One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through my own money journey is that the best way to reach any financial goal faster is to increase your income.
Wanna pay off debt? Increase your income, and you’ll pay it off faster.
Wanna save up to buy a house? Increase your income, and you’ll get your house faster.
It’s just basic math – the more money you have, the more you can do with it. And one of the best ways to increase your income is to pick up a side hustle.
I started my side-hustling journey in 2014. I had a full-time government job, but the pay wasn’t great, and it didn’t do a lot to spark my creativity. So I started my first blog, both as a creative outlet and as a great way to earn a bit of extra income.
In the years since then, side-hustling has helped me to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in debt and save up enough money to buy an RV, and travel the country full-time. Not only that, but I was able to turn my side gig into my full-time, allowing me to work from anywhere on my travels.
In this post, I’ll share all of my best tips for starting a side hustle and making extra money to help you reach your financial goals.
Not sure a side hustle is for you? Read this article on why a side hustle is a great idea!
There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.
Step 1: Choose a side hustle idea
Some of you might already have a side hustle or business idea that you can’t wait to dive into. For others, maybe you know you want to start a side gig to earn a bit of extra money in your spare time, but you’re not sure what exactly you want to do. Well, that’s what this first step is for. This phase is all about brainstorming!
First things first, ask yourself what you are good at and passionate about. It’s important that this isn’t something you’re going to get sick of right away! I could talk about my personal finance for hours on end, which made writing about money the perfect side hustle for me.
In addition to finding a topic that you’re passionate about, you have to make sure it’s something that other people are interested in as well. Because as important as it is that YOU love your side hustle, you can’t make money from something that no one else will spend money on.
Still short on side hustle ideas? I’ve got you covered! In this blog post on reasons to start a side hustle, I shared 9 awesome side hustle ideas! Those ideas include:
- Becoming a freelancer (writer, graphic designer, etc.)
- Starting a blog
- Opening an online shop
- Becoming a virtual assistant
- Selling digital products, such as an ebook or an online course
- Teaching a skill
- Joining the gig economy
Step 2: Do your research
Let me preface this by saying that when I started my side hustle, I did zero research. I literally didn’t even know that blogging was a thing you could make money from when I first got started. And I certainly didn’t forsee being able to turn it into a six-figure freelance writing business
But once I learned that it was something you could make an income from, you better believe I did a ton of research to maximize its potential.
Whether the side business you’re starting is a blog or something totally different, I guarantee there is tons of information available online from people who have done the same thing you are trying to do. Side hustles are quite common today, and I guarantee someone else is teaching people to do exactly what you’re trying to do.
Research everything from the logistics of setting up your website to marketing. Join some Facebook groups with others with the same side gig and learn from them. One thing I’ve learned is that online business owners seem super happy to share their knowledge and create connections with other online business owners. It’s such an awesome and welcoming community.
Step 3: Get it up and running
Okay, so you’ve figured out the what and the how. Now it’s time to just freaking do it already. The launching phase is going to vary from person to person. Part of this depends on the side hustle you’ve chosen – some just take longer to get set up than others do!
It also partly depends on what else you’ve got going on in your life. The more prior commitments you have, the less free time you’ll have to work on your side gig. And if that’s the case, it’s going to take a bit longer to get set up.
I remember when I was just in the launch phase of my website, I seriously looked for every spare moment I could find to work on it. I spent entire weekends curled up on the couch with my laptop, excitedly planning and designing everything. Additionally, I spent lots of nights up way too late because I was mid-project and just couldn’t bring myself to stop.
Then again, I’ve also gone through seasons of life where I don’t have nearly as much spare time. I would have had a much more difficult time starting my side hustle during those seasons.
Pro tip: Knowing how much time you can devote to your side hustle can also help you decide the best side hustle for you. Some naturally require more time than others.
If you’re like me and have chosen a blog as a side hustle, the launch phase is going to include things like setting up your website and choosing a design, getting your social media accounts set up, learning SEO, and getting your first few blog posts written.
Of course, the start-up process will look entirely different if your side hustle is something else.
Step 4: Create a schedule
If you truly want this side hustle to make money, then you have to treat it like a business. That means setting aside certain hours when you are going to work on your business.
Obviously, since it’s your own business, no one can enforce these hours for you. There will definitely be times when something else sounds more fun than working.
But just remember, you will only get out of it as much as you put into it. How many hours you work is 100% up to you. Someone with a full-time job and a family with kids at home is going to have fewer hours available than someone who is single with no kids.
Since this is a side gig, your work hours are certainly going to be limited. You might have a full-time job, be a stay-at-home parent, or be going to school full-time. You know best when you are free and will be most available to work on your business.
When I was still working my day job, evenings and weekends were my side hustle time. I scheduled certain work hours into my calendar, and those hours are non-negotiable. And if I knew I’d be busy all weekend, I’d make sure to work extra hours in the evenings that week.
Part of creating your side hustle schedule is respecting everyone’s time. You need to respect your own time and hold yourself accountable for those hours you plan to work on your side hustle.
But this also means respecting your employer’s time if you work a full-time job. Don’t let your side hustle interfere with your job. If you have a lunch hour or breaks available to get in a little work on your side hustle, that’s great!
But don’t work on your side hustle when you should be working on your full-time job. If you do, you may not have a full-time job for long.
Step 5: Set SMARTER goals
Even though you spent a TON of time doing research before launching your side hustle, there’s still so much to learn.
You’re going to learn a ton right after you launch your side hustle and really dive into working on it every day. Once you have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into, it’s time to set some goals for yourself.
