I started my first side-hustle in the third grade when I traded a beanie baby for a fat stack of Pokemon cards with an upperclassman.
It was a pretty sweet set up: I’d pitch hopeful bidders against each other for the holographic cards and rake in the sodas and sweet cakes every lunch hour.
Unfortunately, my ability to market was limited by my curfew, and it wasn’t long until I watched my not-hard-earned goods exchange hands at twice the price I’d charged.
(I also lacked the foresight to know one of those cards would retail for $10,000 with collectors. Youth, right?)
Thankfully, the state of the side-hustle has improved since those early days, and now more than ever, creators can reach wider audiences and build stronger customer bases on their own terms.
But that’s about to change. 73% of those side-hustlers are planning to take their business to the big leagues and turn it into a full-fledged revenue machine and career.
So if you’re on edge and still debating getting in on the side-hustle, let’s lay those worries to rest today: the side-hustle economy has never looked better.
Here’s what you need to know about the side-hustle and how to get into one.
What is a side-hustle?
Put simply, a side-hustle is any business venture that brings in income without constituting a full-time job. The income and hours may be comparable to a full-time arrangement, but because it’s a side-hustle, regularity isn’t guaranteed.
It sounds a little convoluted, I know.
The problem with making sweeping generalizations about what a side hustle is and what it isn’t is that, to date, no single authoritative source agrees on how to measure the gig economy.
Depending on who you ask, side-hustlers make up anywhere from 4% to 40% of the US workforce.
For the sake of clarity in this article, we’ll be defining side-hustlers as those who cultivate revenue streams by selling services or products on a freelance basis.
I.e., a side-hustler might:
- Sell downloadable workbooks
- Run membership sites
- Create products for clients
- Generate income by consulting
But no matter what they do, their income is created on their own terms -- they’re their own bosses, even if they’re working for clients directly on a one-on-one basis.
Sounds good, right? That’s not the best part of being a side-hustler, though.
The best part of a side-hustle is that, typically, they aren’t resource-intensive. Side-hustles don’t require significant investments to get rolling, nor do they mandate spending 40 hours a week before you see returns.
Granted, the more resources you can put into the side-hustle, the faster it’s going to get off the ground, but it isn’t uncommon to hear stories about side-hustlers investing pocket change and pulling in rent within a few weeks of work.
For instance, consider the case of the IT professional, Terri Morris, who suddenly found herself out of a job when a company buy-out turned into a department closure.
Within five months of creating a side-business and getting into digital products, she pulled in $2,653 in recurring monthly revenue.
That’s a bankable salary within the same time it takes for a new episode of Sherlock to circulate.
Still, even if you’re not interested in making your side-hustle into a new career like Terri, the dividends for picking up gigs on the side are significant.
People who add a dash of moonlighting on top of their primary career usually make 19% of their income from their extracurricular business, and on average add $7,600 to their annual funds.
That’s the lower end of estimates for side-hustlers, by the way.
In a survey of over 1,000 side-hustlers, the average monthly income reported was $686 for a few hours of work, which comes out to $8,232 a year.
So what is a side-hustle?
A flexible way to make money that has the potential to become a full-time hustle if you want it to.
If you don’t, it’s enough to pad your pockets with disposable income so you can finally take that trip to Prague and add guacamole to your Chipotle order fearlessly.
- Take your time nurturing your side-hustle. Becoming your own boss may sound like the perfect excuse to drop your current career, but if you can, it’s better to explore the challenges of the side-hustle with the protection of stable income.
- Find what you can uniquely contribute for customers. You have something that no one else can deliver to your audience (no, really, you do -- don’t listen to impostor syndrome), and they’re willing to pay for it.
- Don’t fixate on your first idea. What your customers want and what you deliver may not be aligned the first time, but that’s okay as long as you’re heeding the first piece of advice.
- Build your marketing and products one step at a time. Getting lost in the weeds and trying to juggle every aspect of a business is easy, and unfortunately, detrimental. Try to become a master of one rather than a jack of all trades.
Now, if that all sounds good to you, let’s talk about some profitable side-hustles you can start today.
Side-hustle #1: Create an online course
By 2022, the self-paced e-learning market is expected to grow by nearly 6 billion USD with a compound annual growth rate of over 2%.
All of which is a very arithmetic-heavy way of saying that there’s a lot of money in online education, and that money isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
But let’s zoom in a little more: what does that mean for your side-hustle?
It means if you want to get into a one-time-creation product that delivers continuous income over time, you want in on online courses. We analyzed over 132,000 online course sales and found that the average price for a single course is $182.59.
So if you were aiming to hit the average monthly income for a side-hustle -- $686 -- you’d need to sell four courses a month.
And the more courses you add to your offerings, the more sales you can make. That’s what professional educator turned online entrepreneur, Reuven Lerner, discovered when he was setting up his courses.
“I found that having more courses not only meant that people were buying more because I had more to offer, but I think they took me more seriously,” he told us, which is why he offers multiple types of products at different price points as you see below.
And yes, because you’re probably wondering by now, it really is easy to create an online course -- you can shoot professional-quality videos on an iPhone and start pre-selling your online course before you’ve put the finishing touches on your first lesson.
In fact, we highly recommend doing it in that order. Pre-launching your online course helps you suss out the market need and build hype around your product before you’ve put in the work on a deliverable that your audience may not resonate with.
And that, in turn, helps you sidestep the top-two widowmakers for new businesses -- lacking a market need and running out of cash -- by keeping your dollars and time invested in a path you can guarantee will lead to a profitable launch.
But since I’m not in the habit of lying to you, I have to clarify that online courses are not completely passive income.
Nothing is, actually. The idea of creating a product once and then kicking your feet up on a beach for the rest of your life may be a romantic (and appealing) fantasy, but it’s just that -- a fantasy.
Online courses only sell as well and often as they’re marketed to the people who need them, which is why it’s so important to nail your online course marketing strategies down early.
It’s even better if you put those strategies in writing, too. Marketers who document their process are 466% more likely to report success than those who don’t.
Still, if you’re looking for a side-hustle that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance -- after you’ve created it, you just need to work on marketing it -- online courses are an excellent solution that can cost you as little as $330 for the first year.
If you’re seeking something a little more intensive, however, you may want to consider this next side-hustle instead (or on top) of online courses.