Covid-Friendly Side Hustles to Consider in 2021
The coronavirus pandemic shook up many individual and family finances in 2020, leaving millions unemployed, with reduced hours, or lower salaries. This past year has made it more difficult for many to make ends meet and has left job seekers choosing between earning an income and working essential jobs that are often the riskiest during the pandemic.
Worries about job security have many seeking out multiple streams of income through side hustles. And the good news is, there are many in-demand side jobs available right now. If you’ve been looking for a little extra money, I’ll walk you through how to make money with a side hustle and offer some recommendations for the best gigs in 2021.
- Tax implications to consider
- The bottom line
How to find the right side hustle
Getting a second job or freelancing can be a great way to earn additional income. There’s no one way to do this, especially in 2021. Thanks to technological advances, there are more ways to work from home or from the comfort of your own vehicle, while earning another income.
Working as a freelancer
One option for earning a second income involves freelancing. You can freelance, which means you’ll work as an independent contractor or nonemployee for other companies or individuals. This might mean working for multiple clients or working for a service like Uber, Grubhub, or Upwork. This might even lead you to start your own small business. You’ll need to manage your own schedule but will often have much more flexibility as to when you work and the type of work you accept.
You can freelance from the comfort of your own home or on-site, depending on the gig details.
Working as an employee
There are also more traditional routes, such as seeking part-time work for companies as an employee. This means you’ll need to adhere to a company’s schedule, but on the upside, usually have a better idea of how many hours you’ll work and how much money you’ll make over a set time period.
Like freelance gigs, you can often work as an employee remotely or in-person, depending on the job type.
Tax implications to consider
Before deciding if freelancing is right for you, it’s important to understand the tax implications of working for yourself vs. working for someone else.
As a part-time employee, you’ll have taxes withheld from your paycheck as you would as a full-time or salaried employee. This means you’ll simply add another W-2 to your tax returns when filing at the end of the year. Your additional income may bump you up to another tax bracket, which could mean you’ll pay a slightly higher tax rate.
As a contract employee, you’re responsible for managing and paying your own taxes. That means you’ll need to do some research as to what tax bracket you’ll be in and withhold the specified percentage of taxes every time you get paid. You can also use the IRS tax withholding estimator tool to help you determine how much to set aside with each paycheck.
Freelancers are required to track their earnings throughout the year and pay estimated quarterly taxes to the IRS and state or local governments. You’ll be required to make these payments for 2021 by:
- April 15th, 2021
- June 15th, 2021
- September 15th, 2021
- January 15th, 2022
If you do not make quarterly estimated payments throughout the year, you’re subject to a self-employment penalty, which will result in you owing even more money to the government at the end of the year. If you overpay when making your quarterly tax payments, you’ll receive a refund. If you underpay, you’ll typically pay the difference (though you might also owe a penalty depending on how much you underpaid).
You can make quarterly estimated payments for federal taxes directly on the IRS website. Visit the Department of Revenue website for your state of residence to determine how to pay your state estimated quarterly taxes.
Top side hustles to consider in 2021
Food delivery driver
With more people staying home or working from home, restaurant and grocery delivery services are in high demand. Drivers are needed for restaurant delivery on apps like UberEats, Grubhub, Postmates, Doordash, and more. Grocery delivery service through Instacart, Amazon Fresh, and even delivery services directly through grocery stores all require order pickers and delivery drivers.
This side hustle might be perfect for you if you have reliable transportation, are available throughout the morning or evening, and don’t mind driving to multiple restaurants, stores, and residences. You’ll also need a working smartphone that allows you to accept jobs as they pop up and communicate to customers, as needed. Keep in mind, these jobs are often (but not always) contract positions.
If you love helping others, data entry, and scheduling, working as a virtual assistant might appeal to you. You might find yourself working with CEOs, corporate executives, managers, or owners of startups to help them book meetings, coordinate different tasks to other resources, or better organize their days for success.
If you’re a people person and love to interact with your coworkers, you’ll likely enjoy this position. Depending on the hours required, you might be able to work as a virtual assistant for multiple clients on a contract basis. You may even find full-time work as an employee in this field. Typically, virtual assistants (by nature of the job title) are remote employees, so you’ll need access to the internet, should own your own laptop or desktop, and will likely need basic computer software programs.
Content writer or designer
Do you love writing or have an eye for compelling design? There are many different ways to earn money by working as a writer or designer for businesses, individuals, or niche services. You can work as a writer or designer for a variety of digital spaces, working directly as an employee or as a contractor. You can also seek work through content or design platforms or freelancing services like Fiverr or Upwork.
In order to succeed at one of these jobs, you’ll need to be able to write or design well, produce content daily, and have a working internet connection. You may also need additional software programs (Microsoft Word, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, etc). Almost all of these gigs are remote unless you work as an employee, in which case, your job may be on-site.
If you have video filming or editing skills, you may be in high demand in 2021. With many vloggers and businesses filming and releasing more videos than ever, adding animations, editing footage, and even offering filming services are needed job skills. You can seek opportunities over Fiverr or Upwork or reach out to businesses or influencers directly for work.
You’ll enjoy this side hustle if you have solid editing and videography skills and know-how to make videos pop. You may need access to stock imagery (some companies will provide this for free), sound effects, and royalty-free music tracks. You also might need to have some design skills to add in lower thirds text effects and other design elements. Typically these jobs are done remotely on a contract basis, but if you’ll be filming, you’ll need equipment and the ability to travel to shoots.
Maybe you aren’t fond of creating content and don’t have a creative skillset but can type fast and accurately. If that’s the case, you may love working as a freelance transcriptionist. Different industries (but medical industries, in particular) often require transcriptions of conference calls, meetings, and Zoom conversations for their notes.
