I have a friend who is a very successful wedding photographer. Before going full-time, she had a day job in the technical writing field, and while she made a solid income and was good at what she didn’t, it wasn’t a passion for her. At some point, she decided to take photography — a hobby she’d always loved — and turn it into something more … a profitable side business. She continued to work hard at her day job, but in her spare time she built up client lists, gained experience, and began booking sessions as a photographer for weddings, engagements, and other occasions. Eventually, this side business was so successful that she was able to quit her day-job and do what she loves.
So what exactly is a side hustle, and why would I want one?
A side hustle is any employment that is done by an individual on top of their normal full-time job. Essentially, it is work that’s done “on the side.” Side hustles are generally freelance based, tend to be entrepreneurial in nature, and usually focus on a passion or skill that isn’t being tapped into during an individual’s day job.
People take on side hustles for a lot of reasons. Perhaps your full-time job isn’t providing enough income and you need something supplemental. Or maybe you are looking for fulfillment outside of work and want utilize one of your passions. Maybe you love what you do in your day job, but want to mix things up a little in your free time. Maybe you have a great business idea and want to test the waters before quitting your job and jumping in. Maybe it’s a mix of all of the above. Whatever your reasons, there is sure to be the perfect side hustle for you and your situation!
When it comes to side hustles, there are so many options to choose from. If you can think it, you can probably make a side hustle out of it. If you are creative, for example, you could pick up a side hustle making handmade crafts. If you enjoy more technical pursuits, you could side hustle as a freelance software developer. If you like working with your hands, you could pick up a side hustle doing maintenance or mowing lawns.
To give you a better idea of just how varied your options are, and to get your creative juices flowing, here is a short list of common side hustles.
- Dog walking
- Freelance writing
- Baby sitting/Pet sitting/House sitting
- Graphic Design
- Reselling on eBay
Things you’ll need to know before you start
Before you get started, there are some things that you will need to think about and sort out. There are several prerequisites that you should see to before taking on any sort of side venture.
- Make sure your finances in order
Well before you take on any work on the side it is a good idea to write out a financial plan and make sure everything is in order. Taking the time to see where your money is actually going, as well as analyzing the state of your resources, will help you make the most out of any supplemental income that might come in. Doing this will also help you avoid lifestyle creep — a fancy name for that phenomena in which the more you make, the more expenses you suddenly seem to have. Lifestyle creep can make all that extra money you’ve brought in seem to disappear. Creating (and sticking to) a budget, as well as making a plan for your new source of income, is perhaps the best way to avoid this situation.
- Decide if you are going to put money down upfront
Once you have a solid picture of your financial situation, you will be ready to decide whether you can afford to put down any money upfront to fund your side hustle. This could be for things like marketing, supplies, software, or website subscriptions. It is important to note that not every side hustle will have start-up costs, and many that do are fairly inexpensive. Even so, this will limit your options somewhat, so it is important to be honest and know what you can (or can’t) afford.
- Know how much time you can dedicate (and create a schedule)
Time is money, as they say, and you will need to trade in some of that proverbial buck to cash out any of the cold, hard green stuff. Because time is so very important to the success of any side hustle, you need to nail down exactly how much time you are willing and able to devote before you even think about getting started. This will play a huge role in what side hustle you pick (hint: some are more time-intensive than others), and will also help you figure out how you will manage your time once you’ve added a new project to your plate.
Beyond figuring out how much free time you have, it would also be useful to know exactly when you have it. Try carving out some dedicated hours in your daily schedule and make it a habit to work on your side hustle during those times. You can even do this before you officially get started — simply use those hours for research and prep work until you launch. The sooner you have created the habit and adjusted your lifestyle, the easier it will be to stay consistent.
- Know how much you need to make
Sure, it sucks to talk about money when you have a dream — but it doesn’t hurt to be practical either. And you do want to make money at this thing, don’t you? Otherwise, it would be called a hobby.
With that in mind, before you get started it is beneficial to determine exactly how much supplemental income you want/need to bring in. Determining this does several things. First, it will help you narrow down your side hustle choices — especially when you face the inevitable choice between something you are really passionate about, and something that might make you a little more money. Second, determining how much income you need to bring in will give you a tangible goal, as well as a way to measure your progress. Just remember that it won’t happen overnight.
- Have a support system
A solid support system is crucial for any budding hustler. A support system can help counsel you, train you, give you advice, keep you accountable, and (most importantly) act as your cheerleader when times get tough.
Where should you find your support system? Ideally, your support system will be made up of friends and family, but other side hustlers and entrepreneurs — especially those doing what you hope to — are perfect additions as well. Find people that you can gather wisdom from. It might be scary, but a great way to do this is to contact someone you admire and invite them out to coffee. The worst they can say is no.
Aside from the above prerequisites, you will also need to know your motivating factors for choosing to start a side hustle. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Why is it important for you to take on a side hustle?
- What kind of limitations do you have?
- What goals do you have for your side hustle?
- Does starting a side hustle align with your personal/career goals and priorities?
These questions are only the beginning of what you will need to explore before getting started.