This post will be focusing on the how and why of the question above instead of on the options that many sources already focus on. There are hundreds of creators out there who have covered hundreds of options for side hustles. If you want a recommendation, I have really enjoyed Ali Abdaal. He makes well-produced videos aimed at improving your life, often focusing on side hustles.
I also want to be clear that I don’t subscribe to the hustle mindset. The mindset where you need to grind all day every day to get somewhere. I believe that consistent, sustainable work will get you where you want. I simply use “Side Hustle” as a term to describe a part-time job as an additional source of income.
Why Start a Side Hustle
I have some experience with this topic: this exact website. I made this website a couple of months ago, and have been posting at least weekly ever since. So far, it has been an amazingly rewarding endeavor and has made me much more confident in my personal abilities.
Let’s get money out of the way. Of course more than likely, your main goal with a side hustle is additional income. This is certainly the most tangible benefit and one that for many people has the largest effect on their lives. For many people, starting a side hustle is not a choice, but rather something they need to survive.
I am fortunate enough to not need the additional income of a side hustle. Of course, the extra income would have a positive effect on my life, but it isn’t necessary.
If you plan to stick with a side hustle for the long haul, try not to make a decision based on short-term financial gains. Side hustles that are easy enough to break into to immediately make money very often have a lower or harder-to-reach ceiling. If it is so easy to get started in, then why hasn’t everyone already? Either they have and you have an infinite amount of competition, or they are all stuck at the base level.
An example of this kind of side hustle is tutoring. Tutoring requires you to trade time for money, and can quickly generate income, but has a fairly low ceiling. By this, I mean that most people won’t pay more than a certain amount per hour for a tutor. Let’s say the average math tutor charges $30 / hour. It will be very difficult to convince clients to pay you more than $35 or $40 / hour. This would be your metaphorical ceiling.
Build a Brand
Depending on the side hustle you select, the more important aspect of money in my mind is the long-term gains. Many side hustles such as blogging (*sigh*), creative production, or any other creative endeavor are about building a brand.
Building a brand takes far longer than making a quick buck in a single month, but is also much more powerful. A brand can stick with you for years or even decades. A brand can raise the ceiling I mentioned above by attaching a trusted name to the services. People would be much more likely to pay Ninja $1,000’s of dollars to learn how to be good at video games than a random pro gamer.
A brand even has the ability to shatter the ceiling by catapulting you into additional streams of income. The success of these additional ventures piggybacked on the success of the previous. Again, people are much more likely to trust Ninja if he started reviewing PC components than a random YouTuber. He has earned peoples’ trust and can leverage that in whatever he does from now on.
To build a brand with your side hustle, make sure to choose a side hustle that allows you to attach a name to your services. Though it is of course not necessary, this will give you the longevity that is inaccessible without one. You could be the best tutor of all time, but if no one knows your name, face, or brand, you will always be having to rebuild your trust. A brand gives you a place to store people’s trust in you.
I know this sounds like a silly reason, but hear me out.
All of us, myself included, spend a good chunk of our time on non “value-added” activities. Activities that add no value to our lives and don’t further us in our pursuits. Please understand me when I say there is nothing wrong with that. Hell, I am about to go play video games for a bit before bed with friends.
All I am saying is that many of these activities come about because we have no better options. Why not go on social media or play video games when you have a few minutes and nothing else to do? When you have a digital side hustle of some sort, those 10 minutes can be spent getting a small chunk of work done.
I know my own personal experience has been fantastic. It is a fantastic feeling to realize you spent the last 15 spare minutes generating something you can be proud of instead of forgettable media. Again, it’s important to have a balance and not grind 24/7 or you will get burnt out. But a side hustle can help you lean more in the direction of production.
I have been working to make sure that I don’t fill every spare bit of time with my side hustle though. I am certain that this will lead to burnout or at least less happiness due to never being able to decompress.
Even if you take on a hobby based on a current skill, you will have to learn something to turn it into a viable side hustle. Knowing how to write doesn’t mean you can blog, and knowing how to play an instrument doesn’t mean you know how to teach it. Learning always feels fantastic. It feels even better when you are learning something that will further your own personal work.
Exposing yourself to additional skill sets can even lead you to additional future side hustles you never even considered in the first place. You may enjoy sharing your work on social media so much you decide to focus solely on social media. Be open to the opportunities that a side hustle can lead you to, even if it’s an opportunity outside of your side hustle.
I focus on building a digital side hustle for several reasons. Compared to a physical side hustle, a digital side hustle gives you:
- Increased time flexibility. You decide when you work on it.
- Location flexibility. It can be done from anywhere with an internet connection, whether traveling or at a relative’s house.
- Higher ceiling. Likely, an in-person side hustle trades time for money. A digital side hustle can more easily create a product that can make money as you sleep.
- Reach. You are able to reach infinitely more potential clients online compared to meeting in person.
Keep in mind, a long-term goal for many side hustlers is to eventually turn that side hustle into their primary. So think about these advantages in the context of a business with you as its full-time CEO.
How to Start a Side Hustle
So you’ve decided to continue with the process. Glad my writing above didn’t scare you off.
