*This is a collaborative post
The gig economy is taking over, with more and more people are turning to freelance work and side gigs to bump up their earnings. In the USA, one in three Americans is a freelancer, and in the UK, it’s estimated half the UK working population will be freelance within the next five years. Lots of those freelancers are using freelance work as a side job, or side hustle, to their main employment. Many of those side hustlers are being savvy and are turning their hobbies into a way to bring in some extra cash.
Depending on what your hobby is, you could turn it into a side hustle and supplement your income doing something you already love. But how?
Create a Business Plan
No business can become successful without proper planning. A good business plan helps you identify how you can monetise your skills to your advantage. Start by doing some research into the market you’re considering and see what demand there is. Who else is doing what you’re thinking of offering? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the competition? What service do they not offer that you can? Whether you’re seeking to earn your living from food photography or web design, you need to know there’s a market.
Think about what sort of business are you going to run. How will you make a profit? What challenges might you face? How will you overcome those challenges?
If the idea of a business plan seems alien to you, it may be worth considering looking into studying a course in business to give you the basics. There are lots of ways you could do this, from an evening class in business skills, to going for an online BBA. Your new skills will help you get your side hustle off the ground.
Find The Time
You can’t run a business, even a side business, without investing some time. Take a look at where your time is going now and see if there’s anywhere you could squeeze out a few extra hours.
When monetising a hobby, it’s easy to think you won’t need more time, but there’s more to a business than the fun parts. You need to find time for the admin side too. You could get up an hour earlier during the week, or use your commute to work instead of read. Could you cut back on your Netflix habit to find some more hours at the weekend?
Make sure you’re not encroaching on your day job, or cutting out any time for friends and family. Some things are more important than a hustle.
Build Your Presence
It’s no good having a side hustle if nobody knows about it, so get marketing. Start with making sure your online presence is on point.
A slick, professional looking website advertising your services can be set up relatively easily with minimal technical knowledge, with online hosts like WordPress or Wix. Your website doesn’t need to be flashy, but it needs to look smart. Get the basics right before adding any bells and whistles. Make sure you have a simple, easy to spell URL that matches your business name. Get all your basic information on there; who are you, what do you do, how can people contact you?
Set up social media accounts that fit what you do. Making beautiful cakes? Plaster them all over Instagram or Pinterest. Are you an SEO whiz? Get connecting on LinkedIn. Twitter is a fantastic tool for marketing and online networking. Does your local area have a business networking hour on Twitter? If there is, join in every week so people get used to seeing you and think of you next time they need a copywriter, graphic designer or virtual assistant. Join in with relevant industry chats too, such as #weddinghour, and push your services even further.
Make sure your business social media accounts are professional. Use the same handle everywhere, and keep the profile image the same. A smart looking head and shoulders shot is ideal if you don’t have a logo. Don’t choose that photo of you brandishing a goldfish bowl cocktail on holiday last year. Remember these accounts are for your side hustle, not for fun.
Contacts can be a lifeline in the early days of a business, and networking is a great way to make useful connections.
Give your personal LinkedIn profile a spruce up. Make sure all your information is up to date and add on some information about your side hustle. Share examples of your work so people can see what you do as well as your day job. Start making connections with people you think might be useful and network, network, network.
In person, networking can be helpful too. See what’s available in your area. Choose a few to attend and see which you like best. Try to go to a few networking events each month, with a mix of industry specific and broader events. You never know who you might meet who could be a potential client or could introduce you to someone useful.
These contacts will also come in handy when you need something too. When you’re setting up on your own and aren’t sure how to set up Google Analytics, or write a press release, you’ll probably find one of those new networking contacts does know how, or knows someone who can help you.
Master the art of the ‘elevator pitch’. This is a quick, one or two sentence answer to the question, “What do you do?” Be prepared with this answer, and make sure you tell anyone who asks about the side gig as well as your day job. That guy you made polite chit-chat with at the bank might be your ideal customer.
Remember, It’s Work
Because it’s your hobby, don’t expect it to always be fun. Turning anything into a business can add unexpected stress. Be prepared for days when the work seems difficult, frustrating and not much like a hobby at all.
Remember, if this is a side hustle, this is work too. Take it seriously and dedicate the proper time to it. If you can’t do that, maybe your hobby is better off left as just a hobby.
Set goals for yourself, and seek to improve your business. Aim for improvement, and you never know, your side hustle could become your main job.
It’s important to bear in mind that not every hobby has to transform into a money making scheme. Keep some things back that are just for you to relax to avoid burnout. If you find that trying to turn it into a business venture sucks all the enjoyment out of an activity that normally brings you joy, it’s OK to take a step back. Your crocheting or jewellery making can just be a fun thing you do for yourself.
Keep Your Finances In Order
If you’re earning extra money, remember you may be liable to pay more tax on your earnings. Make sure you are registered with the relevant body, and keep records of any earnings.
A separate bank account for the business could be the easiest way to do this, but at minimum keep accurate, up to date records of any business expenses and profit earned. Whatever you do, don’t get behind in paying what you owe or assume the taxman won’t notice if you’re suddenly much better off at the end of the financial year. Keep track and keep your tax bill paid.
Think About Training
What extra skills might be of use to you in your business? Picking up extra skills could be a great addition to your CV for your day job as well as aiding you in taking your side gig to a place where it earns you some extra money.
Evening classes or online courses could be a real boost. You could pick up a class in basic marketing, website design or SEO. A social media course could be a great help too to take your hobby to hustle.
Get Your First Customer
Locking down that first customer is the most important early stage of a side job. Target your friends and family first. Maybe make a social media post or send likely customers in the family an email explaining what you’re doing and asking them to please pass on your name if they know anybody who might be interested.
You could offer a discount to friends and family, or run a promotion for a discounted service for the first few customers. If you need to, consider doing a job for free for someone you know, in exchange for a testimonial or review you can use on your website and social media. Word of mouth and seeing positive reviews can work wonders to bringing in early customers who aren’t related to you.
After that first customer, you’re bound to feel more comfortable about your service or product and can push your marketing further to bring in new business.