Guest Collaboration: How to thrive at a side gig (and eventually make it your only gig)
- Author Matthew Warzel, Cprw
- Published July 29, 2020
- Word count 1,446
A major shift has already begun in the world of freelancing. Call 'em side gigs. Call 'em gig economists. Call 'em contractors. Whatever you call them, they're here and they ain't goin' nowhere.
A little while back I was chatting with Bogdan Zlatkov, founder of GrowthHackYourCareer.com. I thought it would be useful to have Bogdan share some of his insights about side gigs. So, without further ado, here is Bogdan:
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a lot of people have been using it as an opportunity to explore new career options. One of the best ways to launch into a new career is by starting with a side gig or side project.
There are over 101 businesses you can start (most of which you can do while keeping your full-time job). And, According to SideHustleNation, Over 45% of Americans already have side hustles.
I’m one of those 45% of people, but I’ve actually started over 6 side gigs, failed at 5, and had one succeed. Can you guess which of my side gigs succeeded:
Bay Area Real Estate Photographer — A photography company
Level Up Glassware — Inspirational mug company
Iris Adventures — An adventure team-building company
Better Neighbor — A car parking service for street sweeping violations
Pixel Press Digital — A content agency specializing in the travel industry
Growth Hack Your Career — A resume writing and interview prep ecourse
If you guessed GrowthHackYourCareer, then you’re right! (If you’d like to learn more about how to optimize your resume or get better at interviewing, you can check out the courses here.)
After 6 years of trials and failures, I’ve learned a few strategies that helped me finally get my side gig off the ground. Here are my top 3 tips for starting a side gig and making it work:
Getting Started: The Version Approach to Side Gigs
Having a grand vision for what your side gig could be is very important because it will inspire you to keep working. But, one of the most common pitfalls people fall into when starting a side gig is that they go too big, too soon.
Tim Ferriss, 4x NY Times Best-Selling Author, and Kevin Rose, a venture capitalist and founder of Digg, explain the balance between these two ideas on this podcast episode. TK
Kevin Rose has started many side gigs successfully, Oak Meditation and the Zero App to name just a couple. One of his secrets to getting started is to split his grand vision into several versions.
In 2018, when I was first starting my website to help job seekers accelerate their careers, I wanted to create a full program that included a resume writing course, an interview course, a LinkedIn optimization course, plus a blog, a slack community, and even a resume bullet point analyzer.
I wrote down all my ideas and, after shooting my first course video, I realized it would take me years to accomplish everything I wanted.
Rather than get discouraged though, I decided to use Kevin’s version technique to split the work up.
Here’s what it looked like:
Beta Version: One video and a few emails that people could sign up to for free.
Version 1: Resume writing course with 5 tutorials that take you through how to quickly optimize your resume in less than 30 minutes.
Version 2: Add cheat sheets and worksheets to the Resume course.
Version 3: Interview course with 8 tutorials that teach you how to nail every interview in the interview process.
Version 4: Add tools and guides to the interview course.
Version 5: Blog with free advice anyone can read to learn about resume writing, interview tips, and LinkedIn optimizations.
Version 6: LinkedIn optimization course with 5 videos that get your LinkedIn profile to All-Star status.
Rather than trying to achieve all of these things at once, which would have taken years of work before I could launch my side gig, I started with my Beta Version. This version took me about 2 months to put together and within 3 months I had 8 signups, which boosted my morale and kept me going.
Currently I’m on version 5 and it’s taken 2 years of solid work to get here, but all the small wins along the way have kept me going.
When you’re starting your side gig, create a big vision, but start as small as possible. You may not even want to charge any money at first, just so you can get a few “customers” and start learning how to improve your product and service.
Your First Win: Making your first Sale
The next step to starting a side gig is getting a sale. Although this seems self-explanatory, it’s actually deceptively tricky. Most of us are consumers. We’ve bought a lot of things, but with a few exceptions, it’s rare that we’ve ever sold anything.
Selling is hard.
Selling something you’ve created is probably one of the hardest things you could do. There is so much emotion that comes along with trying to sell a product or service you’ve created that you’ll naturally avoid it.
The most common way I’ve avoided trying to get sales is by distracting myself with the fun, creative aspects of my business. The conversation in my head goes something like this:
“Okay I think it’s time to get some sales…well first I need business cards right? Yeah I need business cards. I should design some business cards. O, and what about my website? My website isn’t good enough yet. I should work on my website first. Okay my website is done! But, what about my branding? I need to make sure I get my brand right first! O and social media…”
It took me a long time to figure out that the reason I kept tweaking my website, my social media profiles, and my business cards, wasn’t because I was “working hard.” It was actually because I was avoiding the scary topic of going out there and getting sales.
Be careful here. If you have no sales for your product or service, that should be your one and only concern. All the fun stuff, like choosing your brand colors and fonts should come later.
Once you have your beta version/product, getting your first sale is your #1 priority.
Keeping your Momentum: Balancing Excitement and Hustle
Once you get your first sale, you have officially started your side gig! Congratulations!
You’ll feel a huge rush of excitement and you should definitely celebrate your first sale no matter how small it is.
In a best case scenario, your first sale will quickly be followed by your second, third, and forth. If your product or service is selling like crazy, then you can ignore this section.
More often than not, however, after your first few sales your side gig will usually fall into a period of inactivity. The sales will stop coming in and you’ll find that you’ll lose a lot of your momentum.
Keeping up your momentum after this period is crucial to making your side gig successful. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor, over 20% of small businesses fail after just their first year.
You don’t want to add to this statistic.
At this point in your side gig you’ll want to balance the tough work with the easy work. If you only take on more and more hard work (such as hustling to get more sales) chances are you’ll lose all your momentum and enthusiasm for the project and quit.
This is where you want to sprinkle in some of the fun activities we mentioned earlier. Spend some time to work on your designs, make improvements to your product, do anything that gets you excited about your side gig again.
Once you regain a little bit of excitement, that’s when you want to use that excitement to do the tough work once again.
I call this technique “filling the bucket.” You do the fun activities of your side gig to fill your bucket, but once it’s filled a little bit, you want to empty that bucket to accomplish the tough things about your business. If all you do are the fun/easy activities (which is what most people do), you’ll just overflow your bucket and waste all that positive energy.
Continuous Inspiration for your Side Gig
There are many great resources that you can use to get inspired for your side gig. I highly recommend listening/reading these on a weekly basis so that you don’t lose focus or momentum.
Here are a few of my favorites:
The Side Hustle Podcast
How I Built This
Startup Nation Podcast
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