“There has to be more to life that this,” I thought to myself one morning in 2013 while stuck on a crowded New York City subway car. I glimpsed at the beautiful blue sky outside as I ran to catch the express train, and wondered if I’d see it again as my schedule was packed with sales meeting for the software company where I worked. For the rest of the day, I’d be in an artificially-lit, air-conditioned office.
I should’ve felt lucky. I worked as a sales director for a Silicon Valley startup that was acquired by a Fortune 500 company. But I was bored in my cubicle. Restless. Unfulfilled. And ungrateful for wanting more because I thought I “should be” satisfied with the nice life I have. But I wasn’t. I wanted more.
Turns out a lot more people do, too. With almost one in three Americans making money outside of their main paychecks, a growing group of people are seeking financial security, adventure and freedom by doing what they love. It’s called a side hustle, and it allows you the flexibility to pursue what you’re most interested in. It’s a chance to delve into food, travel, fashion or whatever you’re passionate about while still keeping your day job.
Mine was life coaching. I’ve read over 550 personal development books and knew I was a natural adviser to the people in my life – especially when it came to connecting to your purpose, becoming more confident, negotiating and networking. So I took some classes at New York University on the weekends and let my friends know I was taking on clients. Within a few months I was making an additional $4,000 or so per month as a coach and columnist, and decided to give my business the full swing of the bat that it deserved in December 2015.
If you want your very own side hustle – here’s what you might want to consider:
1) What do I love to do?
Businesses — no matter how successful — have their ups and downs. You have to love what you do or you simply won’t go the distance. If you’re unsure, ask yourself questions like, “What did I love to do when I was a child? What do people come to me for? How do I best serve other people?”
2) What am I proficient in?
You should also be good at doing the thing that you love, or at least be willing to put in the time to become good at it. The most successful side hustles are those that solve problems. You have a talent for the problem you are solving – planning events with ease and structure, resume writing, matchmaking! You should ask yourself: Are you already successful at doing something, and can you monetize it?
3) Is there a market for this?
This is an important one. Is there is a proven market for your product or service? Research who is already doing it. Google your city and the industry you’re looking into such as “life coaching San Francisco” or “party planning Chicago.” If there are lots of options, you’re — almost — in business! And if they’re succeeding that’s another great sign! It means that if you put in the work, you will probably succeed too.
4) How can I leverage my network?
Your network is bigger than you think. Don’t be afraid to let your contacts know that you’re open for business by posting your work on social media and starting an email list. You’ll be surprised at who will support you. My corporate clients became some of my biggest cheerleaders and you might even inspire some of your friends to start their own side hustles too.
5) Where do I begin?
Don’t overthink it. A side hustle can start from scratch. Just ask yourself, “What value can I add to the world? If you can coach someone for an interview, teach someone to speak Spanish, give tips to train for a marathon, help a friend organize their closet or bake delicious vegan food — you can be in business.
And don’t delay. Clarity comes from action, not thinking. And when you take inspired action, your cubicle may be more temporary than you think.
Susie Moore is a business coach and creator of Side Hustle Made Simple. She’s been featured on the Today show, Forbes, Business Insider, Marie Claire and more. You can order her book, What if it DOES Work Out? here.
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