May 31, 2018

Turning Your Side Gig From an Idea Into a Job

A step-by-step guide to getting your pet project off the ground

Ready to launch your side hustle?

In part 1 of this post, we covered some basics on side gigs: what they are and how they differ from other types of work, the pros and cons of having one, figuring out your why, and lastly, brainstorming ideas for a side gig that works for you.

Now that you’ve narrowed down and chosen your side gig you’re ready for next steps: developing your side gig, finding opportunities, and overcoming common hurdles.

Development stage – from seed to bloom

Think of your brainstorming session from part 1 as the seed of something that will (with time and effort) turn into something more. For your seed of an idea to succeed, now’s the time to identify what it needs to grow to fruition.

Training

Is your side gig a passion or hobby that needs a bit of formal polishing? Let’s say, for example, you want to work as a hair and makeup artist on the side, and you want to refresh your training and certifications. Having researched and ranked the best training programs near you, now map out your time and financial commitments.  

What does your current schedule look like and how easily can you fit in and evening or weekend training program? Look for gaps or opportunities throughout your week where you have extra time or could double up on tasks.

What is your availability in the coming months, and can you commit to a training program schedule? Will you be able to complete the courses in order and in a timely fashion? If capacity is already reached for the next session, how soon can you enroll?

Once it’s official and you’ve enrolled in a program (or created a training plan for yourself), set goals and milestones for yourself. For example:

  • An end goal for when you will complete the program. How many classes or hours do you need to complete it or achieve a certain level?
  • Medium term goals specific to the next weeks/months. What is a realistic schedule for you based on your work and family commitments?
  • Short term goals for the number of practice hours you’ll commit to each week, establishing a minimum number and a “reach” number (one that you want to push yourself to achieve).

This roadmap is especially important for self paced programs because the faster you complete the required courses and practice hours, the faster you’ll recoup your financial investment. But it’s got to be realistic.

Experience

If you have some professional or technical experience, but it isn’t recent, brush up on updates, new information, and freshen skills that are necessary in the current environment. Rules or techniques may have changed or the market may have advanced and nows the time to catch up.

If you’re side gig is making a product or good, take time to play around with different techniques or using new tools to create samples and trial runs. Do some practice projects on your own or for friends/family to sharpen your skills.

Highlighting your skills and experience

If you don’t need additional training and your experience is up to par, double check your resume. Prepare a specific one for your side gig work, making sure it is up to date and current.

A resume is appropriate if your side gig is a professional service or one that requires professional skills and experience. But if you are making and selling a product instead, a mission statement, logo, photos or other branding/identifying effort is the resume equivalent. What medium will highlight and showcase your abilities?

Searching for side gig opportunities and marketing yourself

Looking for side gig opportunities is like looking for any job; sometimes they fall into your lap and other times it takes a lot of time and energy. But depending on your needs, you’ll fall into one of two searcher categories:

  1. The regular and persistent searcher: For many jobs, you’ll need to expend near-constant search efforts to establish, and then grow, a consistent client base. The more clients/customers you have, the more work you’ll have. If you’re a hair and makeup artist, for example, you need to keep bringing new and old customers in to your business. You’ll mostly leverage different kinds of advertising, as well as referrals from existing customers, to bring in enough business to support you.
  2. The infrequent searcher: Tailored but sporadic searches emphasize finding either cyclical opportunities or one customer/client that provides a source of consistent work on a part time basis. There isn’t a constant search for clients; instead, you either work with one or two big clients who fully support your business, or you only work as needed during the year. An infrequent searcher might be a consultant who works with one client at a time, or someone who only works in retail during the busy holiday season.

Whichever type of searcher you are, the methods for searching are similar:

Online resources

There are a plethora of websites out there that announce jobs for those that are looking for part time, contract, temporary, or side gig work. As with a full-time-job job search, it is harder to secure jobs this way because they are open to so many people, and there’s no personal connection to the role. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore these sites though.

In my experience, some of my best side gig opportunities have come from online applications, specifically through my undergraduate and graduate school’s career center site or a company-specific job board.

Search and apply to part time/temporary positions through your alma mater’s career site. It’s more likely to yield promising results compared to applications submitted on mainstream, public job sites because employers posting jobs to higher institution’s sites are targeting those specific graduates (like you) for a reason.

