Every side hustle starts with an idea. And your first step to pulling off a successful one is to find the right ideas. They may not be obvious at first, but if you look closely, you’ll find no shortage of ideas that can be converted into money available for the taking.
Before we go on, take note of an important fact about hustle ideas: Not all of them are created equal. In fact, there’s a tremendous range of potential profit among them.
Still, almost every one that’s worth pursuing will make you nod your head yes to the questions below:
1. Is Your Idea Feasible?
Your goal is to start a project in a short period of time that earns money outside your day job. If any of these pieces of the equation aren’t immediately evident in the idea you’re considering, you don’t have a feasible idea.
Let’s break down what feasible means:
And let’s break that down even more:
- Excited to Start a Project: You’re actually going to do this, not just think about it. When you think about an idea, do you feel excited? Can you envision your next steps? If not, abandon the idea.
- Potential to Earn Money: Remember: A side hustle isn’t a hobby—it produces income. If you don’t see a clear way to get paid, abandon the idea.
- In a Short Period of Time: If your idea requires three years to get going, abandon the idea.
A feasible idea is one that you can turn into reality using the skills, time, and resources you already have. Even if you don’t know every step of the way, you must be able to see a pathway from idea to launch.
2. Is Your Idea Profitable?
You’re not looking for an idea that merely sounds interesting, you’re looking for a profitable one.
To make sure you understand the difference, consider two examples of entirely different ideas. Here’s the first, from a personal chef with a love for high-quality desserts:
I want to start an ice-cream-of-the-month club that delivers artisanal flavors to offices. The service is marketed to HR managers and small business CEOs as a way to increase morale and bring employees together for regular social experiences.
In this example, there’s a clear target market. Sure, the logistics of storing and delivering all that ice cream could get a little complicated, but it might be worth exploring if you knew how to source the ingredients and who your initial clients would be. This idea is at least potentially profitable.
Now, consider another idea from a college graduate beginning the slow climb at a consulting firm:
I’d like to create an app that introduces a new form of payment for people who don’t like credit cards or cash.
Is that idea interesting? Sure, maybe.
But how would you even begin to build and market it? It would be an enormous, expensive undertaking, even if you had a background in both information technology and finance. And even if you could easily build it, how would you go about making it stand out from all the other payment apps on the market?
At best, it’s a grandiose vision that would require a great deal of dedication and struggle. That’s not what a side hustle is about.
Here’s another quick test: If you have a hard time explaining the primary benefit of your concept in more than a sentence or two, you may need to rethink the idea. If the primary benefit is unclear to potential customers, you won’t convert many of them into paying customers.
3. Is Your Idea Persuasive?
There’s one more factor to consider as you brainstorm—and eventually select—your idea.
It’s not enough to have a good idea, even one that’s potentially very profitable. Your idea has to arrive at the right time, and be so persuasive that it’s hard for customers to say no to.
I recently went to an event where the parking cost $25. Normally, it costs $5 to park in this lot, but for the special event the price had increased 500% overnight.
Was I happy about paying $25 for something that usually costs $5? Nope. Did I pay it? Yep. Supply and demand ensured that the parking lot owner was providing a service that was very persuasive on that day.
Sometimes, you’ll have ideas that just aren’t ready yet. That’s okay; you can hold on to them for later. Better to focus your current efforts on ideas that’re persuasive now. To be successful, you want the right idea at the right time.
Let’s sum this all up into a short checklist:
- Can you describe how to turn your idea into action in one sentence?
- Is there an obvious way to make money with this idea?
- Does this idea solve a problem for someone?
- Can you figure out how to make this idea happen quickly?
- Is it relatively low maintenance?
- Can you get paid more than once for this idea?
The more “yes” answers you have to these questions, the more potential your idea has. And the more potential it has, the faster you should get to work.
This excerpt was adapted from Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau, which came out September 2017. It has been republished here with permission.
Photo of person working at home courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Chris Guillebeau is the bestselling author of books including The $100 Startup, The Happiness of Pursuit, and The Art of Non-Conformity. He is also the founder and host of Side Hustle School, a daily podcast with more than 2 million downloads per month. During a lifetime of self-employment and side hustling, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram.More from this Author