Are you fed up with the 9-5 grind?
So many people I know have taken their frustration with the limitations of ‘gainful employment’, be that the hours, the pay, or the people; and channeled it into a side gig business doing something they love.
Graphic designers are using their resources to create brands for friends and clients alike; casual knitters and sewers are opening up Etsy shops and booths at craft fairs. A dear friend experimented with selling her cookies at a farmers market and *accidently* gathered a cult following. She now makes enough cookies to support herself and take a full-time woodworker’s apprenticeship, another hobby she may pursue as a career one day.
Do you have a hobby that your friends and family have encouraged you to monetize? Are you a closeted maker or a secret baker? Are your Instagram photos so popular that you’ve been told you could photograph professionally?
Starting a side gig doesn’t have to be as stressful or time-consuming as starting a full-time business. Try looking at it as your proverbial lemonade stand – an opportunity to make a little extra cash from the activity you already enjoy doing.
If you’re ready to make your hobby your side gig, here are some inspirational tips get you started:
Pick your side hustle wisely
So you want a side hustle. What have you got that other people want? And more importantly, do you have what it takes to turn that into a paying job?
It’s easy to get lost in the daydream of the side gig. Let’s say you love taking photos when you’re out with your friends. You might think, hey, I love taking photos and I want to get paid for it. But sometimes the daydream of a side gig is a lot more fun than the actual work.
When you’re choosing your side gig, keep in mind:
- How much you enjoy creating or implementing your offering. Will you get sick of it after repeating ten, thirty, one hundred times over? What if you don’t have complete creative freedom like you do with a hobby? You’ll now be working with clients/customers and have to take their needs and preferences into account.
- The cost in producing your work. If you’re knitting a blanket that takes $200 worth of yarn and forty hours of work, tally up your cost up front. Can you afford to create a body of work that will help you market your services?
- Your resources and space. Are you able to reliably produce your item on a regular basis, or are you dependent on a space, tool, or resource that you have access to sporadically? How will you produce consistent work that can bring in income? How much time do you really have for this side gig every week/month?
Make a “sample collection” of products or representations of your service
When you’re running your own side gig, you don’t have the backing or name of a big company to give you credibility. You have to create your own credibility in order to help potential clients find you and want to hire you. The best way to do that is to give them a preview of the amazing things you can do.
Of all the products or services you provide, what would go in your “look book” to show potential clients and customers what you can create?
If you’re a photographer, it might be a collection of your 12 best images. If you’re a knitter, it might be two hats, two scarves, and a sweater that you display on your website or in your booth at a farmers market.
Curate your sample collection wisely. If you’ve already sold some products, then putting examples of those products in your look book is smart, since you know there is a market for those items. You can also think about adding items that will be eye-catching or that demonstrate a high level of skill.
Outline the logistics of your side gig
These logistics include the cost of materials and/or time to create each piece in your sample collection, what resources you need to complete your regular products/services, costs of marketing and selling your goods, and how many overall hours you have to realistically invest in your side gig each month.
Understanding these values will help you understand the level of commitment your side gig will require, and help you prioritize which items or services you should focus on most.
Tip: Keep this information and any other information you curate for your side-gig in a document or folder you can revisit regularly. Google Drive is a great free option!
Get feedback on your initial offerings
You may be diving into this side gig game at the insistence of loved ones who profess your talent, eye for style, or competency. Let your fans help your business get going!
Start to gather feedback on your work by providing free or low-cost products or services from your look book to those closest to you. Come to your reviewers prepared with questions or a small survey so you can gather data as objectively and completely as possible. Consider seeking feedback on:
- What do you like best about this item? Is there anything you don’t like? Why:
- How much would you value this item (in currency)? Would you purchase it in a store or online? Where: online, on social media, at a craft or farmers market, in a brick + mortar store?
- Who you do think would like this product or service best? Describe that person:
- Could this product or service be improved? Be specific: material, size, cost, style, color, time investment, customization, etc.
Keep in mind that your friends and family have a vested interest in being kind to you. So while their feedback can be a great start — and can make for excellent positive testimonials for your website! — you should also ask for feedback from people who you don’t know as well.
Ask friends for introductions to other people who can review your goods too. Their feedback might be more critical (since they don’t already know and love you), which will help you get a clearer insight into what the general public will be thinking about your work. This is how you’ll tweak your offerings to make them perfect for launch.
Price for profit and for pleasure
A struggling side gig is a spirit killer. There’s a delicate balance to taking a hobby or pastime to the next level, putting accountability and profitability into consideration when it used to be just about fun alone.
While it may seem obvious to price for profit, it’s important to also price for pleasure too. How much do you want/need to make from this project in order for it to be worth it to you?
You have all the information you need already: the cost, hours, and resources it takes to produce your product or service and feedback on your items’ value from trusted reviewers. I’m going to give you a wild card piece of advice: don’t compare your prices to the perceived market value.
Instead, take what you know and price accordingly to your cost, your time, and your value. You may consider pricing generously when you first start, or experiment with discounts – that’s entirely up to you. However, choose a price for each of your offerings and stick with it for at least a month. Then review your sales and the feedback you get from customers and consider making changes up or down; let your experience be your guide.
Choose one outlet and LAUNCH
You may notice these tips don’t include any directives to: Get a logo or brand suite, build a website, create every social media account imaginable, create an Etsy shop, etc…
On the contrary, start by choosing only one outlet.
It’s so easy to get swept up in the work of creating a logo or website and to kind of forget to actually launch your product. There are so many ways you can “prepare” to launch that keep you from launching.
Instead of trying to set up every aspect of your business perfectly in advance, keep it small at first.
After all, this is just a test — you want to see if this hobby can really make it as a side gig. If you’re wildly successful, there will be plenty of time for logos and websites in the future when you have more time and money to invest.
If your side-gig involves the creation of products:
- Instagram, with a free PayPal account listed to accept payments for items sold
- Etsy shop, also connects with PayPal or bank account
- Resale app like Poshmark, Vinted, or eBay, also connects with PayPal or bank account
- Local vendor market, with a free Square payment processing account for credit cards
If your side-gig involves providing a service:
- Simple one-page portfolio website on Squarespace, Wix, or Tumblr
- Instagram, with authentic photos that represent your services
- YouTube, featuring your best video, audio, or talent-based productions
- Professional platform relating to your subject matter such as LinkedIn, a Facebook group, or local professional organization
Tell your story
We’re living in the age of authenticity, transparency, and connection. Consumers want to know how the items they’re purchasing are made; they want to know the lives and lessons of their makers and providers; they want to feel like you’re friends, even family, as they exchange their hard-earned dollars for your goods or services.
Whatever platform you chose, be it virtual or physical, make every effort to connect with those who enter your space. Even if they just came to browse and not buy, share authentically why this is your side-gig, your passion project, your heart.
This can be done with a poignant two-paragraph bio for your online store or in the captions of your Instagram posts. It can be done through conversation over your table at the farmers market or at a networking event through your professional organization.
Be open to this new way of doing business; a way that is perfectly supportive of the side gig and the passionate human who brought it to life.