I started my personal finance website, Just Start Investing, a little over 2 years ago. I am a personal finance geek, and as I grew more interested in optimizing my own finances, I wanted to document what I learned to potentially help others too.
Just Start Investing was not the first side hustle that I started, either, though it has been my most successful one to date: It now generates over $1,000 per month in revenue. But even though I went into this project with a little bit of experience when it came to running an online business, I have still learned a tremendous amount over the past 2 years.
One of the best things about running my own business is that I never stop learning. Here is my best advice for anyone looking to start a side hustle.
Your net worth is the equivalent of your financial pulse. It tells you where you stand today and is an important metric to keep an eye on. Similarly, your income statement, and cash flow, is the financial pulse of your business.
When I first started Just Start Investing in January of 2019, I didn't set up a rigorous accounting or bookkeeping process. Frankly, I didn't need to, because I wasn't really making or spending any money. I had a simple Excel sheet and that did the trick.
However, as Just Start Investing grew beyond 1 to 2 transactions per month, so did my need for a better accounting system. At the end of 2020, I overhauled the Excel sheet that tracked my expenses and revenue, including line items for hosting fees, freelance design costs, display ad income, and affiliate income. I also signed up for Wave, a free accounting software, to double check my math.
In hindsight, I wish I would have set up this more robust system from day 1. Bookkeeping is an important aspect of your business, no matter your size.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
It might sound a bit clichéd but having a mission or vision for your business helps to focus you on the most important tasks. For Just Start Investing, my mission is to "make personal finance easy." That is the reason I started the site and the reason I keep it going. I want everyone to have the basic knowledge to make smart financial decisions to improve their lives.
I rarely stray away from that vision, but when I do, it's a conscious decision. And the vast majority of my content relates to my mission. For example, I recently wrote an article about Dave Ramsey's baby steps, analyzing the pros and cons of that particular personal finance strategy.
I believe that my commentary on the steps helps provide info and insight to help readers become more knowledgeable without overcomplicating things. Beyond prioritizing content, having a mission also helps me prioritize the type of work I do first.
I wear a lot of hats while running a solo side hustle. I am the writer, accountant, social media strategist, email marketing manager, and CEO of Just Start Investing. When there is a good opportunity to outsource and make my life easier, I take it.
For example, setting up an LLC was not an easy or straightforward process for me. So when I found a business that would do it on my behalf for a small fee, I jumped on it.
If you're not sure what to outsource, ask yourself 2 questions.
- Does the benefit of saving time outweigh the cost of hiring someone to do the task for you?
- Would hiring someone to do this task dilute the business in any way?
For me, if I outsourced the majority of the articles on the site, I'd potentially alienate my readers. This is why when it comes to writing, I still aim to do the majority of it myself. But when it comes to backend tasks, like setting up an LLC, I'm eager to free up my time and outsource it.
Having a mission and vision helps make outsourcing decisions easier as well.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
Although I am a 1-person business, I do have a lot of support when it comes to running my business. Some people will have mentors. Others, potentially a business coach. For me, it's a "mastermind group" of other like-minded personal finance website owners.
Our group is called The Money Mix Insiders and I joined when Michael from Your Money Geek reached out to me through Twitter DMs. In the year and a half I've been a member, being a part of this team has been invaluable. I get advice from seasoned website owners and experts, discounted rates on business software, and a place to vent when things are going wrong.
I could not have made it to where I am today without this group cheering me along and holding me accountable. For the same reason that start-up accelerator Y Combinator doesn't accept solo founder start-ups, I wouldn't recommend running your own business without a support system.
This can be a hard lesson for early founders to learn: Investing in your business is crucial. Just Start Investing did not start to gain traction until I started injecting some money into the business.
It's a classic chicken or the egg conundrum. You don't want to invest back into the business until you generate revenue, but you can't generate revenue without investing money to kick-start things.
The first significant purchase I made for Just Start Investing was buying a premium theme for the design of my site. Not only did it provide practical benefits, like improving site speed and how users interact with the site, but seeing the premium theme gave me a sense of pride in the website and encouraged me to continue to work on it.
When starting a side hustle, your time is one of your most valuable resources. If you are taking your business seriously and believe it can succeed, you need to have the confidence and courage to invest what is needed from day 1.
Kevin Panitch is an experienced personal finance writer and founder of Just Start Investing, a personal finance website that makes managing your money easy. Just Start Investing has been featured on Business Insider, Forbes, and US News & World Report, among other major publications, for its easy-to-follow writing and informative articles. You can follow Kevin and Just Start Investing on Twitter at @juststartinvest.
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