The COVID-19 pandemic placed much of the world on hold, but it didn't take the spark away from nearly three-quarters of the Gen Z crowd who wanted to turn their free time into cash. Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index study showed that during the past two years, a whopping 70 percent of Gen Z weren't just thinking about how to find the good in a bad situation — they went after it with a vengeance. The Gen Z side hustle took over, encouraging many to search for their own side hustle ideas to bring in extra money while they waited for life to resume.
What Is a Gen Z Side Hustle?
If you're part of Generation Z, you probably already know that those who make the Gen Z cut were born between the late 1990s to the early 2010s and many have spent their childhood years immersed in digital technology.
Let's be clear, however — the lack of ability to use a rotary telephone doesn't mean that a significant portion of the Gen Z alumni crowd (that includes both teens as well as full-fledged adults, keep in mind) doesn't know their way around the latest and greatest happenings in the world of modern technology. As such, they (perhaps, you) are well prepared to start up a side hustle that will have them laughing all the way to the banking app on their smartphones as they use mobile deposit to cash those sweet Gen Z side hustle checks.
Side hustles, on the other hand, have been around a lot longer and have served countless generations with a method of bringing in extra income while also maintaining their day job. From young children supplementing their allowance with a paper route to millennials pioneering new tech startups in their garages on weekends, the concept of the side hustle is simple: take something you know (or learn something new) and then sell it in any capacity you can.
Arguably, Gen Z youth had a tougher time than many other groups during the pandemic because they found themselves caught between two worlds; being a kid and bridging the gap to adulthood. With traditional schooling out the window and a LOT of free time spent indoors watching TikTok, many took matters into their own hands and either picked up a new skill or figured out other ways that they could sell their time to make a profit on the side.
Why Are So Many Gen Z'ers Looking for Side Hustles?
Money, for one. Throughout the pandemic, free activities were at a minimum — no sports, no hanging out with friends…even exercise was captured and held hostage. For many, this meant filling the time by joining their friends in playing video games online or investing in new hobbies that they could enjoy on their own.
But these activities cost money, and with many businesses shut down, being able to earn an income as a Gen Z wasn't always an option. In addition, social media — especially TikTok — was rampant and gave Gen Z'ers the opportunity to share how they were making money without leaving the house.
But despite money being a big motivator, it wasn't the only reason that Gen Z'ers were looking for side hustle ideas. For those who were supposed to graduate between 2020-2022, the thought of pursuing post-secondary education in the midst of a global pandemic was enough to make their heads spin.
What they wanted was a way to determine what they were good at and what they could do now to get a head start. They wanted to prove themselves as competent adults to a world that still viewed them as children, preserved in the amber of a pandemic with no end in sight.
How Do You Choose a Side Hustle?
The pandemic may be drawing to a somewhat cumbersome close, but that doesn't mean the ship has sailed on the concept of the Gen Z side hustle. If you're looking for ways to make extra income alongside your job, you can get started on your own side hustle by determining what you're good at or what you're interested in learning to be good at.
Most side hustle ideas are started by people who see a need either online or in their local neighborhoods and municipalities and develop a solution that their prospective customers are willing to pay for.
The 10 Most Popular Side Hustle Ideas for Gen Z
Here we've put together 10 popular side hustle ideas that should give you some viable options when considering how to best fill your spare time. Remember, there's no limit to what you can combine or how many you can start!
1. Leverage Social Media
Develop an organic following by creating vlogs or short videos to teach, entertain or share exciting events with others. Or, use your following to gain attention from brands who want to promote their products and services.
Achieving financial success on social media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok can be a tough egg to crack, but even the best of today started at the bottom. Choosing a specific niche is good advice as you can explore every angle and present your findings to a growing audience. How-to videos, reviews, fashion vlogs, weight loss tips and more can be good places to start if you know your stuff and aren't afraid to put yourself out there. Just remember, you don't have to compete with Charli or Khaby to earn an income!
Monthly Earning Potential: TikTok $0.02-$0.04 per 1,000 views; YouTube $18 per 1,000 ad views (approx.)
2. Design Websites
If you aren't a master coder, don't worry. You can learn how to use web builders like WordPress, Squarespace or Wix and sell your services to new business owners who need an online presence.
