There are many promises and resolutions we put on our to-do list when a new year arrives. High up on mine, year after year, is the goal of continuing to find ways I can turn the things I love to do into side hustles.
Since 2013, I've launched five different side hustle projects — Bridesmaid for Hire, a collection of books, a podcast, online courses, and a coaching business — and I still run them all today.
If you want to create something new that could evolve into a money-making project or business, it can feel overwhelming to get started. How do you decide on an idea? What if you create something and nobody likes it or needs it? What are the tools you need to at least give this all a try? You might even find yourself stuck in the idea generation phase for so long that you either lose momentum or give in to the feeling of being indecisive.
But over the years, I've developed a five step game plan that anyone can use to monetize a hobby, passion, or skill set. And it doesn't have to cost very much to get your idea up and running. I launched Bridesmaid for Hire on a budget of $250, and now it brings in six figures every year.
Here is my best advice.
Start by determining what you're great at and what you want to tap into as the skill, hobby, or passion of yours that will grow into your ultimate idea. Do a self-inventory to determine your personal and professional strengths, what you enjoy doing in your free time, and your unique characteristics.
You can also ask yourself these key questions:
- What kinds of help do people often ask you for?
- What are things you feel you know more about than most people in your life?
- What is a topic or category that you are wholeheartedly interested in?
If you find yourself feeling stumped, try asking friends and family to help you answer these questions. Their insights might help you spark an idea.
One thing I do when I'm brainstorming the newest thing I want to launch: I spend time each week jotting down ideas. I make a goal of writing down one thing I enjoy or am good at that I could turn into a side hustle.
This is how I decided to start my podcast. During this weeklong brainstorming session, I wrote down, "I love to give advice and inspire people." Another day, I wrote about how much I love to listen to podcasts and the enjoyment I get from doing speaking engagements.
By the end of the week, I paired these two ideas together and that was phase one of creating my podcast, which I was able to monetize through advertisements and a newsletter.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
One of the first things people often forget when they are brainstorming what kind of skill or hobby to turn into a business or project is that they need to consider their audience. Who do you want as your potential customer? Think about who your ideal audience is when researching who would be a good fit to consume this new product, service, or project.
Businesses solve problems for people. Identify who your target audience is by tapping into data, studies, news reports, and analytics to find out who has these problems. After you've discovered your target audience, immerse yourself in their world.
Stay up to date on trends they care about, other products or services they consume, and what platforms they spend their time on. Tap into both free and paid resources from social media websites that often track analytics, such as Buffer, Rival IQ, and Sprout Social.
As you start thinking about what kind of offering you want to put out there, research other people in your space that might be doing something similar. Analyze potential competitors and find out what kind of pricing, packages, and products or services they offer.
To do this, I'll often search for other similar companies through Google or social media and/or scroll through LinkedIn to find individuals who are similar to myself and who have started a project or business in the same kind of space.
Begin to think about not only what you want to offer but how you can tap even more into who you are and your skill set to find ways to make your service unique. Also consider how much money you want to invest when you start. That way, you can decide if you want to create a digital offering (coaching, a course, e-book, newsletter, podcast) or create a product from scratch. The latter will generally cost more capital to produce.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
As the pieces begin to come together and you've solidified your idea, your audience, and your offering, map it all out. With your business plan, you'll be able to strategize even more details about your target audience, initial products or services, plan to scale, and draft out your marketing plan for when you launch and for months after.
I'm a fan of the free template on a mentoring and resource website called SCORE. I fill one out for the idea that I'm trying to pursue and then share that business plan with my mentor and friends to get their feedback.
While we may try to keep our ideas private until we launch them, perhaps for fear of someone stealing them or shutting them down, it can be good to share with people you trust so you can get outside insight and expertise, and make sure you haven't missed anything important.
When you're starting to work on this detailed plan, also begin to plan out your pre-launch to-do list, which should incorporate things like:
- How you will build out your initial service or product
- The marketing platforms you will use
- Budgeting for customer acquisition, whether through paid ads or Google search
- Your launch strategy of how you plan to market and put out the news of your new project
- Post-launch goals so you can keep the momentum going
Your next step is to determine which tools you need to help get your idea out there. Most of the time, even if you're creating something you plan to offer or sell in person, you'll want a website. That way, you can create a digital home base to showcase your idea, story, and services.
I don't have a coding or website building background, so when I got started, I tried to find easy-to-use website builders that didn't require those skills. I ended up using template-based website platforms, like Wix or Squarespace, which make it easy to get a website up and running fast. If you're going to create a full-fledged e-commerce business, consider using Shopify to create a website to sell products or goods.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
Determine how you plan to spread the word about your business. If you plan on tapping into social media, know that you don't have to be on all platforms; it's OK to focus on one or two where you can connect with your audience. Resources and blogs like Social Media Today and HubSpot often provide that insight.
You might even want to make decisions now about how you will accept payment. Consider looking into payment processors like PayPal, Stripe, or Square. Just be aware that these processors offer seller protection but do take a fee of each transaction.
As you're working on getting your idea out there to the world and turning it into a profitable project or business, know that it's OK to start slow. Rushing through any of the steps above puts you at risk of missing out on something important that can help you take your business to the next level faster. Instead, take your time and launch your idea into the world when it's ready, and most importantly, when you are ready.
Jen Glantz is the founder and CEO of the business Bridesmaid for Hire, the voice of the podcast "You're Not Getting Any Younger,″ and the author of the Amazon-bestselling books, "All My Friends Are Engaged″ and "Always a Bridesmaid for Hire."
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