1. Start with ideas

Google “how to start a side hustle,” and the top results will look like this:

Combined together, these blog posts contain HUNDREDS of ideas for side hustles you can start. Here are a few examples:

  • Airbnb
  • Alterations
  • Affiliate marketing
  • App development
  • Baking

You do need an idea in order to create a side hustle, but the challenge is that ideas are just the beginning of your side hustle journey. 🙂

Gary Vaynerchuk (author, owner of VaynerMedia, host of the #AskGaryVee show) puts it like this:

“Ideas are $@#$. Execution is the game.”

So go find some ideas, write them down, and then if you’re willing to crazy enough to set a goal of how much you want to earn through your side hustle (how about starting with a goal of $1,000/mo?)…

Then keep reading. 🙂

2. Break down your side hustle goals into an achievable process

When you acknowledge that you have an idea and that you do want to build a side hustle that might eventually grow into a thriving business, the first trap to avoid is trying to do everything at once:

“I need to do these 100 things and then I’ll be done.”

That’s a recipe for burnout, and burnout means no side hustle. So let’s skip that!

The first part of the solution is something that Rob Walling named the “Stairstep Approach:”

You can use the Stairstep Approach to break your long-term goals into three different phases/steps.

So let’s say your long-term goal is recurring revenue..

Using the Stairstep Approach, instead of wondering how in the world you’re going to create a recurring revenue stream, you start with working on getting your first one-time sale.

Then step 2 is turning that one-time sale into repeat sales, and only in step 3 do you work on building a recurring revenue models that you start with getting a one-time sale, turn that into repeat sales, and then work on making that recurring revenue.

This concept of breaking down your long-term goals into shorter, more achievable goals is key to a successful side hustle.

Noah Kagan described a similar process for how he sets and achieves goals:

  1. Identify your 12-month goals
  2. Break those down into monthly goals
  3. Break those down into weekly goals
  4. Add daily actions to your calendar to get stuff done

Adding those actions to your calendar (instead of to a separate todo list – or todo list app) gives you a higher probability of taking action instead of just staring at your todo list!

Spend a few hours diving deeper into these ideas, because strengthening your mind set and how/why you take action is going to make just as much of a difference as what specific things you do.

Recommended resources:

3. Keep taking the next step

Almost a decade ago, I told my friend and mentor @TheRobertD that I wanted to start a business, but I didn’t know how.

Robert has managed New York Times best-selling author Andy Andrews for over 30 years… he’s the real deal.

And when I explained that I wasn’t sure what to name my business, didn’t know what I’d sell specifically, or who my customers would be, I thought he might give me a secret formula for success.

That’s not what happened.

He told me to stop being scared, to stop over-analyzing everything, and to take the next step.

At the time that was registering my business name in Florida and then buying a domain name.

So that’s what I did!

The lesson I learned was that if you feel stuck on something, don’t spend too much time on it.

No matter what stage in your business you’re at right this second,

Put it back in the “To Do” column and take the next step.

This leads right into one of my favorite concepts that Andy Andrews wrote about in The Traveler’s Gift:

4. Know what your strengths are and double down on them

Recognize any of these names?

  • Melyssa Griffin is a blogger
  • Ben Settle is an email copywriter
  • Tim Ferriss is an author
  • Gary Vaynerchuk owns VaynerMedia and is an author and speaker

And do you know what their collective “secret” is?

They’ve figured out their strengths and capitalized on them.

  • For Melyssa Griffin, that’s blogging and growing her email list to over 100,000 subscribers
  • Gary Vaynerchuk is very strong with video, and hosts the #AskGaryVee show on YouTube with over 700,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel
  • Tim Ferriss has mastered the art of podcasting and people all over the world have downloaded his podcast episodes over 150 million times
  • And Ben Settle has generated his clients millions of dollars in revenue just through email copywriting

So as you work on your side hustle, don’t focus as much on the specific idea you need to get started.

Instead, ask yourself “what are my strengths?

That will help you build a business that capitalizes on what you’re passionate about.

The opposite of this ideas is “chasing the money,” which is another recipe for burnout & disaster.

  • If you hate recording videos, just don’t record videos
  • Don’t like to write? Consider hosting a podcast instead
  • And if you’re better at in-person stuff than working online, work on making face-to-face connections and team up with other people who are talented with tech stuff

YOU get to decide what you focus on.

Otherwise it’s not your business/dream… it’s somebody else’s!

5. The side hustle formula

While there might not be a “secret sauce” for getting rich quick, there are time-tested  systems that you can follow and take inspiration from.

Much easier than starting from scratch!

