With more of us working fewer hours and with a resulting earnings gap to close, there’s arguably never been a better time to set up a business you can run in your spare time from home. Whether it’s to help make ends meet, or to follow your passion, or maybe even both, we’ve asked the experts to come up with 50 practical and cheap ways to make some extra cash.
Our list may not be exhaustive, nor may it put you on the path to riches and early retirement, but hopefully it will get you thinking. And if you have any better ideas, let us know by emailing .
1 Antiques/collectibles dealing Know your stuff when it comes to certain kinds of collectibles? If so this can be a great way to make money from a hobby. Trading sites such as eBay make it easier than ever to reach your target market, according to Trent Hamm, author of US money-saving blog thesimpledollar.com. “I had some success with this myself in the past, trading cards and video games,” he says.
2 Babysitting If you can spare a few evenings and know any parents desperate to get out, there are few simpler ways to make a few extra pounds.
3 Bed and breakfast Got a spare room? Live near somewhere of interest to tourists, or close to a student area? Note you’ll almost certainly need planning, mortgage lender and health and safety approvals first.
4 Biscuit/sweet making Homemade biscuits and confectionery can be a great seller, says Hamm. “Bake and package them well, and try reselling through a local gift shop. People in your social network may buy batches for special occasions.”
5 Cake making/decorating If you enjoy baking and have an artistic touch, making and decorating cakes can be a really satisfying way of earning extra money. “One of my mother’s old friends does this and makes quite a bit on the side,” says Hamm.
6 Car boot sales This is a part-time occupation that increases earnings and broadens horizons as you make sales and get to travel, says Emma Jones, author of Working 5 to 9: How to Start a Successful Business in your Spare Time, and founder of the website enterprisenation.com. “Consider selling specialist items and building a reputation for being the go-to person; offering your knowledge and expertise with the product can increase the price you’re paid,” she suggests.
7 Car cleaning/valeting Have a meticulous eye for detail and love to get things spotless? This could be a perfect side business for you. “Many people are quite happy to pay well for this service,” points out Hamm.
8 Catering Formal qualifications are not strictly required for catering, which is more about producing and delivering good food. However, the organisational aspects may be easier after some instruction, such as a City & Guilds certificate (NVQ or other) in hospitality and catering.
9 Census distributor Every 10 years a census is held in England and Wales. The next one is in 2011, but you can register now to be considered for a range of related roles in your area, including collection and delivery. See censusjobs.co.uk.
10 Childcare There’s great potential to earn extra money from looking after kids, but you’ll need to adore children (not just your own), have boundless energy and patience and in many cases must satisfy Ofsted criteria.
Any adult who looks after another person’s child for more than two hours on any one day in a location other than the child’s home (so excluding most babysitters and nannies) needs to register with Ofsted – it’s not a particularly complicated process but does include medical, criminal and domestic safety checks. Nannies can look after the children of up to two sets of parents, in one of their home environments, without being Ofsted-registered.
Failing to meet the criteria can land you in court, so check here for the full list of Ofsted restrictions.
11 Computer repairer/troubleshooter Despite the proliferation of technology in our lives, many people still find computers complicated to maintain and terrifying if they go wrong. If you have a reassuring manner and are not fazed by the inner workings of a PC, offer your services locally and let word of mouth do the rest. “I had some success doing this in the past,” says Hamm.
12 Cosmetics sales This is very much a social business activity so be prepared to spend lots of time meeting and talking to people. You’ll be selling mainly by networking and often through parties in other people’s homes, so an outgoing manner and immaculate personal presentation skills are essential.
13 Data entry Perhaps not the most thrilling of part-time pursuits, but data entry can nevertheless offer an extremely steady (not to mention flexible) source of extra income. You generally get paid for the number of entries you make rather than by the hour, which means you can go back and forth to it when you get a spare few minutes.
