How to Make It On Your Own: Using Your Side Hustle to Achieve Financial Independence

James Monroe, Business Management Expert and Author

open sign on small business door

Call it moonlighting or call it a side hustle, these days a lot of people have found a way to make money outside their regular jobs. According to a recent Bankrate survey, nearly 40 percent of Americans have a second source of income. For some, it’s a hedge against inflation or a little extra cash for a vacation. But side hustles can be more than that. By helping you reduce debt, become a new homeowner, pay down your mortgage, or build a retirement fund, they can provide a path to financial independence.

And all kinds of side jobs offer this potential.

Some are built around hobbies, things you already enjoy doing, and that can make you money, like photography or crafts. This kind of work allows for flexibility—you only work when you want to. And it can be fun, capitalizing on something you already enjoy doing. With the right product and the right marketing, these hobbies can become very lucrative businesses.

Other side hustles fill specific needs. Family assistant, mobile app tester, freelance salesperson, tutor—these don’t require much (or any) investment to get going, and they can bring in good money from the start. These gigs may not be quite as flexible, but they offer the chance to build repeat business, which is one great way to maintain and increase revenue.

Of course, there’s more to financial independence than income, including strategies to cut costs and build savings. But, if financial independence is your goal, we have some great ways to help you find the right idea and develop the right skills to grow and manage a profitable side hustle.

Start Your Side Hustle Off Right

Determine what sets your product or service apart from those already on the market and build on that. Can you do it better, faster or tailor it to a specific client or geographic area? For example, rather than being a web designer for the entire world, focus on becoming known as the web designer who specializes in boutique hotels or craft brewers, or perhaps focus on businesses in your local community. This also helps you to target your prospective clients in your marketing.

1. Create a professional online presence.

Old adages notwithstanding, we judge books by their covers, and we judge people and companies by their websites, so it’s important to look sharp online. It’s easy and inexpensive to go online, buy your own domain (URL) and get help with search engine optimization so prospective clients can find you easily. GoDaddy, Google Domains and Bluehost are among the many sites that can help you get started. Others, like Squarespace and Wix even offer customizable, out-of-the-box websites that make it even easier to get up and running.

2. Look for long-term clients.

It’s much easier and more efficient to serve repeat customers than to find new ones, so seek those who will generate recurring business and revenue. Maybe it’s selling your crafts to gift shops in addition to individual buyers, or becoming a regular tester for an app developer with lots of clients and new products.

Say Bye-Bye to the Boss?

As your side business grows, you may decide to quit your day job and devote all your time to building your business. Here are some things to think about before making that transition:

1. Don’t quit your day job—yet.

Take your time scaling the business, and don’t quit your day job too soon. Decide how much you need to make from your side gig each month and keep your regular job until you’ve hit that revenue goal for three consecutive months. Also, if you get health coverage and retirement plans from your day job, consider the costs of replacing them after you leave.

2. Track everything.

Create or invest in systems to track income and expenses, invoices you’ve sent and paid, client contact information and activity, pitches you’ve given, and the time you spend on each project. You’ll need to know all these things to understand who your best clients are and to make sure you spend your time maximizing revenue. Good financial records will help come tax time, too. This Forbes Advisor list includes both free and paid-for applications for a variety of businesses.

3. Embrace templates and scripts.

The more you can automate, the easier your life will be. Consider using templates to welcome new clients, provide customer updates, send invoices, request reviews or testimonials, and for social media. Integrate text messages and emails with calendars and financial systems. Let technology free up time to do the things you do best.

4. Consider a second side gig.

Don’t be afraid to take on another side gig. If you’ve ever struck up a conversation with a rideshare driver, you’ve probably talked to someone turning their passion into a small business while driving to stay afloat. If it helps keep you out of debt while you’re building your side hustle into a full-time career, there’s no shame in taking on a second gig when you need to.

Check out the financial independence advisors at His and Her FI for more tips.

Hustle Like a Pro

And finally, here’s a list of the skills any business owner should have, whether growing a side hustle or running a large company:

1. Communication.

You’ll need to communicate with everyone: convince prospects they should become customers, set customer expectations, and eventually, sell employees on your vision. Index by Pinger makes this process easier by helping you quickly and professionally communicate, with tools for handling inbound calls, speeding transactions and making every interaction more convenient.

2. Sales.

Small business owners are constantly selling—sometimes products, sometimes their vision, sometimes themselves. Sales skills are essential to building a customer base and the relationships necessary to make a small business hum.

3. Focus.

Successful business owners avoid distractions and keep their eyes on the things that make a difference to the success of the company. But they also need…

4. Flexibility.

Nothing stays the same. Be prepared to watch and learn, and when conditions change, adapt your focus as necessary.

5. Business strategy.

While you may get off the ground with a good idea and a lot of hard work, you’ll soon need a strategy to add customers and build your business. Those things don’t happen automatically. Without a realistic strategy, it will be tough to turn your side gig into a big source of income.

Finally, give some thought to how you’ll handle the little interruptions that life throws at you. How will you keep things running if you get sick or need to take a child to the doctor’s office? How will you make time for vacations? When the entire business depends on you, it’s important to have backup plans to avoid disappointing your customers.

With a timely idea, good execution, and a thorough strategy, you can grow your side hustle into a successful small business that will help you achieve financial independence.

To learn more, check out Looking for a side gig? 10 Quick Ideas To Help You Get Started. And for more tips for running and growing your small business visit Index by Pinger.

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James Monroe

Jim Monroe is an author, business leader, marketing and product strategist. He is passionate about helping young managers be successful by avoiding common mistakes. His latest book on management is “Don’t Be a Jerk Manager: The Down & Dirty Guide to Management.”

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