When it comes to getting out of debt and cleaning up your personal finances, you basically have two choices: Cut back on your spending, or start earning more money. You may not have control over your next raise, but you definitely have the power to pick up a side hustle to boost your income. 

But where should you start? Right here! This is the first post in our series about side hustles. Today I’ll help you pick the right gig — something you’ll actually enjoy doing so it feels more like a hobby and less like another job. In future posts, I’ll talk about how to get your side business up and running, along with the financial do’s and don’ts of earning some extra income.

Let’s get started!

Why Choose a Side Hustle?

Sometimes all you need is an extra hundred dollars a month to get ahead. That kind of cash can make a huge difference when it comes to paying down your debt. It’s also a much better way to afford big purchases, like a new car or a fun vacation. Instead of adding to your credit card debt, you can use your side gig money to save up for these events ahead of time. And just think how much more you’ll enjoy that trip knowing that it’s paid in full!

The other reason I think everyoneshould consider a side gig is for security. There’s just no way to predict life’s ups and downs. If you get sick and can’t work at your regular job, or if your boss suddenly decides to fire you, then what? Just as wise investors diversify their portfoliosto minimize losses in a weak economy, it makes sense to diversify your paycheck sources. That way if you lose one, you’ll still have an income stream — or several! — to fall back on. 

Gigs by Skill

The first question to ask yourself: What are you good at? It’s helpful to make a list of everything you know how to do — and I mean everything. Don’t talk yourself out of listing something just because you don’t think it’s special. I know a successful freelance writer who almost didn’t start her side gig because she said, “What’s special about writing? Everyone can do it.” That’s not even close to true! Sometimes we think that things we’re good at must be easy, but that is definitely not the case.

To help you get started, list things you’re good at as they relate to these categories of skills:

  • academic subjects and degrees (things you were good at in school)
  • DIY skills (crafts, homemaking skills, carpentry, etc.)
  • soft skills (public speaking, working with people, organizing, etc.)
  • past job skills (including computer skills, languages, bookkeeping, etc.)
  • athletic and outdoor skills
  • anything you’ve ever been complimented on (from cooking to kindness)

Gigs by Interest

If most of your skills are already in use for your day job, you may find that the last thing you want to do it take on a second job doing the exact same thing. No judgment — that would be exhausting, and your side gig shouldn’t put you on the fast track for burnout. 

So for your second list, just write down everything you like to do. After all, your side hustle should be enjoyable! Again, nothing is off limits, so go ahead an add reading, spending time with furry friends, picking out new hairstyles or writing songs. Anything you like is fair game.

Monetize It!

Now that you have a long list of things you like and things you’re good at, think of a way to turn each list item into a money maker. There’s almost alwaysa way! For example, artistic types can sell their wares on Etsy or at local craft fairs. Musicians can perform on weekends, even if it’s busking on a street corner. Animal lovers can start a pet sitting or dog walking business; social butterflies may truly enjoy becoming a Lyft driver or a companion for the elderly.

In general, there are two main ways to make money from your interests: Sell a product or service, or teach the skill to someone else.Challenge yourself to figure out a way to monetize everything on your list, then step back. In a day or two, look at your list again. Circle your top three to five choices that you can imagine yourself developing into a side gig. Most people find that there’s a clear winner (or three).

Now that you’ve selected a side hustle, stay tuned for the next post in this series, where we’ll look at the nuts and bolts of how to start your side business.

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