BY: JESSICA BURDE
The brainchild of Nick Loper, Side Hustle Nation, is an online community for people who are ‘hustling’ to build side businesses while still grinding away at their suit-and-tie day jobs.
Nick got his first corporate job in 2005, which took him from Seattle to D.C., where he found himself with more free time than he knew what to do with. Not knowing anyone outside of the office, he spent a lot of nights and weekends at home watching TV. One day while collapsing into the couch cushion, he asked himself, “What can I do that’s more productive?”
His answer was to start a side hustle.
Nick’s first side hustle was a website offering comparison-shopping for footwear, allowing those in search of a deal to browse a wider range of options than more general comparison-shopping sites. The site made significant money from advertising and affiliate marketing and ran for nearly 10 years before Nick shut it down to focus on a new project: Side Hustle Nation.
With the job market struggling like a fish out of water and job security becoming modern mythology, being self-employed can seem like a great way to avoid the nightmare of the rat race. For others, starting a business is a way to spend more time with loved ones, set their own hours, and spend more time in the backyard than the boardroom.
However, the truth is, many people are stopped by the intimidating hurdles of business building: Getting a loan, venture capital, branding, incorporating, advertising…. The list is overwhelming. But for Nick and those who think like him, those barriers are but an illusion. If you are willing to build slowly and hustle on the side of your day job, you can do a lot with a little.
Nick says Side Hustle Nation is a way to “build a resource or community for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs. Promoting a low-risk version of entrepreneurship. A way to build something sustainable on the side.”
A successful side hustle can easily supplement or replace a full-time job, but creating a successful side hustle isn’t easy. In fact, it is very much a matter of trial and error and trying the wrong side hustle can leave you with less money than you started with.
Nick says, “You’ve got to care about what you are working on [and] about why you are doing it.”
Before starting, you need to figure out why you are investing your time. Is the sacrifice worth it to you? What are you hoping to get out of your side hustle? What form of side hustle suits your skills?
Passive income is the Holy Grail of side hustles—illusive but treasured.
Passive income is wonderful in theory. You create something—a blog, an e-book, an online course—post it online and lean back on your ergonomic rolling chair and watch the money roll in. However, even if passive income is successful, it can easily take months before a sliver of profit is seen. This endeavour also usually requires initial investment. For instance, to create an online course that captures the attention of Internet students, you need quality audio/video equipment and video-editing software.
Blogging is a very popular passive income model, but, as Nick puts it, “The blog is a really poor business model. You’ve got to have millions of visitors before you see significant return from ads or affiliate.”
In contrast to passive income is active income. Active income is getting paid in proportion to your work. A freelance writer is paid for each article they write in the same way a childcare provider is paid for each head in their backyard. Active income side hustles usually start bringing in money immediately or, at most, within a month or two. However, the income growth is both linear and limited. Freelance writers are paid immediately for the articles they write—but they can only write so many articles a day before their fingers fall off. Their income is capped by their time.
There are ways around this. When your active-income side hustle is bringing in more work than you have time for, you can raise your rates, create passive income streams alongside your active work, or branch out into other, related fields that pay more.
Side Hustle Nation itself is Nick’s latest side hustle. He started the Nation after some soul searching last year about what he really cared about.
“The idea of helping people build a bit of financial freedom, that’s really exciting for me. It’s bean really fun, really rewarding.”
Despite Nick’s comment of warning, Side Hustle Nation is a blog-based business.
Nick has mixed active and passive income on the blog by offering mentoring services to people who are new to the game. His business model has given him a chance to experiment with self-publishing, Udemy online courses, Fiverr, and other income avenues that can spark ideas for hustlers in the building process.
Nick has two main pieces of advice for people considering a side hustle.
First, be passionate and know your intentions.
Second, approach your side hustle like a researcher. Failure is a major part of entrepreneurship, so look at each new side hustle as an experiment.
Success or failure is not the same as life or death. Nick says looking at it as an experiment “lessens the sting of ‘failure.’ I’ve had dozens of projects that never took off, never went anywhere. It still sucks, but it makes it easier.”
The question is: are you ready to hustle?