As a kid, I always thought I’d start a side business someday. I wanted filthy wealth, a big fancy house, and to be the boss.
Filthy wealth takes A LOT of work. I’m not that motivated. A big house isn’t practical. And I don’t want to be the boss of people.
People are a pain in my rear.
Today, I own two businesses for different reasons. I started them to give me options. They make me money. Money buys freedom.
But not right away. My business income is meant to grow and compound along with my investments to enable me to retire early.
These are not full-time businesses. I still have a day job that pays a salary and benefits. I run the businesses on the side during evenings and weekends (more detail on my businesses toward the end).
That makes me a side-entrepreneur… or if you prefer a trendy portmanteau – a sidepreneur, aka side hustler.
If you haven’t been paying attention, influencers and successful entrepreneurs have been screaming from the rooftops for many years that now is a great time to start an online business.
This is true because cheap tools are available that make starting and scaling a business very easy. You can start hundreds of types of businesses today from your computer or in your local community with little to no startup costs. If you fail, no big whoop.
The instructions to start all kinds of businesses are online in the form of books, free websites, and courses. And welcoming Facebook groups are there for support and to help you succeed.
So all you really need is the drive to make it happen.
When you start a side business, you empower your future self with the potential to earn extra income and create new opportunities.
Empowerment gives you free rein to design your ideal life.
Benefits when you Start a Side Business
The article references statements from Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking who have spoken about the inevitable; jobs will disappear due to automation.
Many jobs in manufacturing have disappeared due to software and machines. More jobs in other fields are disrupted every year.
Most of us aren’t futurists. We do our jobs and go home to live our lives. But it’s possible that my full-time job and yours could be at risk and we don’t know it yet.
More probable in the near-term, the next recession will be a risk to our full-time jobs.
There are always opportunities for traditional extra income jobs. Dave Ramsey recommends delivering pizzas. Temp jobs helped me when I was broke and living with my parents. Waiting tables is another standby option.
But those are low-wage jobs requiring you to exchange your time for money.
Depending on your business idea, your earnings may be capped or not when you start a side business. You can aim for a couple hundred bucks in extra earnings per month, or aim for the sky. The choice is up to you.
Becoming a side-entrepreneur creates extra income to grow your wealth on top of your normal salary. At the same time, a side business hedges against potential disruption in your career from outsourcing, a recession, robotics and AI, or a run-of-the-mill shitty boss who makes you want to quit.
A successful side gig built and run by you is empowering. It gives you options.
For the persistent and motivated, an extra income endeavor can turn into a full-time solo gig or even a high-growth company.
Luckily, in today’s economy, it’s easy to start a side business.
How To Start a Side Business
Side businesses come in many forms. One of my neighbors gets paid to walk dogs. Boom, side business.
It can be that simple.
The internet, web browsers, modern computer code, and smartphones have all enabled ambitious entrepreneurs to create amazing businesses online. But those same tools have also enabled average people to create boring businesses that pay the bills.
To begin your side-entrepreneurship journey, think about what you’re good at and enjoy, then explore existing business models and find people already doing the same. Even in crowded marketplaces, there are always niches and holes to fill. You can always outsell or provide a better value service or product than the next person.
Maybe you like sales, or writing, or teaching, or something else. Google your business idea and you’ll find free content on how to pursue that kind of business. Identify a Facebook group of like-minded people and ask for help getting started.
If you don’t have a side business idea or don’t know how to get started, here’s a few resources that can help.
If you want to learn how to start a side business and are willing to invest a little money, an online education platform such as Udemy is a great place to start.
Courses exist for everything on Udemy. They provide structured video walk-throughs on whatever topic you want to learn. Classes are reviewed and rated so you know what value the class will provide.
And if a course in your expertise doesn’t exist, create your own and sell it on the platform!
Go to Udemy and type in “how to start an online business” and you’ll find hundreds of ideas and courses. Or try “dog walking business”, there’s a course for that too.
Low-cost eBooks have proliferated with the success of Amazon. To find a guide to starting the type of business you’re thinking about, search “how to start a xxxxx business”. If there’s a business model, there’s a book on it!
Maybe you’re thinking about selling your own services online. If so, Fiverr may be an ideal place to start. Fiverr is an online marketplace for buying and selling services. If you need a logo design, custom jingle, website, blog post, marketing help, or any service that can be performed online, Fiverr is the destination.
The site was built around the $5 price point for basic gigs, but they quickly scale up from there depending on the job. Reviews are integrated into the platform ensuring your get what you expect if you’re buying, and rewarded for excellence if you’re selling.
The platform has millions of existing customers so the marketing is done for you. Then it handles the payments and transactions while you focus on delivering your services.
If you have a useful skill you want to sell as a service, you can be up and running in no time. It will take a little time to build reviews, but Fiverr is a low-risk place to tip-toe onto the internet.
Side Hustle Nation
Nick Loper from the Side Hustle Nation blog and podcast is another great resource for building what he calls “job-free income”. His podcast is always at the top of my queue.
