A side hustle is a great way to eliminate some money stress, get your foot in the door in a new industry, and explore untapped passions.
However, not all are worth the effort if you have a full-time gig. They require lots of time for little payout and may interfere too much with your primary job.
Here, we looked into the worst side hustles for full-time employees. We also analyzed what makes a good side gig and provided some alternatives.
These are the 14 worst side hustles for full-time workers — and what to try instead.
Selling clothes online
Although there are plenty of options for selling your clothes online, it's harder than it sounds.
Through services like Tradesy and Poshmark, you can upload photos and descriptions of your clothes and choose your own prices.
The downside is these companies take a commission — and you need a pretty serious wardrobe (that you’re constantly updating) to earn anything significant.
If you’re looking to do a closet cleanout, you may have better luck at a consignment shop or garage sale.
Running an Etsy shop
For the creative set, running an Etsy shop may seem like a dream, but this is a gig that requires a lot of time, effort, and upfront costs that full-time workers may not have to spare.
However, if you truly enjoy making graphic prints, candles, crocheted products, or other handmade goods (and you can really commit to it), it’s an opportunity to dive into a passion project.
It could also gross a few thousand dollars per year. Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said the average seller made $2,900 per year in its boom year of 2020, though that number dropped to $1,800 in 2022.
Writing for content mills
Aspiring freelance writers should be wary of ads for writing jobs at content mills. Writing a 500-word article may seem easy, but these articles often require research and hours of your time — and the pay per article could be a measly $5.
Those looking to get into freelance writing without an established network of industry contacts may consider a site like Upwork, where writers (and freelancers of all sorts) can advertise their services and bid on jobs.
Picking up freelance transcription work is often touted as a quick and easy way to make extra money, but this work takes time and can be extremely tedious.
The pay is not great for the average freelancer, either. In 2018, popular transcription service Rev said their average transcriber completed 15 jobs monthly and earned around $156. In 2023, those monthly earnings only jumped to $245.
Grocery shopping for others
Shopping for others through a service like Instacart may seem like an easy side hustle, but some shoppers who have used the program say it’s not worth the effort.
According to Indeed, average shopper pay (which includes shoppers and delivery drivers) can range from $8 to $23.11 per hour. Still, aspiring shoppers in low-population areas don’t always get as much work as they want.
A less-involved delivery service may be more efficient. Amazon Flex, for instance, allows you to pick up and deliver packages from Amazon delivery stations — no shopping necessary.
If you have a niche market and are willing to put in the time and effort, creating a podcast can be a fun and creative gig. But it may require just as much work as a full-time job.
Podcasters can make money in several ways, from running advertisements to releasing premium content. However, you need to build a large audience for these to be feasible — and that takes effort, time, and luck.
Like podcasting, blogging is not a great moneymaker if you don’t have a lot of time to spend growing your audience.
Keeping a blog can be a fulfilling hobby if you write about a topic you enjoy. But keep in mind that if you don’t have the time to dedicate to the passion project, it’s not likely to yield much income, if any.
If you do grow a successful blog, though, you may be able to make money with sponsored posts.
Mystery shopping may seem like a great way to make a few extra bucks, but people who have tried it stress that it’ll really only be a few extra.
Mystery shoppers go to stores and take pictures of displays, items on shelves, and so on. Considering the time commitment (plus time commuting to the stores), there are better-paying gigs.
Using an app like EasyShift, you might find a couple of $7 15-minute shopping gigs one day but earn the same amount for a 35-minute shift the next. Some nearly hour-long shifts will only bring in $15.
Consider mystery shopping occasionally during your free time rather than relying on it for consistent cash on the side.
Pet sitting through apps
Dog walking or pet sitting can be a very lucrative gig, but if you do it through an app like Rover or Wag!, you will have to give the company a cut of your earnings.
Rover takes a 20% cut and Wag! takes 40%. The more jobs you take, the more those companies make.
Time-pressed animal lovers may want to consider advertising pet-sitting services outside of an app. That way, you’ll be able to pet sit without paying a fee.
Food delivery (outside of the city)
Working for a food delivery service like GrubHub or Uber Eats has its perks — especially the customizable hours — but how lucrative these gigs are depends a lot on where you live.
For some who live in cities and can easily get places quickly by car or bike, this may be one of the best weekend gigs around. However, drivers in more spread-out areas, like suburbs, could struggle to make good money.
Multi-level marketing gigs
The goal with a side hustle is usually to boost your bank account, not begin with a loss — which is what multi-level marketing (MLM) gigs will do for you.
These companies recruit people to work in sales but make them purchase their own products (and typically, recruit others to the team).
The AARP Foundation that three-quarters of people in MLMs don’t turn a profit — and of those that do, over half make less than $5,000 per year.
If you have a knack for sales, you may be better off getting a part-time gig at a standard retailer.
Full-time workers often don’t have the time to put into making ride-share driving worth it. According to Uber’s estimator, drivers can make around $269 per week if they drive for 10 hours in Kansas City, Missouri (the average pay varies by city).
However, the cost of gas, wear and tear on your car, and any necessary cleaning should also be considered.
For those who love driving (and the idea of making money doing it), it is possible to keep an eye out for when prices “surge” and make more money driving during those times.
And come tax time, many Uber-related expenses (like gas, air fresheners, and water bottles) can be written off, according to TurboTax.
YouTube content creation
Growing a YouTube audience is hard (and time-consuming). If you already work 40 hours a week, it will be difficult to find success creating YouTube content — particularly in a very saturated market.
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the average YouTuber makes about 18 cents per view. If you really want to try growing a YouTube following, consider making niche content in popular categories on the platform, like gaming, life hacks, and health and fitness.
Copywriting, or writing for advertising or sales purposes, has been touted as an easy writing gig to land — but those who have tried it report that it can be a poorly paying (and boring) one.
As noted before, those looking into writing as a side hustle should consider a reputable freelancing site, like Upwork.
While the side hustles listed here may work for some, they are often not a great option for people who already work full-time. Many are time-consuming, low paying, or both. That's not going to work if you just need to make extra cash.
Instead, look for alternatives that pay well for the time invested. And since you’re going to invest a lot of time on a side gig, make sure you’re passionate about it.
There are plenty of side gigs that work very well for people who only have minimal extra time. By prioritizing efficiency, full-time workers can find great side hustles that bring in money without draining energy.