In a perfect world, we’d all get paid handsomely to do what we’re most talented at doing, or what we’re most passionate about doing. In our world, however, we often end up choosing jobs and career paths for a more complicated set of reasons: some skills are more marketable than others; bills need to be paid; or maybe there just aren’t enough full-time job openings for someone who makes custom jewelry for hamsters.
Whatever the reason, your day job might not be your ideal passion. If there’s something you’re yearning to do, or just want to make some extra money on the side, you have options for creating a fun and profitable “side hustle” for yourself.
Think about what you already have going for yourself.
Are you crafty? Do all of your friends come to you for proofreading or grammar advice? Have you developed monster design skills over the years, even though you’re an accountant? You may have skills or interests with earning potential, even if you don’t realize it yet.
Don’t forget that if you have a skill or interest that isn’t fully developed, you can take classes or spend some time honing them into business-ready shape. You don’t need to be ready to launch overnight.
Make sure it fits.
If you have a skill that might be profitable but you don’t love doing it, then you may be better off not pursuing it. Remember that you’ll likely be doing this in your spare time. If you can’t face the idea of going home after a long day at work and spending three more hours editing the huge batch of photos you were hired to take at your cousin’s friend’s bar mitzvah last weekend, then maybe you’re not ready to start a second career as a photographer.
Take a look at your life overall. You’ll need to devote a lot of time to your new side gig: producing goods or performing services, selling and marketing yourself, developing your brand, and dealing with the logistics of getting your stuff out there. If you’re already crunched for time for basics like meals, sleep, or family time, chances are you just won’t have enough time for your fledgling business.
Check out your potential market.
If there are already 18,000 freelance designers in your city looking for jobs on sites like Elance.com, you might want to think twice about entering that fray. Before you start any kind of side business venture for yourself, research the heck out of it! Know what kind of online sales and marketing channels are available to you and what kind of audience you would be serving. Make sure you understand who would be buying from you and what kind of quality they expect.
This research is also essential to help you figure out pricing for your business, based on what’s out there You want to make sure you’re not undercharging and costing yourself potential profits or overcharging and scaring away potential customers. See what’s working for other people in your field, and come up with a pricing game plan.
Get expert advice.
Reach out to other professionals in your chosen area. Ask questions about what’s worked for them and what didn’t, and try to get a sense of what the obstacles are for someone embarking on this—especially part-time. Their advice can not only show you a path forward (or at least let you know where the potholes are on the road), but also give you a sense of how you should package yourself.
Don’t let lack of cash deter you from getting started.
If you have a brilliant idea and a plan for implementing it but you need money to pay for materials or development, consider crowdfunding it. Sites like GoFundMe or Kickstarter can not only help you raise funds, but also build a network of potential allies and customers to help you bring your vision to the masses.
Build your brand.
There are so many free online tools you can use to promote your business, there’s no excuse not to take advantage. This is especially key when you’re just starting out. If you’re not sure yet whether you want to invest your full attention and resources into your new business, start with basics like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram before you invest in creating and maintaining your own website.
Develop your business sense.
In addition to getting your skills and plan in order, make sure you also know about any legal or financial implications. It can’t be a surprise that Uncle Sam will expect you to pay taxes on your awesome new enterprise, so make sure you’ve done your research about how your taxes will be affected by your status as an independent vendor or contractor. If you want to develop your basic business skills, you can do your own research or take classes online through Coursera or Lynda.com.
The hustle is real. As long as you’re doing something that’s fun and stimulating for you (and legal!), there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a mini-career on the side. And who knows? It could turn into your full-time gig somewhere down the line.
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