Ever been tempted by the thought of earning spare cash on the side? Odds are, if you’re under 40 and happen to be a millennial, then you probably have. News outlets like CNBC and the Washington Examiner and even credit reporting agency Experian are picking up on this growing trend. So, if you’re not already a side hustler, how do you get into the gig economy? Or, if you’re already have a side hustler and are looking to expand, what do you do and where do you go? If the answers to these questions interest you, take this post as mini-roadmap for how to get started.
Pros & Cons
First things first. It’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of starting a side gig. While young people hustle more than mom and dad and grandma and grandpa did, the gig economy isn’t for everyone.
Let’s talk about the benefits. Millennials are the most well-traveled generation in human history. With many people spending in the ballpark of $1,000 on a given trip (including transportation, accommodation, and incidentals), side hustling can help fund vacations and other leisure activities. Side gigs are also a way to reengage with hobbies during time away from the office. A great example of this would be the accountant who uses her event planning business to get out of the house and connect with neighbors and community members.
Now for the downsides. Ideally, you shouldn’t rely on income from a side gig as it’s not guaranteed to be consistent. Side hustling also requires excellent time management. If you already struggle to manage your time and have unpredictable work hours, participating in the gig economy can add unnecessary stress to your life. Additionally, don’t forget about family. If it’s already hard to find enough time for family, picking up a side hustle probably won’t change that. (That is, unless you involve your family in your side hustle. Ever thought of asking the kids to help make arts and crafts to sell online? It’s also never too late to start the family landscaping business.
Identifying your marketable skills is key to successfully picking up a side hustle. If you’re looking to jump into the gig economy or expand within it, it’s worth spending some time reflecting on the skills that you have on offer. What do you like? What are you passionate about? The gig economy favors those with easily transferable skills. Can you code? Do you like tutoring? Think about work you can do from the comfort of your own home or within your community without having to commute long distances.
Still need some help? Think of some of the extracurriculars that you participated in during high school or college. Were you a member of the photography club? Did you write or edit for the school newspaper? Do you have a car and like driving? Were you ever a lifeguard or swim instructor? Each of these questions reflects upon a skill. The popularity of some of the iTunes Store’s and the Play Store’s top apps, including Instagram as well as dating apps like Bumble and Tinder underscores an increasing demand for high-quality photos. Websites across the country and English learners around the world are constantly looking for talented writers and editors. Ridesharing apps like Juno, Lyft and Uber highlight the demand for safe and trustworthy drivers throughout the country. Separately, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that the private swim school industry is booming.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re based in an urban, rural, or suburban setting, there’s a way for you to participate in the gig economy and get your side hustle going. That said, in all honesty, launching a side hustle is much easier in a major city like Chicago, New York or San Francisco. Why? Well, let’s consider a tutor. We’ll say you aced the S.A.T. back in high school and are considering using that 1500+ score to start tutoring high school students after work and during the weekends (that is, after football season ends). Given the sheer population density of major cities, you’re far more likely to find a few clients to get started with living within close proximity to one another. Trying the same hustle in a smaller city might not be as beneficial, as you might need to spend considerable time commuting to meet with clients.
On the flip side, a strong background in coding or web design might allow you to work from anywhere. Writing for websites and editing articles and papers could be perfect for someone in a rural area. Similarly, dedicating spare time to giving swimming lessons or becoming the (paid) neighborhood handyman are excellent options for people in suburban communities.
Now that you’ve considered your individual skill set and reflected on what kinds of gigs make the most sense in your environment, it’s time to start searching. But where do you go? And how do you find opportunities?
Let’s split this point into two subpoints—active and passive searching.
Search engines like Google are great places to start actively searching for opportunities. A simple Google search for “houston tutor” yields over 5,000 results. For those with strong backgrounds in standardized testing or who have a knack for general subjects such as math or English, over a dozen tutoring companies are listed in the first few pages of the Google search results. Likewise, a Google News search for “lifeguard swim instructor” linked to 1,260 jobs posted on the Swimswam.com website, some of which are only part-time.
Did you go to college? Odds are your university has a career center with information on a variety of openings for current students, alumni, and perhaps even non-graduates. And while your college’s job board might not be as easily searchable or as visually appealing as LinkedIn or The Ladders, keep in mind that university-affiliated job boards usually boast far higher response rates from potential employers and clients than more general websites.
Now let’s think about passive searching. Allow the side hustle to find you. How? Well, have you thought about developing a personal website? Even if you don’t have web design skills, you can allow Wix to build a website for you (it’s free to get started). Websites are a great platform for passively advertising your skills and expertise. Building out a proper LinkedIn profile can also give you a boost in the passive job search. It’s not uncommon nowadays to be contacted directly from someone on LinkedIn regarding a possible opportunity—every day you go without a fully complete LinkedIn profile is a missed chance.
To wrap things up, the most important thing to remember about side hustling is that your clients and partners are gold. Word-of-mouth remains one of the best referral systems worldwide. While things might start off slowly, building a sold rapport with one client can provide you with the leads necessary to turning an inconsistent side hustle into a stable, secondary source of income.
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