Online business, online freelancing or mini-side hustles: which one to choose? Which is the best option for you to earn extra money online?

E-Business, E-Lancing or Micro Side Hustling: Which to Choose?

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A quick Google search will tell you that there are tonnes of different ways to make money online. With so much information, niches and opportunities out there, the question is which way to start?


On my post 10 Ways to Make Money Online Without a Blog, you saw that you can:


  • Earn money on your spare time doing things like answering surveys;

  • Have a full-blown business with an e-commerce website;

  • Make extra money with an online part-time by offering your services and leveraging your skills freelancing.


In this post, I want to take that one step further and look deeper into the 3 main categories of making money online: E-Business, E-Lancing and Micro Side Hustling!


Now, these categories are not mutually exclusive. In fact, often a little side hustle done in your spare time can turn into a full-blown business, just like freelancing or even an online business can be considered a side hustle.


Often you will see articles titled with something like “Top 10 Side Hustles to Make $XX this Month!” You click thinking you’ll be able to find a list of 10 things you can do on your spare time, only to find a list of a lot of things that take longer to earn your riches.


There is nothing wrong with those titles, but with the interchangeability of terms these days, it can get a little confusing and a bit misleading.


I like to bring it all down a notch and organize into easy to digest and defined categories. So, I decided to divide it based on the following criteria:


  1. Time and effort commitment;

  2. Skills and knowledge required;

  3. Financial investment;

  4. Ultimately, the mindset necessary to be successful.


Based on those criteria, it all comes down to these 3 categories:


  1. E-Business (not to be confused with e-commerce);

  2. E-Lancing (online freelancing);

  3. Micro Side Hustling (low effort, done in your spare time)


So, which one should you choose? It depends on what you are willing to commit to and how it fits into your lifestyle and interests.


Let’s dig deeper and explore the amount of time, effort and money you need to for each. Only then, you can understand which one is the best fit for you and your goals.




Probably, your first instinct is to think of e-commerce websites, where you have a product inventory, set up an online shop and people can purchase products from your website. This would be something like a clothing store selling their apparel through their website.


While e-commerce falls neatly into this category, it is but one example of it. The E-Business category can also include things like:


  • Software sites offering some benefit to customers;

  • Websites that cater to the education industry by providing e-courses and workshops (i.e. Udemy);

  • A social media platform, much like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest;

  • Subscription websites offering services to their subscribers;

  • Blogging!


That’s right! Blogging is a business!


Some headlines will tell you blogging is a cool side hustle to earn extra money; others will say it is a profitable hobby. These headlines are misleading!


While blogging can be both a hobby or a side hustle, blogging for profit is a business! Yes, you can start it out as a hobby and do it part-time as a side hustle, but if it is going to be successful, you need to invest time, money and skills. Plus, you need to have an entrepreneurial mindset.


Anyhow…There are plenty of other examples of E-Business. Loosely defined, almost everything done online for-profit could be considered an online business. But, let’s see exactly what the requirements are (see below)


The Requirements:




An E-Business, regardless of niche or product being offered, requires you to commit a great deal of your time at different stages of the business.


In effect, it is a business. So, you will have to commit a significant portion of your time preparing to launch – from researching to outlining a plan of action, to launching your website. Then, it will require continuous monitoring and outreach to maximize your profits.


From all three of the categories, e-business demands the most amount of time and commitment!


    2. Skills/Knowledge:


The E-Business model also requires a skill set that allows you to successfully go from the prepping phase to launching, to outreach, to profit.


The specific skills you need depend heavily on the kind of business you want to run, but, you still need to have entrepreneurial skills. Some of those skills would be:


  • Knowing how to do market research to identify the right products or services to offer;

  • Knowing how to create a business plan – formal or informal, every business needs a business plan to succeed;

  • Having some skills and knowledge of branding and marketing;

  • Being able to manage business financials;

  • Customer service skills;

  • Specific knowledge of the niche/industry you are catering to and know your product well (whether you created it or someone else did)


Granted, some of those skills can be outsourced, but that leads us to the next criterium…


      3. Financial Investment


An online business may not require as much capital as a brick and mortar model would, but it’s still tough to start an E-Business with no financial investment!


To succeed as a business owner, you need to invest money at some point or another. It requires an initial investment to buy a domain, hosting, purchase inventory or reach out to your customers. Even if you make the products yourself, you will likely need to invest money on that too.


The fact is that most of us do not have all the skills and knowledge requirements necessary for business, so you’ll need to hire out. Even if you do have all the skills, doing it all by yourself will lead to burnout!


So, at some point, most entrepreneurs end up outsourcing some of their tasks. This can eat up a significant portion of your funds.


