Whether you want to supplement your main income or you’re gearing up to start your own side hustle, looking for ways to make some extra cash is not only smart but also easier than you might think.
You don’t always have to start off with a long-term business plan in mind — although it’s obviously totally fine if you — but there are certain things you need to consider before you launch yourself into the freelance world.
Here are seven easy-to-follow steps to help you do just that.
[Read: How to convince your boss to let you work from home — forever!]
Your day job dictates everything
If your day job is your main source of income, it’s important to acknowledge that and make sure your performance doesn’t suffer once you’ve launched your side hustle.
You need to be realistic about what your current employer, or clients, require from you on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
If you have flexible working hours, great, but if not, you may want to sit down and think about what kind of scheduling commitments you need to fulfil and how your side hustle may fit in around that.
Make sure you review your employment contract and check there are no clauses that prohibit you from undertaking extra paid work in your industry or alongside your role.
If unclear, speak to your manager — it’s always best to be honest and transparent as opposed to operating under the radar and potentially compromising your full-time employment.
Survey your skills
Before you even start thinking about what you should be doing, it’s important to take stock of your current skill set.
Think about what transferable skills you already have and how you might be able to monetize them.
For example, could you give language or music lessons? Is copywriting your vibe? Are you a social media whizz?
You see where I’m going with this…
Do your research
As with most things in life, research is crucial. You need to figure out what your unique selling point is, who the competition is, what they’re up to, and what potential customers are after.
For example, there’s no known shortage of copywriters, but there may be a lack of people specializing in certain subjects. So, find your niche — and don’t forget that the more specialized you are, the more you can potentially earn.
Regardless of what you want to do, survey the market and figure out the most efficient way for you to monetize your abilities. Are you an amateur photographer looking to sell your work to enthusiasts or are you hoping to focus on product photography?
The important thing to keep in mind is that although you’re trying to create an additional revenue stream, you should try and do things that, where possible, also bring you some kind of joy. Otherwise, you’ll resent the extra work you’re doing. If you can make your side hustle feel like a hobby, then you’re on to a winner.
Now that you’ve figured out your skills, what you want to do, and you know exactly where you sit in the market, it’s time to start thinking about how you are going to present yourself and your work.
It’s probably sensible — and advisable — to create your own site or online portfolio.
Keep it simple. You don’t have to go all out and build a super sophisticated website, just make sure you showcase your best work, your experience, client testimonials (if you have them), and give people enough information to spark their interest and entice them to contact you.
If relevant, create social media accounts to go alongside your website or portfolio. If you’re going to be working on something quite visual — such as photography, typography, etc — opt for Instagram.
Cater your craft and messaging according to your audience and think how this should vary depending on whether you’re on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and perhaps even TikTok.
Don’t be scared to experiment with different mediums and use the opportunity to market your skills to learn news ones. For example, why not film a video CV if it makes sense to do so? It may be more appealing to the audience you’re targeting and you may also pick up filming and editing skills.
Leverage your network
Regardless of whether you’re willing to spend on marketing or not, you should ALWAYS leverage your network.
Put the feelers out there, tell key contacts what you’re doing, and how you are doing it. Ask for useful introductions and talk to as many people as you can.
Attend relevant industry events — whether online or offline — and get your personal brand out there.
Follow the right people and companies. You need to be in-tune with industry trends, news, and lingo. More importantly, you need to make others think that you are.
Having a side hustle is about being proactive — and while it’s plausible that some people will come to you — there’s no room for complacency. You literally need to make things happen and if the inbound inquiries aren’t coming in, you must create work for yourself.
Don’t work for free
You need to realize what you do has value, if you don’t believe this is the case, others will have a hard time thinking it too.
Getting paying customers can be a real struggle, but it’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of working for free.
There’s no harm in potentially doing a free trial for a customer you think will have long-term potential, but just bear in mind that people often struggle paying for something when they’ve not had to pay for it in the past.
Keep it clean
More money will often mean more taxes so make sure you do your homework if you don’t want to be caught out with an unexpected bill.
Just be clear on what the implications are in terms of tax and if you can — and are lucky enough to be making a sizable amount of money through your side hustle — consider hiring an accountant who can do the hard slog for you.