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"The Art of Finding Winning Products"
First things first: because the extra money is nice. An extra $1,000 a month can go a long way towards paying off debt, saving for a down payment on a home, or making progress toward other financial goals.
But there's another benefit. And it’s one that can far outweigh those extra earnings.
Side hustles can increase your career capital.
If you're not familiar with the concept, career capital is the "skills, connections, and credentials that put you in a better position to make a difference in the future."
Building career capital increases your self-sufficiency and earning power so you can always have a skillset to fall back on when you need it.
The best side hustles offer you the best of both worlds: they let you earn money online, while also increasing your skills, connections, and credentials. In doing so, they help you build a foundation for future success.
And while making an extra $1,000 every month is great, it’s this skill-building benefit that’s really going to give you the upper hand in the future.
There are thousands of articles online about different side hustle ideas.
More often than not beginners read these articles as a source of inspiration, with the hope that finding an easy side hustle will get them from $0 to $1,000 in no time.
Sorry to tell you the bad news, but your side hustle idea won’t work unless you do.
It’s true that some ideas are better than others — but only in the context of where you’re at today and where you want to go.
So instead of just scanning the below list and hoping that something clicks, try to look at each idea from the perspective of how it can help you in the long-run and help you build skills and experience in the meantime.
With that in mind, here are two questions you should be considering with each idea.
Starting from scratch in any field is difficult. As such, Think about what skills, connections, and credentials you have today that:
For example, if your full-time job is in digital marketing, choose a side hustle that can help you build valuable skills in digital marketing, such as SEO or paid media buying.
Before starting a side hustle, take the time to think about your end goal. Do you want to turn your side hustle into a full-time career freelancing, or would you like to run a business of your own?
If so, what types of skills do you need to earn the best rates possible?
Or what knowledge Is needed to launch, run and grow the type of business you want to operate?
Let’s say your long-term goal is to run your own dropshipping business. There are a lot of skills that come in handy including copywriting, design, and conversion rate optimization (just to name a few).
Becoming very good at one of these skills, while getting paid to do so, will increase your chances of having a successful dropshipping store.
Better yet, see if you can find work with an already-successful dropshipper. This gets you a behind-the-scenes look at how a successful dropshipping business is run.
One of the fastest ways to make money is by selling what you already own.
Used electronics, home furnishings, clothes, books, sports equipment, and collections are popular categories on general marketplaces like eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Amazon.
There are a number of niche marketplaces like Poshmark, or even starting an online store selling vintage or thrift clothing you found with your own eye for style.
What Skills You’re Building: Selling online, product photography, marketing, product description, and working with an online marketplace.
Great product photography and descriptions give you a chance to hone your copywriting skills. You’ll get a chance to build your market research skills when you’re deciding what to sell (and where). And you’ll get quick feedback on how well you did when you see whether your products sell!
In an effort to understand what does and doesn’t work, you may even try to buy something and then resell it for a profit as an experiment — all the while making note of what mistakes the seller made (and how you would do things differently).
Freelance writing is one of the most popular side hustle ideas, and for good reason: freelance writers are in high demand. One study found that 84% of B2B marketers outsource content creation.
The fact that it’s so easy to start a freelance writing side hustle is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can create a few samples and start applying for jobs online today. On the other, it means competition is fierce.
Those who succeed offer something above and beyond which can often mean bringing expert knowledge in a particular topic. As such, it’s worth considering your current expertise and using that as a starting point to attract clients.
What Skills You’re Building: Clearly communicating your ideas is a valuable skill that benefits you throughout your life. Freelance writing can also help build valuable hard skills like content strategy and SEO.
Knowing how to create and edit graphics, audio, and/or video is an extremely valuable side hustle in today’s marketplace.
If you’re looking to work on these skills and eventually turn them into a side hustle, start by taking free online courses on Adobe Creative Suite. Start off with a free trial and work on getting really good at all of these universal programs.
What Skills You’re Building: Picking one of these creative skills has a lot of benefits. From the marketing perspective, more and more businesses are using creative elements such as video and images in their content and advertising. This allows you to get up close to what works and what doesn’t when offering your creative services.
Copywriting is the art of communicating a message that gets people to take action. Whether that’s on a landing page, a Google Ad, or a streaming radio commercial.
It has always been one of the most important elements of any successful marketing campaign.
