Side Hustle (noun), Definition: paid work
Something that brings in money, which is not your main job
A task or series of tasks that help you to earn more money, test out a new business idea, or uses your specific skills and experience to bring in cash
A side hustle – or side job – is work that you do that helps to boost your income, and it’s becoming increasingly popular, particularly since the economic slowdown started in March 2020.
Before we dive into this blog post, here’s a short video I think you might find interesting on starting a side hustle:
Why Start a Side Hustle?
Earn Extra Money
The desire to earn more money has become more common as people struggle to make ends meet with their current salary either because it hasn’t gone up in years, or because their lifestyle has changed and become more expensive, such as starting a family or moving to a more expensive part of town. Although the economy is recovering, employers are still being cautious and salaries are not rising rapidly. As the Economist reported in May 2015, wages in the USA are still 1.2% BELOW 2009 levels and it’s a picture that is replicated around the world.
Put simply, starting a side hustle can be a relatively easy and quick way to bring in extra income particularly when it seems unlikely that your pay rise request is going to be agreed to any time soon.
Escape the Rat Race
Maybe you aren’t looking for money to help pay for essentials, but to invest towards an ambitious end goal, such as paying off the mortgage earlier, retiring earlier, or becoming a dollar millionaire by the age of 50.
Side Nation has a great little article about working out what they call your ‘Rat Race Freedom Number’ – which is the amount of money that you need to have if you want to step off the employee treadmill and into a life of the security. That may not be your end goal for starting a side hustle – but it’s interesting to see just how much you need to have invested in order to achieve this aim.
Start a Business
Starting a business as a side hustle first of all means that you can start up without risking your regular income. This gives you the opportunity to test out aspects of the business. It also means that – as you won’t be relying on it to bring in income from day one – you are more likely to make the right decisions when it comes to growing your business.
You might be less likely to say ‘Yes’ to that client you just know is going to be difficult, or who doesn’t ‘fit’ with your ideal customer profile than you would be if you HAD to be bringing in money from your new venture from day one. Conversely, you may be willing to take a chance on a new client or idea that you’re fired up about but aren’t sure of its earning potential yet.
YouTube makeup tutorial sensation, Michelle Phan, started out her channel as a side hustle while she was in college – she’s now worth $84 million as a direct result!
Find Your Passion
Figuring out your passion is another great reason to start a side hustle. Perhaps you are stuck in a 9 to 5 job that you hate or maybe you are just itching to start a business, but aren’t quite sure where your main interests lie. This is often a problem for entrepreneurs who are bursting with ideas but can’t choose one to focus on. A side hustle is a good way to test whether or not you are enthused enough about an idea to turn it into the 9 to 5 or whether, in fact, you love something because you DON’T have to do it every day. When it becomes the way that they have to pay the bills, suddenly it loses its appeal.
John Williams, the author of ‘Screw Work, Let’s Play’ is a huge advocate of the whole idea of starting a ‘play project’ to test out ideas, figure out whether you liked it or were good at it, and turn it into your main job (or not – the whole point is that it’s about finding your passion).
The bottom line is that a side hustle is a safe environment in which to start a potential work project, play around with it, ditch it or improve it. All the time, figuring out whether or not this is your passion and if you would still love it if it turned into your day job.
Take the Pressure Off Your Business
Perhaps you’ve already quit the 9 to 5 and started a new business, but it’s not earning you enough money yet. Rather than dipping into your savings – or giving up the whole idea and getting another job – you could start a side hustle to take the pressure of your new business startup instead.
Starting two ventures at once may sound like a recipe for disaster, but this type of side hustle would be in an area with quick returns, such as freelancing or starting a dog walking venture in your local area.
How to Start a Business as a Side Hustle
Assuming that you are interested in starting a business – you are reading this blog after all – it’s worth considering the benefits that there are to starting as a side hustle to begin with versus quitting your job and focusing all of your time and energies on building your new venture.
Security, What Security?
As I alluded to earlier, the economic recovery hasn’t translated itself into a complete wage recovery (yet). In addition, there is no such thing as a job for life anymore – particularly for people under the age of 50. My parents’ generation left school in 1960s Britain and walked straight into a job as employment was at record high levels. Most of them started out on the shop floor, or as the lowest person in the department, but were able to climb the ranks to middle – and in some cases – senior management over a number of years.
The reality is that isn’t as possible these days – even if we wanted it to be. Most people will work in many different jobs – and may even completely change careers at some point but, in the UK for example, only 1.5% of employees will stay with one employer for their entire career. This is a global trend, particularly as travel and technology affect the way that we work, and starting a side hustle is one way to diversify earnings and increase income security as a result.
A side hustle puts you – and not your employer – in control when it comes to your income.
