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The ultimate playbook to building a side hustle: how to make money online

man on laptop overlooking the city

If you’re like me, you don’t want to be limited financially by the income you make from your 9-5. You want to be able to afford world travel, nights out with friends, fun purchases and not worry about how much you have in your checking or savings account right now.

Do you want to make an additional $1,000 a month? How about $5,000? How about $10,000?

If that’s you, you don’t need to wait for your next raise. It’s time to start a side hustle.

It’s all possible with a side hustle.

side hustle how to make money online - travel and laptop

I moved to Chicago after graduation and immediately dove into my 9-5. It absorbed all of my time and my focus. It was rewarding and showed promise and a path to a long and fruitful career. BUT, like many entry level jobs in popular industries (advertising), it paid virtually nothing. I barely had enough to pay rent and had to budget everY penny. As an adventurous twenty something looking to make the most of my time in a big city, this wasn’t cutting it.

That’s where my side hustle came in.

After months of researching and trial and error, I found a way to satiate my desire to 1) create something that I was passionate about and 2) create residual side income.

To get money outside of your 9-5, you need a side hustle!

Over the past couple of years I have developed and built upon various side hustles to the point where myself and my fellow side hustler Matt are making well over 6 figures a year from our side hustle endeavors.

I have launched and grown side hustles in several different areas – selling T-shirts, starting and growing blogs (like this one!), podcasting, dropshipping, selling consulting/coaching, e-books, online video courses, and others.

All it took was a lot of trial and error, understanding how the internet works and learning from other side hustlers.

Along the way I have been fortunate to meet and learn from some of the most brilliant internet minds out there – guys and girls who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a month from their side hustles (of which they have since turned into full-time hustles). They have effectively leveraged the power of the internet to sell products and services online.

side hustle how to make money online - man with camera

I am confident that you can do the same and start hustling your ass off. I wrote this in-depth guide for you.

I’m going to make this as simple as possible. I know first hand how easy it is to get overwhelmed these days by all the advice online, all the gurus telling you what to do and all the courses they say you need to buy. I have broken up this guide into three, clean sections (oh.. and btw, we’re not selling you anything).

1. Before you launch

2. Setting up.

3. Launch/getting people to learn

Take this guide section by section. I’d recommend reading through the entire guide in one sitting and then go back to each section and begin checking things off and creating an action list. I hope you’re AMPED to start your side hustle. Here we go.

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side hustle - before you launch

What is a side hustle?

Let’s start with something simple, and that’s defining exactly what you should strive to create. Unlike a 9-5, a side hustle shouldn’t require 40 hours of work a week. The goal of a side hustle is to supplement your corporate income with something that is rewarding on a personal level and on a financial level.

Your side hustle is a chance to turn something you love and are passionate about into some cold hard cash. Your side hustle is something that you can potentially see yourself doing full-time in the future. It should be something that you are excited to come home from a long day at work and dive into.

Your side hustle isn’t something you should need to raise money/investment for. It should be something that you can start with a couple hundred dollars and grow from your basement. Sure, it should be something that you can vision turning into a huge opportunity, but at its core, a side hustle is all about simplicity and being able to do it in your spare time.

You need some side hustle ideas.

Ok, you’re all in. You want to make money on the side, enjoy the process and dream of one day turning your side hustle into your full-time hustle.

The first thing you need is ideas! This is where most people get hung up because they think TOO BIG. Seriously, while I would normally never say that you need to think small… now is the time to do so (at least temporarily).

Your side hustle should be something that you can start with minimal effort or capital. It shouldn’t involve renting a warehouse, buying a ton of inventory or anything like that. It should all be possible from behind your keyboard.

In the 21st century, your side hustle should start online and grow from there.

The following guide can be used regardless of what your side hustle is – It will all start online.

You can be an artist looking to sell your products – you’ll need to start online.

You can be an athlete/bodybuilding looking to sell coaching – you’ll need to start online.

You can be reselling sneakers like Yeezy’s to others – you’ll need to start online.

You can be be selling coaching services of some kind – you’ll need to start online.

You can be renting your apartment on AirBNB….

I can go on and on but I want you to be AMPED because the sky is truly the limit when it comes to making money online. There are a ton of resources online to research ideas, but here are some thought starters to show you that there is money to made anywhere – and it all starts online.

  • Building apps
  • Baking cookies/pastries
  • Flipping houses/cars
  • Babysitting/child care
  • Tutoring
  • Dog walking
  • Dropshipping
  • DJing
  • Graphic design
  • Interior decorating
  • Personal shopper
  • Party planner
  • Photography
  • Podcasting
  • Pool cleaning
  • Editing papers
  • Selling on Amazon/eBay
  • Making and selling T-shirts
  • Teaching Yoga

Get it? What is it that you are passionate about/know a lot about? Start there.

Starting a side hustle

Now you have your idea. It’s time to start moving on it.

The best piece of advice I can give you is this – just start.

