Nick Loper, 38, turned his side hustle into a business that nets a six-figure income. Even during a worldwide pandemic, he says, you can launch a six-figure side hustle too.
Loper started his career by selling auto parts. He quit that day job when his first side hustle — selling shoes online — became profitable enough to pay his bills. Now the founder of Side Hustle Nation talks to other entrepreneurs about how they turned a side hustle into a success. After eight years and hundreds of interviews, Loper has plenty of advice to share.
There’s a simple key to launching a six-figure side hustle, he says. It’s all about paying attention to “pain points.”
“If you had a problem that you’ve overcome, the solution may be the basis for a business,” he says.
An example: One woman Loper recently interviewed started a pooper-scooper business. Why? Everybody hates picking up after their animals. She told him in January that her Michigan business was making $1,000 a week picking up after other people’s pets — and provided an update in September saying it had grown substantially from there.
“It’s not sexy. It’s not glamorous,” Loper says. “But that’s the sort of model that I’m really bullish on right now.”
The pandemic, while devastating to some industries, also provides a wealth of opportunities.
“If you were in travel or entertainment, you were nuked overnight,” Loper says. “But if you were in e-commerce or delivery or some of these local services, you are probably thriving.”
Online tutoring and teaching platforms have gone gangbusters and are still hiring thousands of workers, largely because COVID-19 forced schools to close. Some online music schools are getting a rush of customers too.
People who can help local businesses build an online presence are also doing brisk business.
Choosing a path
When figuring out the right side hustle for you, it’s wise to consider your personal situation. Do you have the time and personality to market your new venture, or would you rather use an online platform that does the marketing for you?
You can potentially make more money — and find a side hustle that’s uniquely suited to your skills — by striking out on your own. That’s the market that Loper helps instruct with his podcast. His show highlights how various entrepreneurs decided on their businesses and the keys to making those businesses successful.
For those who are uncertain what to do, Loper has a six-step process.
Make a chart
Start with a three-column chart. Label the columns “skills,” “interests” and “contacts,” he suggests.
Are you able to design and build a website, edit books, translate or cook? Can you design the perfect workout, train untrainable dogs or assemble complicated machinery or furniture? In the first column, list whatever you do better than most other people.
Because you’re planning to do this work in your precious free time, you should also enjoy it. So, in the second column, jot down your interests, hobbies and passions. Love baseball? Collect stamps (or coins or dolls)? Do you like tinkering in the stock market or reading about the history of European monarchs? Put your favorite pastimes on the list.
Now look at how Columns 1 and 2 might intersect. For instance, if you think you could edit a book, perhaps it ought to be a book about one of the passions you listed in Column 2. The more you’re able to connect skills with passions, the more likely you are to have a viable side hustle, Loper says.
Column 3, “contacts,” is for listing people who might be able to help. We’ll circle back to that.
Find the pain points
Now consider what problems people have in your area of expertise that you could help solve. Since lots of people are pressed for time, good cooks might make food for delivery or pickup. Dog groomers might offer to pick up pets and bring them home clean.
Given that gyms face COVID safety restrictions, workout gurus might find a way to provide services outdoors. Construction experts may provide one-on-one help via Zoom.
With so many people trying to work and learn online, tech support is also pivotal. If you’re tech-savvy, you may be able to build a booming business with technology troubleshooting.
Finding the right business is a matter of matching your skills and interests with a problem that needs solving in the real world.
You might be tempted to make your side hustle as general as possible to try to broaden your potential client base — for example, calling yourself an editor rather than an editor of personal finance books. But that’s a mistake, says Loper. You should zero in on what you can do better than anyone else. Your niche should unite your skills and passions.
“If anyone can do it, anyone will do it, and that will drive down the price,” he says. “It’s the same thing with Uber. Driving is not a unique skill, so they cut the rates continually. But I had a guy on my show who teaches people to play piano in 21 days. That’s unique. If you can be the go-to person in a specific market, you can command higher rates.”
Once you’ve determined what problems you’d be uniquely good at solving for others, start mining your contacts. Look for friends, relatives and professional groups that would either buy your service or could introduce you to someone else who would. These names go in Column 3 of your graph.
“You don’t need business cards or a website to start a business, you need a client,” Loper says. “You might get those other things eventually, but focus on finding one person who will pay you to solve a problem for them.”
Loper, for example, was always a good English student, so he thought he might be able to edit books. But he wasn’t interested in vampire novels. He was interested in business and personal finance. So to market his services, he turned to members of a group he had joined that self-published business books.
“It’s amazing how quickly the word of mouth starts to spread in these communities,” he says.
Block out time
When you have a full-time job, a family or both, finding enough time to launch a side business is a legitimate challenge. But even if you can’t block out a big stretch of time, you need to block out some time every single day to push your business forward, Loper says.
“Chip away at it — half an hour a day, an hour a day,” Loper says. “Figure out a time — maybe before you go to work or before you go to bed — to devote to nothing but your side hustle.”
Even a few minutes a day can make a difference, he says. Waiting until you have a big block of time to start is just an excuse to procrastinate, and procrastinating accomplishes nothing.
Conduct periodic checkups
After you’ve been at it for six months or a year, you should look at the hours you are spending, the progress you are making and whether your effort is worth the time.
“When you are not seeing the results you want — or if you come to dread the work — it’s time to move on,” he says.
Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent site that reviews hundreds of money-making opportunities in the gig economy.