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How to Start a Side Hustle While Keeping Your Full-Time Job

Written by Kimberly Zhang
Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.
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Side hustles have been a hot topic for years now. Statista reported that the number of freelancers in the U.S. reached a record 59 million in 2020.[1] Sure, that year was a bit unorthodox, but the steady rise of remote work has made it very unlikely that the number of contractors will decrease any time soon. If you work full-time but you’re thinking of how to start a side hustle, you certainly aren’t alone. However, that doesn’t mean that your side gig will be successful.

If you want your secondary freelance efforts to succeed, you need to approach them with a strategy in place. Here are five tips on how to start a side hustle.

1. Assess Your Interests

The first step in learning how to start a side hustle is considering what you’re interested in. Sure, you may have heard that freelance graphic designers make $150 an hour. Yeah, that report came out a week ago saying a freelance website developer makes six figures while only working 30 hours per week.

The truth is, though, most of these elite success stories take place for two reasons:

  • First, the contractor is doing something that aligns with their established skills.
  • Second, they are excited, invested, and interested in that area of work.

So, begin your side hustle history by asking yourself what you’re interested in. What kind of work is satisfying for you? What are you passionate about?

It’s also worth asking what you’re hoping to get out of a side hustle. If you need to help pay the bills or you want some spending money, you’ll be fine. If you want to be compensated for a hobby, that might work. If you’re planning on getting rich next week, think again.


2. Take Stock

Next up, take stock of your current non-gig-related life. When discussing taking stock of one’s life in his book, Freedom Street: How I Learned to Create a Rich Life, Live My Legacy, and Own the Future as a Financial Advisor, financial advisor Scott Danner says, “we need to take stock now of where we are and how that affects where we could be in the future.”

In other words, don’t just see if you can squeeze freelancing work into the cracks right now and then dive in. Take a serious look at your life at the moment. Are you up to your ears with work at your day job? Do you have enough time to balance your work with family time? How will all of these areas be impacted by consistent side gig work?

This should give you an idea of how much recurring time you can reasonably put toward a side hustle. Take this calculation seriously. If you misjudge your free time and find that you can’t handle the workload, you’re going to spend a lot of time setting things up only to abandon them in the future.

3. Set the Stage

Next, it’s time to tend to some logistics. If you’re feeling antsy spending so much time setting the stage before you even get a paid gig, once again, you may want to check your motivations. Leave the get rich quick mentality at the door.

Taking the time to line up the logistics beforehand can give you a better shot at figuring out how to start a side hustle with confident, sustainable success. In pursuit of this end, ask yourself a couple of practical questions:

  • Where are you going to get work? Will you need to set up a rideshare app? Do you need to find a freelance writing website? Do you have a Fiverr account? Try to track down some leads to help you get started.
  • How will you handle your business finances? Remember, as a contractor, you’ll be the one reporting your income. Are you ready to pay quarterly estimated taxes? Do you need a separate business bank account to keep your finances straight? Does your side hustle require some startup cash? Don’t dive in without considering the financial implications beforehand.

If you want a hustle to last for the long haul, you have to approach it at least somewhat systematically. There will be a time and a place to dive in and thrive off of your passion. Just do your best to set the stage first.

4. Own the Process

Alright. At this point, you’ve assessed your interests. You’ve also taken stock of your current responsibilities at work and at home. From there, you’ve set the stage for freelance success.

The next step in planning how to start a side hustle comes from owning the process. As you begin to dive into the rigmarole of finding gigs and generating income, utilize the following tools to help you stay in control—instead of letting your side hustle control you:

  • Routines and schedules: Having consistent routines can help you maintain momentum even when you feel tired or drained from busy or demanding periods of time.[2] Schedules can also help you keep track of all of your varying responsibilities.
  • Productivity and efficiency: Figuring out how to start a side hustle will feel anything but productive at first. However, as you begin to flex your freelance muscles, look for ways to improve your efficiency and your output.
  • R&R: Rest and relaxation will become more important than ever once you start a side hustle. This is partly because it will be harder to come by. Learning the balance of how to start a side hustle begins with finding ways to embrace and maximize your limited rest time.

These are tools that can make or break your side hustle efforts. Make sure to utilize them right from day one.

5. Embrace the Right Soft Skills

Along with the aforementioned tools, you are going to want to embrace a few critical soft skills. These are important for all professional pursuits in the 21st century. However, they are particularly applicable to the lifestyle of a freelancer. These soft skills include:

  • Adaptability: The freelance life is filled with ups and downs. Make sure you’re always ready to adapt to what is needed to succeed.
  • Flexibility: From different work systems to figuring out communication to varying client expectations, the one constant in the gig economy is change, so remain flexible as you go along.
  • A growth mindset: The ability to always learn and grow is essential to maintaining your edge in the gig economy.[3]

There are plenty of soft skills that you’ll need as you freelance. No matter what field you choose to go into, though, the abilities to adapt, stay flexible, and grow will help you stand out from the competition.

Learning How to Start a Side Hustle

At the end of the day, starting a side hustle isn’t easy. In fact, it requires a blend of patience, resilience, confidence, and passion. You can also rest assured that you’ll feel overwhelmed and discouraged at times—and that’s okay. Very few business owners in history have been able to avoid adversity as they got their ventures off the ground.

Just remember one important fact as you go along: you are a business owner now. You’re an entrepreneur—or, as freelancers lovingly call themselves, a solopreneur. You’re a businessperson with a vision and drive that is making your dream a reality.

This is true if you’re merely looking for a side gig to amplify your income. It’s equally valid if you’re dabbling your toes in the gig economy to see if there’s potential to dive in full-time in the future. In either case, begin by mastering how to start a side hustle in the first place. Once you’ve done that, you can use your accumulated knowledge and experience to take the reins and guide your own future.


More Tips on How to Fulfill Your Dream

Featured photo credit: Fernando Hernandez via unsplash.com


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