Nick Loper, 38, turned his side hustle into a business that nets a six-figure income. Even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, he says you can launch a six-figure side hustle too.
Loper started his career selling auto parts. But he quit his day job when his first side hustle — selling shoes online — became profitable enough to pay his bills. Now, the founder of Side Hustle Nation talks to other entrepreneurs about how they turned a side hustle into a success. After eight years and hundreds of interviews, Loper has plenty of advice to share.
Formula for a six-figure side hustle
There’s a simple key to launching a six-figure side hustle, he says. It’s all about paying attention to “pain points.”
“If you had a problem that you’ve overcome, the solution may be the basis for a business,” he says.
A perfect example: One woman that Loper recently interviewed started a pooper-scooper business. Why? Everybody hates picking up after their animals. As distance learning leaves more parents time-constrained, this entrepreneur figured that more people would be willing to pay to get out of that long-detested chore. She now earns $1,000 a week picking up after other people’s pets.
“It’s not sexy. It’s not glamorous,” Loper says. “But that’s the sort of model that I’m really bullish on right now.”
Pandemic success stories
The ongoing pandemic, while devastating to some industries, also provides a wealth of opportunities.
“If you were in travel or entertainment, you were nuked overnight,” Loper says. “But if you were in e-commerce or delivery or some of these local services, you are probably thriving.”
Online tutoring and teaching platforms have gone gangbusters and are still hiring thousands of workers largely as a result of Covid forcing schools to close, for example. And, the boom in online learning isn’t limited to academic subjects. Some online music schools are getting a rush of customers, too.
Meanwhile, people who can help local businesses build an online presence are also doing brisk business.
Choosing a path
When figuring out the right side hustle for you, its wise to consider your personal situation. Do you have the time and personality to market your new venture, or would you rather use an online platform that does the marketing for you? If you want to use an online platform and know what type of work you want to do, you can simply search by industry on SideHusl.com.
But you can potentially make more money — and find a side hustle that’s uniquely suited to your skills — by striking out on your own. That’s the market that Loper helps instruct with his podcast. His show highlights how different entrepreneurs decided on their businesses and the keys to making those businesses successful.
For those who are uncertain what to do, Loper has a six-step process.
Make a graph
Start with a three-column graph. Label the columns “skills,” “interests,” and “contacts,” he suggests.
Are you able to design and build a website, edit books, translate, or cook? Can you design the perfect workout, train untrainable dogs, or assemble complicated machinery or furniture? Whatever you do better than anyone else should go in the first column.
But, because you’re doing this in your precious free time, you should also enjoy it. So, jot down your interests, hobbies and passions in column two. Love baseball? Collect stamps (or coins or dolls)? Do you spend your free time tinkering in the stock market or reading about the history of European monarchs? Put your favorite pastimes on the list.
Now look at how columns one and two might intersect. For instance, if you think you could edit a book, perhaps it ought to be a book about one of your passions in column two. The more you’re able to connect skills with passions, the more likely you are to have a viable side hustle, Loper says.
Find the pain points
Now consider what problems people have in your area of expertise that you could help solve. Since everyone is currently pressed for time, good cooks might make food for delivery or pick-up, for instance. Dog groomers might offer to pick up your pet and bring it home clean.
Given that gyms are restricted, work-out gurus might find a way to provide services outdoors. Construction experts may provide one-on-one help via Zoom.
With everyone trying to work and learn online, tech support is also pivotal. If you’re tech-savvy, you may be able to build a booming business with technology troubleshooting.
Finding the right business is a matter matching your skills and interests with a problem that needs solving in the real world.
You might be tempted to make your side hustle as general as possible — say, calling yourself an “editor” rather than an editor of personal finance books — to broaden your potential client base. But that’s a mistake, says Loper. You should be zeroed in on not only what you can do, but what you can do better than anyone else. Your niche should unite your skills and passions.
“If anyone can do it, anyone will do it and that will drive down the price,” he says. “It’s the same thing with Uber. Driving is not a unique skill, so they cut the rates continually. But I had a guy on my show who teaches people to play piano in 21 days. That’s unique. If you can be the go-to person in a specific market, you can command higher rates.”
Work your contacts
Once you’ve determined what problems you’d be uniquely good at solving for others, start mining your contacts. Look for friends, relatives and professional groups that would either buy your service or could introduce you to someone else who would.
“You don’t need business cards or a website to start a business, you need a client,” Loper says. “You might get those other things eventually, but focus on finding one person who will pay you to solve a problem for them.”
Loper, for example, was always a good English student, so he thought he might be able to edit books. But he wasn’t interested in vampire novels. He was interested in business and personal finance. So he turned to members of a group he had joined that self-published business books to market his services.
“It’s amazing how quickly the word of mouth starts to spread in these communities,” he says.
Block the time
When you’ve got a full time job and a family, finding enough time to launch a side business is a legitimate challenge. But even if you can’t block out a big stretch of time, you need to block out some time every single day to push your business forward, Loper says.
“Chip away at it – half an hour a day; an hour a day,” Loper says. “Figure out a time — maybe before you go to work or before you go to bed — to devote to nothing but your side hustle.”
Even a few minutes a day can make a difference, he says. Waiting until you have a big block of time to start is just an excuse to procrastinate and procrastinating accomplishes nothing.
After you’ve been at it for six months or a year, you should look at the hours you are spending; the progress you are making; and whether your effort is worth the time.
“When you are not seeing the results you want – or if you come to dread the work – it’s time to move on,” he says.