Rumor has it that starting a side hustle is a waste of time.
Try telling that to the thousands of people making money online. Or even the hundreds of people (including myself) that start an affiliate marketing online business in different niches such as building a home gym.
But what makes some side hustles pop and others flop?
It all comes down to a few things that I’ll share with you in this article:
- Combining your interests with a money-making opportunity
- Spotting problems that you can solve
- Creating systems
- Doubling down on what works
- Scaling a side hustle with control
1. Use Your Interests that can Make Money
I don’t consider myself one of those “born entrepreneurs”.
I don’t have stories about how I sold candy and pop at recess when I was at school. However, I personally think that successful entrepreneurs (or successful anything) can be taught. There are learnable skills.
One of the most important skills for an entrepreneur is learning how to make money in unconventional ways.
The easiest way to do this is by using your existing skills or interests.
For example, I am a qualified PE teacher and have always loved playing a range of sports and staying active. So my first side hustles were coaching on evenings and weekends. I’ve made money as a coach for football (soccer), cricket, futsal and at various sports camps.
This is also a big reason that when I got into online marketing I found that creating a website with workout tips on strength training for beginners suited me.
But if you’re struggling to think of a side hustle that suits you, then set a 5-minute timer. Write down a list of all the things you enjoy doing, even if you think they are not money makers. For example (side hustle idea in brackets):
- Playing with dogs (dog walker)
- Cuddling babies (babysitting)
- Shopping (mystery shopper)
- Driving (Uber or Lyft driver)
- Eating (taste tester)
- Cooking (personal chef)
- Watching films (Netflix tagger)
- Spending time on social media (social media manager/ assistant)
- Playing a sport/ game (coach)
Once you’ve done this, check out a good list of side hustle ideas.
You’ll be amazed at how many of your interests could make money. For example, turn your shopping addiction into cash by becoming a “mystery shopper” and document your experience. Or become a personal chef for a friend who hates cooking.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Try Something New
We have been brought up to believe that you usually need a qualification in something to make money.
But there are so many side hustles that anyone can start. Often they can become a full time business.
In 2017, I had no idea that people could actually make good money from “blogging”. But I started writing about things that my wife and I were learning at the time, particularly about personal finance.
It wasn’t until I took this affiliate marketing course that I realised how much potential there is from “blogging”. I also realised that what I had been doing was the wrong way to approach it to make money.
But what I had unknowingly been doing as a little hobby was learning some new and valuable skills.
Skills such as:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Using WordPress
- Editing and creating podcasts/ videos
- Managing others
If I had waited for permission to be able to start a blog, I would never have found out about SEO, affiliate marketing, creating courses and funnels. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge and start something even if you’re not sure what the potential is.
When you do this it is definitely worth sticking with it for at least 3 months. It’s very hard to tell if something has any potential if you give up after a few days or weeks.
3. Help Other People and Expect Nothing in Return
This tip can help you find side hustles or opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.
There are so many small business owners or start-ups that could really use some help.
However, they just don’t have the budget to pay people or they don’t even know people would be willing to help.
Here are just a few ways that you can help them:
- Comment on anything they post on social media
- Be active in their Facebook group if they have one and help start discussions
- Create a Facebook group for them if they don’t have one
- Share their business on social media
- Design a logo
- Design some images for them to use on their website or social media (such as Pinterest)
- Build a website for them
- Provide support at any events they have coming up
If you help them, they will notice you.
It could lead onto getting paid to do a certain role for them. Or you could even find a new side hustle for yourself, such as becoming a virtual assistant.
I found that starting a podcast sharing stories of online marketers provided real value to them. They got to share their story with an audience that may not have heard about them before. I didn’t ask for anything in return to do this.
You can learn more about the benefits to starting a podcast here.
4. Spot Problems People Have
The best business or side hustles are those that actually help people solve a problem. If you personally find something isn’t exactly how you want it, there’s a chance other people feel the same too.
MJ DeMarco explains more about this idea in his book “The Millionaire Fastlane”.
When you’re at work or speaking to friends and family look out for sentences that people start with:
- I hate…
- I don’t like…
- This frustrates me…
- Why is this like this…
- Do I have to…
- I wish there was…
- I’m tired of…
- This sucks…
Chances are this will be a problem.
