Here at SELF MADE we talk a lot about flexing your entrepreneurial muscle. But that said, we also like to keep it real—which means we’re clear on the fact that everyone isn’t always at a point in their lives where they can drop everything and launch a business. So while we wholeheartedly advocate a message of getting out there and making entrepreneurial moves, we also know that, in many cases, this has to happen in baby steps. And for those steps to happen, it helps if you know how to make money on the side.
Mission & Money
Here’s the deal: Your money and your mission are roads that you travel in life, and they don’t always align. They might run on two parallel tracks for years, until the day you’re sitting on enough money to dedicate your energy and your resources exclusively to your mission. If you’re lucky, your mission also makes you money. But that’s rare. And you can’t afford to sacrifice your money for your mission—until, that is, you have enough money. Make sense?
Balancing mission and money is especially crucial when you’re young and at the start of your career. At this stage, while you’re doing what you need to do to make money, you should also be cultivating your mission by any means necessary. If your mission is to be an actor, for example, chances are you’re not going to make money at it right away, so you need to have a way of making money while you cultivate the skills you need to pursue your passion. Do yourself a favor and etch this into your mind: money must come first, in order to fulfill your mission.
The Side Hustle Muscle
In her latest book, Big Magic, writer Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how instead of going to school for writing when she was in her twenties, she got a job as a waitress in a diner. “I’ve also worked as an au pair, a private tutor, a ranch hand, a cook, a teacher, a flea-marketeer, and a bookstore clerk,” she says. She makes the point that these jobs not only kept her afloat financially, but they also gave her a tremendous array of creative fodder, which after all, is what writers need to practice their craft.
“Working at the diner was great, because I had access to dozens of different voices a day. I kept two notebooks in my back pocket—one for my customers’ orders, and one for my customers’ dialogue,” she writes, showing us how her side-hustle, which was mostly a means to stability, simultaneously also fed her art.
Creative people tend to focus solely on their mission, only to starve for a couple of years and then give up. They might not have been so quick to give up their dreams if they’d had financial plans to support their evolution as artists. Go ahead and etch this one, too: the more financially stable you are, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to cultivate your bliss in the long term.
The Magic of Our Sharing Economy
There’s no getting around it: we are living in magical times. The Internet, in all of its surreal glory, has fostered a monumental phenomenon in which entrepreneurs can thrive. One of the most amazing byproducts of the Internet is the sharing economy, which, if you’re not thinking about how to maximize it, you might be missing out on some amazing and lucrative opportunities.
The sharing economy makes it easy to sell products, market business, lower overhead and to work part-time or full-time from the comfort of your own home. Thanks to the shared economy, social media and mobile devices can enable ordinary people to leverage their skills, possessions, and talents into paying services. It liberates new moms with babies, for example, to hustle no differently than corporate CEOs.
So how can you work your side-hustle, take advantage of the sharing economy, and cultivate a parallel track of mission and money?
Here are 7 ideas to get you thinking about your side hustle:
1. Start a Business in Your Closet
Here’s a truth-bomb: your closet is a treasure trove of inventory. There are a gazillion things in there that could make you money on sites such as eBay. Your kid’s toys. Clothes. Books. DVDs. Vinyl records. Old electronics that you can sell for the value of the parts.
So why not open up an eBay store and sell your stuff? Have fun with the descriptions: your old purse can become a “designer handbag;” a dress from the eighties can become “vintage fashion,” and so on.
Once you’re up and running, you can offer to sell stuff online for other people, like friends and family. Give them 60 percent of the proceeds; keep your 40 percent. See it as business school 101: a way to learn about pricing, marketing, and e-commerce, and keep all those lessons in your back pocket for when you’re ready to explore your next moneymaking enterprise.
2. Sell Books on Amazon
The beauty of this idea is that you don’t even have to take photos or write any copy. Just set yourself up as a seller (find instructions at services.amazon.com) and type in the ISBNs of your books to list them. Set your selling price based on what other sellers are asking for the same title. And then set your price for one penny less. Do research on your competitors. How do they handle shipping? What would your shipping costs be? Would building them into your price and offering free shipping make your product more appealing?
3. Drive for Lyft or Uber
This one is real no-brainer. All you need to be a Lyft or Uber driver is a valid driver’s license and some decent people skills. One of the great things about this type of side-hustle is that there’s a direct correlation between how hard you work, how many hours you put in and how much money you’ll make. You call the shots, you set the hours.
4. Be a Task Rabbit
This app works on a local level to connect people who are willing to do household chores and errands for cash with paying customers in their neighborhoods. TaskRabbit services range from handyman jobs and cleaning services to help with moving, shopping, and party planning. Getting paid to be helpful—imagine that!
5. AirBnB Your Home
Do you live in a great space? Do you live in a destination city or an interesting place where people might travel and visit? Consider packing up a bag and head over to your friends or family for a weekend (or longer! Call it a stay-cation!), so that you can rent out your space on Airbnb. If you’re worried about having strangers inhabit your home, don’t sweat it—Airbnb guests are all vetted through a review system, so the chances of ending up with a “bad” guest are pretty low.
6. Sell Your Creativity
Have you been making jewelry as a hobby? Or fantasize about designing a cool line of T-shirts, but don’t know where to start? Good news: in the shared economy there are all varieties of platforms that make selling your creative pursuits a piece of cake. Take a look at companies like Etsy, Teespring, Folyo and Dribble—all viable marketplaces for the creative merchant.
7. Create a Brand Online and Monetize It
Think YouTube stars, Vine video creators—any social media platform that takes advertising. Here’s how it works: you create content online, you build a following, and that following allows advertisers and other brands to align with yours. A great example is Michelle Phan, who made her YouTube makeup tutorials into a destination for advertisers. Starting by blogging. You develop an area of expertise and build a following; once you have a following, you can seek sponsors. Another great example is Kathy Cano-Murillo, aka “Crafty Chica,” who has built a killer career as craft-blogger.
The bottom line is this: it can be very fulfilling to make money at something you’re naturally good at while you cultivate what you love on the side. Start with asking yourself some basic questions: what are your skills and natural abilities? How can they make you money? Even better, is there an actual business you can start on the side to make you money? Now get out there, get curious, get determined and be willing to work your side-hustle like it’s nobody’s business. We guarantee it will pay off. Literally.