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How To Start a Side Hustle

Money, freedom, passion: whatever your motivation, side hustling can do wonders for your life. Welcome to part one of our side hustle bootcamp. 

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Whether you have a passion you want to monetize or a business you’ve been dreaming of launching, you don’t have to quit your day job to make those things happen. Having a business you can run outside of your full-time job is a smart financial move, particularly during periods of economic uncertainty. In 2019, one in every three Americans had a side hustle, and that number has only risen during the COVID-19 pandemic as those who lost their jobs took on part- or full-time gigs for additional sources of income.

Here at Linktree, we know a thing or two about side hustles—in fact, Linktree actually started as one. Linktree founders, Nick Humphreys and brothers Alex and Anthony Zaccaria, were working a 9-to-5 job at a digital agency when they built the first iteration for Linktree. Today it has more than 13 million users in 234 countries.

This is why we’ve created a comprehensive guide to help you launch your own side hustle. Follow these steps for discovering, launching, and managing a side hustle and you can turn your passion into profitable business. Once you’re finished here, move on to part two of our side hustle bootcamp to get all the best resources to build a business.

Do Your Research

The essential first step for any side hustle is market research. That means investigating whether there’s a demand for what you want to do, sell, or create.

There are three big questions to ask yourself in the research stage: Why would customers want what you have to offer? What problem are you solving for them? And why would they choose you over competitors?

Let’s say you want to start a delivery service for fresh vegetables. If you live in an area where it’s particularly hard to get fresh produce and there are no other delivery services, this could be a very promising venture. But what if your neighborhood has multiple organic supermarkets and produce stands, or if there is already a veggie box delivery service people are using? You’d have to think about why customers would choose you over the competition. If you can’t identify a good reason, then your idea probably needs some work.

The research stage is also a good time to consider external factors that could impact your business. For example, would the current COVID-19 pandemic affect your ability to supply your product or operate safely?

Here, you may find it helpful to apply what’s called the SWOT framework to your idea. SWOT looks at external factors (opportunities and threats) as well as internal factors (strengths and weaknesses) to analyze the marketplace and your business’ standing within it. It’s commonly used in business planning, and looks like this:

  • Strengths – What edge do you have over the competition?
  • Weaknesses – What are your blind spots?
  • Opportunities – What gap in the market can you fill?
  • Threats – What would stop your business from succeeding?

By applying the SWOT framework, you’ll get a good idea of how strong your business idea is. So if you were planning to launch a vegetable delivery service, your SWOT framework might resemble this:

  • Strengths – My cousin is a farmer who will work with me to supply fruit and vegetables.
  • Weaknesses – I could only deliver on weekends and some customers might want their box to arrive on Mondays.
  • Opportunities – I could also add free range eggs to my veggie box, something my competitors don’t offer.
  • Threats – Whole Foods could open in my neighborhood and potentially put me out of business.
SWOT Framework

Find Your Consumers

Once you’re confident that your idea best serves the marketplace, it’s time to determine your consumer base and pricing.

First, sum up everything you determined in step one by creating your USP, or Unique Selling Point. A USP should be a single sentence that describes what your business is and what sets it apart from the competition. For instance, if you’re selling veggie boxes, yours might be Smith Family Veggie Boxes make healthy eating convenient.

If you’re struggling to figure out your USP, there’s a few steps you could take. American Express recommends listing all the features and benefits that are unique to your service. Then, compare them to the features and benefits of your direct competitors. What makes your product different? You could also think about what parts of your product competitors couldn’t copy. For instance, if you’re running a vegetable delivery service with produce from your cousin’s farm, you could sell the fact that yours is a family-run business—which other delivery services may not be.

Next, identify your target market, or the segment of the population who would use your product. The more specific you get with this, the better. How old is your target consumer? What gender? Where do they live?
As Hootsuite and Brafton explain, try creating a buyer persona to really flesh out who you’re selling to. If you’re selling veggie boxes, your target customer might be 35-year-old working mom Emily, who cares about eating healthy local produce but doesn’t have time to get to the farmer’s market on weekends.

This is also a good time to run some numbers because you need to make sure your idea could actually make money. Add up any costs that would go into creating your product and work out how much you’d have to sell it for to make a good profit. For example, if it would cost you $10 to source everything that goes in your veggie box, and you’re selling them on for $40, that’s a good margin. But if it costs you $33 to source everything, it is not a good margin. In that case, you would either have to make the boxes cheaper for you to make (such as by using less produce) or sell them at a higher price.

Test Your Idea

You’ve done your research and you’ve fleshed out your idea. Now it’s time to test your theory on others.

Here, you should develop what’s known as an elevator pitch. Essentially, you need to be able to explain to someone what your business is and what problem it solves in the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator. For this to work, your pitch needs to be succinct and easy to understand. Try to keep it to around 30 seconds.

Yours might sound like this: It’s hard to get fresh fruit and vegetables in Parkville. That’s why Smith Family Veggie Boxes will deliver fresh produce from our family farm to your door every week. You’ll never have to pick between health and convenience again.

Test your pitch on friends and family. Do they immediately understand what you’re selling? If they’re confused, or have to ask a lot of questions, you probably need to work on your idea. People won’t buy what they don’t understand.

You could also send a survey to your friends and family to get their feedback on your idea—they might notice a threat or an opportunity you haven’t. Or, if you’re selling a physical product, get a sample made to see how it works, fits and looks.

Build A Marketing Plan

For any business to succeed, it needs to reach people. Your product won’t sell if no one knows it exists. This is where marketing comes in.

You might need to spend at least a bit of money on getting your product out there at first. For example, if you want to hang flyers to publicize your business, printing will cost you. You want to make sure you are investing your money in the right. That’s why knowing your target market is so important. If you know who you’re selling to, you’ll know where to find them. What social media channels does your target market use? Where do they find products and information? Let this guide where you market your business—you want to fish where the fish are.

Instagram and Facebook ads can be a good starting point, if that’s where your target market is. But it doesn’t all have to be digital. You could also consider physical marketing like posting bulletins or dropping pamphlets in letterboxes. Maybe you even want to place an ad in the local paper. If you think the target market for your veggie boxes might take classes at a local yoga centre, you might want to hand out flyers right there.

Once you’ve done your research and your plan is underway, it’s time for you to start building your business. Part two of our side hustle bootcamp will show you the tools and resources you need to get going, so keep reading.


Words By Melissa Katz

8 mins

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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which our office stands, The Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. Linktree Pty Ltd (ABN 68 608 721 562), 1-9 Sackville st, Collingwood VIC 3066