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5 Tips for a Successful Side Hustle

Published Thursday, March 26, 2020

Members: want to watch the video replay of the "Get Your Side Hustle On" session? Find it in the member's Facebook group!

Recently MatchBOX facilitated a discussion on ways to find work-from-home side hustles to pad your income. Here are a few takeaways from the session:

Your own hustle probably won’t earn major money right away

If you have dreams of starting a side hustle using your own skills, amazing! Maybe you've got some great photography skills, know how to write copy like a pro, or create amazing custom art pieces... and you're ready to make a little money from it.

Starting your own small side hustle can be great: there's more potential profit than if you worked hourly for someone else and you have greater control over all the aspects of how you grow and develop your business.

But just know that you'll probably be working hard for a while before you start seeing results. (Read: money in your account.) If you're starting a side hustle because you need cash now, know this is more of a mid- to long-term answer to a (potentially) immediate problem.

Never take on initial debt for your side hustle

While it can be tempting to have a brilliant idea and immediately want to build a website, print business cards, and spend some cash to upgrade your equipment... wait.

Side hustles should make you money, not lose it, so be mindful to start very lean and avoid debt at the beginning.

On that note...

Find at least three paying customers before you start

We all have that brilliant stroke of genius at some point in our life - the best idea for a business we've ever had! But we challenge you to find three paying customers before you dedicate your free time to your new business.

Customer validation and market research is key to ensure you're staying out with a strong business idea (and our MBXax virtual cohort for new or pivoting entrepreneurs can help you do that!). 

We're not saying your artisanal, hand-crafted ice cream for dog isn't a great idea... it's just important to know there's a market for it before you dive in. Find a few paying customers to validate your idea.

Avoid platforms that take your $$

Etsy for creatives. Fiverr for digital services.

While these platforms can help you reach larger audiences, there are some pretty significant drawbacks like:

A) Most of these sites are now pay-to-pay (AKA you're going to have to pay for advertising in order to show up in people's feeds) and
B) Profits will slowly get eaten up by

A few cents or percents here and there doesn't seem like much until every penny counts at the start of your side hustle. Consider going without if possible.

Set a schedule for your side hustle

Your side hustle should make your life better, not take over every free minute of your life without return. And while money isn't everything, it's certainly a helpful indicator. Set specific times when you'll work on your side hustle and compare that to your hourly rate.

For example, if you're starting a niche website to earn affiliate revenue and you spend 40 hours on it per month and you make $200 your first month, your hourly rate is $5. Knowing this, you can decide whether to cut time or increase revenue to raise that rate to something workable.

Of course, at the start your hourly rate will likely be minuscule - and that's OK! But knowing will help you evaluate whether the return is worth continuing the effort!

Good luck moving forward with your side hustle!

Fellow members:

Revisioning the concept of traditional work environments and moving to a collaborative space has been an amazing opportunity for our organization to remain engaged with our constituents and expand our connections in the community.

—Kitty Campbell

"MatchBOX is helping my company (One Fact) survive and prosper. The affordable space is only the start. It is the connection with the other co-coworkers that is proving helpful. MatchBOX gets a share of credit for any success One Fact sees in 2017!”

—Cortland Starrett

MatchBOX is where I met some of my newest best friends, Amanda, Emily, Matt, Ed, and sometimes Ryan. It's conveniently located near Kathy's candies and a bunch of places to get drinks during lunch. Could use a couple more Pokestops though.

<3 Austin Toombs

MatchBOX has provided an incredible opportunity for getting my work done, collaborating with others (at least 4 projects so far), hosting meetings for organizations I'm part of, and meeting other independent contractors in the area. The feel and ambience of the place just adds to the fabulous workplace -- not to mention the coffee and snacks! I have friends around the country who are jealous of our MatchBox space.

—Johanna Merritt Wu

My Enactus Purdue team got a tour of this studio recently. The environment is outstandingly innovative! Everyone there is incredibly friendly and hospitable and passionate about what they are doing. What a great place to see opportunity in the city of Lafayette!

—Acaimie Catron (from Facebook)

There is such a positive, creative vibe to this space. I participated in Lafayette Writers' Studio events and classes at MatchBOX fall, 2016. It is easy to access, convenient to downtown Lafayette and parking is not difficult in its area of town.

—Sandra B. (from Yelp)