6 No-Nonsense Steps to Start a Side Hustle Today (and Why You Should)

by Corey Pemberton 8 Minutes

Feel like you’re stuck in a work situation you don’t like?

Wouldn’t it be awesome to find something that pays better, offers more meaning, or both?

You aren’t alone…

But the idea of making a pivot in your career can seem scary.

Success is uncertain when you try something new. Unfortunately, your financial obligations (rent, mortgage, car payments, etc.) are not.

Sometimes it seems like the only choice is to either jump into something new without a safety net or just accept your current situation.

There’s another way that can lead to more income and fulfillment.

You could start a side hustle!

The Agony of Feeling Stuck

Maybe you want to become a freelancer or start your own business. Maybe you just want another job or need some extra cash.

Whatever the case, nothing is more frustrating than feeling stuck.

You see where you want to end up, but the practical steps how to get there seem unclear. It’s like staring across a canyon and trying to figure out how to cross to the other side.

If you aren’t up for just jumping across and seeing if you can fly, working a side hustle allows you to systematically build a bridge. It takes you closer to where you want your career to go—without as much financial risk.

Why Starting a Side Hustle Makes Sense

Convincing yourself to put in the extra hours needed to start a side hustle can be a tough sell. Your day job already limits your free time, and there are always friends, family, and hobbies to think about.

But think of it like this: investing in a side hustle now will allow you to reach a more fulfilling (and better paying) level in your professional life. It takes some time and patience upfront, but the payoff is more than worth it.

Even if you don’t want to expand your side hustle into a full-time gig, the extra income creates more options. You could switch to a lower-paying but less stressful job without sacrificing your lifestyle. You could save for retirement or invest.

Side hustles also let you test your business ideas in the real world and get invaluable feedback from the market… before you go “all in” and leave your current work situation.

How to Start Hustling

With the right strategy, practically anyone can use side hustles to boost their income and position themselves for better careers.

Here’s how to get started now:

1. Know Your “Why”

start a side hustle

Photo Credit: Lynn Friedman

Your work life is already hectic enough. Why would you want to put yourself through the time and effort to start a side hustle?

This seems like such a simple question, but it’s also one that many people don’t ask until it’s too late – when they’re overwhelmed trying to juggle their day job and the demands of their new venture.

It’s smart to figure out your endgame first, before you launch your side hustle.

Do you just want a supplemental income source for your current work?

Or are you looking to start something that will eventually replace your current income and become a new career?

(It might be a stepping stone somewhere in between…)

Take some time and really think about where you want to end up. Successful side hustles mean more income and options… but how do you want to use that income and options?

Knowing this stuff beforehand helps shape your side hustle ideas and how aggressively you pursue them.

My previous job was in a very different field than where I ultimately wanted to end up. I knew my endgame was to become a full-time author. So I chose side hustles which combined online marketing and writing to serve clients, hone my skills, and lead me closer to that goal. The side hustles were stepping stones.

2. Choose a Potentially Viable Side Hustle Idea

side hustle ideas

Photo Credit: Bekathwia

One of the most common (and tragic) mistakes is to start a side hustle based on your passion alone. It’s a great way to pick up a new hobby… but it might not be profitable. It might not turn into a business.

A better way?

Start by making a list of your passions. Then make another list of products/services you could provide that people are willing to pay for. The overlap between these is fertile ground for side hustle ideas!

There’s no pressure to come up with a 100% original idea either. The vast majority of successful businesses started by improving or putting a new spin on existing products/services.

You just have to pick an idea in which you can use your skills to deliver something uniquely valuable. Which one aspect (it only takes one!) of your version of the model can you do better or differently than others?

By all means, do a few weeks worth of research but don’t agonize over this decision too much. We’re going to start your side hustle in a cost-effective way, so it won’t be a huge deal if the first idea doesn’t pan out. Which brings me to…

3. Validate Your Idea as Quickly as You Can—and Keep Overhead Low

validate business idea

Photo Credit: PINASH

Having a hunch that your side hustle will work isn’t good enough. Hunches don’t justify spending months creating a product without selling anything first. What if you spend all that time and no one wants it? That’s a terrible feeling…

The only way to know for sure that you aren’t wasting time is to get your first customer as soon as possible. Once you prove to yourself that people will buy into your idea, it’s easier to stay motivated and see how to improve.

So get started quickly. There’s no need to invest more than a hundred dollars and a week or two, test the market, and grow from there.

Ask yourself: what is the bare minimum I need to get my first paying customer/client?

You need:

  • Something to sell,
  • A willing buyer, and
  • A way to collect the money

That’s it!