You can find transcriptionist jobs on Upwork, Fiverr, FlexJobs, and a variety of transcriptionist-specific platforms. You can browse job postings on Indeed or SimplyHired for remote opportunities. If you’re bilingual, you’ll gain access to even more jobs, many at higher rates. While you’ll need nothing more than a computer to start, down the line you might want to invest in transcriptionist software, a headset, and a pedal to increase your speed. Transcriptionists are almost always contract workers.
Many companies need online consultants to help them achieve greater results. Consultants are available across many fields and can typically offer top-notch advice to professionals looking to grow and enhance their business opportunities. Sales consultants, for instance, might offer training, coaching, and targeted sales education for industries looking to sell more services or goods, faster.
In order to become a qualified consultant and find clients, you should have a reasonable amount of experience in a specific field. Most consultants form their own business (either as a sole proprietorship or LLC) and begin listing and marketing their services online. Networking on social media sites like LinkedIn can also be a good way to find new consulting customers.
The pandemic left many students at home, learning remotely, which is not always an effective way for teachers and students to communicate and engage one another. While some learners might have excelled in a remote learning environment, on the whole, many students have struggled greatly to master new subjects, skills, and practices. In addition, students who require additional services like ENL (English as a new language) often need additional support when learning remotely.
This has created a need for tutors to help those struggling in specific areas. You can work as a private tutor (listing services online) and set your own schedule or as an English tutor through companies like PalFish. If you speak another language, you’ll have even more opportunities available for tutoring. Tutors are primarily contract and remote workers, though some school systems and local tutoring agencies may hire you as a part-time employee.
Blogging/social media management
Social media posting and blogging might come naturally for some, but as businesses expand and try to reach more readers, managing a blog and posting regularly on social media can become full-time jobs. If you’re social media savvy, follow social media trends, and can generate content ideas regularly, this job might be right up your alley.
You’ll typically need a smartphone, computer, and editing software for this position. You can typically work as a remote, contract employee, though more and more companies are hiring part-time in-house employees to fill this need. You can market your skills for gigs as they pop up on Fiverr and Upwork or work directly with one business or a roster of companies.
Web development, website building, app creating, and general coding are highly coveted skills in this digital age. If you have coding chops and can sit for hours staring at a screen, starting a side hustle as a coder might be an easy way for you to begin earning extra cash. You’ll be able to find projects to accept on popular freelancing sites or might even find remote part-time positions with specific companies.
Coding as a side hustle can quickly spin up a lot of work (including on-call development and fixes, as needed). This is a great way for those looking to turn a side hustle into full-time employment to begin their own businesses.
Since more people are working from home, many families have given up additional vehicles that were rarely or lightly used. As a result, ridesharing is still in demand. And, as cities begin to open back up and vaccination rates increase, ridesharing will likely flourish as it did before the pandemic.
If you’re a safe driver, can spend hours behind the wheel, and enjoy talking to new people, you might really enjoy this side hustle. You can work for companies like Lyft and Uber, where you’ll be considered a contract employee. Best of all, you’ll set your own schedule and can spin up work whenever needed.
Everyone found out just how essential grocery and retail stores are during the pandemic. While grocery delivery jobs have increased, many grocery stores are also increasing their team size to accommodate order picking, cashier jobs, and stocking. If you’re looking for part-time work or overnight work unloading trucks, a grocery store might be a good fit.
Likewise, with more people staying at home, home improvement projects and home decor have become popular. Home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes have experienced high volumes of visitors and retail stores with home decor items are always in need of new employees. If a grocery store doesn’t sound appealing to you, you might enjoy another type of retail position.
Keep in mind, these positions are typically for part-time or full-time employment and are not freelance.
Telehealth customer service representative
Medical telehealth services increased last year, allowing many to speak directly with medical assistants, nurses, and doctors for prescriptions and other treatment options. Therapy and mental health teleservices have also become more common. All of these virtual services have developed a need for telehealth customer service representatives to handle a variety of tasks including scheduling appointments with patients, following up after visits, and answering questions or transferring patients to the correct department.
If you enjoy helping people and have a working phone connection (or computer and an internet connection, in some cases), you might enjoy working part-time as a telehealth customer service representative.
Thrifter or craftsman
If you love building or refurbishing items and furniture, you can make a lucrative side business out of posting your creations on sites like Etsy, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. Since more of us are spending time inside, many of us are investing in quality, handmade items, and furniture that will last for decades.
While thrift stores and boutique shops may not be open near you, you can always sell your designs online to local buyers (or partner with national carriers for cross-country delivery). Eventually, if you gain enough of a following, you might be able to make your own eCommerce website and sell directly to customers.
Do you have a huge social media following? Becoming an influencer has been quite trendy in the past decade, but it’s also changed the way that brands and companies market their products and services. If you have a high number of followers on Youtube, Instagram, or TikTok, companies might want to partner with you to promote their products.
Many influencers either seek these opportunities on their own, through influencer marketing platforms or through an agency. Sponsorships might require you to write blog posts or create posts, videos, or podcasts promoting their products and services. If you love spending hours on social media, you can earn good money (and score some free products) this way.
With mortgage rates at historic lows, many people are leaving rentals or starter homes for new real estate. If you don’t mind physical labor and can lift heavy furniture for hours at a time, working as a mover might be a good way to earn additional income. Many moving and transportation companies hire part-time movers (as employees or contract positions), to help as needed.
In addition, you can sign up for services like TaskRabbit, where you’ll spend your time building furniture and products for customers.
The bottom line
There are many ways to start successful side hustles, no matter your skill level, passion, or availability. Just make sure you decide if freelancing or working as an employee is best for your financial situation, then start searching for positions where you’ll be a great fit.