The “Official Launch”
For the past few months, I’ve been planning and starting small online products/services. Things like email lists, simple services, and blogs (so far). As time goes on, the companies become more complex. It’s all on ship21in21.com.
So why would you care?
I’m now going to break down my process for starting small side-hustles while working full-time.
Anyone can do this. The costs in my case are less than $200 per project (that’s the cost per year). The time involved is minor (I work full-time after all). I hope it helps you consider making the jump.
Let’s get into it.
Why Start a Side-Hustle?
In my last letter a few months ago, we talked about what’s going on with the economy. In order to maintain the same lifestyle, we’d have to earn more than most companies are willing to give. Salaries aren’t going up that fast, unfortunately.
There are other benefits. Side-hustling is a big industry and I’m sure you know that. We can diversify income and stay safe in case another pandemic comes and we lose our jobs. Depending on the side-hustle, we can also create assets.
Side-hustling is “worth” more than a salary when you consider the freedom it affords you. Businesses can also be sold, and there are marketplaces around that help with these transactions.
Most of all, side-hustles help us develop higher agency: greater control over our lives, our choices. It comes down to more freedom. In my case since I’m doing this while working full time, I have less stress.
So where do we start?
Some might think it’s deciding on what to sell. That’s not actually the first step. The first step is deciding on who we’re going to sell.
That’s our audience, and where we’ll begin.
Audience-First Idea Generation:
When we start with “what” to sell instead of “who” to sell, we end up struggling to find customers anyway. By focusing on the audience first, we’re better set up for success. If we know what people want, we can make it.
Here are a few example audiences:
“My former self”
- The version of me from just 5 years ago was a completely different person.
- New to b2b, trying to build a career, and so focused on “making it.”
- I got lucky that I caught on to office dynamics, and learned how to learn quickly.
- It worked out for me (for a reason), and sharing that would be valuable for many I’m sure.
That’s it. No need to complicate it. Young, hungry, twenty-somethings that are new to b2b and may not understand office dynamics nor how to learn.
So what might I sell them?
- Templates of emails, phone scripts, and proposals I used that made me successful.
- Describing the differences between closing a small business vs an enterprise like Lululemon (which I did a deal with).
- A small service reviewing their calls/proposals and giving them tips.
- Courses — short and to the point — that describe the nuance of how I negotiated good deals, won against competitors, how improved over time.
There are opportunities all over the place.
My former self would have easily paid money for a fast-track from someone who’s done it. Perhaps your former self wouldn’t, and that’s okay. Let’s look at a few other audiences.
“My current employer”
I work at Periphery Digital, an awesome agency that does bilingual marketing (English + Chinese). We sell to developers who are pre-selling hundreds of homes at a time.
Most of us have an employer, that’s why using them as the baseline for an audience.
So what describes my employer/bosses?
- Young business owners focused on increasing sales, hiring awesome people, and building a great business.
- Managing team dynamics, balancing business decisions with people-first decisions, and working towards an awesome culture.
- Focused on personal productivity, getting more out of their time, and creating leverage (so one hour of work produces compounding benefits).
- Making the next step in their careers, which (believe it or not), means going through much of what we went through to get the job in the first place like networking, and building a “personal brand” to stand out in the market.
My bosses are the owners of the business and yours may not be. That’s okay. They hired us for a reason regardless.
Hiring is a tough, expensive process and managers are always looking for a way to stand out among candidates.
They want to know how to find amazing candidates, hire them quickly, and (ideally) get good value for their money.
Teaching them how to do any of those things is one angle. So what might we sell them?
- Access to a newsletter (with a paid-post-only option) that explores what makes a great employee in your field. You can conduct interviews, post relevant research, or share your own story. You make money when they pay extra for the higher-value posts (which is an absolutely booming industry by the way).
- A service reviewing job postings for a small fee offering insight into what makes a job more or less attractive. Nobody wants to apply for a job when the posting is a wall of text and you can show them how to re-write postings into something great candidates desire.
- Creating a job board where candidates in your field (assuming you have at least a small network of people who do what you do), can apply. You’d then charge a small fee for the posting on your board share with your audience (such as people like your former self). Ideally, you’d send candidates like yourself to the companies posting jobs.
It’s a bit of work upfront, but it’s easily worth it. Once it’s built, the hard parts are over and you keep most of the money that comes in.
Side-hustles around your hobbies
This one is very common, but not for everyone.
Some people don’t like turning their hobby into a money-making thing because it sucks the fun out of it. For others, it’s more like “why not” (I’m one of these people).
Those who monetize a hobby create a store or something and then end up struggling to find buyers. We don’t want to be in that situation.
Let’s get into building an audience first that matches the buyers in the context of your hobby.
- To find buyers, you’ll have to find communities of people.
- Sneaker-heads join discord groups.
- Artists create Instagram accounts first and build the audience there before their launch.
- Gamers stream online and promote through Twitter or OnlyFans.
Whatever the hobby, keep distribution in mind and start there. I bring this up because most people go straight into selling before there’s anybody there to see what they’re doing.
The risk is you come off very “salesy” before you’ve built trust with potential buyers. That’s why it takes longer. The trade-off is you like the hobby, and you’ll be active because you’re doing more of what you love anyway.
It’s a great opportunity, and I want to see you thrive instead of struggle from a lack of distribution.
Ideas → Execution:
Now we need to get into creating the actual thing people buy.
So what are the building blocks to our ideas, and how do we make offers?
Let’s get into it.
The Building Blocks:
These are what I focus on first:
- Website. I use super.so. There are many website builders out there, but I like Super because it’s fast, easy, and built on Notion (which I use for everything). $12/month
- Email list. These are key. I use buttondown.email for mine because again, it’s simple, fast, and easy to use. Free for the first 1000 subscribers. I use it for these letters.
- Payments. I use Stripe for collecting payments. Setup took me about 30min and the funds go straight into my bank account. The first payment takes a week or two, and after that, I get deposits every few days. $.29 + 2.9%
- Forms. Often forgotten but very important. Collecting data is key, and helps later when you want to track who bought what. I regret not setting up proper data collection sooner. I use tally.so because it’s fast and their forms look great. Also, it integrates with Notion or Google Sheets to save time. Free.
- Robots. This is what I call simple automation that glues things together. I’ll cover automation in detail in a future letter. I like using Zapier because it’s so good. It can get expensive though. Integromat is a good alternative that’s much less expensive. $9 for 1000 automated actions (more than enough).
- Miscellany. You’ll have to purchase a domain and I recommend upgrading a g-suite account for a professional email. This is usually $20 for the domain and $8 a month for the email account. You can go without the email for a while if money is tight.
I set up the average project in a few hours including writing all the website copy with these building blocks. You can see more on the partner pages on ship21in21.com.
This post is a short version of the letters I send my subscribers on a regular basis. The next email covers this and details of how I craft offers and sell things. If you’re interested in hearing about project launches and the sales & marketing motion, you should subscribe.
Thanks for reading!