How My Side Hustle Made $94k In 2019 Working 10 Hours A Week
What if your side hustle could generate $100k every year (on top of your full-time salary) working just 10 hours more each week?
For the last six years, I’ve been working as a full-time marketing professional, and in that time, I’ve always had a side business.
Since 2015, I’ve learned to double down on the types of marketing services I offer, allowing me to run my side business entirely from home. The business has grown year over year, and in 2020 I had one of my best years ever – generating $96,775 in revenue (in addition to my full-time salary of $90k).
And I’m going to tell you exactly how I did it.
This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme or a way to make money while you sleep. You’ll need a real, viable business model (preferably that you’re already using, but if not, I’ll have some resources for you at the end of this article.)
Here are the 4 most important things to focus on as you start building your side business into a healthy, profitable revenue stream.
1. Focus on 3 ways you can deliver results
When I first launched my business, I had one service that I offered. As time went on, people asked for more and more things that I knew I could do, even if I didn’t do them as well as my primary service offerings. Pretty soon, I started offering anything to anyone. My thinking was that the more I offer, the more money I could ultimately make and I just wanted to make sales.
Reality hit me like a ton of bricks–this is both exhausting and highly ineffective.
After a really difficult and barely profitable two year stretch, I decided to shave down what kind of services I would offer. In 2017 I made a concrete decision that I would focus on SEO, web design, and marketing automation as my areas of expertise.
Each service I offer has a clearly defined scope, timeline, and expectations that I can reliably set with my clients.
Make sure the 3 services you choose can work as cross-sells or upsells and fit into a single ‘category’ offering.
As long as your 3 services work well together, clients will be inclined to hire you again after you finish with their initial project. Companies will often work over and over with people they trust, especially if your skillset is in the wheelhouse of what they need and if they are confident you can deliver the results they’re looking for.
It’s also important to pare your services with a few industries and niche down into a specific market segment. I chose to work in industries I was already familiar with from my 9-5. I could have taken on projects from other businesses, but those projects would have taken a lot more time to research and plan, making it not ideal.
Niching down helped me focus on finding the right clients that I could deliver the best results for.
These were people who had a problem I knew I could solve, who had the budget to hire me, and who would make my job easier. Not to mention, people in my professional network who I had relationships with were already in those industries, opening up referral opportunities.
I could have found a bigger audience without niching down, but my project close rates would have dropped–proven success for a company within a niche industry is a great way to find AND pitch other companies in that same industry with proven results.
2. Choose your prices wisely
Traditional employers have to pay all kinds of additional costs, tangible and intangible, when they hire someone – things like insurance, taxes, training, etc. all cost money. When a company hires you, they forgo a lot of these costs.
What does this mean? You can gladly ask for a very competitive hourly rate.
Here’s what you need to understand about pricing your services:
Know your niche and their what their budget looks like.
Remember what I said about niching down? When you pursue similar companies within an industry that are a similar size, you can know with a degree of certainty what they are willing to pay. Buffer your pricing by 10% with every new client.
Second, designate your hourly rate (taking into account all the time that’s hard to categorize like emails, phone calls, revisions, research, etc.) and then price your packages at 3x what the company would pay someone in a similar role to do.
For example, if you know that someone in a salaried position doing what you do would typically make $30/hr, price your hourly rate at $90/hr. It might seem steep, but remember, if you know your niche and the results you can deliver, they will gladly pay whatever you ask.
This also helps you weed out the people who are just looking for the lowest price.
The clients that stress about your rate will often nickel and dime you, ask for work above and beyond the scope of the project, and drag their feet when it comes to paying invoices. These aren’t the people you want to work with.
Keep in mind that you aren’t gouging these companies or charging more for no reason–they are coming to you, an expert, for a specific task that ultimately costs them LESS to do. You charge more and still come out as a budget option, how about that?
Finally, define clear milestones in the project and always require a deposit before you start working. I usually ask for 65% – 70% of the total cost before I start working and set two milestones for 15% each.
Pro tip: Whenever I am about to work with a client before I lift a finger to begin work, I wait for the deposit to come in. This is a very simple way that I establish the relationship and build trust with the client. Over time, I will throw in a few bonuses or extra time and start working on their project before the deposit comes, but trust has to be built.
