Make Your Side Hustle Do the Hustling For You
In the age where the Side Hustle is King, it’s important to make sure whatever you’re hustling is making you money. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you can make a hobby profitable, that something you enjoy doing can also pay your bills. After all, isn’t that basically the American Dream? But, as always, there’s no such thing as easy money. Many of my clients are successful side hustlers, so I’ve put together some tips for you.
Relax Your Mindset
Most people start a side hustle because they simply need the money, and the day job just isn’t cutting it. That leads to falling for advertising tricks of multi-level marketing schemes who promise you quick & large payouts. It also puts you at risk of scaring off customers or clients with your intensity. Having a “need” mindset is the easiest way to end up losing money instead of making it.
Ever notice how the people who need money the least are the most likely to make more of it? That’s because they aren’t sabotaging their own schemes with stressful thinking. Customers trust them because they’re relaxed, sure of themselves, and seem like they’re in control. They can make clear-headed decisions about which opportunities to take and which to let pass by, where to invest and when to let go. If you’re in a situation where you need more money right now, a side hustle may not be the best choice for you. You may need to look for more immediate sources of income, if possible. At least just to get you to a point of relative stability where you can put the right amount of thought and effort into your proposed side hustle.
Stay Away From Saturated Markets
I recently read an article that actually prompted my writing this one, that listed lucrative side hustle options. As I read it, I wondered where the author must live or what they might have been smoking … It was almost exclusively a list of options in completely saturated markets.
You know what I’m talking about. Your sister wants you to sell leggings or makeup with her through a company who simply makes the “best” product out there. Your coworker wants you to buy custom tote bags and set you up as a representative so you can get that special discount. Maybe your neighbor hauls her handmade jewelry to the outdoor market, or your boyfriend peddles screen printing. These options can be fairly easy to get into (well, maybe not the screenprinting), and seem easy to make money with. But, just take a look around … How many people do you know who already do that?
You won’t be doing yourself (or your friends) any favors by throwing yourself into an oversaturated market where there’s way too much competition. We each already have maybe 3-5 different people we can obtain our mascara or favorite scented wax from. We’re all tired of being invited to the jewelry and cookware and even intimate toy parties. I know any number of people who can provide me with affordable, professional headshots. These are not the markets to get into. If you like it, do it as a hobby. Just understand that it’s likely to cost you more money than it makes you. And, if you’ve already gotten into one of these and you’re one of the lucky/persistent ones who manages to make it profitable, I whole heartedly applaud your success! It’s just not what I would recommend to someone starting fresh.
To help you out a little, here’s a quick list of some markets that are over saturated:
All MLMs (multi level marketing): Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, LuLaRoe, Younique, ItWorks!, Pure Romance, even Norwex
Most Graphic Design: Logo making, Sticker design, T-shirt design
Blogging: Any blogging, unless your topic is extremely niche. This includes health & fitness blogging, food blogging, travel blogging, discount blogging. Especially affiliate marketing
Crafting: Once again, unless it’s extremely niche. This includes knitting, jewelry making, soap and candle making, scrap booking
Photography: personal/headshot photography, wedding photography, event photography
Books: Though book sales is not quite as popular as it once was, most of us now rely on ebooks we can get cheaply through Amazon and other providers. As a result, the market is still over saturated since there are more people selling than demand requires.
Where To Find The Real Money
This is where you’re going to want to get very specific and very local. If you’re starting a side hustle, it’s not like starting a regular business where you expect to be in the red for a while before you break through and start profiting. You’re probably not looking for business loans and office rental. Instead, you’re looking to turn a quick buck doing something on the side. You need to keep your costs super low and start profiting within a few months. So, how are you going to do that?
The answer is to look for a need in your community. What is there not a lot of? What do people always need? That’s going to be food and mundane services. And a lot of the time, that’s going to be seasonal. Before flinging yourself head-first into a side hustle, you have to assess the need and the market saturation. Everyone has heard of supply and demand, and you can apply it to your own endeavors. Look for the demand, be the supply.
Here are some markets that often have a little room:
Event Baking: Depending on your location, you could end up with a monopoly on making cakes for weddings or corporate events. You could position yourself to be more affordable and more personable than the big business bakers in the area.
Gardening: There may be 5 other people at the farmer’s market selling tomatoes, but there are enough customers that you’ll probably run out anyway. This goes for pretty much everything but corn in Iowa or potatoes in Idaho.
Education: Take it from the colleges, learning is a commodity. If you’re an expert, or even just fairly well versed, in literally any topic you can make it work for you. Online or in-person tutoring, substitute teaching, or creating courses for sites like Udemy and edX, even your own website will do. There is always a great need for teachers.
App Creation: If you know how or can learn how to code apps, this is a big one right now. The market isn’t quite fresh, and there are a lot of providers, but it’s not saturated yet. There’s room for you still, but you may want to stay in your own country or region to avoid competing with cheaper overseas counterparts.
Facebook Sales Groups: This is replacing Craigslist and Ebay. Find and join sales group pages in your area, and sell all of your junk … and other people’s junk if you want. It’s like a virtual yard sale. Everything from clothes and shoes to furniture goes like hot cakes. Just don’t try to get rid of all those LuLaRoe leggings.
Social Media Management: Social media management is an emerging market that sounds more complicated than it is. You need to know how to use multiple platforms at a fairly in-depth level, but that’s about it. It helps if you’re witty and charismatic. Many businesses are looking for an affordable solution, since social media is pretty much a requirement now, and they just don’t have time to do it.
Freelance Writing: This is where that English degree you took out all those student loans for may come in handy. Look online for many freelance opportunities for copywriting, editing, and more. They won’t pay you enough for full time, but it makes a decent side hustle. You can find opportunities on job boards, especially those that cater to remote work specifically.
