Setting Up a ‘Side Hustle’

See also: Top Tips on Freelancing

More and more people are now starting to set up ‘side projects’ or ‘side hustles’. This might be a way to explore new ideas for a business, or earn a bit of extra money to supplement their employment income, or just for fun.

These side hustles are projects that run alongside a ‘day job’, without affecting your employment or self-employment. They are therefore carried out in what was previously your free time.

This page explains more about why you might be tempted to set up one or more side hustles. It also explains how you might go about making it a success, and the potential next steps in your career to which a side hustle might lead, including entrepreneurship and portfolio working.

Why Set Up a Side Hustle?

There are three main reasons why people set up a side project:

  • To explore a potential business idea;
  • To do something that really interests them; and
  • To solve a problem that they have identified.

There is considerable overlap between these three areas.

For example, you might find that it is impossible to buy something personalised for a friend. However, you are good at making things, so you decide to make it yourself. Other friends might then ask you to do the same for them. You enjoy doing it, but you also realise that this could become a business because there is clearly a gap in the market.

Indeed, it is possible to argue that you should not set up a side project unless it fits all three areas.

First of all, if it’s not potentially a business, your idea is basically a hobby, not a side project. This might be the case, but you’re not yet sure. Exploring it as a side project allows you to experiment with much less risk than if you gave up your job and poured all your savings into your new interest.

Second, you need to be interested in it to spend the time doing it. Why would you invest any time in something that doesn’t interest you? If you’re not excited by the idea, you are unlikely to want to spend your free time on it.

Third, it is possible to argue that all businesses, products and services ultimately exist to solve a problem. If your side project does not really solve a problem, it is going to be hard to persuade anyone to buy your products or services, or invest in your fledgling business.

Starting Up Your Side Project

The most important aspect of starting your side project is simply to start.

Stop messing about, stop talking about it, and just have a go.

You have almost nothing to lose except a bit of free time—and you will be working on something that you find intrinsically interesting.

Don’t be tempted to spend a lot of money or make any big investments at this stage. If you need any stock or supplies, start small and build up over time as you start to assess demand. Indeed, there is an argument that you should only buy what you need immediately. Economies of scale don’t really start to kick in until you get to quite big quantities, so just stay small at first.

Once you’ve got started, there are several things that you can do to help your side project to gather momentum. These include:

  • Involve other people and share ideas.

    There are two aspects to this: working with others (collaborating) and networking.
    For the first, you might find others who want to do something similar or join you in your endeavour. However, even if you don’t want to work with someone else, and share the profits, you might find it helpful to network with other people doing similar things. This can help you to solve business problems, or just give you a chance to vent about issues.

    There is more about this idea in our page on Networking for Freelancers and Homeworkers.
  • Focus on what you are learning

    Any side project offers you an opportunity to learn: about yourself, about running a business, and potentially about whatever you are doing. However, it is easy to get caught up in the task or project itself, and forget about this learning.

    This is fine when everything is going well. When you hit snags or problems, though, it can be helpful to remind yourself that the project itself is not everything: you are also gaining valuable experience about running a small business, or finding clients (or whatever). Regular reflective practice can help you to recognise the benefits of your side project and keep going even when it hits a rough patch.

  • Have fun and enjoy yourself

    The most important aspect of any side project is that you enjoy it. It really is that simple.

    You are only doing this for fun—and if it stops being fun, then stop doing it.

Where Will Your Side Project Take You Next?

It is also interesting to consider where your side project might take you.

First, it might go nowhere. You might discover that it isn’t a viable business, or that you’re not really that interested in exploring it.

If this is the case, it’s fine. You can just stop. You have lost nothing—and you have almost certainly gained some useful experience and learned some useful lessons, even if only about you and your interests.

At the other end of the spectrum, you might find that your side hustle takes over your life. It could be a huge success, and you might find that you want to cut back on your paid employment, and move into portfolio working (see box).

Side hustle or portfolio career?

How does a side hustle differ from having a portfolio career?

The answer is probably mostly the stage of development. When you first set up a side hustle, you are mostly likely to be employed (or self-employed) full-time. Your side hustle is literally something that you do on the side, in your free time.

Over time, however, you may find that your side hustle starts to become more profitable, and you want to spend more time on it. If so, you have started to have a portfolio career.

You can find out more about developing a portfolio career in our page on Portfolio Working.

You might want to start working full time in your side project. It could even end up earning you far more money than your previous employment. At this point, you might reasonably call yourself an entrepreneur (and if you want to find out more about what this means, there is more information in our page on What is an Entrepreneur?) You might then sell your business later at a huge profit.

Perhaps the most likely prospect is that you find that you enjoy having a side project, and you just keep doing it.

It makes you some extra money, and also gives you something other than your main employment to consider. In due course, you might turn it into part of a portfolio career, or you might just keep it small. It might also evolve into a slightly different project, or you might start a second one alongside.

The choice is entirely yours—and that is perhaps the best aspect of having a side project.