Another option to explore is the job boards of specific companies, especially smaller ones you want to work for. These companies may not post positions to major job sites because they’re looking for a specific person or one that is familiar with or connected to their services/brand/product already.

Word of mouth and referrals (aka leveraging your network)

If you’re providing a professional service, whether it’s as a content writer or hair and makeup artist, look for opportunities closest to home in the beginning. Family and friends can be a great way to get referrals, but consider others in your professional network like professors or colleagues too.

Send an email or add an update to your social media accounts to let people know what you’re doing. They may know someone who knows someone that is looking for what you can provide. This approach is especially useful for “regular and persistent searchers.” Then, post pictures or share published work with those in your network so they know the value you can create (and they can show your portfolio to potential future customers too!).

Study what others are doing

If you are launching a store on Etsy or making a product, research others’ online stores, blogs, videos, websites, and products. Read customer reviews to see what they love, like, or wish were better so you know where you and your ideas fit in and can stand out.

Find people who are doing what you want to do. Reach out to them through social media or an in person event to see if they’d share information, advice, or just talk to you about what they’re doing.

Time management

Remember in the first post when we asked you “why” you want to have a side gig? Don’t lose sight of that as time goes by.

Your why will keep you motivated and focused when you’re working long hours and wishing you had a little more free time.

Know your limits

You might not know your limits until you’ve reached them and are struggling. For example, scheduling hair and makeup appointments back-to-back for twelve hours on Saturday and Sunday might be exciting when you’re first starting out, but isn’t sustainable. If you notice your stress level rising or the quality of your work dropping, make changes. Don’t schedule as many appointments or overbook yourself.

Give yourself more time in between appointments or more time with a client, at least until you can gauge your proficiency or ability. It’s hard to turn down opportunities in the beginning, especially if you get a wave of requests or interest. But you won’t be doing your customers/clients any good if you don’t provide them with the level of service or quality you would have been able to provide if you had more time, were fresh, etc.

Use your planner to manage your new schedule

You’ve now got your normal commitments and your day job, plus a new side gig to manage.  Stay organized and on top of your side gig assignments, responsibilities, and tasks with the help of your planner.

Track important deadlines, record your hours each week, and document progress. If you’re using your Ink+Volt planner, take advantage of the 30 day challenges to set goals for yourself (focus on outreaching to new clients this month), use time blocking to schedule side gig work (mornings or evenings and weekend), and record achievements as the months and year goes by (save your customer’s yelp reviews of thank you emails).

Be prepared for lulls in work

Whether your side gig is seasonal or wrapping up because the project is in its final stages, you’ll likely experience down time when you have fewer or no current side gig opportunities.

During these periods, it’s important not to panic. Rather than see the lull as a crisis or indication that things aren’t going well:

  • Take time for yourself to rest, recuperate, and rejuvenate. It’s ok to slow down for a bit, even if you’re not used to it. A lull gives you time to rediscover the joy behind your side gig or other things going on in your life.
  • Look for new opportunities through your network or online. Try reworking any ads that you may have running, and make them more targeted.
  • Revamp or update your social media profiles, your website, or resume.
  • Take this opportunity to organize documents or customer/client information, clean or repair your tools, or review and reflect on your past work, looking for opportunities to grow and expand.
  • Consider ways you can improve or streamline your current processes to prepare for your next customer/client.
  • Be proud of your accomplishments! And learn from mistakes so they’re not made twice.

When it’s time to phase out your side gig life

Maybe you just needed a side gig to bring in a bit of extra money for a year, or maybe you’ve had a life event that changed your circumstances and availability. Your side gig doesn’t have to last forever.

Sometimes, side gigs are great for a certain period of time, but if you notice it’s starting to get in the way of advancing in your full time job (you’re having to turn down travel opportunities or are losing focus) it’s time to reconsider your pros and cons.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe your side gig has blossomed into something so spectacular that you’re getting out of your full time job and turning your side gig into a freelance or self-employed venture.

In either scenario, it’s important to recognize that side gigs morph, ebbing and flowing with us as we change and grow. Just because it ends doesn’t mean it is or was a failure. Be open to following your life and career path wherever it goes.

Tell us about your side gigs!

We’d love to hear what kinds of side gigs you have, what your “why” is, and what success or struggles you’ve encountered. Send us an email to hello@inkandvolt.com or say hi on our Facebook page!

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