Buying new toys is a distraction.
I’ve met entrepreneurs and content creators who spend a year tinkering with the layout of their websites. It’s stupid. You don’t even need a website to start. A website is a distraction. A website is procrastination.
What works is to start your side hustle for free. Run your side hustle on zero dollars even if you don’t have to. Here’s how and why.
Use social media like this for $0
Many people forget social media is free. Yes, the conspiracy theories say “if the app is free then you are the product.” Blah Blah Blah. Who knows where our data goes. We’re all the product of something or someone.
The goal is to use social media like a genius. Social media is simply a place you can go for free to find an audience. There are loads of platforms to use. I use Substack, Twitter, Quora, Bitclout, and LinkedIn all for free.
But many people go wrong here. They say “yeah but it’s not working for me. It takes forever, or I’ve tried and still have less than 100 followers.”
Social media you use for free only works if you get good at producing high-quality content.
You don’t need to be Picasso. You simply need to get good at knowing what problems people have and then trying to solve them through content. It’s about getting your head out of your ass, not being so damn selfish, and focusing on other people.
Low-quality content reaches no one, hence the need for a lot of side hustlers to buy ads and build their side hustle empire. High-quality content is infectious and allows you to build an audience for free.
Takeaway: Learn about people’s problems. Deliver solutions to those problems with selfless content.
Use email like this for $0
Okay, so you’ve taken the first step. You’ve chosen 2–3 social media platforms to publish content on for free. The audience is starting to grow. Now you’ve got to own your audience for free.
You own your audience when you have every followers’ email address. Read that again.
The easiest way to collect emails is with software designed to do that. I recommend ConvertKit (and no I have zero affiliation with them and nothing to gain). Their sh*t just works. For up to 1000 email subscribers it cost you nothing. Now, I already know what you’re thinking: “But that’s bugger all subscribers so it’s not really free.”
Here’s the thing: the internet has screwed up our brains. Influencers have made us think we need some giant audience to start a side hustle and make some money. Wrong.
If you manage to get collect 1000 email addresses then you’re well on your way — it’s data-backed validation. You can be really ruthless if you like and aggressively cull anyone off the email list, who doesn’t meet your side hustle goals, to get below the paid threshold.
Or you can use Substack for free forever as long as you don’t want to sell a paid newsletter through their platform. The downside is Substack has no automation. If you intend to sell digital products then zero automation will ruin your side hustle life.
My approach was different. I was happy to pay for email software after the first 1000 subscribers. Why? Because I earned enough money from my side hustle by that point to pay for it. An email software subscription fee is motivation to get serious and turn what you love doing into an income.
Learn from the Michelin man made of tires:
Love that the Michelin Tire Man’s side hustle is reviewing restaurants — John Paul Brammer
Use Google Meet to network like this for $0
If you side hustle in isolation it’s a lonely existence. The loneliness will attack your motivation and you’ll eventually give up.
“A network equals your net-worth” as the cliche corporate quote goes. I wouldn’t go that far, pal. But a network is crucial. Joining a few select communities of side hustlers just like me is the best thing I ever did.
I told them my problems. They told me theirs. The similarity is creepy. Every day we share tips and tricks with each other. A positive community of people who have a similar side hustle feels like you have employees — because they go off, look for solutions, and report back. You do the same for them.
The trick is to cement relationships. Direct messages and email isn’t intimate. In this crazy work-from-home world, Google Meet (free unlike Zoom) is as personal and intimate as it gets. Jump on video calls with select people from the communities you meet.
Start with this opening line: “What are you working on?” Let them talk. Be genuinely interested. Come to the call with a few ideas they might find helpful. Shut up about your side hustle until later in the call. Or dare to leave your side hustle out of the conversation and build a deeper relationship.
You need a network to figure out what to do with your side hustle next. You end up making less mistakes because the pretend-solutions you think will work have been tested by crash test dummies in your network.
Less guessing. More data-backed solutions.
Putting in the work costs $0
This one makes grown adults cry to their mommies. They hate when I say it. Nobody wants to hear it. It’s cliche AF.
The best thing you can do to build a side hustle is put in the effort by investing your time, which costs you $0. Work on your side hustle after hours. Use lunch breaks to brainstorm ideas. Use the miracle of work-from-home to cheat on your boss a little more and make progress with your side hustle.
Stick at it for more than a year. Dare to contemplate doing it for 5 years.
Let the effort from your time help launch your side hustle project that can change how you live. No side hustle is easy.
It’s how you learn. It’s how you grow. It’s how you take action that leads to the solutions you won’t find in a “5 Ways to Get Rich and Be Happy” blog post stuffed with keywords for SEO, written by some content mill in an underground sweatshop full of writers.
My side hustle cost $0 to setup. I resisted the urge to level up with money. I let the work I did for free be painful, to create the environment needed, to become disciplined enough to stick at it. Steal my side hustle strategy and use it for free.
Persistence and effort cost $0, yet many people refuse to do them. Do both and you’ll differentiate yourself enough to buy back your time because of your side hustle.