3 Rules of a Profitable Side Hustle

Let's start by stating the obvious: having a side hustle is incredibly common.

In fact, as of 2017, it's estimated that 44 million people in the US alone take on a side hustle as a way to help make ends meet. This shouldn't be too unexpected since we're living in a time in which wages are stagnant but the cost of living is skyrocketing. On top of that, with so many millennials– the largest living generation– strapped with thousands in student loan debt, making a little extra cash just to enjoy yourself is virtually a necessity.

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But, starting a side hustle can feel like more of a hassle than its worth. If it was so easy to just start making a few hundred extra dollars each month, wouldn't everybody do it?

There are thousands upon thousands of articles out there that promise you easy ways of making money or getting rich quick. As someone who has been a broke college kid and a broke college grad, I know how tempting those articles can be. However, keep in mind that if something sounds too good to be true, you're probably right. An expertly executed side hustle can help give you an income buffer, but you should never fall prey to the myriad of get rich quick schemes that are floating around out there.

Here's how you can avoid the bullshit and actually make some spare cash.

Rule 1- If an Article Promotes Affiliate Links or Products, You're Helping the Writer Instead of Yourself

One of the most common strategies I've seen in "how to make more money" articles is the use of affiliate links. If you're not familiar with affiliate marketing, it's a means of using content to promote someone else's products; as readers click on these links and make purchases, the publisher of the content gets a commission on the sale.

Please note that we're not saying that affiliate marketing is bad. In fact, we use affiliate links when we promote products in our content, but that's only when we've tested and genuinely endorse those products.

Unfortunately, there are entire websites that are devoted to using clickbait and affiliate marketing to generate revenue. Any time you're looking at an article that is promoting taking surveys, installing an app, using certain browser plugins, or buying guides/courses/webinars, be on the lookout for text on the page that gives a disclaimer that the website uses affiliate marketing. In general, websites are required to disclose this information.

Feeling financial stress can make people feel desperate, and no matter how firm of a foundation you have, feeling desperate can make you try anything. Earning $5 for signing up for an app isn't going to help ease your financial stress, and it's more than likely doing more to help ease the publisher's financial stress.

When it comes to a side hustle, it's okay to focus on yourself. Don't waste your energy helping make someone else rich. If you're looking for an easy way to make spare cash, it's going to require putting in a bit of hard work and using your strengths, not signing up for a service that's only going to help someone else.

Rule 1.1- The Same thing Goes for Pyramid Schemes

Look... you've probably seen a bunch of these from your Facebook friends. You may have even participated in one yourself. But, regardless, beware of pyramid schemes. I have some friends who have claimed that the products they're selling are legit and that they actually believe in them, but at the same time, if I see one more canned Facebook post about why I should buy someone's essential oils/ moisturizer/ energy drinks, I may scream.

My issue with these pyramid scheme "self-employment" models is that they typically don't live up to the hype that sellers are sold on, and they're very formulaic. Personally, when I'm being marketed to, I like the marketing efforts to at least be sincere.

Rule 2- Passive Income Requires Active Effort

One of the biggest misconceptions on the Internet is that it is easy to start up a passive income scheme, and you can just sit back and make bank effortlessly.

Again, this is one of those "if it was that easy, everyone would do it" situations.

Passive income is a possibility, but it's not as easy as just launching a blog or drop-shipping store and watching dollars roll in (Jesus, I wish it was).

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In order to set up a passive income revenue stream, you're going to have to put in some serious work up front. Whether you're creating a niche website for affiliate sales, writing and self-publishing e-books, launching a blog, or trying to get your foot in the door with drop-shipping, don't anticipate being able to launch your website and immediately start building revenue.

For starters, getting your name out there is going to take time. Before people find you online and begin buying whatever you're selling, you're going to have to devote a significant amount of time to link building, PPC marketing, or other forms of content distribution. That means you're going to require either (a) a lot of time to devote to reaching out to relevant sites, or (b) a lot of money to buy add space. If you're hoping that your passive income machine takes off organically, again you're looking at a ton of time to create the content needed to drive organic traffic or even more money to pay freelancers to create that content. And let's be real... if you have the money to pay other freelancers, you probably don't need to be creating a passive income stream.

All of that being said, passive income can still be a good goal as long as you have a long-term focused outlook, and aren't hoping for a get-rich-quick scheme. Creating a blog or website or ebook that is genuinely helpful for others and consistently provides value can eventually lead to creating some income. Just be realistic with the fact that you're going to need 1-2 years of consistently creating and promoting content before you're going to be generating meaningful passive income.

Rule 3- Treat Yourself Like a Business

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When you're starting out with a side hustle, take yourself seriously.

It's harder than you may expect. A lot of people treat their side hustles like a fun way to fill time, and don't see themselves as a legitimate business person.

If you're wanting to use your weekend hours to put in some work and make additional money, you need to view yourself as a business. Regardless of what you decide to do for a side hustle, you're offering a product or service that people are paying for. That's the same thing businesses do. A la the transitive property, you are a business.

The reason this is so important is pretty simple: serious results require serious efforts.

When you treat your side hustle as just something you do for fun, it doesn't become a priority. It's easy to put it off and slack on it, and you end up spinning your wheels and going nowhere. Plus, if you don't take yourself seriously, nobody else will. Getting clients and building streams of additional revenue will require being taken seriously by others, which is why you don't want to sell yourself short.

Side Hustles Can Work

As you look into starting a side hustle, be sure to keep these three rules in mind. 

There's a lot of BS out there that can get in your way, but with concerted effort and careful consideration, having a side hustle can create new streams of income, build your personal platform, and give you a chance to profit from your hobbies.