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How to Start a Side Hustle

Whether you’re still a student, a recent graduate, or have been working for years, it’s always an advantage to have an extra stream of income on the side. Side hustles don’t only provide extra income, they can also teach you new skills, let you try something you’ve always wanted to accomplish, or allow you to test out an entrepreneurial venture before you launch it full-time. The following are a few steps you’ll need to take to start a successful side business.

Know your goals

Why are you interested in starting a side hustle? For the money? To meet new people? To exercise a new skill? Clarify why you want to start a side project and be committed to this reason. Having specific goals will help to keep yourself on track. For example, want to make an extra $15,000 in freelance income next year? Write it down and commit to it. Break down you goals into smaller parts to make them more manageable. An extra $15,000 a year equals earning $1,250 a month, or an extra $312.50 per week. It’s an ambitious goal, but certainly obtainable. 

Brainstorm your particular hustle

Think about the things you have a natural aptitude for and like doing. For me, it’s writing and editing, and while working at a full-time marketing position I was able to bring in a steady pay check and practice my business writing while moonlighting as a freelance writer and editor. Think about ways your side hustle could piggyback on the skills you already have in your day job. For example, if you have a specialized body of knowledge or experience, think about becoming a consultant. (Look over your contract to see whether your employer forbids employees from moonlighting. If they don’t, don’t ask for permission. Quietly pursue. Also make sure that your side services aren’t in direct competition with your employer.) 

But remember that your side business doesn’t have to relate to your day job. Maybe you work in an office all day and would prefer to teach piano, take wedding photos, or do landscaping on the weekends. Think about what others need. You can make a lot of money doing work that others don’t have the time or energy to. If you’re having trouble deciding what side hustle to pursue, ask your friends and family what you do particularly well. See if their perceptions of your skills give you insight into what you should go after. Whatever you choose, make sure the payout is worth the time and effort, and remember that your side hustle should cost very little to start if you want to see earnings immediately.

Draw up a business plan

It’s no surprise that businesses with plans experience greater longevity and earn more money. Since you likely won’t be using this plan to seek a loan, it doesn’t have to read like a textbook. A business plan for a side hustle can be concise so long as it’s realistic. Essentially, you should use a business plan to clarify your vision, goals, and to forecast your sales. The main parts to consider including in your plans are:  

  • Business description (a clear picture of what your business does);
  • Market analysis (who are your competitors, what makes you unique);
  • Marketing plan (who’s your target market, pricing plans, advertising and promotions); and
  • Finances (any expenses, and your projected earnings.)

A business plan forces you to take this project seriously, and gives you a vision and plan you can return to anytime you feel you’re floundering. It’s not set in stone though, you can update and revise your plan as your business grows.

Don’t be afraid to market yourself

Most people don’t enjoy the process of marketing themselves, but it’s essential to finding new clients and growing your side business. Read some marketing books for entrepreneurs to get an overall sense of self-promotion. Tell all your family and friends that you’ve started a side business and to get the word out. Think about starting an email newsletter, a website, Facebook page, and/or business profile on LinkedIn. Depending on your type of business, take out an ad in a local paper, make business cards, and go to networking events for your industry. Research professional associations related to your side hustle of choice and join them. The idea is to meet people and get the word out about your business as much as you can. Be strategic here. If you run an online business, there’s little point in taking out an ad in a local paper. Focus your efforts on where your potential clients are. If you run an online business, try writing guest posts for blogs or websites that cater to your clientele. Contact any old employers or people in your network who might be interested in your service. It’s not only a way to get the word out about your business, but a great way to stay connected with old contacts.

However you choose to earn some side money, make sure you’re excited and positive about the venture. Clients want to do business with someone who is eager and positive about their skills and business. Enthusiasm can carry you a long way.

Good luck!


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