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What is a side hustle?

Before we start talking about how to start a side hustle, let’s explain what a side hustle is. Different people actually define the term slightly differently, but for me, a side hustle is simply something you spend your time on to earn extra income.

So a side hustle could be as simple as taking a few minutes during the week to scan your grocery receipt and get money back on purchases* using Ebates or Ibotta, it could be doing a survey* using Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, Inbox Dollars, or MySurvey; it could be doing freelance work related to your current job; or it could be doing a job that is totally unrelated to your day job, like walking dogs, doing landscaping, babysitting, making wedding cakes, or blogging.**

*Note one: You’re not going to make a ton of money with these online rebate or survey companies, so they wouldn’t be my first choice for a side hustle. However, if you’re going to spend time watching TV or doing something similar anyway where you could easily do them at the same time, and especially if you enjoy giving your opinion and taking surveys, then they might be worth the time and effort.

**Note two: This would be my first choice for a side hustle. I love, love, love blogging! (Learn why.) It’s a perfect fit for me! But it may not be for you. So find the side hustle that works best for your own circumstances. 🙂

Why should I start a side hustle?

Maybe you’ve thought about starting a side hustle or side business before, but you just weren’t sure if you had what it takes to be able to make it work of if you really have the time to put into it. But there are so many different kind of side hustles these days and so many opportunities, there is undoubtedly one that you are well suited for! And yes, it may mean giving up a little TV time or a little time with friends or a little sleep, but the rewards can be so worth it! It could be the very path that could lead you to a great part-time income or even to a new career—but you’ll never know until you try!

Here are some of the reasons that people might have for starting a side hustle, and maybe you fit one of these descriptions:

It’s a low-risk way to go into business for yourself while you still keep your steady income from your day job. This is the reason that I was willing to start a blog. I’m a fairly risk averse person, but with a blog, your major investment is time—time to do the writing of your blog posts. The resources you need to start your blog can be pretty minimal—in fact, other than a laptop, all you really need are a domain name and a hosting service, and so for less than $100, you can be in business! Of course there are other tools you can use to help you grow your blogging business, but you can invest in them as you grow.        

It’s a great way to turn a hobby into extra income. If you have something that you love doing that others would also pay you to do, why not go for it? For example, if you love tinkering with motorcycles, why not start a motorcycle repair or restoration business in your garage? If you love helping people to improve their health, why not become a personal trainer or wellness coach? If you love using a second language that you’ve learned, why not be a translator? If you love to read, why not do freelance editing and proofreading like I have done for the past 15 years?

If you have an excellent eye for detail, being a professional freelance proofreader might be just the job for you! If you’re interested in this line of work but don’t have any former training as a proofreader, check out this free introductory 7-day proofreading course from Caitlyn at Proofread Anywhere, which I have researched and read great things about.

It’s a way to follow your entrepreneurial dreams or ambitions. If you want to be your own boss and go into business for yourself, starting a side hustle is the perfect way to give doing so a test drive.

It offers some income security through providing a second way to earn money. Even if your day job is fairly secure, you never know what might change in your industry or company to alter that. Having income from another job allows you to not have all of your eggs in one basket.

It can supplement your income to help you pay your bills. Life’s expensive. And especially if you’re living on one income (or would like to be) so that one of you can stay home to raise your children, then there isn’t generally a lot of extra wiggle room in your budget. Doing a side hustle can be the perfect solution, especially if you can do it from home around your family’s schedule (such as during naptime or playtime or after the kiddos have gone to bed).

It can give you money to invest for retirement or use toward other worthwhile goals. Use the extra income to increase your retirement contributions or educational savings accounts for your children, for example, and it will truly be a gift (to yourself or your children) that will keep on giving. Or you could use the extra money for long-term investing to purchase a rental property or vacation home or to retire early, for example.

It can give you extra money that you can use to save up toward a large purchase. A side hustle can be a great way to earn money to use for things such as the down payment on a house or money to purchase a new-to-you car with cash.

It can provide extra money to play with. If you are already contributing 15 percent to your retirement account and are well on your way to reaching your other financial goals, then earning income from a side hustle can be a great (and guilt free) way to have extra spending money (or fun money).

How can I start a side hustle?

Now that we’ve discussed what a side hustle is and some of the benefits of starting a side hustle, here are some suggestions for how to start a side hustle to help ensure that your side hustle will be a success.

1. Think about what you love to do and what you’re good at.

Think about the things in your life that bring you the most joy. What are you passionate about? What can you not stop talking about? What do you love to do when you don’t have to do anything at all? I’ve heard it said that if you can get paid to do what you would yourself pay to do, you’ll never have to work another day of your life.

And also think about where your knowledge, skills, and talents lie. Since you already have experience doing your current job, if you love doing it and you can do it as a freelance job or side job, then that’s the perfect option for you.

If you don’t love your job, or maybe love it but don’t want to spend any more time doing it, is there a hobby that you’re good at that could make you some extra income?

Or is there something else you could do that you would enjoy? What are you good at? What are your strengths? Or what could you start that wouldn’t take much money or time to get going?

Read this article to find ideas for side hustles that you can do from home.

2. Determine which of the options you considered have the potential to make good money.

Because you are starting this side hustle with the goal of making money, there is no reason to spend your time on something that doesn’t have the potential to make you a pretty good part-time income. As you think about your options, consider side hustles you have heard about that friends or family members or others are doing that make good money. It’s helpful to know when people are making money at a business so that you will know that you can make money at it, too. Remember—a business that doesn’t make any money isn’t really a business—it’s a hobby.

