Become a mobile entrepreneur.
Starting a business with just your phone needs to be heavily caveated — simply starting a business is hard enough — limiting it to your just your phone adds yet another layer of challenge. That said, smartphones are powerful tools today and can accomplish a lot, like starting a business.
This post does not contain what you’ll find when you Google “how to make money with your phone” which will return results like taking mass surveys, using apps that pay pennies for doing micro tasks like shopping or watching videos or taking pictures of receipts. HQ Trivia won’t be on this list. Instead, these are actual businesses with serious income potential that require time and effort — and a phone.
Here are the side business ideas that you only need a phone to launch:
- Create t-shirts with an evocative message and sell on social. Use a t-shirt design app like Snaptee to design and order t-shirts, then leverage your social media networks to launch a brand. Accept payments with Venmo.
- Launch a tightly focused niche brand on Instagram and get sponsors. Vlog while hiking the Appalachian Trail like Grizel, or meet 10,000 new people like Rob, or make trick shots like Dude Perfect. With enough followers, you can reach out to businesses in your niche who will be interested in paying you to be in front of your focused audience.
- Review books and sell them with Amazon affiliate links. Nat Eliason, a long-time blogger, makes several thousands of dollars a month from his Amazon affiliate links from all the hundreds of books he’s read. He even combined his book summaries into a searchable Evernote “quotebook” and sells it for $50.
- Start a how-to channel on YouTube. Are you skilled in something? Cooking, painting, car repair, contracting, gaming — whatever your area of expertise is, make videos with your phone, upload them, grow an audience, and then turn on YouTube’s five ways to monetize when you meet the eligibility requirements.
- Offer to manage a company’s social media accounts. Social media is a time-consuming but valuable marketing tool for businesses and it can’t be automated (well) or faked. Consider reaching out to a business and offering to run their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest (etc.) channels as a contractor. Start with a trial period. Outline the milestones you’ll aim to achieve. Negotiate the compensation you’ll expect to receive when you reach them.
- Test websites and apps for developers and designers. UserTesting pays $10 via PayPal for every 20-minute test you complete. If you complete three tests in an hour, that’s $30/hour.
- Trade stocks with Robinhood. Robinhood does not charge commissions for buying and selling stocks. However, transactions take longer to clear, so it’s not high-speed day trading but it’s possible to “play broker” and buy low and sell high with just your phone. One Redditor believes a good trader could make $30-$100 profit on an investment of $2,000. Sounds optimistic to me.
- Edit videos for businesses. There are simple yet powerful video editing apps (Adobe Rush, for example) that allow users to make professional-looking videos from their phones. Knowing that businesses are always looking for quality content to publish on their social media channels, you can download a video editing app, offer to take footage, and edit it in a way that’s helpful for the business.
- Provide personal business development services. Offer to network (online and offline) and generate leads on behalf of a company. You can send emails, direct messages, and follow-ups from your phone. You can also attend events and spread positive word-of-mouth about the company (this generated a $75k deal for me).
- Leverage “ecommerce arbitrage.” Gary Vaynerchuk claims you can make $1,000 a week by flipping yard sales. All you need is a phone to 1) buy local goods and 2) sell online at a markup using open marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Etsy, and eBay.
- Pair your phone with your car or house and the business possibilities multiply. Airbnb, VRBO, Uber, InstaCart, Turo — hosts and drivers can bring in several thousand dollars a month. You only need a phone to set up an account, take photos, and manage the business.