sites are good places to start finding freelance work. Even lawyers and project managers are active on these platforms. 

These marketplaces are quite populated now, but dig deep into what makes you different from all of the other freelancers, and showcase those skills.

6. Sell artwork

If you’re a creative person or always wanted to design your own merchandise, this is your chance. Websites like Redbubble allow you to design your own products. Anything from shirts, socks, mugs, stickers, books, phone cases, puzzles, and much more. Simply create your design, place it on your product, and start selling. Redbubble will take care of payments and shipping for you. We’ve created products on there ourselves, like this female empowerment notebook.

Good at taking photos? Those are also art. You can upload your photos to stock image websites like Envato or Shutterstock and keep making money.

There are many ways you can start making a little extra money on the side during the lockdown. And the best thing is you can do it without leaving the comfort of your own home; and, in most cases, you won’t need anything more than just your computer and internet.

Take this opportunity to make money during the COVID-19 pandemic and create something beautiful in the world. 

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