At this point, I am assuming you have already picked a side hustle to start with. The specifics of how to start a side hustle will vary depending on the exact side hustle you decide on. But the principles of how to get there stay the same.
I mentioned before that digital side hustles allow for fantastic time flexibility, but don’t take this to mean you should spend every spare minute working on it. Spending too much of your time will adversely affect your ability to perform your side hustle. Because of this, blocking off times can be very effective.
For myself as an example on weekdays, I have blocked off:
- Time in the morning before work. This is anywhere from 5:00 am-7:00 am.
- Time after dinner. Usually 7:30 pm-9:00 pm.
Now you may think this is a lot of time to block out for my side hustle, and you’d be right. I usually don’t use the entirety of those blocks on the same day. The key is to leverage the flexibility of a digital side hustle to use blocks as you see fit. On a day like today when I wake up at 5:00 am energetic and work until around 7:00 am, I won’t work the entire block tonight. I may throw in another 30 minutes or whatever feels comfortable.
Be careful not to over-leverage yourself and burn out. Many people fall into the trap of spending every free minute working on a digital side hustle or business since it is so available. If you worry that could be you, take the boundaries of the blocks seriously. Maybe turn off your computer fully, or put your laptop in another room to make it more difficult to just pick it up and go.
If you feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of a task, it’s likely a good sign. You want to be pushed and tested. However, if you feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks you have to do, you may need to dial it back. When we start to feel overwhelmed, we will produce inferior products and/or stop altogether. Find the balance that works for you.
Ask to Work Remotely
For most of us, the main obstacle in the way of putting more or any time into a side hustle is our day job. That pesky Mon-Fri 9-5 scheduling conflict where we have to travel to an office and do a job. This is the standard way jobs have worked for kinda forever.
This has been shifting over the past several years, accelerated by COVID. Many employers nowadays are leaning more towards remote work for any office jobs than can accommodate. It reduces the company’s overhead for in-person offices and alleviates commute concerns for employees.
Another, less tasteful advantage is getting other work done once your primary job is completed. I do not advocate working on a side gig when there is work to be done. But, if you are short on work and still have time left before 5, put some time into your side gig while staying available for your main job.
To gain the ability to work remotely, firstly your position has to support it. Most office jobs focused on emails, spreadsheets, documents, etc. will work. Next, work remotely for a day when you are sick. Prove to your employer that you are even more efficient at home without the distraction of other coworkers, and the comfort of your own space. Then, ask to work from home a couple of days every couple of weeks, slowly increasing it over time. All the while, proving you are even more productive when working from home. Eventually, they will be forced to realize you are more of an asset from home than in person.
For far more in-depth info on convincing your employer to let you work from home, I recommend “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss. He gives fantastic, actionable information on how to work towards a self-employed, low-hours situation.
This is the most vital aspect of how you treat your side hustle. I don’t care if you’re spending 1 hour a day or 5 hours a day on your side hustle. If you can’t keep up that work consistently, it won’t go anywhere. Stopping the train of work on your side hustle is like sliding back to the base of the mountain.
Set up time blocks that are achievable for you. We all get those moments of motivation. Suddenly we wanna go to the gym or learn that new skill or start that side hustle. These moments are inevitably fleeting, no matter how lasting they feel.
Instead, the discipline to be consistent is what can get you somewhere. Ali Abdaal, the chap I mentioned in the intro, has many videos covering how to become a successful creator on YouTube. His most mentioned action? One video a week for years. With one video a week, just about everyone with solid content will reach some sort of success. It’s the same with anything else. Put in a solid effort on a consistent schedule for years and you will see success. No one stays bad at guitar after practicing an hour a day for a year, and no one doesn’t get better at writing after blogging for a year. Let’s hope that’s true at least.
Consistency is the main barrier between the unsuccessful and the successful. Push yourself to be the one showing up for 2 hours a day for 3 years. Not the one showing up for 5 hours a day for 3 months.
I know this is probably the most annoying “How” step on here, but it’s true. If you haven’t started, take this as the sign to get started right now. I don’t care how small the step is. Schedule an event on your calendar for “find study material for real estate brokers’ exam”. Or write down ideas for names for your website. Or open your account on Fiverr to become a freelance graphic designer.
The first step, even a very small one, gets the ball rolling on your progress. You start brainstorming business names and suddenly you’re halfway through building a website around that name. Just don’t wait. If you have time to finish the final two paragraphs of this blog post, you have enough time to open the notes app on your phone or Word on your computer to start brainstorming.
Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do yet, start writing down ideas with overviews, pros and cons, and goals. This website began off of a whim to get my passions for investing and personal finance out into the world, with the goal of growing my wealth to $100K. I just decided to start a website that day. Even if the topic was different (personal finance and fitness), the name was different (fitness and finance), and the theme was disgusting, it got the ball rolling. Suddenly, I had something to put my energies towards, and it hasn’t stopped since.
You can’t even imagine what a small idea will turn into in the long run. But the beauty is, you don’t have to. Just go create and find out.
Still Trying to Pick a Side Hustle?
Check out my YouTube video below covering what aspects to think about when choosing a side hustle.
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