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“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”
Henry Ford said that about life in general, but it’s especially true if you’re trying to rise above paycheck to paycheck life.
As tough as it is working full-time, sometimes it’s just not enough. That’s why more than 44 million people in the U.S. now work a side hustle.
Have you ever thought…
“If I only had another $500-$1000 each month, I’d finally be able to pay off my debt, and get moving…”
Almost 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and if you are, here’s how a side hustle could be the start of some big changes in your life.
What is a Side Hustle?
Sometimes side hustle is used interchangeably with part-time job. But they’re much different.
If you’re struggling with bills you can always get a part-time job at the local dollar store for 15-20 hours a week.
But then what?
You’re trading hours away from home for low pay, while you help someone else grow their business.
The pay is probably just enough for a tank of gas and maybe a few groceries. Not nearly enough to make a difference in your life. Just enough to be swallowed up each week, while you become dependent on being away from home for even more hours each week.
Side hustles aren’t about trading your time to make someone else money. They’re about creating and building an asset for yourself that has the potential to provide passive income.
There are plenty of services you can provide that’ll generate $300-$500 per month within just a few months. That may not seem like a lot, but if you’re saddled with debt – and finance charges on top of that – it can make a huge difference in your ability to become debt free and in a better financial position.
And unlike a part-time job, many side hustles can scale into six-figure incomes. You’re earning money, but it’s on your terms.
Shaking the “employee” mentality can be the catalyst for big changes in your life.
- Suddenly you’re paying down debt.
- When your car needs brakes you’re not panicking over which bill you’ll need to skip.
- Maybe you’re even putting some money away, and suddenly your options are expanding.
- That course you couldn’t afford to take, or a mini-vacation are now possibilities.
If you’re living close to the edge, cutting back on your afternoon coffee run isn’t gonna turn your life around. You can pinch pennies, but it’s frustrating to have them swallowed up somewhere else.
What if starting next month, you were bringing in an extra $500. And a few months later, an extra $1000 a month. Before long, you’re building an emergency fund, and you’re able to pay cash for things like repairs or Christmas gifts.
Here are 5 ways a side hustle can transform your life :
1. Putting all your eggs in one basket is dangerous.
If you’ve been in a Walmart or a Target recently, you’ve seen them gradually replacing employees with self-service registers. The thing is, it’s not just minimum wage jobs. Every business is looking at every job level to see how they can get the same function done cheaper.
And if the bulk of your job is done on a computer, you can be sure that your employer is investigating whether it can be done cheaper either offshore or by a machine.
I worked for a major healthcare company and watched as they outsourced department after department to countries all over the world. Then it was our turn. Almost the entire IT department – over 200 people were outsourced.
The fact that you’re a trained, seasoned employee means nothing if your company decides your job function can be done cheaper somewhere else.
Have you noticed that most employers train several people to do the same task? So we should protect ourselves too, and have more than one income.
Having a side hustle – something you can fall back on and crank up if you need to, gives you more control over your future if your employer decides to shift gears.
2. Stop saying Someday and actually make things happen
- Someday, we’d like to travel to Italy.
- Someday, we’d like to upgrade our car.
- Someday, we’d like to pay off our debt so we can do a few things around the house.
- Someday, we’d like to ramp up our retirement savings.
- Someday, we’d like to ……………..
The problem with living year after year assuming things will improve someday, is that life really is shorter than you think. You don’t have two decades to think about saving for retirement. And wouldn’t you rather take that trip to Italy when you’re 30 rather than 70?
Generating even a few hundred extra dollars a month to eliminate debt and start building an emergency fund can open up new opportunities you wouldn’t have had before.
Imagine having a predictable budget, the ability to pay for emergencies, and be saving money each month.
3. The secret to achieving freedom is investing early enough.
When I said you don’t have two decades to think about saving for retirement, here’s a perfect example, given by Burton Malkiel, author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street:
Imagine two guys, William and James.
William started investing $300 per month at age 20. With every single paycheck, he paid himself first. $75 bucks a week, come hell or high water, deposited into an account that over the years, earned an average of 10% interest. Then at age 40, he stopped. Never invested another dime for the last 25 years of his career. Just that 20 year period.
William’s brother James saved nothing from age 20 until age 40. But then at age 40, he did the same thing – invested $300 per month and earned the same 10% interest rate. But he did it for 25 years – five years more than William, until his retirement at 65.
So, how’d they each do?
James, who invested from age 40-65, walked away with $400,000 at his retirement. A nice sum, but if he were to start withdrawing money at 65, using the 4% rule, he’d be scraping by on $16,000 a year.
But William, after investing the same monthly amount, from age 20-40, five years less than James, would retire with $2.5 million dollars. And using the same 4% withdrawal rate, William could safely withdraw $100,000 per year.
Living paycheck to paycheck, or planning to invest money someday, is sacrificing the magic of compound interest.
The difference an extra $75, $100 or a few hundred dollars makes can be life changing …if you don’t wait another decade or two like James.
And having the extra cash each week can help fuel those deposits.
4. You can start on a shoe string and expand at your own pace.
Whatever you decide to do… walk dogs, start a blog, clean homes, do freelance work. Anything. Nobody needs to know that you’re winging it and figuring things out as you go. Or whether you’re even wearing pants. If you go with dog walking, I’d definitely suggest pants.
I know someone who started her side job using an ironing board as her desk.
There are loads of opportunities to start generating side income with almost no investment.
- You can start your own blog – one you can earn income from – for about $75 per year. You don’t need to be a technical wiz either. People do it every day. My tutorial can help you get up and running in about 15 minutes.
