Many Americans often find themselves with less money than they need.
Some don’t have enough left over at the end of the month, while 34% have no savings at all. If that sounds like you, there’s a solution. With access to an internet connection, and some creativity and hustle, you can start a side hustle to earn extra money from home for your monthly budget, emergency fund, retirement savings, or vacation stash.
Before you get started, be clear about what you want to accomplish. Your “why” will keep you motivated. Then, think about what skills you have to use, whether it’s writing, proofreading, marketing, or even teaching piano lessons. Combining your skills with goals and planning, you can make extra money and have the income to pad your savings, pay your bills, or eliminate your student loan debt.
7 Things to Consider Before Starting Your Side Hustle
If you’re unsure how to formulate a plan for your side hustle, these steps provide a guideline. Following them in order will yield the best results, but it’s okay to go through them in a way that makes sense for you.
1. Give your money a purpose.
Before you get started, think about what you will do with the extra income. Do you want the money for a specific purpose, like saving for a house or taking a big trip? Are you working toward longer-term financial goals, like adding to your emergency fund or saving for retirement?
Choose a specific goal, and think about how this will change your life. Buying a house might give you more space and stability. A big trip will create memories that will last a lifetime. Saving for emergencies or retirement will reduce your financial anxiety and help you feel more confident about your financial future.
Whatever it is, envision your life when you meet this goal. Write it down so you can revisit your goal and vision when the work gets tough.
2. Set a specific earnings goal.
Set goals for your earnings. How much money do you want to make per week or per month? Decide how much you want to earn in the first six months. If you have a specific number in mind, you’ll push yourself to reach it, and that will help boost your earnings significantly over the long term.
To determine your earnings goal, ask yourself some questions. What will you do with the extra cash you make? Will you put everything straight into your savings or re-invest a portion into the business? Making a plan up front, before the cash starts coming in, will help you stick to it and use your extra earnings wisely.
3. Know what to look for.
Once you have a plan for your money, you can start thinking about how you’re going to earn it. Look for opportunities that don’t have a lot of overhead.
Industries like freelance writing and virtual assistant services don’t require anything except a computer, the internet, and your expertise. Be wary of businesses that require you to buy products up front because that will increase your investment and risk.
Think about things you enjoy when you’re choosing how to make money from home. Do you like writing? If so, freelance writing, copywriting, or proofreading could be for you. Are you a marketing guru? Consider starting a Facebook ad agency to help other entrepreneurs.
There are plenty of options, but if you’re unsure what to choose or you don’t know how to become a virtual assistant or start a Facebook ad agency, do some research. Ask others what is helping them succeed.
Also, be honest with yourself about what you can do. If you have a day job, think realistically about how many side jobs you can take on. Plan for unexpected delays and make sure you have enough time to do the job well.
Some people might prefer deliverable-based businesses, like freelance writing. Others might want to devote a fixed number of hours per week, which would lend itself to being a virtual assistant.
Even if you don’t have tons of free time, you can still find ways to pad your income. For example, you can get paid to watch Netflix in your spare time or take online surveys for money. Just be sure to work with a reputable site. You don’t want to spend precious time and lose money instead of earning it.
4. Watch out for work-from-home scams.
If a work-from-home job sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are plenty of work-from-home scams out there, so when you are considering working with a person or company, do your research.
Look at how long the company has been in business. Check out its ratings in the Better Business Bureau. Try to find reviews online from other side hustlers who have used the service.
Also, a legitimate job will never ask you for money up front. If you’re asked to pay for training, equipment, or something else before starting a job, it’s probably a scam.
There are a few common work-from-home scams. Medical billing is a common example. Scammers sell software, equipment, and “client lists” to individuals. They don’t tell you that medical clinics rarely hire individuals to do this job.
Mystery shopping and envelope stuffing are also examples of common work-from-home scams. For instance, some mystery shopping sites will promise free clothes or free meals as long as you pay a membership fee to get access to their service. Avoid these offers. Instead, look for mystery shopping opportunities that don’t require an upfront payment.
The same goes for envelope stuffing scams. If a company says you have to pay a fee before receiving your supplies, avoid it. Legitimate work-from-home companies will pay you for your services, not the other way around.
If you’re still unsure, your best bet might be to start your own business selling services, rather than joining a company advertising work-from-home jobs.
5. Decide how you want to make money.
Now that you know what you’re trying to accomplish and what to look out for, it’s time to decide exactly how to make extra money from home. There are so many ways you can make extra cash online, so it comes down to finding the right fit for your skills, interests, and schedule.
If you’re stuck on the idea discovery phase, sometimes jotting down a list of your skills and researching possible side hustles that relate to them can help you narrow down your search.
If you’re suffering a total block and can’t even think of what you’re good at, there are lists of ways to make money that can jumpstart your search. The first thing you land on and try may not yield hourly earnings worth your time so don’t be afraid to try new things until you find something that works for you.
6. Stick to one thing.
When you’re first starting out, it’s a smart choice to experiment with how to earn money from home. This can help you determine exactly what you like and don’t like in a job.
Some people learn that they need to work on a set schedule while others prefer flexible hours. You may find that proofreading puts you to sleep or that you’re a true master of Facebook ads.
Once you figure out what you enjoy and what you’re good at, hone in on that particular area. You will be able to master skills and quickly make a name for yourself if you have a narrow focus.
This will help you build your client list, which in turn will give you strong client testimonials and deep knowledge of the job you’re doing. And with those, you can increase your rates and earn more money.
Related: How This Entrepreneur Created a Business From a Unique Service
7. Manage your time wisely.
Now that you have a business plan — and paying customers — treat your business like a job. Set aside time each week to work on it, and prioritize income-generating tasks first. If you’re working under a deadline, make sure to plan ahead so you’re not rushing at the last minute. Give yourself at least a one day buffer to account for unexpected complications.
If you’re doing a job that requires a specific number of hours per week, block off those hours on your calendar. Arrange for childcare if you need to. Make sure that your time during that window is completely dedicated to the job.
Planning your time is equally as important as planning your money. If you don’t know how you’re going to use it, you’ll find yourself with none left for what matters.
Related: 8 Tips to Balance Your Full-Time Job With a Side Hustle
Consistency is Key
The thing to do when starting a side hustle is to stay consistent. Don’t give up, even when you feel stuck. Although it might take some time to start earning real money, stay with it. Over time, you’ll keep building your skills and reputation, which will lead to more income.
Be patient, and stay focused. If you keep it up, you’ll start earning that extra income. And if you put in the work, you could even turn your new hustle into your full-time job.