Over the last few months, I’ve been creating mega posts on how to start a side biz to earn extra money with your own skills.
- One post is on setting pricing etc. for your side business.
- Another post is on how to promote your side business to land your first few customers.
- The last post explains how to create side biz systems like setting up a contract, payment terms, and more.
To take this whole series home, I want to share a little story to illustrate one huge mistake to avoid when running a side business if you want it to be super profitable (and I’m assuming you do because… duh.)
The mistake to avoid is doing a hustle that eats up more of your time and resources than it’s actually paying you!
I’m going to illustrate this mistake with a little story from my high school past.
Then, I’ll wrap up with how making this mistake back in the day helped me double my side hustle income a few years ago.
The Side Hustle Mistake to Avoid
In high school, I landed my first side gig ever at a grocery store.
I made maybe $7ish dollars an hour.
My checks were about $100 each week.
Yup, I was big ballin’.
It felt amazing to be making my own money.
In my mind, all money I was earning was good money.
What I didn’t think about was what it cost to earn that money.
I had to drive across town about 30 minutes each way, and I had a huge gas guzzling car, so it cost me gas and commute time to make that $100 each week.
My dad (wiser of course) subtracted the miles put on the car and what I spent to get there from the pocket money I earned and offered just to give me an allowance instead because the whole situation made no financial sense.
But the stubborn me wanted to keep hustling, so I kept the job.
Why am I telling you this?
First off, this example is pretty extreme
and sad because I was 16 or 17 years old, naive, and headstrong at the time.
Let’s just call a spade, a spade.
I should have taken the allowance and went on my merry way.
But, overlooking the less obvious business costs and time commitments are mistakes that even more seasoned folks can make.
It was after I recalled making this mistake in the past that I was able to re-evaluate my side hustle attempts a few years ago for efficiency.
If you’re putting in a lot of work hustling outside of your 9 to 5 job and making a minimal amount per hour when factoring in the effort, commute time, transportation costs, and more, whatever you’re doing may not be a good use of your time.
When you start a side hustle, do the math to see what you’re truly making.
This is math I had to do to be honest with myself.
At first when I was side hustling, I was dog walking, freelance writing, virtual assisting, web designing, and gossip website reporting.
With all these hustles, it was pretty easy for me to make the leap from $0 to $1,000 on the side within a few months of starting.
That income hit a plateau because I wasn’t being smart with my time.
My problem wasn’t that I was wasting gas money this time around.
The resources I was wasting were time and energy.
I wasn’t considering how being torn in so many directions without a focus was decreasing my productivity and earning potential.
When I focused on one thing I was actually good at (freelance writing), I was able to double my income by positioning myself as an expert in one area.
I laser focused on perfecting marketing in that area and improving my creative process. Practicing writing and fine tuning my workflow helped me get assignments done much faster.
And the faster you can complete quality work the more you get paid per hour. I explain that more in detail here.
Hustling Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be
I’m really trying to find another word to say than hustle in my posts about making more money because I’m sure you’re sick of hearing the word.
(I’m sick of hearing it, too).
Mostly because hustling is becoming synonymous with grind, grind, grind, and more grind.
But if that grind has no direction and is not productive, it can be pointless. (My grocery store gig above, for example, was an incredibly pointless hustle.)
It’s easy to fall into the “hustling just because it’s the thing to do trap.”
Hustling is cool and all, but you don’t want to run yourself ragged trying to make extra money.
The first goal is to be smart with your time, so you can earn money efficiently.
The second goal is that you have spare time to sit back and enjoy the money you’re making.
So, here’s an exercise that helped me overcome the income plateau to double the cash:
- List out everything you do for side hustle income.
- Think about which hustles customers make you the most money. If you already have just one hustle, think about the type of customer that makes you the most money.
- Figure out how you can cut out the B.S. and focus more energy on the answers from Step #2. (In my case it was writing, so I asked for referrals from higher paying clients, marketed only writing stuff, and kicked the other hustles to the curb.)
- Decide how much you want to make per hour and times that by the amount of time that you spend doing work for your customers/clients. This is how much you should charge. Example: You want to make $75 per hour, it takes you 3 hours to do whatever it is you do — charge $225. (I discovered I wasn’t charging enough, so I upped my rates.)
- Since this is your side hustle, say goodbye to work and people who don’t pay you enough. I don’t want to advise you to give up money if it’s your lifeline, but think about cutting out activities that are costing you a lot of time but aren’t making you a lot of money. That frees up time for you to explore better opportunities. The good thing about a side gig is that you have a full-time job to fall back on.
Try the tips above and let me know how they work out for you. If you have any other tips to add, be sure to comment below!
There is one caveat to this story + point:
Before closing, let’s talk about the caveat, fam.
Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule, right?
You may start a side business that demands a lot of time and resources upfront that earns little money at first because of how you plan for it to pay off later.
For example, I view this blog as side income outside of freelance writing.
Blogging is not something that pays off handsomely right away, but I get to practice storytelling from it. I also hope to use this blog someday to promote a book that I write.
So, going the “huge effort upfront for a lucrative pay off later” route for a side
hustle (ugh, this word) gig can make sense if you have a plan.
But if your goal is to make extra money right now to:
- Feed your family
- Pay a bill
- Take your cat to the vet
- Put gas in your car
- Make a student loan payment
- Buy a house
- So on and so forth
…spend your time in places that will earn you the most return sooner than later.
And don’t waste your energy on time sucky activities.
This post may contain links to affiliates. I only share products or services to help you save, make money, or be more productive that I use. Long story short… I will never recommend anything dodgy to you. Scout’s honor.
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