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10 Steps for Setting Up a Side Hustle - Step #1

Authored By: Madeline Anderson-Balmer on 11/9/2020

While you may already be making a little extra cash writing papers, tutoring, doing contract work for a local business, wouldn’t it be nice to start building a side hustle that can grow with you and maybe even turn into your primary business? Or at least a side business that feels less like work and more like an opportunity to take advantage of who you are and what you enjoy?

As the saying goes, love what you do, and you’ll never “work” a day in your life. Well, maybe that’s not exactly the saying. Still, according to a recent Gallup poll (as quoted in Forbes magazine), 70% of Americans either hated their job or were “disengaged” from their work. When you’re considering a side hustle, why not make sure it’s something you will actually look forward to engaging with? This series of posts will delve deeper into each of the steps outlined in our first post, Smart Steps for Setting Up a Side Hustle. Just do a search for Small Business Articles to find it!

Step 1 – What do I enjoy?

  • Do you know what you enjoy?
  • Do you really enjoy it?
  • Or is it just fun or interesting when friends are around?

Give some thought to the question and start up a list:

  • What skills do you have that you enjoy using?
  • What are your interests? Whether they’ve been a life-long interest or something new that has piqued an interest you want to pursue. 

Starting up a true side hustle that will earn you money is going to take some time. Unfortunately, it’s not a “flip the switch, and the money comes pouring in” kind of thing, at least not for most people. Although wouldn’t THAT be wonderful? So once your list is made, view each item from the perspective that you may be spending every evening and a good deal of time on weekends involved in those activities. A fondness for pouring over all the rescue puppies available for adoption online, isn't an indicator that you’re going to love spending hours looking for clients and then walking dogs for money. Will your love of social media, still be love when you’re doing it with a deadline for someone else, or ahead of a weekend getaway when your client requests a third round of revisions? Those are the honest questions to ask yourself.

Find your affinity

What are you naturally good at, or so passionate about that the idea of doing it every day sounds like a good idea? Also, what’s your favorite part of your 9 – 5 job? Is it something you could do on the side? Maybe in a different industry? Do you write? Code? Design? So many opportunities exist for freelancers in any number of industries.  

Ryan Robinson of StartupNation says, “…a business is nothing more than a format for channeling your skills, experience, abilities, and interests into a neat little package that helps people accomplish something meaningful.” When you put it like that, who wouldn’t want to start up a side hustle and help the world?

Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse… or the Rocket Before the Science

Yes, it’s fun to dream. Playing around with company names, logos, long term business plans, and even what you’ll do with your millions once you’ve become successful, it can be addicting. But when you first start out, set your goals. Take the steps needed to start your business and set realistic growth goals to measure progress as things start rolling. Don’t jump into extra projects before they’re needed. Don’t hire a support team or pay for services before you’ve got your first customer! Don't rent a space, or purchase a vehicle if you haven't even got a client (family doesn't count!) And don’t sell yourself short! If you’re good at something, if you’re passionate about something, and if what you have to offer is something people are actively looking for in the market, it’s probably a good idea. So how do you know who’s looking for your services or product?


Do your research

OK, something as simple as writing isn’t simple for the average person. Do a google search for freelance writing jobs, and you come up with 92,800,000 results (at least when I was writing this article)! 

That’s a whole lot of opportunity. Give some thought to your market; who wants your skills, how they would use them, and who are your competitors. How easy will it be to reach those prospective clients? You’ll quickly find out whether the market is there, whether there is already an abundance of providers, and maybe even information on a fair rate to charge for your work. See a specific industry or market that’s not being covered? You’ve got a start on fine-tuning your offer. The important thing is to do your research first. Talk to people and let them know what you’re thinking of offering. That will be a good indicator of interest in what you're planning.

Set a Starting Timeframe

You could spend months (or years) just dreaming about owning your own business, being your own boss, and all the money you’d make. It’s easy to get caught up in the dreams of success. Instead, set a kickoff date for the development and a decision date by which the plan should be in place. Give yourself 3 – 6 months if you want, but pick a date. And set up a few first-year goals that include getting clients, promoting your business, or even just signing up with a service to have them help you find work.

At this point, there shouldn’t be any huge expenses involved unless you are going to be a driver and need a vehicle or want to groom dogs and need a space to do your work. But if there are expenses involved in getting started, even just paying for internet access or a new computer, build this into your plan. If you’re going to borrow funds, or use a credit card, set a goal for repaying those items shortly, not some far off date. At MIT Federal Credit Union, we’ve got calculators that can help set up budgets and personal loans to help with those “getting my business off the ground” expenses. 

You’ve made a choice to look into a side hustle; take the time to consider the options presented by your own specific skills and experience. When it comes to competitive edge, this is the time to find out where and what that means for you. 

Watch for our next post Step #2 Am I Good at What I Enjoy? Sometimes it means being brutally honest and getting feedback from your network. But it’s another important step. 



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