Build a Business With Less Stress
By taking away the requirement to earn an income from day one, launching a side hustle while you continue to earn via your main income source means that you will feel less stress in the short term. As mentioned above, this means that you are more likely to make the right decisions for your business and, because you will have relative income security thanks to your main income source, you will have less fear when it comes to making and taking these business decisions.
For example, you might not be so desperate to make a sale that you lower prices to a point where it isn’t worth you supplying your product or service. That doesn’t mean you should be charging what the market won’t bear, but it does mean that you won’t feel the need to compete on price – which is never a good strategy anyway.
The early days of starting a business are often a struggle. By starting a new business as a side hustle, you take some of that struggle out of the equation.
Focus on the Right Things
By taking the income-earning stress off your new side hustle, you will also be able to concentrate on getting all the other stuff right. You know, the stuff that doesn’t earn you any money? Like getting your systems right. Make sure your branding resonates with customers (or potential customers). Market testing – and investing in yourself.
This means that you will quit your 9 to 5 when you are ready – and crucially when the business is ready. Also, by having less time available to develop your business, you are more likely to make the best use of your time. As Parkinson’s Law states: work expands to fill the time available for its completion – and so, if you use this to your advantage, you should, in theory, be able to get more done in less time. Instead of filling 8 hours of each day (or more) deciding on the exact Pantone color for your logo, you know that you have to get it decided in the 30 minutes you have available this lunchtime because tonight, you’re dealing with another aspect of the business entirely. So it gets done.
You’ll also be able to grow the business organically, as you won’t need to earn an income from your side hustle (yet), so you can plow all of your earnings straight back into the business.
Use Your Employer
To be clear, I’m not advocating ripping off your employer or stealing their customers (although, if that’s how you roll, I’m not here to judge…). However, you can use your links with your employer ethically to the benefit of you and your side hustle – and maybe even to your employer.
If your side hustle is similar to your current job then there may be potential to boost your business. For example, if you’re going to set up your own copywriting business – and you happen to work for a leading agency already – it will do your side hustle no harm whatsoever if you mention this to potential clients. After all, are they likely to go to the independent copywriter or the one who works for the leading company in your town, who is offering this service in their spare time? (Obviously, this is very much dependent on what agreements you have in place with your current employer, but if it is possible, using your association with your employer can help you to gain positive results for your new venture).
You can also take advantage of any personal development programs that your employer has or is willing to put you on, as once your side hustle becomes your new business, you will have to pay for all of this yourself. Identify the skills that you need to help you grow your business and find out whether there are any training opportunities with your current job. After all, while you are still working for your employer, they will benefit from your new skills too. And of course, don’t forget that learning new skills can actually benefit your current employer too.
You may also be able to build your networks while you are still working. Again, this might not always be possible – for example, if you’re going to be in direct competition – but if you can, it does no harm to mention to your networks what you are doing on the side.
On the ‘Job’ Training
Of course, starting your business as a side hustle will, in itself, be a personal development journey. After all, you will be gaining access to new experiences, interests, and skills.
You may be an accountant who is considering setting up their own accountancy practice, so you already have the skills and knowledge required to be good at helping companies and individuals with their finances – but that doesn’t mean you know about marketing or networking, setting up a website or promoting yourself to potential clients. By starting a side hustle, you can gradually gain these skills and figure out what you’re good at – and where you need to bring in other expertise.
Even if your side hustle isn’t intended to be a new venture in the longer term there are benefits to gaining new skills. For example, starting a blog will improve your writing skills, but you will also gain knowledge of SEO, social media, content generation, and CMS experience. So your little blog side hustle (and it doesn’t have to be little) could grow. You may even end up becoming a full-time Content Management Specialist or Freelance Writer, as a result of the new experience that you gain.
Building on Success
Initially, building your business as a side hustle means that you will already have built momentum before it becomes a full-time business. When you eventually leave your job this means that you’re not starting from scratch with a big old blank computer screen, a whole bunch of exciting ideas, and not much else.
You will have a business that may already be bringing in an income. It is already a dynamic entity. You have created some success as a side hustle and your new business is set to grow.
How to Figure Out Your Side Hustle
I’m not going to tell you what you should be doing as a side hustle (although there are a few ideas at the end of this post) but instead let’s look at what makes a good side hustle business.
First up, are you good at it? If you want to develop your business as a side hustle, it will help if it’s in an area where you already have some skills. If it’s not going to be a business but is a way to diversify and grow your income, it will be best if you focus on where your skills already lie rather than having to learn a whole new skill set before you can bring in any additional money.
Is this something that you enjoy doing? Again, setting up a side hustle is a perfect way to explore this very question and, once you know that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ you can start to build on it.