Small to medium-sized websites are often built using website builders and don't require a lot of advanced coding knowledge. Small local businesses should all have websites, so start by looking up the "mom & pop" shops you pass by and see if they could benefit from a brief landing page or more involved product pages to drive new business.
Monthly Earning Potential: $1,000-$4,000
3. Start a Blog or Look for Writing Gigs
If you have a special interest in a particular topic such as travel, art, cooking, technology, etc., start typing! Or, search online for companies who employ writers to maintain their own blogs.
There are countless sites where you can publish your own blog entries, though writing for businesses is the fastest way to earn an income with this particular Gen Z side hustle. Many promotional emails, website copy/content and articles (even this one) are written by writers who have other clients or even another job entirely.
Start writing about a topic you enjoy and then use it as a sample to show prospective clients. If you start your own blog and it becomes successful, you might even want to turn it into an official business.
Monthly Earning Potential: $1,500-$4,500
4. Sell Stock Photography or Drone Footage
Have a good camera laying around? Perhaps a drone? Focus on taking great images of daily items, landscapes or aerial footage and sell them to stock photography and videography sites.
Sites such as Shutterstock, Getty Images or Pexels accept contributions, meaning you can sell your own stock photos and video footage to earn income. Companies buy and use stock photography every single day and are always on the hunt for high-quality, original images and generic footage. Royalties for these types of sites typically start at around 15 percent and while it may not be an overnight strategy, none really are.
Monthly Earning Potential: $0.02 per image sold
5. Create Digital (or Physical) Products
Design and produce anything from graphics and art prints to T-shirts and jewelry, then sell them on specialty sites like Etsy or marketplace sites such as Facebook or Craigslist.
Sites like Etsy were created for people who like to make things and sell them to interested online buyers. If you can think of it, it's probably on Etsy — but that doesn't mean yours won't sell. These types of sites enable you to showcase your finest work in order to attract customers, and everything is original.
Monthly Earning Potential: $500-$3,700
6. Become a Software Coach or Consultant
Learn the ins and outs of new software products that help businesses increase productivity and then sell training or software setup services to businesses.
Software with a Service (or SwaS) refers to the process of learning new software platforms and then either teaching others to use them proficiently or setting them up for individuals and businesses. Project management software such as ClickUp, Asana, Basecamp and Slack are popular platforms that businesses will pay to understand and have set up.
Monthly Earning Potential: $1,500-$5,000
7. Become a Virtual Assistant
The completion of various administrative tasks is something many businesses need and are willing to pay for in order to save time. From data entry to cold-calling customers, the job of a virtual assistant is always changing.
As much of the world has gone both digital and remote since the pandemic began, more businesses are looking for "virtual" staff to support their daily operations. Virtual assistants can complete various tasks, including bookkeeping and payroll, lead generation, outbound marketing, email correspondence, customer service and more. If you're interested in seeing what's out there for virtual assistants, try searching on LinkedIn.
Monthly Earning Potential: $1,500-$3,750
8. Dive Into the World of Affiliate Marketing
Promote products or services that you support and make a commission every time someone makes a purchase on the company's website using your special link.
Companies pay commissions to individuals, influencers and even other businesses for promoting their products and services. There's no limit to how many affiliate partnerships you can get involved with, so start visiting your favorite sites and see if they have an affiliate page where you can learn about their process for generating some income on the side.
Most businesses that do will have either a personalized link or a promotional code that you can then share to your own blog, in your social media bios or just with friends and family. Influencer marketing and affiliate marketing go hand-in-hand, so if your dream is to become YouTube, TikTok or Instagram famous, this could be the Gen Z side hustle for you (if so, be sure to check out our tips on tracking income for influencers).
Monthly Earning Potential: $1,500-$2,500
9. Start a Podcast
Just like with social media, if you can talk for hours about a niche subject, starting a podcast could help you earn more of that Gen Z side hustle money while pursuing something you love.
Podcasts are incredibly simple to start, and you don't have to purchase expensive microphones or even paid software to get going. In fact, many podcasts are started with just an iPhone, and you can use sites such as Anchor.fm to host your podcast for free. Make sure to put together a bit of a plan before you hit record — that way you're more likely to produce a captivating show that will attract more listeners.
