Want to start a business but don’t know the first thing about working for yourself? A side hustle is often the perfect introduction to the business world. It allows you to dip your toe into all aspects of self-employment, with the security of not leaving your full-time job.
Many side hustles are extremely profitable and with focus, can grow to replace or exceed your employment income. If your side hustle is operated online, then you can have business in any country and importantly, any timezone.
Many side hustles can operate in only a few hours a week but can easily scale or shrink depending on your availability. If you productise your side hustle, then you can create a product once and sell it many times. But we’ll get into that more later.
In this article, I’ll outline everything you need to know about starting a side hustle and earning an extra income.
Note of caution – if you’re side hustle is competing with your day job, this could be a breach of your contract. Be mindful to read your employment contract.
What is a side hustle?
A side hustle is an additional job or piece of work that you complete outside of your normal employment. Back in the olden days (like 10 years ago), we’d have called this a second job…
A side hustle could include working for someone else providing services, or more commonly it’s now used as the term for your own venture into self-employment.
I firmly believe that anyone can start a business or side hustle. You don’t need to be the smartest in the room, nor do you need to have the next big idea. To be successful in any side hustle you need to have 1 thing.
What’s the one thing you need to be successful in a side hustle?
Discipline is by far the most important trait you should have when starting a side hustle. You will need to put the work in, even when you don’t feel like it. Even when there’s no boss there, telling you what to do. Even when you feel like a complete imposter, discipline to keep moving forward, to keep on working towards your goal and being optimistic about your opportunity is critical.
Myths about being successful in business
If you subscribe to any business influencers online they’ll regularly state that to be successful you need to work 80 hours a week, you need to get up at 4 am and you need to squash your competition into dust. A lot of that is pure rubbish to be honest. Yes, there are people who are successful and fully subscribe to hustle culture, but you can be successful without the aggressive hustle culture.
What you do need though is the ability and DISCIPLINE to make your time working on your business count. No swapping between socials, no TikTok scrolling and no videos, unless it’s part of your marketing plan. Discipline in focus trumps all!
Why should you start a side hustle?
The reasons you might want to start a side hustle will be personal to you. Those new entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to over the years generally fall into a few key reasons, however.
Increasing your income
By and large, the greatest single reason for starting a side hustle is to make more money. If you think about your salary, whether it’s £20,000, £40,000 or £100,000, you’re going to get a single-figure percentage increase in an average year. Earning, £5,000, £10,000 or £20,000 in a profitable side hustle is the quickest way to increase your income.
Depending on your financial goals, this newly increased income could be utilised to create an emergency fund, pay down debt, pay off your mortgage or invest for early retirement.
A recession is always coming and this often means that there could be redundancies in your regular employment. In fact, this doesn’t ever have to be limited to periods of recession. Your job could be at risk due to any number of internal and external factors.
By having a side hustle, you are less reliant on the financial income from your job. If the worst should happen, your side hustle may provide a level of financial security.
Developing new skills
None of us is born with all the skills needed to start and run a profitable side hustle. Starting a business is a process and there are skills that you will need to learn or have knowledge of in order to be successful. The saying that “every day is a schoolday” couldn’t be more true than in entrepreneurship.
As your business grows or the services you provide develop, many of us will need to learn these skills to ensure we provide these to the highest level. In your day job as a doctor for example, SEO or search engine optimisation wouldn’t be anything you’d need to consider.
However, as a doctor providing a series of private procedures, being found on the internet for key search terms is an important factor. You may not need to know all the SEO processes, but a basic understanding of best practices is critical. Even if you then get someone else to do it for you.
6 steps to starting a side hustle
1. Pick your business (Find your niche)
For the majority of people, deciding what to sell is the hardest part of starting a business. The belief is often that they have no marketable skills or no idea what people would pay for. Many fail to proceed beyond this step, because of their own limiting beliefs.
I appreciate this is a tough step for many, so check out my list of 94 amazing side hustles you can start from home, in your spare time, with little or no money. Think about the skills you possess and how you might be able to make money from them. If you’re really stuck, then hopefully the list above will inspire you to take action.
If you’re a graphic designer, I have a list of graphic design side hustles that won’t get you fired.
2. Understand legal responsibilities
Depending on the side hustle you are starting, then there may be a consideration for the legal responsibilities you have as the provider of these services or products.
For example, I have a friend who makes graze-style boxes every weekend. Before she could start this business, she researched everything she could about food preparation and the accreditations she needed to produce graze boxes from home. Her food preparation processes were audited by the food standards agency before she started the business, ensuring she met and exceeded her legal expectations of handling and preparing food.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s your duty to understand and comply with any rules or legislation that affect your ability to do business. Unfortunately, ignorance of the rules is not a defence you can rely on in court if the worst happened.
3. Start small
You don’t need to take over the world tonight or indeed tomorrow. Nor do you need to spend £1,000, £10,000 or more to start your side hustle. Take small steps to start your business, take your time to learn the art of business and build a sustainable and profitable side hustle.
