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How to Start a Side Hustle That Makes Real Money

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Updated February 16, 2017

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I know you’ve heard it countless times before…

“Everyone and their momma needs a side hustle. Blah, blah, blah. Yadi, yadi, yadi.”

I’ll spare you the details of why an extra source of income is a good idea, so I can jump right on into the important stuff which is…

How to make real money from your side hustle. Because let’s be frank with ourselves for a second.

If you already side hustle outside of your day job:

  • How much are you making an hour doing this side hustle?
  • Is the money you’re earning from these side hustle activities worth your time?

Ultimately, if you’re spinning your wheels on a hustle that’s only making you a few bucks an hour, it may not be the most lucrative or valuable use of your free time.

Don’t hustle just for hustling sake.

Side hustling in random ways for scraps takes your focus away from the long-term game which is treating your hustle like a true business and specializing in something you can earn good money from out of the gate.

How come I’m spittin’ all this wisdom?

Glad you ask, my friend.

I’ve busted my bum as a dog walker, virtual assistant, and freelance writer before.

I jumped into the world of side hustling without much business sense.

I learned pretty quickly that to earn real money from a side hustle, you have to choose your hustle wisely and you need to treat it like a legit business.

Otherwise, your side hustle will turn into a glorified hobby.

And if it’s a hobby making you nickels and dimes, you may as well invest that spare time in other things like spending time with your family outside of your 9 to 5.

After earning peanuts initially from freelance writing and a few bucks from dog walking, I discovered how to position myself as a side hustler with a specific set of skills I could offer to a specific type of person that commanded good money and assignments that were worth my time.

In this post, I put together four money lessons I learned in this process.

Get comfortable.

 

Lesson #1: Stick to What You Know

Narrow your product and service focus.

If you can’t explain every random thing you do on the side in a few sentences, go back to the drawing board. You’ll confuse yourself and potential customers. This isn’t great because you want your customers to be able to explain what you do to others so you can get referrals.

Do a side hustle that focuses on your main strength.

Jobs that are outside of your comfort zone take you longer to do and decrease how much money you make per hour.

For example, about two years ago, I landed a $100 freelance gig writing on a topic weekly that wasn’t my expertise at the time. It took me at least 10 hours to research and complete the work so I made about $10 per hour.

🙁 No bueno.

Then, I got another $150 gig writing weekly about things like credit scores, budgeting, and saving which are topics I like and have knowledge about.

It took about 3 hours for me to do; $50 per hour sounds a lot better. Agreed?

Remember, the faster you can do something, the higher your hourly rate.

Let’s take another example just for fun.

If you’re a dog walker, don’t offer dog grooming if you have no idea how to give Charlie a hair cut.

You’ll spend time researching what to do, then second guessing what you’re supposed to do, then attempting the hair cut, and then worrying the dog owner will hate it. Tons of time wasted.

Instead, you could have used that energy marketing and becoming the go-to evening dog walker in your neighborhood and then doing that job quickly and efficiently.

Lesson #2. Don’t Set Your Prices Based on Someone Else

I learned this invaluable lesson from a book I read called Get Rich, Lucky Bitch.

(No trolling, that’s a real book).

I can’t even put into words how much I recommend it to anyone women who wants to make more money from their hustle.

It teaches you how to overcome money blocks holding you back from earning the type of money you deserve.

One of the biggest lesson I learned from this book is to never charge for your service or product based on someone else without considering other factors like your time, the value, your clientele, and the market.

Why?

Other people you compare yourself to may not be charging enough!

Everyone has their own money blocks and fears (especially women) about how much they’re worth.

If you let someone who’s devaluing themselves dictate your pricing, you’ll devalue your own work.

Consider industry averages, but never limit yourself.

One thing to note is it may take you longer to find clients or customers that will pay a premium price for your services or products, but avoid the low hanging fruit.

The low hanging fruit are the cheap customers that’ll run you ragged, but pay you pennies for your time. This is something I experienced all too often in the writing world.

Hold out for the good clients that will offer you good money for your effort.

I mean, you have a day job, fam.

The time outside of your day job is valuable and you should treat it as such.

Lesson #3. Always Think Scalable

Scalability and pricing go hand in hand.

What does scalable mean?

A scalable biz is able to expand as your client base increases. Service based side hustles (like writing or dog walking) are harder to scale because you’re the manpower behind it.

At some point, you’ll hit a workload limit which is the max amount of hours you can work without going insane.

Hitting your workload limit means you also hit an income plateau.

Let’s say you want to be a fitness instructor on the side and you have four available hours tops each week that you can devote to one-on-one coaching.

(This time commitment doesn’t even include the time it takes you to come up with your lesson plan and commuting to and from the gym, mind you.)

You plan to charge $30 per half hour for each lesson, so your workload limit and side income plateau would be $240 per week. ($30 per half hour, $60 per hour, $240 for four hours each week.)

If you want to make more than $240 per week doing this hustle, you would need to think of ways to scale your business.

The first obvious answer would be to raise your rates. You could maybe hire a helper to take on more clients or create workouts on a private members only YouTube page to reduce the individual time commitment.

Pricing and scaling are things you want to think about early on to avoid reaching a workload limit and realizing that you’re not bringing in as much extra income as you’d like.

Lesson #4. Choose Clients That’ll Push Your Brand

At first, side hustling I was a – dog walker, virtual assistant, web designer, gossip site blogger, personal finance blogger, and ghostwriter, just to name a few job titles.

Remember what I said about specializing, yea I didn’t do that at first.

Basically, I would do anything in the remote working space that people asked me to do.

But, I didn’t consider how each job would help me market myself in the future.

Let’s just take the ghostwriting scenario.

I used to be a ghostwriter for several clients and now I only do it for a select few people who I really enjoy working for and I admire.

A lot of ghostwriting doesn’t further your brand or help you get future work because you’re not able to use the writing in your portfolio and you don’t get a byline.

It’s important to think about how every business transaction will impact your chances of getting other side jobs you really want down the line.

So think: how is your current effort going to impact future effort?

For another example, say you’re getting into photography now and doing weddings, but what you really want to do is shoot head shots.

Should you continue booking and filling up your portfolio with weddings?

Or should you devote that time to finding gigs that will put you on a different trajectory?

Some more questions to answer when deciding which side work to take on:

  • Is the work you do (or plan to do) helping you build a client referral network that you’re proud of?
  • Are the physical products or services you’re selling right now fitting into the bigger picture?
  • Are you excited to show off what you’re currently working on?

If you need to go back and regroup, now’s the time to do it!

The good thing about treating your side hustle as a business is that you have a full-time job to fall back on for income if you need to strategize.

Skipping out on easy money and fine tuning the service you offer, the products you produce, the clients you want serve, and the price point you accept will earn you much more real money in the long run.

New to side hustling?

I have a mega list of 107 Productive Things to Do Instead of Watching TV to Make and Save More. It includes ways to get your finances together and ways to bring in more income. Grab the PDF version of this list below!

— This post may contain affiliate links. Don’t worry, I only promote products and services that I believe in.

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Taylor K. Gordon is a writer and money blogger. She writes on how to live your best life without going broke.

One Comment
  1. Reply Chonce February 20, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Side hustling is totally worth your time! If you don’t have a side hustle by now, you are behind. Side hustling is what allowed me to quit my job and pursue entrepreneurship. Thanks for sharing!

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