10 Steps to Start a Successful Side Hustle Idea
Starting a side hustle can be life-changing. But as with any business, it’s one thing to have an idea—it’s another to execute it to success. As you read about thousands of side hustle ideas, it can be hard to define a clear next step to get things going for you.
In this article, we’ll break it down into ten steps: how to start a side hustle and grow it into a reliable income stream. We’ll also share a few side hustle ideas you can start today.
Let’s get started.
10 steps to start a side hustle and find success
Here are the steps to start your side hustle idea and become successful with it.
Step 1: Find problems you can solve
Most people approach this by googling ideas. A Google search can bring up a ton of side hustle ideas you can choose from. But here’s the issue: for the most part, the search results won’t paint the complete picture or tell the whole story.
For example, a post can only go as far as to tell you that “freelance writing” is an excellent side hustle that could earn good money. But it won’t go as deep into what it entails, such as content ideation, keyword research, SEO, distribution, and more.
Instead, you can check out resources from people who’ve already built a passive income. Then conduct an introspective analysis of your skills and the value you can bring to others.
Here are some resources you can start with:
- Side hustle ideas: Here’s our ultimate list of 13 side hustle ideas that you can easily implement. The post also includes unique success stories that illustrate what it looks like to reach your goals.
- Side Hustle Secrets: Discover unique resources for growing a side hustle, tips to help with your mind map, plus a checklist of side hustle secrets.
- Launching a Side Hustle When You’re Strapped For Cash: This is a video podcast by best-selling author Chris Guillebeau. Besides covering how to do a side hustle the right way, Guilleabeau also offers a free copy of his new book, The Money Tree.
As for assessing the value you can bring, it’s always best to find ideas that require skills you already have or ideas you’re passionate about (we’ll cover how to do this in step 3).
Step 2: Set clear expectations
It’s not just about the extra income; a side hustle can have many additional benefits. Here are the main benefits you can expect from a side hustle.
- Diversify your revenue streams: For the most part, a side hustle will help you earn money outside your salary.
- Learn new things: For example, creating an ecommerce site can be extremely rewarding if you plan to become a digital marketer. You can learn the basics and gain firsthand experience.
- Hone your skills: Let’s say you’re a freelance consultant. Working with different clients can become a catalyst for acquiring new business skills or developing existing ones.
- Become your own boss: Embarking on a side hustle can force you to step up, think creatively, and make decisions about your next moves. You can be the CEO of your own company.
So, be clear about what you expect from your side hustle. This will help you set key performance indicators (KPIs) and milestones you want to hit. From there, these KPIs will help you make decisions about your next steps. For example, is the side hustle worth it? Should you allocate more time to it? Is it feasible to quit your job?
Step 3: Come up with side hustle ideas (that you’re passionate about)
At its core, a side hustle is something you do alongside your regular job, so you’re likely to quit it if it stresses you out. That’s why it’s essential to choose an idea that you’re passionate about.
Consider the pros and cons of each idea and make a list of the ones that you’re excited about and can reasonably execute.
To find the right side hustles for you, ask yourself:
- What skills do you have that you can channel into a side hustle?
- What kinds of things do your friends or colleagues usually seek your help with? Do they fit into any of your side hustle ideas?
- Hypothetically, which of the side businesses on your list would you do for free?
- What is one activity that, once immersed you’re in it, you lose track of time? Does it match up with one of the side businesses on your list?
Step 4: Figure out what you’ll invest in your side hustle before you can start
You can easily sign up for a physical service side hustle, like Uber and TaskRabbit, and start making money. However, you can’t always do the same with side hustles like freelance writing and selling digital products. Plus, it requires even more investment if you want to cook up the idea from scratch.
Most side hustle ideas will require some form of investment before you can start and get something out of them. Here are investments you need to consider:
- Time: Whichever side hustle idea you choose, you’ll need to invest your time toward getting started and then actually doing the work. For some ideas, it might take months to learn or to start seeing results.
- Money: Some side businesses also require a minimum upfront investment. For instance, if you want to sell online products through dropshipping, you’ll have to invest in a website, advertisement, etc. Many folks may have to invest in additional knowledge (like buying online courses, playbooks, guides, etc).
