“I would like to improve my finances, but I don’t want to be a cheapskate, and I don’t know how to earn more.”
“I guess I could get a side job, but I don’t want to mow lawns or wait tables. I barely have time for myself, I don’t have time to start a side business.”
What Should I Do?
First of all, don’t dismiss frugality. There are some blogs that will take things too far. You don’t need to unscrew a light bulb to save a couple cents or wear clothes while showering to avoid the cost of laundry. That’s just not practical. Nobody creates wealth by skimping on their laundry soap.
Normal frugality is fine, but avoid fake frugality: saving pennies here and there is cool, but at what cost to your time and sanity? Is it really worth it?
I’m not just talking about the money in the bank, but also your mental wallet. When your mind is consumed with penny-pinching, you overlook thousands of dollar saving opportunities; things like lowering your insurance premiums, finding low-fee investments or refinancing your house.
And yet –
If you really wanted to, you can afford anything, but not everything. I’m willing to bet you hold expenses that, if you’re honest with yourself, don’t reflect your priorities.
How do you know where you stand?
Convert things into hours and ask yourself if it’s worth the trade-off.
- Fancy dinner = two extra hours in a cubicle?
- Shopping obsession = 10 workdays a year?
- A new car vs. a used car = __ months of your life?
Once you frame purchases into this sort of context, it becomes easier to save. Saving doesn’t have to be hard, just rework how you make decisions as time vs. money and your habits will start to change.
But now, let’s get to the good stuff.
How Do I Get Interesting, Lucrative Work?
I agree you shouldn’t be mowing lawns or cleaning out garages if your time is worth more than $15 an hour. However “hustle” is not for a “summer job”. You can create a side business that plays to your strengths.
Imagine you work 10 hours per week at a side project. You might choose 6 – 8 pm, five days a week, and enjoy weekends off. Or you might choose to work from 10 am – 2 pm on weekends, while enjoying your evenings.
If you earn $30 an hour, you’re pulling in more than $15,000 per year.
But I get it:
You’re busy, tired and don’t know where to begin. Who has time for that anyways?
I’m Too Busy…
Really? Who isn’t busy.
1. Cut the Crap
How often do you check Facebook? Watch TV? Scroll through Instagram or send a few Snapchats?
It baffles me when people claim they “don’t have time to hustle” yet they can tell me last week’s sports scores or indulge me in the latest movie. You have time for anything, but you don’t have time for everything. Every moment is a trade-off.
2. Work in the Margins
You might not have a huge chunk of time to do something, but you do have small increments. Whether it’s 10 minutes here, or 30 minutes there, that’s enough to make a huge dent throughout the day.
3. Adjust your Bedtime
Wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual and go to bed thirty minutes later. Just this one change gives you an extra hour, and I bet you could create another if you stopped watching TV or scrolling mindlessly through social media. If 30 minutes is too drastic, start with 15/15. This will eventually get you into a habit.
I Don’t Know Where to Start
People often get stuck on the idea that they need a world changing idea, the next Google or Apple. But you don’t, you only need to fill a need.
Your side business should possess three specific qualities:
- Home-based. You don’t want to make another commute
- Flexible. You don’t want to commit to working specific hours
- Lucrative. If you make $60,000 in a regular job, you earn nearly $30/hour, it’s reasonable that you’d want at least that from your side hustle as well.
Next – don’t ask “what should I do?”
Ask “whom can I help?”
Once you define a certain skillset you have, whether it’s helping small business owners with their social media, or helping food bloggers land more interviews. Find people who meet this description and ask about their needs. Test every assumption. Don’t tell them what they need, but ask how you can help. You’re not selling anything at this point. You’re listening.
After you’ve listened to your target customers, you’ll understand their most pressing concerns and can now develop the skills needed to solve those problems.
How can you develop these skills? Read books and blogs. Listen to podcasts. Find an introductory client and work for a steep discount while you learn on-the-job.
Once you’ve developed these skills, network online. Read the same websites as your target customer; chat in the same forums. Provide value without being sale-sy, while letting it be known that you offer such-and-such services.
It may be slow in the beginning. It might take 3 or 4 months to land the first client. But every 30 minutes of focused effort is a snowflake, accumulating over time. You’ll start turning away work; your plate will be too full.
It’s simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.
Good Luck, Newbies