Can you make money quickly out of your side hustle? This obviously isn’t essential if you are intending your side hustle to be a way to start a business venture – but if you’re looking to grow your income, create a rat race freedom pot or diversify your income streams then you want it to be something that will help you to earn income relatively quickly, preferably with returns in the first month to 6 weeks.
Again, not necessarily what you will be looking for if your side hustle will be your eventual business but the best extra income side hustles should be easy to start up. You don’t want to have to go through an extensive branding or patenting exercise if this is primarily a way to make money on the side.
Although, of course, some side hustles were set up to earn extra money and accidentally became a business, as Anthony Demby’s Humbleriot demonstrates – an initiative that brought together ALL of his previous side hustles into one ‘main hustle’ as he puts it.
Here at Epic Launch, we’re all about helping you to get your entrepreneurial ‘game on’ by getting creative – and staying on the right side of the law.
How Do I Get My Side Hustle Up and Running?
OK, so you’re now convinced that for whatever reason – be it earning more money or launching your business – you need to start a side hustle. What practical steps should you take to make this happen?
If you want this to be a success, you need to dedicate time to your side hustle. It’s easiest if you allocate specific days and times when you will be working on it. Those may be dictated by your regular working hours and other commitments, or they may be decided by the times of day when you are most productive. Most likely, they will be some combination of both.
Realistically, you will need to find 5 to 10 hours a week for your side hustle – and possibly more if it’s going to become a full-time business. Be realistic. When can you work on this? Do you have the time in your calendar to work on this?
Finding more time might mean that you have to make some difficult decisions about your free time and what you will do with it. If you’re serious about starting a side hustle, you might have to accept that you can’t make the regular Thursday night out with the girls (or boys). And maybe 2 hours each evening in front of the TV or at the gym are a luxury you can no longer afford. Or perhaps you need to spend less time in bed. Getting up at 5 am to work for a couple of hours before going to your job might just have to become the norm for a while.
It’s important that you keep fit, have downtime and stay in touch with friends to avoid burnout. But if you’re serious about earning from your side hustle, you also need to be realistic about what needs to go or at least ‘go for now’.
I am an advocate for goal setting and planning – and this is just as important for a side hustle as it is for a full-time business. By setting yourself goals, you will help to make your side hustle journey become more successful more quickly. How much do you need to earn before you quit your job? And when realistically, do you think you will be earning that?
From these questions, you’ll also be able to determine how much you need to charge, how many clients you need to earn that amount, whether the market will bear this – and so on.
Where Do I Sign Up?
OK, hopefully, you’re now feeling enthusiastic about starting a side hustle. There is lots of inspiration out there for anyone who wants to start a side hustle as Kate Taylor writes about over on Entrepreneur.com.
Below are a few ideas to get you thinking about where that might be. Most of these are money-making ventures rather than small business ideas – but you never know…
Freelancing in your current field
Starting selling on eBay
Selling your handmade items on Etsy
Offering Udemy tutorials in a field you’re good at
Coaching – life, business, or sports
Selling your stuff on Craigslist
Becoming an Amazon Seller
Writing an ebook and selling it from your own site or via Amazon Kindle
Starting an Online Business
Peer to Peer Lending
Starting a Service Business in your town – such as ironing or dog walking
Developing Apps or Software (if you’re an IT whizz)
Renting a Room
Renting your driveway
Renting storage space in your garage or house
Letting out your home for photoshoots or TV/film productions
Making and selling cupcakes (or any other baked goods)
Setting up WordPress sites for small businesses
Pet sitting (you could offer this alongside dog walking for the complete ‘service’)
Home Inventory Business
Housesitting for people on vacation
Start a local newspaper/magazine – and earn money via advertising
Delivering newspapers (you’re never too old!)
Become a personal trainer
Modeling – hand, plus size, or traditional
Film/TV extra – if you live near or in a major city
Party or Wedding Planning
Photography (offering this in a specific niche – such as baby or pet – makes it easier to find clients)
Social media management
Offer your services on Fiverr, People per Hour, etc.
High school or college tutor
Rent out equipment – e.g. if you have a lawnmower or a roof box, you could earn a few bucks renting them out to people
Sell your photography e.g. via Shutterstock
Sell second-hand books
Advertise on your car
Airport Shuttle Service
Public Speaker for Hire
Fruit Picker (seasonal)
Tour Guide for your local area
Translation Services – if you have a gift for languages
Travel Agent (you can work from home)
Grass Management (from cutting to lawn care)
YouTube Channel Host (take Michelle Phan as your inspiration)
Starting a side hustle can be tough, but it can also be very fun and rewarding. Whether you pick one of these ideas or find your own, the most important this is that you GET STARTED.
An object that is in motion stays in motion. So you must create some energy and get the ball rolling.
What are some side hustles that you have going on or are going to start?