The 10 Best Side Businesses to Fund Your Startup (Plus One Unexpected Suggestion)

There are so many different ways to make money on the side and each one has its own benefits. Whether you want to start a business or just earn some extra cash, these 10 ideas will help you get started.

The how to start a business is a question that many people have been asking lately. This article will give you 10 different side businesses to fund your startup, as well as one unexpected suggestion.

This post is part of our “Business Startup Guide” – a collection of our articles that will help you get up and running quickly!

So, you’ve come up with a brilliant new company concept? The truth is that getting started isn’t as simple as some people make it out to be. What if you need some assistance getting things started? A lot of your time will undoubtedly be spent thinking about how to finance your new company, in addition to developing a strong business plan, promoting your firm, and a plethora of other things you’ll be contemplating.

You may believe that you will have to depend on loans, but I am here to show you that this is not the case. In this post, I’ll teach you how to finance your company concept by running a successful side business, rather than relying on conventional financing sources.

Let’s get started.

Starting a company from the ground up

If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, bootstrapping, often known as “self-funding,” refers to the numerous ways entrepreneurs may utilize to finance their businesses in addition to traditional forms of financing such as small company loans. The term alludes to accomplishing anything without outside help—in this case, financing your business—and is based on the common notion of people “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.”

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to bootstrapping a company, which may be both advantageous and disadvantageous. Entrepreneurs who bootstrap their businesses have the freedom to be flexible, innovative, and finance their businesses on their own terms. It often leads to the creation of a patchwork of income sources in order to create a strong financial foundation on which to launch a company. However, this may be a dangerous and unstable venture, which is a major disadvantage to consider.

Bank loans, borrowing money from friends and family, crowdsourcing, and, depending on your sector, venture capital or angel investment are all alternatives for financing a company.

Traditional business financing options such as loans should not be overlooked—check out our small business loan finder—and it never hurts to explore what angel investors have to offer, if relevant to your company.

Bootstrapping your company is an excellent option to consider if you don’t qualify for traditional financing or want to explore other funding options.

Bootstrapping your company with a side business

How have other businesses achieved success through bootstrapping?

While securing enough financing from a single outside source may be difficult, bootstrapping your company allows you to put together your cash on your own terms, in whatever creative manner you find attractive.

So, what are your choices if you want to bootstrap your company? I invited many entrepreneurs to join the conversation, who had established side companies to help finance their startups.

My requirements for side companies were simple: they had to be adaptable, time-consuming, and low-cost. After all, a side job shouldn’t consume all of your time! These ten side hustles may be done alone or in tandem, can be adjusted to suit your schedule, and often depend on existing talents.

Read on to discover whether one is right for you, or try a few other ones—the beauty of bootstrapping is its adaptability.

10 side hustles that can help you finance your startup:

1. Etsy:

Etsy has earned a reputation as the perfect marketplace for the artistically inclined, and with good reason: setting up an Etsy store is extremely easy, and since the site is primarily oriented toward handmade goods, you’ll be in good company if you have a talent.

Image via The Boss Stitch

Image courtesy of The Boss Stitch

Do you have an interest in creating jewelry on the side? Maybe you’re an artist, and your pastime might help you make money? If you don’t want to convert your pastime into a full-time job but still want to utilize your creative talents, this is a great alternative.

Etsy is a wonderful place to start a side company since it allows you to work from home and on your own schedule, and material prices vary based on your trade.

You’ll want to be creative if you want to make your Etsy company a profitable source of revenue. There are a lot of excellent Etsy stores out there, so even if it’s a side project, make sure it stands out.

Sara Bliss, who just launched her Etsy store The Boss Stitch, is an excellent example of a one-of-a-kind Etsy item. She offers bespoke cross stitch works that are amusing, smart, and sure to be remembered.

2. EBay:

EBay is Etsy’s elder, more experienced relative, and as a result, it provides a larger platform for goods sale. Do you have an extensive collection of—well, almost anything? There’s a good chance it’ll sell on eBay.

eBay, like Etsy, is extremely flexible, making it an excellent side business. The best part is that an eBay company can be whatever you want it to be—for example, Lori Cheek, the creator of Cheek’d and a bootstrap marketing guru, utilized eBay to resell her luxury clothes, which helped finance her firm.

If you’re thinking about starting an eCommerce company, eBay is a fantastic place to test the waters. James Applegath sold his vintage shirts on eBay before starting his vintage T-shirt company Defunkd to see whether there was a demand for his product. “EBay and other marketplace platforms are great ways to evaluate how your company will function prior to establishing a startup,” he says, adding that the money you earn will also help you start your firm.

