10 Freelance Business Ideas Perfect for Side Hustlers

10 Freelance Business Ideas Perfect for Side Hustlers

More and more people are looking to explore self-employed work, attracted by its freedom, variety, and—in some cases—business opportunities not realized in a traditional full-time nine-to-five job. Being your “own boss” has a nice ring.

Upwork’s Freelance Forward 2022 study found that 60 million Americans did freelance work in the past year—about 39% of the U.S. workforce.

As more professionals in many fields seize entrepreneurship, you too might be eager to start your own business. Fortunately,  the wide variety of lucrative part-time, freelance, and contract business ideas allows relatively straightforward entrance to the self-employment market.

While starting a small business or pursuing other independent career paths is never easy, some low-cost options offer great potential and small barriers to entry.

Have a brilliant business idea in mind but not sure how much money will it take to bring your idea to life? Try the Startup Cost Calculator to get cost estimates.

10 freelance business ideas

As you consider business options, some choices offer faster entry to self-employment, with fewer hoops to jump through. Here are some great self-employed business ideas for beginners.

Freelance business ideas:

  1. Social media consultant
  2. Virtual assistant
  3. Freelance writer
  4. Interpreter or translator
  5. Graphic designer
  6. Web designer
  7. Search engine optimization (SEO) consultant
  8. Digital marketing professional
  9. Transcriptionist
  10. Interior designer

1. Social media consultant

Social media consultant

Suppose you spend an extended amount of time on different social media platforms and have strong insights into how they work. You’ve learned how to get engagement and grow a following of people who listen to what you have to say. You may even work with sponsors as an influencer to help them sell their products. Why not consider becoming an independent social media consultant? Brands are finding  increasing importance of engaging their audiences through social media platforms, but not all have the budget or desire to hire someone for a full-time in-house position.

As far as the background you need to become a social media manager, having an active social media presence and understanding how brands use social media are generally requirements. Being updated on the latest strategies and platforms is also a must.

Some common tasks you’ll take on are creating engaging social media posts, determining the best time of day to post content, helping brands find their voice, understanding the popular social media platforms (Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, X—formerly Twitter), and digging into data to understand where to make campaign improvements.

With the rising importance of social media to business, many opportunities are available for consultants to break into the field despite the large amount of competition already existing. When you find a project that suits you, most social media consultants charge from $30 to $60 per hour, depending on years of experience, particular set of skills, and location.

2. Virtual assistant

A virtual assistant performs tasks for a client that an in-office administrative assistant would do for a boss, including making appointments, composing correspondence, returning phone calls, handling social arrangements, and making travel plans. They may also be tapped to do more specific tasks, such as data entry, bookkeeping, and even online research.

Since virtual assistants work for themselves, they may have more than one client. While a virtual assistant can learn their job quickly, working as a medical, legal, or executive assistant can require more training and experience, which is usually rewarded with greater compensation.

Most virtual assistants charge from $20 to $30 per hour. Experience in areas such as customer service, event management, speaker support, social media management, billing, bookkeeping, or other administrative tasks may justify a higher rate.

As more companies embrace remote positions (now 27.5% of U.S. businesses), the demand for virtual assistants remains strong.

3. Freelance writer

Freelance writer

Freelance writing is appealing to many types of people, including those with extensive journalism backgrounds, college graduates who majored in writing, university academics, experienced industry professionals, and anyone interested in copywriting.

Besides training and experience, most writers have skills in researching and conducting interviews. To thrive in the field, it also helps to be a proficient wordsmith with a good track record and portfolio showing your writing skills. Writers also need to be adaptable and able to match the voice of a brand in their writing.

What you can earn largely depends on the type of work, your experience, and your field of expertise. Generally, freelance writers charge from $20 to $30 an hour, with some earning as much as $75 per hour. While freelance content writing does allow you a certain amount of freedom in your schedule, the large range in rate also points to a highly competitive field.

4. Interpreter or translator

Are you proficient at speaking and writing in another language? Perhaps it’s time to put your skill and know-how to good use as an independent interpreter or translator. Your work could range from interpreting for a speaker to translating text from one language to another for publishing clients, courtrooms, corporate clients, and others.

While a bachelor’s degree is often a requirement for working as an interpreter or translator, the most important qualification is proficiency in both another language and English. In terms of what you can earn, translators typically charge from $20 to $30 an hour.

One of the benefits is that translators often have job options that include remote work, requiring little more than an internet connection and a dictionary. Translation experience may also open opportunities for international travel.

5. Graphic designer

Graphic designer

Many traditional and online businesses are looking for a competitive edge with the quality of their designs. They need graphics for websites, marketing materials, print material, and video graphics. If you have an eye for design and some demonstrated project applications, you can offer graphic design services to these businesses.

