Editor’s Note: Today’s post is brought to you by Kathryn Worsham. The Texas native worked her way through the New York digital marketing scene — most notably managing social media at Gap — before recently returning to her hometown in Houston. She’s here to share with us her expert tips on how to develop a successful side hustle for those of us in need of a creative outlet.
As a career-driven society, we tend to put a lot of pressure on our jobs to both fulfill our work aspirations and to be the ultimate opportunity that will propel us towards success. If our current position isn’t ideal, or appears to be hindering our desired trajectory, we feel anxious that we are heading down the wrong path. The reality is that while you should seek job opportunities that push you towards your goals, nothing is perfect.
Whether you are currently in a job that you love, or in one where you feel stuck, there are probably aspects of your situation that you wish you could change. Maybe you have skills that are not being utilized, a passion that isn’t being encouraged, or your current role is not quite meeting your financial goals. There is no such thing as a perfect job, but you can proactively take hold of your career and pursue your interests by developing a “side hustle.”
Finding a creative outlet and pursuing hobbies that you are passionate about is a fantastic way to combat burnout and bring a fresh perspective to your day job. Getting paid for exercising those creative muscles and interests is even better. Even though pursuing a side hustle requires additional time and energy, it can often bring a sense of rejuvenation as well as serve to boost your morale and performance at work.
If you’ve been thinking about launching a side hustle, but aren’t sure where to start, use these steps below as a guide to point you in the right direction and get your creative juices flowing.
Reflect on what fuels your creative energy
The most important consideration in choosing a side hustle is identifying an interest that not only motivates you but also brings a fresh perspective to your day to day. It’s easy to feel stifled creatively at work, especially if your job is not inherently right-brained. This is your chance to exercise your creative muscles that have grown weary, or to show off a talent that has been pushed to the back burner.
To start the process of selecting a side hustle, plot out three personal dream careers and outline the responsibilities that each would entail. Hone in on the ones that you have experience in that could be utilized for freelance opportunities. If something jumps out at you that you haven’t tried before, take note of that too! Maybe a fresh start on a new course is exactly what you need.
When you are brainstorming ideas, consider if a scenario leads to daydreaming and inspiration; otherwise the additional work could lead to frustration and exhaustion. And be sure to pursue something that will not be a conflict of interest at work, either in subject matter or time commitment.
Outline your skills, new and old
You’ve jotted down your professional aspirations and the responsibilities that those would entail. Now it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and remember the skills and hobbies that you have developed over the years. Whether it was a class you aced in college, or a natural affinity for something, take credit for your strengths and star the ones that inspire you.
Some of your aptitudes might be obvious, like how quickly you picked up calligraphy, the writing assignments that your boss raves about, or when you excelled in photography class. Others are subtle, like how your friends always seek your advice on styling outfits, planning trip itineraries, or decorating small spaces.
Don’t discount any of your talents, even if they might seem small or undeveloped. If you’re not an expert yet, you can become one with a little practice.
If there is a craft that you have wanted to learn — maybe photography, Photoshop, or brand copywriting — this could be the perfect time to take a leap in a new direction. There are many qualifications that can be self-taught using resources like YouTube or online workshops. You might surprise yourself with what you can master with a little practice and some trial and error.
Grab coffee and ask for advice
Embarking on a side hustle can be daunting, especially if you are venturing into new territory. The good news is that you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself. Reach out to individuals who have pursued similar endeavors, or whose careers you admire. Offer to treat them to coffee in exchange for words of wisdom. It’s always helpful to hear from someone who has been there before, and you will be pleasantly surprised to find that most people are open to offering guidance. Don’t be shy if there is someone you look up to who you haven’t met before. Try reaching out through LinkedIn, a direct Tweet, or a friendly email. Everyone had to start somewhere and you never know what doors might open from these interactions.
Be sure to prepare a list of questions in advance in order to gather as much information as possible from these meetings. You may have questions about how to approach prospective clients, how to present your skills, or how to structure billing and contracts. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and someone with more experience can give you the jumpstart that you need.
Look legit (and become it)
You’ve heard the expression “fake it until you make it,” but a better approach is “fake it until you become it.” Regardless of your current level of expertise in your chosen side hustle, it’s important to begin establishing your reputation. Create an online portfolio with relevant work examples and references, with a clear outline of your capabilities to keep your efforts streamlined. Don’t forget to update your social media platforms to reflect the required skill-set for this line of work. Reach out to your old boss or coworker and ask if they might write a recommendation for you or endorse a skill on LinkedIn.
To strengthen your credibility, sign up for workshops, listen to podcasts, watch how-to YouTube videos, and take on pro bono projects to build your portfolio. Depending on what you decide to pursue, you may need to invest in equipment or software in order to really get your side hustle off of the ground and be taken seriously.
Go for it!
After carefully identifying your new side hustle, seeking advice, and refining your skills, it’s time to launch your gig. Reach out directly to people who may be interested in your services and spread the word on social media. Utilize your network and consider potential collaborations that could strengthen your credibility and reach. Don’t be discouraged if takes time to get the ball rolling; as you build your reputation and network, the easier it will be to land projects.
Be sure to carefully consider how much time and effort you can commit to your side hustle without compromising your performance at work. Find a system that works for you, and don’t be afraid to say no to opportunities in order to maintain balance. Remember, the goal is to feel inspired, not overwhelmed. Keep your workload in check and continue to seek guidance from friends and mentors. And you never know where these efforts might lead; your side hustle could one day turn into a fulltime career.