How to start a successful side hustle and make 6 figures – Business Insider

  • If you have an idea for a new business, it can be challenging to get started. 
  • Whether you’re debating a career change, or you’re looking for a way to make extra cash during the coronavirus pandemic, now could be a great time to start a side hustle as a freelancer, online teacher, or graphic designer. 
  • Business Insider has developed the ultimate guide for anyone who is curious about starting a successful side gig.
  • We collected advice from freelancers, entrepreneurs, and business owners who earn six figures or more.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Now might be a good time to start a side hustle.

People choose to take on a side hustle when they want to experiment with a startup idea or earn extra cash on top of their full-time job (or both). It’s a way to earn on your own terms. And amid the coronavirus pandemic, side hustles have become more popular. In a Harvard Business School survey of 1,000 US adults, 54% of respondents said they were considering starting a gig.

Many successful companies were founded during tough economic times. More than 21 successful startups — including Uber and WhatsApp — were founded during the last recession. Some of the most prominent companies, such as Apple, Twitter, and Facebook, started off as side projects that later became billion-dollar (and in the case of Apple, trillion-dollar) companies.

You might want to take on a side gig to pursue an unfulfilled passion, pay off student loans, or be more financially secure.

Business Insider has created a guide for anyone who is curious about the process of starting a side hustle and detailed how to grow it into a six-figure business.

You don’t need a lot of money to start a business. You can build a profitable side gig from home.

Stacey Martino, a former tech consultant who built a relationship-coaching platform that grew into a $2 million business in 10 years, told Business Insider that one misconception people have with entrepreneurship is that they need a grand plan or savings account to begin.

She built Relationship Development and kept it as a side hustle for five years while working full time at Deloitte. The entrepreneur said she grew her business by relying on free resources online.

“Facebook is free. Social media is free,” she said. “But you do need a way to support yourself while you’re starting a business — especially if you’re pursuing it full time.”

Martino recommended that you learn as much as you can about internet-marketing strategies because they can make or break your business — especially during a pandemic, when everyone is spending more time online.

For example, you can develop a successful strategy by knowing the kinds of customers you attract, she said. Figure out where your audience congregates online, and place ads on those pages to bring people to your site.

Bola Sokunbi, the founder of the financial-coaching website Clever Girl Finance, says a virtual work environment creates nearly endless possibilities for starting a side business at little to no cost. You can offer services in virtual conferencing, remote home schooling to support working parents, or a telehealth platform during the pandemic, she said.

Assess your strengths, weaknesses, and interests, and explore some money-making ideas.

You may not need a lot of funding right away, but it does help to have a business plan. Cate Luzio, a former Wall Street bank executive, left her corporate job to launch the coworking and event hub Luminary NYC. Luzio previously shared eight essential elements that every founder should include in their business plan.

Identify the key suppliers and your most valuable partnerships, she said. You should also be able to summarize what the company stands for and what its mission is.

To grow your business, you need to have an acute understanding of your audience. Then, you need to figure out how to best market to them.

Ryan McCarthy, a former digital-marketing specialist who founded Imouri, an online retail company that creates custom anime designs, said most of his customers came from him communicating with anime fans on social-media platforms.

“I was basically my own audience. I knew where to market my products because I was essentially advertising to people like me,” he said.

McCarthy subscribed to YouTube channels and left comments under videos to promote his business. He also advertised to Facebook groups he was a member of. The 26-year-old ran digital ads on those platforms, and that generated more internet traffic to his website, he said. Now Imouri earns him $500,000 a year.

Graphic designer Joana Galvão said she didn’t need a big audience to build Gif Design Studios, an award-winning design agency she cofounded in 2014. Galvão quit her job and became a full-time freelancer after discovering clients would pay for logo designs. She charged her first client $800 and earned $100,000 within 10 months.

The entrepreneur wrote that she focused on networking with people in the industry, attending conferences, and reaching out to other entrepreneurs for advice.

Before you turn your side hustle into your full-time job, you may have to make some lifestyle changes. 

Stella & Dot founder and CEO Jessica Herrin said entrepreneurs should be financially prepared to self-fund their businesses for the first couple months. When you quit your stable job with benefits, you should expect an adjustment period.

If you’re a college student or young entrepreneur, you can keep personal expenses low by living at your parents’ home or with a roommate. Base your living choices off your side hustle, she said.

But when you’re ready to launch your business and tell everyone about it, make sure that you do it loud, said Emily Given, a former Amazon employee who turned her virtual-assistance side hustle into a full-fledged agency. 

“Don’t be modest about your new venture — be proud,” she wrote in a Business Insider story. “The more people you tell about your business, the more buyers are within your reach.”

Make sure that you have a long-term vision for your side hustle and that it is going to be able to pay for the life that you want, Herrin said.

You may eventually need some extra money to keep your business afloat. 

You can pitch investors for funding. Kim Taylor, the founder and CEO of the recruiting company Cluster, recommends keeping the brand’s visual identity in mind, preparing multiple documents that tell the company’s story, and keeping the pitch deck short and straight to the point. 

When you’re writing a pitch, it’s helpful to read decks from other entrepreneurs. Business Insider has a comprehensive list of startup pitch decks you can explore here.

But you don’t need to pitch investors to get funding. You can also seek out nontraditional sources.

For example, Isaac Davydov, a 19-year-old sneaker reseller, earned capital to fund his business by restoring worn-out pairs of sneakers and reselling iPhones.

“That’s really what helped me get my initial capital,” Davydov previously told Business Insider. 

Meeting high demand

If business is booming, it’s time to figure out how to address growing demand for your product or service. 

Herrin recommended that you reflect on how many hours you’re willing to work, which kind of skills you want, and if you’re willing to cut back.

Maya Elious, a 29-year-old who turned a college side hustle designing Myspace profiles into a full-time consulting gig, previously told Business Insider that her business really kicked off when she found her niche in the market. She was often overworked and burnt out in the beginning because she was selling a wide variety of services for too many clients.

Elious eventually changed her strategy and created two private workshops with her clients instead of several, and it paid off. She ended up making 97% of her revenue in 2019 from those two events. 

“Doing less and charging more made me more money, attracted better clients, and resulted in better outcomes for my clients,” she said.

Once your business gains traction, you can hire more employees to meet the demand. The most effective leaders tend to have a self-awareness about their strengths and weaknesses, carefully hiring people who fill the gaps in their skill sets. New founders should avoid hiring clones of themselves, assess job candidates’ adaptability during interviews, and keep the company’s long-term goals in mind when bringing in new hires, Business Insider previously reported.

Higher demand also means more hours, more work, and more pressure to succeed. Founders and small-business owners face high levels of burnout. A 2015 study led by the University of California, San Francisco, psychologist Michael Freeman found that of 242 entrepreneurs surveyed, about 49% had a mental-health condition and were more likely to have a lifetime history of depression, ADHD, substance-use conditions, or bipolar disorder. 

Prominent founders such as Elon Musk and Tim Ferriss have recommended that entrepreneurs focus on a good work-life balance, exercise and eat a healthy diet, and consider therapy to cope with the stresses that come with entrepreneurship.

If you want to start a side hustle but don’t know where to start, consider reading some of the following stories on entrepreneurs who turned their side gigs into successful businesses. Our list includes everything from insect breeders to graphic designers. 

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