Monthly Earning Potential: $4,500-$6,700 (median)
10. Serve a Need in Your Community
If you're looking for physical side hustle ideas, consider what's needed right outside your door. From shoveling snow and mowing lawns to cleaning windows and walking dogs, someone always needs a hand with something.
You might be surprised by the opportunities right in your home city. People pay for dog walking, house sitting, yard maintenance, handyman services and much, much more every day, and you could make a decent business out of being the neighborhood's go-to for odd jobs. There are also multiple sites built for community needs, such as Rover for dog walking, MindMyHouse for house sitting and Bark for general handyman services.
Monthly Earning Potential: $500-$2,000
Side Hustle Ideas You Should Avoid
Not all that glitters is gold, after all. While it's true that there are some amazing ways to earn an income using the above Gen Z side hustle ideas, there are also a few to avoid if your goal is to get paid what your time is worth (or just to get paid at all).
By focusing your time on developing new skills that you can turn into services, you can increase your income while providing your customers with long-term value. That said, here are a few hustles to steer clear of:
Don't Waste Time with Direct Sales
Direct selling always sounds promising, but multi-level marketing (MLM) companies come in all scams and sizes.
There are many reputable companies that use direct selling as a business model, but there are also many scams out there that can muddy the waters and make earning a side income difficult (or even impossible). Sustainable business models that don't rely on your ability to sell to your close friends and family members are recommended, and contrary to some direct selling opportunities, they won't leave you trying to offload a garage full of consumer products that you've paid for in advance.
Be Careful with Freelance Sites
Unfortunately, bidding sites often lead to lower rates as the price is the only differentiating factor between you and another provider.
Lots of businesses use traditional freelancing sites to post job opportunities for everything from graphic design and video editing to copywriting and software development. You can find authentic posts, but sifting through low-paying gigs can be tiresome. Lots of individuals also use these types of sites to either scam people into providing free work or actually scam them out of money by requiring them to sign up for fake sites to gain access to data that is supposedly required for the project (but isn't).
Steer Clear of Survey Sites
One low-paying gig plus another low-paying gig is still just two low-paying gigs that won't provide enough income for the time investment required.
You may be tempted by posts advertising cash for completing surveys, and while many companies do pay for surveys, most of them pay very little in comparison to the time needed to complete them. Answering a 20-minute survey for $1.00 isn't something you can repeat over and over for very long before you burn out, and there are far more lucrative side hustle ideas to choose from that will earn you the income you need.
How Much Can You Earn with a Gen Z Side Hustle?
This is the big question, right? Besides "what are the best Gen Z side hustle ideas" your next question is likely, "how much can I make with a side hustle?" Remember, there's nothing wrong with having a desire to make additional income — especially if it supports your future, and even if money is the only reason you're doing it at all.
Each type of side hustle has a spectrum of earning potential based on several factors, but you should look for the one that can meet your income goals. In order to be worthwhile, most side hustles should provide a minimum of $1,000 in extra income each month, but the sky is truly the limit here (just ask these two Gen Z'ers who have grown their face mask business to over $4 million per year!).
Which Side Hustles Make the Most Money?
If your goal is to make as much money as possible, providing digital services is the way to go. This is because in most cases you won't have any overhead costs besides a laptop and you can work from wherever you want. The other significant benefit is that you can work with businesses all over the world and aren't limited by your geographical location. If you want to teach English to Germans or write monthly blogs for a remote Icelandic fishing business, go nuts!
The most lucrative side hustle ideas fall into either the creative category or the technology category, so things like graphic and web design, freelance writing, software training and other similar service-based jobs. There is always a demand for these skills, as well as an unlimited number of businesses that would rather hire a competent individual over a pricey company or agency.
The Side Hustle Checklist
If you're serious about starting a Gen Z side hustle and want to create a gig that will pay you $1,000 per month or more, you'll want to make sure you go about it correctly to guarantee the best possible results. Who knows, you could end up turning that side gig into a full-fledged business!
To give you a leg up, our team at Incfile has created a step-by-step checklist that you can use to go from being bored at home to generating a side income in your pajamas in no time. Download the checklist and start dreaming about your next paying gig!
Chad is a freelance writer and former project manager focused on presenting information on SaaS, technology and business formation.