Ask the Experts: How to start your side hustle and earn extra income
Learn from an expert side hustler on how to start a successful side and earn extra money. Experimenting is key to taking the leap and learning along the way.
Author: Abby Butkus
April 4, 2023|Blog
Nick Loper from Side Hustle Nation left his full time job in 2008 to start working on a bunch of side projects… and guess what, a lot of the early ones didn’t pan out. But that didn’t discourage him – his experimentation mindset helped him learn from each step along the way. This blog shares some of Nick’s lessons and advice for what it takes to start a successful side business.
Key Takeaways for Kicking Off Your Side Hustle
Don’t get stuck waiting for a completely unique idea
Maintain an experimentation mindset
Focus on consistent profitability
The best time to start is now!
Tell us about Side Hustle Nation
I started Side Hustle Nation in 2013 which has become the main focus across the blog, podcasts, and YouTube. My goal is to help people make extra money. I’m taking a holistic look at personal finance and asking what’s the biggest lever that you can pull and have a level of control over. Personal profitability is the key.
It’s not how much money you make, it’s how much money you keep… but there’s only so much you can cut at the end of the day.
People have baseline living expenses so there’s only so much someone can cut before it makes more sense to address the income side of the equation, which is actually a lot more fun.
What gets you excited about helping people make extra money?
It’s so creative! People come up with amazing ideas and helping them get from zero to one, or idea stage to actually trying it out is so exciting. That entrepreneurial journey is so fascinating. Then the next question is how to get them to the next level of turning that small project into a full time job. Ideally someone can grow their side project into full time work they enjoy doing, serves others, and improves their lives financially.
What is the easiest entry point to increase your income with a side hustle?
There are two main angles I’ve seen work the best are:
Product flipping which is the easiest one to start, either on Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, or another platform. Maybe this can’t turn into a full time job but it gives someone a positive experience starting out.
Service-based businesses such as freelancing, consulting, or mobile services. You can start with anything, for instance dog walking, car detailing, babysitting, freelance writing, graphic design, or building websites.
Leveraging people you know is the most powerful resource you have when starting a business. They already want to support you, and then tapping into your network’s network is the next step to find customers and get the word out from there.
Once you understand if this is something you enjoy and want to expand, you can start creating and growing your digital presence. The simplest reviews can instill trust and confidence.
What are the most common questions you get from people starting out?
People talk about three main constraints:
Time: “I don’t have enough time for a side hustle. Where am I going to fit this into my schedule?”
Money: “How much is this going to cost to start up? I’m doing this because I already don’t have extra money.”
Ideas: “I don’t know what to do.”
Side Hustle Nation focuses on opportunities with low start up costs and exposing how much different businesses really take to start. Then there comes the marketing which is the most fun.
I’m worried my side hustle will fail!
The fear of failure is justifiable, but if someone can keep costs low then what’s the worst case scenario? People are stuck on the sidelines looking for the idea that no one has done before, but that’s actually riskier since there’s no proven market yet. If there is competition and someone has done it, then the idea is validated and you can put your own unique spin on it.
With my own business, comparison shopping sites already existed, so I just did a little pivot to focus on footwear. Same with my virtual assistant site. Review sites already existed, but I had some experience hiring remote team members, so I focused on this niche area. If it’s been done before it’s actually a good sign because there’s a proven market!
What are some things to mind when starting a side hustle?
If you have a specific goal to pay down debt or make a big purchase, it makes sense to use platforms like rideshare or delivery services since it’s very easy to start earning. The tradeoff is there’s a ceiling on earning potential for the amount of time you spend.
Find content about entrepreneurship and side hustles to get ideas of what other people are doing. Interview-style podcasts like The Side Hustle Show can really get your creativity flowing.
Connecting with an accountability partner or brainstorming group can be very motivating, especially when you're working on ideas independently.
Keep your downside risks and upfront costs low. Don’t spend too much time on logo design, business cards, or a website until you’ve validated your idea. You can prove your idea without all of this stuff.
Minimize your risk and position everything as an experiment. This way any failure is still a win because we’re learning and getting closer to an idea that works.
Anyone can start a successful side hustle, but just don’t quit your job until you have some track record of revenue.