Side hustles can be a great way to supplement your income or satisfy your entrepreneurial spirit. Who knows — having one might someday lead to a more fulfilling job opportunity.
Experienced side hustlers will tell you there’s a lot you can do in the beginning to build a solid foundation for your gig. So if you’re thinking about taking on a new venture, here are 10 tips on how to start a side hustle that will help you avoid future headaches.
Find Out How Much Side Hustle Time You Have Available
When juggling a day job and starting a side hustle, time is precious. McKinzie Bean is the operator of Moms Make Cents, a website aimed at helping moms build their own businesses.
She advises people to document their normal routines for one week before starting their side gig so they can see how much time during the evenings and weekends they spend doing things like cooking dinner, watching Netflix, doing chores, etc. Bean recommends using time tracking smartphone apps like Toggl when offline and Google Chrome extensions to monitor time spent on the internet.
You can see how much time you really have for a side hustle once you cut unproductive activities from your schedule.
“In your first year, you do have to dedicate a lot of time to your side hustle,” Bean says. “Just see which pieces you’re willing to give up because it is going to take some sacrifice to get to that point where your business is growing.”
Research if the Side Gig Is Worth Doing
Now that you know how much free time you have available, consider whether it’s feasible to add a side gig on top of a regular job.
Alex Tran is a full-time digital marketing strategist who operates five separate side hustles, including teaching yoga and reviewing activewear. She recommends searching Google and YouTube to see if there’s a need for your side hustle and to determine how time-consuming it can be. During your research, see if other people are doing something similar and ask if they are willing to offer their advice.
“Say, ‘Hey, I work full time right now, but is it possible that I could just do this maybe six hours a week?’” she advises. If they respond, they may tell you how much of a financial and time commitment it will be to get your business off the ground.
Find Out Whether You Need to Inform Your Current Employer
One thing to consider before starting a side hustle is determining whether the gig will interfere with your day job. Every company is different, and some may have strict guidelines on what employees can do outside of work, Bean warns.
Do yourself a favor and dust off the employee handbook to see if there are any rules against side jobs. The last thing you need is to lose your primary source of income because you forgot to tell your boss about your budding side gig.
Set Some Office Hours
When Bean and her husband started working on their website 2 1/2 years ago, they set a schedule to keep them on track during the evenings. For example, she’d work for an hour on the site after her husband got home, then he’d take over after dinner. She says having a schedule in place was critical for them.
Also included in their schedule was at least one social or family activity per week to avoid burnout. “There was always one piece in the week that we could look forward to,” Bean says. “A few hours where we could recharge and be rejuvenated.”
Open Separate Business Accounts
It’s never too early to start thinking about tax season. Trish McDermott is a longtime side hustler and co-founder of BabyQuip, a baby gear rental service for traveling parents. She tells people to open a bank account and credit card dedicated solely for their business.
Doing this provides you with a true-to-life snapshot of the financial results of your side hustle. “That snapshot is really difficult to see if you’re commingling your personal transactions with your side hustle,” she says.
By having all your side hustle income and expenses in one place, you can see trends and other relevant information to improve your business. Plus, she says, your accountant will appreciate it when it’s tax time.
Develop an Organization System for Your Paperwork
Instead of throwing all your receipts into a shoebox, consider setting up a digital filing system. “As a side hustler, you have to maximize your time,” Bean says.
Most of her receipts and invoices are sent via email because she runs an online business. To save time, Bean uses free basic automation software, such as If This Then That (IFTTT), to automatically save her receipts into a Google Drive folder.
For physical receipts, she takes photo backups using the smartphone app CamScanner. That way everything is saved on her phone or computer, ready to go for tax season.
Design Templates to Work Smarter
Tran encourages people to set up a task workflow in the early days of their side gig. For example, if your side business is in copywriting or involves creating a lot of documents, she encourages people to design templates.
“Have a system down so you can streamline it when you start to scale your business.” These templates can have the basic format laid out so all you need to do is change out the unique details. That way, you’re not starting from scratch on every project.
Find Industry-Specific Groups
McDermott says there are many industry-specific groups and communities available on social media for side hustlers. In these LinkedIn and Facebook groups, you can learn from other professionals working in your field as they share advice. McDermott recently discovered a Facebook group for freelance social media managers and was blown away by the information and resources they were sharing among themselves.
“Those kind of connections nowadays are so easy to find, and so fruitful,” she says.
Create a Productive Home Environment
Your home office needs to have minimal distractions. Two ways to ensure this include following a set work schedule and having everything you need in the office, McDermott says.
By following the same work schedule, your family, neighbors and others know not to bother you during designated times. Plus, if you have everything you need at your disposal, you don’t need to leave the room.
“Having the tools you need to do your work available in the space you’re doing it prevents you from wandering around the house and deciding that you should start the dishwasher,” she says.
Don’t Wait for Perfection — Just Go For It!
Whether it’s posting on social media, launching a website or starting a company, McDermott encourages aspiring side hustlers and entrepreneurs not to get paralyzed by perfection, which can get in the way of execution. Her outlook is to do it the best you can and fix what doesn’t work as you progress.
“There’s no company on the face of the planet that has gotten it all right all the time,” she says.
In her opinion, the rewards are more significant for entrepreneurs who take risks and are willing to bring their energy and passion to whatever they do.
“You just can’t wait around to be perfect,” she says. “Someone else will take the idea and run [with it]. Just go!”
Matt Reinstetle is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers side hustles and the gig economy. If you have a side gig story idea, message him on Twitter @MattReinstetle.
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