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5 Steps to Starting Your First Side Hustle
Starting a side hustle can help you accomplish a wide range of personal and professional goals, from bringing in more income to honing an existing skill. The key is that you can do this work while maintaining a full-time job; if you’ve been waiting for a raise all year long, and it’s nowhere in sight, this is the perfect way to take control of your finances once and for all.
A side hustle is any type of employment or project that provides supplemental income, and is generally freelance- or project-based in nature. Because of the flexibility and freedom that comes with this type of work, more than 44 million Americans have a side hustle, with 36 percent earning $500/month or more, according to recent reports.
If you’re new to the gig economy—a term used to describe the industry of people working side hustles—but want to jump in, follow these five simple steps to get started.
1. Make a List of Your Skills, Background, and Expertise
First, take time for self-reflection to determine your unique and marketable skills, experience and areas of interest. Second, consider the main objectives for your side hustle, starting with your goals. Next, consider how your skills, interest and goals can be meshed together to help you find your first gig.
Here are a few examples:
- If you simply want to make extra money, focus on simple, straightforward gigs that can net you easy cash. Identifying your skills and experience will help you find a suitable side hustle.
- Alternatively, you could start with your skills, searching for a side gig similar to your current job. For example, graphic designers can easily pick up quick and easy freelance design projects.
- If you want to learn a new skill altogether, or further develop your career, consider what skills will help you get your first gig. If you want to be a virtual assistant, make a list of your various organization, planning and assisting skills that could be useful.
This initial work will direct you on how and where to begin your search for a side hustle.
2. Assess Your Available Bandwidth
Determine the amount of time and resources you have available to allocate to your side hustle.
Put together a rough schedule of when you could work on a side hustle. Are you ready to dedicate all of your non-working time to a side gig? Do you want to keep your weekends free? Knowing this will help you determine how much work you can take on—and knowing this ahead of time keeps you from getting in over your head, putting you on the road to to burnout, especially if you are maintaining a full-time job.
3. Explore Potential Freelance Projects and Work
With your skills, interests, and time figured out, you can start to consider which side hustles will be best for you.
The great news is, 70 percent of small businesses have hired a freelancer in the past, and 81 percent plan to hire freelancers in the future, according to a recent LinkedIn study. This means it’s the perfect time to apply for these freelance and contract projects.
Create profiles on freelance listing sites like Upwork, Hubstaff Talent, or Fiverr. If you’re unsure how best to market yourself, or don’t know what jobs to apply for, start searching by skill set. Simply type, “graphic design” into one of the listing sites above to see what gigs companies are hiring for.
4. Consider Alternative Side Hustles
If you can’t commit to a set schedule or time frame, or you want to stay away from working with another company, consider these flexible side hustle options.
- Drive for a ride-sharing app: Car-owners who are older than 21 years of age and have a clean driving record can drive for Uber or Lyft.
- Sell items online: If you’re creative or enjoy making crafts, consider selling your products online. If you want to go this path, the helpful guide, How to Start Selling Online, suggests: “The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to build a wildly successful business. There are plenty of online stores selling ‘me too’ products that are doing extraordinarily well, and this is actually how most entrepreneurs get started.” The same guide also suggests selling digital products, which require much lower overheads.
- Run errands: Make extra cash by running errands.
- Dog walk or pet sit: Animal enthusiasts can earn money by walking or boarding pets with services like Rover or Wag. After the initial screening process, you’re ready to make money while you hang with your furry friends.
- Offer your services as a coach: If you've got a passion for helping people achieve their potential then a coaching side hustle may be right for you. See Coaching Business While Working: The Definitive Guide (2021) for a complete guide.
5. Maintain a Balanced Workload
As you take on more gigs, you may find yourself getting requests from new clients, which can quickly add up.
Hold yourself accountable to this new work while maintaining a balance between burning out and making time for yourself. Don’t overcommit yourself to projects, especially if you already have a demanding full-time job. Remember to keep time in your daily schedule for self-care, exercise and personal activities.
An excellent way to retain a manageable schedule is to set simple and attainable objectives for both your work and personal life, for example:
- Work goal: Apply to five new freelance projects this week
- Personal goal: Set aside 1.5 hours this weekend to work out, meditate or watch a movie
Start Your First Side Hustle This Year
The burgeoning gig economy is making it easier than ever to use your talents to make more money, hone your current skills, or simply diversify your workload. Use these five simple steps to get going with your first side hustle.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
If you are thinking about running your own business, or already do so, but feel that you need some guidance, then this eBook is for you. It takes you through self-employment in easy steps, helping you to ensure that your business has more chance of success.
The Skills You Need Guide to Self-Employment and Running Your Own Business is the guide no new or aspiring entrepreneur can afford to be without!
Based on our popular self-employment and entrepreneurship content.
About the Author
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer and business owner. She’s written about professional development and growing a freelance business for sites like UpWork, BlueSteps and Virgin.