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Published: Dec 29, 2021 7 min read
A clown is walking balloon dogs.
Pete Ryan for Money

This article is part of Money's January 2022 digital cover, which features 22 ways to make 2022 the best money year of your life. Browse all 22 articles here.

Enter the side hustle. With so much of the world embracing virtual work, it’s easier than ever to supplement your income with part-time gigs — and the work is more lucrative than it's ever been.

Here are six of the best new side hustles out there.

Virtual assistant

Americans are busy: they’re working long hours, starting small businesses, and juggling family and caregiving responsibilities with their full-time jobs. These professionals could use an extra hand to lighten the load, and many are willing to pay people with top-notch organizational and problem-solving skills to do exactly that.

As a virtual assistant, you could spend your time making appointments for your clients, following up on emails, organizing their receipts, booking their travel — but those aren’t your only options. You might also promote their freelance work on social media, or help them build out their website. According to data from Indeed, virtual assistants earn an average of $19.36 per hour in the United States. And best of all, you can do this entire job from the comfort of your couch.

Digital real estate agent

Speaking of virtual work, there’s an entirely new economy opening up online in the metaverse — a digital realm where users can play games, buy property, trade cryptocurrencies and earn real money.

“This world creates a lot of new opportunities,” says Elmer Morales, the former Microsoft software engineer behind Campus Metaverse, a soon-to-launch company that works with coders to build new spaces in the metaverse.

Morales sees a burgeoning market for tech-savvy internet aficionados who can scope out virtual real estate for potential investors, “in the same way that you would with traditional real estate.” He estimates that a virtual land scout might earn a finder’s fee between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the size of the transaction. (If that sounds like hogwash, there's a whole host of stories about investors paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for virtual land that should change your mind.)

Freelance NFT artist

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are blowing up. These digital collector's items are sold in groups of unique pieces that can number in the tens of thousands per collection — which means there’s a growing need for graphic designers and illustrators who can help create them.

For enterprising creators who are willing to learn a little about this new investment craze, the payoff could be major — especially if your compensation includes a cut of the sales proceeds of the NFTs you help design.

“There's a lot of money to be made,” Morales says, “whether it's working for the big brands or even smaller entertainers or entrepreneurs who are launching new projects.”

A typical freelance artist might earn between $40 and $60 per hour working on NFTs, Morales says, while a top artist in the field could earn up to $250 per hour. Add in revenue-sharing, and you've got a recipe for thousands of dollars in extra income every month.

Play-to-earn gamer

Crypto-powered online games are on track to become hugely popular.

Axie Infinity, one of the best-known, allows players to earn rare virtual items (like digital pets, land and tokens) they can then trade or sell for real money. The game requires you to fork over roughly $1,000 to buy in and start playing, and the payoff can vary widely depending on your success and how much time you’re willing to invest. But gamers who play just a few hours a day earn between $8 and $40, according to the trading news site FX Street, so you can make your initial investment back in less than a month.

Other play-to-earn options include The Sandbox and Splinterlands.

Professional thrifter

Buying secondhand clothing is as trendy as ever. Clothing resale apps like Depop and Poshmark are surging in popularity thanks, in part, to trendy teens who post their finds on TikTok — and all it takes to earn some extra cash is an eye for fashion and a willingness to invest a little time into hunting for finds (and marketing them). That means taking good quality photos, getting familiar with the trendiest brands and keywords and being able to respond to messages from potential buyers ASAP.

Pet travel nanny

A pandemic-induced boom in pet adoption has helped carve a unique niche for animal and travel lovers alike.

When pet rescues, breeders and owners need help transporting dogs and cats from foster home to forever home, or for a big move, they’ll often enlist the help of a human travel companion. These people accompany pets on airplanes for families or transport them in their vehicles, often on their own schedule.

CitizenShipper, a service that connects pet travel nannies with jobs, says "air nannies" can earn up to $12,000 per month. For car trips, pet nannies can charge by the mile (usually between $0.50 and $.75, according to FosterFurkids) or a flat-rate fee. Got a cross-country road trip planned? Bringing a furry friend along could line your pockets with an extra thousand-plus dollars.

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