Side hustle ideas: how to start a side business and earn extra money

Starting up

24 November 2022

While many of us were baking banana bread and watching boxsets, budding entrepreneurs saw the coronavirus lockdowns as the perfect opportunity to start a side hustle. According to Sky News, a record number of start-ups were established in 2020, with over 400,000 new businesses registered in the year.

A few years later having a side hustle is still a popular venture, with 43% of people within the UK earning additional income this way. 

From candle making and dog walking, to cleaning and online tutoring, there are plenty of ways to earn extra cash and top up your income. Here, AXA explains everything you need to know about starting a side hustle.


What is a side hustle?

A ‘side hustle’ is just an informal way of saying a side business. In fact, 62% of people in the UK who are involved in a small business venture are doing it in their spare time and not as a full time job*.

It’s typically something you do to supplement your main income from a salaried job. In 2023, a single person needs to earn £29,500 to have an acceptable standard of living, up from £25,000 in 2022. According to reports from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, analysis shows that 19.2 million people (29% of the population) in the UK are living in households bringing in below the minimum standard, and don’t have the income they need. It’s no surprise that more people are starting side hustles.

Often the side hustle also doesn’t make enough income to be a full time role. In fact 33% of people with a side business want to go full time but don’t feel their side business earns enough yet*.

Should I start a side hustle?

Starting a side hustle is a good way to earn extra money and dip your toe into the world of business. You can work on something you’re passionate about that you might not get the opportunity to do in your day job. And if your side hustle hits the ground running, you might end up earning enough money to pursue your passion project full-time.


How to start a side hustle

Before you start a side hustle, you’ll want to:

Top tip: It’s important to tell HMRC you’re starting a side hustle. Even if you make little or no profit, HMRC won’t know that until you tell them. If you register for Self-Assessment but your side business hasn’t earned enough, you won’t pay any tax. But if HMRC find out you’re trading and you haven’t submitted a tax return, you might end up paying a fortune in late filing penalties.


Side hustle ideas  

The best side hustles are businesses you can start relatively easily without a big financial investment. Here are some side hustle ideas to inspire you to start your own…

  • Cleaning

Whether you’re a self-confessed ‘Hincher’ or just a dab-hand with the duster, a side business in cleaning could be for you. You don’t need much to get started and the overheads are usually quite low, which means it’s a great option for someone looking to top up their income.

If you’re thinking about going into a specialist area, such as window cleaning or dealing with chemical spills, you may need additional equipment or supplies which require training or a specific licence. For more information on how to start a cleaning business, from choosing a name to finding customers, read AXA’s full guide here.

  • Making and selling candles

The candle industry in the UK is now worth over £1.9 billion and the average Brit spends around £50 a year on candles. To meet this new demand, more and more people are setting up their own independent candle businesses.  However, the more candle companies out there, the harder it’ll be for your products to stand out. To avoid falling foul of market saturation, you’ll need to ignite your creative flame and make sure your business is totally unique. You could do this through your branding and packaging, or in the candles themselves - maybe you have a great idea for an unusual scent?  If you’re not sure where to start, using sustainable and ethical products is a growing trend, and ‘personalisation’ always seems to be a winner with customers! 

Making candles is relatively easy when you know how and you can sell them on platforms like Instagram or Etsy. Check out AXA’s illustrative example of how to price a candle here.

  • Dog walking

Even though more people are spending time at home, there’s still a demand for professional dog walking services. As far as side hustles go, you can start almost immediately and you don’t need a huge initial investment. Plus, you’ll get to make lots of new four-legged friends in what can be a challenging but rewarding job.

There isn’t a specific qualification or training course you need to take to become a dog walker. However, a qualification like the Level 2 Certificate of Technical Competence in Dog Walking can give you extra confidence and will look the part on any marketing materials you use.  The Dog’s Trust has created guidance for professional dog walkers that you can read here (PDF).

  • Cooking and baking

If you’re confident in the kitchen, the possibilities are endless when it comes to starting a side hustle. You could create weird and wonderful letterbox-size treats to sell online, or make traditional afternoon tea boxes and deliver them to local customers. There’s also a growing trend for ‘do-it-yourself’ meal kits which could be the perfect side hustle for foodies.  

For any business involving food, it’s important to register for a licence with your local council. And while a hygiene certificate isn’t compulsory, it’s strongly recommended by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). You can complete this qualification online and prices start from around £10. 

  • Tutoring

Children have missed a lot of classroom time recently and many extra-curricular activities and hobbies have been put on hold, which means more people are in the market for private tuition.  As well as the more obvious choices of tuition in maths, languages or music, you can tutor in areas you might not have thought of. For example, a chef might run a private cookery class or a marketing professional could offer lessons in social media advertising.

Online tutoring platforms like Tutor House or Superprof can be a good place to start. They do take a percentage of your earnings, but they can be a good way of finding customers and establishing a relationship with them before going it alone.

  • Freelancing

Almost any job can be done by someone working as a freelancer. However, marketing and advertising, IT consultancy, language translation and interpretation, graphic design and illustration are all typically associated with freelancing.

Another great way to earn money as a freelancer is by doing consultancy work. This is a good option for someone who’s an expert in their field and already has a list of industry contacts. Find out how to start by reading AXA’s guide to freelancing.

Words of Wisdom from Real Business Owners

Starting a side business can be a daunting task, but there’s plenty to learn from those that have done it before you. Raphael Sofoluke, founder of the UK Black Business Show suggests that his “advice would be to first of all, research. Know your market, know exactly what you’re trying to do and execute it properly.”

Another side hustle owner, Chyna Mason of That Doodle Girl, says that having a real passion for your side business is key: “I feel the luckiest person in the world to get paid to do the job that I do because I love it so much.”

If you’re looking to hear more from real people who have started a successful venture in addition to their 9-to-5 job, check out episode 2 of the Mind Your Small Business podcast. It covers further reflections from Raphael and Chyna on their experiences and offers some interesting advice for anyone thinking of starting a side hustle.

*Figures based on research conducted by Walnut on behalf of AXA Business Insurance (November 2022). 

All links are checked and valid at time of publishing, 24 November 2022.


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