Looking for a Lucrative Side Hustle? These 10 Cities Can Kick Your Income Up a Notch

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The rise of the side hustle has been years in the making, but it moved into a much higher gear during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a combination of high job losses and increased remote work. Many Americans who took on side gigs to help make ends meet during the pandemic have now turned those gigs into full-time income.

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For those who’ve decided they’d rather make a living through full-time side hustles than traditional jobs, the next step is deciding where to live. Some cities are better than others in terms of the earnings potential of gig workers. This is partly because of economic factors such as local unemployment rates and costs of living, but also because of things like access to the internet.

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If your side hustle gives you the flexibility to live wherever you want, a good place to begin your search is Arizona, according to a recent report from LLC.org. It analyzed key factors across more than 170 cities to determine the 30 best cities to start a side hustle. Arizona had the most cities on the list, with six: Gilbert (which ranked No. 2), Scottsdale (No. 3), Chandler (No. 5), Mesa (No. 20), Tucson (No. 25), and Phoenix (No. 27). 

Each of the 170 cities analyzed have a population of 150,000 or more, based on U.S. Census Bureau data. The cities were then compared across a number of equally weighted variables.

To determine an overall score, each city’s weighted average was calculated across all metrics and broken down into the following general categories:

  • Affordability: LLC filing fees, income tax rate.
  • Accessibility: Percentage of the population with broadband internet access, percentage of the population who own a smartphone.
  • Flexibility: Percentage of the employed population working from home, average daily commute time, average weekly working hours.
  • Economic Environment: Unemployment rate.

Scores were given based on how individual cities did across all key metrics, with 100 being the highest score.

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Salt Lake City, Utah, came in at No. 1 due to its low unemployment rate of 2.1% — the fifth lowest on the list of cities — as well as the flexibility it offers to people looking to start a side hustle. One-quarter (25.4%) of Salt Lake City’s employed residents work from home, and the average weekly working hours for all employed residents is 37.4 hours. It also has the fourth-lowest average daily commute at only 18.4 minutes, making it ideal for people who want to devote extra time to a side hustle.

Meanwhile, Utah has a comparatively low state income tax rate of 4.85% along with an affordable LLC filing fee of $54.

Here’s a look at the top 10 cities for a side hustle as determined by LLC.org, along with their scores:

  1. Salt Lake City: 78 total points.
  2. Gilbert, Arizona: 74 points.
  3. Scottsdale, Arizona: 71 points.
  4. Madison, Wisconsin: 70 points.
  5. Chandler, Arizona: 69 points.
  6. Colorado Springs, Colorado: 69 points.
  7. Seattle, Washington: 66 points.
  8. Fremont, California: 65.5 points.
  9. Raleigh, North Carolina: 65 points.
  10. Minneapolis, Minnesota: 65 points.
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More: The 8 Best Side Gigs for Gen Z

If you’re looking for a specific side gig that might make you rich, there are a number of choices from a wide variety of fields, ranging from bookkeeper, fashion consultant and city guide writer to software developer and social media marketing specialist.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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