    4. Mindset


Online businesses can be very different from traditional offline businesses, but it still requires an entrepreneurial mindset!


To invest time, effort, skills and money and then to be able to manage it all, you need to have a business mindset!


If you’re trying to set up an online business because it is easier than a traditional business, think again! If the entrepreneurial bug isn’t in you, you’ll strike out!


The Benefits:


As hard as I made it sound (I did because it is), you can reap great benefits from running an online business:


  • Be your own boss;

  • Make your own schedule and control how much time you put into it (to some extent);

  • Do what you love to do!

  • Have a self-sufficient source of income, instead of relying on paycheque-to-paycheque jobs;

  • You can reach very high profits!

  • Live the life you’ve always dreamed!


If these are goals, you would like to attain and you can check off all the criteria I mentioned, then building an online business is an excellent fit for you!


To help you out, here is a short list of business ideas that you can run online:


  1. Selling your own designed T-shirts;

  2. Selling handmade gifts or products;

  3. Creating an app to sell or offer for a monthly fee;

  4. Do a one-on-one coaching in business, marketing, or any other niche;

  5. Creating e-courses to teach people specific skills.






Online freelancing is when you provide services for a fee. This method allows you to leverage your knowledge, education and skills and turn a profit.


Now, e-lancing can also be considered a business if you set it up as such.


I see e-lancing as a middle gradient category – it can be a full-on business, a part-time job and maybe even a side hustle done on your spare time. It all depends on how you set it up.


For instance, you can create a website where you promote your services for a fee. Likely, you will need to have a professional website, promote it, engage in customer service and fulfil orders. Whether you outsource it or not, you will also need to deal with the accounting, tax payments, etc. These are all aspects of an online business.


The Requirements:


Or, you can instead take advantage of online work platforms like Freelancer and Upwork and offer your services and expertise without a website or upfront cost. A set up like that may be more of side hustle or part-time job.


1. Time


Freelancing can be more flexible in terms of time commitment. You have more control over your schedule, and you can choose to do it full-time or part-time. It really depends on your availability, your goals and the services you provide.


I personally think that if you are not careful, e-lancing can take up more time than you expected. I have had moments when I set out to work only about 10 hours a week as a freelancer, but when it came down to it, some projects took longer than that.


Ultimately, the time put into online freelancing is a compromise between your availability, your goals and your client’s needs and deadlines.


      2. Skills/Knowledge:


Offering services online requires you to have skills and knowledge to offer in the first place. If you are offering accounting services, you need to have a background education or certifications in accounting. If you are offering data management services, you need to have (or at least learn) data management skills.


It is true that you don’t always need to have specific skills to start out. Simple data entry work only requires you to be able to type information, but more complex data entry gigs may require you to know how to use Excel, or other more specialized software.


The gradient effect also applies here, as it really depends on the kind of services you are offering. The more complex and specialized the services the more of an expert you need to be.


     3. Financial Investment


As an e-lancer, you can start making money online with no upfront cost. Platforms like Fiverr, for instance, allow you to showcase your skills and services without having to invest a single penny.


If you are just starting out and don’t have the funds to invest in a website, using e-lancing platforms can be an excellent way to make some money on the side.


Keep in mind that Upwork, Fiverr, and platforms alike will take a commission from your service fees and you will often compete head-to-head with all the other people offering their services on those websites. Often, this means staying competitive with lower pay rates.


If your goal is to make a full-time income from your freelancing services, the then chances are sooner or later you will need to invest some money and run it like a business.


    4. Mindset


Again, doing anything on your own requires commitment and effort, so you always need to take it seriously enough to be successful. That kind of mindset is crucial.


That being said, I find that using freelancing platforms can be done without the entrepreneurial mindset. Nonetheless, you need to be able to deal with pitching to clients and both the low and high tides of the workflow.


On the other hand, building a business as a freelancer requires as much of an entrepreneurial mindset as blogging or an e-commerce business.


The Benefits:


Like running a full-time online business, there are many advantages to e-lancing:


  • Make your own schedule and control how much time you put into it (to some extent);

  • Do what you love to do!

  • Have a self-sufficient source of income, instead of relying on paycheque-to-paycheque jobs;

  • You can also earn six figures with e-lancing, depending on how much time you can commit and whether recurring clients;


A difference I think is worth noting, is that you may be ‘your own boss’ but the truth is you are still working for someone else. You still have to meet your clients’ needs, or you won’t be successful.


If you think this is something you would like to try, here are some ideas of freelancing services you can provide online:


  1. Content writing for bloggers;

  2. Website design services;

  3. Offer services as a virtual assistant;

  4. Copywriting for websites;

  5. Offer services as a social media manager.


Side Hustling:


Okay, technically, anything you do in addition to your regular job is considered a side hustle or moonlighting if you will. However, there are things you can do online that will still bring you some extra cash but do not fit well under the business or freelancing categories. These are short/small tasks you can complete on your spare time – micro side hustles if you will.