You’ll need experience with the industry standard editing software. For typical graphic design, Adobe product experience is a must, with Photoshop and Illustrator having nearly 40% of the total market share. You’ll also need experience with different elements of graphic design, such as logo, print, illustration, typography, and motion design. As a graphic designer, you’ll also need to understand how to align your design with a company’s brand image to ensure they have a consistent online presence across all channels.

Graphic designers generally charge from $30 to $40, largely depending on their experience and specific skill set.

6. Web designer

Freelance web design is appealing to designers who aren’t just great at creating graphics but also designing engaging user interfaces that entice website visitors.

Projects for website designers may include creating entirely new designs, revamping existing websites, building a website’s user experience, and ensuring a consistent brand experience on all the organization’s pages.

Professionals in this field need a variety of skills for web development and design. You’ll need to have an eye for design, be able to keep page load speeds down, and have knowledge of website programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Web designers typically charge around $30 per hour.

7. Search engine optimization (SEO) consultant

SEO consultant


To leverage online opportunities, business owners want to have high-ranking content on search engine results pages.. When less than 1% of searchers click something past the first page, having good SEO practices is essential for increasing the chance of ranking well.

If you’ve helped optimize websites before, you have an in-demand skill for companies that need help. Freelance SEO providers should understand keyword research, content optimization, on-site optimization, link acquisition techniques, and varied web analytics methods.

SEO professionals can expect to charge $25 to $85 per hour. Your hourly rate will depend on your experience and the number of services offered to clients.

8. Digital marketing professional

Have you spent time building online marketing campaigns that get results? If so, the chances are good that many businesses would love to take advantage of your experience.

As a digital marketing freelancer, you’ll spend your time helping companies and entrepreneurs establish themselves online and attract new customers.

Your tasks as a marketing specialist can vary greatly. On one hand, you could spend your day managing social media marketing campaigns, email marketing campaigns, and other organic traffic sources. But if a company wants immediate traffic, you’ll spend time managing pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and optimizing for a return on investment.

Digital marketing professionals can expect to make $35 to $50 per hour. Your expected salary will depend on the type of marketing you’re doing and how effective your marketing skills are.

9. Transcriptionist

Transcriptionist

If you have good attention to detail and fast typing skills, becoming a transcription expert is a viable path for a freelance business. Companies regularly rely on transcriptionists for various tasks, including transcribing interviews, court activity, medical records, corporate meetings, and numerous other activities.

To be a transcriptionist, you’ll need to have a solid grasp of the language you plan to work in, as well as the ability to quickly and accurately transcribe text with good typing skills. You’ll also need access to the software and tools to make transcription easier—such as word processors, noise-canceling headphones, and foot pedals for playback speed control.

Transcriptionists usually charge about $20 per hour. Your salary will depend on your level of experience, the complexity of the assignments, and your specific clients.

10. Interior designer

Do you have an interest in transforming interior spaces into functional and visually appealing environments? If so, being an interior designer is an excellent option for a freelance business. This freelance job will help you put your creative skills to use to transform residential or commercial spaces to help them resonate with the property owner.

And with the rise of remote work and collaboration tools, interior designers can work virtually to serve potential clients across the globe. To do so, you’ll need familiarity with communication tools and knowledge of common design software like SketchUp and Autodesk.

Interior designers are able to charge from $25 to $85. Your rate will depend on your expertise, the size of the project, and the type of client.

The shift to self-employment

The idea of consulting and freelancing isn’t new—engaging independent contract talent has always been available to businesses, with the self-employed path an attractive option for people who want to make it on their own. Perhaps you even had an entrepreneurial spirit early in your career and spent your spare time as a blogger, website designer, or podcast host.

The last 10-plus years have seen high demand for independent talent, with 78% of companies now using remote freelancers. The widespread availability of the internet globally and the rise of online work marketplaces like Upwork have made it much easier for workers and companies to connect.

There’s also been a major shift in attitude. Where once self-employment was an alternative to traditional work, often in more menial positions, now it’s sought by all types of professionals. Independent work is attracting a greater number of highly skilled professionals; Upwork’s Freelance Forward report found that 26% of U.S. freelancers hold a postgraduate degree. Freelancing can provide much-needed flexibility for people to work their own hours, attractive to many and particularly valuable to those whose personal circumstances may not allow them to take traditional nine-to-five onsite employment.

No better place to begin a business

Now could be the perfect time to launch your own business and work for yourself, enjoying the freedom of choosing when and where to work and the opportunity to do projects for various interesting clients.

If you’re ready to start your freelance career, consider launching and promoting your business through a proven platform like Upwork, a resource used by 30% of Fortune 100 companies and many other leading companies and organizations.

See how you could turn your dream or side hustle into an ongoing successful business venture by signing up for an Upwork account.

Hourly pay ranges are current at the time of writing and may change over time based on market changes.

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10 Freelance Business Ideas Perfect for Side Hustlers
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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