So you’ve got this urge to do something different than the 9-to-5. You’ve read lots of advice about finding your niche and making and executing on plans and building lists, yet it seems like everyone’s still trying to get you to find a deep end to dive into — to commit to some capital “H” Huge Idea before you kick the hustle off.
What if you’ve never had a super-big idea in the first place? Or even if you have, what if defining the manageable chunks to break it down into completely escapes you?
On top of that, you’re already doing heaps. You’re doing your 9-to-5 (or even 5-to-9), you’ve got your family and friends, you’ve got your errands, you’ve got your chores, you’ve got your own precious leisure time — hell, you need to sleep! How do you add a side hustle on top of those?
Here are four ways to break through the analysis paralysis and start cooking:
1. Make 5 Minutes A Day
Before you even contemplate what you want your hustle to be about (I know that’s impossible; you’re likely running through ideas as you read this), make a five-minute appointment with yourself, either today or tomorrow.
Do it right now. Look at your schedule and see where you can include five uninterrupted minutes. Tell whomever you need to tell that for those five minutes, you want to be left alone.
In those five minutes, you’re going to hustle. Yes, you can still have no idea of, or commitment to, what your hustle is about. Just make the time. Once it’s up, set another five-minute appointment for the next day. For the sake of building a habit, I’d suggest making it the same time as the session you just finished, but if that appointment time isn’t available, it’s okay to make it some other time.
Even if you wind up doing nothing, you’ll reassure yourself that you can spend some time each day on your side hustle, and the reassurance that alone gives you will help you going forward.
So, you’ve got your five minutes and you’re confident enough that you’ll be back for more every day. I know what your next question will be: “What do I spend those minutes doing?”
2. Make Something You Dig
I was tempted to use the word “niche” when writing this article, but it’s a business-y word, and while making a business is your aim, I reckon your overall goal is to build your business around doing something you really enjoy, that comes from you. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Yeah, I know. You don’t want to do just a hobby; you want to earn an income. Start a business. Change the way things are.
Yet that very approach can stop you from doing your thing. Have you found that whenever you contemplate starting a business, you wind up with an overwhelming to-do list and you haven’t even started yet?
In your first five minutes, start making something you enjoy. Something that, once the timer runs out of sand or your countdown alarm goes off, you can look at and say, “That didn’t exist five minutes ago.” Yes, it can be incomplete. It’s still more than it was before you started it.
The five-minute chunk of time also helps you figure out whether you really dig that thing in particular. Mind how you feel after that five minutes. Did you enjoy it? Did you want to immediately do another five minutes? Ten?
Whether you obey that urge is up to you. On one hand, when you’ve got a flow going, it’s good to let it continue until it stops. On the other, you could wind up pushing yourself a little too far, especially as this is all still new. Sometimes it’s better to anticipate tomorrow’s five minutes than burn out after your first try.
If you didn’t really dig that five minutes, well, that’s a sign you need to try making something else in tomorrow’s session.
Finally, if you’re still a little worried about whether you’re using your five minutes as an excuse to do your hobby instead of legitimately hustling, ask yourself once you’ve finished, “What are the ways that I can help others out through doing this thing?”
Here’s an idea: Use your next five-minute session to review your last one and brainstorm ways to help other people. (A suggestion: Write up exactly what you did in a step-by-step manner. Voila! Instant blog post.)
3. Develop an Easy-to-Finish Product
One mistake I made when I first tried side hustling was trying to bite off more than I could chew. I write and I love science fiction, so the logical thing to do seemed to be to write a novel. I tried that without success (by which I mean, I didn’t) for over a decade.
I almost wish I’d gone back to trying to write short stories earlier, because I would have discovered I didn’t even have an interest in doing those — which would have been a prime indicator that I needed to change my main idea.
Whatever you think you want to do, start it small. Aim to make something you can complete and have ready to put out to the world in as few five-minute sessions as possible. Let’s say, for the sake of example, you want to be a writer. If you dig fiction, write a short story, or even a thousand-word scene. If you want to write articles, try crafting a comment on your favorite blogger’s most (recent) awesomest post ever.
Remember, your objective in creating your side hustle is to make things that people will value with their hard-earned cash. Whether a capital-P product or an experience like a live performance or a coaching program, you need to define as best you can what you’re offering to people before they decide to buy. Practice that by defining a small project for yourself and completing it.
A post comment or responding tweet is a great way to practice this (hint, hint!) as it lets you try to add something meaningful to the conversation the writer has started.
4. Reach Out to One Person at a Time
Hoo-boy. Networking. As if picking a niche wasn’t bloody scary enough, you’ve still got to take your side hustle and actually show it to people.
The good news is, you can start small here, too. If you followed that commenting advice above, well, you’ve got a potential connection right there. It’s a great way to show your capability to analyze what someone else has written and turn your responses and insights into a crafted chunk of text.
By the time you have a few five-minute sessions of hustle under your belt, you’ll likely have a good idea not only of what your thing is, but also who else is doing it. Spend one of your five-minute chunks of time reaching out to one of those other people. Just one.
You could ask them for help with some aspect of your niche that’s giving you grief. Spend a session doing a little investigative work on your potential contact and their business, then email or even call your contact and perhaps ask a question. Maybe it’s, “I’m an (insert hustle type here) — can you use someone of my services?” Or maybe it’s, “I’m working on a project and having a few problems; how would you suggest I solve them?”
If your potential contact has a blog, you could comment on a post that grabs your interest. Make it something more than, “That was an awesome blog post!” If you have a similar story, tell it (as concisely as possible). If it inspires you to do something, do that thing and then comment about the results. If you disagree with the content of the post, write about where your experience varies (in a polite manner, of course).
That five-minute rule above also comes in handy here. Assign one of your five-minute chunks of daily time each week to networking, and either reach out to someone different each week or continue your conversation with a contact you’ve already made.
Start Small Today
Starting small is the antidote to the worries about commitment, planning, workload, marketing and time that spring from contemplating a side hustle. It lets you get outside your comfort zone in small but measurable steps instead of one huge, scary, hard-to-predict leap that you’re banking everything on.
On top of all that, it’s something you can do today. Even right as you finish this article. Set your countdown app, alarm clock or egg timer for five minutes and just sit and think about making a side hustle. See what comes to you.
Once time runs out, go and do your normal routine. Come back again for five more minutes tomorrow. And again the day after that.
All those little small starts will add up to something big before you know it!
Have you ever considered a side hustle? Share in the comments!