14 Dinner preparation “I recently met a woman who earned quite a bit of money as a very part-time chef,” says Hamm. “Once a week, she would go to someone’s house and prepare a homemade meal for their family, then do all the dishes and cleaning up. This gives the family plenty of together time, while earning her some cash in hand.” If you love to cook, this can be a great extra earnings opportunity, but be prepared to put some effort into finding your customers.
15 Become a DJ It goes without saying that you need a deep love of music and an extensive collection of tunes before you can even consider DJing, but as much of the work is at evenings and weekends, it could make a perfect side business. Be ready to cater for a range of crowds and musical preferences, not just your passion. Learn the ropes by concentrating first on weddings and birthday parties or by doing roadie work for an established DJ, which will gain you useful contacts.
16 Be a doula Jasmine Birtles, the founder of website moneymagpie.com, says you can make between £12 and £15 an hour or £250-£500 for a birth by being a doula – a birth partner and post-birth partner. “If you’ve had a baby and you want to help new mothers, do a short course with Britishdoulas.co.uk and work locally,” she says. “You do what a grandmother or sister might do for a new mum, such as giving moral support, helping around the house, caring for the baby and supporting the whole family.”
17 Flower arranging Imagine doing what you love and getting paid for it, which is what this idea brings to mind. “The nature of the product means you’re likely to cater to a local audience, so why not impress with a business card and delivery car adorned with flower power,” suggests Jones of enterprisenation.com. “It’ll turn heads and attract new business as you turn corners.”
18 Garage/garden sales “One person I know holds a garage sale at their house almost every weekend during summer,” says Hamm. “They get a lot of regular customers who stop by almost every weekend to see what’s on sale. That person then goes to neighbours and friends and offers to sell their stuff for them, splitting the proceeds. People are usually happy to do this since they can get rid of unwanted items and earn a bit of money, too.”
19 Gardening services “I’ve had requests from others for people willing to do this, so the demand is out there,” says Hamm. “To put it simply, some people are willing to pay others to get a vegetable or flower garden started so that they can have access to ultra-fresh produce without doing all the legwork.”
20 Making greetings cards If you’re the kind of person who loves making things, why not try your hand at cards? Ask a local shopkeeper what kind sells best and follow their advice, working to a distinctive style of your own. Then try selling to family, friends and local businesses. Be mindful of material costs and time taken though, as wastage can be expensive in such a low-value product.
21 Handyman services Know your way round a toolbox? Let people know that they can call you for little repair jobs, relatively straightforward DIY tasks such as putting up shelves or assembling flat-pack furniture. “You’d be amazed at the simple things people are willing to pay others to help them with,” says Hamm.
22 Host and teach foreign students “This is a great way of renting your room without getting stuck with the flatshare from hell,” says Birtles. “Foreign students don’t usually stay longer than a couple of months at a time, so if they’re annoying at least you know they’ll go soon.”
Usually the deal is B&B, but sometimes you need to give them an evening meal too. Get in touch with your nearest English language schools and let them know you have a room to rent, Birtles advises. The website idiom.co.uk has a list of schools in the UK. You can make up to £200 a week depending on where you live.
23 House cleaning “This is an idea you can start yourself, or consider being part of a house-cleaning franchise such as Molly Maid where you have the benefit of being your own boss as well as the support of a central team,” says Jones.
24 Ironing/laundry services “Even in these cash-strapped times, some people hate ironing so much they’re willing to pay others to do it (at least in the posh parts of town),” says Birtles of moneymagpie.com, who suggests either registering with domestic agencies such as mrshunts.co.uk or setting up your own local service.
“Check out the competition, see how much they charge, and undercut. Either work for an hourly rate, a fee per item or a fee per lb,” she says. You should get between £8 and £12 per hour, between 50p and £1 per item or between 50p and £1 per lb of clothes, depending on where you work.”
25 Jewellery selling Never mind Tupperware – if you have jewellery you no longer wear or want, try organising a party to sell it, says Jones. “Websites that organise these parties, such as ounces2pounds.co.uk, are going great guns in signing up ladies who want to earn extra income in their spare time,” she says.
