15 Small Business Ideas for 2020

Looking for some businesses to start in college? Need a side hustle to augment the salary from your job? In this day and age, most of us could use a little extra cash in their pockets at the end of the day. But what are you to do when it feels like every business opportunity falls flat?

Well, as it turns out, there ARE still money-making opportunities out there—you just have to know where to look and how to pursue them. The Internet is chock-full of suggestions. But most of them fall short. In order to truly make a good income at a side business, you have to dig a little deeper.

That’s where this listicle comes in. Read on for a no-nonsense, advice-packed article about 15 popular side hustles that have real potential to make you big bucks, including one or two that are off the beaten path. From sno-cone shacks to digital marketing agencies, this article explores the most lucrative side hustles currently available and points you towards side-hustle success. With this advice, you’ll be much better-positioned to earn some extra money this year—and potentially even replace your day-job!

Following are 15 great ideas for a side hustle that are definitely worth your while: Click below to skip ahead.

  • Snow Cone Stands
  • Freelance Copywriting
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Real Estate
  • Freelance Journalism
  • E-Books
  • E-Courses
  • Membership Websites
  • YouTube Channel
  • E-Commerce
  • Coaching
  • Consulting
  • Custom Services
  • Digital Marketing Agency
  • Event Hosting
  • Snow Cone Stand

    Love the summer months and their beautiful weather? Looking for a way to capitalize on people’s enjoyment of summer fun? Why not open a sno-cone shack and enjoy the festivity of a languid summer day all season long? For those of you who don’t know, sno-cones are delicious frozen ice treats made of shaved ice and sugar syrup. According to Google Trends, they’re a hit summer after summer.

    Starting a sno-cone shack is simple, and one of the best ways to enjoy the fun of summer while also making a sweet profit. Sno-cone shacks are best-situated in places that get a lot of foot traffic and cater to people enjoying a leisurely summer day. Be sure to do your due diligence when deciding whether a sno-cone shack is the right side hustle for you. Pick a strategic location, figure out what level of demand exists for your product, and deal with the legalities of running a food and beverage business in a proactive way.

    Startup costs vary. But most individuals can own their own setup for less than 10K. Financing is also frequently available to those that don’t have the funds right away. It’s not uncommon for locations earn 10X their startup costs from their season in the sun.

    Does the idea of running a sno-cone shack appeal to you? If so, you’re lucky, because there are several companies currently in operation which offer the convenience and simplicity of a snow cone franchise for relatively little cost. Read about some of the people who have successfully owned and operated a sno-cone shack, earning a great deal of extra money and creating memories that will last a lifetime!

    Freelance Copywriting

    One easy way that you can start making some extra cash today is by offering your writing skills to the world. Platforms like textbroker.com and iwriter.com connect individuals willing to write with companies and sites that need content. Copywriters are usually paid by the word and can accept and choose orders according to their schedule. With the high demand and flexibility of this gig, you’ll be bringing in some cash on the side right away.

    At the beginning, you can expect to be writing about a wide variety of topics. But as you develop a clientele you’ll soon be able to demand premium rates while keeping the freelance benefits that copywriting can offer. If you have expertise in a given area though, you’ll have a headstart in delivering copy that will have clients fighting over you in no time.

    You’ll need a computer, and decent writing skills. But with grammar review apps like Grammarly and PaperRater, you won’t need an english degree. Do make sure the content you submit is high quality though. It’s common for the pay rate per word to be based off of the ratings you receive from clients.

    Affiliate Marketing

    A great small business idea is to use affiliate marketing as a passive income stream. Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular side hustle ideas around, and it’s great for people who have a large base of social media fans/friends or can drive traffic to their websites regularly. If you’re savvy, you can make a tidy income on a monthly basis with this side business.

    So what is affiliate marketing? In short, affiliate marketing is a sales opportunity for people who are interested in promoting other people’s products or services. In exchange for promoting their product, you get a percentage of the money made in the sale. All sorts of products can be sold via affiliate marketing, including e-courses, health and wellness supplements, books, furniture and equipment.

    With affiliate marketing, you usually create an online platform on which to promote the products. This can be a blog, a website, a YouTube channel, or any other website on which you can regularly offer your expertise. After setting up your online platform, it’s your job to post daily or semi-daily content in your area of expertise. As you use SEO techniques and other strategies like guest blogging, more and more people will be drawn to your site and you will be seen as an authority in your field.

    At this point, you can begin to use affiliate marketing as an income strategy. You make arrangements with sites like ClickBank and Amazon to become an affiliate marketer of their products. After talking about the affiliate products in your posts or videos, you embed a link that your customers can click to take them directly to the webpage where the product is being sold. If they purchase the product at that point, you can earn up to a 50% commission on the sale.

