One fifth of Americans live in rural areas, and many of them face serious economic challenges. Recovery from the 2008 recession has been slower in rural areas , and COVID-19 has left high unemployment. That has left many small town and rural residents looking for ways to make extra money. If you’re one of them, you may have encountered another problem: many lists of side hustles and income opportunities are oriented toward city dwellers.
Most people who write about ways to make money focus on the populous urban areas, but that doesn’t mean rural residents need to be left out. There are many ways to make money that are adaptable to rural living, and some that are unique to rural areas.
We’re breaking this list of side hustle jobs for those in small towns into four categories: Freelancing jobs, labor jobs, gigs you can work from home, and online jobs. Any of these ideas could be a good fit for you!
💡 Freelancing Jobs
Here are some ideas for those wanting to start a freelancing business in a small town or rural area.
1. Be a Local Guide
Many rural areas and small towns are popular getaways for residents from nearby cities. If you know a lot about your small town or rural area, consider becoming a guide for visitors to the area. You can help people plan vacations or day trips in the area, share information about lodging, and direct people to local sightseeing destinations. You can give ideas for sport and leisure activities, and direct visitors to the best local dining opportunities. Advertise your local guide services and pricing on social media sites such as Facebook.
2. Retail Arbitrage
Retail arbitrage is the practice of buying something at a low price and then selling it for a profit. Garage sales and “curb alerts” – discarded items left by the road – are common sights in rural areas and small towns. Small town and rural residents don’t seem as concerned with making a buck as they are with decluttering their homes and farms.
If you know what items are worth and you’re willing to put some effort into cleaning them up, you can find some great deals on household and farming items and much more. Reselling them at a reasonable price can generate significant money. This is particularly true in areas where old homes harbor stocks of “junk” that can include valuable antiques!
3. Rideshare Driver or Grocery Deliverer
Small town and rural area residents need rideshare and delivery services just like everybody else. Sometimes the need is even greater than it is in the cities: many rural areas have limited public transportation and residents without cars may need help to get essential goods and services. Whether it’s a drive to a bigger town to get groceries or a ride to a big city airport, you can sign up with companies like Lyft to help fill that need. You can also sign up with a service like Instacart or Shipt and deliver groceries to local residents.
4. Take Up Local Photography
Rural areas and small towns make for great settings for photographs. If you’ve got a good camera – or a phone with a decent camera – why not try your hand at photography?
You can sell your pictures to local or county newspapers, or upload them to stock photo sites such as Shutterstock. When you do that, website owners can buy the rights to use your photo, and sites like Shutterstock will pay you a commission.
⛏ Labor Jobs
Many small towns and rural areas have serious labor shortages, as younger residents leave to look for opportunities in the cities. Older residents and residents who don’t have the physical ability to perform labor jobs on their own often need help in several areas. Here are some possibilities.
5. Farm Hand Help
Farm owners often look for farm hands to help complete farm chores. As a farm hand you might find yourself feeding livestock, cleaning up barns or shoveling manure. It’s not an easy job, but you’ll be enjoying nature, working with animals, and building your physical fitness.
6. Snow Plowing
Rural homes often have long driveways, and if you have a truck and a plow you can make serious money in winter weather by plowing driveways and private roads. Advertise on Craigslist or similar sites, via hand-delivered flyers or by word of mouth.
7. Pet Care
Just like city folks, rural residents often need help with pet care, whether it be farm animals or indoor pets. Advertise your services on Craigslist or Facebook for pet care for rural residents who simply need daily help walking or caring for pets, and who are going on vacation or a business trip.
8. House/Garage/Pole Barn Cleaning/Organization
Are you good at cleaning or organizing rooms, homes, and/or outbuildings? Small town residents like help with cleaning and organization just like city residents.
9. Yard Work
Residents with smaller town lots and larger rural lots often look for help with yard work like mowing lawns and raking leaves. Advertise your services via local newspapers, personally delivered flyers, or mailed postcards.
10. Painting Jobs
Lots of rural and small town residents need painting services. Painting doesn’t take a lot of training other than the need to be detailed and neat. You could offer your services to paint items such as mailboxes, propane tanks, houses, garages, barns, wood fences, and other items.
Make sure you prepare the painted surface properly and use the right type of paint for the job. Find instructions on how to properly paint surfaces on YouTube or on home improvement websites. Practice around your own house first until you’re comfortable offering your skills to others.
🏠 Gigs You Can Work From Home
Are you looking for some side hustle income you can earn right from your own home? Try out these ideas.
11. Selling Home-Grown Veggies
People love buying local produce – especially if it’s organic. If you like gardening and have access to some land, as many rural residents do, raising high-value crops can earn you some money. Try your hand at selling vegetables and herbs at the end of your driveway, at the local farmer’s market, or in a local park or business parking lot.
Some ideas for veggies and herbs that sell well in this manner include:
- Green onions
Many of these veggies and herbs can be grown with minimal space using pots and shelves.
12. Raising/Selling Chickens and Eggs
Most small town and rural areas allow residents to keep chickens. If you’re up for the work, you can raise chickens and sell eggs, or keep a rooster in your bunch and sell chicks. Advertise in local papers and on local buy/sell sites like Craigslist.
13. Selling Farm-Themed Crafts
Farm-themed crafts seem to always be in vogue. I have one friend who is so backed up with orders for her farm-themed crafts that she’s got work for the next six months.
Some ideas for farm-themed crafts include hanging signs, serving trays, picture frames, and ladder racks. Or you could refurbish old furniture to have a weathered or farm look.
💻 Online Jobs
And there are always online jobs to do from home too, no matter if you live in a rural area, small town, or a big city. Would any of these ideas work for you?
14. Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant helps business owners and blog/website owners manage their business life. Virtual assistants do many types of work, for example:
- Managing and posting on social media accounts
- Data entry
- Coordinating appointments
- Handling customer service calls
- Writing newsletters
- Managing staff
Each virtual assistant job comes with different responsibilities. You can work as a virtual assistant for a company that allows you to work from home and hires you as an employee, or you can run your own virtual assistant business. Find work on job sites such as Upwork or Indeed.
If you’re looking for work as a virtual assistant, stay alert for scams. Never use your personal bank account for professional services or agree to deposit checks and send money anywhere. Don’t upload personal identifying information. Read up on common scams targeting virtual assistants.
15. Data Entry or Transcription Work
Another way to make money online from your rural area home is to do data entry or transcription work. Data entry workers simply enter information into a computer program.
General transcriptionists transcribe audio text onto a computer document. General transcriptionists and data entry workers typically don’t need training. However, having fast and accurate typing skills does help.
If you want to earn a higher wage you can train to be a medical or legal transcriptionist. Search online for “data entry jobs from home” or “transcription jobs from home” to find available openings.
Tutoring is another side hustle you can do from home. Some tutoring companies require a teaching or other degree, while others do not.
You can teach English as a second language, or teach in other subjects such as math or science. And you can teach students of any age, from Kindergarten up through adults. Some companies that hire tutors to work online from home include:
See individual tutoring websites for requirements and available openings.
There are dozens of possibilities for side hustles and gig jobs for people living in small towns and rural areas. Find the side hustle that’s right for you by making a list of your talents and interests.
Then take that list and decipher how you can use your talents and interests to help others and earn money in the process.
What side hustle ideas have we left out? Let us know in the comments below?