Dream of being your own boss while keeping the security of your day job? Does starting a side gig also represent a lifelong career-changing opportunity — aka “a calling”? Or, are bills, bills, bills why you’re ready to start hustling?
More Americans are hustling, and if you’re amongst those looking to do the same, you’re probably wondering where and how do you actually begin.
Here are the exact tools you need to start a successful side gig. So, whether you’re a mom, have a full-time job or are seeking a home-based side gig, we’ve got your back.
Side Hustle 101: Laying the Foundation
While it may have started as a hobby or personal interest, launching a side hustle is starting a business. You’re going to dedicate your time, money and expertise to develop something, and we’re sure you don’t want all that effort to go down the drain. Just like businesses, there are certain things all successful side hustlers need to account for.
Here’s our quick lowdown on things all side hustlers need to do.
Pick a Business Structure and Decide If You Wish to Incorporate
Initially, running your side hustle as a sole proprietorship might make the most sense. However, as you get into the thick of running a business, opting for a formal business structure might be the better option. Why? Incorporating your side gig is one way to make your business official and protect it. For side gigs, forming an LLC is typically the easiest and simplest way to protect your personal assets.
Select a Business Name
Once an idea and structure is in place, secure and register a name for your side gig. A catchy, web-friendly business name will enhance brand visibility. Incfile’s Business Name Generator can help you brainstorm ideas.
Secure Finances, Understand Taxes and Bookkeeping
Statistics show that side hustle earnings have been on the rise, but don't forget that you may have to spend money to make money.
You may have to purchase transportation, electronics, monthly subscriptions and supplies for your side gig. You need to be clear if you have dedicated funding to get started and what you'll do to get money if you don't have it. Alongside traditional financing methods like bank loans or personal savings, these unconventional funding avenues can also give your business some solid capital grounds and a path to success.
Once the money is secured, turn your attention to managing those finances. A best practice to adopt is to open a business bank account that will make it easier to track expenses, file taxes (both state and federal) and, ultimately, give an accurate picture of your hustle’s financial health.
Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
The last thing you want is to start a side hustle and get it shut down because you didn’t have the right licenses to legally operate. Specific licenses and permits vary as per locality and state.
A few common licenses and permits to pay attention to are highlighted below.
General Business License
Health & Safety Permits
Gives you authority to engage in specific business activities
Applicable to home businesses
Applies to online businesses, even if you’re flipping items for sale
Commonly known as business permit or sales permit
Varies by locality
Applicable if your side gig involves food preparation, beverages, storage of inflammables or frequent home visits
Check with your local health department for specifications
Applicable to side gigs like pet sitting, senior citizen care, hairstyling or tax/finance advisor
Varies by state
Visit your Secretary of State website to find out which businesses require professional licensing
In some cases, federal licenses might also be required
The above list is not all-inclusive. Depending on your circumstances, there might be other things you need to iron out. We dig deeper into these special cases below.
Side Hustling When You Have a Full-Time Job
Starting a side hustle while having a full-time job might seem like an impossible goal, but it’s doable. However, there’re a few extra steps you ought to consider when you already have a 9-5 career.
1. Review Employer Expectations and Employment Contracts/Handbooks
Every employer has a different attitude and approach to a side hustle. While some might be open to you doing a little something on the side, others not so much. One of the first things you should do is review your employment contract and employee handbook to see what is permitted or not.
Keep a lookout for these crucial clauses:
Noncompete Clauses: This type of clause prevents employees from providing the exact same skill as the employer. For example, if you work for an enterprise resource management software company, there might be a noncompete clause that can stop you from providing/selling the same software as it will come in direct competition.
Conflict of Interest: This occurs when an employee’s interests clash with their duties or responsibilities to the employer. A side hustle could result in a conflict of interest if you regularly come in tired because you’re moonlighting or you accept an offer to do extra design work for an established client as a gig.
Intellectual Property: An intellectual property clause gives an employer exclusive ownership over everything invented or produced by its employees during work hours. If you've worked on something during company hours, be sure not to use that resource during your side gig.
These clauses are put in place by employers to protect intellectual property, maintain strict client-vendor relationships and establish employer-employee protocol.
Engaging in a side hustle that flouts these clauses can not only lead to you getting fired but can also subject you to lawsuits and an overall bad reputation (all of which you don’t want if you’re serious about your side gig). A lawyer or business startup professional can help you understand the legalities of your employment contract and how they might impact your goal of starting a side hustle.
Our Star Tip: If you’re serious about starting a side hustle and have narrowed down on a business idea, we encourage you to tell your employer about it. It creates transparency and trust, which is always better than them finding out about it through the grapevine.
2. Establish a Routine and Create Boundaries
Starting a successful side hustle while you have a full-time job comes down to building ever-lasting habits that’ll help you establish a routine and create boundaries without leading to burnout.
A few ways to do this include:
Use a time app like MyHours or Timely to split time between work and side hustle.
Install a focus app that will mute all phone distractions so you can maximize your hours and productivity. The top focus apps are Freedom and RescueTime.
Identify tasks you can automate using free tools (emails, invoicing, bookkeeping).
Starting a side hustle over your full-time job will also impact income and how you’ll be taxed (in some instances, it might even reduce your taxes). But yes, you do have to pay taxes on your side hustle that earns you $600 or more during the year. And even if you earn less than that, you still have to report that income to the IRS.
Your state, type of business and business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC) will determine what additional taxes will apply. Depending on your side hustle earnings, you might even have to pay quarterly taxes. A CPA or tax consultant can guide you on side hustle taxes.
