Looking for a job or business you can work on the side where you can walk away with cash in hand at the end of the day? The good news is there are plenty of options available thanks to the gig economy, work apps, and online marketplaces to connect with people willing to pay for labor.
But if you’re looking to make money “under the table” so to speak, you’ll want to think twice about this decision. When people look for an under the table job, they’re looking to avoid paying taxes on the income earned. This approach is risky if you end up getting audited down the road.
In the past, I’ve been told that if you got paid $600 or less for a small job, you wouldn’t need to pay taxes or report the earnings to the IRS. But this isn’t accurate. You’re still obligated to pay taxes on small jobs where you make less than $600. It’s the employer that is not obligated to send you a MISC-1099 form for projects under $600. As a contract employee, you’re still obligated to pay tax.
All that being said, I’ve seen a lot of people in these part-time jobs or side hustles use to make extra cash that isn’t reported as income. Small businesses or jobs that traditionally pay you in cash are the ones I consider to be under the table. Anyone that accepts cash tips or is paid in cash for small projects could fit into this category.
I’ve personally met with people in the service industry and small food business industry who share with me privately they don’t always report all their earnings. I’ve included examples of these jobs and businesses for entertainment purposes below. Reader Note: You should always report income and taxes accurately.
Under the Table Side Business Ideas
Kettle Corn Vendor: A couple years ago, I hired a successful kettle corn vendor to teach me about the business. This vendor requested I bring $100 cash as payment for consulting services. During my consulting lesson the popcorn vendor explained that he only accepted payments in cash for bags of kettle corn that were sold. As a result, there was no paper trail for revenue. If you run credit card or debit payments through a POS system, this income is more easily tracked.
You can listen to my complete interview with this vendor here. The name of this source has been hidden for obvious reasons. It may not be right, but the reality is any food business that accepts cash payments is difficult to track assuming you don’t make large cash deposits into a bank after vending.
Yard work / Lawn Mowing: Kids and adults alike may not think they are doing anything illegal by accepting cash payments for mowing someone else’s lawn. But if you follow tax law to the letter, you should be reporting income for any cash payment for lawn work of any kind including gardening, weeding, mowing, and planting.
Moving Company: I’ve hired part-time moving companies off of websites like Craigslist in the past. When it came time to remit payment, the mover asked if I could compensate him in cash. He was big and I didn’t want to argue with him. But I did wonder why he insisted on cash instead of a check.
Legitimate moving companies are a big business opportunity that can be grown to multi-million dollar operations. According to reports, the moving services industry is valued at more than $14 billion. To move furniture for a two bedroom apartment across town, it’s not uncommon to pay $500 – $1,000. All you need to get started with this business is a rented moving truck and some serious muscle.
Barber / Hair Dresser: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from recent lockdowns and stay in place orders, it’s that barbers can make an income with cash when needed. The barbershop I frequented in Southern California only accepted cash payments and had an ATM machine positioned on-site so customers could withdraw funds if needed. As a barber, you could also offer on-site house calls to customers for an additional fee.
Nail Salon: Last year my wife got a text from her nail salon. The text stated that the nail salon would be open on a Saturday by appointment only. The message mentioned all customers would need to bring cash to pay for services.
Again, this message came during state-wide lock down orders in California when nail salons were not permitted to be open. While this practice was certainly not legal, it’s understandable that businesses like this require cash flow to make ends meet and pay their own rent. You can only generate an income if you’re able to be open.
Related Reading: 27 Mobile Business Ideas You Can Start This Weekend
Flipping Stuff: Selling second hand sports cards, sneakers, vintage toys, video game systems from the 90s, and gently own workout equipment has become a major trend thanks to the business model being well-documented on YouTube. There’s even popular cable television shows where people go out and buy used equipment from others to flip junk for a profit called American Pickers.
You can get a good education on the business model for flipping junk on this episode of Trash Talk with Gary V. In the video above, you learn how this entrepreneur turned $47 worth of old toys in $430. Not bad! This is a real opportunity for anyone interested in traveling to different rummage sales and selling their treasures at a higher price online.
Pet Grooming: Dogs need hair cuts and personal care just like we do. According to industry reports, the pet grooming industry represents more than $7 billion in annual value. You can conduct these types of services at peoples homes by appointment making this a low-investment startup. An estimated 65% of U.S. residents own some type of pet, meaning this is a really big market with further growth projected on the horizon.
Exterior Building Cleaner: This is a broad category that includes window washing, pool maintenance, chimney sweep services, snow removal, and pressure washing. These are all jobs where you could purchase a piece of equipment for a few hundred bucks and start a business. As an example, you could buy a used snow blower for less than $1,000 and be in business during the winter. If you really need to get started on a bootstrapped budget, you could start making sales with a $20 shovel. As an added bonus, you’ll get a terrific workout and some fresh air.
There are all sorts of on-going home or building maintenance services available in every town. To get started, all you need to do is hand out flyers around your community offering a service. You can also offer up services on places like Facebook Marketplace or Craiglist.
Cottage Food Business: Thanks to cottage food laws you can open a food business out of your home kitchen. Cottage food laws vary from state to state and you can learn how to start one here. With nothing more than a kitchen inspection and small fee for a business license, you’ll be ready to go. You’ll find a full list of cottage food business ideas here.
Important Note: There are some types of foods you won’t be able to sell with a cottage food business. There are limits to the annual sales you can make with a cottage food business too. For example, in California the max you can make per year is $50,000.
