It’s a popular phrase in today’s work world because … it’s a popular thing to do. A Side Hustle (noun) is something you do on the side of your “day job.” Side Hustling (verb) is the act of getting your butt out there and pounding the pavement to make extra cash and figure out if there’s more for you in the career sense than what you’re already doing.
A side hustle can serve many different purposes. It can be purely a money-making tool — being an UberX driver or a Postmate, for instance — sure, but it can also let you delve into your passions with the hope of turning them into a full-time job. And the right side hustle can be both.
Follow these steps to find your Side Hustle Sweet Spot — one that will make you the most cash, has the potential to turn into a legit business and will help you write the next chapter of your career.
Find Your Passion
You likely have more than one interest outside of work that gets your side hustle juices flowing. However, for the purpose of this exercise, focus on those passions that fit the following criteria: a) You’re really good at it, b) It’s a service or product that fills a void in the market and c) It’s a service or product that can realistically make you money.
When starting this exercise, though, list everything out. Don’t hold back. Do you like dancing? Talking on the phone? Start with the whole shebang, and then methodically decide their payoff potential. You can make money doing virtually anything if you think about it and are creative enough.
Make a Venn diagram of the things you’re passionate about and the things that can make money. Shade in the things that fall into both categories. See that shaded part? Do that.
Figure Out How Much Time You Have
And, can you realistically stick to a self-imposed schedule while also having a full-time hustle? Tackling your side hustle after a busy workday is going to require more than a little discipline.
Look at the list of passions you made, and now analyze the time you can devote to your hustle. Is it worth the money you’ll be getting? Worth the time? Depending on your goals for this side hustle, these two outcomes might not be equally weighted.
For example, if you stumble upon a side hustle that doesn’t pay that well but helps you develop skills that are valuable in your industry — like copy editing if you work in editorial, or language proficiency if you have a government job — it might still be worth it to get those skills while making a little side cash. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a solid revenue stream, any side hustle that eats up too much of your time and doesn’t pay well might not be, well, worth it.
Think of the 24/7 Potential
When sorting through your side hustle ideas, give some good thought to whether they at least have the potential to provide a pathway to a long-term career — you know, the kind that pays you enough to like, live.
Do some research on Glassdoor and LinkedIn to see how much money others have made in similar industries — or, if you’re striking out on your own completely, how other businesses in this space have fared. Even if you never thought you’d switch careers, you might feel differently in six months or a year if you start crushing the side hustle game. And if — when — that happens, is it something you’d be down with doing 24/7?
Is It a Hobby or a “Jobby”?
Think you want to bid adieu to your current J-O-B? Before you try and take your side hustle from being your recreation to your vocation, get serious about determining if it’s really a “jobby” … or just a hobby. A “jobby” is something you do every day that pays the bills and then some; a “hobby” is just something you love on the side that might provide a little extra income, too.
Are you confident that you can do the less exciting parts of the hobby when turning it into a business — i.e. sourcing, bookkeeping — day in and day out? And, are you someone who stays focused without getting distracted, antsy and easily bored?
If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, well then you might be onto something.
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Give your employer a heads up that you are going to do something on the side, especially if it competes with the job you’re currently doing. You want it to be kosher with your primary gig — otherwise, your side hustle will become your main hustle sooner than you expected.
Testing out your passion, and whether it might be a valid business idea, as a side hustle while you’re still employed allows you to determine proof of concept with fewer risks because you have, hello, a job that pays you already.
I also always tell aspiring entrepreneurs that figuring out that you don’t want to do something is as important as figuring out that you do. Why? Because you got it out of your system. You tried it, and you’ll either a) appreciate your job more or b) come up with a new idea for a business you want to try next. Or…both! And, maybe you’ll find that your passion is better off as just that: a passion, something you love simply because it adds value to your life outside of work. That’s fine, too.
But, if you love it, and your goal is to parlay this side hustle into a new career, the payoff can be incredible. I’m speaking here from experience. After almost 18 months of juggling my rapidly expanding side hustle along with my day job as a news anchor, I resigned from that full-time job to pursue my side hustle as my full-time career — yes, the one I have now. I own and operate my own production company, coming up with smart, sassy financial advice for others like you.
And, that can happen to you, too.
Keep Reading: 5 Signs You’re Financially Ready to Quit Your Job