Best Online Side Hustles For Really Busy People

Many Canadians have become interested in starting a small business on the side, as they’ve realized the importance of having a backup plan with maximum financial control. Others need to start their business part-time while they’re busy working another job or caring for their family. In the many possible scenarios, the main reason they don’t go through with it is because they don’t feel they have the time to pull it off.

Online businesses offer a viable solution to busy, aspiring Canadian entrepreneurs, but some are better than others. Trying to determine how much time each one takes is next to impossible without experience or extensive research. I can help you skip that time-consuming step. The recommendations and tips below are based on more than 20 years of generating revenue for online businesses.

Time is Just a Number

When people say they don’t have time, what they often mean is they don’t have a schedule that allows them to commit time. Luckily, it isn’t really about the amount of time you have, but how flexible the work can be.

We can remove that issue by choosing a niche that:

  • Avoids direct interaction with people. The more your work involves other people, the harder it will be to maintain control of your time.
  • Doesn’t involve a rigid schedule or deadlines.
  • Can be managed remotely from anywhere with an internet connection. Being mobile can buy you a lot of time. You can sneak in some work while you’re waiting at the dentist’s office, watching TV, or on the bus during your day job commute.

You’ll still have to put time into your business, but you’ll be able to manage it. For example, customer service is a fact of life in most businesses, but as long as you deal with it within a day or so you’ll be OK. Precisely when you deal with it during that time frame is up to you.


When saving time is critical, it helps immensely if you can outsource as much as possible. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have huge budgets, especially during the startup phase. It’s important to prioritize the tasks you outsource not only by immediate need (like a website), but also by how much each task will contribute to the bottom line once it’s completed. Once the money starts coming in, you can hire help for the less critical jobs.

One time-saving contractor to consider is a Virtual Assistant (VA). Preferably one who is an expert in a range of skills that you’ll need, as opposed to those who specialize in one thing only. The less people you have to deal with, the less time your business will take.

Online Side Hustles For Busy People

The following online businesses have proven to be best for aspiring entrepreneurs with busy schedules:

Digital Info Products

Create & sell information products such as courses, white papers, reports, or ebooks. You can create information products whenever time allows. Once they’re created, you can sell them over & over again with little more than the occasional update.

Learn More: How to Develop Your Own Online Learning Products

Drop Shipping

Without a doubt, drop shipping is the easiest, fastest and least expensive way to sell products online. You don’t stock inventory and you don’t have to ship anything. Basically, you connect with a wholesale supplier or manufacturer to sell their products direct online. The customer price minus the wholesale cost equals your profit.

There are several one-stop solutions with millions of products from a huge selection of wholesalers. They make it easy with their options to sell on your own site, through their website packages, or even direct to online auctions and marketplaces. You can be up & running with little more effort than searching & clicking.

Learn More: Drop Shipping / Wholesale for Canadian Sellers

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the rare businesses that don’t require customer service. It’s probably the most hands-off way to make money online.

Affiliate programs allow you to advertise for a company and earn a percentage of the sales you generate for them. It works best with a website and steady traffic to it. This will be your home base for everything from building a mailing list to social media promotion. Once you’ve established a following, both on your website and in newsletter subscribers, your income will grow. That said, you can also try affiliate marketing without a website.

Learn More: How to Start Affiliate Marketing in Canada

Auctions and Online Marketplaces

One way you can save time is by controlling growth. If you decide to sell products through online marketplaces, it’s up to you how many products you list.

You can also save an enormous amount of time by using fulfillment services. That might involve in-house options like Fulfillment by Amazon, or through 3PL services. Fulfillment services may include storage, shipping, packaging and more.

While I always recommend having a website, even that isn’t absolutely necessary if you sell through these platforms.

Tools and courses have been launched specifically for Amazon sellers, designed by their colleagues to streamline the marketplace learning process and legwork. Jungle Scout has a highly-rated FBA course, along with a suite of popular Amazon tools for product & keyword research, competitive intelligence and product sourcing.

Check out our list of Online Marketplaces for Canadian Sellers for more sales platforms.

Freelance Writing

There is an insatiable demand for online content and it’s only going to grow. Virtually every company has a perpetual need for unique content & copy for their website and products. Talented, specialized freelance writers can earn serious money, depending on the demand and level of competition in their chosen niche.

Freelance Writing is ideal for the time-challenged because you can choose to take on only as much as you can handle. The same goes for other digital content, ranging from video to social media graphics.

Learn More: How to Start a Freelance Digital Content Business in Canada

If you manage your time well and work with what you have, you can find time to start an online business as a side hustle. If you can’t grow slowly and you have a decent budget, you can outsource just about any task. Then, you can focus your time and effort on what you’re best at.

If you need more help to get started, follow our checklist How to Start an Online Business in Canada. We invite you to comment below or join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.


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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on, and, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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