By Kim Perell via Entrepreneur



Your Side Hustle Starts Now

The pandemic triggered a surge of interest in side hustles. Why? Because they’re a good way to test new ideas, earn some extra income, and maybe even blossom into a new full-time career that you’re in control of. But building a lucrative side hustle is no easy feat—so, we break down three steps to identify your idea and get it off the ground.

Part 1: Find Your Idea
Where to begin? Start with this three-step plan.



ARE YOU A SHAKY dreamer, an idea machine, or a hopeful founder? As I’ve coached many entrepreneurs, I’ve found that everyone tends to fit into one of these categories. Shaky dreamers have an idea but not the confidence to move forward. Idea machines have so many ideas they struggle to pick one. Hopeful founders have the motivation but no idea where to start.

Each category comes with its own challenges, but the solutions are largely the same: To start a great side hustle, you need to approach it with focus, reality, self-awareness, and a problem-solving mindset. Here are three steps to choosing the right idea.

STEP 1 / Get to know yourself.
Think about what you’re interested in, what you’re passionate about, and what your strengths are. Brainstorm areas that allow you to leverage those talents and interests. Side hustler Marianne Murphy is a great example of this. She wanted to be an entrepreneur but didn’t know where to begin. So she took stock of what she knew: She has a marketing background, a full-time job at a hospital, and five sons. That gave her a starting point—a kids’ health product that required great branding.

STEP 2 / Identify a problem.
The most successful entrepreneurs look for problems they can solve, not businesses they can start. Once you’ve identified a problem, explore it! Do not collect 10 different ideas and dawdle on which to pursue. Pick one, then talk to people who have the same problem to see if they’d pay for your solution.

That’s what Murphy did. She knew that kids hate brushing their teeth and wanted to see if she could build a better experience—so she wrote a book and later created a toothbrush that plays music to accompany it. It worked for her children, so she talked to friends, family, and preschool moms to confirm they had the same struggles and got them to try her musical toothbrush.

STEP 3 / Iterate; don’t innovate.
So many people think their side hustle idea has to be a totally unique stroke of genius in order to work…but that’s not true. It’s easier (and less expensive!) to put your own twist on an existing idea.

That was Murphy’s path. She started selling her book and brush under the name The Twin Tooth Fairies. Did it reinvent dental hygiene? No. But it offered something fresh. It’s now sold online at Walmart and Amazon, earning her nice additional income per month.

Side hustle ideas can come from just about anywhere. Look within yourself, out in the world, and in the current market to find a need you can fill, and you just might go from a hopeful founder to a successful one.

How These Side Hustlers Did It
Find the Opportunity in the Everyday
“On Valentine’s Day in 2016, my husband of 27 years asked if I’d like a ‘special cup of coffee’ from Dunkin’ or Starbucks. It was so cold outside that I didn’t want to burden him, and I said we could just have coffee at home. As he was pouring me a cup, I glanced down at the caramel candies he’d bought for me and my daughters—and I had that aha moment! ‘I have this crazy idea,’ I said. ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could pick up this candy and drop it into my cup of coffee or tea and it would instantly turn it into something special and delicious, and we wouldn’t have to go out and get it?’

That was the beginning of what we now call Javamelts. We had no prior experience in food and beverage, but we were so passionate about the idea—and determined to create a better financial future for us and our three girls—that we decided to just go for it. Now, a few years later, we’ve appeared on QVC and we’re growing steadily on Amazon after recently rebranding to all-natural ingredients. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m showing my girls that it’s worth pursuing the things you believe in.”
—CAROLYN BARBARITE, cofounder, Javamelts

Solve a Problem at Your Day Job
“I was working at Mercedes-Benz USA’s corporate headquarters in 2016 when I noticed a major need for communication and career development among our multicultural and multigenerational workforce. People were coming from so many different backgrounds, and so I developed a plan for an all-inclusive group that would help employees and leaders connect with each other for growth and development. I pitched the idea to the head of diversity and inclusion, got the green light, then got an executive sponsor and hit the ground running.

The group facilitated one-on-one meetings and group workshops and even hosted a speed networking event, where we achieved the impossible task of getting company leaders in the same room to meet and greet with employees. Then I realized there was a bigger opportunity here—I could do this at other companies, too! So while still at Mercedes-Benz, I developed a curriculum that teaches the art of connecting with others for success professionally, and then launched a coaching service called Connect. Now I use this curriculum to coach, host workshops, and deliver keynotes internationally.”
—MICHELLE ENJOLI BEATO, founder, Connect

Create Ease for Others
“I work for a company that owns the largest Asian grocery store in Jacksonville, Fla., and we work out of an office inside the store. I see customers shopping all the time, and I started thinking about how much easier their lives would be if they had their groceries delivered to them at home. There are already delivery services out there, but they don’t often work with small specialty stores like ours—and that seemed like an opportunity for me.

