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How to make money without spending a cent: Many side hustles don't have 'any sort of upfront cost at all'

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Key Points
  • Starting a side hustle can be daunting, especially when you consider the potential upfront costs.
  • If you're considering starting one yourself but are short on money, don't fret ― many side gigs don't cost a dime.
  • Consider delivering food by bike, renting out your space, or doing some shopping for someone.

If you're considering starting a side hustle, deciding what to do or which services to offer can be the hardest part ― especially when you're short on start-up money. Luckily, many side hustles are free to dive into.

"Out of the 450 different side hustles that we rate," says Sidehusl.com founder Kathy Kristof, "only about 50 have any sort of upfront cost at all."

Here's how to start a hustle without any financial investment.

'Play to your strengths'

When it comes to figuring out which gig is the best fit, "play to your strengths," says Kristof, and consider "whatever you do regularly."

In particular, take inventory of three things:

  1. Skills you use in your day job. If you're in customer service, you might have good communication skills. If you're in IT, you probably have coveted tech skills. If you're in marketing, you might have social media know-how.
  2. Hobbies you enjoy. Jessica Herring turned her love of video games into a career editing videos for fellow gamers that brings in thousands per month. Danira Cancinos turned her baking hobby into a six-figure business teaching others how to bake. Leah Rowan turned her organization skills into a $4,000 per month organizing business.
  3. Resources you have, including items and spaces. If you own a car, someone could very well want to rent it. If you own a house with a large backyard, it might be the perfect place to dog sit. Sometimes even an empty corner of your apartment could serve as a storage place for someone who needs it.

Once you review your skills, interests, and resources, start perusing sites like TaskRabbit, Fiverr, Upwork, and Thumbtack to see what like services people are offering that intersect with those strengths. If you think you could rent out your space or items, Google sites that offer you a chance to do so.

For most of these platforms, you list your services for free, then, "you decide when you want to be available, what you want to charge," says Kristof. "And then the platform just takes a commission." Fiverr takes 20% of every sale on its site, for example.

4 suggestions for no-start-up-cost side hustles

  1. Shop for someone: For this kind of service, TaskRabbit is "a great alternative to something like Instacart because you offer it yourself, you decide what to charge," says Kristof. If you pick up shopping gigs within walking or biking distance, you can forgo the price of gas well.

    TaskRabbit shoppers in New York charge between $15 and $30 per hour.
  2. Rent out your space: Regardless of whether you live in a studio apartment or a 10-bedroom mansion, it's possible someone in your area will want to rent it. Sites like Peerspace and Giggster let you rent out your spot for work meetings, video shoots, baby showers, and so on.

    A midtown loft in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is currently going for $50 per hour on Peerspace, and a home in Seattle, Washington, is currently going for $375 per hour on Giggster.

    If you don't own your home, make sure to check the site for what kinds of permissions are necessary to rent it.
  3. Give a tour: Sites like Viator and ToursByLocals let those who know their towns and cities offer bespoke tours to visitors. An underground tour of Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, is currently going for $45 per person on Viator, and an art tour of New Orleans is going for $775 (for up to three people) on ToursByLocals.

    The tours can be "anything you want to do and you decide what it's going to cost, how many people you can take," says Kristof.
  4. Deliver food by bike: There are various apps through which you can deliver food, like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub. And if you're in a position where you can do those on a bike, there are virtually no costs, says side hustle expert Kevin Ha. "You don't have to worry about fuel, you don't have to worry about parking."

    Once you've signed up, Ha recommends picking a time of day that works for you to do deliveries, and turning on all the apps at once. "If you're in a dense area, you can usually get orders going in the same direction, often from the same places," he says. He typically brings in $30 to $40 per hour doing it.

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