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Have you been putting off launching that brilliant plan you have for a little side hustle?
There’s no better time than right now, because if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never launch.
Or at least that’s what I tell myself...
For the past few weeks, I’ve been following Chris Guillebeau’s Side Hustle: From Idea To Income In 27 Days in the hopes of creating a fun and profitable home business alongside my career.
Hopefully, you’ve been following along and accomplishing your dreams too.
Overall, it has been a fun experience. I’ve managed to plan, to the smallest detail, my t-shirt printing side hustle business.
This is week 4 of my side hustling experiment and let me tell you, time is moving fast.
In this chapter of our journey, I’ll cover the following steps:
- publishing your offer,
- selling like a Girl Scout,
- test, test, and test again,
- burn down the furniture store, and
- frame your first dollar.
A little advice before we get started
If you’re looking to start a side hustle of your own: pick something you enjoy doing.
Passion + Problem Solving + Payment Method = Business
And this is also something you should know: side hustles are more work than you think.
That’s why Chris Guillebeau insists on choosing something simple to start.
Remember: you’re doing this in your spare time. You’re doing this to make money on the side. You’re doing this to enjoy life a bit more.
Start small, make a little money, and then find another hustle or grow the one you started.
Day 17: Publishing (I don’t know if I’m ready for this...)
The first quote in the chapter is scary:
"When’s the best time to get your offer out and see what happens? Usually before you’re ready."
This may feel a little rushed, but there is some comfort in this message.
The fact is that if we wait until we're ready, we may never actually publish anything.
For many people, that’s where side hustles stay: in development. I don’t want that to be me.
In the first few weeks, I created lists of things that needed to be done, and now I need to actually do them.
Launching early gives you a more solid proof of concept
Another reason to launch earlier is that it will give proof of concept. In other words, people will react to your product and you’ll gain valuable information.
You can then make changes and tweak your offer, your product, your price, or your content to better meet the needs of your ideal customer.
Create a Facebook page first
If you get social media up and running, then you have a place to show your work – your process and progress.
You also get to gather data about the people who visit your page. This will help you better serve your customers going forward.
Don’t shy away from beta testing
If you launch your side hustle in a beta format (meaning that it's in test mode, or an early version) then you’re saying to your customers that you’re trying certain aspects out and they can expect changes and improvements.
It also takes the pressure off because you can stay in beta mode for a long time.
Day 18: Sell sell sell
The actual title of this chapter is "Sell Like a Girl Scout." It highlights a couple of important ideas for selling a product.
The point to the chapter is this: don’t be manipulative or pushy.
Manipulative selling tactics are designed to throw you off – like a solicitor in the street asking you to help the polar bears.
They conjure images in your mind of cute little polar bears struggling on melting ice…basically asking if you’re a good enough person to send help, or just some sort of sociopath.
Of course you’re compassionate, so you feel guilt and obligation. That's manipulation.
You can find all sorts of street grifters – who have no affiliation to charities – using these tactics.
That's not the way we should do business.
Your product should be so good that people would want to have it, if they knew about it.
So marketing is about letting them know about it, not necessarily making them want it. The right product will be wanted right away.
Employ the Girl Scout method
Instead of manipulating your potential customer, be like the Girl Scouts who ask a simple question: "Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?"
That simple question is all they need.
Why does it work?
The cookies are so good, they know you’ll buy them.
And, of course, it’s more difficult to say "no" to a young girl, smiling sweetly at you, than it is to refuse a person in their 30s asking you to care about a charity.
Another thing the girl scouts do is create scarcity. They only sell at certain times of the year, so when you see them, you feel like you need to buy them.
Costco does this too. They have products in for a short time, so you feel like you need to get them now.
When in doubt, send the email
It’s a simple idea, but you can’t sell if people don’t know about you.
Work with the contacts you have and send out the email.
People may not respond, or if they do it might not be a particularly favourable response...
But remember this: the girl scouts ask the question to everyone they see. "Would you like to buy some cookies?"
So have a good product and ask if people want it. If they don’t, leave them be – for now.
Get help when you need it
It’s important to ask for help. We need cheerleaders sharing our posts on social media and interacting with us.
Beyond that, we need any help we can get in creating and selling.
If people are willing to help design a website for an online storefront, great!
If you can get a friend to try your service so that you have stuff to post on social media, then you can offer them a discount.
But there are a few important things to avoid:
- Mass emails: The mass ask doesn’t work. Make sure your emails are personalized so they aren’t dismissed as spam and are more likely to be read.
- Asking strangers: Talk to people you know and ask them for the contacts of people who might help. Create a network of connections, not just asking random people you see on the street.
On the other hand, there are also several things you should keep in mind:
- Be specific: Know exactly what you need and ask people who you know have the skills or time to help.