The grocery delivery business is complicated, and I wasn’t in a position to do it all myself. I was working full-time while also going to school full-time. When would I be able to run this business? So I approached my boss, the company’s owner, and asked if she’d be my partner and provide 50 percent of the funds needed to launch this. (Plus, we were saving on overhead costs by focusing on delivery.) She said yes. Now we’re running a delivery service for the store, have created partnerships with local restaurants, business owners, and food bloggers, and in the future, hope to expand our service and build an app for our customers.”
—NALAE KIM, cofounder, Shelf To Curb

Part 2: Manage Fear
Don’t stand in your own way. Follow these four steps to embrace your power.



I HAVE BEEN spending a lot of time over the past few months talking to people about why they hesitate to start something new, and their answer is often the same: They’re afraid.

I can relate. I’ve built and sold multiple businesses, selling my last company for $235 million, and I was afraid every time—of failing, of rejection, of letting people down. I’m still scared. We’re all scared! The key isn’t to eliminate our fears but rather to learn how to face them and move forward. To do that, I created a simple four-step FEAR process:

STEP 1 / Feel your fear.
Fear is a survival instinct. It protects us from danger and allows us to survive. But our minds often don’t know the difference between an existential threat (saber-tooth tiger!) and a nonexistential threat (embarrassment!). So we need to teach it. Research shows that most emotions last only up to 90 seconds. When you feel the fear, remind yourself that it’s just that: fear. Not danger. And it’s not permanent.

STEP 2 / Embrace your fear.
Let’s be realistic: You cannot eliminate fear with logic. It’s with you whether you like it or not. So you can either fight it—or embrace it. I say embrace it. Why? First, because fear is your friend. It is there to protect you, even if it’s sometimes misguided. And second, if you accept that it’ll always be around, then you can stop wasting time trying to “overcome” or “get rid” of it. Shift your time toward understanding, managing, and (most important) sharing it. Things are much scarier on the inside than they are on the outside! Shine a bright light on your fear. Talk with a friend or write it in a journal. Once you identify your fear, you’re that much closer to owning it.

STEP 3 / Act on your fear.
Aristotle believed the cure for fear was to act in virtuous ways, including being courageous. I can tell you from personal experience: He’s right. Action creates further action; momentum creates further momentum. If I feared making sales calls, I made a sales call. If I feared stepping on a stage, I did just that. After one step, we start building the confidence and the courage to take the next. If I ever hesitated, I started comparing the risk of action against the risk of no action. What would happen now—or in a year?—if I didn’t take action? Is that outcome worse than the risk associated with jumping in and building the life of my dreams? I’d rather have an ocean of fear than a mountain of regret.

STEP 4 / Repeat.
This isn’t a recipe for making fear go away but a process for us to feel our fears and move forward. The secret is to learn how to turn your fears into fuel for success. Little by little, you’ll become stronger than your fears—until they no longer have any power.

How These Side Hustlers Did It
Learn from Your Fear
“When I decided to pursue my true desire and build a new professional path as an executive coach, my anxiety was through the roof. I felt like such an impostor. I thought, Why would anyone want to hire me as a coach? If I tell people I am starting a business, they will laugh at me. But I realized that the only way forward—the only way to create change—is to allow and accept a part of the growth process that is intensely uncomfortable. Instead of trying to ignore my feelings of fear, I started paying attention to them. When I noticed my own self-sabotaging thoughts, I’d work to replace them with more encouraging ones. I began taking notes of each little success I was creating and giving myself permission to celebrate every one. When I failed (and it still happens today), it allowed me to switch my mindset from ‘I failed’ to ‘I learned something that will help me be better next time.’ I built tolerance for uncomfortable moments—and that’s necessary to become an entrepreneur.”
—SARA KIMELMAN, founder, Reline Coaching

Study Your Own Success
“I’m a graphic designer, an illustrator, and an artist, and I wanted to create a tribute piece to one of my favorite designers, Milton Glaser, who is best known for creating the I Love New York logo. In his career, he created promotional posters for the Catskill Mountains, which are not far from where I live, and it dawned on me that no one was producing modern posters to encourage regional tourism. I created some for the Catskills and started selling them locally and on Etsy. They’ve been a bigger success than I expected, but it’s easy for impostor syndrome to creep in. It’s not even that I’m afraid to put my work out there; my real fear is that I haven’t learned the formula of my success. So now I’m working to understand it, and to learn how to replicate it. After all, I want this to eventually be my hustle, and not just my side hustle. I’m creating new designs, and I’m hoping they will be as much of a success as my Catskills work. But either way, it will be an opportunity to learn something about what customers want, which will make me stronger as I build this brand moving forward.”
—KELLY ANN RAVER, cofounder, Raver Press

Don’t Build in Isolation
“I first had the idea for Cure Hydration, a healthy sports drink, when I was training for a triathlon and struggling to recover from my own workouts. I wanted to explore the idea, but I had a full-time job as the director of marketing at Jet.com, and I wasn’t ready to walk away—or jeopardize my position with the company. I was working 50-plus hours a week at my day job and figured I’d need at least 10 weekly hours to develop my side hustle. Instead of doing it in secret, I went to Jet’s legal counsel and asked for permission to work on the idea. She told me there was no issue, as long as I didn’t build the business while I was at the office. With her blessing, I incorporated the business through LegalZoom and got to work at night and on weekends. It gave me the time to validate my idea and see the steps I needed to take to launch the product. When I finally decided to pursue it full-time, I was confident.”
—LAUREN PICASSO, founder and CEO, Cure Hydration

Part 3: Start Now!
It’s tough, it’s scary—and you’ll be so thankful you did it. Here we go!