Step 5: Do market research and define problems you want to solve
This does not apply to all side hustle ideas. If your side hustle idea is more of a physical service or does not require you to cook it up from scratch, you should be fine. This applies more if you have an idea that needs development to become a small business that people are interested in. Here’s how you should proceed.
- From the side hustle ideas that you listed, identify the one that presents problems that you’re most enthusiastic about solving.
- Make sure that there’s a target audience that actually needs this particular solution. You should verify that your idea meets the needs of a specific audience. Technically, a target market where your idea will sell.
- Next, learn as much about the target market as you can. Answering these questions should help guide you:
- Who are my potential customers? Find the people who can benefit most from your solution. Bonus: find the people who face the problems that you’re passionate about solving. This will help you define your ideal customer profile (ICP).
- What are my customers’ buying habits? Identify trends in the target audience when it comes to purchasing products and services. You should consider both physical and mental factors. This will allow you to create marketing plans and materials that best align with them.
- How large is my target market? This should be self-explanatory. Determine the size of your market and you can use this plan for product development and distribution.
- How much are customers willing to pay for my product? Essentially, you need to determine the purchasing capacity of your audience. This will help you set ideal prices.
- Who are my main competitors? It’s always a good idea to know who you are going up against. This lets you define the best strategies and come up with a unique value proposition that beats them.
- What are my competitors’ strengths and weaknesses? The result of this analysis will help you understand how things are currently being done and what could use some improvement. It will also help you determine performance standards you need to meet for your audience.
Step 6: Come up with an MVP on your idea
Following your market research, here’s what you’ll need to do next:
- Formulate a minimal viable solution/product/offer: You’ll need to present your solution or idea in a way that is valuable to and suits your target audience. This is the state of your side hustle business as you take it into the actual world. Think about framing it from the audience’s perspective and make sure that the solution you offer actually quenches their thirst.
- Get it up and running: At this stage, you need to figure out a few things to get your side hustle up and running. These include components like a channel to deliver your solution (e.g., ecommerce site, wholesale, mobile app, etc.), a way to accept payments, and more.
Step 7: Validate your side hustle idea to ensure it’s viable
Now that you know the pros and cons of starting a side hustle, things to consider, and investments to make, it’s time to test your idea to see if it’s viable.
The best way to ensure you have a viable side hustle idea is to get the first customer. This is proof of concept for your idea and it indicates that your solution has been met with actual demand. To get your first sales:
- Use the results from your market research to choose a few of your target customers and reach out to them. This can be done via social media DMs, email, and more. Pitch and sell them your MVP.
- Additionally, look at your own network and contacts. You can call people you know who you might need the service or product you’re selling. Pitch and sell them your MVP.
- Ask these potential customers to give you feedback on how you can improve.
- Ask them to refer you to their friends.
Your goal here is to determine if your side hustle of choice is sustainable—both in the short and long term.
If your target audience has not shown any semblance of interest in your business during the whole trial period, then you should consider another side hustle idea.
However, if after the trial period you have either achieved your goals or made progress, then your side hustle is viable. You can now decide how much time you want to devote to it.
Step 8: Test multiple marketing channels and strategies
First question. How would you communicate with your target audience?
To answer this question, look into the marketing channel(s) you want to use for awareness, evaluation, purchase, delivery, and after-sales communications with your target audience.
Popular choices include email, website, and social media. But a website is, for the most part, mandatory. You should create one and use the other channels where the target audience spends time to push them to your website.
Ideally, the marketing channels you choose should be the places where it’s easier to talk to your target audience. Information from the market research you conducted will also help here.
Second question. How would you deliver your value proposition?
Now we’re talking marketing strategies.
These are the strategies you use to wrap your product or offering up in a neat bow. From there, you can target and convert your audience. Your goal is to get their attention, show them the value they can get from your solution, and get them to buy. Usually, your marketing channels help reflect the best marketing strategies you can leverage.
For example, if you rely on a website, consider content marketing through blog posts along with SEO. For social media, depending on the social platform you use, focus on creating specific content types, maintaining a steady publication cadence for the best results, or engaging in social media ads.
Step 9: Scale
Once your side hustle business starts to take off, make provisions for it to grow. Essentially, you should create systems that help you secure a consistent flow of customers.