Driving: Companies like Uber and Lyft will pay you to drive instead of having to invest in a fleet of their own cars. You have to jump through some hoops, and you’ll have to deal with drunk people, but I’ve heard it’s pretty fun. And there’s a great demand for it. The key to keeping this profitable is to have a reliable vehicle with low gas mileage and to make sure you’re available at peak times in good locations. That means being available on Friday and Saturday nights around bar closing hours or looking for local events and shows, like concerts. Don’t be afraid to drive out of your home town to a larger city nearby.
Mundane Services: Don’t forget about your service industry. I made some decent cash cleaning houses for a while. Many people make good money providing lawn care in the summer and shoveling in the winter. In fact, in my state the cities hire freelance plowers for larger snow falls. If you’re good with QuickBooks or you work in the tax industry, you can catch some side action by providing accounting and tax services. Just make sure you have the right equipment and know your stuff.
Keeping Costs Low With A Side Hustle
You may have cut out your share of the market with your side hustle, but you still have something really important to think about: costs. The best way to make more money faster is to keep your costs low. That’s especially true with side hustles where the appeal to your customers is likely going to be your price. When you keep your costs low, more of what you’re bringing in is profit. Here are some tips for doing that:
Keep it small time: You don’t need a fancy office for a side hustle (though you might think about it if it because your full-time business). So save your money, and don’t shell out for that office space rental unless you absolutely have to have a private place to meet with clients. Instead, try doing most of your work online. Meet clients at coffee shops. Look for coworking spaces in your area, and don’t forget to compare pricing on the ones that charge. Don’t be afraid to use your public library.
Use existing tools and equipment: If you’re starting a service based business, try to use what you’ve already got. I promise, your customers aren’t going to care if that’s a new, matching mop and broom set you’re cleaning their floor with. They’re not going to mind if you use a push mower on their lawn, as long as it gets cut neatly and on time. In fact, the more wear on your equipment, the better it communicates how much business you do and how hard you work (I mean, to a certain point anyway. It shouldn’t be breaking down.). If you’re doing an online service, don’t go out and buy new software unless you absolutely have to have it. Look for free options, free trials, or software you already subscribe to.
Take a pass on the special decals, signage, etc.: If you don’t need an office, you don’t need signage. You might get a decal on your car if you deliver or provide services at people’s homes, but don’t bother getting anything super expensive. A standard design from VistaPrint or a similar provider with your business name and number on it will suffice. Instead, invest in your business cards to make sure they are unique and eye-catching. If applicable, maybe look into getting some nice-looking fliers to leave in relevant locations. You can be professional without getting fancy.
As an example, I once got into an Uber with a man who had decals on all sides of his car, hat, and shirt advertising himself as an Uber driver. I thought the car decals were helpful for finding my ride, though one or two would have been plenty. The whole matching outfit was unnecessary.
Do as much for yourself as possible: In order to be profitable, you can’t be paying out for every little thing. After all, that’s why you have a side hustle: because you’re willing to do things that other people pay for out of convenience or lack of knowledge. You’re the provider, not the customer. That means you do your own equipment cleaning and maintenance. You balance your own books, answer your own phone calls and keep your own schedule. You are the one who has to remind yourself that you don’t need a celebratory latté after every item you check off your to-do list, and you are the one who monitors your breaks and tracks your working hours. If you want to be your own boss, just remember that good ole line from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Be aware of tax advantages: If you’re driving for business (even if your business isn’t driving people around), keep track of your mileage. Keep receipts to anything you buy for business use. Set aside space and equipment for a home office, and keep track of the time you spend working in it. You don’t have to know taxes well to know at least some of that may be claimable, and it’s a good idea to just keep and track all of it in case it can be used. Most people don’t think of taxes as a place where they can cut costs.
While it’s important to keep costs low, there are some things you really should pay someone else for. Here’s a quick list:
Website Design/Building: There are many affordable web designers, and if you don’t hire this out you should at least look for a consultation to review anything you build yourself.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Okay, I’m serious on this: hire someone to do your SEO. Once again, there are affordable options, and it can take years to understand how to do it properly. Not to mention, Google changes their algorithms several times a year.
Tax Preparation: You may have done your own when it was just you and one W2, but once you start with a business or self-employment you should have someone else prepare your taxes for you. In the end, it will save money because a professional will get you the highest return possible or lowest payment possible. And having a professional do it significantly reduces the risk of costly mistakes.
Insurance: There are many industries, especially service industries, in which it’s a good idea to have some kind of insurance. You should make sure to get whichever insurance is appropriate for your side gig, even if it isn’t required.
Don’t Forget About Marketing.
This goes on the list of things you should do for yourself, but don’t make it your last priority. Many successful people spend as much time on marketing as they do on their actual work. There won’t be any work to do or any money to be made if your customer base doesn’t know you exist or what you offer. Here’s what you need to do to market successfully:
Make time for it: Add it to your schedule, and then do it. Don’t put it off.
Get an online presence: This is a must-have these days, whether it’s a website or social media. Often it’s both. In fact, don’t forget about creating a Google business page and adding yourself to Yelp and other business listing sites.
Stay relevant: Use your online presence to stay relevant with your customer base. Gauge interest and post regular updates & advertisements. Put yourself on their screen as much as possible. Use these platforms to gain reviews from customers and recommendations to new customers.
Get physical: Just because the digital world is so big, doesn’t mean you can get out of the physical aspect of marketing. If you’re uncomfortable cold calling or going door to door, that’s totally okay. No one likes those guys anyway. Instead, look for opportunities to network in your community. Check out groups at your public library or go to meetup.com to look for meetups in your area. Leave fliers on bulletin boards in your supermarket and your gym: you never know who’ll see it.