Get Serious About Your Side Hustle with These Easy Tips
Ahhh, the life of a side-hustler. Sweet, ain't it?
Yeah...not so much.
Working a side hustle is rarely something many of us do "on purpose;" more likely, we fall into it. Several Etsy shop owners and independent makers I've had the fortune of knowing have admitted that their successful brands and businesses grew out of side hustles that started as nothing more than a mere hobby. Something they did for fun, or to unwind and relax during their spare time. When they realized they could make money from it, many opened a Shopify or Etsy store, uploaded images of their craft, and got to work fulfilling the odd order here and there. Whether it's clothing items, skincare, jewelry, or digital products, most of us create a side hustle from something we're already good at. That's the beauty of the side hustle: you get to earn extra income from something you already love doing.
My own experience with the side hustle has been varied, and it certainly wasn't an easy road. I share my tips and advice for side hustles and how to start your own in another blog article you can read here. It's geared towards writers and content creators, but you don't have to be a wordsmith to benefit from it or at least find some relatable tidbits of information packed away. My side hustle was writing - content creation, to be exact. I started out creating written and graphical content for real estate agents in my city, and when other agents caught on, they asked me to help with creating copy for their websites, in addition to creating websites for them. Before I knew it, I was transitioning from occasional content creator for marketing material to full-blown copywriter and web designer. Now, I earn a living offering copywriting, content creation, and creative services to clients. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
Well, you'd be surprised. I didn't begin earning money overnight, nor did I wake up one sunny morning and have a roster of clients or customers waiting on my porch or banging down my door. It took work, dedication, several late nights spent wondering just what the hell I was doing, and sometimes shedding a few tears. See, I'm not only a content creator, but also a full-time university student pursuing my second Bachelor's degree. I had to find a way to juggle my work and school, without sacrificing my social life or personal time. But here's the thing: people do it everyday. I did it. And so can you.
If you've already read my post about how to get started with your own side hustle, cool! You'll probably find this one helpful, too. It's important to remember that side hustles can blossom into something pretty beautiful that can even manifest themselves into an actual job. I love each and every client I take on, and have come to expect new challenges and hurdles with every project. But in order to actually get serious about your side hustle - especially if you want to turn it into a job, and not just a "hobby" that earns you some extra cash - you may need a few helping hands in the form of some cool tips from someone who's been there, done that, and has lived to tell the tale.
It doesn't really matter what you sell, but if you're totally unorganized and there's little to no method in your madness, you'll likely experience difficulty in getting your side hustle going, let alone having it be successful. This tip probably seems quite obvious, and you're probably sitting at your computer reading this and thinking, "Thank you captain obvious!" However, you'd be surprised at how tiring, stressful, and complicated the organizational aspects of a side hustle can be. The first thing I suggest you do is write up a side hustle plan - similar to a business or organizational plan which details your service(s), your niche, your advertising options, digital exposure plans, finance options, etc. Most freelancers or side-hustlers start with the basics - like a website or online platform where they sell their goods and/or services - so sitting down and working on your setup could be the most crucial part of your organizational plan. You could try:
- Setting up a website for your side hustle on Squarespace, Wordpress, Wix or Shopify where you can house a portfolio of your services or products, information about you, contact options for prospective clients/customers, and a showcase of what you do.
- Selling your goods or services through a digital marketplace, such as Etsy, which will save you money on website costs and which makes it simple to list goods and services.
- Employing daily planners to keep track of side-hustle related tasks
- Performing research into competitors, your niche, what you should be charging, etc.
Other parts of your organizational plan may include sitting down with an accountant or financial advisor to discuss your options for keeping track of income; opening a business account with your bank for your side hustle earnings; compiling lists of influencers, brands, or individuals you'd like to approach for exposure; meeting with other creatives to design your product packaging, graphics, and other elements for your websites, and so on. The key point here is to approach your side hustle in an organized manner; if you can't organize and smoothly operate every aspect of your side hustle, you'll likely have a tough time seeing success from it.
