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15 Business Ideas You Can Start While Employed Full-Time

19 Mins read

Businesses are a lot like fingerprints: each one is totally unique!

Whatever you have to offer in business, chances are good that no one else will do it exactly like you will. That means there’s always room in the marketplace for one of your unique business ideas to become reality and make its mark on the world!

Putting aside the idea of market opportunity, there’s truly nothing quite like the feeling of building your own business. You can create something valuable from just a seed of an idea – something that could eventually be your future livelihood.

That’s a special experience!

Start Your Business Idea While Working a Job

Of course, most of us don’t have the luxury of starting a new business full-time, because we still have bills to pay while it’s getting off the ground. That’s why it’s worth looking at some business ideas you can start that allow you to remain employed full-time.

So, what are these great small business ideas you can start part-time? Whether you want to sell products or pick up a few clients on the side, we’ve put together some great options for you to make good money in your new business.

NOTE: Many business ideas are just slight variations on the same general business model. That’s why we’ve chosen to group these ideas together below into three primary categories:

Ready? Read on to see which business ideas could be right for you!

Sell Products

The most tried-and-true method for making money is to deliver something with tangible value to customers. Selling products is great for you because you can separate your time from your earning potential – and with online business booming, you’re no longer limited to the customers in your own neighborhood. Don’t neglect the power to sell your products across the web.

Ready to find out more? Let’s check out five business ideas based on selling products!

1) Make Arts and Crafts

Are you handy with a pen, paintbrush, or sewing machine? If you like to be creative, there are plenty of people out there right now who would be thrilled to purchase what you make!

People enjoy all kinds of homemade crafts or beautiful pieces of art, and thanks to the internet, you have a global audience ready and waiting to buy. As long as you can find consistent time to work on your art or crafts outside of work, this is a great side hustle that could eventually become a full-time business!

The heavyweight champ in this space is Etsy, a popular platform for selling art, crafts, and other physical items online. Etsy allows you to establish your own store on a website where millions of visitors go every month specifically to look for homemade products to buy.

Just know that you’ll generally pay a small listing fee and a percentage of all your sales to Etsy, and these payments can add up!

If you would rather maintain more control over the fee structure, it’s also possible to sell your arts and crafts through places like Facebook Marketplace or on your own website. And don’t forget about opportunities to sell in your local community, such as arts and crafts shows, art competitions, and more!

2) Start an Ecommerce Store

Arts and crafts aren’t the only thing you can sell online!

Over the past several years, a lot of commerce has shifted to the web – and for better or worse, the COVID pandemic has accelerated society’s push towards buying and selling everything online. That means you have a golden opportunity to take advantage of!

Ecommerce isn’t an easy business, because you’re typically handling inventory, customer service, digital marketing, and a lot of other challenges all at once. Plus, it’s difficult to field emergency supply chain calls while you’re in a meeting at your full-time job!

On the plus side, the barriers to entry are low enough that you can make it work, while still high enough that you have less competition in ecommerce than with many other business ideas.

If you have a physical product to sell, it’s easier than ever to build your own store with WordPress and an ecommerce plugin like WooCommerce. There are also some all-in-one ecommerce platforms that make it easy to get going right away. Two of the most popular online ecommerce platforms right now are Shopify and BigCommerce.

The biggest benefit of an ecommerce business is that your earning potential is all about how many products you can sell, not how much time you spend on the clock!

3) Try Dropshipping

You’ve probably heard the term “dropshipping” many times before. It might sound a little mysterious, but it’s really just a different approach to fulfilling orders that come in on your ecommerce store.

Normally, the owner of any store (brick-and-mortar or ecommerce) carries inventory for its stock of products. When someone makes a purchase, you fulfill the order and ship it to them. But there’s an obvious challenge with this, especially for someone who still has a job while building their ecommerce business: managing inventory is a HUGE upfront cost. You have to purchase the stock AND the warehouse space to keep it, and then either fulfill the orders yourself or hire employees to do it for you!

Dropshipping makes this whole process easier by allowing you to create a storefront, but outsource the actual fulfillment and shipping to a third-party supplier, manufacturer, retailer, or wholesaler. There are all kinds of ways to get into dropshipping, with options like Shopify plus Oberlo, or dedicated dropshipping platforms like 3dcart.