You are setting the expectations for the relationship early on, don’t forget that!
A quick note on setting your prices:
When you’re first getting started and don’t have a good idea of the scope involved, you should charge an hourly rate that is less competitive. Once you have proven, repeatable results, scale up your costs.
Then, as you develop your skills and learn the total time that goes into each project (including the cost of acquiring new clients), you can set package rates or project rates. This is called ‘value billing’.
There are a million ‘gurus’ who will tell you “Don’t price your services hourly!” but until you master the art of client expectations, you could fall prey to scope creep, where the project exceeds your original quote, leading you to work for nothing.
Hourly billing allows you to nip ‘scope creep’ in the bud and prevent clients from asking for more than the contract was set for–if they want changes, you’ll happily do it but it will be new billable time.
3. Work at least 10 hours/week on (and in) your business
I’m a husband and a father of two (a newborn and a toddler), so believe me when I say I understand life is busy. It can feel impossible to put in 10 extra hours of work.
To find the time, take a serious look at your schedule and be honest with yourself about how you spend your time. I recommend tracking your time for a week to get a good picture of where your time truly goes.
Think of it this way; if you woke up tomorrow morning to a flooded house and had to find 10 hours to meet with plumbers and then clean your house and carpets, would you be able to do it? Of course, you would.
Similarly, anytime you get hooked on a new TV show, you manage to find the time to watch it. *clears throat* I definitely HAVE NOT watched The Office start to finish 10 times…
The same 10 hours that you used to binge The Office (or the show of your choosing) are hours you could spend building a profitable side business.
- I start my days before 5:00 am. I haven’t always been a morning person, but waking up early has radically changed my life. I start my regular workday at 7 am, so a 5 am start gives me a whole hour every day to work on my business while my family is still asleep. If you start later, you can also wake up a little bit later.
- I turn my days off into workdays. I choose to take Saturday completely off and spend 3-4 hours on my business every Sunday. This one day alone knocks out almost half of my weekly hours and only slightly cuts into my Sunday. And waking up early on Sunday to work is a cheat code to find the extra time!
- I leverage virtual assistants and contractors. Time is valuable, and I choose to spend my time on the tasks I do best. For the things that don’t require an expert touch (client communications, project management, spreadsheet formatting, etc.) I hire part-time contractors. I can pay a lower hourly rate for help than I can charge for my expert services, so this helps me scale.
- I work during my lunch break. I can eat in 15 – 20 minutes, which means I can knock out 30 minutes of solid work during my lunch break. If you work in a traditional 9-5 job, this is a good way to take phone calls or meetings during the day, as well.
4. Focus on quality, NOT quantity when it comes to clients
I’m a big believer in Pareto’s principle that 80% of your efforts should come from 20% of your clients.
For me, this means finding high-quality clients who appreciate my work, trust my expertise, and want to keep hiring me over and over again.
I’ve been able to turn a handful of clients into a respectable revenue stream while building lasting relationships.
Ask yourself these questions to make sure you’re working with the right clients:
Do your prices stretch their budget?
If you’re at the top of their budget, they’re very likely to scrutinize their spending, your work, and the results you deliver.
Are they respectful of your time?
In other words, do they show up for meetings? Do they take your calls? Do they reply to your emails in a timely manner? If they’re not respectful of your time leading up to the project, they’re likely to waste your time once you start charging them.
Are you talking to the right stakeholders?
A great proposal can fall on deaf ears if the person who has the final say has never talked to you about the project – get the right stakeholders in the room and make sure to identify their specific goals before pitching your services to them.
Are you excited to work with them?
If you aren’t, you’ll likely regret taking the job in the first place.
And remember, you can always break up with customers. Every match isn’t a match made in heaven and it’s okay to tell a client that you’re no longer the best fit for their needs.
Start your side hustle today (like, right now!)
You’re probably not going to start out making $94k your first year ($40k net after paying taxes, business expenses, contractor support, marketing, etc,) but you can absolutely start making money on the side right now with the skills and resources you already have.
Want to get started?
I recommend downloading my FREE guide “63 Side Hustles You Can Start Today”
Changing the World One Side-Hustle at a Time