It’s easy to get caught up on business cards, fancy websites, and renting an office. But you don’t need to at this point. That just wastes time and cash.

What if you approached a few businesses in your area instead of investing in an expensive website?

What if you tapped into your existing contacts to land a client and build your first portfolio piece?

This lean start-up approach will get you making money and real-world feedback as fast as possible – both key elements in making your side hustle work!

Bottom line: do everything you can to avoid wasting huge amounts of time and money before you know for sure whether something works. That way if something doesn’t, it’s less of a hassle to pick another idea and keep moving.

4. Make the Time to Build Your Side Hustle

make time

Photo Credit: ewvasquez2001

Something has to give if you want to get your side hustle off the ground.

This can be painful. Your life is already full of work obligations, and you want to leave some time for yourself, friends and family. But you’ll have to find those extra hours somewhere.

How much of your time is legitimately spoken for?

How much of it are you frittering away?

According to Nielsen, the average American watches nearly five hours of television a day. That’s practically a full-time job! Imagine what you could do if you cut that time in half and spent it working on a new hustle instead?

Things like TV, surfing the web, and social media are usually low-hanging fruit. They’re often the biggest time sucks. Get rid of them, and you might be amazed how much spare time you find.

If you already avoid that stuff and still have a packed schedule, things get tougher, but not impossible. That’s when you have to take a hard look at your hobbies and social calendar.

Give yourself the time you need (eating right, exercising, sleeping enough) to stay healthy. Working 24/7 to get something going isn’t worth much if you end up crashing a few months later because your body gives out.

Remember what Teddy Roosevelt said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” 30 minutes or an hour a day is way better than nothing at all. The time’s going to pass regardless. The sooner you start, the sooner you will get your hustle off the ground.

5. Make the Most of Every Moment

gas pedal

Photo Credit: Henning Lind

A Gallup pole estimated that 87% of employees aren’t engaged when they are at work.

You can’t afford to be one of them. Especially when you’re working on your side hustle!

Your time is just too precious. Working around a day job means you won’t ever have as much as you really want—at least until you decide it’s time to take your hustle full-time. That’s why it’s important to make every minute count.

Set aside a specific chunk of your day where you’ll do nothing but side hustle work. Schedule your side hustle time into your calendar just like you’d schedule an appointment with the doctor or your most valuable client. Then meet those appointments, day in and day out.

Doing this first thing in the morning before other obligations get in the way is a straightforward way to make sure this stuff gets done (it works for me). But if you’d rather hustle right after work or late at night, more power to you! Whatever works for you consistently is the best choice.

When you’re working, create the best environment that you can. Shut the door. Turn off your cell phone. Shut down social media. Do whatever it takes to produce focused output, and your hustle will pay off faster.

6. Give Your Side Hustle Room to Grow

plant grow

Photo Credit: lb Alarmo

If you put in the work and follow the steps above, there’s a good chance your side hustle will start bringing in some serious cash.

Your bank account will grow, sure, but so will your responsibilities. Where in the beginning you just had to think about finding something to offer a customer, now you start to run into issues like order fulfillment, invoicing, and customer support.

If you insist to keep doing everything yourself, it’s easy to become a victim of your own success. You work your day job and spend all your free time just keeping your demanding side hustle afloat.

Without help, you’ll run into the 24/7 time boundary just like everyone else. Your growing business gets stopped dead in its tracks because you just don’t have the time or energy to expand.

So don’t be afraid to get help! Use some of the income to reinvest in your side hustle for things like outsourcing, better tools, and handling taxes. Buy yourself some free time and sanity while making sure your hustle continues to grow.

Keep this up, and eventually you’ll reach a point where it’s time to decide whether to turn your hustle into a full-time thing or keep your day job.

Baby Steps, Big Results

People have this romantic idea that the only way to shake things up professionally—to really make it big—is to leave their current situation. They jump off the cliff into the unknown without a safety net.

But there’s another way, one that keeps a steady income rolling in while you develop new skills, make connections, and validate business ideas:
Starting a side hustle.

It takes time and sacrifice, but with the right attitude and consistent work this is something almost anyone can pull off.

Even if you only have one hour a day to spare, it’s amazing how much the results compound over just a few months!

If you you’re a long way from where you want to be professionally, you don’t have to tell off your boss or just give up.

You can hustle.

Have you ever started a side hustle? If so, why? What surprised you about the process? Leave a comment below and share your experience!

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by Corey Pemberton
Corey Pemberton is a freelance copywriter and blogger who helps small businesses and software startups get more traffic and conversions online. You can find him on his website or follow him on Twitter.