NOTE: you can use this for most side hustles, including digital products, services, and physical products.

But this isn’t a “copy-and-paste” recipe – think about how to personalize each step based on your own ideas, strengths, and passions.

Here’s the high-level overview:

The next few sections cover each step.

You might be wondering how long “this side hustle process” takes, and the answer is that there’s no one set answer.

You can go at your own pace, but here are a few recommended guidelines:

  • Allocate one week for each of the five stages
  • Break that week into five, one-hour sessions
  • Use an app like Trello, Asana, or AirTable to keep track of what you’ve done and still need to do each week

6. Validate your ideas without bias

One of the questions that I’ve heard hundreds of times is “How do I know if my idea will work?” Check out our article on customer development.

We’ve all asked that at some point (and still do!)

And in the past the way I would try to figure it out by asking friends and family what they thought of my latest idea.

Turns out I was just hearing a lot of what I wanted to hear. 🙂

Enter The Mom Test:

It’s a great little book and I recommend you read it at least once.

Rob (the author) explains that instead of asking your friends this question:

  • What do you think of my new idea?

You should instead ask:

  • When did the problem [that your idea is solving] happen to you last?
  • How did you solve it?
  • How much time/money/frustration did it cost?

That lets you reframe your idea validation process so that the responses you receive are less biased.

And now you can find out if your solution is addressing an actual problem that they’ve already spent time and money trying to solve!

7. Start building your email list now

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a physical product, digital product, or a service:

Building your email list = growing your business.

One of my favorite go-to resources for how to grow your list is Bryan Harris.

Here’s what he wrote in a recent email:

I’ve found it’s fairly straightforward to predict an email list’s revenue.

Here’s the rough math:

If your product costs $50 or less, you can usually turn 3% to 7% of your subscribers into customers; if your product costs $50 to $200, you can usually turn 1% to 3% of your subscribers into customers; if your product costs $200 to $1,000, you can usually turn 0.5% to 2% of your subscribers into customers

But here is where it gets crazy…

If I want to double my revenue, all I need to do is double my list size.

Make sense?

The reason this works is one thing: Distribution.

There are literally thousands of blog posts, videos, and courses that all focus on how to grow your email list… but if you’re just starting out focus on these three big ideas:

  • Create an authentic + creative take on what’s out there
  • Focus on helping your audience before asking them to purchase your product
  • Document your process instead of telling people what you think they should hear

Your mission is to find the tribe of people that you connect to and who want to watch your journey and be a part of it.

… people who won’t just open and click your emails but people who will open, read, put your ideas into practice, and share it with their friends.

Also, start building your list while you’re still working on your product… that way when the product’s ready you have a group of people to sell it to. 🙂

8. Ship it

When you’re building your product/service, instead of trying to build it all the way to 100% completion and then “ship it…”

Consider this illustration about launching a minimum viable product that went viral last year:

The goal is to figure out what version of your product you can get to customers that will still help them solve a problem, even if it’s not the final most-polished version of it.

For example, if you’re writing a course on how to sell guitars, 100% finished might mean a video training library, membership website, blog, etc.

But minimum-viable-product could be an email course you send out through MailChimp when someone pays you through PayPal.

9. Find your first customer

The TRACTION book outlines 19 channels for finding customers:

Which is way too many for anyone to focus on at one time.

The secret is to test a few different channels to see what’s most effective for your business, and then focus in on one or two.

And when you’re starting out, it’s OK to do things that don’t scale.

Don’t worry about creating a marketing strategy that a Fortune 500 company would use.

For example, you probably will have a “lead gen” (freebie) that you give away to get people to join your email list. Might be a free download, video, or email course.

That’s what everyone does.

“Do things that don’t scale” means going a step beyond – like personally emailing each person who signs up for your list.

Or even better, also ask for their company name & website when they sign up and then personalize your email follow-up with details on how your product/service can help their specific business.

10. Scale

If you’ve already validated your idea, launched your product, started building your email list, and made a few sales, it’s a good opportunity to evaluate everything you’ve done so far.

One of the questions I like to ask at this phase is “What is the 20% of work that you’ve done that has resulted in 80% of your results?”

Because just because you spend four hours blogging and then four hours answering email, it doesn’t mean both activities produce equal results.

Identify how you’re spending your time, find out what things in your business are actually creating results, and cut out as much of the rest as possible.

Another one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is that they often don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of or ask for feedback…

That’s why we created Big Plans.

Schedule a phone consultation today if you’d like to get a free assessment and then be matched to one of our business coaches with the most relevant experience. We’d love to connect!