3. Working for yourself

Freelancing is a great opportunity to put your current talents to work for you and earn money. Are you an author? Consider utilizing freelance writing to help you launch your business. Freelancing is a great side business since it allows you to work from anywhere and requires almost no supplies other than your computer and internet connection.

shutterstock_223348486Networking within your field, as well as platforms that link freelancers with jobs, may be a fantastic method to discover freelancing employment. Although Odesk and Elance are well-known, Craigslist is more than simply a place to locate a gently-used couch.

“I also unexpectedly had a lot of success utilizing Craigslist and Odesk to locate new work,” says Abbey Finch, who used freelance writing to help finance her company Scribe Space. I did everything from covering town council meetings for a small free newspaper to writing eBay how-to manuals. I’ve written for attorneys, physicians, home improvement experts, a wedding band, and a variety of other clients.”

However, freelancing is not restricted to writing. Joseph Howard, the creator of Dream Start Soccer and WordPress Buffs, made a living as a freelance webmaster and SEO expert.

Consider your talents and see if you can turn any of them into a freelancing opportunity. Freelancing may be a great method to supplement your income while launching your business because of the freedom it offers.

4. Advisory services

Consider establishing yourself as an independent consultant in the same spirit as freelancing. “When establishing a consultancy company, there is no overhead and, in today’s contemporary era, there are essentially no startup costs,” says Brett Stapper of Falcon Global Capital.

Another area where you may put your current talents to work is consulting. Diana Melencio spent eight years on Wall Street and then went on to work as an independent financial consultant, using her financial expertise. This side company allowed her to pursue her dream of launching OkMyOutfit, an online styling and buying platform.

You must, of course, be an expert in anything in order to advertise oneself as a consultant. However, as Brett correctly points out, “the majority of individuals launching a company are.” What do you excel at? What talents from your previous job can you use to start a consulting firm? Consider your past responsibilities and areas of strength, then build from there.

5. Offering services for sale

shutterstock_176704094On a more informal level, a number of service companies make excellent side hustles. Craigslist and other similar sites may be a wonderful opportunity to put your talents to work and earn money. Do you have any idea what interviewers are looking for? Consider assisting with the creation of a resume. Do you speak more than one language? Offer tutoring or language conversation classes to put your talents to good use. Do you like spending time with animals? Make an ad for yourself as a dog walker in your area.

While they may not seem to be reliable sources of income at first glance, with enough time to establish yourself and a strong customer base, they may all be successful side enterprises. This may be a disadvantage, but if you think you can offer a sought-after service, it’s worth considering.

6. Your regular work

There’s a reason why many entrepreneurs don’t leave their day jobs: the daily grind has given birth to many businesses. Joseph Howard works a full-time job while also doing freelance work and focusing his efforts on his two startup businesses. Joseph is able to work on several projects at the same time because to a mix of freelance work and full-time employment.

Is your current work flexible enough and pays well enough to help you finance your startup? If that’s the case, you’re probably good to go. While combining your day job with one of these side companies may definitely augment your income, think of your full-time work as a means to a goal, and put any spare money after living costs into your company.

Blogging is number seven.

A blog may be started by anybody, but making money from it is a different matter. Consider concentrating your efforts there if you are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about a certain topic, or if you already have a blog that you can convert into a money-making venture. Blogging may be a fantastic way to convert a hobby into a side income, and it’s also extremely flexible. Blogging is a great side business choice since it has no time restrictions, allows you to work for as long or as little as you like, and allows you to work from practically anywhere.

Cyrus Roepers, a full-time entrepreneur with a SaaS company, utilized his culinary blog to create revenue for his company. “Intriguingly (and perhaps ironically), a culinary blog that began as a hobby has turned into a source of revenue that allows me to finance other initiatives and my primary software startup,” he adds.

Though blogging is a tough area to rapidly monetize, if you already have a site that you can concentrate on, you may have a ready-made side business. If you have a popular hobby, an intriguing tale, or a unique perspective on a topic, consider blogging.

Competitions (nine)

Entering a competition, although uncommon (though not the strangest idea on our list—see number 11), may be a unique method to generate money for your company if you are a competent competitor.

shutterstock_144454753Farbod Shoraka, David Daneshgar, and Gregg Weisstein utilized an unusual financing source to launch their floral company BloomNation: the poker game. David, a previous World Series of Poker winner, was entered into a local poker tournament with the help of the three of them pooling their funds. He won and raised $30,000, which the three used towards the start-up of BloomNation.