- Be enthusiastic and engaged: If you don’t care about your product, no one will.
- Have something to show for your efforts: Have some sort of sample so people will see your commitment, have a better understanding for your idea, and be more willing to help.
- Look for helpful organizations in the community: When I looked to create a website, I needed to see if my name was taken, then I needed to do a NUANS search in case I wanted to register my business, and that led me to Opportunities NB, a helpful resource for people who want to start a business.
What I was able to accomplish today
On day 18, I was able to check off 2 big things on my to-do list.
Got my website up and running
I asked a friend to set up a website for me.
He was great and had it up with an email client within the day. It cost me $15 to register the domain and that was it.
Now I have PortCityShirts.ca and it has everything I need to get my hustle working: a storefront, an email client, and a contact form.
My appointment with Opportunities NB
Opportunities NB introduced me to Cavanizer, a helpful tool to see if all of the pieces of your side hustle are well thought out and organized.
During our meeting, we talked through each section, and they helped me fill in any holes in my plan.
They also pointed me toward a few people and places I could go for help...
...Places like ConnexionWorks, which offers free office space for small startups, and on Fridays there are lawyers who offer free legal advice for people looking to start a business in Saint John.
In the coming week, I’ll be touching base with friends in a variety of fields to see if they need any shirts or if they know anyone who does.
For now, I just need to make another list: people to contact.
Day 20: Test, test, test
This chapter is pretty important. You have to test certain parts of any business:
- Your product: Be sure you’re offering quality. You can fix, change, or add to your product.
- Your offer: You can test how you present your offer.
- Your price: Companies sometimes test 2 prices at the same time to see how many people buy at each price point.
I plan on testing a few things, and you should too.
A good testing method is known as an...
You offer 2 options, A and B, and see which one does better.
Test 2 prices. Test 2 designs. Test 2 options for your product or service.
I can run 2 different logos for my Port City Shirts branded t-shirts.
I’ll sell them both on my website and see which one sells more. Then I’ll switch to only selling that one.
Another option is social media. Do a simple Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter poll. What you can learn for free on any of these sites is invaluable to your hustle.
If you want, you can also boost the post for as little as $10.
Remember that A/B testing can become a rabbit hole – It’s easy to get bogged down in testing too many small things.
So try to keep it to the 3 main areas listed above: prices, logos, and options.
Day 21: Going out of business sale
Chris Guillebeau calls this chapter "Burn Down The Furniture Store."
Now, I’m not a huge fan of discounts when starting a business...But Chris Guillebeau knows more than I do, so I’ll have to trust him.
He says there’s science to back up this approach:
Creating perceived scarcity will help drive sales
If you offer a discount or a special offer for a limited time, then there’s a feeling of urgency: "The deal will go away so I need to buy now."
You can also increase this by only having a limited quantity of your product. This way, you create scarcity as well: "I need to buy now before they run out!"
The funny thing is, I was against the idea at the start of the chapter, but I believe if there is real value being offered with a discount and there is real scarcity then the proposition will be genuine.
What I am against is the manufactured kind of scarcity that places like Ticketmaster produce.
But this isn’t that. If it’s true, honest, and has a benefit to the consumer, then I'm happy to provide a discount that might also create more business for me.
So, my plan for today...
It’s important that I don’t just create a sense of scarcity. I want the real thing.
To do so, I’m creating a premium shirt with a short production run. There will only be 25-50 of each design.
I can also offer limited-time discounts and offers on custom designs for people, aimed at suiting their personal needs.
Day 22: Frame the first dollar made
Honestly, framing your first dollar feels like something Scrooge McDuck would do.
In some ways, I feel like I already have the important pieces in order to run the business. But I guess the point he’s making is that it’s important to celebrate the fact you’re making money outside of your day job.
It’s a celebration! You’ve made some extra money, you can use it as you wish.
This is all well and good, but you have to remember the goals you set way back in day 1. For me, creating my side hustle was about getting some extra money to help grow my RRSP.
No matter your specific goal, the bottom line is you need a plan for your money so that it can grow. The point is to work a little harder now to create a better future.
Always spending this extra money may make you feel good in the short term, but be sure not to get carried away…
...Unless, of course, your goal for your side hustle is to make extra spending money. In that case, have at it!
Reflecting on the past few days
Remember that you’re now ready to make your business work. Actually, you should have a business, and it should be running by now.
Make changes as needed. Reach out to people.
I’ve already made contact with several school-based clubs and groups that are interested in having shirts printed. Sales are starting to happen.
I also have my logo shirts for my company and those will be on the website soon.
What about you?
If you’ve taken the steps and you’re hustling right now, please reach out.
Write a comment or send an email. I would love to hear and maybe share your story, so we can help others.
Maybe your story will be just the thing needed to jump start someone else and get them hustling. That’s what I hope mine can be!