Despite historically low unemployment, side hustles are still very much a thing. According to the most recent survey from Bankrate, nearly half of working Americans (45%) report having a gig outside of their primary job, 43% of whom have full-time jobs.
The reasons why people juggle the extra work vary, but the Bankrate survey found that the average monthly income from side hustles is about $1,100. No wonder people are eagerly taking on gigs that draw on their strengths, interests, or available time like driving for Uber or Lyft, party planning, coaching, offering fitness instruction, or home repair.
However, plenty of side hustles require a measure of personal interaction that may be making the introverted reader start to sweat. Although there’s a wide continuum between introversion and extroversion, the emotional cost of additional face-to-face interaction may make some side jobs more challenging than others.
“Even extroverts need time to themselves,” says Chris Guillebeau, author of 100 Side Hustles. But if you’re an introvert who works around people for your day job, it’s especially important to choose something where you can do most of the work on your own terms, Guillebeau says. “People tend to be much more successful with their projects when they’re excited to work on them,” he adds, “If they’re worn out at the end of the day, the last thing an introvert wants to do is make sales calls. But if they can spend time creating an online course or finding items for resale, it can actually bring energy instead of drain it.”
So when Guillebeau’s book by was delivered to our office recently, we decided to look at the gigs best suited to those who are more introverted. Here’s what we found:
The best ideas often come from the things we use every day and get really good at. Take Sumit Bansal, a former marketing manager at IBM in India. Bansal used Excel on the regular and was often fielding questions from his coworkers about the finer points of spreadsheets. He started a blog to serve as a repository for FAQs, and before long, he was monetizing it. However, it wasn’t until he began offering a full online course in Excel basics that the money started rolling in. It’s been so successful, Bansal’s side gig is now his full-time job.
While tutoring is often touted as a potentially lucrative side hustle, it does require a person to spend scheduled time with others. Expert courses like Bansal’s are available for anyone to take online, so there’s no need to be present to earn the money. Courses can be priced anywhere from $10 to over $100 depending on the subject matter and how deeply its explored. The key is to draw from your personal expertise and interests.
James Hookway, a full-time accountant from Australia, stumbled on a great side gig after throwing a holiday party. “Hangover Helpers” aimed to do what no one felt like tackling the morning after a big bash—clean up. Hookway created a Facebook page and got his first booking that week. All he had to do was show up to the trashed venue in the morning (after everyone had left) and bring a lot of cleaning supplies and elbow grease. Although he hasn’t quit his day job yet, the company earned $45,000 in its first two years.
The thing about cleaning that may appeal to introverts is that for both offices and homes, it’s a pretty solitary job. And for those who are neatniks, nothing beats the satisfaction of setting everything to right, all while earning a little extra dough.
Creative on demand
Architect Gerald Lau decided to try a print on demand business. Essentially he’d create a t-shirt design, and when he’d get an order for one, he’d have it printed and shipped to the buyer. The cost to set up shop was minimal: he bought a domain name for his website and a Shopify subscription to take and fulfill orders. He also contracted with a third-party service to print and ship his orders.
This meant that Lau didn’t have to do any actual selling. Most of the creative work fulfilled his passion for creating designs, which he’d add to the website. If someone ordered, great; if not, Lau didn’t have to worry about getting rid of overstock. On-demand printing means that you don’t have to carry inventory and you can experiment with different designs to see which ones resonate with customers. Those that don’t can simply be taken down.
The caveat is that because startup costs are so low, there’s a lot of competition. But there’s only one you, and you should be able to mine your expertise and imagination to create a concept that no one else will have. The first time Lau hit revenue of over $1,000 was because he’d hit on a unique offering for kids.
Of course, you could always get a part-time job delivering pizza or UberEats orders. But Julia Baldwin and her husband decided to take control of the entire business. The two happened on an idea to offer to bake and deliver cookies during the night. Their After Dark Cookies took off in Portland, Oregon, thanks to the fact that not many places in that city are open and up for late-night deliveries.
It also helps that there are plenty of college students around, but some of their orders actually came from people out of town who wanted to send a local a gift. Their startup costs were $3,000, but their income is now $8,000 a month.
This could be a great side hustle for an introvert with a passion for cooking. As the Baldwins have seen, their interactions with customers have proved to be positive—hugs were exchanged—but minimal. And the opportunity to be creative both with the product and the marketing could offer the kind of intellectual fulfillment a day job doesn’t always provide. You do have to be sure to comply with local laws regarding food preparation and sales.
An accountant found a clever way to make money in a side hustle by combing the App Store. Trevor McKendrick was working part-time and accidentally hit on a way to earn more by finding high ranking apps with poor user reviews. He used his Spanish language expertise to land on an app for Spanish speakers.
But he didn’t have the technical chops to create an app himself, so he outsourced that part. The app went on to make money and he added an audiobook version. When he got to generating around $8,000 per month, he sold the app to a larger company. He’s now looking for another opportunity.
It’s easy to see how someone with a tech background could duplicate his success without the overhead of hiring another person to take care of the development. And for those who are looking to break into the tech market but don’t have the work experience to land a full-time job as an established professional, this side gig could be just the ticket. In the meantime, it’s a low-stress hustle that requires minimal outside interaction.
Of course, introverts can successfully build side hustles that do require working with people. You just need to be honest about how much interaction you want to have, especially after work hours. As Harvard Business School behavioral scientist Francesca Gino told Fast Company, just “knowing your type when it comes to personality is important because by increasing our awareness of where we stand in terms of introversion and extroversion, we can develop a better sense of our tendencies, manage our weak spots, and play to our strengths.” And knowing your strengths will also help you find the best side hustle for you.
One thing to keep in mind, regardless of your personality type, is to know when to persist and when to call it quits. Guillebeau says if you’re running out of steam (and money) it’s important to ask yourself if you still believe in the overall project. “If you do, maybe you just need to change something about it—a different market, product, or outreach strategy, for example,” he suggests. But if it’s not working and you’re no longer thrilled about it, you might as well move on and try something different, he advises. “Life is short, and there’s a lot of power in giving up,” says Guillebeau, “Besides, with most side hustles, the stakes are low, so don’t be afraid to experiment.”