This is a great way to get started in ecommerce, but keep in mind that you also give over a lot of control to someone else to make your customers happy. If they’re slow to ship or items arrive damaged, you’re still on the hook! You’ll also have less profit potential – but if you’re still working at a job, a dropshipping side business is a great starting point before you’re ready to go all-in.

4) Sell Books and Courses

Another great business idea is simply packaging up information that you can sell as a book or course! The internet makes it possible for you to create valuable information products within a very narrow niche or topic and still reach interested buyers.

These days, you don’t have to be the biggest expert in the world and wait for a book deal or a tenure-track job as a professor to make money selling information. This is because people routinely search long tail keywords on sites like Google, Amazon, Coursera, Udemy, and anywhere that information can be found. Long tail keywords are phrases of several words covering a narrow topic – and they’re magic because they have lower competition, but a higher level of intent.

For example, if someone searches “video games,” that could mean anything from wanting to buy one to just being interested in who invented the first one. But if someone searches “how to make a video game in Unity,” you have a clear sense of what the user wants to do.

You can apply this logic to creating books and courses that people care about. Continuing that previous example, if you feel like you can provide the best information online for video game creation using the Unity development engine, you could create a book or course on this narrow topic and sell it on your own website – or host it on a third-party platform like Coursera, Udemy, and Amazon.

Most people don’t get rich off of just one book or course, but if you get the hang of it, you could end up making a great passive income by selling information!

PRO TIP: If you’re currently working for a company, and the information you want to teach is in the same industry, be sure to run it by them. You don’t want them to end up owning what you create, or to sue you for breaching confidentiality.

5) Do Affiliate Marketing

Who says you have to sell your OWN products? As an affiliate marketer, you can get commissions by directing your audience to buy products from other companies and brands. Usually, this involves creating a blog with search engine optimized content on your topic, though you can also do affiliate marketing through email marketing and social media.

So, how do you get started in affiliate marketing?

All you really have to do is choose a niche where you can create content that ranks in Google. Then, join affiliate programs like Amazon Associates and point your readers to products they can buy using special affiliate links. This model works best when you have a LOT of content published, because that gives you more potential traffic. Every new visitor coming to your site is a potential affiliate commission.

Ultimately, affiliate marketing is a business opportunity that’s easy to learn but hard to master. There are countless people making a good income with affiliate marketing – and one of the best things about this business model is how passive it is.

I’m not saying you won’t work hard, but you can choose when you work on your content site, which may makes all the difference in allowing you to keep going with this exciting business idea.

Teach Others

No matter how many apps come out that claim to be definitive way to learn something, there’s ALWAYS going to be room for good teachers.

When it comes to selling what you can teach, keep in mind that most pursuits are either intrinsically or instrumentally valuable. Intrinsic skills are sought out because we just feel good about doing them – music, foreign languages, and fitness are often intrinsic.

Instrumental skills are those that help you to accomplish something – things like test prep, job interviewing, and business training. You’ll market your services differently depending on which category of skill you’re teaching, but both can work.

Let’s take a look at five great business ideas for teaching others!

6) Become a Tutor

Students all over the world need a tutor – and since it’s often parents who want to see their children succeed, you can usually get paid pretty well to do it! Quality tutors can charge $30, $50, and even $150 per hour, especially for test prep like the ACT and SAT.

If you already are knowledgeable in a subject area like math, English, a foreign language, or college admission testing, then you’ll have a leg up! As a tutor, you should choose to specialize by subject, grade level, type of assignment, or type of student. This includes whether you guide students through homework assignments or help them study for upcoming exams.

You can also choose whether you focus on remedial help to catch kids up to their grade level, or whether you provide enrichment help to challenge students who aren’t getting enough stimulation in a subject at school.

It’s rewarding to make a difference in a child’s life by helping them grow in a subject, but there are challenges associated with tutoring as well. Some students aren’t really there by choice, and they resent having to work with you – and others may be slower to catch on and require a lot of patience. You should also think about getting certified through the National Tutoring Association if you’re serious about tutoring, which will take time and cost a little money.

To get started with tutoring, consider whether you’ll do it online or in person. A good online tutor usually won’t make as much – say $20 per hour – but has a lot more potential students to work with and doesn’t have to work as hard to find clients. You can use sites like Tutor.com or Chegg Tutors to connect you with children who need tutors!

7) Become a Music Teacher

Musicians from all kinds of backgrounds can turn to teaching music lessons in order to help pay the bills or fill in gaps in their other work. If you have a corporate job, but you also know your fretboard from your plectrum, then a side hustle as a private music teacher is worth a shot!

