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The 15 Most Popular Side Hustles Now

You may already know that Sara Blakely, CEO of $350-million-a-year Spanx, used to sell fax machines all day, spending nights and weekends filling lingerie orders from her Atlanta apartment. Then there's Slack chief Stewart Butterfield, who initially developed the messaging platform just for his own employees at a (now defunct) video game company. Customer-experience software giant Salesforce started out as a side hustle for Marc Benioff while he worked at Oracle.

Needless to say, they've quit their day jobs. Of course, not everybody who takes on a side gig becomes a billionaire but, hey, it happens. Don't have an idea right now for a venture you could launch part-time? No worries: in this economy, more employers than ever are looking for people who want to work a few hours a week, often remotely, for extra cash.

"Whether it's to boost their income, build their retirement savings, or pursue passion projects, there are plenty of opportunities for professionals interested in part-time gigs," says Sara Sutton, CEO of career site FlexJobs. Based on its database of job ads, the site recently came up with a list of the 15 side hustles most wanted by employers. Here it is, with average hourly pay for each:

  1. Customer service rep – $14
  2. Editor– $20
  3. ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher– $20
  4. Graphic designer – $17
  5. Interpreter – $20
  6. Management consultant – $60
  7. Medical coder – $18
  8. Photographer – $16
  9. Proofreader – $18
  10. Sales rep – $15
  11. Social media manager – $16
  12. Transcriber – $15
  13. Tutor – $18
  14. Virtual assistant – $16
  15. Writer – $20

One attraction of these roles is the chance to get paid for using skills —like a love of teaching, fluency in a second (or third) language, or a talent for design or photography— that your regular job just doesn't call for.

Another plus is that, most often, these gigs "let you set your own schedule, depending on how much time you're willing or able to put in," notes Nancy Friedberg, who started her own coaching firm, Career Leverage, as a side hustle in 1993. Just be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Doing a full-time job and then tackling something else in your so-called spare time, she warns, "can be extremely challenging. It takes a lot of stamina."

Wondering whether to mention your side hustle to your boss? Don't even think about trying to keep it a secret, Friedberg says. "Make sure you review any documents you might have signed when you joined your full-time employer," she suggests. "Those often contain restrictive covenants that prohibit outside work, especially if it's anything that might interfere with your regular job."

Even if not, "many companies now have 'moonlighting' policies covering employees' side hustles," she adds. "When in doubt, check with HR." After all, much as you might enjoy your gig as, say, a social media maven, you'd probably prefer not to get fired over it.

Note to employers: some new research, recently published in the Journal of Management, suggests that companies hungry for innovation would be smart not to discourage people from working at side gigs, particularly those aimed at creating whole new businesses. In a study of 1,221 employees in eight locations across the U.S., the coauthors found that workers who were entrepreneurs on nights and weekends brought fresh thinking and new skills to their regular jobs, and consistently "exhibited greater innovative behaviors" than their 9-to-5 peers.

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