While this proposal is far from the typical small company loan, it is impossible to deny that the approach worked. Andreessen Horowitz, CrunchFund, Spark Capital, and Chicago Ventures have together invested approximately $1.65 million in the business, which has been designated one of Entrepreneur’s Top 5 Silicon Beach Startups to Watch.

If you’re feeling really fortunate, join local contests in areas where you’ve previously excelled. Is it a more dangerous way to make money? Definitely. While we don’t recommend blowing your money on the card tables in Vegas, if you have a competitive talent, it’s worth investigating.

9. Working as an Uber driver

Do you own a vehicle as well as a smartphone? Consider getting a job as an Uber driver. This divisive app-based transportation business let drivers to use their own cars and establish their own timetables, making it an ideal side gig for the ambitious entrepreneur.

While completing his degree at Louisiana State University, Louis Ashner, the creator of NoPass, drove for Uber to help finance his company. “Uber drivers were in high demand during LSU football games,” he adds. “All last season, I drove during rush hours after games and earned a lot of money.”

Make sure Uber is legal in your location first—in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, for example, Uber has encountered significant resistance from both the city and local taxi companies—but if it is, being an Uber driver may be a wonderful way to put your current assets (particularly, a vehicle) to good use.

Driving for Uber, out of all the options on our list, offers a unique set of benefits: no time spent on your feet and a low level of intellectual challenge. There’s a lot to be said about having a side business that allows you to concentrate your mental and physical energies on your dream company, so if you’re worried that freelancing will stretch you too thin, driving for Uber may be a good match.

Not only that, but driving for Uber may provide an unexpected networking opportunity; entrepreneur Gavin Escolar has utilized his position as an Uber driver to promote his jewelry company by making contacts and networking with his passengers.

Airbnb is number ten.

Do you live in a well-traveled neighborhood with plenty of parking? Consider using Airbnb, a web and app-based service that links visitors with hosts who then open their homes as a makeshift hotel. For the social butterfly who loves establishing connections and meeting new people, Airbnb is a fantastic side business.

Diana Melencio financed OkMyOutfit in addition to consulting by renting out her guest room to tourists. “I supplement my income by renting out my spare bedroom,” she adds. “Along the road, I’ve met some amazing people with whom I’ve stayed in touch.”

Consider Airbnb if you have spare room in a desirable area of the nation (but if you reside in smalltown, USA, this may be a less feasible choice). It will not only offer a pretty low-effort supplementary income source, but it may also lead to some intriguing networking possibilities.

Worms (nine) (yes, worms)

Now here’s something totally bizarre and unexpected: Jon Colgan, the founder and CEO of the fintech company CellBreaker, drew on his expertise in sustainability to help fund his company. “At school, I studied sustainability and got fascinated with the idea of composting using worms. I sell worms as a third source of income,” he adds. “I found that every 90 days, the number of happy worms doubles. My worms are usually in a good mood. As a result, I began selling worms and vermicompost on Craigslist and via word of mouth.”

shutterstock_178468376Intrigued? I was in the same boat. Jon acknowledges that his bootstrapping efforts are unconventional, since he also plays music for clubs, restaurants, weddings, and other events as a source of revenue. They have, nevertheless, proved to be an effective mix in the end.

While I’ll be the first to admit that this is a rather specialized side company to imitate, it does highlight the importance of considering a broad range of alternatives when searching for side companies to help finance your firm. Above all, think imaginatively.

What talents do you have, what knowledge do you have, and how can you turn your areas of competence into money-making side businesses? A excellent side company is one that gives you enough freedom to pursue your dream startup while still generating enough money. Perhaps you can do like Lori Cheek did and sell unwanted things on eBay while simultaneously renting out a room on Airbnb, or you can do what Joseph Howard did and retain your corporate position while providing freelancing services.

When it comes to bootstrapping your company, you’ll need to think outside the box—here are a few ideas to get you started.

Which of these approaches have you employed? Do you have any innovative side-business ideas that I didn’t think of? Please let me know in the comments section or on Twitter!


The 8 steps to start and grow your business is a blog post that lists the 10 best side businesses to fund your startup. This article also includes an unexpected suggestion.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top 10 businesses to start?

The top 10 businesses to start are as follows: 1. Online Business 2. Photography Studio 3. Event Planning Company 4. Web Development Company 5. Restaurant 6. Law Firm 7. Personal Trainer 8. Interior Designing Firm 9. Social Media Marketing Agency 10. Private Investigator

What is the best business for 2021?

This is a difficult question to answer.

What companies help startups?

There are many companies that help startups. Some of the most popular ones include banks, financial institutions, venture capital firms, and accelerators.

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