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5 Steps for Starting a Successful Side Hustle

5 min read

A 2017 survey from Bankrate shows that more than 44 million Americans have a side hustle, helping them earn extra money outside of their full-time job. Itching to start something for yourself? Whether you want to grow your savings account, have a passion project you’ve been dreaming about working on for years, or are looking to eventually build a business, here are five straightforward steps that’ll help you start something successfully.

1. Start with that thing you’re good at or love to do.

Plenty of side hustles are born out of passion, creativity or personal interest. Since your side hustle doesn’t need to be a bona fide business just yet (though perhaps it will be someday), all you need to do is figure out is how you can spend more time working on something you love.

My web and content production studio GoldSquare was born out of my need to be creative outside of my job as a growth marketer at a fast-growing startup. I’d always loved design, writing and creating digital content, so I started creating Squarespace websites after work or on the weekends for friends who had projects, personal goals or businesses. Not only did my side hustle excite me and help reignite my creativity, but it also helped me understand exactly who might need or want my help with this kind of work.

2. Understand where your side hustle adds value for people or businesses.

Once you’ve figured out what makes you tick and have more allocated time for it, you’ll need to understand how your product or services can help people or companies. Does what you offer save them time? Does it make life simpler or more joyful? Is it something they want or they need? Knowing the answers to these important questions will be key for positioning yourself and your side hustle as you work to monetize it.

When I first started creating websites for people and their businesses, I realized that the final result of my work was a tool they could use to share themselves and what they do or offer with the world. For many of those people, having a beautiful website opened up doors and helped them capitalize on opportunities. I realized that my services saved them stress by making their lives easier in this way while bringing them joy as they were empowered to share their stories.

3. Nail your niche.

Now that you have a clear idea of how helpful your offerings are, you’ll want to streamline what you can do in a concise and easy to understand way. Though you likely have several components or things you’re capable of, hone in on the most obvious one and start by serving it up as a solo offering. This way, you can maintain a super focus and collect feedback that will help your side hustle adapt and evolve as demand grows.Though I started with building websites, I’ve since expanded my company’s offerings to include copywriting, copy editing and content development. My decision to do this came after receiving feedback from early paying customers—they were looking for a one-stop shop, and I had the experience to help them. Listening to feedback has been key to building a business that continues to offer what’s valuable to the people who need my services most.

4. Build a portfolio, website or deck.

Though it’s not usually advisable to work for free, starting a successful side hustle might call for doing a few pro-bono projects or offering up unpaid products so you can build your portfolio while starting to spread the word. If you’re not sure where to begin, you might consider asking friends and colleagues, looking for small businesses that need help, or even talking with non-profits that always need resources.

When I was looking for fun projects while working full-time for someone else, I used social media to let my social circles know I was experimenting with Squarespace and would love to build a few free sites for friends (and their friends). Not only did I get to work with a contact who was an Oakley Ambassador, but I also got to create a website for my cousin, who is a well-known chef. All it took was a couple of social posts to let people know what I was interested in doing, and I came away with real experience and two standout examples that I still share today.

5. Spread the word.

Once you have a couple of work examples or case studies available in a portfolio, deck or website that’s easy to share, you’ll feel more confident about spreading the word about your work. There are a number of ways you can do this, including telling people (word of mouth), posting on social media, emailing your contacts with some language they can use to share what you do, or even by purchasing paid ads (Google, social media).

Once you’re rocking and rolling, make it a point to take notes and optimize what works and what doesn’t. Your observations will help you tweak and refine what you’re working on.  Pay close attention to important numbers (such as your spend, profit and key business metrics) and the feedback you receive from your clients and customers; it’ll help guide you forward as you grow.

Making your side hustle into your full-time career? Follow our Business of Wellness series for tips from experts and success stories.

About The Author

Krista Gray

Krista Gray

Krista Gray is a web producer and freelance writer who lives in San Francisco. When she's not working with clients through her company GoldSquare, she loves reading, traveling and learning new things.