In the US alone, there are over 28 million small businesses. Of those, an estimated 22 million consist of a single operating member—solopreneurs as I like to call them.
Many of these businesses got started as nothing more than the intersection of passion and skills that combined to create a side project with the ability to scale into something truly sustainable.
As someone who’s successfully launched four profitable side businesses over the past four years, I’ve learned a lot about how to turn your skills into a healthy side income. From building physical products to selling my consultative services, and building my own suite of digital products, I’ve been able to generate thousands in extra income each month.
If you’re ready to build a foundation for one day becoming gainfully self-employed, here are my top eight ways to get started with a profitable side business today.
1. Start a Blog.
Pick a topic you’re passionate and knowledgeable about, and start building a regular readership for your content. Always aim for the goal of providing helpful tips, actionable steps to achieving a specific goal, and transformational experiences with everything you publish, and you’ll have no trouble building an audience if you can market yourself through the right channels. Prepare for a long haul, as it can take months or years to build up an audience, but once you accomplish this, you’ll have nearly limitless possibilities for eventually monetizing your website. These options range from ad placements to digital products, affiliate goods, one-on-one consultations, and so much more.
Deciding to regularly share high quality, in-depth content on my blog in my free time has been one of the absolute best business decisions I’ve ever made. By choosing a topic that has a high demand with aspiring entrepreneurs in our generation, and creating tutorial-based content that walks people through the process of starting a side business has allowed me to build relationships with thousands of people who subscribe to my content.
2. Pick Up Freelance Clients.
If you have a marketable set of skills as a graphic designer, web developer, digital marketer, or otherwise, I can guarantee that there are businesses looking for talented part-time contractors like you, to help them achieve their goals. As a content marketing consultant, I keep a roster of 2-3 freelance clients at a time, which allows me to bring in around $3,000/mo in extra income from work I do one the side during my free time.
Here are several more reasons why you should start freelancing while keeping your day job if you eventually want to work for yourself, and my best practices on how to lay the foundation for this side business. Getting started is relatively easy. You’ll need to build a portfolio website that can highlight your strengths, showcase relevant projects you’ve done, display testimonials from clients (or former bosses) you’ve worked with, and give a clear picture of the services you offer. From there, it’s simply a matter of finding the right clients, perfecting your pitch, and managing the work in your spare time.
3. Become an Online Coach.
If you possess skills or experience that others want and admire, you’re in an advantageous position to offer your teaching services on a retainer or hourly basis. This side business certainly isn’t for everyone, as you’ll need a healthy dose of patience and the ability to help try and guide others through the challenges they’re facing. By definition, coaching requires a lot of your time, but you’ll have the potential to establish lifelong meaningful relationships with others in your industry.
With the explosion of one-on-one online coaching platforms like Savvy, Clarity.fm, and Coach.me that already offer you an online community of people who are looking to level up their skills and achieve their goals, you can start attracting coaching clients very quickly if you have the right background. The beauty of being an online coach is that you’ll really start noticing trends with the problems people are facing in your niche, and you can eventually productize and scale your advice by creating topic-specific online courses to address those needs.
4. Create an Online Course.
Once you’ve identified a specific need within your industry, try using your skills to create a scalable online course that others can purchase and learn from. As education continues to shift to a more digital format and people start favoring the idea of learning directly from domain experts, your ways to monetize your skills with digital content are only going to increase in number. As you’re starting out, creating online courses can be as simple as putting together screenshare tutorials, audio recordings, and video-based walkthroughs that help take your customers from start to finish on a given topic. Check out my course on starting a profitable side business, for inspiration.
To expand your reach and grow your brand, get your online courses in front of new audiences through online education platforms like General Assembly, CreativeLive, and Skillshare. These websites already have built-in audiences that are primed for learning new skills online, and by establishing your rapport there, you’ll have many more opportunities to launch new digital product-based and consulting businesses.
5. Write an eBook.
Another one of my favorite digital products are eBooks. These are great side business opportunities because they give you a scalable way to help and educate others on a given topic. Writing an “ultimate guide” style eBook on a specific topic within your industry is also one of the best ways to start branding yourself as an expert, which will afford you many more long-term opportunities to monetize your advice.
To get started, you’ll want to research the level of demand for the topic you’re considering creating an eBook on. Begin with checking the keyword volume for search terms related to the title of your eBook using Google’s Keyword Planner. For example, if I were considering writing an eBook on “The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Content Marketer,” I would want to check out how many people are searching for terms related to “content marketing” each month. This would inform me on the potential demand for people who may want to learn how to become a content marketer, and give me an idea of how difficult it will be to compete with other existing solutions in the marketplace.
As you can see, the average monthly search volume is nearly 15,000, and since the suggested bid price for an advertisement is a whopping $25.68 per click, I can safely make the assumption that the search intent is relatively high for people looking to either learn about content marketing, or hire someone to help them out (both of which are good things if you have the definitive resource on this topic). It’ll be very difficult to rank at the top of organic search results with competition this high, but other promotional efforts could net you a healthy amount of business since the demand is high.
6. Start a Podcast.
Several entrepreneurs have built multi-million dollar businesses on the backs of first creating and popularizing a podcast within their fields. For instance, take Lewis Howes, who launched The School of Greatness Podcast just a couple of years ago, and has used his influence and interviews with people like Daymond John, Tim Ferriss, and Pat Flynn to since become an NY Times Bestselling author, online educator, speaker, and much more.
Be sure to define your niche very well, build a visually appealing website that’ll serve as your home base, and start trying to line up interviews with notable figures within your space. As you’re getting started, it’ll be more difficult to swing interviews with people who are well-established in your industry, but if you use the right value propositions, leverage your connections, and show genuine interest when you reach out to build a relationship, you’ll eventually land someone who will give you a solid reputation to grow from.
7. Sell Physical Products.
Some of today’s most successful companies, including Apple and Nasty Gal, started as nothing more than a part-time passion for tinkering with electronics and reselling vintage clothing. What began as a side business, very quickly took off into venture-funded empires that have totally revolutionized an industry.
However, there are many less conventional ways to turn your skills into a profitable product business. For example, take Neil Patel’s $100,000 Challenge, where just 9 months ago, he started a blog on nutrition (which he knows nothing about), and just last month earned over $22,000 in sales of a product he whitelabels and sells on Amazon. He’s successfully taken nothing more than his skills as a digital marketer and started turning a profit by selling products on Amazon from his blog and email list. This is all while he focuses on growing his three other businesses.
8. Patent Your Ideas.
If you’d rather not go through all the work of building a business around your product ideas, consider taking a more sane version of Kia Silverbrock’s approach, a serial inventor who has been granted over 4,665 US Patents in his lifetime (so far).
You don’t have to invent the wheel to make relatively passive income from your patented concepts. Just make sure that your idea can be produced affordably, or it will never stand up against a lawsuit in the future, which it almost certainly must do if you’re seeking payment from a corporation who’s using your patented tech. Don’t expect to start earning money from this avenue for a very long time, if ever, unless you have an uncanny ability to predict the fine details of what will power the technology and processes of the future.
For even more ideas on ways you can turn your skills into a healthy side income, check out my detailed post on the 101 Best Business Ideas you can start while working a full-time job.
Are you ready to hustle?