4 Rules for Monetizing Your Side Hustle

Eager to transition your little passion project into your "real" job? Follow these tips from women who made the leap.

By Cheryl Lock
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#1: Ask yourself if the world really needs this

Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be able to make money off it. In order to turn your interests into a job that pays real cash, you should consider what value it adds to the world. For example, when Amanda Magnanelli and her husband were planning their wedding, they wanted a photo booth that fit in seamlessly with their décor, but they quickly realized that all of the ones on the market were, well, pretty ugly. “We saw it as an opportunity to create our own,” she says. After confirming with other brides that there was a gap in the market, the couple decided to launch Memorable Moments, a photo booth rental service with really cute vintage-style equipment. Their startup costs were around $8,000 (they booked less pricey vendors for their own wedding to help finance their fledgling business), but nine months after the launch of Memorable Moments, they broke even.

#2: Prepare to bust your ass in the beginning

In order to create a successful business from your passion or hobby, treat it like what it really is: a start-up. This means putting in the hard work, long hours and, sometimes, actual dollars (more on that later) to get it up and running. When Saranya Ramanathan decided to monetize her blog, One Fine Wallet, she knew the time investment would be the biggest roadblock to getting it up and running. “The first two months of blogging were hard work,” she says. “I spent over 30 to 40 hours a week just making tweaks to the design of my blog, in addition to updating the content.” It paid off, though — because of her ruthless attention to detail, Ramanathan says she now works no more than 20 hours a week and makes more than $5,000 a month, the majority of which comes from selling affiliate products within her posts, and from advertising.

#3: Keep your day job...at first anyway

Few passions lead to lucrative career opportunities overnight, which means it’s important to stay realistic about cash flow while building up your business. When Laurice Wardini was building up her online subscription box review site, subscriptionly.net, she worked two additional jobs at the same time — as a barista in order to pay her bills, and as a freelance writer to put extra cash into building her website. Wardini ended up working about 20 hours a week freelancing, which she says was both mentally and physically exhausting, but it helped her save approximately $3,000 over a six-month period. “That money enabled me to finally initiate things and focus on setting up my business,” she says.

#4: Create a plan to fund your business

A common theme among many entrepreneurs is using their own funds to help start their businesses, but it’s important to be smart about how much you invest. While Magnanelli was able to use money she and her now-husband were saving for their wedding to launch their business, Wardini was able to fund her business solely from savings from her freelance work, which was a smart way to ensure she stayed out of debt. She ended up spending about $2,000 for her initial setup, which included hiring freelance web developers, designers and advisors. “When the initial setup was over, I still had to freelance to keep pushing my idea, and it took a year and a half to get it on solid ground,” she said. “After that period, I was able to quit my full-time job, but I kept my freelance job as a security blanket.”

Sometimes it’s accumulating actual inventory that causes a financial hiccup, and if you plan to buy on credit, it’s important to be cautious and have a repayment plan. Sarah Huff, who is now a community manager with BabyQuip, a baby-gear rental service, started as a seller for the company. To start her baby gear rental business, Huff knew she needed inventory — so she began buying. “I invested in gear as orders came in, growing my inventory with my business,” Huff said. “I used a credit card, which I paid off with order revenue.” Huff estimates her initial investment was around $2,500. “It was stressful at first, not knowing what I would end up doing with this business, plus having all that baby gear sitting in my living room,” she said. It took her about a year to pay off her initial investment, while still putting some of her revenue back into the business to purchase new gear and continue her marketing efforts. But by the time Huff started working for BabyQuip corporate in 2018, she was making $25,000 from her rental business — not a bad profit from an initial $2,500 investment.

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