First, decide what kind of lessons you want to offer. Here are a few ideas:

  • Voice lessons
  • Teaching an instrument
  • Teaching music theory/composition/songwriting

Now, you don’t need to have a fancy certification or music degree to offer music lessons privately, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have them! More than credentials, focus your attention on being a skilled and knowledgeable musician. Never stop learning – the more you know and the better you are at your craft, the more valuable you’ll be to students!

The good news with music lessons is, you can get started pretty easily. Try just telling your friends and family that you’re offering music lessons – someone usually knows someone whose kid wants to get better at guitar. If you’re a gigging musician, why not tell the venues, fellow bandmates, and even the audience that you have openings for private music students!

You can also connect with a music studio or a music store for leads. If you can convince them you’re a good teacher, they are a great way to connect you with new students looking for lessons. You can also try to advertise online and through social media, but ultimately, word of mouth is always the most effective way to build up your music teaching business.

8) Become a Personal Trainer

Do you think you’ve got the chops to help other people reach their health and fitness goals? Then let’s take a look at personal training for your side business.

Any opportunity where you work directly with people is going to be difficult if you already work a 40+ hour per week job, and many people prefer to work out in the mornings. But if you have the flexibility to help people in the mornings or evenings, personal training is a great way to bring in additional income!

Aside from a flexible schedule, one of the coolest things about personal training is that it’s actually making a visible difference in people’s lives. Over time, you can witness a complete transformation in your clients – and not just physically. With regular workouts, clients will often gain inner strength and confidence, because you’re helping them achieve something.

One consideration with personal training is that you’ll have to get a certification, such as the ACSM, ACE, or NASM credentials. If you know where you want to work as a personal trainer, then you should check and make sure that you get a certification they will accept. Personal trainers can expect to make about $21 per hour, though you can command higher rates with more experience, credentials, and marketing.

9) Become a Consultant

Do you have knowledge or experience that you can sell to help business owners succeed? Business consulting is an excellent avenue for starting a business that can fit well around a full-time job.

On the plus side, consulting is flexible, high-paying, and interesting work. On the other hand, all you do a consultant is offer advice – this may be perfect for some, but if you like to be more involved in making things happen, it can sometimes be frustrating watching from the sidelines.

Generally, freelancing has you producing a deliverable for your clients (such as a new website), while consulting has you serving as an advisor.

There are so many different areas where you can consult. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Management consulting
  • Marketing consulting
  • Financial advisory consulting
  • Information technology (IT) consulting
  • Operations or human resources (HR) consulting
  • Sales/business development consulting

Keep in mind that any of these may require (or benefit from) some kind of certification.

To get started as a consultant, it’s also helpful to already have a great deal of experience and demonstrated value you can draw on for your consulting area of choice.

10) Become a Life Coach

If you feel like people are always coming to you for advice, maybe you should put a price tag on it!

Outside of the world of sports, coaches are people with valuable experience and a keen ability to help others help themselves.

A life coach is sort of a combination of several different functions all in one:

  • Therapist
  • Consultant
  • Cheerleader
  • Friend

In a consulting situation, someone is usually coming to you because they have a specific problem they want help addressing – usually in a business context. But with life coaching, clients often have a broader set of issues or goals in mind.

As a life coach, it’s your job to help provide direction and accountability for your clients. You can help them get where they want to go by asking questions, setting goals, offering insights, and allowing them the opportunity to grow. In a nutshell, you can help people achieve their dreams!

So, how do you get started as a life coach? There are no specific certification or credential required, but you should pick a niche or area where you really excel. Can you advise people on relationships, finance, parenting, career? And which audience will you focus on? Get to know them, find them where they are, and find out the best way to connect with your ideal client!

Provide a Service

People need to get things done, and they’ll pay good money not to do it themselves!

Services are often the most profitable business ideas, because there’s a ton of value in hiring someone with experience and expertise to solve a problem for you.

Whether these services are targeting consumers or businesses, you can be confident that they’ll serve as a sturdy foundation for your new business. Here are five service business ideas!

11) Help People at Home

In a service business, you’re usually trading your time for money and doing something for people that they need. This often applies to businesses helping businesses, but it can also apply to individuals.