Don’t waste your time spending days, weeks or months white-boarding out your gameplan or creating a business plan. I promise you that if you do that (while it will be good practice) you will surely end up throwing it out the window and starting over again eventually.

I personally spend months planning out my plan of attack, hiring graphic designers, etc. It was a HUGE waste of time and money. Don’t do that please.

Also realize that you don’t need a ton of money to get started. I’d set aside $1,000 as that’s all you should realistically need to start.

Instead, read this guide (which will cover the basics), find more advice online, and just start learning. Start making small moves and let those small moves turn into BIG learnings.

Understand what it takes to make money online.

The internet can be a crazy place. There are a ton of different ways to make money and equally as many people telling why their method is better than an other.

Here’s the simplest way to think of it.

You create a product/service that you know certain people are interested in.

You create a website/platform to house your product or service.

You direct people to visit your website/platform.

People buy your product/service. You profit.

Website + Kickass product + Traffic – (Cost of traffic) = $$ profit $$.

Sound good? Let’s go.

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side hustle - setting up

Get your branding simple and right.

The first step to getting your side hustle up and running is to create a simple brand image that represents what you’re selling.

I learned some HUGE lessons here when first starting and my advice to you would be to think simple and think small. I had a vision for my brand and all the cool things it would represent. I hired a graphic designer to create my logo and a local branding agency to create my “look and feel”.

WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY!

I would not recommend going down that route. Instead here are a couple of simple tools and services that you can use on the cheap to create your brand, start looking professional and inch yourself closer to launching your side hustle.

99 Designs

You can get a pretty kickass logo/designs from this services. They crowdsource your design and yuo can pick from dozens of submissions. It’s a huge leg up from hiring 1 designer who will submit his/her vision. Instead of being confined to only one designer mind, you have access to literaly hundreds.

Check out 99 Designs.

Canva

Canva.com is a great tool and it’s FREE! You can use it to create amazing designers, social media posts, etc… all from one super intuitive online login. I use it all the time here on PRSUIT and you can use it to look quite professional.

Google Apps

You’ll need to get a professional email address set up and I recommend using Google Apps for Business to get this accomplished. Once you have your domain set up (more on that in a bit), you’ll want to get an email address @yourdomain.com. I can’t telly you how many people I see using gmail email addresses and it’s literally costing you business!

It costs something like $5/month for an email address and it will instantly make you look professional

Setting up online.

If you decide to stop reading after this point, you’ll be in better shape than 99% of side hustlers out there.

Here’s my advice when it comes to getting set up online.

Don’t waste your time developing a fancy website or hiring a developer to design you one. Yes, WordPress or Shopify (more on that later) are good for certain scenarios, but after years of trial and error, I have by far made the most money by using CLICKFUNNELS.

CLICKFUNNELS is a super simple web software that lets you design and create sales pages, landing pages and more via one clean and easy interface. Seriously… even my mom can use this stuff.

It will become the heart of your marketing efforts.

side hustle how to make money online - use ClickFunnels!

You can create what marketers refer to as ‘funnels’ – pages where you basically drive users to do what you want – whether that be buy your product, enter their email address, share your page, etc.

Here’s how to think about it:

Did you know that it costs McDonalds $1.91 in advertising to get you into the drive through…? And when they sell you a burger for $2.09… they ONLY make $0.18…

But… when they upsell you fries and a coke for $1.77 more… they make (and more importantly keep $1.32 profit)…

Yes, 8 times the profit of the initial sale! Pretty cool, don’t you think?

But… what does that have to do with you? Well, If you’re looking to start a side hustle and sell stuff online.. You setup a website, and you start selling your product…

But just like McDonalds… even if people are buying it, after your advertising costs, you’re probably not left with enough to even cover your hosting bills.

And that’s when you realize… that if you want to make it online, you can’t sell from a flat website…

But instead of having people go through a drive-in window…

Online they go through a “capture page” where you can gather their contact information and follow up with them through email…

Then instead of selling them a burger, you have a sales page created to sell your initial product…

And while you’re probably not going to offer your customers fries and a coke, you could upsell them on your other products and services.

This is what we call a “Sales Funnel”

Where website visitors can come in the top…and cash comes out the bottom…

You have seen it work at McDonald’s, you have seen it work on Amazon… and it works for any side hustle.

SO, instead of spending weeks (maybe months) playing with web builders, hiring designers and programmers BFEORE you ever make your first penny online – use something like ClickFunnels to create a sales funnel and test your product.

You can sign up for a free trial to Clickfunnels  and then check out some of the tutorial videos to get you up and running.

You can get a free 14 day trial for Click Funnels here. It’s worth testing and trialing for free even if you don’t decide to pay. It will teach you a lot about marketing.

Clickfunnels is a great choice for anyone who is selling products like coaching, e-books, classes, video courses, standalone apparel, etc. It is a GREAT way to attract people to your site and then upsell them additional products. I have used Clickfunnels to sell $15 products and upsell additional ones and achieved average cart value of close to $100. This stuff really works.

