Five Steps To Finding Your Side Hustle

Posted on October 9, 2012 | By Mindy Crary

Five Steps To Finding Your Side Hustle

I hate frugality. I think it makes sense not to waste money, but I’m not just going to cut back for the sake of cutting back. And I hate it when I see my clients having tight cash flow, looking for ways to cut back even more to fit their life into their income bracket. I much prefer they make more money than spend less. So in those cases, I recommend a side hustle.

A “side hustle” is my term for earning money doing something other than your primary job. For self employed people, a side hustle can be the way to make rent while you’re building the business. Regardless of the reason, a side hustle provides peace of mind and additional income to help pay off debt, build reserves and fund your goals when your regular employment cash flow seems too tight to make it all work.

Examples of Side Hustles

Renee was a client service coordinate for a financial advisor friend of mine. Her background was in non-profit event management, but she couldn’t find a position in that field with the economy being so tough the past several years. Her boss loved the fact that she was so savvy at planning and executing events, and she started getting approached by other financial advisors to plan their events too. Since she can do it anywhere she has a phone and computer, she could easily moonlight after work for four more advisors when her kids were watching TV. She made an extra $20,000 in one year.

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Jay was an IT professional working for a high-tech company. All of his self-employed friends had trouble setting up computers with the proper software and backup systems, so he started charging a retainer for tech set-up and then monthly maintenance. This was something he could do from 9-11 pm at night, when his kids were in bed. He increased his income by $30,000 in one year.

Jeanine worked at one of the local tech companies in Seattle where you’re allowed to bring your dog to work. She had always loved dogs and her own were agility-trained, so it was easy for her to connect with other dog owners. She started being the “go-to” person for training and behavioral questions, and started volunteering to care for the dogs when the owners traveled. By the end of the year, Jeanine had banked the $15,000 she had made from doing pet visits on the side and was ready to launch her full-time pet sitting and pet behavioral consulting business.

Laura was a self-employed small business attorney just getting her business of the ground. While she marketed and worked on her business by day, four nights per week she was a hostess for a local steak house—a position she loved, since she had been friends with the owners all her life, and had helped them out whenever they needed an extra hand. Tips and wages covered her rent and groceries so she never had to worry about bringing in enough money when her business was in start-up mode.

How To Become A Side Hustler

There are plenty of articles out there telling you WHAT you can offer as a side hustle. The problem is that you start filtering ideas only by what sounds good to you, which may take you down a path that is time-consuming or a distraction. Here are some rules of thumb to follow if you want to start a side hustle:

Build on what you can already do. In the examples, Renee, Jay, Laura and Jeanine all did things that they already had skills for. It might not be Renee’s ultimate dream to plan events for financial advisors forever, but she’s building contacts and a foundation that will serve her should she ever want to strike out on her own, OR if she wants to get back into the non-profit world. Don’t get caught up in certifications or training to do things unless it aligns with your long-term career goals.

You have to enjoy the work. The above examples were all about people doing things that they could easily do for a few hours every evening without feeling too put out or frustrated. So whatever you choose as your side hustle should be something you can do without counting the moments until it’s done.

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Don’t expect rainbows and unicorns. Some people seem to think that you should feel unending joy every moment of your work life, but sometimes work is just work. A side hustle is about exploiting your skills for financial gain, versus fulfilling your dreams. It might turn into your dream job—like a client of mine who did photography as her side hustle and became so successful she quit her full-time job—but it’s still work.

Get comfortable with ambiguity. The side hustle can be a temporary phase (like in Laura’s start-up situation) or it can be open-ended. Jay said, “I don’t know if I’ll do this forever or not. But for now, it’s the perfect thing to do for my family so my wife doesn’t need to work while the kids are young.” The point is, you don’t need to decide what it is until it becomes clear to you. Many people feel like they have to “commit” to something, when a side hustle is only there for your convenience and benefit. You can quit at any time.

Build in downtime. You can’t just work seven days per week and stay healthy. Make sure you still have time for exercise, family and maintaining your health. It usually never comes to this; most people spend about 3 hours or more watching TV per day, time which can easily be redirected to more productivity.

Actions This Week

  1. Get clear on your personal benefits for doing a side hustle. It might be to fund a specific trip, pay off debt, enable a spouse to stay home with kids or something else. The clearer you are about the benefits a side hustle has for you and your family, the easier it will be to choose one.
  2. Brainstorm your skills. Make a list of EVERYTHING you can do in detail . . . one client turned making travel arrangements into a full-time job. You never know what’s going to be valuable to someone else.
  3. Stay confident. Most people under value their skills, especially if it’s in regard to something they do easily. You can be paid for virtually anything you can do.
  4. Don’t make it about business costs. Most people can start a side hustle for less than $100. If your idea starts ballooning into something with major overhead, you need to rethink your strategy.

And in the comments below, tell me . . .

What’s the most imaginative side hustle idea you’ve heard?

And thanks for stopping by and being part of the Creative Money community!

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6 Responses to “Five Steps To Finding Your Side Hustle”

  1. […] they can ever spend in a lifetime understand the need to diversify and create side businesses (or side hustles) more than the everyday professional. Business as usual no longer exists. The days of working for […]

  2. I definitely agree with building-in downtime. Because it’s FAR too easy to become burned-out with burning the candle at both ends (as they say).
    Justin McClelland recently posted..6 sneaky ways to work your side-hustle at work, without getting firedMy Profile

  3. Treanne Kidd says:

    I loved your article Mindy!

    I guess I am a side hustler and it really makes life a lot more enjoyable since I started. I pet sit and dog walk on the side and it has allowed me to use that money for a few of my bigger bills every month. I find I can do things I might not have been able to afford without this side job. It is definitely worth it, if you have the time and energy to put forth, to try a side hustle. It will relieve some of the burdens you may have.

    Thanks again for the good read!

    Treanne Kidd recently posted..Foster Kittens – Caring for and raising newborn and young kittensMy Profile

  4. Renee says:

    Mindy, what a wonderful post. I was just figuring out my side hustle and its nice to say that you don’t need to know everything now. And to build on the skills you have. I will be going through your action steps this weekend.

  5. Nick Loper says:

    Hi Mindy,

    Great post and great examples of some real-life side-hustlers adding some serious cash to their annual incomes!

    The most imaginative side hustle? A friend of mine buys and sells iPhones on craigslist and ebay … it’s pretty fascinating because I would assume the marketplace is pretty efficient. He’s proving that it’s not, to the tune of several thousand dollars a month!


    Nick Loper recently posted..Is It Worth It?My Profile

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