Every week he interviews an ordinary side-entrepreneur who started from nothing and built a business using easily accessible methods and tools. Each guest explains how their business got off the ground and shares the tips that made them successful in their niche.
After 500+ podcast episodes, Nick has uncovered and dissected most viable online business models and experimented with quite a few himself.
His book, Buy Buttons: The Fast-Track Strategy to Make Extra Money and Start a Business in Your Spare Time, focuses on utilizing more than 300+ online platforms to find customers for your hustle.
Also, check out the epic post, 99 Side Hustle Business Ideas You Can Start Today for all kinds of online and offline side business ideas.
Smart Passive Income
Long ago I google the phrase “passive income”. I was hoping to discover more ways to earn money without working, similar to dividend investing.
On the top of the search page was a website called Smart Passive Income run by a guy named Pat Flynn. Years later after I started my blog, I realized Pat Flynn was the guru on online entrepreneurship. Pat teaches entrepreneurs how to work hard up front to get paid over and over again.
Every blogger knows of Pat Flynn. Because anyone trying to monetize their blog or start a podcast can learn how from Pat. The Smart Passive Income podcast is 250+ episodes strong.
For inspiration, Pat posts his monthly online income which is regularly greater than $150,000. His online income reports date back to 2008.
His book is Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money.
These resources are the tip of the iceberg. If you’re considering becoming a side-entrepreneur, go explore the internet for ideas and tips. You’ll be surprised how much content is available for free or very cheap.
In 2011, we moved out of our 1BR condo to the suburbs to start a family. We decided to rent the condo since the real estate market hadn’t yet recovered from the crisis. The rental broke even for a year, then a refinance made our rental positive cash flow side business.
After our second child was born, I was searching for another way to earn money on the side, preferably from home.
My day job has always been enough to support my family and save for early retirement. But IT consulting isn’t that interesting to me. I needed a creative outlet.
Inspired by a friend who started a successful health related blog after reading Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk, I decided I wanted to be a blogger too.
I knew I needed to choose a topic I was passionate about or else I’d quickly tire of blogging and never make a dime.
The goal I set in 2003 to retire before my dad involved both of my passions; money and travel. These two topics could keep my writing forever. So in September of 2013, Retire Before Dad was born.
I didn’t set out to make money with RBD on day one. But I knew it was possible to start a side business and earn money from it. And I wanted to.
Fast forward to today and RBD and my other site earn me extra cash every month. Income didn’t happen overnight. It started very slow and only gained real traction in 2015 (I didn’t read a book or buy a course to learn how to blog, I just winged it).
Income for a blog of RBD’s size fluctuates month to month isn’t always reliable. But if you can create lots of helpful and entertaining content over time and follow best practices, blogging can be an excellent business model.
Now that my business entity and online presence is well-established, the only limitations of success are self-imposed. The more time and thoughtfulness I put toward my online properties, the more successful the business can become.
I know because when I put in extra effort, I see results. When I get lazy, results suffer.
Curious about how RBD and my other blog make money? I share some specifics here. I’ve also written a guide on how to start your own blog or online business using the web host company Bluehost. It’s the web host that I started with and recommend.
It takes about five minutes to start a WordPress blog on Bluehost (who is a site sponsor). It’s an inexpensive but very reliable host for most beginners.
However, if I was to start a side business today knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t start a blog. Income took a long time to build, and most blogs don’t ever get there.
Mrs. RBD is considering entering the workforce again, and I’m pushing her to explore the various online platforms already out there to start earning again instead of going to an office. She likes the idea of her own blog but doesn’t have an idea that would excite her to pursue. I think she can best utilize her existing skill set on Upwork or Fiverr and start earning immediately.
The work won’t be as passive, but as her experience grows, so will her confidence and ambition to possibly pursue something more substantial. Anything she earns is gravy on top of what I make. She’ll have the freedom to experiment with different side business ideas until she finds what works for her.
Having a legitimate side business opens many doors of opportunity. Working for myself, I can choose which doors to enter or ignore.
Some of the extra income goes back into the business. The rest is added to my investment pool to compound with the rest of my assets. The business is now part of the machine.
What’s most empowering about my online business is it give me options in the future. If for some reason I lose my day job (which actually happened after I wrote this article), my side business is here to fall back on. Neither the condo rental nor the online business is intended to be a replacement for my regular job. But if I ever unexpectedly stop working, the money I can earn on the side is an attractive crutch.
Perhaps if I can build my side businesses and create more consistent and sizable income, they may help set the stage for me to stop working full-time earlier than my age 55 retirement goal. That would be the ultimate empowerment.
Have you thought to start a side business this year? What’s holding you back? What kind of side hustles are you experimenting with today?
Photo credit: AndreaB73 via Pixabay
Craig is a former IT professional who left his 20-year career to be a full-time finance writer. A DIY investor since 1995, he started Retire Before Dad in 2013 as a creative outlet to share his investment portfolios. Craig studied Finance at Michigan State University and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and three children. Read more HERE.
Favorite tools and investment services right now:
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