Many aspiring entrepreneurs believe that going “all in” and quitting their jobs is the only way to build a successful business. But what if I told you the web presents ample opportunities to earn handsome cash on the side — you just need to find one that fits your skill sets.

With a mostly “online” 2021 in stores for us, I’ve got four content-based, creative side hustles that can help you earn some nice income on top of your day job. Let’s first answer a common question about starting side businesses:

1. Start a blog

Though multimedia content now reigns supreme on social media, consumers still love reading. Google also predominantly understands and ranks web pages with text in its results. If you’re a writer, starting a blog makes perfect sense in 2021.

You can teach skills, entertain, and share updates about your industry with your readers — as that’s what most people might expect from your blog posts.

Begin with picking a niche that interests you and has decent market demand. Perform keyword research on what people are searching for on Google because SEO is a sustainable growth channel that delivers better results:

sideOnce you’ve built some traffic and influence, you can monetize your blog with affiliate marketing, offer paid services, and even sell your own products.

2. Host your show

While the pandemic might have led to a decrease in podcast downloads initially — because office commute stopped altogether — the global market picked momentum again. The podcasting industry is set to be a $1 billion industry by 2021.

To start your own show, choose a theme and format for it, and plan your first few subjects as well as episode scripts. You can begin recording through the in-built recorder on your operating system. Descript could simplify the audio production process for you by offering an editable transcript to edit your recording:

sideRemember to keep it casual and have fun — that’s what listeners also like. Once you start building a community around your show, you can approach brands to sponsor your podcast. You can also:

3. Sell a course

Once you’ve built some influence through the first and second content creation avenues above (or if you already have it from your reputation at your day job), you can sell your expertise in a value-packed course.

Ideally, having an email list of a few thousand subscribers could help you validate ideas and plan your course. From there, leverage one of these online course platforms (depending on your requirements), and launch it.

You can open the course a few times per year like blogger Scott Young does with his courses, including Rapid Learner — where you only get the option to join its waiting list as visible below:

Or let it remain open throughout the year, selling it to your new email subscribers like Ryan Robinson:

side4. Launch a paid community

Have you seen memberships offered by media companies to monetize the attention they get from readers? In India, local entrepreneurial publications such as Inc42 have started their “Plus” monthly subscription — a paid membership with access to data-driven journalism, deals and perks, and more.

It’s not media houses alone — even professional marketers with a reputation have launched their communities. Dave Gerhardt, for instance, a leading B2B marketing community that has almost touched 2000 patrons at various membership tiers:

sideBut what should such a community entail?

It could include premium content, valuable resources for your audience, and product deals exclusively for your audience. Rather than guessing, let your audience tell you what they want! Gerhardt includes podcasts, jobs, and educational content around his expertise.

Memberships bring recurring revenue. And thanks to Netflix, consumers are right now receptive to memberships.

When should you start a side hustle?

It takes persistence to make a side business work, so you need a deeper motivation than simply showing off that you’re “hustling” on social media. I would recommend you to start a side hustle when:

  • You’re curious about exploring specific entrepreneurial projects: The ones I showed you are great for a start and fit for the current situation. But if you’ve wanted to start a YouTube channel or something else, that’s cool as well. Go for it!
  • You have time outside of your day job: Remember it’s called “on the side” for a reason, so it’s definitely not worth burning out yourself for. Longer hours tend to hurt productivity, anyway. I would say once your schedule can easily accommodate about 10 to 15 hours per week, you’re good to start a side hustle.

Final Thoughts

Many of today’s most recognized companies started as a side project. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were both working full-time jobs when they built Apple I. Mark Zuckerberg also created Facemash — an online program that later converted to Facebook — from his dorm room at Harvard University.

Whether your side hustle would become a billion-dollar enterprise is something you’ll need to find out. But you’ll earn some nice cash, learn new skills, and have lots of fun.

So take advantage of that entrepreneurial spirit and kick off your 2021 with a spanking new side business from the list above.

Chintan Zalani is a writer and specializes in content marketing for SaaS businesses. He also helps creators build sustainable businesses from their crafts at Elite Content Marketer.

Side hustle stock photo by iQoncept/Shutterstock