    Real Estate

    For people with good credit or money to spare, real estate can be a lucrative investment that will pay passive income for decades to come. There are many opportunities for profit in real estate, including flipping houses for profit, managing rental properties, and participating in real estate investment trusts. All of these paths to wealth can provide you with some of the best small business opportunities around.

    Flipping houses for profit has long been known as a high-risk, but potentially lucrative investment strategy. If that’s not your style, services today like Airbnb, let you safely rent out extra rooms, or even your home, and make some extra cash from your home or apartment. You simply create a profile, set availability, and bring in the extra income.

    Managing rental properties can also create a valuable income stream. Most people pursue this path by getting a mortgage for a multi-family property and then renting out units to people. If you don’t have money for a down payment, sometimes you can get a 0% down payment if your credit is good enough. Although managing a rental property can be quite involved, the right person can benefit handsomely by this strategy.

    Freelance Journalism

    If you have a nose for art, culture and society and enjoy writing about news and social issues, freelance journalism may be for you. There’s been an explosion of new websites, journals and other publications in recent years that accept new work from journalists. Many of these publications pay nicely, with the average article earning between $50 and $500.

    Journalism is notoriously hard to break into, and many people who try this side hustle end up giving up out of frustration. The key to succeeding in freelance journalism is to know where to look for pitch requests and assignments, and being persistent. Many aspiring journalists find work by keeping an eye on Twitter, where editors routinely send out calls for pitches as part of their social media routine. Newsletters like Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week are great for this.

    Once you’ve found editors and publications you want to work with, be persistent. Often, it takes several pitches before one gets accepted. You should check your social media sources daily, and keep up with newsletters and other websites that offer opportunities. If you keep up the effort, you might make a nice side income.


    If you’re a talented writer with expertise in one or more popular fields, you can make money writing and self-publishing e-books online. E-books are digital versions of books that can be downloaded onto a laptop, desktop, cell phone or e-reader. They can be of any length and typically sell for between $0.99 and $9.99.

    You can write an e-book on nearly any subject, so long as you are knowledgeable about it and have new information to offer. You can also write to present old information in a new, easier-to-understand way. Depending on how many e-books you write, they can represent a nice stream of income, as they are passive income sources that pay out over long stretches of time.

    In order to ensure a nice profit, some people prefer to choose popular e-book topics in niches that sell well. Doing a good amount of research into which topics are most lucrative is an excellent idea. Some people choose to do this by “chasing long-tail keywords,” or looking for popular search keywords on Amazon or Google and then writing books that are tailored to these words or phrases.

    Numerous platforms exist for selling e-books, including Amazon, Kobo and iBooks. You can also sell them through your own website. To successfully sell e-books, you usually need to promote them online. This can be done via SEO marketing, advertising, or guest-blogging on other people’s websites.


    In addition to e-books, many entrepreneurs make a good living by selling e-courses online. E-courses are online classes, courses or workshops that usually consist of written text, video lectures, and online discussion boards.

    E-courses can be taught in a wide range of subjects, from permaculture to biochemistry. They can also be taught by experts in self-help fields like dating, parenting and time management. If you’re knowledgeable about something, whether it be bike maintenance or the perfect way to cook Hunan cuisine, chances are you can sell a course about it to someone.

    While some people choose to host e-courses on their own custom platforms, others use popular course platforms to host their classes. Some of the most popular of these platforms include Skillshare, Coursera and uDemy. These platforms host your course in exchange for a cut of your profits. If you’d rather host your own e-course, platforms like LearnWorlds charge you a flat fee for access to a custom interface that can host the course or courses of your choice.

    Prices for e-courses run the gamut from dirt-cheap to prohibitively expensive. On platforms like Skillshare or uDemy, you can pay as little as $10.99 for an e-course. Meanwhile, those who choose to host their own courses have much more flexibility in pricing. Top entrepreneurs have charged upwards of $500 for a 10-week course, with the most famous and successful entrepreneurs charging much more.

    Membership Websites

    If you’re handy with computers and have a high level of expertise in a given area, you might try creating a membership website as a home-based business. A membership website is a site that has a wide range of features for visitors, including articles, blog posts, videos, e-courses, and forums where members can come to discuss their interests. In exchange for access to this website, you charge a monthly fee, anywhere from $10 on up.

    Membership websites are great options for people who have a broad base of knowledge in a field and can offer a good amount of content on a regular basis. People aren’t willing to pay for information that isn’t valuable, so it’s important to offer your members their money’s worth. As your site grows, you may want to hire content marketers who can offer your members continued value.

    Sites like Bluehost and GoDaddy can act as hosts for your membership website, offering a stable hosting platform over the long term. However, in order to use these sites, you’ll need to have a good deal of expertise with HTML and other web languages so that you can design your site professionally. You also have the option of hiring a web designer or agency to design your site, but this can be costly.

