Earn Your First Dollar with a Side-Hustle
The first buck is the hardest
You’re tired of the rat race. Maybe you’ve got a boss you hate, or you feel imprisoned by your current financial situation.
There are many reasons to start a side-hustle.
When you earn extra income of your own doing, the feeling is empowering. Even if the money isn’t much to start.
The first dollar earned is the hardest.
We’ve got to put in all the work and build the infrastructure behind our little idea. There are customers to gather, products to create, and payments to collect.
But if you can earn the first dollar you can earn the 100th.
An idea that works is an idea that can be multiplied.
Instead of focusing all our energy on future-thinking, or empire-building, we can start sooner and expand faster by aiming towards the first dollar.
If we earn the first dollar we found a proven model that works. The ultimate vote–the one that matters–is the customer’s vote with her wallet.
When you get the first vote you’ve got yourself a proven side-hustle.
Now, some ideas are better than others, sure. Some side-hustles are less-efficient than others. But if you put in the work, earn a customer, and make one sale–you have the model to repeat the process.
Let’s get you to that first dollar, shall we?
First, we need an idea
Our side-hustle isn’t just any idea. The first idea should be a project you can execute within a month. The positive, forward momentum is crucial to your success.
When you first start side-hustling, the atmosphere is fragile. Maybe you don’t trust your abilities or your knowledge yet. You need a quick win. The more you win, the more you can up the stakes in your future hustles.
Here are eight, free-to-start, low-stakes side-hustles that will earn you the first dollar, fast:
- Article-writing–get paid while writing on your laptop or phone. There are hundreds of sites where you can be paid as a freelance writer. Pay frequency ranges from weekly to monthly.
- Print-on-demand art and apparel–upload your own designs and promote them on social media. Find trendy ideas on Pinterest and social, use trending quotes from Twitter, and search for entertaining, newsworthy ideas you can turn into prints and shirts. The print-on-demand service does all the work for you. All you have to do is send them customers.
- Micro-courses–These short PDF documents can be created in a couple days. You can sell them online for $27-$99 without much effort. Solve an important problem for your audience and the buying decision will be a no-brainer.
- Affiliate income–Don’t want to create your own product? OK. Become an affiliate for multiple vendors. Build an email list and send periodic valuable information, related to your affiliate offer. When a subscriber buys from your link, you get a commission.
- Coaching–Using a free calling program, like Skype, you can coach individuals (or small groups) to transform a certain aspect of their lives from where they are now to where they want to be. Use your own experience as a template. Take something you’ve overcome and build a business around helping others achieve the same goal.
- Social media management–Find local businesses with zero or little social presence. Offer to maintain their accounts for a monthly retainer. Take a couple free clients before you start asking for money (to get the kinks out).
- Copywriting–This is selling in print. Many businesses need copywriters. You can do this job entirely from home, earning clients from all over the world. Start small to prove your worth. Good copywriters can earn hundreds of thousands per year. Earn your first dollar by offering to write emails for local business owners.
- Organizing–Become a professional organizer. Not only for people’s homes, but their offices too. All you need is your phone. Busy business owners don’t have time to organize their offices, but an organized work space can boost productivity a lot. Show your new prospects how your service will pay for itself in a short time. Offer a recurring ‘spruce-up’ service where you return to the scene quarterly. This will help you keep a steady income.
Focus on a single side-hustle to start
It’s easy to get excited about all the possibilities to earn money. Entrepreneurs are notorious for starting new projects regularly.
Remember, your goal is to earn your first dollar this month.
Once you find a side-hustle that brings your first dollar, you can repeat the process and grow accordingly. If you start a second (or third) project simultaneously, you won’t have the bandwidth to give the proper attention to your first idea.
We grow what we focus on.
If you keep chasing the next shiny object, it’ll be hard to get your side-hustle beyond that first dollar.
I suggest a single dollar, because the money isn’t the object at first.
You need to develop a business model that works for your personality and lifestyle. Take a humble approach. Work for free to gain some testimonials.
Ask for referrals.
“Do you know anyone, just like you, who’d be interested in my services?”
You don’t need a huge marketing campaign. There’s no need to spend money on ads, or waste hundreds of hours on social posts that don’t convert.
Instead, make a list of 100 reachable customers you’d like to do business with.
I recommend business owners at first, because they’re more-likely to have disposable income to work with you. There’s no point in chasing customers who can’t pay you.
Contact ten people from your list each day–on the phone, email, or in-person.
All you need is one yes.
The first yes is your first dollar.
When you get the first yes, go all-in
Over-deliver with your first customer. Remember, this is not about the money. It’s about the opportunity to test your business idea, earn a customer for life, and work all the bugs from your process before you chase customer two.
If you chase a bunch of paying customers and you’ve got a flaw in your business model, the end-result could be a very expensive mistake.
It’s better to flop on a single customer, dust yourself off, and reboot with the next one.
If you don’t want to deal with customers directly, take the freelance route.
Article-writing and email marketing are great ways to generate traffic to a course or product without dealing with customers directly.
The hands-off approach is great for introverted entrepreneurs who still have the drive to succeed, but would rather not deal with customers directly.
Go all-in on your idea.
If you can earn the first dollar, you can earn $1,000.
If you can earn $1,000 you can replace your day job someday.
When we go all-in we don’t leave room for escape. It’s too easy to dump your fledgling project when times get tough. It’s easy to blame the market, idea, or your expertise.
Instead, take no prisoners.
Take full-responsibility until you can say without a shadow-of-a-doubt, that your idea either worked or didn’t.
Go all-in or don’t start the project.
If you can get your new side-hustle to a place where you can add a second income stream (without lowering the first–that’s the key), then go for it.
The more income streams you have the more-insulated you’ll be when sales drop.
But don’t give in to temptation when a new idea crosses your desk.
Even good side-hustles are worth the time to start them right.
There’s never been more opportunity for side-hustles
Like me, you can operate an international business from your phone. I’ve got customers in 80 countries and I’ve never met one of them.
There are a million things to do when you start a side-hustle.
You’ll have checklists about your checklists and to-do lists telling you which to-do list earns priority.
As a writer and creator I’ve found it’s a constant juggle between doing the actual work and promoting the work so customers will see it.
Once you find a way to earn your first dollar, I’d recommend spending at least 25-50% of your working time promoting your work.
Marketing is an important component of your side-hustle.
No one wants to start a new business to an empty crowd. Don’t wait until your business is ready to launch to start talking about it.
Use social and email.
Tell people in-person.
You can’t market your side-hustle too much. Yet, marketing is one of the most-ignored aspects of side-hustles.
We need to get a minimum viable product in front of that first customer. Use the first customer as a case study. Get a testimonial. Then, publish your case study everywhere you can, using this document as your marketing device to earn the second client.
You can’t collect too many case studies or testimonials. Ask everyone.
Customers are more-skeptical than ever. They want to see proof you can do the work. Your case studies will help keep the skepticism at bay. “If it worked for that person it must work for me too.”
It’s time to earn your first dollar.
Give yourself a hard-deadline. This will keep you from slacking. When you run your own side-hustle, you’ve got to self-motivate. While it’s nice to have no one telling you what to do, it also means you’ve got no one telling you what to do.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.