Managing your money

How to start a side hustle

7 min read

Veronica Ott

Did you know the average Canadian earns $1,050 per week? That works out to be $54,630 per year. This could be more than enough to live comfortably, or barely enough to put a dent in the bills depending on where you live and what your lifestyle looks like.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the job market has caused huge impacts on personal finances. The Canadian economic playing field has also drastically changed, further affecting employment.

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, the idea of starting a side hustle may have crossed your mind. Or maybe you just want to earn some extra cash while enjoying a hobby! Regardless of your motive, a side hustle can be an alluring way to increase your bottom line every month.

What is a side hustle?

A side hustle is a way of making money outside of your regular job, may that be a 9 to 5 or shift work. If successful enough, it could become an alternate career path or a full time business. Individuals who manage a side hustle are technically business owners and entrepreneurs, but on a smaller scale at the beginning.

Right now, many Canadians are reportedly turning their hobbies into side hustles for a variety of reasons. Etsy Canada, for example, a popular online marketplace for the gig economy, experienced an increase in new shop openings by over 250% in the fall. If you’re interested in a side hustle but don’t know where to begin, don’t worry! We’ve outlined the steps to launching your very own venture below.

1. Why do you want to start a side hustle?

Before you begin side hustling, you should clearly define why you want to start. Possible motives could include disliking your current career, pursuing your passion, wanting to earn extra money, or fulfilling a desire to explore your entrepreneurial spirit. Whatever your reason, start by establishing the purpose to clarify your direction.

2. Define your boundaries

As with anything in life, boundaries are key as they frequently determine outcomes and feed into your own satisfaction. Below are common boundaries to consider in relation to your side hustle. There may be others that are unique to you, so be sure to write them down as you plan your exciting new endeavour.

Time

We call them “side” hustles because they are often in conjunction with regular employment. In addition, you may have to consider other obligations that occupy your time, such as family, school, or volunteer work. It’s useful to determine how much time you can realistically dedicate to your side hustle before making the commitment.

Investment

In many ways, a side hustle is a startup venture, and many startups require monetary investment. Before moving forward with a side hustle, you should outline the amount you’re willing to invest. If that amount is $0, that’s okay too.

Education

Depending on your existing skills and the skills required for the side hustle you wish to pursue, education may be necessary. However, going to school takes up time and money — resources not everyone is willing to expend. Determine if supplementary education is something you need or want, and whether you’d like to commit to it.

"In many ways, a side hustle is a startup venture, and many startups require monetary investment. Before moving forward with a side hustle, you should outline the amount you’re willing to invest."

3. Find a passion or skill set to monetize

Now that you’ve established your objectives and boundaries, the fun part starts! You can begin to think about what your side hustle will be. There are a few things to consider here. To start, you should assess your existing skill sets. Perhaps there’s a skill from your current job that you could apply in a side hustle. Or, maybe you took a course in school that you loved, but never got a chance to apply in the real world. Don’t underestimate yourself here, even the simplest of skills could turn a profit.

On the other hand, you may find that you don’t have a relevant skill set, or maybe you want to break into an entirely new industry. In this case, it’s time to do some soul searching. Think of hobbies, areas of interest, and other things you’re passionate about, but never had an opportunity to pursue. Many claim that your passion will never earn you money, but that’s definitely not true. More than ever, now is an opportune time to put your passion to the test.

If you’re having trouble finding something that suits you, check out this list of popular side hustles in Canada below.

Popular Side Hustles in Canada:

  • Virtual assistant

  • Online blogger

  • Babysitter

  • Rideshare driver

  • Online tutor

  • Flipping inventory

  • Rent spare rooms or properties

  • Social media manager

  • Freelance writer

  • Wash and detail cars

  • Graphic designer

  • Dog walker

  • House cleaner

  • Online course content creator

  • Foreign language teacher

  • Craft-making

  • Personal trainer

  • Music teacher

  • Resume writer

  • Interior designer

  • Local tour guide

4. Research the market

After pinpointing a few ideas for your side hustle, it’s time to research the market for your product or service. While not the most exciting, research is a crucial step of the side hustle journey. In 2020, 42% of businesses failed because there was no market for their services or products. Unsurprisingly, this was the most common reason for startup failure.