    It’s important to do your research before you set up a membership website. Remember that in order to be successful, your website should be in a niche that is both popular and underserved by current sites. Using Google and other tools to research the size of your market and competition will pay off dividends in the long run.

    YouTube Channel

    If you have a striking personality and expertise in a popular field, you might want to try your luck as a YouTube personality. YouTube has been a great source of income for many and can be a great side gig.

    People have found success on YouTube in every area under the sun, from health and fitness, to electronics and audio gear reviews. The key is to tap into a market that already exists and then to aggressively promote your channel through guest appearances and advertising. From there, you can monetize your channel and start raking in the passive income.

    To monetize a YouTube channel, you can participate in the YouTube Advertising program and allow other companies’ ads to show before, during and after your videos. When viewers click on a link, you receive a tiny commission for the lead. You can also earn money on YouTube by participating in affiliate marketing. With this approach, you discuss products in your video and then put an affiliate link in the “About” section of the video.

    Be sure to do your due diligence before you start your YouTube channel. Make sure your topic is popular and that there aren’t too many people trying to do what you’re doing. Also, make sure that you’ve chosen a topic that is appropriately narrow and specific. By choosing a niche that is timely, relevant and likely to sell, you will avoid a lot of problems with trying to market your channel.


    If you have an idea for a great product, you might want to try your hand at e-commerce. E-commerce refers to the sale of goods or products online through an online store. You can choose to create your own online store by designing a custom website, or you may prefer to sell your products through an online platform like Etsy, Amazon or eBay.

    You have almost unparalleled freedom in choosing what kind of product to sell. For example, many small business ideas are founded on unique needs, or personal hobbies. Popular small business ideas for men have included beard grooming kits, BBQ supplies, sports equipment, and workout gear to name a few.

    You can manufacture your own goods or use drop shipping techniques to have them made in foreign countries. Once they are manufactured, services like Amazon Fulfillment Services can store them in massive Amazon warehouses for little cost and ship them on demand all over the globe. If you don’t want to sell on Amazon, you can keep the goods on site at your own property and ship them as the orders come in.

    Once your items are manufactured, you can use affiliate marketing, SEO techniques, advertising and other digital marketing techniques to promote your business and sell products. You can learn more about these techniques by reading books by people like Gary Vaynerchuk or surfing the Internet to find marketing blogs and websites.


    Have a gift for giving advice, encouragement and inspiration to friends and coworkers? Consider a side hustle as a professional coach! You can pick from a wide range of coaching types, including life coach, industry coach, health and wellness coach and so on. Coaching is a great side hustle for people who have a strong base of expertise and knowledge in a given field and can naturally relate to a wide range of people.

    To get started as a coach, it’s generally best to have a strong network of friends, colleagues, mentors and other contacts that you can tap into as your first clients. Get the word out that you are looking to start a side hustle as a coach, using things like business cards, flyers, social media marketing and a personal website. In the meantime, develop an airtight sense of what services you have to offer and create a blueprint for how you will conduct your coaching sessions.

    Advertise on places like LinkedIn and in industry magazines, websites and forums. You might also find it helpful to attend industry events like conferences, expos and trade shows to network and gain exposure. It’s also helpful to speak publicly at these events as a way of gaining exposure and establishing yourself as an expert; you might also want to speak at smaller events, like book clubs, Kiwanis meetings and so on.

    Finally, in order to cement your reputation as an expert, you’ll want to gain exposure in as many additional ways as you can. Consider teaching workshops or classes as a way of building your brand and making connections. Your local community center or chapter of a professional association is a great place to host these events. It’s also a good idea to write as many articles and features in your subject of expertise as you can, including guest blog posts. Try to place these in blogs and websites that are prominent in your field.


    If you’ve achieved a high level of professional success in your field, consulting may be the logical next step for you in building a side business. As a consultant, you sell your industry expertise as a B2B entrepreneur to companies and nonprofits that are looking to increase their efficiency and effectiveness. Consultants are hired in all sorts of fields, from health care to software engineering to construction.

    Depending on your qualifications and degree of expertise, you can make quite a healthy living as a consultant. Most consultants charge anywhere from $65 to upwards of $300 an hour, with service packages starting in the thousands of dollars. Consulting can be a boom-or-bust business, with some years boasting multiple projects while others barely break even.

    In order to be a consultant, it’s best to have a high level of mastery in your field, including the development of networks that can vouch for your competency and talent. The consulting field depends on connections and references, so you should have a good reputation in your industry. You should also usually have a proven record of thought leadership, either as an employee or an entrepreneur. Advanced degrees often help prove a foundation of expertise.