I set zero goals for myself when I first started my blog. And guess how long it took me to make my first dollar. One year. I’m guessing you’re not interested in waiting that long! Part of this is because I started off just blogging as a hobby, and part of it was that I didn’t get organized and set goals for myself.
So what kind of goals should you be setting? This isn’t just about throwing out arbitrary goals. It’s about setting realistic goals and coming up with a plan to meet them. In other words, you want to set SMARTER goals. And just what are SMARTER goals?
- Specific: The more specific your goals, the better. Don’t just set a goal of earning money with your side hustle. Set a goal of earning $1,000/month from your side hustle within the first year. (That’s just an example, the actual number will vary person to person).
- Measurable: The progress of this goal can be easily tracked. $1,000/month is very specific – you’ll know for sure if you’ve reached it or not! And once you know how much you want to make per month, you know what your daily and weekly goals should be!
- Attainable: While setting your goals high is awesome, make sure it’s something you can actually accomplish. Consider what will be required of you to complete this goal, and carefully consider whether you have that to give.
- Relevant: Make sure your goal is in harmony with your core values and what you’re working toward in life. If your ultimate dream is to work from home full-time, then setting a goal of $1,000/month in the first year is awesome because you’re totally moving in the right direction!
- Time-Bound: Don’t make the time frame for reaching your goals open-ended. We tend to take as long to accomplish a task as we are allowed. If your goals are completely open-ended, they may never seem urgent enough to get to. As you can see, we set a time frame of one year in the goal we’re using as an example.
- Exciting: Let’s be real, it’s going to be a lot easier to make time to work on goals that excite and inspire you. Emotions are a big factor when it comes to goal-setting, and you’re far more likely to reach for things that excite you.
- Routine Bound: I firmly believe that creating routines and habits is the absolute best way to make changes in your life. Incorporating your goal into your daily routine ensures you’re making time for it. It also gives you a much better chance of reaching it. For example, you might say that every evening you get home from work at 6 pm and work on your online business until 8 pm. It becomes a daily routine and ensures you’re putting in the time to reach that $1,000/month goal.
Step 5: Invest in growth
If you truly want your side hustle to be a real business that creates an income stream, then you have to treat it like a business. And this means investing in your growth.
Time is certainly the biggest investment you’ll make in your side hustle. But there will be some financial investment as well. The good news is that many side hustles are relatively cheap to start. And you can increase your investment as you start making an income.
Some of the investments you’ll make in your side hustle will be tools, such as those to start your email list or market yourself on social media.
Here are a few of my favorite tools that I use to run my business:
- SiteGround: This is the website hosting company I use – monthly plans start at $3.95/month, so SUPER affordable for beginners.
- Canva: Images are an important part of any website. I use Canva to design certain elements of my website. I also use it to design the images that appear on my website and social media pages.
- Flodesk: For many side hustles, having an email list is going to be crucial. Flodesk is the best!
- QuickBooks: This is the tool I use to manage my business finances. You’ll need to do so no matter what side hustle route you choose to go.
Step 7: Track and evaluate your progress
You may think that once you make it through the research phase and launch your side hustle, it’s all smooth sailing toward your goals. I assure you this is not the case.
There are going to be bumps in the road. One month you’ll have an amazing month and feel like you’re making a ton of progress. But the next month, you’ll feel like you’re starting from square one.
And one thing I can definitely promise you: you will never, ever stop learning when it comes to best practices for your side hustle.
Because of this, it’s super important that you’re diligent about tracking and evaluating your progress. Make sure to have some sort of system in place where you can track how things are going.
The metrics that are important to you will, of course, depend on the side hustle you choose. However, I’d caution you against getting too caught up in vanity metrics, such as the number of followers you have on social media.
In addition to tracking everything, you need to be regularly evaluating those numbers to decide if what you’re doing is really working.
If you see a trend of several months where you’re income is going down, it’s probably time to change something up. It’s when you get complacent that things start to really slip.
Step 8: Make a plan for your side hustle income
I love that having a side hustle can help people to pay off debt and reach financial goals years earlier than they otherwise would have. But in order to really make the most of it, you’ve gotta make a plan for that money.
Imagine this: You start a side hustle to help you pay off your student loans faster. You get it set up and start bringing in money. You’re so excited about this new income that you find yourself doing a lot more online shopping than planned. Suddenly the money is gone, and you haven’t put any extra toward debt.
Listen, I’m all for spending money on things that bring you joy. In fact, it’s one of the things I teach in my money coaching program. But I also teach my clients to be incredibly intentional about their spending and to have a plan in place.
Instead of letting your emotions guide your spending decisions, make a plan ahead of time. For example, maybe you decide you’ll spend 75% of your side hustle income on extra debt payments while the other 25% will be fun money. You still get to treat yourself, while also making progress on your goals.
Step 9: Know the tax laws regarding side hustle income
One thing to keep in mind about starting a side hustle is that there are tax laws you’ll have to follow.
When you have a full-time job, your employer takes money out of each paycheck to pay income taxes on your behalf. But with a side hustle, there’s no one doing that for you.
But the IRS still expects to get paid. It’s critical that when you’re making money on the side, you track every single dollar you earn and spend. That way, you can report them for tax purposes.
Software like QuickBooks can help you get this process started. And if you’re uneasy about handling the finances yourself, consider hiring an accountant or bookkeeper to help you out.
A side hustle is my absolute favorite way to increase your income. That extra income can help you to pay off debt and reach your financial goals. It can collapse the timeline of these big goals by years! And while starting a side hustle might seem overwhelming at first, it’s a lot less scary once you get started!