26 Knitting/alteration/sewing services A big growth area, as more people come to appreciate the value in repairing and patching up clothes. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, there’s serious money to be made. Once you get known locally, word-of-mouth should do the rest.
27 Leaflet distributing Delivering leaflets to people’s houses could be a profitable and healthy way to spend a few spare hours a week. Call into your local shops and restaurants to see if they need help distributing flyers, menus and so on.
28 Market research Get paid for your opinions by signing up with sarosresearch.com and taking part in focus groups, suggests Birtles. “You get between £50-£100 cash, plus food and drink for saying what you think about products or services for a few hours. Or be the one asking the questions. Ipsos Mori offers flexible hours to people willing to do phone interviews or knock on doors to ask people questions. You make between £8-£10 an hour on average.”
29 Musical performance If you can play a musical (especially orchestral) instrument to a high enough standard, know a few choice solo pieces and look presentable, spread the word locally – weddings and other formal functions can be a lucrative source of performance income.
30 Online surveys It’s possible to make pocket money by filling in internet surveys – though moneymagpie.com’s Birtles advises caution, as there are hundreds of bogus companies on the net. “Toluna, Ciao!, Lightspeed Panel, and Valued Opinions are all pukka,” she says. “You make between 50p and £5 per survey. Click here for more information and a list of genuine survey companies.
31 Online trading Sites such as eBay and Amazon make it easy for people to dabble in e-commerce. “Start with a clearout of your attic,” suggests Dan Wilson, author of Make Serious Money on eBay. “If you start to sell other goods, focus on things you can get hold of easily, or are passionate about. And have an eye on the Christmas market: think about what will be selling well in a few months’ time.”
32 Personal organiser/assistant If you are good at filing and managing tasks, and know someone who isn’t, why not offer to share your expertise with them for a small consideration? Being organised is a valuable skill, and whether it’s for a small company or a friend there may be more of a market for this than meets the eye. Ask around friends or look on listings websites including gumtree.com.
33 Personal shopping “This is an idea that nicely taps into our desire for personal service,” says Jones. “There’s also potential to niche this business, for example focusing on time-starved ladies. Making it niche brings down marketing costs and increases customer loyalty.”
34 Personal tutoring If you are a part-time teacher or are perhaps taking a career break to look after young children, this can be a great way to make a little money while keeping your syllabus knowledge up to date. Try advertising locally or registering with an agency like Personal Tutors.
35 Pet grooming “Many people loathe bathing their pets and trimming their hair – I know I do,” says Hamm. “Pet groomers can do this for a small fee – a perfect job for a person who loves dogs and cats.”
36 Pet minding/walking “Dog-walking is a fantastic earner if you love animals and enjoy the outdoors,” says Birtles. “On average you can make between £10-£15 per hour, per dog.” Get good and you can be walking two or more at a time. Offer pet-minding as well and you can make a whole business out of it. “You’ll need public liability insurance in case something happens to the dogs or members of the public,” she warns.
37 Online referrals expert There’s money to be made from your email address book: a surprising number of companies will pay you if you can persuade your friends to become their customers. Check out the website refermehappy.com, an online matching service where you can get referral bonuses from companies like Sky, Virgin Media and First Direct.
38 Rent out your stuff You can rent pretty much anything now, although space is still the most profitable “item”, says Birtles. “Rent your driveway on parkatmyhouse.com if you live somewhere popular, or your possessions from a baby bath to your lawnmower on sites like rentnotbuy.co.uk and Zilok ,” she advises. “Currently there are more items on offer than requests to lease things, but it’s worth a try.”
39 Slivers of Time OK, this isn’t strictly a business idea, but sliversoftime.com matches people with a few spare hours here and there with part-time work. Register with the site, then put your spare time on the calendar. Your hours are sent to local agencies and businesses who regularly use part-time workers.
