The Ubiquitous Side Business

Side businesses are getting a lot of interest by people today in the U.S. Partly it seems to be due to the cachet that owning your own business has. Everyone from Martha Stewart to Donald Trump wants to be called an entrepreneur.

Being American, we want it all, of course. So even if we have to keep our day jobs out of economic necessity, we want to be entrepreneurs, too. Hence comes the interest in side businesses.

Not to mention that there’s the chance to pick up extra cash, something that everyone likes. has a slideshow outlining ten low-cost side businesses you can start and run on weekends. Among the businesses are storm window installer, pet sitter and vending machine operator.

I have a tip for triggering ideas for side businesses: if you know any firefighters, watch what kinds of businesses they have on the side. Or ask them what the others at their fire house do on the side.

In many jurisdictions firefighters work a schedule that is is 24 hours on, 48 hours off. As a result, many firefighters have side businesses.

Often these will be unique niche businesses.

For instance, way back when waterbeds were a big thing, if you moved house you had to drain the waterbed — not a pretty picture for the average homeowner who doesn’t know what he or she is doing. I remember the moving company we hired recommended a guy whose side businesses was draining and then setting up waterbeds again at the new location. Talk about a niche. Guess what his day job was? A firefighter.

All those little headaches that people don’t like to do or can’t do on their own can be the foundation for side businesses.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

4 Reactions
  1. One part of my experience tends to support your argument, after all I coach many niche writers who see publishing their next ebook, book or report as the ticket to an entrepreneurial lifestyle. Yet, the example you provide linking to an article talking about designing software for 1-10 person micro busineses is itself full of legitimate criticisms regarding the potential profitability and support costs of producing software for micro-businesses. In addition, what would the explanation be for the rather consistent level of self-employed over the last few years?

    Great post, but brings up many unanswered questions – perhaps a few more examples would help to illustrate positive examples of side businesses versus the not so positive.


  2. Hi Jeff,

    I agree with you that if you have a small business selling anything to other small businesses, it can be a challenge because your costs can outweigh the price tag the market will bear — if you are not careful.

    But that issue is not unique to a “side business.” You can have the same problem in a full-time business that sells to this market. It’s even an issue for big companies that sell to small businesses.

    We seem to be in love here in America with the idea of being an entrepreneur — so much so that we want to be part-time entrepreneurs, which is what a side business amounts to.

    As to the numbers of self-employed, the SBA’s figures suggest the number is going up somewhat.

    It is a challenge, though, to track the numbers of self-employed. So I am not sure anyone knows the real number.


    Thanks for commenting — I appreciate your thoughts.


  3. With there being a potential 18 million side businesses in this country, advertising your side business or finding someone who does work on the side can be a challange. I have created a new website to bring side business operators and people looking to hire someone on the side together.

  4. A new website for advertising your services “on the side” has just launched. This company provides a very easy to use customer portal and an extensive set of tools for building your business including an on-line business card maker. Additionally, this company will pay you to tell others who are performing services “on the side” so you can quickly get your advertising for free and even make a significant income above the small advertising fee. The website is:

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