With that in mind, market research is essential for side hustle longevity. For some, this process could be as simple as researching available job opportunities. For others, it could become as complex as deep market research and preparing a business plan. Either way, it’s worth researching the market because you don’t want to put a lot of effort into something that may amount to nothing.

5. Get your side hustle off the ground

At this stage, you’ve honed in on a lucrative side hustle and finally, it’s time to launch! We realize this is easier said than done, so here are some pointers to help make that launch as seamless as possible.

Set achievable goals

The first step is clearly defining your business goals. Why? The process of setting goals gives you direction and contributes to job satisfaction. Your side hustle goals could be quantitative like finding your first client, or qualitative like creating your own website.

If you’re having trouble setting goals, use the SMART tactic created by management guru, Peter Drucker. SMART is an acronym that states all goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Remind yourself that some of your side hustle goals will be dynamic. A goal that makes sense today might not make sense tomorrow. Being a side hustler means constantly adapting and changing for the benefit of your business.

Establish an online presence

Creating an online presence is important, especially in today’s world. 18% of small to medium-sized businesses participated in e-commerce before COVID-19. Since then, that figure has nearly doubled to 33%, indicating that more side hustles and small businesses are moving online to survive. Despite these trends, only 19% of small businesses are considered to be digitally savvy. To grab and maintain market share, you must set a strong online presence.

What’s more, in May 2020, retail e-commerce sales reached a record high of $3.9 billion. This spike in sales was a 99.3% increase from February 2020 — only a couple months prior! As you can see, the pandemic caused a massive shift to online consumer spending. Most side hustles fall under the retail sector, and if yours is one of them, it’d be a clever strategy to launch and offer your product or service online.

So, how should you create this online presence? The method you choose ultimately depends on your target client, but social media, customized websites, and LinkedIn are good starting points. You can also consider using specialized sites and apps such as Fiverr, Upwork, and Taskrabbit.

"Many claim that your passion will never earn you money, but that’s definitely not true. More than ever, now is an opportune time to put your passion to the test."

6. Perfect your side hustle

Within the first year, 20% of businesses fail. And within the first three years, that number escalates to 60%. For these unfortunate startups, 29% failed because they ran out of cash, 19% because they were outcompeted, 17% because of poor product offering, and 14% because they ignored their customers. If longevity is an objective, continuous improvement is key.

To do so, you should ask for customer feedback while paying especially close attention to your finances. Customer feedback, particularly in the early stages, is extremely valuable. Not only will it improve the quality of your product or service, it can help you differentiate yourself from competitors.

Of course, money is the bloodline of all businesses. Without it, your side hustle will eventually fade. Being mindful of your finances and related strategies is an important factor for the long run. Once your operations (costs, revenue, etc.) have stabilized, consider setting up an emergency fund, reinvesting profits, and paying closer attention to cash flow and tax management. We know this doesn’t sound like the most fun part of your side hustle journey, but it is crucial to ongoing success.

Put yourself out there

Starting anything new is intimidating, daunting, and maybe even gut wrenching. You might think, will anyone buy what I’m selling? What if my side hustle is a failure? Can I really do this on my own? If this is how you feel, you’re not alone. Every side hustler has to come to terms with the fear of putting themselves out there and taking chances.

Pushing past fears is a challenge, but once you get there, you will be rewarded. Catherine O’Hara of CBC’s Schitt’s Creek once said, “Even before you’ve earned it, treat yourself and your career with the level of respect that you hope to one day deserve.” Ultimately, a side hustle is about you, not others. Put yourself out there, have confidence in what you can do, and watch the magic happen!

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