This week — in what has become a Thanksgiving tradition on the show — we’re diving into 10 creative side hustles that make real money.
This is the 4th installment of the series, so I encourage you to go check out the other episodes if you like this format:
- 10 Creative Side Hustles – 2018
- 10 Creative Side Hustles part 2 – 2019
- 11 Creative Side Hustles part 3 – 2020
Tune in to learn about how real people are making real money from everything from tarantulas to luxury picnics, from invisible sculptures to reselling driftwood that you can go pick up for free.
1. Bridesmaid for Hire
Jen Glantz is the founder of BridesmaidForHire.com, and she describes herself as “The world’s first professional bridesmaid here to take care of all your wedding dirty work.”
When Jen was in her early 20s, all of her friends were getting engaged and she was always the bridesmaid.
She was also being asked by distant friends to be a bridesmaid, and she even had the nickname the ‘Professional bridesmaid.’
This gave Jen a “lightbulb moment”. She thought, if she can be a bridesmaid for distant friends, she can also be a bridesmaid for strangers.
Jen posted an ad on Craigslist, and she received hundreds of emails from people who wanted to hire her.
This prompted Jen to build a website, plan out her services, and start taking bookings.
That was back in 2017. Fast forward to today and Jen says she’s worked with hundreds of people all over the world.
Jen has had more than 100,000 people apply to work for her bridesmaid for hire business. She can’t hire them all, so she’s created an online training program to teach others how to start their own bridesmaid hiring business.
Jen has also expanded her services for maids of honor, speech writing services, and wedding planning services.
In an interview with Business Insider, Jen said her packages started at $2000, with extra add-ons for travel, rehearsal dinners, speech writing, and additional services.
“When people hire me, they feel they’re hiring a friend who they can reach out to at any time,” Jen explained.
2. $15k a Month Hosting Luxury Picnics
Austin credited his sister Carly with coming up with the idea as part of a college research project — looking for business opportunities in the food services space without the overhead of a brick and mortar location.
Austin put up the website, almost just for fun and to practice web design. But to his surprise, he found himself getting inquiries almost immediately — within the first few days.
That’s when they decided to give it a shot.
Pricing starts at $240 and includes setup and takedown, and an assortment of picnic beverages and snacks. Specialty items — and extra food for additional picnic attendees — are available for an extra charge.
If you’re in a state with good weather, this is definitely a low startup cost, high margin business that might be worth a look.
3. Tarantula Holding
The youngest creative side hustler on the list is Andrew Pugliese of BugzRule.com. Andrew is 16 years old and has turned his interest in bugs and other creepy crawlies into a creative side hustle.
Andrew owns tarantulas, scorpions, a ball python named Monty, and many more unique creatures.
Over the last couple of years, Andrew has been developing a website and a blog to teach people that the vast majority of these creatures aren’t as dangerous as people think they are.
Andrew’s hustle started while he was out in public and had one of his tarantulas on his shirt. This understandably attracted a lot of attention from people passing by, many of whom wanted to hold the tarantula themselves.
Andrew started going out with his tarantula more often and started bringing a tip cup with him.
Some days he would make up to $250 in tips alone. Seeing people willing to pay him — and knowing he was helping people to face their fears — Andrew had the idea to offer holding his pets as a service.
Andrew now offers services to attend birthday parties and other events with his bugs. He takes a large number — usually 15 to 20 creatures — and lets people hold and look at them.
His goals right now are to keep working on his blog, possibly write an ebook about caring for tarantulas and scorpions, and continue educating kids and adults on the importance of bugs.
Note: Andrew’s dad, Vincent, was on The Side Hustle Show in 2017 talking about his path from $30,000 a year to $30,000 in sales in one day.
4. Renting Out Moving Boxes
Gary Grewal of CalBoxRental.com was both inspired and dismayed by the piles of cardboard boxes by the dumpsters after move-in day at his college, UCLA.
He found that other moving box rental companies existed in Canada, but couldn’t find anyone doing it in his hometown of Sacramento.
So, with around $2,500 of inventory, Gary started his business renting out moving boxes. These are durable, hard-sided plastic storage bins that can be rented out over and over again for years before they wear out or break.
Gary told BudgetsAreSexy.com:
As far as rental rates, we don’t rent per box, rather per “bundles” catering to how big the client’s job is.
The most popular package we rent is our House Bundle, which is 50 boxes, a few rolling dollies, a wardrobe box, etc, and that rents for $199 per week. We also charge $100 for round trip delivery within 25 miles of our storage facility.
When the boxes aren’t in use, we store them in a storage unit at a self-storage facility. We’re still pretty small, and my business partner owns a moving company, so it made sense to save money to store them there rather than rent a warehouse.
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5. Reselling Free Driftwood
Thomas Wilkins’ creative side hustle is selling driftwood — all of which he is able to find for free while kayaking around lakes near his home.
It was Thomas’ wife and mother-in-law who suggested he start selling some of the driftwood he was collecting.
Thomas listed a few pieces on a Facebook Marketplace and they quickly sold for $20-30. From there, he quickly scaled up to several thousand dollars a month.
Thomas doesn’t just sell to individuals on marketplaces. He started selling to interior designers, craft stores, and aquatic stores.
His first big customer was Southern Aquatics in Georgia. Thomas said they were the “pillar in my success starting out”.
Selling to Southern Aquatics gave Thomas the confidence to approach more retailers, and he went from selling a few pieces of driftwood a month to 50-100 pieces.
