Starting a side hustle requires doing a bit more than deciding you will monetize your interests. You can explore a hobby or activity that you are passionate about through a side hustle. This hustle may also allow you to carve out a space for pursuing natural talents, such as the ability to bake cakes or sew clothing.
Typically, a side gig is pursued on the side in addition to full-time employment elsewhere. Side hustles may not be your full-time line of work, but that doesn’t mean they do not receive any less attention. Starting a side hustle requires an investment of time, energy, focus, and dedication. This ensures that you may pursue what you love, learn by doing, create and establish a working business plan, and, ideally, set yourself up to build a loyal customer or client base that enjoys and invests in your offerings.
Starting a side hustle also means being able to ask, and answer, tough questions to ensure you’re ready to commit. Before you start, make sure you can confidently answer the following questions to ensure a healthy lifecycle for your side gig.
1. What is your why?
This question is common for entrepreneurs to ask themselves when they start a business. The “why” is the foundation for everything you do and asking this question is still quite applicable to a side hustle. Here are a few “whys” as to why you might decide to start up a side gig.
- Need.Many individuals start working side gigs, like driving rideshares or doing food deliveries, out of necessity. You may decide to work a side gig due to financial needs or your present financial situation. A side hustle can fulfill this need in the short term and help create an extra revenue stream.
- Passion.Simply put, you naturally love what you’re doing. You want it to put in the work and enhance your craft as often as possible.
- Purpose.Starting a side gig may give you the chance to find your purpose. You may become a thought leader in your industry, embrace a lesser-known niche, or explore a new field altogether.
Eureka! This side gig may be the beginning of launching your unique idea. You have something original and impactful to offer the community. If you have already started to study the idea’s viability, you might have collected customer feedback that proves this idea will meet the needs of your target audience and make their lives easier.
2. Do you have enough time for this side hustle?
Running a side hustle can be time-consuming in ways you might not expect.. If you drive rideshares, for example, you may have rides booked back-to-back. Riders may be traveling to destinations that are far from your home. This makes the trip back longer than you anticipated to spend behind the wheel. Similarly, let’s say your side hustle is doing graphic design freelance work. A client decides to call you to discuss an assignment, but you’re in the middle of a meeting at your full-time job. How will you manage meeting their needs without conflicting with your existing work schedule?
Setting aside enough time to grow your side hustle means establishing boundaries from day one. Be mindful of your limits. If you work alongside freelance clients, for example, share with them a schedule in which they can reach you each day and the hours when you are unavailable to work. Structure each day so that you can set aside enough hours to focus on your full-time line of work and side hustle. This ensures one does not present a conflict of interest with the other. (As a pro tip, the side hustle you start should be independent of your full-time line of work. Do not neglect duties within your full-time job to focus on activities related to your side gig.)
What happens if you only have an hour or two each week to devote to the side hustle? That’s okay! Start slow and take gradual steps. One such step might include drafting a business plan that allows you to better understand the side hustle’s goals and how you may reach each one.
It’s better to use a few hours thoughtfully and with intention rather than spending hours starting an endeavor that lacks purpose and leaves you drained and exhausted day in and day out.
3. How will you protect your intellectual property?
Some side gigs, such as working as a dog walker for an existing app, will not require you to protect intellectual property. Others, however, may have more IP considerations.
If you run a side hustle as a freelance writer with several clients, for example, you may want to incorporate the business. In addition, there may be specific assets where you will need to file for registration. Some of these may include trademarking a unique name or logo for your side hustle or filing for copyright protection if you are creating original works of authorship, like music or a novel.
The best way to protect the IP of your side hustle is to file for registration early on. Here are a few areas where your side hustle might require protection.
- Incorporating or forming a limited liability company (LLC).As your side hustle starts to grow and pick up more revenue and clients or customers, it will become key to incorporate the business. Incorporating allows you to separate personal assets from professional assets. Personal belongings, like houses and cars, received limited liability protection. This helps limit your personal liability in the event of an unforeseen circumstance. Incorporating also helps establish credibility with customers and even provides tax benefits, helping you to save money on self-employment taxes.
- Trademark and/or copyright registration.You may have a unique mark associated with your gig, like a business name, logo, or design. The best way to protect it is to file for trademark registration. Doing so allows you to register the mark at the federal level. It gives you, the owner, exclusive rights to the trademark and dissuades anyone else from using it. Similarly, if your side hustle is centered around an original work of authorship, like playing original music you wrote in a band, you are the author of this work. Protecting original works requires copyright registration. Remember that these forms of registration vary slightly from one another, so check in with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to ensure you have the right documentation when filing your application.
- Business licenses.Depending on the type of side hustle you’re running, you may need to file certain business licenses. This will ensure you have the legal right to conduct business in your specific county, city, and state.
- Tax ID.This is also known as an employer identification number (EIN). An EIN allows you to open a business bank account. This is extremely helpful because it’s a good idea not to co-mingle the income from your side hustle with your personal savings or checking accounts. Additionally, if your side hustle starts to take off and requires hiring staff you may use an EIN to hire employees.
Do you need anything else to protect your IP? Check-in with your local Secretary of State to ensure you are not forgetting any other filing that can help protect your side hustle.
4. Will your side hustle help you grow?
Not every side hustle needs to transition into becoming a full-time job. You may gradually scale the hustle, or you might keep it as a side gig to do just for you.
No matter which you choose, your side hustle should act as an avenue for growth. You may find that you are able to upskill through your side hustle, learn new concepts, or refine your existing skillset.
Don’t go in with the mindset that your side hustle needs to be immediately and massively successful overnight. Pace yourself for a marathon, not a sprint. The more you view your side hustle as a space where you can learn, the more you will be able to grow, develop confidence, and build your brand reputation.