Running a side hustle that you love is like getting paid to have fun on your terms. And when you really need it, diversified income can be a game-changer.
A side hustle is essentially any activity you do to earn money outside of your regular job. When times are good, many people hustle to make extra money for fun purchases, or to pay down debts faster; other people use their hustle to fund their hobbies without dipping into their regular paycheck.
No matter why you start, we can all agree that diversified income adds security to your financial situation. If you lose your job suddenly or incur an unexpected bill, it’s helpful to have a backup cash flow.
Here’s what you should consider when starting your own hustle.
Do something you love
Custom Etsy earrings, roadside flower stands, welding sculptures, even taming wild horses (yes, really – I know an urban contractor who does that on the side)—You have as many choices as you have talents.
My suggestion? If you’ve already got a job that covers your basic needs, or even if you are hurting for cash but you’re faced with several options with real money-making potential — choose the one that’s the most fun.
While it’s true that you can make loads of cash doing side jobs that aren’t all that fun (like pumping septic tanks or deep-cleaning restaurants, for example), simply because very few people want to do them, it’s not always wise to start out with tough jobs where the money is the sole motivator.
Start with something you like enough to keep doing as you learn how to overcome the inevitable challenges that come with running an informal business.
Keep your startup costs at zero
You should always avoid sinking any money into a side hustle at the outset.
Leave the debts for Wall Street, and start with a hustle that costs you absolutely nothing but time. This way, you’ll learn the basics of business and build up a pool of cash you can use to purchase any tools you might need for a more involved hustle down the line.
Dumpster dive, mow lawns, bake for friends and family, sell your expert advice (also known as consulting)—do whatever you need to do (legally, please) when you’re first starting out. Then, reinvest your zero-cost profit however you please.
Learn some creative ways to make money with your time.
The really cool part about this is that you’re the boss. You’re the head honcho of You, Inc. You get to decide how much of your profit you want to roll back into expanding your new venture with new equipment, training, or marketing; how much goes to the Lamborghini fund; and how much is immediately converted to pizza and beer on Friday nights.
The choice is yours.
BUT – Remember why you started
There is such a thing as too much success.
Seriously. If you’ve hit a home run and business is booming, you could get overloaded quickly. That’s why it’s called a hustle. Whatever you’re doing, if you do it well and people want it, it can turn into real work.
If you find yourself in the happy position of having to decide how much hustle is too much (and I hope you do), remember what you’re doing it for.
If all you wanted was to make enough money to pay for ski club with the kids this winter, but there’s so much business rolling in you don’t even have time to go skiing, your hustle is no longer serving your goal and it’s time to start scaling back.
Flip the scenario. If you started your hustle just to have fun and make some weekend spending money, but nobody’s biting and it’s stressing you out—don’t be afraid to drop it and try something new. If you did it right, you’ll have lost nothing but a little time, and learned a whole lot.
Not every side venture has to turn into the next “I-quit-my-job-to-follow-my-passion” story. Though it totally can, if you’re into that. Or if you’re forced into that.
A backup plan for hard times
Stories abound of people getting laid off by a happy chance and starting their dream career in response.
Those kinds of stories don’t just happen. Running a business, while rewarding, is tough. I’d be willing to bet a lot of those people were already running a side hustle of some kind before they made the leap to a full-time business owner.
Whether you dream of quitting your job or not, an income stream that’s completely independent of your fulltime employment is just another benefit of starting your own hustle.
If you want more inspiration and practical advice, I wholeheartedly recommend listening to a few podcasts like The Side Hustle Show; or reading a book like Chris Guillebeau’s bestseller Side Hustle and The 100 Dollar Startup.
Then get out there and have some fun! What have you got to lose?