These micro side hustles will likely not pay you much money, because they are also very basic, usually requiring little time to complete.


Cashback and digital rewards platforms are the perfect examples of a micro side hustle. You can answer surveys or complete short tasks for a specified reward.


The Requirements:


 1. Time


Usually, side hustles can be done in your spare time. I often answer surveys on Swagbucks or DailyRewards when I’m waiting for my daughter to fall asleep at night. After singing a lullaby, I stay in the room (she won’t fall asleep otherwise) and take that time to answer some surveys or do other tasks on Swagbucks.


This is best for someone who wants to make some extra money but cannot commit to a specific set of hours per week, or a specific time. Depending on the platform, you often can just login at any time of the day and do specified tasks for a pre-determined set of money.


    2. Skills/Knowledge:


From all the three main categories here, this requires the least set of skills. You do not need to be an expert on a topic or have any kind of experience.


Although there is a broad range of possibilities when it comes to what kind of tasks you will be doing, usually you don’t need experience or unique skills.


    3. Financial Investment


Taking online business and e-lancing out of the definition, side hustles do not typically require a financial investment. Most digital rewards and cash back platforms are free to sign up.


Anyone who would like to give the online scene a try without investing money or time should consider micro side hustles. It’s an easy way to earn some lunch money, so to speak.


    4. Mindset


As you may have guessed it, you don’t need to be business oriented or anything like that. I would say, though, you do need to be persistent and patient.


I can honestly tell you it’s not always a walk in the park, despite not requiring much time investment or skills.


To give you an idea of what I mean by that: Back in 2016, when I first started taking online side hustles seriously, I was making about $100/month with just a few platforms. Since March of this year though, I have been focusing so much more on this blog and some other projects that I haven’t been making much from this type of work.


The Benefits:


As I mentioned side hustles can range from micro-work to a side business, but here I define it as micro side work. With that in mind, the benefits of side hustles are:


  • You can do it in your spare time;

  • You can make extra money to help towards bills or lunch money;

  • You feel productive for doing something that pays during all those dead times you have in your life (i.e. waiting for kids’ dance class to finish, etc.)


I do want to point out that answering surveys, doing micro tasks, and things alike are not going to make anyone rich quickly. This is just lunch money or pocket change, but it adds up, and it can help towards bills. In fact, this is how I make my monthly credit card payments!


If you are just trying to dip your toes making money online but don’t know where to start, side hustles are an excellent way to check things out and see what works best for you without investing too much time or money.


Here are a few of the side hustles that have helped me pay my credit card bill:


  1. Answering surveys through Opinion Outpost;

  2. Testing websites through UserTesting;

  3. Using the cash back feature from Swagbucks;

  4. Transcribing short audio files on SpeechPad;

  5. Data entry work through UpWork.


Which One Is Best for You?


Hopefully, by categorizing it all into three main routes, I have helped you have a better picture of the requirements and benefits each entail.


The critical question here is: Which one do you feel is the best fit for you?


Think about the time commitment, the skills and the mindset each of these ways to make money online requires of you.


Do you have some time to spare to consistently work on a long-term project every day or every week? If yes, you should look into blogging and other business opportunities, or maybe freelance to start out.


Are you super busy and only have a few minutes a day to spare? If that’s the case, then embarking on a business or blog project may not be the best idea for you. You can still make money online, though, just consider micro side hustles.


Most importantly, you need to consider the financial investment that might be required of you! You may have the time to work on a long-term project, but if you cannot invest any money, I’d suggest starting with smaller ventures that are free to start out (i.e. Swagbucks, freelancing on Upwork).


Now that you have a good idea of the commitment and investment each category requires, you should be able to make a better decision on which method to choose.


You should also check out:


3 Questions to Answer Before Trying to Make Money Online

10 Ways to Make Money Online Without a Blog


You could also choose more than one method. There’s really no right or wrong. But if this your first time trying to make money online, you should focus on one thing at a time.


As you may know, I started out wanting to write a blog about earning my way to my friend’s wedding through online means. When I realized the blog takes more than writing skills, I chose to try out various micro side hustles. I’m glad I did because now I can cover my credit card payments without having to touch my paycheque!




Your Turn:


So, tell me, do you have the entrepreneurial bug? Are you planning on starting an online business, working as a freelancer part-time, or do you prefer working just on your spare time?




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About E-riches Club

E-riches Club started out as a research assistant's attempt to raise money to attend a friend's wedding abroad. One thing led to another and today she's blogging and pinning her way to a side income!

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