That's why I'm a huge advocate of always starting a side business while working full-time, so that you can test your way into your new product or service, get feedback, validate the business idea, and start generating income before you quit your job. If you can master the art of scaling a side business idea while keeping your day job, you'll have no trouble succeeding once you're fully self-employed.
Today, if you're at all serious about succeeding in any endeavor, whether online or offline, you have to deliver enormous amounts of value. Yes, you have to do the most amount of work for the least initial return. This is especially true online. Why? Because it takes time to build authority and create an audience, two primary ingredients necessary to succeed in the wonderful world of commerce on the web.
Mechanical Turk operates much like TaskRabbit and GigWalk: it’s a corner online where Amazon gathers tasks to be done, people willing to do them, and people willing to pay for them. On Mechanical Turk, you get to do the oddest jobs you can imagine as an online business idea, made possible by a parallel online universe that runs on hits, visits, surveys, reviews, pins, likes, CPCs, reads, and other metrics. But don’t get too ambitious. The small sums being paid out to human Mechanical Turk users rarely add up to anything seriously substantial, even if you invest most of your spare time into it. It's a better opportunity for internationally-based people with internet access and lower costs of living than in the US. Here’s one person’s account of his former life as a Mechanical Turk talking through how he got started with this business idea and what the experience was really like.
Obviously some of these small business ideas have more earning potential than others, but what they all share in common are relatively low barriers to entry and the flexibility to work at them for a limited amount of time per week. I also tried to focus on side business ideas that have some sort of online component to them, since that's what I love most.
Using a food delivery service can’t necessarily earn you money, but it can help you save you money if you constantly find yourself throwing out half the food you buy. Food delivery services send a box of food every week with new, sometimes unique vegetables, meat, fruit, and so on. If you don’t have time to shop and want simple meal-prep that leads to a good meal, a food subscription service may be perfect for you.