HOW TO BEGIN? The answer is so simple that it’ll sound stupid: Make the decision to begin. Everything stems from a commitment to take the first steps. You can make excuses all day, but nearly half of U.S. workers already have a side hustle. They have struggles, too—but they’re pushing ahead. Here are the steps that helped me when I started my first side hustle at my kitchen table more than 20 years ago, when I was broke, inexperienced, and overwhelmed. They can help you, too.

STEP 1 / Ask these questions.
It’s important to find a side hustle that is a good fit for your skills and lifestyle. Ask yourself:

- How much time can I dedicate to this? Establish this up front and commit to it.
- How much income do I need to make this worthwhile? This isn’t a goal; it’s a reality check. Be realistic about it, write it down, and refer to it often. You’ll want to know if your time is being well-spent.
- What skills do I have that can make this work? Don’t know? Ask a friend what they think you’re good at. Shoot to create a list of three.

STEP 2 / Create a structure.
Some people hate structure. Maybe they dream of being an entrepreneur so they can escape the structure of their jobs! But I’m telling you: Structure is freedom. It’s the ground that you build upon. Here’s how to create it:

- Set a goal. I like to make SMART goals—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Each element is critical. You need goals you can work toward and track your progress on. Once you know this, you’ll start to have a sense of what’s required to get there.
- Create a schedule. If you’re committing 10 weekly hours, put them in your calendar and stick to it.
- Find your tools. There are many platforms and services that can help you launch. Take a look at places like Upwork, eBay, Etsy. Start offering your product or service, and learn your marketplace at low risk.

STEP 3 / Foster great relationships.
When starting anything new, it’s helpful to surround yourself with people who have walked in your shoes—and even better if they are a few miles ahead of you! Search for two kinds of people:

- Mentors. A mentor isn’t a job description; you don’t need people who agree to some formalized role. Instead, build a network of mini-mentors—friends or former colleagues who have expertise and insights.
- Accountability partners. Find someone who’s on a similar path as you, and buddy up. You can help each other stay on track. When you’re your own boss, it’s helpful to keep up with other bosses.
- Now comes the most important part: Instead of questioning yourself or waiting for the perfect moment, it’s time to go. Everything that comes next will help you grow.

How These Side Hustlers Did It
Find (Free) Marketing
“In February 2020, I launched a line of functional chewing gum, made with plant-based vitamins and adaptogens. I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I didn’t know what being an entrepreneur should look like. I come from an immigrant family, and I’m 40—so my parents were confused about why I would take focus off a well-paying career to sell chewing gum, and I felt too old to be a carefree entrepreneur. But I developed the product and had to think smart to get it out in the world. I did some Instagram stalking and found a few people with a solid following who I thought might be interested in Mighty Gum. I cold-emailed them and asked if I could send them some product. They said yes, and when they mentioned it on their social channels, the surge we saw in demand was truly surreal. I’d always underestimated the power of partnering with the right influencer, but it was key to our launch.”
—MATHEW THALAKOTUR, founder, Mighty Gum

Draw from Experience
“Just before I graduated college, a part-time consulting gig made me aware of the completely underserved market of tattoo aftercare. I wanted to create a brand to fill that gap, and I brought the idea to my partner, Selom Agbitor. We’d worked together before, drop-shipping women’s swimsuits out of my apartment, and had learned a lot about operating without the hassle of inventory and creating reliable branding and customer service. Now we felt equipped to take on a bigger project. We formulated our product, spent $600 on ad spend, and recruited our neighbors to help us with fulfillment as orders started to roll in. Our goal was to grow fast enough that we could afford to hire manufacturers by the time we graduated—we’d both accepted full-time jobs, after all. That initial $600 proved money well-spent—it got us off the ground, and from there, orders were reliable enough that we could continue funding increasingly large ingredient purchases and boosting ad spend.”
—OLIVER ZAK, cofounder, Mad Rabbit Tattoo

Test Your Product
“During lockdown, I was the conference ambassador for the virtual Women Tech Global Conference 2020. I interviewed the speakers and, after the event, posted the conversations on YouTube. I got so much great feedback, I realized that I could share even more great insight with my community by launching a series in which I interviewed smart leaders on a regular basis. This was a big experiment, so I didn’t want to invest any money at first. Because of that, I eliminated podcasts as an option. Then I realized that a video podcast could be shared on YouTube, which would allow me to analyze feedback—­for free. Once it gained momentum, I felt more comfortable investing in webcams, lights, and a proper microphone. Now the series, called Personal Branding for Professionals, is growing—­and my future plans include a traditional podcast.”
—KETAKI VAIDYA, host, Personal Branding for Professionals