Use contracts - seriously
This is something I never really did when I first started out. When my side hustle was in its infancy, I figured there was no need for contracts or agreements. Sometimes, depending on how small the scope of work is, I still don't use a contract - but I'm getting better at it, I swear. Baby steps, right? But when it comes to large-scale projects where the scope of work is considerable, and the amount you could lose without a contract is also quite high, contracts are a must. In fact, you should use them always. Contracts serve several purposes, chief among them being that they protect both yourself and your client. They:
- Help protect you as an independent contractor by ensuring the client purchasing your services understands the scope of work, the finer details, payment procedures, and costs
- Prevent people from not paying you in the event that a project goes bust, the client cancels, or something else occurs which would cause a client to not compensate you for the work you've been contracted to do
- Protect your clients by setting clear work goals, payment details, scope of work details, and cost details while also ensuring your clients are aware of the parameters of the work
- Help you operate a more professional side hustle
Of course, contracts aren't necessary in every situation; for example, if you sell goods such as clothing or beauty products online, you're unlikely to need a contract. But if you're an independent contractor - aka a freelancer - offering creative services like copywriting, graphic design, blogging, etc., contracts are essential in protecting both yourself and your clients.
Contracts can, however, be quite daunting. I totally get it. Traditionally, you would visit a contract lawyer or similar who could help you draft a contract template which you could use for each client or project, but with lawyer fees, many refrain from taking this important step. Fortunately, there are alternatives which make contracts and agreements pretty simple and, in some cases, may not cost you a dime.
Need a contract for your creative services? Try Shake or Law Depot for contracts you can easily customize, and have a lawyer briefly look them over. This can help cut costs whilst ensuring you have a viable contract template for your work.
Price it Right
When it comes to pricing your services or goods, the struggle can be hella real. Most side-hustlers I've spoken to (and those I've asked for advice from) have noted that pricing often comes with a period of trial and error; you learn quickly what works, what doesn't, and how to properly (and fairly) price your goods and/or services. For me, pricing was definitely a challenge, and it took some considerable research into my niche to discern what was fair and what wasn't - for both myself and the client. When setting your prices, you may feel as though you're walking a fine line between trying to get clients and just straight up selling your soul (and work) for pennies.
Here's the thing: that method doesn't work. If you lowball your prices and charge far below what you, your work, and your experience is actually worth, you end up setting a precedent whereby people will purchase your goods or services because they're cheap. You want to attract real, loyal, and discerning clients who are looking for quality and good work, not necessarily the "best deal."
So, how do you figure this stuff out? It isn't easy. My first piece of advice is to do research into your niche to find out what the "going rate" is for services or goods similar to your own. This will probably involve looking at your top or main competitors to see how they have priced their goods/services, and how your goods/services compare to theirs. You'll likely have to sit down with a calculator (and perhaps a business whiz) to figure out how much you'd ideally like to earn from your work, your hypothetical "hourly rate," etc. My second piece of advice is to use what some in Communications call "direct contact:" going straight to the source and requesting help or guidance. Know a guru, mentor, or seasoned side-hustler? Ask them for candid advice as to how they arrived at their prices, rates, etc. Most side-hustlers who have gone legit are happy to help others do the same.
Get your invoicing act together
This may not seem like a big deal, but invoicing can actually be a pretty big deal. If you offer creative services, chances are you've considered how you're going to accept payments, bill clients for payments, and keep track of payments. Well, hey now, you've been considering invoicing all along.
According to some fancy websites on Google, invoices are documents that service or goods providers send clients or customers which specify the work and cost(s) of goods or services that one individual is supplying another. Invoices are not contracts (though wouldn't life be a bit simpler if they were?); rather, invoices detail the payment and cost information for the services or goods you as a side-hustler (aka freelancer, aka independent contractor) offer a client or customer. Invoices not only allow you to record and keep track of costs and payments, but allow you to easily accept payments through a variety of online platforms.
Thanks to the increasingly digital world we live in, invoicing applications and tools are available for virtually every type of business - even the small ones started by us humble side-hustlers. One of the most common invoicing systems/platforms is PayPal, which is ridiculously simple to use and is pretty convenient, to boot. However, there are other tools and platforms you can use if PayPal isn't your thing. Invoicing should be a key focus of your side-hustle; it's how you'll accept payments, request compensation, and detail costs/payments to your clients and customers.
If you sell goods (like those clothing or beauty items I briefly mentioned earlier), invoicing won't be a primary concern; you'll most likely sell your goods through a digital platform, such as a Squarespace, Shopify, or Etsy shop. These platforms generate invoices and bills for both you and your customers, and in some cases, even allow you to customize their appearance and the pertinent information included on them.