If you like the idea of helping people, one option that could work is going to them where they live. There are a number of different in-home service business ideas you can look into:

  • House sitting
  • House cleaning
  • Babysitting
  • Pet sitting
  • Elder care
  • Nannying
  • Personal shopping

The benefit of an in-home service business is that it can often fit in around your day job. For example, if someone hires you for house sitting or pet sitting, they just want to make sure that you’re taking care of things at home while they’re away – but that doesn’t mean you have to be there 24/7. This flexibility is nice, and so is the ability to help people who need someone they can trust to look after their precious pets and possessions while they’re away.

You could also get into house cleaning, nannying, or elder care and make a huge difference in people’s lives where it counts the most: at home.

While providing these services is about helping people who need it, you can also expect to make a pretty good side income as well.

12) Learn a Trade

There are all kinds of services that people need and will pay a lot of money for. It’s not always easy to start a business while you’re working, but if you’re thinking about transitioning out of a job into your own small business, learning a trade could be just what you need!

Here are just a few skilled trades you can look into:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Carpentry
  • Masonry
  • Landscaping/lawn care
  • Auto repair

There are countless people who do a corporate job and still turn their hobby into a great business, from woodworking to auto repair. It helps to get creative and think about how you could turn a a useful skill into profits.

Obviously, if you don’t already know a skilled trade, it may be ambitious to first learn one of them on the side. But here’s the good news: you don’t actually have to know a trade. Another option is to start a business in one of these areas and then hire others to do the work!

In that scenario, you’re really in the business of marketing and sales. As long as you find customers, you can employ lawn care workers, handymen, or other

13) Go Freelance

Freelancing is a perfect business model for side work. To get started, all you need is a skill or solution that’s in demand.

There are opportunities everywhere, especially now that the internet has made it so much easier to connect service providers with businesses that need help.

Think about becoming one of the following:

  • Freelance writer
  • Freelance graphic designer
  • Freelance social media manager
  • Freelance web developer
  • Freelance programmer
  • Freelance marketer
  • Freelance bookkeeper
  • And more!

What’s nice about freelancing is that you can start making money quickly. However, if you’re trying to freelance while holding down a job, adding more work on the side can be difficult – especially if it’s more of the same thing you already do, like a graphic designer moonlighting with graphic design work. You’ll want to decide whether the extra work is temporary until you shift over from your job to freelancing, or whether it’s just a side business to keep your skills sharp and make some extra money.

For success with freelancing, it helps to define the specific services you’ll provide and a target audience of businesses and industries that need it. For example, a freelance writer could offer to write blogs, emails, and sales pages for midsized companies in the healthcare sector.

Finding a niche and becoming an expert will help you command higher rates as a freelancer. If your goal is eventually to quit your job and go freelance full time, then it’s important to get a specialty. You can also think about how to grow your business into an agency over time, providing complementary services that deliver value to clients.

As for where to get clients, you may already have a professional network you can tap into. Just tell former coworkers and LinkedIn connections that you’re looking for side work! You can also contact companies directly or use a platform like UpWork to connect with prospects.

Most importantly, you have to be great at what you do. Never stop learning and honing your craft!

14) Become a Real Estate Investor

Wait a minute… Investing in real estate is a “service?”

Absolutely! If you’re buying properties with the intention of renting them as residences or leasing them as commercial space – or even fixing them up so you can sell them at a profit – then you’re providing a valuable service for the community.

The cool thing about real estate investing is that has the potential to provide passive income. That’s not to say you’ll never have to work as an investor – but once a property is purchased and rented out, you may be able to coast for most of the year and collect your rent money without a lot of active responsibilities to worry about.

So, how do you get started in real estate for the first time?

Well, before you get started, you should be saving as much money as you can. Fortunately, if you’re looking to invest on the side, then you can use your job income to secure a loan, and also to fund the down payment on your real estate investments. But more than just the initial cost, you’ll want reserves on hand in case of vacancy, repairs, yard care, or any unexpected expenses.

Next, decide what kind of real investor you want to be. You’ll have to pick whether you want to focus on land or properties; whether you’re going into residential, commercial, or industrial real estate; whether you want to keep these purchases or flip them; or whether you want to be more passive through a real estate investment trust (REIT) or real estate investment group (REIG).

Lastly, you’ll want to get to know the area where you’ll be investing very well. If it’s in your local area, be sure to keep an eye on current pricing and trends, and even drive past places for sale to get a better sense of what’s available. This will prepare you to make the best investment you can once you’re ready to buy.