40 Selling ad space on a personal blog This is not a big money-earner to start with but could be if you work at it, reckons Birtles. “Set up your own blog (do it for free with blogger.com) and fill it with great writing, photos, videos and anything else you’re passionate about,” she advises. “Get ads automatically through Google Adsense and make a few pence every time someone clicks on an ad.”
Do book reviews and make money selling the books through Amazon’s affiliate programme.
41 Scrapbook making Many people dream of having beautiful scrapbooks, says Hamm. “They collect all the materials they want to go in them, but never follow through on the actual creation. You can step in here – take their ideas and materials and assemble a scrapbook for them.”
42 Selling lost luggage Auction houses round the country routinely sell off lost luggage that the airlines have failed to match with their owners. “For example, Greasby’s in south London sells off BA’s lost items every week,” points out Birtles. “You bid blind on bags that have had the expensive stuff removed (cameras, iPods etc) and then sell the bag and contents on eBay or at a car boot sale. Bags generally go for between £5-£50. Your profit depends on what’s in them!”
43 Translating If you are fluent in a second language, translation services are in demand as UK companies look overseas for new sales. But be warned: it’s a serious business and you’ll need professional qualifications from an accredited body (such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting or the Chartered Institute of Linguists) and professional indemnity insurance before setting up.
44 “Ugly” modelling If you look, shall we say, different,you could make money in ads, photoshoots or appearances through the Ugly model agency. “People with phenomenal tattoos, piercings or just very “interesting” faces can make thousands doing commercials, videos or corporate appearances,” says Birtles.
45 Vegetable growing If you have some suitable garden space and the requisite green fingers, focus on one vegetable and sell the excess to local greengrocers and at farmers’ markets. “My father does this with tomatoes and earns some solid extra money in the summer,” says Hamm.
46 Virtual assistant “Many ultra-busy professionals appreciate having someone who can check and answer their email, organise task lists for them, update their calendars and so on, with minimal interaction,” says Hamm. “You can provide this service from home with a good internet connection.”
47 Website designing An increasingly competitive field as the software needed becomes more and more mainstream. However if you have a good eye for design generally and formal training, it can be a profitable side business.
48 Wedding/social photographer You’ll need a website or blog to showcase your work, but if you’re confident that your photography is good enough, there’s no reason why you can’t do wedding/function work professionally. Do your homework though – you’ll need to take charge of arranging people into groups and know all the classic poses expected of the occasion.
49 Wedding planning If you’re one of those people who can’t help but flip through bridal magazines and daydream about nuptial arrangements, this might be perfect for you. “A great way to get started is to develop a website on the topic, get to know people online and offer your services to the community,” says Hamm.
50 Writing letters to magazines You can make between £10-£200 for a good letter or photograph to a weekly magazine such as Take a Break or Pick Me Up, suggests Birtles. “If you have a really juicy story you can make even more, and you don’t even have to write it, she says. Women’s magazines particularly are usually desperate for items for their letters’ pages, and even quite tame stuff often gets in.
Working from home – Whose business is it?
If you’re an employee/mum/student by day and are building a business after hours, Emma Jones highlights the people you need to keep in the loop.
•The boss So long as you’re not doing anything in competition with your day job, it’s wise to tell your employer. Providing it doesn’t affect your work, most employers should see a side business as a good thing; you’re gaining new skills, while the employer gains the benefits and doesn’t have to pay for the training.
•The insurance/mortgage people When starting a business at home, upgrade the insurance policy to include business cover and tell your mortgage provider, even though this won’t affect payments. You only have to inform the local council if the nature of the house is going to change from a home to business premises, which is unlikely.
•The taxman You have a duty to inform HMRC of activities within three months of trading. Registration is straightforward, with forms depending on whether you set up as a sole trader, partnership or limited company. Keep the tax bill as low as possible by claiming business and homeworking expenses.
•Friends and family Last but not least – so they can all (hopefully) start buying from you.