Web presence.

For those of you in more creative fields for your side hustle like blogging, WordPress is a very easy way to build your web presence.

You can buy a ton of amazing themes at Themeforest.com. Over the years I have bought close to 50 themes from the. They are cheap, look great and super easy to customize using WordPress. Definitely check them out.

You will also need hosting for your website. Website hosting is simply a monthly fee you pay for a company to give you digital real estate to keep the lights of your website online. It’s something anyone with a website has to pay so think of it as a must.

I recommend using GoDaddy or Bluehost.

Selling goods online

If you’re selling multiple good online like T-Shirts, pieces or art, shoes, etc. I recommend using Shopify. It is the go-to for all things e-commerce and is extremely easy to use.

You can buy amazing Shopify themes direct from Shopify although they are quite expensive. I’d recommend looking again to Themeforest for themes.

Etsy is also a good choice.

side hustle - launch/traffic

Drive Traffic

Get excited! You’ve built the bones of your brand, you have a platform online to drive people to. Now all you need is some traffic. You need people to learn about what it is you have to sell and you need to direct them to your platform. You need traffic.

One of the most effective things to do before you start receiving traffic to your blog, site, page, etc. is to set up a system capture their email address. You might have heard marketers say the money is in the list and I couldn’t agree more. The most effective way to market your product or service is to email people who have shown interest in it. You need to get them to provide you with their email address.

SumoMe is a great solution to capture their email addresses.

Now, let’s talk traffic. How do you get people to visit your page? There are a million different ways.

1. Email

Once you have your email capture set up using something like SumoMe and you’ve built up a list of folks who are interested in your content, you can start emailing them regularly. There is a lot of strategy that can go into your email campaigns, but at it’s core you need to form a value-driven relationship with your subscribers. To do that you need a system to store and send them emails. You’re not going to be using something like Gmail. You’ll want to use something that allows you to design emails and send to hundreds or thousands of emails.

I recommend using MailChimp or ActiveCampaign.

Email traffic is some of the best traffic because these subscribers have already indicated to you that they’re interested in what you have to say and sell. Keep this traffic coming to your site consistently.

2. From Google/Bing!

The holy grail of traffic is that of search engines. When people are searching for things on Google/Bing, they are actively looking for information and are in a buying mindset. If you can get your website/platform to show up for the search terms they are looking for, you are in great shape.

I know people who are making thousands a day based on strategic search terms they rank highly for. SEO or ‘search engine optimization’ is a highly studied and strategic field and I won’t go into all of that here, but there are a couple of great tools online that can help guide you for what you’ll want to rank for.

THE MOZ

SEMRUSH

YOAST

3. From Facebook/social

Getting traffic from Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, etc. is a huge opportunity to grow your business.

One of the best ways to leverage social media traffic is by creating great content on your website, posting it to social media and then selling to those who visit your website.

4. Paid traffic

You’ll want to set aside some of the $1,000 I referenced above for paid traffic.

When you’re just starting out and you don’t have a large social following and you only have a dozen or so email subscribers and no SEO presence, you will need to pay to drive people to your website. Don’t worry thought! You don’t have to lose money doing this.

Let me explain.

You’ll want to use something like Facebook paid traffic or Google or Bing Ads to drive people to a landing page you have created (like ClickFunnels). If you have set up your ‘funnel’ strategically, have your branding looking good and describe your product/service in an enticing manner, you can start making money from day one.

Here’s a scenario to illustrate:

You decide to use paid Facebook ads to drive traffic to your landing page where you sell a product for $19.99.

You start running Facebook ads and it costs you $0.20 per visitor to your website.

Of those visitors who come to your website, 10% buy your product.

So, for every 100 users you drive to your website, you sell 10 products.

Cost to you: 100 x $0.20 = $20

Revenue to you?: $19.99 x 10 = $169.90

Profit: $149.90!

That’s a very healthy profit and you’re looking good!

It’s unlikely you’ll start with such a high margin but with enough creativity and testing, you can start driving affordable traffic to your website and converting them for a profit. Make sense?

5. Other

The above is super basic and elementary explanation of how to profit off of web traffic. There are, of course, countless other ways to drive traffic to your website and I’ll leave the research on these to you.

Check out web sources like:

AffiliateFix

WarriorForum

BlackhatForum

Reddit.com/entrepreneur

Learn More

When it comes to making money online as a side hustle, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that you don’t know what you don’t know. The only way to figure that out is to research, network and try it yourself.

Find others who are building side hustles online and talk with them! Check out online forums! Join Facebook groups of side hustlers! Listen to podcasts! Subscribe to industry websites and stay on top of digital news!

Check out some of the courses on Udemy or the book DotcomSecrets.

Editor’s Note: We included some affiliate links in the above article. It allows us to keep the lights on. Thank you for the support!

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Written by Case Kenny

Case is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PRSUIT.com; Reach him at case@prsuit.com

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