Side hustling: where to begin?

If you’re like me,  you probably thought that a job that you do in addition to your full-time job is called a part-time job. But there is a (rather big) difference between a PT job and a side hustle.

Simply-put, a part-time job means you have an employer you are accountable to: they determine the work, you do it, they pay you.  The amount you work and earn is limited by someone else. With a side-hustle, you are the boss: you pick what you will do, when you will do it, how much you will make and the options are endless. Enter my dilemma.

My purpose in talking about side hustling is not (only) to hang with the cool kids.

I posted my plan a few weeks ago to pay off my remaining $36,148.42 debt within 24 months (see Four simple ways to get out of debt (I hope) ). Part three of that plan includes a commitment to earning more through a side hustle (and asking for a raise at my full-time gig… still on my to-do list for those wondering).  I have been racking my brain and reading all of the ‘top 75 side-hustles to make you a millionaire‘ posts I can find. I won’t go into detail on my findings, but I will point you in the direction of Side Hustle Nation – lots of great resources  and ideas to get you started on your own side hustle plan.

 Learning from past mistakes

The thing is, I have attempted side-hustles before without much luck. This includes:

  • Direct sales including personal care products, leggings when they were all the rage, and green-cleaning products where I demonstrated the products at home parties 🤢.  I ended up spending any money I made on the products themselves, and in the case of the leggings, owing money on inventory. 👎
  • Freelancing as a consultant doing work that is very similar to my day-job.  I made $1200 for 1-day of work this way. The problem with this option is that I had to get special approval from my employer and show that there would be no conflict of interest. My city is small and I work with multiple organizations on the daily, so the chances of the work overlapping at some point is pretty high. If I want to make a real go of a consulting business, I would need to leave my current position. While this is a goal eventually (I’d love to retire early and take consulting gigs that interest me), it’s not really an option right now (or maybe it should be but I’m just too chicken to let myself think about it).
  • Monetizing a hobby. I taught myself to reupholster furniture about 10-years ago. It is a great feeling to take an old bench or chair with good bones and transform it into something new that can be the focal point of a room.  But when I started taking custom orders a few years ago, I lost the drive pretty fast. There is something unfulfilling about reupholstering a piece of furniture with fabric that you didn’t choose and making a limited hourly wage for something that was supposed to be fun. Many would-be customers balked at the cost (the price per hour doubles when you account for materials and supplies), so I spent a lot of time justifying quotes  (side-note: you should not expect to pay a skilled upholsterer what you pay a 14 y/o babysitter, just sayin’).   Between the boring fabrics and price justification, it quickly became something I loathed instead of looked forward to.

So the trick for me this time around is to actually invest my time in something that WILL bring money in , and pretty quickly if I want to hit my goal of debt-free by June 2020.  Part of this is understanding what went wrong in the past.  I’ve given it some thought, and I think these were my stumbling blocks:

  1. I picked projects/ideas that sucked in the first place.
  2. I picked projects that were time intensive.
  3. I undervalued my work.
  4. I had the marketing method wrong.
  5. I didn’t fully commit.

This time will be different… 

I already struggle with work-life-balance. The ideal side-hustle option for me would be something that makes passive income (“cash flow received on a regular basis, requiring minimal to no effort by the recipient to maintain it” Yes, I just used Wikipedia as a source- sorry ’bout that). I already invest my non-pension retirement savings in an index fund (let’s not get too excited here, I only have $2500 saved so far), and I rent out my house. I’m not ‘making’ money on the rental that could be put toward my existing debt, but when the mortgage is paid, I will be able to pocket the income or reinvest. These are great for ‘future me’, but right now,  I’m looking for real cash income that can be applied to my debt monthly.

This means I’ll have to put in some work (i.e passive income is not an option at this time). I know that making money requires hard work, and that no job is beneath me. But I want to work smarter, not harder, so here are a few musts for this next side-gig. It should be something that:

  • has a low start-up cost.
  • has high value for time.
  • I am passionate about/enjoy (otherwise, I won’t commit to it).

…or maybe not so different

I’m probably breaking some cardinal rule here, but I have decided to revisit a past side-hustle. I was speaking with my good friend last week who is an amazing artist. Candy pointed out that my past upholstery approach was flawed.

At the time, I was advertising my services on Craig’s List. People are looking for a deal on that site so it isn’t a surprise that I felt the need to keep my rates low. She suggested that I approach this side-hustle like an artist: stop undervaluing my work,  pick pieces I like (yay thrift shopping!), reupholster with fabric I choose, and network to reach the right clientele- people who would be willing to pay full-price at a retail store (a colleague just bought a mass produced club-chair for $1000 because it was the right shade of red velvet, so I know they exist).

This approach gets rid of the nasty bits I disliked, I can start right away, the time commitment is relatively low, and these will be one of a kind pieces that I can hold onto until the right buyer comes along (or gift them if I really need space).

Now I know I am not going to get rich with this side-hustle. BUT it does have good potential to help me reach my debt-repayment goals. The great thing about side-hustles is that if they aren’t working, you can hustle harder or change direction completely (I will move onto  freelance consulting at some point after all). I’ll let you know how it’s going at my regular check-ins. 😀

Wish me luck! OR leave a comment below telling me what you really think 😉

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9 thoughts on “Side hustling: where to begin?

  1. Sorry reupholstering didn’t work out. People should really do research on what others are charging before they hire someone. I hope they weren’t thinking you would pay for the materials. Good luck on you side hustle.

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  2. Good luck on your side hustle. I thought blogging would be a great passive income but mine is slow to start so I may actually have to find actual income until the blog starts making it. Haha. I feel you with the debt, so much easier to accrue than pay off. You’ll get there. We both will.

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    1. Thanks! I have heard that blogging can be a good side-hustle, but it takes a lot of time and energy to build. I’ll keep blogging as a way to hold myself accountable, and to connect with others going through similar challenges. So much easier when you know you aren’t alone! Thanks for the encouragement! ❤

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  3. Great post on side hustles, they can definately be a great way to bring in extra income. As you pointed out with the upholstering the costs can make some of them not so worthwhile after all and they can be a lot of work as well. Thanks for sharing your stories and advice!

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  4. ‘ Wow’ for the lack of a better word. Currently I’m just a college student but planned to earn cash online via online writing, blog, and affiliated Marketing (I’m still trying to learn regarding this three but I hope) so u side hustling, working and determined to pay of debt instead of depressing about is awe aspiring. Wish You luck

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