3. Consider which option or options seem like the best fit or the best opportunity, and then choose your side hustle or hustles.

When you’re starting a side business or side work, you don’t have to limit yourself to one thing at the beginning. You can try a few different things, and see which one works the best for you. You may find after a little time that one opportunity is a lot more profitable than the others, or that one fits better with your schedule or temperament. That’s why it’s great to try different money-making opportunities.

4. Commit to giving the needed time to make your side hustle or hustles a success.

The wonderful thing is that with your side hustle, you often get to choose when and how much you want to work. But if you truly want to make a good extra income, you should probably commit at least 10 hours per week to your side hustle. Most people (even busy parents!) can find that much time in their week if they’ll give up TV watching or web surfing or spend a little less time on Facebook or Instagram (or even give up leisure reading, like I’ve done—at least for a time; and for a bookworm like me, that’s a bit of a sacrifice!). If you can commit 20 hours a week or more, your business (or at least the amount of money in your wallet) can grow more quickly.

5. Do your research.

As you’re preparing to start your side hustle, talk to people already in the business if you are able in order to learn from them. Knowing as much as you can before you begin can increase the likelihood that you will succeed.

Also Google similar companies or individuals who are doing the same line of work as you to gain as many insights as you can that way.

6. Consider the best ways to market your business.

Figure out, based on the side hustle you choose, what the best ways will be to market your services. Can you save money by using primarily word of mouth? Would it be helpful to print business cards? What about using social media to promote your work? Would it be worthwhile to print up flyers? Would it be helpful to have a website? If so, could including a blog as part of your website help to increase your reach and build your credibility?

Marketing a business can get really expensive, so go with free and inexpensive options as much as possible in the beginning. For the money you do spend on advertising, do all you can to make sure you will get a good return on your investment. If you can, make the business pay for its own marketing—don’t sink a bunch of your own money into it, unless you have the money to spare. Start small with your marketing efforts, and scale up as your business, and therefore income, increases.

7. Remember to keep your business spending and personal spending separate.

You will want to avoid any potential tax liability or other problems, so set up a “doing business as” (DBA) checking and savings account. And then make sure that you deposit the money that you earn from your business into the business checking account or savings account so that you can have a record of the amount that you earn. Then you can pull the money out as needed to pay yourself an income. Just remember to keep some money as retained earnings (savings) to pay your taxes and the inevitable business expenses that will come up. And also keep some money available to be able to sustain or even use to grow your business, if you would like to do so.

Also, consider setting up a limited liability corporation (LLC) or other corporation for increased legal protection. Setting up an LLC is very simple. You can do it in a couple of hours or less and for as little as $50 by setting it up yourself.

8. Make sure to keep track of your business income and expenses. 

Rabbi Daniel Lapin calls paper bills (cash) certificates of appreciation. When your customers pay you, they are letting you know that they appreciate the work that you have done. It’s important to track your income (especially if you have income from various sources) so that you will know what is working and what is not—so can see what is giving you the best return on your investment—and for tax purposes. If one thing you do as part of your business makes a lot more than other aspects of your side hustle, then focus on that most profitable thing.

Also be sure to track your expenses (such as money you spend on advertising or equipment or even extra help) and how much those expenses bring in additional revenue to determine whether they are worth the cost.

9. Start your business.

And now, open your (figurative) doors for business! It’s an exciting time—so make use of that excitement and let it help you find the courage and the motivation to launch. Prepare as much as you truly need to beforehand, but don’t let excuses make you continually put off beginning your side hustle. Remember—finished is better than perfect!

10. Continually seek to improve your business.

One of the things that I love about blogging is that I can continually learn and work to make the blog itself and the business end of running it even better. It ensures that blogging will never get old and I will never get bored.

So as you begin to be successful at your side hustle, see what you can do to make your business even better. That might mean finding ways to serve your customers even better, run the financial side of things a little better, manage the work a little better, or even make your side hustle fit with your life a little better.

11. Track your progress.

As you continually seek to improve, keep a record of what works well and what doesn’t. Keep trying new things and tweaking your approach based on what works best, and you will get better and better over time.



Now that you know many of the important aspects of how to start a side hustle, are you ready to start your own? Starting a side hustle can bring amazing opportunities, like this blog has done for me. But it is also potentially a significant time commitment—it may mean giving up time with your friends and family, giving up leisure time, and giving up sleep. In many cases, because of the opportunities it can bring into your life, such as work you enjoy even more than your day job, increased income, and new relationships and friendships, it will be well worth it. But make sure you know what you’ll be getting yourself into. You’re likely going to be giving up many evenings and Saturdays, and particularly if you have a young family, that will be a sacrifice. So make sure that your why for starting your business is worth it.

In my case, it totally is worth it. There are so many benefits of blogging (and so few risks, too, compared to many other business models) that even my great full-time job doesn’t offer. Some of those benefits are working for myself (being my own boss), setting my own work schedule, being able to work from home (or anywhere else that I want!), being able to control my own income, and seeing a direct reward for the effort I put in. So even though it means giving up sleep, mostly, since I do most of my blogging after my kiddos go to bed, I do it for the future possibility of being able to make enough money to leave my full-time job to blog full-time. And because I love personal and family finance and I love writing, and I just love many of the other aspects of blogging as well, giving up the time doesn’t feel like a sacrifice—it feels like an awesome learning adventure.

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