Side Hustling as a Mom
To say that starting a side hustle as a work-from-home or stay-at-home mom is easy is an understatement. But moms do have a knack for getting things done, don’t they? If you, as a mom, are contemplating a side hustle, here’s a list of things you need to consider before you dive in.
1. Vision for Side Hustle and Life
As a mom, the to-do list is endless, so it’s best to have a clear idea of your vision for the side hustle and life. The clearer this vision is, the easier it will be for you to make a decision on whether a side hustle is your cup of tea and then pinpointing one that will meet your needs. Ask yourself the following when it comes to ironing out your vision:
What does your ideal life look like in the next 2/3/5 years?
How many hours a week will you be working?
How many hours will be dedicated to family time?
Is starting a side hustle a way to unleash your creative side? Or is it for extra cash?
What are your non-negotiables? Being there for kids' meals or bedtime?
Before selecting a side hustle, look at your calendar and have an honest conversation about how much time you can set aside to start your business. One way to get an accurate understanding of the time required is to reach out and network with working mom groups and local SCORE business groups to learn the ins and outs of running a side gig before committing to one.
3. Skill Set
Not all side hustles require learning a new skill set. If you’re good at creating activities for your kids, you can easily turn them into a side gig by selling the activity bundles via Etsy or Instagram. If teaching is your calling, you can sign up to tutor or teach English for a few hours. If you need help identifying a side hustle that can leverage your current competency, here are 11 popular side hustles that can earn you more than $1,000/month.
Starting a Side Hustle from Home
With you spending more time at home, you might say, “Hey, why not start a home business?” According to the SBA, 50 percent of American businesses are home-based businesses. So whatever your reason may be, the proximity to kids or no commute, starting a home-based business is more common than you’d expect. However, it’s not all straightforward simply because you’re operating out of your house.
1. Who's Running the Business?
Who’s going to run the show? You alone? Or are you leaning towards starting a business with your teen or spouse? Deciding whom you’ll run your business with will impact its structure, incorporation, responsibilities, income and overall longevity plans too. If starting a business with a spouse, family member, or child is the path you opt for, we recommend you draft an operating agreement to ensure there are no “what-ifs” and also safeguard the business’s future.
2. Zoning Permits
In addition to general business licenses and health permits, as a person starting a home-based side gig, you need to specifically look into zoning laws. Yes, your local zoning laws can play a deciding factor in whether you can start your side gig from your garage or dining table. Neighborhoods or homeowner associations can prohibit home-based businesses or restrict how much percentage of your home can be dedicated to a business. Consult your local small business development center or homeowners association to get more details.
3. Is Your Home Suitable for Your Side Gig?
The obvious advantage of starting a side gig from home is that it’s “from home.” But, if not planned properly, it’s super easy for your business to spill over to your home life or work-from-home commitments. For your home-based side gig, ask yourself the following questions.
Is there a designated workroom for your side gig? Working off the dining table might not be the way to go in the long run.
If your business involves storage of materials, products and inventory, where will you safely store them? Does the space meet health and safety requirements?
Where will you take client meetings?
Do you have all the equipment (computer, broadband, headphones) required for your side gig? Remember, you shouldn’t use your office equipment or supplies for your home-based side gig.
How are you going to split time between personal life and the side gig?
How to Start a Side Hustle in College
Today, college is more than just classes, chilling and sports. It's also about dabbling in entrepreneurship. More than one-third of college-goers have a side gig. A recent study from Student.com revealed that today’s college students are capitalizing on the power of the Internet and earning money in a variety of ways.A side gig not only brings in extra cash but wearing the boss hat while you’re in school is exciting! Wondering, “Can I do this?” Absolutely! Here’s what you need to get started.
1. Business Idea That Matches Your Skills and Time
While starting a side gig in college, one of the first considerations to make is around the amount of time you have and what existing skills can you leverage. Not all ideas have to be unique — you don’t have to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. There are plenty of quick and affordable millennial side gigs that can rake in up to $1,000/month without eating up too much of your time.
2. Legality — Can You Start a Teen Side Gig?
Did you know some industries and states set a minimum age requirement for teens to start a business? Yes, this applies even if you want to start an online side gig, like selling on eBay. The requirements and restrictions vary by state, so it’s best you check with your Secretary of State for specifics.
Also, don’t panic if you reside in a state that doesn’t allow minors (under 18) to start a legal business. With the help of family members, a lawyer or a business startup professional, you can safely and officially run a profitable side gig.
Use Your Spare Time for Extra Cash: Get Side Hustling Today
You might have a great idea for your side hustle, but knowing where and how to start can be a challenge. Launching a side hustle involves some impeccable planning and tough decisions. What structure will you choose? How much time do you have to dedicate? Are you equipped with the right resources? Does your employer allow side gigs? It can be overwhelming. But, it’s possible to start a side hustle and turn it into a thriving business.
Incfile’s Side Hustle Checklist offers an in-depth overview of all steps you need to start a side hustle. Partnering with Incfile can make your side hustle dream a reality. We’ve helped over half a million entrepreneurs start their businesses and achieve their entrepreneurship goals; we’re ready to offer the same guidance and support to you.
Swara Ahluwalia is a freelance content writer with experience in the technical, B2B and SaaS domain. She also has curated content for various lifestyle brands. In her downtime, you will most likely find Swara training for her next marathon or spending time with her two daughters.