15) Offer Event Services

Even in a post-COVID world, both individuals and businesses need help putting on events, as well as nonprofits. If you have the expertise to plan and coordinate events, you can provide a valuable service that pretty much everyone needs at some point.

For individuals, these could include:

  • Weddings
  • Holiday parties
  • Bachelor/bachelorette parties
  • Family reunions
  • Anniversaries
  • Birthday parties

For businesses, these could include:

  • Corporate retreats
  • Trade shows
  • Holiday parties
  • Lunch and learns
  • Guest speakers
  • Employee appreciation events
  • Training seminars

Event planning is a great choice for a side business because you have flexibility and the ability to delegate work. To get started planning events, it’s important to decide which type of customer you’re targeting, which types of events you specialize in, or both.

Even while you’re working at your job, you can continue to network and make connections – you never know when someone will need your business or personal event planning services!

Putting It All Together

Okay, so now we have this big list of business ideas – what now?

Well, hopefully, one of these business ideas caught your attention. But it’s worth doing a little research and really think about your choices.

If you’re going to be serving primarily local customers or clients, you want to make sure your business that makes sense in Just remember that when you’re first looking at starting businesses, it helps to focus on one thing and see it through before you start splitting your attention.

For example, even if you eventually want to build a full-service online business that handles everything from graphic design and social media to public relations and web development, make sure one business service succeeds before branching out into others.

There’s also more to your business than just the product or service you offer. Now is the time to start thinking about other aspects of your business that will help it succeed long-term, including:

  • Funding/financing
  • Accounting and legal systems
  • Marketing plan
  • Human resources
  • Equipment

At first, it may seem silly to put all this effort into systems when you’re still a one-man or one-woman show. But it’s important to put in the work now, because it’ll be difficult to scale your business if you’re not starting off with the right habits.

After all, you wouldn’t want to give that future IRS auditor the dirty napkin where you scribbled down your accounting for the month. Approaching your business professionally will ensure that both you and others accept that your business is real.

In the end, it’s not so much which business you choose as how consistent you are in putting in the work. No business can succeed without your determination and perseverance!

Are you ready to make it happen?

Frequently Asked Questions About Business Ideas

What’s the best business to start in 2020?

Because of the recent shift toward working and learning from home, web-based businesses are a great idea right now. There’s sure to be demand for your online product or service.

One way to capitalize on this is by becoming a consultant to help people with their remote work setup, or building an affiliate business that points people to the products they need.

Other popular trends include machine learning, data science, cloud computing, video production, and blockchain. If you want your business to thrive, it always pays to see which new skills are in high demand. Here are some in-demand skills that can help you find a good niche for your business.

What is the cheapest business to open?

Are you willing to be creative and bootstrap your business? The good news is, many of the business ideas in this list require virtually $0 to start.

If you offer a skill like graphic design or a service like pet sitting – and you can network your way to people ready to buy what you sell – then you may be able to get started without spending ANY money!

Of course, most businesses do have some incidental expenses, such as building a company website, printing business cards, or getting a certification. Rather than trying to spend nothing, just be mindful of which expenditures will give you the fastest return on your investment, and focus on those first.

What is the most popular small business to start?

Rather than focus on a specific industry, I want to answer this by pointing out a more interesting trend. With roughly 32.5 million businesses in the U.S., more than 75% of them (or about 25 million) are “non-employer” businesses.

This means independent contractors, consultants, and freelancers are the most popular small businesses to start. Nearly every business in our list of business ideas can be started and managed by just one person: you.

Business Ideas for Full-Time Workers Wrap-up

The truth is, there are more business ideas than ever before, even for busy corporate professionals who want to build a small business from home after work. Your biggest problem isn’t finding a business idea you can start – it’s making a decision on which one to start!

As a reminder, the main categories for side businesses are:

  • Sell a product
  • Teach others
  • Provide a service

To get your business started, simply pick one of the ideas we shared within these three categories or brainstorm some of your own! If you have imagination and a drive to succeed, you can make almost anything work.

With that said, I’ll leave you with this corny expression: “The best time to start is yesterday.”

I can’t tell you how many business ideas I’ve let sit around, languishing as a simple business plan in a Google Doc. Nothing is real until you make it real.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to start your small business – just go for it. You can always course correct, but getting started is the best thing you can ever do to make that little business idea into something great. Good luck!

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