- Is there a certain area you have experience, or an interest in? Anything from parenting, sports, woodworking, crafts, marketing – there’s an audience of millions of people through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. And a percentage of them will probably pay a few bucks for your knowledge. If you can bang out 30-50 pages on a specific subject, you can put your eBook on their platform in front of millions of customers. For each sale, you’d keep 70%, but you’d pay nothing to publish it or advertise it.
- Another way to profit from something you’re familiar with, using someone else’s platform, is to create your own course. Check out sites like Udemy or Teachable where you create a course on their platform, in whatever format works for you. You create it, they host it, and you earn from it.
The point is, you don’t need thousands of dollars to begin generating income with a side hustle. Whether it’s blogging, freelance writing, cleaning homes or cutting grass, you can start small and grow at your own pace.
A neighbor of mine started making candles as a hobby. She started giving some away to friends, and then began selling some in local gift shops.
Before long, her entire garage was lined with shelving, full of candles, wax and supplies. Then she needed to expand into one of their bedrooms.
Within a couple years, they were able to quit their jobs and now they make a very comfortable living working from home and selling through their Etsy shop.
You don’t need to be an expert to get started.
5. Your side hustle income can be whatever you decide it is.
The problem with traditional jobs is that regardless of how hard you work, your salary always falls within a certain range. A range they decide. You can work your butt off and compete for a promotion, but of course there are no guarantees. And it could take years.
When you decide to generate your own side income, you start small, progress at your own pace, and your income is determined by the effort you make.
Take blogging for example. Most people just decide on a niche, write some posts and get comfortable selecting topics. Then when you have a dozen or so, you start promoting it. You start a subscriber list, and begin to get feedback from readers.
And when you feel comfortable, you start promoting a few products as an affiliate. Or create your own digital products. One thing every blogger has in common – even the big ones – is that they were clueless initially. But they took the first step, flailed around a bit and kept going.
Or suppose you start dog sitting? You get three customers and you’re bringing in a couple hundred a month. You’re finally starting to pay off your debt. You’re no longer afraid of a $500 car repair.
A few months later you hire someone to help while you bring on three more customers. Now that you’re getting accustomed to managing someone, you hire a second person. You start transitioning from an hours for pay gig, to generating customers and earning money while other people do the work.
But in both cases, blogging and dog sitting, you’ve invested almost nothing to start. There’s no test to pass, and nobody needs to know you’re flying by the seat of your pants.
And your income for these or any other side hustle is limited only by your efforts.
Tips to Help Your Side Hustle Succeed
Don't Go Into Debt for Your Side Hustle
Don’t go out and charge a $600 desk or hundreds of dollars in equipment when you haven’t earned anything yet. If you need to spend anything, try to spend cash, or use what you have now until you earn some money.
You want to make sure there’s a market for your service or your product before investing anything significant.
Focus on What's Making You Money
It’s tempting to research things for months, or to setup the perfect office. But those things aren’t putting money in your pocket. Getting customers and providing a service are where you should focus.
We’re not starting the next IBM. A simple spreadsheet is fine to keep initial records. Then upgrade as you need to.
Schedule Your Time
You don’t need an elaborate piece of software, but jotting a to-do list on a Post-it note won’t cut it either. If you decide you’ll work your side hustle from 7-9 every night and 9-1 on Saturday, then stick to it and document what you’ll get done. Google calendar works great, and is visible from anywhere.
Getting Your Own Side Hustle Going
Want to start putting your future in your hands? Here’s a rough game plan to get started:
- First, what’s your financial situation now? If you’re struggling with bills but you’re not sure how far in the red you are, try writing out a budget so you’ll have a target amount to aim for. Here are some budget templates that’ll make it easier.
- Brainstorm what you can do to bring in some extra income. Consider these factors:
- When do you have time – at night, mornings, intermittent times?
- Can you work out of the house, or do you need to be home?
- Is there a service that people in your area would pay for? Remember, you don’t need to be a trained expert. Think out of the box. Here are some ideas to help:
Side hustles don’t require a big budget. You just need to start. Get one customer. Then evaluate how you can improve for the next one, and go from there.
Thinking about how to increase your income can get a little overwhelming. Working a full-time job takes a third of our day, and when you add in sleep, meals and chores, it doesn’t leave a lot.
It’s easy to justify a few hours of TV or Facebook after a day at work. But at some point you might wonder…
“When are things gonna change?
“I work, I pay bills, I can’t travel anywhere because I need to work and pay off debt. I have no say in scheduling my time because I need to be in the office Monday through Friday.”
It’s not that you’re lazy. You work hard. You get good performance reviews. But you’re frustrated and you begin to accept the idea that this is just your life for the next three decades.
Tim Ferriss talked about this in the 4 Hour Work Week…
“Laziness is not working less; laziness is letting circumstances define your life for you, or passing through life like a spectator from an office window.”
Yes, it can seem like there’s no end to the activities that fill our day. But busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. It may seem like you deserve those couple hours of TV and Facebook each night, but what you really deserve is more choice and more options in life.
Like the kind of work you do. Where you do it. When you take time off. Where you live. Or even the ability to take up a hobby that may cost a few bucks.
A side hustle doesn’t need to start with a huge investment. Or a dedicated office and three employees.
It might start with one phone call. One conversation. One Youtube video and then a decision.
A side hustle is one of those decisions that can start small, but with each day, begin to change the trajectory of your life in a big way.
It’s true: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.