Recession worries are flooding the financial markets, thanks to a technical indicator that’s suddenly flashing red for the first time since 2007. And, although no economic indicator is foolproof, it’s not a bad idea to build a back-up plan with recession-resistant side hustles likely to survive a slowdown.

Businesses that boom in bad times

Why do some businesses do well when times are bad? Because they either sell goods that you can’t do without or market things that people use to lift their spirits. Here are 5 recession-resistant side hustles for bad economic times. 


The former chairman of Este Lauder coined the term “the lipstick index,” saying that lipstick sales were a reverse indicator of economic health. When the economy is weak, lipstick sales are strong, Leonard Lauder opined. Why? Women still primp when their pocketbooks are pinched, but they seek inexpensive ways to do so. And buying lipstick is cheaper than, say, buying new clothing or shoes. Later, experts countered that lipstick sales didn’t always rise during recessions, but nail polish sales did. Of course, the precise product is not the point.

Even when finances are tight, people will still get their hair cut, wear deoderant, brush their teeth, and floss. Those who are accustomed to wearing make-up and nail polish will continue to buy it — and might even buy a bit more than usual. After all, a hair cut and a mani-pedi are affordable luxuries.

Beauty-themed side hustle platforms include Priv, a site that books cosmeticians for special events, such as weddings; GlamSquad, which also connects cosmeticians with clients preparing for special events; and StyleSeat, which bills and books regular appointments for cosmetologists of all stripes.

Booze (and other consumer staples)

You’ve gotta eat. So, consumer staples are always at the top of the list when it comes to recession-resistant businesses. And, according to WebMD, people drink more when the economy is bad than they do when it’s flourishing.

The catch for the side hustler? Most of the online platforms that function in the consumer staples and alchohol space are providing an added service — shopping and delivery — to the necessary purchase of food and drink. Will customers still pay $10 or $30 more to get someone else to do their shopping and deliver their groceries in a slowdown? It’s hard to say.

However, in past recessions, companies asked existing workers to work more hours so that they didn’t have to hire during bad times. That makes existing workers more pressed for time and, arguably, more likely to need convenience products like food delivery. 

Online platforms in this space include Dumpling, Instacart and Shipt, which provide grocery shopping and delivery. 


If a poor economy kept people from having children, population growth in third-world countries would be stagnant. Instead, 97 of 100 people added to the planet each year are born in third-world countries.

To be sure, couples in the developed world often debate whether they can afford babies. But money is only one of many deciding factors. Historically, for every 1,000 women of child-bearing age, there are 60 to 65 births. And, given that 71.5 of U.S. women with young children work, there are always jobs for babysitters, nannies and preschool teachers.

Among the better options in this space are GoNannies and Urban Sitter, which match parents with hourly sitters. Three sites — RideZum, Kango and HopSkipDrive — also provide opportunities for people who want to drive kids from school to sports or after-school care. 

If you think you’d want to set up your own daycare center, Wonderschool can help you set it up and provide administrative support. 

Big Brother

If you’re looking for good, steady work, there’s nothing like a government job. And, now, the federal government is on a quest to add 500,000 part-time and temporary workers to its payroll. Why? The 2020 Census demands mobilizing a small army of census takers, supervisors and fact-checkers. Pay is expected to range between $13 and $30 per hour, depending on where you live. If you’re willing and qualified to take a supervisory position, you can earn more.