Evaluate your initial goals: do you want to turn it into a full-time job or just keep it on the side? If your goal is to turn it into a full-time job, here are a few steps you’ll need to take:
- Create marketing funnels: The best way to scale your side hustle and ensure a consistent flow of customers is to optimize your marketing strategy to constantly bring in new customers. That’s the beauty of funnels. Marketing funnels allow you to walk your customers through the entire buying journey without having to be there 24/7.
- Use the right software and tech: Your small resources or one-person business structure will not limit your growth if you’re using high-quality software. With the right tools, even an increased workload won’t compromise your performance.
- Hire: Expand your team so you can delegate some tasks and focus on the more important ones. If you’re not ready to hire just yet, estimate the point at which you’ll reach workload capacity on your own. From there, create a timeline for hiring.
- Documentation: Build and document SOPs and business processes that work best for you. This can help you set up a system to scale easily. Plus, your current and future employees can use it to quickly familiarize themselves with your business’s best practices and flatten the learning curve.
- Take the side hustle seriously and treat it like your full-time job.
- Deliver outstanding work and ask your clients to refer you to new businesses.
Step 10: Set clear goals and milestones
Growing a side hustle business is hard, and quitting a job is risky. You need to ensure that you don’t quit your job only to keep looking back out of regret. So first, you’ll have to create a schedule for yourself that accommodates both jobs seamlessly.
In the beginning, you don’t want to devote too much time to the side hustle at the expense of your full-time job. So, it’s best to start small to get a feel for what it’s like to do both jobs before you can (gradually) devote more time to your side hustle.
Next, you should set up clear goals, milestones, and KPIs that define what success means to you. After getting your first customers, you’ll be able to determine a performance level at which you can devote more time to the side hustle. The idea is to do it gradually—that’s why you need to have goals and milestones.
Depending on your expectations, the KPI can be your revenue, for example. Let’s say your side hustle generates almost as much or more than your full-time salary. From there, you can consider giving it more time or quitting your day job to sustain the side hustle and grow it into a fully-fledged business.
5 side hustle ideas you can start today
Here are a few side hustle ideas to get you started.
1. Become a freelancer
Working as a freelancer means being self-employed and working on your own terms. As a freelancer, you’ll lend your expertise or services to individuals or companies and charge them accordingly. The sky’s the limit when it comes to freelancing: you can become a freelance writer, designer, copywriter, virtual assistant, web developer, programmer, and much more.
To get your first few clients, consider signing up for freelance platforms like Upwork, Craigslist, Freelancer.com, and ProBlogger. You can start small, doing it only in your free time, and grow as you gain experience. Depending on the gigs you take on and the platform you use, you could make anywhere between $50 and $2,000 per month. In the big leagues, there are freelancers earning over $15K per month.
All things considered, freelancing is more demanding than many might think. Aside from being competitive, the barrier to entry can be high if you don’t have a strong portfolio. The good news? Constantly honing your skills and networking with peers can make all the difference. You can even get hired from social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.
There are countless freelancing success stories out there. Consider the journey of Kelly Vaughn. Kelly worked a tedious government job with basic benefits. One day, she found the courage to venture into the freelance industry as a web developer and quickly found success. Building up over 10 years of experience, she’s currently earning over $32,000 a month as of 2021.
- Decide your own rates
- Many freelancing skills can be learned online
- Work on your own schedule
- Choose and control your workload
- Flexibility to work on a variety of projects and topics
- Inconsistent work and cash flow
- Mentally demanding
- Tough competition
- Fast-paced business area
- No paid time off
2. Provide physical services
If you’re physically inclined, you can help people with specific activities and charge for them. What are some physical services you can do as a side hustle to earn good money? The list is nearly endless: furniture assembly, laundry, yard work, dog walking or pet sitting, lawn care, fitness coaching, moving, junk hauling, cleaning, being a referee for local sports, delivery, and so on.
Whatever physical activity you decide to sign up for will depend on what you can do and what your availability is. Keep in mind that some activities in this area may just be one-time engagements. You’ll need to constantly be on the lookout for clients or services to make this option viable in the long term. Luckily, there are specific platforms you can sign up for that can expedite the gig search for you.