Musician / DJ: I used to play in a cover band in during my college years. Our band would played the classics like “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd in any small town bar or honkey tonk willing to pay us $200 – $500 to show up.
Needless to say, most of these bars paid us in cash. I remember only getting one MISC-1099 form sent to my apartment after playing across at least 20 different bars over the course of a year. It’s customary to get paid in cash in this industry whether you’re a DJ, cover band, or solo musician.
Under the Table Jobs
Catering Business: I recently hired a caterer to provide the food for a 40 year old birthday party. The caterer never invoiced me and I wrote her a personal check for $400. The caterer purchased all the food at a local Trader Joe’s grocery store. Outside of food, she provided a few boards to display the food in an appealing way. That was it!
The caterer is a full-time chef at a restaurant. As a result, catering is a service she conducts on the side during weekends when she has extra time. You could follow the same approach. Learn exactly how to start a catering business out of your home in our in-depth guide.
Personal Chef: According to a report from PayScale.com, the median salary for a personal chef is $22.23 per hour. With more people staying at home to eat, demand for personal chefs has experienced significant growth over the past year. If you can cook, try offering your services in exchange for a cash payment.
Instructor / Teacher: Do you have a skill that other people might be willing to pay for? Give teaching a try. You certainly don’t need to be good at traditional academic topics like math or English to sell your knowledge.
I recently paid $125 to a police officer to join an 8 hour safety program. There are 10 students enrolled in the class meaning the officer grossed $1,250 for the program. Not bad for 8 hours of work! You can conduct similar courses around all sorts of topics like baking, woodworking, auto repair, golf lessons, music lessons and more.
Maid and Cleaning: When my wife and I lived in California, our housekeeper charged $150 in cash each time she clean our house. Our house keeper spent about 5 hours vacuuming, scrubbing toilets, and cleaning counters. From an hourly rate perspective it worked out to $30 an hour cash. Not too shabby! This is a better hourly wage than my first desk job out of college.
Keep in mind our housekeeper charged extra for projects like window washing or blind cleaning. Before selling our house, I paid her $200 to clean our windows. My housekeeper even provided us with a list of supplies to buy so there was literally no expense on her end.
Pressure Washing: I was able to purchase a small pressure washer at Lowe’s for $130 during a Fathers Day sale. You could cover the cost of these piece of equipment after only 2 – 3 gigs.
There are always folks looking to have things pressure washed like driveways, garage floors, and the exterior of houses. Just be careful about the power settings of your pressure washer as you could end up damaging screens installed outside a window.
Craigslist Gigs: There are all sorts of short-term gigs people are looking to fill on Craigslist. Most of these jobs pay cash. You’ll want to look at the gigs that are available in your local market, but here’s a direct link to gigs in the Boise area where I live.
As you can see some of the jobs people are looking to fill right now are: comedian, handyman, computer repair, lawn maintenance / weeding, poker dealer, and photographer. Don’t expect to get paid top dollar for your labor through this website, but it can be a resource to make a little money in a pinch. Just be on the look out for scams or other jobs that seem too good to be true. Craigslist is notorious for publishing scam listings.
Handyman / Repair Services: Late last year, I purchased a new home and have been busy getting everything up to snuff. I’ve contacted window treatment specialists that quoted me $12,000 to add shades to the majority of the windows in my home. If you’ve hired any type of home repair or handyman, you know how quickly the bill can add up.
Yesterday afternoon, I had a plumber come by to check out my soft water system. The cost of a 15 minute checkup was $85. I also paid about $3,000 to install the soft water tanks and filtration system late last year. In the past, I’ve paid a garage repair person $100 to come by and fix the door for 30 minutes. There are all sorts of services in this space that you can provide if you are willing to master a skill.
Server: As you probably guessed, getting a job as a server offers one of the best ways to walk away with consistent cash every time you work. The same rule applies to positions like bartender or delivery driver.
I used to be a waiter back in college and I can assure you almost everyone on the wait staff under reported their tips. If you can get hired by a busy restaurant, you’ll make good money as a server. Learn 10 specific things you can do to increase your tips as a server in this guide.
Delivery Driver: With the rise of gig-platforms like Uber Eats or Grub Hub, getting a job as a delivery driver is a simpler process than ever. One of the appealing aspects of these apps is the flexibility to work whenever you have free time. But reader beware, the income and tips paid through the app will be recorded by the company. Due to more consumers tipping in app, there’s less of an opportunity to get home at the end of a shift with a wad of cash.
Baby Sitter: I paid a babysitter $50 to watch my kids for a few hours recently. Reliable childcare isn’t cheap and can be hard to find too. This is especially true for small children under 5 years of age that require careful supervision from an attentive adult. If you like kids this could be a terrific opportunity because there can be downtime with the role during a child’s nap or bedtime. Bring your laptop on the side and start side-hustling.
Automobile Repair: If you can conduct simple repairs, you’ll be in demand. It’s not uncommon to pay $75 per hour for repair work at a reputable shop. The final bill amount can add up quickly considering also need to pay for the replacement parts.
If you’re friendly, honest, and have a knack for fixing machinery, you’ll never be short of work. According to reports, there are 277,110 auto mechanic businesses in the United States so there’s demand for this server everywhere.
One of the biggest aspects I miss about being a server is the ability to work a shift and come home with cash. Each of these jobs and side hustle opportunities allows you this option and are in demand pretty much everywhere.