Your side hustle may not be your full-time gig or day job, but chances are you're pursuing it to turn it into something full-time or to earn serious cash from it. Whatever your reasons, one surefire way to legitimize your side hustle is to get creative. One of the first things I did when going full-time with my side hustle and taking it seriously was purchasing a website and working with a graphic designer. I purchased a website with Squarespace, designed it myself, and reached out to a graphic designer whose work I adored to work on a logo for my own side-hustle-turned-full-time-gig. The total cost for the website and logo were slightly high, but totally worth it; clients complimented me on my website, people noted how much they loved my minimalist logo, and both helped me legitimize my business cards (which I purchased through Moo). Having a logo, a sleek website, and business cards made it simple for prospective clients to find me, view my portfolio of work, and contact me. It also helped them to distinguish me from others offering similar services.
Now, I'm not saying you have to drop everything you're doing and spend thousands of dollars on creative work. The beauty of modern creativity is that platforms like Squarespace and Wix make setting up a website simple and affordable. You can work with a graphic designer who offers services within your budget to create a logo, and platforms like Moo offer cost-effective options for business cards. Some shops on Etsy and similar platforms even offer website, logo, and business card bundles to help you obtain everything you need for one flat fee.
Even if your logo, website, or business cards change down the road as your side hustle changes, having these three elements in place if you're looking to grow your side hustle into something serious will help legitimize your work. And, if you're offering creative services, a website will offer you ongoing exposure by housing your portfolio of work and experience.
Harness the power of advertising
One piece of advice a fellow content creator gave me recently which I really wish I'd had when I first started my side hustle is to harness of the power of advertising - in particular, free advertising. I touch upon this in my first post about side hustles, but I'm reiterating it here because I've seen it work. With the use of social media, virtually everyone has the opportunity to obtain free exposure through platforms such as Facebook and Instagram; the latter being the most popular social media platform today. You may have a limited budget for advertising, may feel stuck about advertising your services or goods, or may simply have no budget at all for this area of your side hustle.
Don't stress. Because there are ways around this.
Most obvious of the ways around advertising woes is to simply use social media. You don't have to have a personal Instagram account in order to create one for your side hustle, but it can help you get some free exposure. Try setting up an Instagram account for your side hustle and employ the following tips:
- Ensure your Instagram bio explains clearly what you offer/what you do, and how people can get in touch with you
- Use relevant hashtags applicable to your niche and perform hashtag research to discover the tags best used for getting eyes on your Instagram feed
- If you have a website, include the link to your website in your Instagram profile so people can easily find it
- Connect your Instagram to your side hustle's Facebook page to make your Instagram account a Business account
- Update your Instagram account regularly with relevant content
You can also set up a Facebook page (you have to have a Facebook account to do so) for your side hustle for added exposure, and invite friends, family, and clients to like your Facebook page. This page can be connected to Instagram to turn your Instagram account in a Business account.
Using Pinterest can help drive traffic to your website and is a simple way to share content. Similarly, adding a blog to your website and updating it regularly with relevant, SEO-friendly content can also help in driving traffic to your website. Most often, social media platforms are free to sign up with and don't cost a penny to post content or information on.
Alternatively, you can reach out to specific platforms, websites, bloggers, writers, and influencers regarding advertising. You may, for example, love the work of a particular blogger who focuses on small business and startup content, and contact them about advertising on their website. There's etiquette to doing this, and not every platform or creative will welcome advertising; you also shouldn't expect creatives (such as bloggers or writers) to advertise your side hustle for free - no one should work for free! But many will welcome the opportunity for paid advertising and can help you obtain further exposure. You can also try paid advertisements on Facebook and Instagram, which allow you to customize your target audiences and reach a certain demographic of people who could be prospective clients.
Practice good bedside manner
I also touched upon this in my first post about side hustles, but I'm a firm believer in good bedside manner. If a client approached you IRL, chances are you would treat them with kindness and listen to their needs; the same should apply to phone and email etiquette. Ensuring your correspondence with clients and prospective ones is professional can go a long way in ensuring the happiness of your clients - and the chance of obtaining new ones.
It's also important to be cognizant of how you come across on social media. If you utilize social media to promote your side hustle, you should ensure your interactions on those platforms are professional and somewhat objective, as opposed to taking comments, criticisms, or negative interactions too much to heart. How you approach those who help make your side hustle possible and successful (i.e. your clients) is just as important as every other aspect of your side hustle.