For example, you can sign up for TaskRabbit, an app that connects users with local freelancers who can take on a wide range of physical services. For food delivery, check out platforms like UberEats, DoorDash, Postmates, etc. Wag! connects users with local dog walkers. Platforms like Trainerize and TrueCoach help you get paid as a fitness instructor.
Once you’re signed up for any of these platforms, you can start browsing physical services near you. Each platform has its own specificities, but for the most part, you can set your own rates. According to Viggiano, fully committed users can make up to $6,000 per month on TaskRabbit.
- Beneficial to people with many physical skills
- Perform several activities at once
- Many platforms and communities to help you find gigs
- Mostly one-off gigs
3. Create online courses
Are there any topics or skills you’ve mastered that you’re passionate about teaching to others? If so, you can create online courses, upload them to a teaching platform, share your skills, and get paid to do it. Once you grow, you can even collaborate with folks that have parallel expertise to create more impactful courses.
The best thing about online courses is that the hardest part is creating the course itself. After that initial hurdle, you don’t necessarily have to be there for people to sign up or buy your course. This gives you the flexibility to create other courses and make a passive income 24/7. All you need to do is focus on promoting the courses and your audience will soon follow.
To master this, you can target a specific subject or age group. This will help make your expertise more valuable. People in a niche will be much more likely to trust and engage with your teaching materials. Popular teaching platforms you can leverage include Podia, Kajabi, UpCoach, and Mighty Networks. These platforms will provide you with the best arsenal to create, market, and sell online courses.
Jacques Hopkins was an engineer with a knack for piano. So, he started with a side hustle, creating an online piano course to help adults learn to play the piano as fast as possible: Piano In 21 Days. Today, Hopkins has grown his course into a full-time business with four employees, earning over $40K/month.
- Teach your expertise
- Make money discussing topics you love
- Many platforms and communities to help you find gigs
- Work from home
- Create your own schedule
- Small classes
- No formal education required
- You may have to pay for certain teaching platforms and tools
- Building a course can be mentally demanding
4. Create and sell digital products
Creating and selling digital products on Etsy or Shopify can be a worthwhile side hustle. For example, templates help businesses, students, and freelancers save time and facilitate work. So you can create downloadable or printable templates in your free time and sell them on Etsy.
Shopify and Etsy’s potential for these types of products is immense. For example, one downloadable digital product helped Alissa Rose generate over $25,000 in sales.
Artistically inclined? Casual crafters can turn their hobby into a business. You can create and sell handmade goods like jewelry, pottery, cards, or anything else.
- Earn money out of hobbies and crafts
- Charge your own rates
- Flexibility to sell almost anything you can create
- High competition
- Requires digital marketing knowledge
- Need to market your products constantly
5. Start an ecommerce site
Enterprising sellers can make millions through ecommerce products. The success stories are countless. Creating an ecommerce business (aka dropshipping) has become one of the go-to and most lucrative side hustle ideas of our time.
The idea is simple. You set up your ecommerce site, research and find the bestselling products from a third-party manufacturer, list and price the products (with your own profit margins) on your site, engage in digital marketing strategies to market the products, and get people to buy them. As people buy, the third-party manufacturers will ship the product on your behalf and you’ll collect the profit.
The most challenging aspect of setting up a successful ecommerce site is always having an eye for which products sell best. Before you start off, you’ll need to take the time to familiarize yourself with the ecommerce space, build your knowledge, and learn from others’ successes as well as failures.
- Charge your own rates
- Flexibility to sell almost anything
- Easy to find products
- Easy to get started
- No need to buy inventory upfront or store it
- Low overhead costs
- Easy to grow and scale
- High competition
- Can be more expensive than traditional retail.
- Need to market your products constantly
- Requires digital marketing knowledge
- Requires major ad investment.
- Limited control over quality and branding
Start now, make passive income
Starting a side hustle can be daunting, but it’s without a doubt one of the best paths toward a sustainable passive income.
The tips above will help you start just about any side hustle idea. However, note that most success stories or side hustle idea lists won’t paint the full picture. You’ll have to do a lot of research and take action to see how it goes for yourself.
Ultimately, a great approach is to start small and figure it out along the way. In the beginning, you should keep an eye on what you can manage as a side hustle while holding onto your day job.
Want to learn more about side hustle ideas and strategies to find success? Get more exclusive content on side hustles in the AppSumo store. Check it out.