Convinced you need a side hustle in order to boost your income and fast-track your financial goals -- but not sure how to get going? Anyone, including you, can establish and successfully monetize a side hustle. It’s all about knowing where to start and how to grow your gig.

These tips in getting started come from my own experience with side hustles. I started my own hustle as a way to provide myself with a creative outlet and to earn extra money that could supplement the low income from my job at the time. In less than a year, what started as a side gig turned into a side business -- and then a full-time business.

Seven months after I started earning money from my side hustle, I had a legitimate and sustainable business that allowed me to double my income and quit my day job. From that experience, I’m passionate about showing other people how to create their own gigs. Whether your goal is to simply earn more money or to eventually try self-employment for yourself, here’s how to establish your own side hustle.

ARTICLE: How To Build a Business From Scratch

What Can You Do for a Side Hustle?

This is one of the first questions people ask about side hustles, and it’s a difficult one to answer. Why? Because there is no one right answer. Anything can be a side hustle!

You can petsit or dogwalk; wash cars or run errands for people. You can clean homes or mow lawns. You can pick up freelance work or serve as a consultant. You can create art or products to sell in person or online. You can create an ecommerce site. You can open a food truck. You can serve as a brand ambassador, secret shopper, or focus group participant. You can flip furniture, fix broken appliances, or serve as a personal shopper for someone else.

The possibilities are truly unlimited. If you’re overwhelmed and have no idea what you could do, I’d suggest starting with the following:

Odd jobs in your neighborhood, so you don’t have to travel for your side hustle and it’s easy for word-of-mouth to help you get more work.
Freelancing or consulting, so you can set up shop online and control both your hours and schedule.

I really like the idea of creating a side hustle that’s part of the digital economy. That’s one that allows you to work from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, and it means potential clients or customers aren’t limited by geographical constraints. There are a lot of benefits to working virtually, including the freedom and flexibility.

These elements are really important to a successful -- and sustainable -- side hustle. Again, this is work you’re doing in addition to your full-time job. It will be easier for you to carry out this work if you can make your own schedule and work from wherever you want.

Find Your Sweet Spot

If you want to start a side hustle in order to earn extra money, your work needs to converge on these three points:

  • What you love to do
  • What you’re good at doing
  • What someone else will pay you to do

Creating a hustle off what you love to do is important. This is work you’re doing on the side of your full-time job. Sure, it might mean extra money. But it also means extra work, too. You’ll also need to be self-motivated. This is work you’re doing on your own and in your free time, and no one is going to tell you that you must keep doing it when you’re tired, sick, or bored.

You need to be good at what you do, too. Really good. Why does this matter so much? Because word of mouth marketing is a really powerful tool that you’ll want to use to grow your gig. When you do a stellar job for a client or customer that just knocks their socks off, they’re going to want to tell someone else about it. They’ll tell colleagues and friends where they got such a good service or product -- and in the process, refer more business your way.

Of course, if you want to earn more money you’ll need to pursue something that others will pay you to do. That’s usually going to be something that solves a problem or addresses a pain point. But it could also be something that provides an intense amount of happiness and joy. From experience, people are very willing to pay money to have a problem solved. I suggest tackling the question of “what can I do that people will pay for?” from that angle first.

ARTICLE: Choose Your Side Hustle Carefully

Seek Out a Niche

Finding the right niche -- or specific market segment -- to service is key to side hustle success. You might think that specializing in something specific would limit your clientele. And in a way, it does.

But here’s the reality: you can’t please everyone. Try, and you’ll please no one. Understand that “everyone” is not a market segment. “Everyone” will not be your customer or client. Envision your ideal client, or the person who you want to work with or sell to the most. Imagine a single person and what that person’s needs are.

I’ll use myself as an example here. My business provides content marketing services to other businesses. But I don’t offer unlimited services to anyone who might find me. I specialize in content marketing for financial businesses -- and even more specifically, financial advisors.

This makes it much easier for me to explain what I do in a way that other people understand. I can speak concisely and directly about the services I offer and explain exactly how they help my ideal client. And when a financial advisor starts asking questions or searching for someone who can help them, my name often comes up. This means I don’t have to spend time seeking new clients. They usually find and come to me.

With a niche, you can establish yourself as an authority in what you specialize. You can become the go-to person for the particular service or product you provide to others.

Gain Experience

So far, a lot of what’s been discussed will help you in the planning stages. You can figure out what it is you want to offer and how to position yourself within the market. But that still leaves an important question for anyone just getting started: “How do I get my first paying customer?”

Before you start, getting paid for your side hustle can seem almost impossible. I promise that if you can take that first baby step and get one person to pay you for your service or product, you’ll quickly build momentum and picking up new gigs and clients becomes easier and easier.

So let’s explain how to achieve that first baby step.

If you don’t have any professional experience or references, you might need to spend a little time investing in your side hustle by doing some work for free. This is only temporary until you have a portfolio, testimonials, recommendations, or references to your name.

You can volunteer at a non-profit, offer to help friends and family, or even pitch yourself to a business. Offer to do some work free of charge -- but make sure you’re compensated in the form of a referral or testimonial you can use to get those paying clients.

If you already have experience and people who will recommend you, start leveraging both. Ask your connections if they know of anyone who needs help or could use your service. Pitch yourself to anyone in your circles that you know you could add value to with the work you do.

It’s called a side hustle for a reason. You’ve gotta be willing to hustle!

Create Your Own Platform

Whether or not you’re operating in the digital space, you can benefit from creating your own platform online. Think about it: when you have a question you need the answer to, what do you do? You Google it. Your clients or customers are doing the same.

Giving yourself an online home is a great way to get yourself and your services or products found. Set up a website for yourself (it doesn’t have to be fancy!) and put your portfolio or a digital version of your resume online. Show off what you’ve done and what you can do.

Start Spreading the Word

Once you’ve got your foundations in place -- a bit of experience, a reference or two, and your own platform from which to market yourself, like a website showcasing your portfolio -- it’s time to start spreading the word and growing your side hustle.

Use your own platform to do it. When you’re online, you can take advantage of a lot of free marketing tools: namely, a blog and social media.

A blog can help you establish your authority as an expert in your work. It allows you to display what you know, so potential clients or customers can see you walk the walk and talk the talk. It builds trust in those who might want to work with you.

Social media is a great way of attracting new audiences to what you’re doing, as well. With networks like Twitter, you can grow your following and leverage the social sharing capability of others to get them to help build exposure and reach for you and your side hustle.

Keep Up the Hustle

After you start gaining traction and build up a steady portfolio of work, don’t put things on cruise control. Hustle hard to provide a lot of value to your customers or clients. Aim to make them happy!

Consistently doing awesome work is the best way to grow your side hustle into something more -- if you’re interested in scaling things up. Regardless, a dedication to your work and a respect for the people you serve will be invaluable as a way to grow your reputation as an expert and someone worth working with.

Work hard and aim to add value to the lives or businesses of others, and you’ll always have a line of people out the door (physical or digital) waiting to work with you.

Image of Kali Hawlk About the author: Kali Hawlk

Kali Hawlk is the founder of Common Sense Millennial, a resource for members of Gen Y who want to do more with their money. She works as a writer and content manager, and is passionate about personal finance and business. You can connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk. View More Articles

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