$100 a Month Spotlight: Each month, I will be shining the light on a resource, hobby, or money-making idea that you can start to implement for $100 or less. Our first guest is Sharon Hujik, who I have been working with since 2011. This is the second in a three-part series on how to start a side hustle. Catch up by reading the first post here!
Simple steps to validate your side hustle idea and keep you on track for success.
Starting a new side hustle is a fantastic option if you are looking to generate extra income, pay down debt, or fund special projects. With the power of the internet, the ease of online banking and payment processing, and robust access to resources, there are very few obstacles that can hold you back if you’re ready to hustle.
And honestly, why wouldn’t you try it? Chris Guillebeau says in Forbes magazine, “There is no downside to building a side hustle there are only benefits to building more than one source of income.” In fact, Jason Feifer, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, argues that employers should expect their best employees to have side hustles! From his perspective, a creative and talented individual has the need to hustle as part of their DNA; and employers are smart to create a work environment that both encourages their efforts and retains their talents.
Tell Me Again, what is this hustle thing?
By definition, a side hustle is a simple, low-investment initiative that brings in extra money. A side hustle is not complicated (you can get started quickly), it is a low investment (you don’t go into debt to start) and you should be able to launch it within a few days/weeks. Starting a side hustle may require you to learn a few new things, but never depends upon extra degrees or intensive training. And while it won’t start out as your primary source of income (that is called a job) it can grow into a bigger hustle that gives you a level of financial freedom that you may not even consider now.
How to Validate your Side Hustle Idea
Last week I shared a free guide to get you started on your first side hustle. Let’s assume now that you have some side hustle ideas but you aren’t sure how good they are. How can you validate them? How do you gain the confidence you need to take the plunge?
I suggest three simple things to get you started on the right track.
Do a Little Searching
Have you stumbled upon a side hustle idea and thought “Darn! That is exactly what I would love to do but they got it first?” If you are saying yes, then I have good news for you. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
One of the best things you can do to validate a potential idea is to see if other people are successfully doing something similar. Seeing other side hustles in your field of interest or community validates that there is a market for it. If a side hustle is working for one person, there is a good chance that there is the potential it could work for you too!
It is tempting to think that competition is a negative. While there are some cases where there may not be room for two people to work the same hustle (the community is really small or the side hustle is very specialized). I would argue that this is often not a problem. In most cases, competition should not be seen as a threat. Rather, I would encourage you to see competition as a tool that broadens the market’s awareness of an unmet need. If multiple people are talking about it, there is a greater chance of a market growing!
Be the Best YOU!
Of course, you do want to make sure your side hustle is unique enough so that you can promote the value of what you are offering in a way that differentiates it from the competition. You must respect intellectual property and you can’t plagiarize someone’s work. But you can recognize that they have a good idea and find your angle to replicate it. The key is to remember that you have a unique set of skills, experience, and talents that come into play. Your selling proposition is different from the competition because YOU are doing the hustle, not anyone else. Leverage your strengths as a way to differentiate your side hustle. Look for the things that add nuance to your offer. And remember, no one can do YOU better than you can!
(And please, whatever you do, don’t think that you just compete on price. This is a terrible trap to fall into! If you are providing a service you do NOT want to low ball your pricing!)
Neil Patel, an expert in online marketing, recently led a workshop I participated in. When I asked him about the best way to validate a new business idea he answered, “Start talking about it for a week. See if you maintain your excitement for it. Practice your pitch, refine your message, and see how people respond.” This is excellent advice that I have used personally and I encourage you to take. Beyond its simplicity, it taps into two important things…
GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD: There are times where ideas seem great when they are in your head, but as you start to explain them verbally the brilliance of your vision leaks out like helium in a week old balloon. And while this is disappointing, it saves you a lot of time, effort and mental planning if you realize this quickly. It really helps to share your idea out loud, multiple times, to a few different people as a way to see its strengths and weaknesses. Your mental image may be brilliant but it will become much more real when you start to talk about it.
PASSION: If you don’t maintain and even grow your excitement about a new business idea for longer than a week, you shouldn’t stick with it. You will never put in the extra time and effort it takes to get things going if you don’t maintain your enthusiasm for it. Talking about your business idea, answering questions, seeking ways to clarify what you offer will help you flesh out your hustle. And if you see that your enthusiasm wanes or you’re less excited about it, look for a different idea.
Just Do It
Probably the easiest and most effective way to validate an idea is to just go for it. Dive in. Make a pitch. Bake the cookies. I promise that the experience of getting started is going to give you valuable information on how your hustle is going to work. You’ll get feedback, you’ll get questions, and you’ll make mistakes. But you are also going to learn!
Farnoosh Torabi, a leading podcaster and author, shared her advice on getting started and making her move before she felt ready. The way she approached it was that she wanted to FAIL FAST. In other words, she knew she was going to make mistakes and experience a steep learning curve, but the fastest way to get through that period of growth was ACTION. She expected some failures (meaning goof-ups and mistakes) and she wanted to get those experiences under her belt. What an outstanding way to approach a new side hustle adventure!
Taking action also prevents the over planning trap. For most of us mere mortals, there will be a big temptation to get stuck in the planning, and prepping that leads up to your launch. This may feel comfortable since it is something that you can control, but don’t overdo it. You will NEVER create a plan that is perfect. In fact, you need to take action so you can see what you forgot to plan for! It may just time to dive in and see if you can swim. The beauty of a side hustle is that you aren’t risking a lot if it flops.
You Can Do This!
Remember, starting a new side hustle is a great option to bring in extra money, whether to pay down debt, or add money to a vacation fund, or test out a new business idea. There have never been more opportunities to dive in and get started.
So let’s go for it!
Part Three Coming Next: Recommendations on the best, most cost-effective side hustle tools that will do the job and keep you under budget!
Ready to Learn More? I invite you to download a free copy of Five Steps to Start your First Side Hustle at SharonHujik.com. It’s a great way to access resources and tips that will help you get started. And if you have questions or successes stories, I would love to hear them!