There will nearly always be money to be made if enough people have the same or similar problem and you can fix it. If you combine this with tip #1 and can use your own interests, then this may be an ideal side hustle for you.
5. Create Systems (Not Goals)
When you start any side hustle you’ll probably be motivated and excited to become a millionaire for the first few weeks or months. However, once the honeymoon period starts to fade it’s very easy to give up and go back to the norm.
You’ve probably heard this is why you need to set goals.
However, goals can be demotivating, especially when you have no idea what the potential is from a side hustle. Setting a goal to “make $10,000 a month from my blog within 6 months” is a sure-fire way to give up after 6 months if it’s your first time creating a website.
Even if you were to hit this goal after two years you would have spent two years feeling frustrated that you haven’t achieved your goal.
When you create systems (ideally daily ones) you get a hit of motivation and positivity every time you perform them.
It also helps to form a habit.
And if you’re planning on making any significant money from your side hustle, you will need to create new habits.
6. Double Down on What Works
Once you’ve been doing a side hustle for a while, there will come a time when you can increase your income without increasing your workload.
You can do this by focusing on what works.
For example, if you become a personal chef on the side, you might start making meals for a few friends.
Eventually, they pass on your recommendations to their friends (if your meals are good). So your workload would start to increase.
This is often the stage that many people get overwhelmed and one of two things happen:
- They give up
- They try to scale (hire people and create a variety of meals)
But there is a third option that not many people know about…
- Double down on what works and remove the rest
In the above example you may find that there are two meals that people order more than anything else.
Instead of offering the 10 dishes you did initially you could just batch cook these two meals.
Or maybe you end up providing food for a lawyer friend and the whole law firm starts ordering from you. Instead of offering your services and delivering the food to each individual’s house you realise you could decline every order apart from the people at the one law firm.
You reduce your delivery time as now you only deliver to one place.
I figured this out with my website once I realised that certain types of articles produced more income than others.
One article with deep research such as the best Olympic barbells produced more income than writing dozens of informational articles. I didn’t scrap the informational articles altogether but I did start doubling down on review type content that was working.
For example, your system could be to write 500 words a day for your blog. You feel accomplished every time you do this and are motivated to keep doing it.
You would have written 90,000 words if you keep this up for 6 months. It would likely be much more than 90,000 words as there will be days when you get on a roll and write much more than your 500 word system.
7. Find Ways to Scale with Control
Scaling a side hustle is important if you want it to replace your full time income or create passive income. But scaling always comes with its own challenges and quality is often sacrificed if you’re not careful.
Finding systems and tools to help you do the job more efficiently is a great place to start. If your side hustle is online there are thousands of tools that can help you do this such as an email autoresponder for collecting emails and emailing your audience.
But even in the personal chef example above you could buy bigger and better cooking equipment or fridges to store the food. These steps are important to do before considering hiring people.
You’ve probably heard of the 4 hour work week.
At first it sounds like all you need to do is hire some people from the Philippines and then you can go and sip cocktails on the beach.
I’ve had many chats with successful online business owners on my podcast, Make Time Online. A common issue they have is hiring people or scaling successfully. It’s when a side hustle becomes a business that the issues start arising.
Starting small and training one or two people up at a time is really important to make sure they can fully understand their role and how to provide the same quality. Once you hire a few people you can see who has the ability to be able to manage or train other people. This can become a snowball effect and help with the scaling process.
The Bottom Line
You don’t need permission to start a side hustle. They can become very lucrative and even more than your full-time job if you want them to. Keeping in mind of course, that a side hustle is not the same as passive income, such as that generated by dividend stocks.
However, there are four key steps to making sure a side hustle suits you and makes money:
- Find something that fits your own interests
- Solve a real problem
- Double down on what works
- Scale the side hustle with control
It does take hard work and a drive to start something new. But if you do each of these four steps well, you’ll find a side hustle that has the potential to change your life.
About the author:
Mike Beatty is a qualified PE teacher and the founder of Strong Home Gym. He loves learning about how normal people make a living through online businesses. He shares these stories with their struggles and what worked for them on his website and podcast Make Time Online.
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