What Skills You’re Building: Becoming a good copywriter requires a deep understanding of human behavior and psychology. Understanding the real reasons people buy, and communicating that in a way that makes the product appeal to this, has always been a highly valuable and transferable skill.
Developing websites is another great side hustle that can help you build valuable skills and accelerate your career. It is actually easier than you think!
And don't worry if you haven’t learned to code; more and more “no-code” or pre-built websites are coming to the marketplace all the time (such as Webflow and Squarespace). That makes it easier than ever to build great-looking sites and sell them to people who would like to outsource that to someone else.
What Skills You’re Building: Being able to build a quality website is a skill just about every business needs.
You could also choose to specialize in a niche, such as landing page design, which can help you enhance your design and copywriting skills at the same time!
A 2020 study by Microsoft named SEO as the most important hard skill for marketers to learn over the next decade. After all, what business doesn’t want more free traffic driven to their website?
There are many different services you can offer within the SEO field. Some people offer only link building, while some specialize in content creation and others in providing SEO for a specific type of platforms, such as YouTube or Amazon.
What Skills You’re Building: Most SEOs get started by writing articles, often as freelance writers or for their own blog. But the field of SEO is about much more than writing. You’ll get a chance to practice your copywriting when writing titles that make people want to click. You’ll deepen your market research skills when finding what keywords to rank for. And understanding how to form relationships — and therefore, links — is another skill worth having.
Like online publishing, the benefit of starting a dropshipping side hustle is that it allows you to build a wide range of very valuable skills by being able to quickly test and get feedback on your ideas. Better yet, you can do this with a very little upfront cost and no inventory troubles.
Here’s how it works:
All you have to do is set up an online store (which in itself is a great skill) and then work on reading a dropshipping business that sells.
What Skills You’re Building: This side hustle, in particular, can be the almighty grail of all transferable skills, as you learn how to create and run an online store, learn how to market products, and build brand awareness. Definitely worth trying for the growth in skills alone!
Launching your own blog is an idea that has the potential to be turned into a profitable business that doesn’t rely solely on your time.
For those with limited time, it’s also one of the more flexible ideas on the list, as you can work whenever you want from wherever you are.
Plus, blogs can be monetized in many ways. Some of the more popular options include sponsored content, affiliate marketing, and display ads. If you have a knack for writing, photography and know how to create amazing blog posts, then blogging is a free and easy avenue of generating income passively.
What Skills You’re Building: While it takes time to make money blogging, you’ll acquire skills at a rapid pace. For starters, you’ll need to develop your own website, create content for that website, and market that website via social media and SEO. These are all hard skills that are valuable in their own right.
When combined, they allow you to build valuable career capital, a win-win!
While managing social media content is a popular side hustle is, the big money is made in paid media management, such as managing Facebook, Google or another form of paid media. That’s because this is where businesses can get a direct ROI… which means it’s where you can often command higher wages.
What Skills You’re Building: Great paid media buyers have a combination of very unique hard skills. They understand good copy, and often they know how to write that copy. They have great data management skills (to know what does and doesn’t work). And they often can quickly capture and edit a video to use in their marketing.
Conversion rate optimization is a more advanced marketing skill. However, when done right, it can do wonders for a company’s bottom line. More so, as someone with experience side hustling in this space, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit as many small businesses pay very little attention to this side of the business.
So don’t be intimidated by the fancy term, you can learn how to do this over time and have experience in a skill that will keep you making money (on the side or full time) for the long haul.
What Skills You’re Building: Those who are really good at CRO are often jacks-of-all-digital-marketing-trades. They have the ability to change and impact every part of a sales funnel, whether that’s writing a high-converting blog post or having a deep understanding of the best practices for checkout design.
If you haven’t made even so much as a dollar online, jumping straight into a competitive business model like blogging and expecting to succeed immediately is a tall task.
Instead, think of ways you can level up your skills toward your long-term goal.
For example, a better path to launching a successful blog may be to spend a few months as a freelance writer. During that time, start to understand what works and what doesn’t in terms of content.
You may also want to take that opportunity to start studying and implementing SEO best practices within your writing. Then, once you start to develop your skills in the field (and have a better understanding of it), launch your blog.
The same can be said for dropshipping. If your ultimate goal is to run your own dropshipping business, see what hard skills you can offer to dropshippers. Can you create visuals for their ad campaigns, offer to design their landing pages, or (with more experience) help them with conversion rate optimization?
It’s building blocks like these that can help you reach your long-term goals.
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband, and father of three. He’s spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.