Are you ready to start your very own side hustle?

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By: Steve | Think Save Retire

As most of you know, I love the idea of side hustles and earning money after early retirement.

In fact, making money doing something that you enjoy is not only super rewarding, but it’s also one of the most productive uses of our time – especially after we’ve called it quits from full-time work.

Let’s say that you have a passion for earning money, but you haven’t been able to put your finger on how exactly to make that happen. I’ve been there.

The other day, I got to ask Andrew Schrage, co-owner of the very pofpular Money Crashers website that gets millions of monthly pageviews about what it’s like to run a highly successful side gig and any tips he might have for those of us who want to follow in his footsteps.

I think you’ll find his answers remarkable.

11 questions with Andrew Schrage

1. For folks who want to earn a little extra money, what are their options? And, do these options NEED to be online?

When it comes to earning a little extra money, the possibilities are almost endless. You could do something as simple as pet-sitting for neighbors, or even completing various small tasks for folks on the website Fiverr.

If your goals are more grandiose, starting a blog is an option, as is an actual small business.

It depends on several things:

  • your available amount of free time,
  • your skill set,
  • and how much you want to earn

Most folks might find that online side gigs will be a better fit for them, but there are plenty of offline opportunities as well. Besides the ones mentioned, a few others to consider are housecleaning, landscaping, personal assistant, recycling throwaways, or even tutoring.

2. What are the best side gigs for people who don’t have a lot of free time?

If you don’t have a lot of free time, you still have options. In that scenario, you would want to look for a side gig  that can generate the most money using the least amount of time.

An online reselling business would be an opportunity if you have a lot of stuff around the house that you can unload for cash. Consulting would be another area, since you’d simply be relying on your skill set, experience, and talents, and from there you’d simply be recounting your tips and strategies. A remote personal assistant would be another opportunity, although your free time would probably have to be interspersed throughout the day in order to be effective in that position.

3. Do you need a lot of money to start a side gig? What are some options that don’t require a lot of startup cash?

You actually do not need a lot of money to start a side gig. If you’re simply looking to unload unneeded items around your house, you won’t need much more than an eBay or an Amazon account, some basic packing supplies (some of which you can get for free), and that’s about it.

Other side gigs which are service-oriented such as house-sitting, pet-sitting, or babysitting don’t require much startup cash, and neither does any sort of gig based on your personal knowledge and experience – in a consulting fashion.

4. How can I determine if I can handle a side gig?

This is a great question.

First of all, you need the available time. Think you don’t have it? Investigate some personal and professional time management tips online to see if you can free up the time needed.

Next, are you motivated? You should be unless you are completely debt-free with no monthly financial concerns and all of your long-term financial goals are taken care of.

Follow through will be needed as well. You not only need to start your side gig, but you have to commit to running it and hopefully expanding it. Most of the time, this takes a lot of hard work. So in a nutshell, if you can free up the time, you’re committed to your gig, and you want to see it flourish and grow, then you can probably handle it.

5. Once your side gig is off the ground, how do you market it?

There are a variety of ways to market your side gig once it’s off the ground. One of your best bets might be through social media. You can create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and plenty of other sites to generate buzz about your biz.

You could also go more grassroots and focus on friends and family. Additionally, consider establishing accounts on business listing websites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Angie’s List, although those choices will depend a lot on your industry and the scope of your gig. Launching a blog or website is another option to market your gig, although you’ll need time and energy to make sure that it is a successful endeavor.

6. Do you have tips for cutting costs when starting a side gig?

When starting a side gig, cutting costs should be foremost since you probably don’t have a lot of available cash. You should save on supplies when possible by using whatever you have around your home if it is applicable, and definitely utilize social media in your marketing efforts since that strategy is basically cost-free. You can get free shipping boxes from either the USPS or UPS if your business is product-based.

Every penny counts in a side gig, so save wherever you can.

7. How can we research our industry? Do you need to look at competition or other challenges?

As far as what side gig industry to choose, there are two key things to look at.

One is, do you have any knowledge in the area? For example, if you’ve never shopped on Amazon and don’t really know what eBay is, then you might want to look elsewhere instead of choosing an Internet reselling business. Next, how much time do you have and when do you have it? If yours is limited or only late at night, maybe starting a blog and eventually making money off advertising revenues could be your cup of tea. You could work on that project whenever you want. Or you could really choose any other business that isn’t service-oriented or time-bound, so to speak.

Competition may come into play as well. For example, if you do an Internet search for legal help in your zip code and you get thousands of results, you might want to look elsewhere. As an additional example, if you’re looking into landscaping but a Craigslist query reveals multiple other folks who are offering the same service, you might want to find a less-competitive gig unless you’re confident that you can undercut the competition in price or better service.

Also, generally speaking, you should stick with a gig that you either already have experience in or think that you can get up to speed on quickly.

8. Side gig revenues can fluctuate. How should you handle this when/if your business gets off the ground?

This is another very good question. Once your side gig is up an running, revenues will probably fluctuate. There will be good months and bad months. What is most important in the beginning is that an abnormally good month should not be celebrated to excess. In most cases, it’s probably just an anomaly.

Instead, you should exercise restraint on a lot of fronts, including business expansion and personal spending. Put that month in the books as a win, bank the revenues and then keep them somewhere safe in case the following month isn’t quite as lucrative, which could happen. Not to overstate things, but success with a side gig is a win in and of itself, but abusing your revenues unnecessarily can be damaging to the long-term success of your gig or potential small business.

9. What tips do you have in regards to patience with a new venture regarding revenue?

When starting a side gig, unless you have an incredible stroke of luck, your venture probably will not see amazing profits or revenues in the beginning. That’s just how it goes in the world of being an entrepreneur. But that’s where the trait of patience takes precedence.

If you don’t see tons of revenue in the beginning, and especially if you start to doubt yourself, slow down. Understand that things take time and just because you’re not doing really well, in the beginning, doesn’t mean that success won’t eventually come.

The recommended game plan here is to stick to your goals and objectives, continue to work hard, and barring some unforeseen circumstance, you should ultimately achieve success. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s a definite possibility.

10. It seems like it’s recommended that a side gig is started while keeping your traditional job. What’s the reason behind that?

It is recommended that a side gig is started while keeping your traditional job, and there are many reasons for that.

First, it’s possible to do. All you need is some solid time-management practices and the gig can be started in your spare time.

Next, and more importantly, if you start a side gig that you have no idea whether it will succeed or not, relying on that as your sole source of income is a highly risky move. And if you go that route, you’ll likely be dealing with financial stress in the midst of getting your gig off the ground. That is not good. Also, you can use any revenues from your side gig to shore up your long-term financial goals that need it, such as retirement savings, an emergency fund, or to save for college for your kids.

11. Should you ever consider expanding your side gig into a full-fledged small business? What are a few tips regarding that transition?

You should definitely consider expanding your side gig into a full-fledged small business if that’s what you want to do.

Small business ownership presents a wide variety of perks including the ability to work your own schedule, be your own boss, and to be the leader of something you’re truly passionate about. On the other hand, if all you’re looking for is some extra cash, then that’s fine too.

But if you want to expand, one key question is deciding when to walk away from your traditional career. That should be decided using one important benchmark – when your side gig reaches the point where you can pay your monthly bills and survive financially on its revenues alone. Either that or if you’re close to that point and you are confident you’ll reach it in the near future.

Also, be careful when hiring. A side gig recently turned small business is probably not going to need a lot of help in the beginning. And, make sure that your commitment to stellar customer service is still high on your list. Lots of folks let this fall through the cracks when expanding and this can be very damaging to your newly formed small business.

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