With the money he was earning, Thomas bought a boat so he could collect more driftwood. He’s already done $50,000-60,000 this year and has a goal to hit $80,000-100,000 next year.
His goal is to get into Pike’s Nurseries, Petco, Michaels, and some of the other big retail companies.
Thomas has also started working with jewelers who are making pieces of jewelry and rings out of his driftwood. Thomas’ own wedding ring is actually made from a piece of driftwood he found.
6. Virtual Coworking Spaces
In June, Maddie Wang started Founders Cafe, a virtual co-working space that recently passed $4000/month in recurring revenue.
Maddie specifically targets startup founders and for $50 a month paid annually — get that commitment upfront — she provides a daily zoom session.
In these sessions, members can hang out, chat, discuss problems, challenges, and wins, and just otherwise combat the entrepreneurial loneliness that is pretty real a lot of the time.
On IndieHackers she described her initial customers came just from interviewing fellow founders.
A common thread was they were often lonely and felt isolated, they just wanted like-minded, high-quality people to hang out with, who understood what they were going through.
Thanks to Niall Doherty for sharing!
7. The Invisible Statue
In June, Italian artist Salvatore Garau sold one of his works for $18,300. For any artist, that’s a nice sale, but what made Salvatore’s sale interesting is that the “Io Sono” sculpture — Italian for “I am” — was invisible.
While the artist preferred the term “immaterial” to invisible, the work was a 5-by-5 foot empty square.
Art-Rite Auction House in Milan handled the sale, which apparently received multiple bids. According to Yahoo News, the name of the buyer had not been publicly released, but was “thought to be an art collector from Milan.”
Now on the surface, this sounds pretty crazy, right? Who’s gonna spend $18k for nothing? But is it really that much different from the NFT craze we’ve seen this year?
I think Salvatore definitely wins points for his creativity and audacity here, who to his credit, has maintained a straight face through all the jokes and press.
8. The Sleep Consultant
Something most of us take for granted, but we can’t live without — is sleep.
Sleep is a high-impact activity for high-performers who want to optimize every facet of their life. Because of this, Riley Jarvis has been able to build an executive sleep consulting business, and earn thousands of dollars per client.
Riley’s story goes back to when he was working in finance. He became burned out, was diagnosed with Crohn’s and had to drop out of work, and needed to make some lifestyle changes.
“I became my own doctor, took health into my own hands — and here I am 10 years later, over the last 5 years Crohn’s has been in complete remission,” Riley told me.
Riley turned his health around by figuring out how to get better sleep — and he’s been teaching other people to sleep better ever since.
Riley actually started off with a dropshipping business. He set up an e-commerce Shopify store, was shipping the stock over from China, and selling it with great margins.
The issue he ran into was that people were able to get similar products quicker on Amazon.
This prompted Riley to pivot from a product-based business to a service-based business. He started to focus on consulting, mostly 1-on-1 consulting at first.
Again, Riley ran into a problem. The number of people he could work with was limited by the number of hours he had available.
So, Riley created a course and started doing group coaching. He also raised the price of his 1-on-1 consulting to the $7,500-20,000 range.
To find high net worth, high-impact clients, Riley would reach out to executives on LinkedIn and offer them some free sleep advice and a sleep assessment.
Once he’d get a foot in the door and start working with someone, they’d recommend him to other high-impact clients, who would also recommend Riley, and his client base grew organically.
9. Building Tiki Bars
After being impressed by a Tiki Bar his friend built out of old pallets for his wedding a few years ago, long-time listener of the show Ben Corkery saw the opportunity for a side hustle.
He picked up some free pallets from Home Depot, made a Tiki Bar himself, and listed it for rent on a Facebook Marketplace.
Ben rented it out once for $120, then ended up selling it for $250.
Preferring to sell these bars over renting them out, Ben started making more in his spare time. Over the next 1-2 years he raised his price to $500.
Ben also started to improve his designs, offer more options, use better quality wood, and was able to increase his product line and prices even more.
In his best week, Ben has done about $8,500 in sales and about $5,000 in profit.
Ben said he started to realize this was more than a side hustle and he could turn it into something bigger.
He’s currently working on getting more Google reviews and building up traffic to his site and listings.
Something else Ben is working on is Craftsman4Cash. This is an online program and community he’s building up with a friend to help others build their own woodworking side hustles.
You can find out more about Ben and see his Tiki Bars and other designs on Facebook at CrateWorks Rustic Bars.
10. Cat Lady Academy
Nikki Hess is a self-professed “cat lady” and runs CatLadyAcademy.com, where she provides coaching and online courses for cat owners who want to improve their cat’s Instagram accounts.
Nikki was inspired to start her business after she grew her own cat’s — Manny The Halloween Cat — Instagram account to 48,000 followers.
Other cat owners were always asking Nikki how she did it, so she decided to create CatLadyAcademy to teach people how.
Some of the things she teaches are:
- How to improve your Instagram content
- How to gain followers organically
- Ways you can secure brand sponsorships
- Tips on how to make running an Instagram account less stressful
Nikki only started offering paid products in October 2020. She started out by offering free coaching sessions to demonstrate the value she’s offering, and much of her business has come from word of mouth as a result.
Because her costs were only around $200 to start her business, Nikki said she was profitable by December 2020.
In early 2021, Nikki raised her prices. She said this didn’t scare anyone away, and she is still seeing repeat business from past clients.
Nikki has made over $5,000 from CatLadyAcademy in her first 13 months in business. This is more than she expected, and with more courses coming in the future this is sure to increase.
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