When you think of side gigs, odd jobs that pad your wallet, but don’t do much for your resume—like driving for Uber or renting a spare bedroom on Airbnb—probably spring to mind. And for good reason: These popular jobs have a relatively low barrier to entry and the pay isn’t too shabby, either.
But those aren’t your only options. In fact, it’s entirely possible to spend time capitalizing on special skills and talents you actually enjoy practicing. The trick is uncovering your marketable skills and jumping on opportunities when they arise.
I learned this first-hand in 2014. After writing a series of articles for a career site about how personal websites can give professionals a leg up, readers started reaching out for feedback on their own sites. Flattered, I helped out the first few for free. But as the requests rolled in, I realized I had a viable side gig and named a price. Over the next year, I helped a handful of clients build sites—growing a new skillset and banking an extra $3,000.
Think you might have some hidden skills of your own? Here’s how to bring them to light—and start making more money.
First, understand what constitutes a successful side gig: “You need to love it, you need to be good at it and you need to know if there’s a market for it,” says Susie Moore, founder of online workshop Side Hustle Academy.
Determining what you love is simple enough—start with your hobbies or favorite work projects—but recognizing what you’re good at may be tougher. “People often take their skills for granted,” Moore says. “They think, ‘But it’s so easy to put a WordPress site together or plan a party on a rooftop with a $3,000 budget.’ Those things aren’t easy for everybody.” If you’re stuck here, ask yourself: What do people ask for my advice about? What skills have led to my success? What comes easily to me?
To verify your market, start by researching whether you’d have any competition—and don’t be discouraged if you do. “People get caught up when they see there are other dog trainers or whatever [the idea is], but that means there are already people paying good money for the service you can provide.” If you don’t find any competition, circulate a simple “market research” survey among your network to gauge people’s interest and willingness to pay.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few examples of skills you might unearth using the activity above—and how you can start making money off them, stat.
1. Review Writer
Are your friends always asking for your thoughts on the latest restaurant, tech gadget, hot read or [insert thing you love]? Turn your recommendations into cash by becoming a review writer. Get started by checking out sites that pay for reviews, or post them on your own blog and use affiliate links to earn passive income over time, like this man did with his fish tank reviews. (Yes, really.)
2. Photographer/Photo Editor
Constantly getting complimented on your killer iPhone snaps? Maybe photography’s your thing. Announce on your social feeds that you’re available to shoot events, or spend a Saturday taking $20 headshots for friends to build your portfolio. Or consider selling some of your images to stock sites. Here’s a list of options to get you started, including how much you can expect to earn from each.
3. Tour Guide
Do you love showing visitors around your city in your free time, and know all the best off-the-beaten-path experiences? Use your knowledge to give strangers from all over the world a unique experience in your area. Platforms like Airbnb Experiences or MeetJune can help you market and manage your offerings, or you can start your own company and take friends on a free tour in exchange for your first TripAdvisor reviews.
4. Startup Advisor
Maybe it dawns on you that, because of your past experiences working at a startup (or launching your own), people are always reaching out to you on LinkedIn to “pick your brain” for ideas for their burgeoning company. You can charge for that! If you want to formalize it, try out a site like Clarity to charge people by the minute for phone calls, or create your own packaging and pricing PDF that you can forward to folks who reach out.