For many startup founders like me, second jobs are essential to keeping food on the table. But even if you’re not doing your own thing, you should take a serious look at thinking up a side hustle.
Yes, you’ll earn money. But more importantly, this new project also could lead to your next big thing: maybe a new job, a new career, or a new venture. If nothing else, you’ll gain and improve your current skill set.
Now, before you start counting all your sweet new cash, keep in mind that these won’t be easy. In fact, they’ll take work. But know that last year I pulled in almost $10K from my various side hustles—and there’s no reason you can’t get on that same track. Sure, you might not make that much right off the bat, but you can’t start making money until you, well, start.
So let’s begin with the small stuff and then work our way up to the big money earners. And along the way I’ll show you what worked for me and what might work for you, too.
The “Drinks on Me” Side Hustle: Amazon Affiliates
This affiliate program’s so simple that I’m shocked more people don’t do it. Once you register for the Amazon Affiliates program, you can link to any product that the company sells (using unique tracking codes that Amazon provides) on your own personal site. (You do have a personal site, don’t you?)
If someone who came to Amazon through one of your links ends up buying anything on Amazon (books, blenders, baseballs—doesn’t matter) within 24 hours, you get paid a percentage of the sale.
Now, before you start telling me that you’re not a fashion blogger, or someone even remotely interested in telling people what to buy, keep in mind that Amazon has everything—including books. So, it’s as simple as posting one entry a month on a book you recommend people read for whatever reason: to boost one’s career, to get inspired, to get better at time management, to take a break from burnout.
Not only will you make money, but you’ll brand yourself as the type of person who cares about your career and wants to help others.
Personally, I put a bunch of the links on my Venture Capital Jobs and Careers blog. Each of those links points to a book that I’ve personally read or written or that Amazon recommends to people who read my book about finding a venture capital job.
Now, I know you’re probably not blown away by the whopping $42 and change I made through this program. But let’s remember one thing: After setting up the links, I don’t have to lift a finger. Money just shows up in my bank account. And the dollars grow along with your blog traffic.
(Also, I recently checked my numbers for 2015, and I’ve already doubled what I made last year.)
“The Long Weekend Trip” Side Hustle: Coaching
Because I’ve built credibility and influence over the years through my career advice books, blogging, and email newsletters, people are willing to pay me to coach them through their job searches. (You can find out more here.)
But even if you haven’t built an email newsletter or aren’t blogging, coaching’s still a side hustle that’s ripe for the taking. And all you need to do to get started is answer these questions.
What Do You Find Easy That Everyone Else Finds Hard?
Maybe you wrote Pulitzer-worthy college essays without breaking a sweat. Or you’re amazing at organizing your space. Or maybe you’re really good at helping your parents with new technology. Everyone has one (or more) of these things in their bag of tricks. Identify what you’re better at than most people and make that your specialty.
Who Is Your Target Audience?
Get obnoxiously specific—“undergrad applicants who want to get into Ivy League schools” or “grandparents who want to use Skype to talk to their grandkids” are better than “college kids” or “old people.”
What’s Your Value Prop?
Try to condense it into a sentence or two and lead with the benefit. In my case: “I help 22- to 35-year-olds secure analyst and associate jobs at venture capital firms. I do this by showing them how to develop their personal brand and by exposing them to unique networking opportunities.”
How Will You Reach Them?
When you’re just getting started, you can stick to your inner circle to find your first coaching clients. Later on, you’ll need to branch out. So think about where (online or offline) the people you’re hoping to coach are hanging out. And then be there. And if that place doesn’t exist, make one! (Also, again, building out a personal site never hurts.)
The “Trip to Europe” Side Hustle: Consulting
This was the biggest revenue driver of all of my side hustles combined. Although consulting seems like it’s similar to coaching, they’re actually very different from one another. The main gist is that coaches typically work one-on-one with a client and are focused on helping that person achieve a specific result for him- or herself. Consultants, on the other hand, usually work with many people within an organization in an effort to help the company as a whole achieve certain goals.
My gigs fell into three different buckets:
- I helped some small companies set up their Salesforce CRM.
- I spoke with companies about how I see the IT industry evolving.
- I ran analysis for a company trying to figure out how much money it could make if it sold ads on the website.
The one thing that all three of these projects have in common is that I used my own expertise and career experience to help others. If you’ve been out in the working world for five, 10, or 20 years, you’re an expert in something. So sell that something to others.
Personal connections are always the best way to get a consulting side hustle going. But now there are sites and services that will proactively pair you up with companies who need someone like you to solve their problems. For example, I used HourlyNerd to find the last project I mentioned. You might also want to check out MBA & Company—another site that connects consultants and potential clients.
If you’re doing the math and wondering how it all adds up to $10K—let me explain. In addition to these three gigs, I did a few other random things. For example, I sold some of my self-published ebooks on Amazon and had this snazzy infographic made for a local Meetup group.
While neither of those things might be your forte, I’m sharing because there is something else that you’re good at, and only you know what that is. That’s what’s so awesome about side hustles! They’re really only limited by your creativity. So, pick the one (or ones) that are right for you and then just get started.
Your career and your wallet will thank you for it.
Photo of side gig courtesy of Shutterstock.
John Gannon is co-founder of BEMAVEN, a personal branding platform for executives (and those who aspire to be). He's also the founder of StartupCareerAdvice.com, a site where he helps people who aren't engineers get jobs at startups. Book one-on-one coaching sessions with John at The Muse's Coach Connect.More from this Author