When it comes to saving money, you often hear advice about cutting your budget in areas like eating out, club memberships and cable TV. And while being mindful of unnecessary expenses can help you build a solid financial foundation, there's only so much you can cut before there's nothing left to trim.
Sometimes instead of saving more, the solution is that you need to earn more. That's where the side hustle comes into play.
A side hustle is a way to earn extra money outside your full-time job with the skills and time you already have. Some examples of typical side hustles include babysitting, pet sitting and tutoring. But side hustles can also include more specialized jobs, like software development, design and copywriting. The key to a successful side hustle is to find something that you enjoy doing and that provides you the flexibility to continue your 9-to-5 job.
How to get started
Collin and Leann Waldron are an entrepreneurial couple. They both started successful side hustles before they were married. Collin's full-time job is in motion design, and his side gigs in graphic design and photography use some of the same skills. Leann arranges travel for employees at a nonprofit organization, but she learned calligraphy in her free time to start a side hustle completely different from what she does during the day.
They've taken different approaches to accomplish the same goal, so we interviewed them to understand different ways to establish a side hustle.
How did you start your side hustle?
Leann: I started my side hustle in 2015. At the time, I was working an office job that I didn't love. I needed a creative outlet, so I started learning calligraphy in my free time. I became really passionate about it really quickly. Friends and family started paying me to make custom pieces for them, and I realized that I could make extra money. I got engaged in 2016 and decided to focus more time on this side hustle to help pay for the wedding.
Collin: Since college, I have always helped people with their design work in my free time. Usually, it's friends who need help with a creative project or help developing an idea they have in mind. I have always been able to work on a lot of diverse projects.
I think the biggest thing you can do to get started is help out local nonprofits and good causes that you're passionate about.
People see that, and it becomes free advertisement for you. And it helps your community at the same time.
How do you find your clients?
Leann: I found my clients through social media. I started out doing calligraphy for weddings, so I used different platforms to connect with local wedding vendors. I started reaching out to florists, planners, venues, bakers and anyone else in the area that had a connection to the wedding industry to let them know of my services. By networking this way, I was recommended by these vendors to their clients.
Collin: I usually don’t look for clients. It’s more about helping my friends with great design, so word of mouth is the best.
How do you determine how much your work is worth?
Leann: The way I determine how much my work is worth has definitely been by trial and error. I start out by estimating the amount of time it would take me to complete a project plus the cost of materials and labor. Oftentimes, the project would take longer than I quoted, so I used that to help better price my services later. Another factor I take into consideration is how much my competitors are charging for a similar item or service. I try to be fair in my prices but also make sure that I am getting paid what I think my work is worth.
Collin: I base compensation on scope of work, quality and deadline. The client should always have a basic budget in mind, but it's the designer's job to be able to scale the work appropriately within the client's constraints.
How do you balance your side hustle with your full-time job?
Leann: Balancing a side hustle and full time job can definitely be a challenge, but it's possible if you're organized. At the beginning of each week, I look at my workload and my personal calendar and decide what days I want to dedicate to working on these projects. I make sure it does not interfere with my day job or with any plans I have with family and friends. It's also important to prioritize so that each project and client is getting the attention it needs while also meeting each deadline in a timely manner. I also know that I am most creative and more focused early in the mornings. Often times I will get up early on a Saturday morning while the house is still quiet to begin working. It's important to know when you're most productive and to use that to your advantage.
Collin: For me, anything I do in my free time is more focused on passion projects—creative projects that allow me to build my skills and explore different disciplines of design.
Ultimately, this improves my overall skills that directly transfer to my full-time job. For me, it’s a way of growing my skill sets and adding one more trick or technique to my toolbox.
Do you have any advice for aspiring side hustlers?
Leann: My advice to aspiring side hustlers is to be consistent and patient. It will take some time to really grow a successful side hustle, so making sure you are consistently creating ... and networking is key. It's also helpful to be patient when you're first starting out. It takes time to establish a business and reputation, so realizing that it won't happen overnight is important. Focus on your long-term goals, and make steps each day to achieve them.
Collin: It doesn’t even have to be within your day-to-day profession, but it should be something you are passionate about and that helps you and possibly your community. Think of it as an investment in you and your future.
Ask yourself what you want to be doing 10 years down the road, and go for it. It could be combining multiple passions, like a taco stand and bike shop or a design studio and coffee shop. Think outside the box, and work on it 1 hour a day, 7 days a week. A small investment in yourself can lead to huge dividends down the road.
Different approaches to side hustling
There are lots of different options for how you can approach your side hustle. You can use skills you already have or develop a new skill. You can aggressively market yourself or passively let your customers find you. A side hustle can be something that you do for a season of time to earn money in a hurry, or it can be a passion that you can eventually turn into a sustainable full-time job.
"Side hustles are a great way to transition from a full-time job you may not be passionate about, or it could just be a fun way to make some extra cash," Leann said. "When I started my side hustle it was to help pay for my wedding, but I loved what I was doing so much that I continued to grow the business even after I was married. I am now expecting my first child, so I've scaled back drastically with my side business to focus on the new addition to the family. But I find it comforting to know that I can always jump back into it if needed."
Whatever your goals are, your side hustle can help you reach them.
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