“I really want to work for myself online, I just don’t know what I could do as a side business?”
“My boss is an asshole, I hate being tied to my cubicle and tiptoeing around so I don’t offend the HR department and get fired… but what else could I do?”
“I’ve been trying to get this biz off the ground for months, but it’s not going anywhere yet. I wish I could just make some easy money to tide me over until things are ticking along…”
The easy and obvious answer is to create a freelance business. You can start today, and it costs nothing to get going.
But what if you don’t know what to do?
What if you think you don’t have the skills?
Let me give you 5 examples of people I know personally who have all transitioned into a profitable freelance side businesses.
The Blue Collar Job
I have a mate from my home town who works in traffic management. They’re the people who close roads off, set up diversions, put cones around road works, etc.
A very location dependent, real world job you would think?
Apparently not. He excelled in doing the diagrams for road closures and diversions. Keeping traffic flowing smoothly in a big city while closing a main road is a lot more complicated than you might imagine if you’ve never thought about it right?
He left his job at a local firm and now sells his diagrams remotely to a few of the big traffic management firms.
He took something that is generally very offline and location dependent, found one part of it in which he is great, and created an online, location independent freelance business.
The best bit? He works half the hours and makes more money now.
Could you take your job, or a specific part of your job, and do exactly what you’re already doing, but online? Do you already have a lot of industry knowledge and contacts that you can leverage to find work?
Industry + Hobby = Success
I have another friend who used to be a Personal Trainer like me. He wanted to move to Thailand where his wife is from and settle down to a simple life in the sunshine.
He was interested in computers, marketing, and web design. What did he do?
He developed the skills he needed, by doing it for his own business, to build great websites and succeed with SEO marketing.
Then he took his intimate knowledge of the fitness industry. Knowing what works to sell Personal Training, and exactly what it is like being a Personal Trainer – their fears, desires, competencies, thinking patterns, etc.
He created a niche web design and SEO company specifically for the fitness industry, and is very successful doing it. He builds the best websites, totally gets what Personal Trainers want, and know how to give them the kind of website they need.
Having been in the industry gives him a huge leg up over any typical web designer who never gets what you want, and is notoriously hard to communicate with.
Do you have experience in an industry or business that you could leverage into a business?
Think about how you could serve people in the industry – not just clients you serve now.
What would you spend money on? What would you want to outsource?
There’s a bunch of things, right? What about the things that you like to do yourself, but most other people would outsource?
That’s your sweet spot.
I’m Very Good At Some Stuff, But Nothing Specific For A Side Business
I have a friend who was an engineer. Then he started doing freelance copywriting.
It took a while to master copywriting, but when he did, suddenly his previous skills as an engineer became useful.
He specialized in email copywriting and then put his mind to using the skills his has. He’s great at creating systems and thinks in that manner.
This allowed him to build out a very systemised, very scaleable business.
It’s the same idea as a drag and drop website editor – you take creative work and boil it down to the underlying framework. Then you can layer in whatever the specifics are for this project, on the existing framework.
A paint by numbers style business.
What skills do you have that aren’t necessarily a business in themselves, but would give you a big competitive advantage when paired with another skill?
I Learnt This By Accident
I have a friend who was running a pretty successful business for a number of years selling clothing.
This was his business, so he did everything, but in the process of doing that, he learnt a bunch of things that could be useful for other people.
He decided to go into digital marketing and specifically Google Adwords, which he had learnt as just another part of many in his business, but can now leverage to make a living.
Other businesses will pay for the kind of knowledge and experience that he just taught himself, more or less by accident, in the day to day running of his business.
What have you done or learn, in your job or business, that has value for other people?
Think about all of the component parts that go into your day to day tasks – what could you pick out and specialise in as a freelancer?
Anything To Pay The Bills
I have a friend who is a creative type, a writer. She’s trying to get that going, but in the meantime is doing literally anything to pay the bills.
A tonne of low-skill work that anyone could do.
Filling in surveys, writing Amazon reviews, data entry. You name it, they’re all boring and don’t pay well – but they pay something.
I don’t recommend doing this kind of work, but if you’re in a shitty situation – you lost your job or your business crashed – it’s better than not eating.
Invest time in learning new skills to move into better opportunities, or getting a new business up and running.
I wanted to put this one in just to illustrate that anything is possible. It’s just a stepping stone to bigger and better things in the future.
Thinking Bigger – Scaling
What if you start off doing low skill work?
What if you want to stop selling time for money? What if you want a bigger business, more earning potential, etc?
The way I see it, you have three options.
- Earn money in your freelance side business while building something else on the side
- Move into higher paying, better, freelance work
- Scale your freelance business into something more than just a one-man, time-for-money gig
Let’s look at each in turn, starting at number 3, because I’m contrarian like that.
Scale a freelance side business into something bigger
You can start basically any service business and make it as big as you want by simply systemising things and hiring other people to do the service.
You could start off being a VA and if you’re good at it, eventually start hiring other VA’s and passing them work. Focus on creating systems for them to ensure a good job is done, and apply your time and energy to new business generation.
Congratulations, you now have an agency.
This is how many web design, advertising, writing, etc. agencies get started. If you’re good at something, have big plans, and business chops, the world is your oyster.
Let’s look at option 2 next.
Move into higher paying, better freelance work
This is the trajectory I took.
I started off writing content in the fitness industry. It was what I knew, it was easy and a good leverage of my time, as I knew what I was talking about without research.
I also had a tonne of experience and connections in the industry to get me started.
As I was doing that I was studying copywriting and advertising at a deeper level. Eventually I moved into the much better paying, more enjoyable work.
Ultimately I could have carried on that trajectory. Top copywriters get paid a lot of money, but for me it was option 1.
Earn money while building something else on the side
Just use the freelance business to pay the bills while you’re building something else on the side.
I paid the bills doing freelance work, while simultaneously working on my own projects that were what I really wanted to do in the long term.
These are more rewarding, financially and satisfaction wise, but more risky. They take time and money to get going. Having an income steam from a freelance business is a safety net. It allows you to take risks and build what you want to build, without impending homelessness.
Wherever you eventually want to be, a freelance side business is a good place to start
As I’ve mentioned many times in recent posts, a freelance side business is easy to start and succeed at.
You can start today, and be profitable from day 1.
If you’re unsure what skills you have to begin a freelance side business, first download ‘Your First $100 Online‘ where I’ll tell you all of the different freelance businesses you could start.
Then read this post to see what skills you have, that you can leverage into a freelance business.