Once you understand the expectations of your customers, your own processes for fulfilling these orders and the aspects of your business that you can and can’t do alone, then it’s time to consider scaling.
We are all endless procrastinators. We use things we think we’ll need as barriers to starting or continuing. No, you don’t need a new Macbook Pro when your software works fine on your current machine. No, you don’t need to invest in a stock when you currently have zero orders or a way for customers to buy from you. Unless you 100% it, don’t spend money on things you think you’ll need.
There is always time to scale and ramp up your side hustle.
4. Sales & marketing
In my opinion, the most important part of starting a side hustle will revolve around selling and marketing your services and products to prospective customers. This will be alien to most people and in my experience, the majority of non-sales people fear selling. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Yes, it’s new. Yes, it’s scary, but the very worst that can happen is that a prospective customer can say no. OOOOOOOHHHH.
Being confident in your product or service is critical to gaining the trust of your first customers. Then delivering what you say, when you say is key to keeping them. Your first customers are putting trust in you and you should reward this trust by going above and beyond their expectations. Asking them to provide a testimonial or social proof of your work will go a long way to helping others decide to choose you in the future.
Word of mouth
If you do a great job and your client is happy, then always ask them to make a recommendation for your services. This word-of-mouth referral network can be one of the best assets you have from a sales and marketing perspective. I had one client who recommended 4 of our top 10 clients one year. Why? His project was a success and he trusted we’d look after the clients he referred to us.
On the other side of things, I have one supplier who helped my previous company with overflow work on animation projects. He originally grew up just a few miles away from our office but lives in Sydney now. He was introduced to me, by another agency owner he worked for previously. We regularly sent work his way that added up to thousands of pounds per month. We were happy with the arrangement and he was also. We were his sole side hustle, making up a large chunk of his overall income.
5. Know your worth
When you first start your side hustle, pricing your products or services can be a daunting prospect. On the one hand, you don’t want to be too expensive, on the other, being too cheap doesn’t benefit you. We all face imposter syndrome from time to time and your initial thoughts may of course lead you to believe your true worth is less than it should be.
Price your work at what you believe to be a fair price, then for the next customer, increase this slightly. Keep increasing your prices until people begin to say no. Very quickly you’ll understand what the market rate for your services is. It’s often a lot higher than you expect.
6. Time management
Remember this is your second job and you should never let it encroach on or affect your primary job. Keep calls, or emails to lunchtime or after working hours will keep the two separate as much as possible.
As you’ll be working on your side hustle in the mornings, evenings and weekends, its incredibly important that you manage your time effectively. There will be no boss looking over your shoulder telling you what to do. Learning to be effective with your limited time will ensure you can make your side hustle work for you.
You don’t need to work 80 hours a week on your side hustle, but spending an hour or two each evening and a chunk of time each weekend will be a huge help.
Batching your side hustle tasks such as marketing or sales calls will help you concentrate your efforts and stay effective as you get busier.
Keeping your side hustle profitable
Remember the purpose of your side hustle is to make money. If it regularly costs you money, you could go into debt and that’s of course, not a good thing. Always revisit your pricing to make sure each of your services or products remains profitable.
Never be afraid to reject unprofitable work or to go back to a client to update their quote if the scope of work has changed beyond what was quoted. It can be hard to talk about money and costs or to ask for a sale when you’re starting out, but these are skills you will need to learn, fast.
A sale isn’t a sale until the money is in the bank
If you do a good job, always expect to be paid and I never have any qualms about asking for payment. But that comes from experience. When starting a side hustle many people fear asking or talking about payment. Make sure you set out clearly your expectations for payment and if you are working on a large project never fear asking for a sizeable deposit.
In my time in business, the only people who question a deposit or try to change payment terms are those who you need to be careful working with.
My biggest red flag in business is when a client says that cost is not an issue. If they say this, I’m immediately alert to the fact it probably is.
Depending on your tax bracket you will need to retain 30-45% of your profits for tax purposes. It is a common mistake of those starting a side hustle, thinking that the taxman won’t come looking for them or their taxes, but eventually, they will. At the end of each financial year, speak to your accountant and get this to account for any profits in your year-end tax self-assessment.
Things I wish I knew when starting a business
Create once, sell many products
It’s easy to become busy working on your side hustle selling your time as a service. By creating a product that you can sell over and over again, you can focus your attention on other areas of your business. Creating a product that people want isn’t easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding.
Know where every penny comes from and goes
Understanding every part of your finances is the key to creating and keeping a profitable side hustle. Don’t spend money unnecessarily and keep track of who owes you money. If you can get pre-payment on any of your products or services this would be a huge advantage. If possible, find a way to manage this as part of your sales process.
The key to building a profitable side hustle is to create a product or service that people want to pay for. Once you have this, managing your time effectively and getting further sales is the perfect next goal. Keep on top of your finances and ALWAYS keep your side hustle separate from your day job.
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