    In order to begin a side hustle as a consultant, reach out to your networks and inquire about the need for consulting services. You should have a strong sense of how you can improve your industry and know exactly what you are selling to companies. Develop a portfolio of services and begin pitching them to your contacts. You should also have a solid marketing strategy in place – business cards, website, content strategy, etc.

    Custom Services

    One of the best small business ideas, and one of the most classic, is to sell custom services to clients. This is a timeless side hustle that many count as one of the great pleasures of their lives. It has the added benefit of relying on skills that you may already have, making it unnecessary to get added training or equipment.

    Most individuals have a wide range of skills that they can draw upon to create their service-based business. These can include things like barbering, carpentry, coding, landscaping,or being a graphic designer. Once you’ve chosen the skill that you want to leverage into a custom service-based business, you need to get the appropriate tools, network, market your business, and develop a client schedule.

    Make sure you have the tools you need to grow your business. These can include supplies, equipment, and organizational tools. Secondly, get the word out that you’re starting a business. You can use social media, word of mouth, or even old-fashioned phone calls to do so. Finally, market your business around town so that people know you’re available. You can do this using both guerrilla marketing and online marketing tools, as well as social media marketing tools. There are many good books available that discuss all of these techniques, such as Guerrilla Marketing and Crushing It.

    You might want to corner a niche of your market by offering services that no one else does. For example, if you’re a barber, you might specialize in curly hair, or if you’re a landscaper you might specialize in French landscaping. Make sure you take every opportunity to hone your craft. By becoming the best in your specific niche, you develop a foundation for cornering the market and becoming a resident expert in your field. As business picks up, make sure you’re using software and apps that help you manage your time and keep track of your business obligations.

    Digital Marketing Agency

    If you like writing and using social media and want to learn more about how to be a sales rainmaker, starting a digital marketing agency might be just down your alley. A digital marketing agency offers marketing services to a wide array of small, medium and large-scale businesses, providing these services for a flat monthly fee. For the right go-getter, a digital marketing agency can be a fantastic side hustle, producing hundreds or even thousands of extra dollars in income per month.

    So what does a digital marketing agency do? A good digital marketing agency uses a wide range of marketing techniques to promote the goods or services of a given company. Ideally, these techniques produce demonstrable increases in revenue for the business in question, which can be proven using analytics metrics available on Google or elsewhere. Some of the main techniques used include social media marketing, affiliate marketing, content marketing and advertising.

    If you want to start a digital marketing agency, you should know that the competition is fierce. Digital marketing is the next new gold mine in online business, and everyone is jumping in for a piece of the action. In order to get a piece of the pie, you’ll have to distinguish yourself as a rainmaker, or someone who can get demonstrable results for companies without a huge ad spend. This is difficult, but doable for someone who is determined and smart.

    So how do you begin? Start by reading all the digital marketing books you can get your hands on. You can get some of these books at your local library, while others you can access on Amazon for $10 per month through their Kindle Unlimited program. Read every digital marketing blog and website you can, and subscribe to the e-newsletters of the major players, like Neil Patel and Gary Vaynerchuk. You can even do a deep Internet search for other digital marketing agencies, and approach them about an internship or informational interview. Join social media pages and keep track of what digital marketing entrepreneurs are doing.

    Event Hosting

    Love to throw a good party? You might be perfectly-suited to a side hustle as an event host. Event hosting is a great way to make extra money while enjoying time spent with friends, neighbors or colleagues. As a bonus, it’s much easier to network professionally with people when you’re throwing huge events!

    What kinds of events can you hold? The sky’s the limit. You might throw a huge boozy brunch with live music and charge a flat admissions fee, or get your favorite DJ to play an intimate set at a New Year’s Eve party in a lounge. You might hold a block party, or a massive board games event with Malaysian food as the theme. You could even throw a summer bash at the beach, with a live band and BBQ cookout, and charge admission.

    Sound good? Hosting an event is no cakewalk, so you need to be sure that you have the time, resources and connections to pull it off before you take the plunge. Like any small business, doing your due diligence is essential. Make sure that there’s a demand for the type of party you’re interested in before you jump in and rent the hall. You might want to pair up with professional event promoters for an extra edge.

    Throwing a party can be expensive, and it’s important to make sure that you have the funds necessary to cover all of the costs incurred. Collecting advance tickets is a great way to gauge whether or not the event will be profitable. You can also negotiate discounts with your providers in exchange for the exposure they will get as a result of your event.


    Whether your goal is to make a little bit of cash short-term or to build a business that you can manage on the side, continue to grow, and turn into your day job, there are some incredible ways to make money as a side hustle—especially if you’re willing to take a few chances and put in some sweat equity. The trick is to be consistent, continue to work at it, and have some fun too! This list is a great place to find the perfect new opportunity for you. But don’t take our word for it—give it a shot for yourself. You might be surprised just how rewarding a great side hustle can be!