In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity,” said Albert Einstein, and lockdown during Covid-19 has prompted plenty of people to try their luck at a side business, aka a ‘side hustle’ to generate some extra income.
According to a survey by website hosting platform GoDaddy, one in five workers stuck at home have been using the time to set up a new business. The number is thought to be even higher among those furloughed or at risk from losing their jobs. Be it baking, blogging, designing or delivering, new enterprises have been popping up all over the place.
The motives can be financial, but are often an opportunity for people to explore their creativity, test a business concept outside of work, learn new skills or pursue a passion. Such successful side hustles include Plateaway, Pet Portraits and The Sweetest Gifts.
Start-up expert Daniel Tannenbaum, co-founder of TechRound, one of the UK’s leading platforms for start-up news, says: “Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has led people to think opportunistically and look at side projects.
“While five or 10 years ago, you might have set up a blog talking about fashion, football or food, today it is more about selling things – and Facebook or Instagram is pretty much your starting point for any side business.
“The barriers to entry are low – simply come up with a good brand name, take photos of your products, invite your family and friends, and you’re in business.
“For most people, any revenue earned through a side project feels more rewarding than anything earned in a regular 9-to-5. And when setting up a business becomes more about enjoyment, often it is the most rewarding and purest form of business.”
Plateaway – DIY Restaurant – Meal Kits
Founded by brothers Harry and Lewis Slagel, together with property entrepreneur Nick Leigh, Plateaway delivers restaurant DIY meal kits so users can recreate their favourite restaurant dishes at home.
Harry, a 26-year-old service and user experience tech designer, came up with the concept while he was working from home during lockdown.
He explains: “One of the first things I did was order the Patty&Bun DIY burger kit – they were quite hard to order at the time.
“As more and more restaurants began to create their DIY restaurant meal kits, featuring all the ingredients to make their signature restaurant dishes, I thought: ‘Why isn’t there a centralised platform for all these kits, such as Deliveroo? You have to go to through all the individual restaurants to order one.’”
And Plateaway was born. A “huge foodie”, and with his expertise in tech, product and service design, Harry is in charge of designing and building the website and the end-to-end service for Plateaway.
He teamed up with his brother Lewis, 29, who has worked in the events, film and TV industry for more than five years and is also a “food-lover”. Lewis manages the operations and logistics, and oversees the delivery process.
Leigh, 26, was on furlough from a property investment company at the time. He says: “I’m a big foodie and when Harry approached me, I thought: why not?
“The past few months have provided people the opportunity to try something new and the fact I was on furlough encouraged me to do so.
“We went through all the formal motions: trademarked our name, created a company through an accountant. In June, we set up an Instagram page and then built the website.”
Plateaway has become a full-time role for Leigh, and Harry has left his previous job to focus on the venture full-time. “I wasn’t on furlough, but had wanted to do my own thing,” he says.
Plateaway has 15 restaurant partners, including Blondies Kitchen, Shuk;, Bancone, Patty&Bun and SushiDog, and the list is growing weekly.
Brandon Cooper – Pet Portraits
When tattoo artist Brandon Cooper penned a picture of his dog for his mother during lockdown, he didn’t anticipate the response it would generate.
But the Facebook post of his drawing of Shih Tzu Pickles led to much interest and commissions, particularly from the Jewish community. So Cooper, 26 – who was unable to go into work at the tattoo studio in central London from where he worked – decided to make drawing pets his side project.
He says: “I love art and drawing, and the pet portraits were a way for me to keep busy and make some money. Being self-employed I wasn’t earning anything.”
Cooper, who lives in Totteridge, can spend up to 15 hours on a picture, depending on the number of pets, and charges roughly around £120 per dog.
He adds: “It definitely kept me sane during lockdown as it’s been tough not being able to work.”
Cooper went to King Solomon High School in Essex before studying fine art at Nottingham Trent University and completing a tattooing apprenticeship.
He acknowledges that a tattoo artist is an unusual career for a Jewish chap and hopes to return to the studio soon, but will carry on with the pet portraits.
“It’s a nice little business on the side so why not? I’ve drawn dogs in the past just for fun, but lockdown has enabled me to take commissions. Even though it was absolutely terrible in so many ways, there are some positive sides of it.”
The Sweetest Gifts – Sweetie Platters
Borehamwood mother-of-four Lara Moss has always enjoyed being creative. She used to run baking classes but stopped work when she had her fourth child, who “had a tricky start with lots of hospital stays and appointments”.
Moss, whose children are aged 10, six (twins) and four, was also getting to grips with having recently been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
She says: “I knew I wanted to get back to doing something creative with food at some point, but wasn’t sure what. During lockdown, I started thinking more about what I could do and work it around the kids. I was at home, not doing the school runs, and had more time to think about doing something for me.”
Moss, 38, came up with The Sweetest Gifts, a range of sweetie platters and biscuit layer cake gifts, with more products in the pipeline.
“I bought the domain name and set up Instagram and Facebook pages. I started in mid-July, but because of Covid-19, everything was taking longer to arrive so I didn’t launch officially until 1 August.”
She is fully booked until October. “I’ve been lucky – it’s really taken off and I’m hoping it will become a full-time venture.
“I’m really enjoying the creativeness of it. I had been wanting to do something, but life just gets in the way. The days rush by and, before you know it, it’s another year gone. But the crisis has given us all time to re-evaluate everything, to stop and take charge of what you want to do.”
She adds: “I think during lockdown, people were more conscious of supporting small businesses.
“People have started to help those around them rather than going to the massive chains, and it’s lovely, so I thought now was the time to try something.”
Daniel Tannenbaum’s Top Tips for a Side Hustle: Getting your website ready
Unless you are going down the pure Instagram or Facebook route, you will need a website. Web builder platforms such as Wix and Squarespace are cheap (less than £10 per month) and look very professional as a starting point. There is also WordPress and Shopify for eCommerce.
Other smart ways to get your website and business visible online is by adding some Google reviews (Google Business) and placing articles on other websites. This will benefit your SEO and create a bit of a digital footprint, so if someone types you into Google, they see your website, lots of reviews and mentions in the press – and you instantly look bigger.
If you want to sample ads, try signing up for free with Google (Adwords) and Facebook (Facebook Ads); they will typically give you around £75 to £125 to use on your first order. This is a great starting point to test out the demand for your product and, if it works, you can start to scale up and spend more online piece-by-piece.
- Daniel Tannenbaum is the founder of digital marketing agency Tudor Lodge Digital and is the co-founder of TechRound