The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai.  Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food.  She blogs at Mom’s Plans where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.

Side hustles can be a great way to stretch a family’s income or to find ways to pay for perks a family couldn’t normally afford such as a vacation.  Side hustles can also be a great way to drum up some extra money to invest for the kids’ college funds or to invest in your own retirement.

For twenty-somethings just out of college, side hustles can be a great way to pay down debt.  Joe Mihalic of No More Harvard Debt dug his way out of $91,000 in student loan debt in part by renting, “his spare bedrooms to strangers through Craigslist and starting a side business doing landscape work” (CNNMoney) to supplement his “six-figure management job.”


My Side Hustle Experience

As a stay-at-home mom who needs to help supplement the family income, I love side hustles.  I started my first side hustle in February, 2010, when I started freelance writing for a personal finance blogger.  Then, I got another side hustle submitting a different personal finance blogger’s articles to finance carnivals.

The carnival submission side hustle quickly mushroomed until I had over 20 clients.  The job required several hours of work each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  For about 18 months, everything went smoothly, and I raked in the money.

During that time, I naturally shed a few clients because, as a mom to three young children, my work had grown to more than I could handle, at least if I wanted to be present in my kids’ lives.

But then, the online environment began to change.  People worried that carnivals might look like link farms to Google and that their blogs may be penalized.  I lost a few clients when they decided the potential risk wasn’t worth the reward.

And then I got competition–a lot of competition.  Smart people looking for a fairly easy side hustle set up their own carnival submissions service at a lower price, and slowly my clientele faded away.  Now, three and a half years later, I only have a few carnival submission clients left.

In addition to my freelance writing work for other bloggers, I found work occasionally writing posts for companies and bloggers.  For some time, I could count on making about a one fourth of my monthly income that way.  But again, business dried up.  One blogger that I worked with got out of the blogging business.  Google began to penalize blogs, so that also dried up business.

Now, most of my income comes from freelance writing, virtual assistant work, and social media work.


My Tips for Those Looking to Create a Side Hustle

Based on my three plus years experience, I have some advice for those looking to start a side hustle:

1.  Make sure you have a savings account.  Many start their side hustle because money is tight.  I would recommend that even if that is the case, you should set aside some money in a savings account every month.  If I had it to do all over again, I’d set aside 25% of my income each month from day one.  I’m doing that now, but I should have been doing that much earlier so I’d be more financially secure if a side hustle dries up (as it inevitably seems to do in the online world).

In addition, remember that as a freelancer, income is not always dependable.  I have one client who doesn’t pay me until 30 days after I submit my work.  Many others pay me as soon as my posts are submitted.  Occasionally clients fall on hard times and payment is delayed, sometimes for months.  If you make it a habit to set aside a certain percentage of your earnings, you’ll always have money in the savings account to smooth out the ebb and flow of income and jobs.

2.  Create as many side hustles as you can comfortably.  The online world is dynamic and always changing.  Decisions Google and social media sites make can affect your jobs as well.  A few years ago, bloggers did whatever they could to grow their Facebook account, and now, most of those bloggers are frustrated because only 1 to 2% of their followers see their status updates.  A few years ago, content was king, but now in the era of Pinterest, photos are just as or more important.

You never know what new social media sites will take off or what changes will affect your business.  The more side hustles you can create, the better.  My carnival submission service has been almost eradicated as has my sponsored post writing side hustle.  However, I still have my freelance blog writing, virtual assistant work and social media work.  If I had relied on just one way to make money, I may very well be out of job right now.

3.  Watch for trends and learn new skills.  Even if you have a profitable side hustle now, always keep an eye out for changes in the online environment.  If you can be one of the first to master something new in the online sphere like Pinterest, you can make a healthy side hustle.  Just look at some of the most successful bloggers that you know.  Many of them started eight or more years ago when blogging was relatively new and there wasn’t so much competition.

4.  Cultivate relationships.  As you work with others, strive to cultivate relationships.  Support those you work with by following them on social media and sharing their work.  The stronger you can make these relationships, the more likely they can help you if you need it.  For instance, one freelance writer lost a large client.  She contacted some people she currently worked with as well as those she had previously worked with, and within two days she had jobs that would replace the income she lost.

5.  Excel at your work to get word-of-mouth referrals.  In the same vein, you can also cultivate relationships by doing excellent work.  Though taking on more work than you can handle can be tempting, balance your work load so that you can do excellent work with all of your clients.  This can lead to word-of-mouth referrals, which can help you find new jobs.

6.  Have an exit strategy.  There may be the day when you no longer want your side hustle.  Maybe your debt is paid off or your traditional job is requiring more time or your family is growing.  Whatever the reason, having an exit strategy is important.  How will you leave your business?  Are you able to sell it to someone else or a company?  Will you just close up shop one day?  If so, how long will closing up shop take?

A side hustle can grow so much that it generates enough to replace the income from your traditional job and can then become your full-time job.  Or, it can be something that you do on the side for a limited amount of hours a week while your kids are sleeping or on the weekends.  Whichever type of side hustle you choose, keeping these tips in mind will help you successfully grow, and keep, your side income flowing.

How about you all? What advice would you have for someone just beginning a new online side hustle? 

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/refractedmoments/

Diversify for a Successful Online Side Hustle is a post from: My Personal Finance Journey

Show more