Getting paid for pursuing your passion is what every modern person dreams of. Imagine a Monday morning where you get up and paint all day in your own studio rather than commute into an office where you toil away at spreadsheet after spreadsheet. Sounds pretty nice, right?
Still, as most of us know, turning a hobby into a lucrative business successfully, or forging a path to make your own name without job security can be intimidating. What happens if you invest everything and fail? It’s no doubt a scary thought.
But think about it this way: “Have you ever worked on something that felt so engaging that you simply didn’t want it to end?” Chris Guillebeau asks in his book, The Happiness of Pursuit. He added, “Perhaps you wouldn’t sneak into your office to work after being terminated, but if you found something you loved, you’d want to hang on to it for as long as you could.” Or think about the potential of making an impact outside of your 9-5, even if you don’t know what that impact could be yet.
“To be creative, don’t think outside the box. Make yourself a box and get in it!” Guillebeau says. Side hustle ideas are all around us, he says. It’s turning that idea into an asset (think back to econ class’ supply and demand chart) that’s going to be the key to making some green.
Contrary to popular belief, finding the right side hustle could actually give you more financial security and help you pay off an outstanding loan or save up for something big. As Chris Guillebeau writes in his book, Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, “In today’s environment, where the idea of a business having any sense of loyalty to its workers has all but disappeared, the side hustle is the new job security.”
There are about three different kinds of side hustles, generally speaking. The first is selling a product, the second is providing a service, and the third is being a middleman to a service, like improving an already existing but flawed industry.
With all of that being said, the big question is where to start, and what idea to hone in on to take your side hustle to the next level. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the scary waters of self-employment and side hustling, and to help you ultimately steer the ship.
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Explore an interest, realistically
Love cocktails? Joe Maiellano, a director of development at a cancer research facility in Philadelphia did. He dreamt of opening up a distillery but knew he didn’t have enough capital for that, plus there were too many regulations. So, he came up with homemade gin kits for people to make in their own kitchens. The kits took off, and positive reviews and of course, copycats ensued. Maiellano never opened his own distillery, but he felt just as fulfilled with his venture. The lesson of this story is to take the things you love, and the big dreams that follow them and then identify the obstacles that make those big dreams implausible at this moment in time. Then brainstorm and research about the opportunities surrounding that interest and dream to come up with a realistic and profitable idea.
Build off of a skill
A graphic designer named Julia Kelly always enjoyed sketching, so she took a part-time summer gig as a caricature artist at a local amusement park. When that ended, she reached out to schools and establishments to hire her for their events, and soon enough, she was making $250 an hour. “A feasible idea is one that you can turn into reality using the skills, time, and resources you already have,” Guillebeau says. Think about a skill you have, and how you could maybe tutor others if you don’t want to actually perform that skill. That’s what Dan Khadem did with tutoring others on how to use a database that he was adept at.
Follow the money
A woman named Andrea Hajal moved from her native country Spain in order to be with her new husband. Missing dogs and wanting some extra cash, she signed up for a dog-like Airbnb platform. There are many businesses like this, ranging from Airbnb for humans to freelance labor apps like TaskRabbit. So how do you stand out in these saturated marketplaces? Check out the competition. What makes certain businesses the best or so attractive? Hajal found that it was those with lots of photos, so she posted lots of pictures to her site too. Then she went above and beyond whenever she could, sending the owner’s plenty of photos and responding quickly to inquiries. “You want to identify something that you can do better or differently than the competition,” Guillebeau says.
Imagine your ideal client
Everything has a demographic, or targeted audience. Who’s yours? For tech guru Shannon Mattern, it was women like herself who wanted their own business but didn’t know the ins and outs of running it. This allowed her to hone in on what these clients needed, and how she could help them. It turned out to be through building them websites. Think about the demands of the kinds of people you want to help, and how you can assist them. Sometimes, if it’s a big task like helping the world, you may feel intimidated. Instead of thinking about what excites you, in this case, think about what bothers you, Guillebeau, says. Then apply your skills to that. You may end up going from idea to income a lot faster than you thought.
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