Online Side Hustle Ideas in Times of Uncertainty


In the past couple of years, ’side hustles’ have become quite popular. With work increasingly moving online, the opportunities seem endless. It can be a great way to make some money on the side next to your -often low paying or even very costly- undergrad, grad school, and postdoc work. With the current outbreak of COVID19, and the need to stay home to participate in social distancing, you might not be able to make money. A side hustle might help you out in that situation. 

Next to the opportunity to make some money, online side hustles can provide new and useful experience in the workforce, and help you network.

Some things to prepare yourself to get started:

  • Write a bio that you can easily paste into the various websites or use for bids
  • A standard resume to send along proposals or post on websites
  • A PayPal account. It is easy and free to get. Many gigs pay you through PayPal. They will charge only when money comes into your account. You can use the funds in your PayPal for online payments or transfer them to your bank account. 

Now that you are prepared, let’s discuss some options for side hustles:

Online Tutoring

With many schools closed, there is a significant need for online tutors. You are specializing in a specific field, and many students could benefit from your help. You might have good background experience in maths or biology, or you could help ESL (English as a Second Language) students. Many students around the world try to improve their English, for instance, before coming to an English institution to study. 

There are plenty of options to find this type of work. You may need to go through an application process to be accepted on a tutor-specific website. Also, check your local Facebook marketplace for ads of people looking for a tutor. For registering at a tutoring website, check out: Wyzant, Chegg tutor, tutor, and tutordoctor


You could start your own blog (just like we did), or you could write for existing blogs. This may or may not be paid, but it can be good exposure and practice. The thing with writing is that it really improves the more you do it. If you want to make money out of your own blog, realize that it will take a while before you can do so, and it may not work at all. 

You can also do copywriting work for various companies: in the digital age, there is a huge demand for lots of copy for websites, emails, and other forms of marketing.  Upwork and fiverr are some good sites to get you started with this type of work. Upwork charges a 20% fee for gigs up to $500, with a lower percentage for amounts higher than that. Fiverr charges a 20% fee.

Academic consulting

For those who have a science grad degree, various types of freelance work are available for both industry and academia. Kolabtree is a website specifically designed for freelance work for academics and has projects for consulting, writing, statistical analyses, and bioinformatics. It accepts people with PhDs and Masters degrees. It is easy to create a profile, you can upload your orcid data to automatically fill in your credentials and upload your publications, education, and work history. Once you have that, you can start sending bids and connect with potential clients. Kolabtree charges a 20% fee for each gig for the use of the platform.

Coding or programming

If you speak your programming languages, there is a great demand for your skills. Designing websites and apps could be a great side hustle. Again, local marketplace websites and sites like Upwork and Fiverr are good platforms to find potential clients. Another way to get started with such side projects is to build your own website and use that to attract clients.

Social media manager

Social media has become one of the most important ways to attract people to businesses. Small, local companies often need help to manage their accounts and post regularly. If you fancy becoming an influencer, this could be a great gig for you. Connect directly with small local businesses and offer them your skills!

Create items to sell online

Many hobbies lend themselves to be used to your benefit as well. Are you creative, do you create items by crocheting, knitting, painting, etc., then you can sell those items. If you are handy with a sewing machine, there is a great demand for fabric face masks right now. Use your hobby to your benefit! Sell artwork, paintings, design some cool stickers, pins, you name it. Next to local online marketplaces, some places to create your own online shop are Etsy and DesignByHumans.

Are you a photographer? You could sell your work or offer your services to local companies helping them with their social media presence (see also at point three about social media manager), menus for restaurants, and website design. Furthermore, with the ever-expanding internet content, the need for stock photos only keeps rising. If you manage to get some good ones out there, this can generate you some passive income as well. You can create profiles on sites like Shutterstock, 500px, and Alamy to start selling your images. There is a lot of competition, so trying to be creative and giving some real thought of what would be of interest is very important here. 

If you are more into designing and always impress your colleagues and fellow students with your PowerPoint and poster designs, or you are skilled in designing WordPress templates, you can sell these as well. You can offer your services at one of the freelance websites mentioned earlier, or go to sites that specifically sell these items. Some examples include Canva, Piktochart, or Envato.

Data entry, testing, or surveys

Many companies need help with their data entry, which still is challenging to get automated. Data entry and transcriptionist jobs can be found at Speakwrite, Quicktate, and Smartcrowd. Furthermore, there is also demand for people who perform app and website testing to see if it works well, or that customers can find what they’re looking for. Some examples of this are Usertesting and Enroll.

There are also plenty of websites for filling in surveys for cash. It is a nice and simple thing to do while you are waiting for your laundry to finish, or are standing in line for the grocery store. Most of these sites give you credit points for each survey completed, and a certain number of credits gets you cash payout through PayPal. Have a look at these sites: SurveyJunkie and Swagbucks.

Now all you got to do is get started!

There are many benefits to side hustles, getting you some extra cash, but also help you learn new skills, expand your network, and get a better idea of various industries. Many of the sites listed offer training and tests to show off your skills as well. It may not immediately get you lots of money, but it can be well combined with other tasks, and they can serve as a good distraction from all the news that comes to us every day.

So go out and explore!

If you want to read more and get inspired about successes people have had with their side hustle, have a look at the book 100 Side Hustles by Chris Guillebeau.

Let us know in the comments how you are side hustling and what benefits you have experienced from it!