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Have you been dreaming of that perfect side gig?
You know, the one that will become the best, most profitable decision of your life?
I sure have. That’s why I’m here.
It’s been a thoughtful experience so far, but now we’re on to the real meat and bones of my hustle – kinda.
I still have to figure out a few more things before I can actually launch my home business, but these decisions will take me one step closer.
This week we’ll be accomplishing the following goals:
- figuring out that I can figure it out,
- pricing my offer,
- creating my shopping list,
- deciding how I’ll get paid,
- managing my workflow, and
- remembering what’s important.
Day 11: Assemble the nuts and bolts
Based on the title, I thought there would be a step-by-step action plan.
I was hoping to be led by the hand and given a variety of important steps for sourcing contacts and creating a network.
Instead, this chapter says 2 simple things: "You need to be resourceful" and “Everything is figureoutable” (p.99).
Ok, that's not a word. But you get it…
For a business that creates t-shirts, I have to research the shirts, source them, and find my printing equipment. Then I can get to work.
There will be things you’ll need to do that are specific to your side hustle, as well as more general tasks.
Chris lists a mini-toolkit (pg. 101) that has tips like:
- Have a separate bank account and credit card.
- Pay your expenses up front.
- Set aside money for taxes on the profits of your business.
- Be fast with invoicing.
- Insist on written agreements when freelancing.
- Have a dedicated workspace.
- Pay yourself first.
The main thing I want to do today is...
Figure out a customer base
This is where "figureoutable" comes in to play. I need to find my first customers and start the process of getting my business out there.
With $10 and a facebook ad, I can pitch my offer and see if I get a response on a local level, or, I could go smaller.
I came up with a company name: Port City Shirts. Then I created a Facebook page for my business.
I shared this new business page on my personal Facebook to see what kind of response I’d get – if I got any at all.
Within a day, I had people – friends, family, and acquaintances – comment that they may need some shirts in the near future.
That was the best free test market analysis I've ever done.
Day 12: Pricing the offer
Today, we need to spend more time on pricing.
I’ve already calculated my projected profits on day 5, but now that I’m a little further in the process, I should reconsider my price.
When I make my offer, selecting the right price point is crucial.
You should try to make at least as much as you already do with your full-time job.
Price too low and you might undervalue your time, or risk not breaking even. Too high and you'll lose sales – or worse, not have any.
There's a sweet spot for pricing, and you find it by using the cost-plus model.
For a product, cost-plus means your cost to buy the item, plus a markup (so that you make a profit).
For a service, cost-plus means your minimum hourly wage, plus a premium, because you're spending your free time. You should not be paid less than your hourly wage at your full-time job, according to Chris Guillebeau.
I’m providing both a product and a service, so I need to decide my minimum hourly income.
If it takes me an hour to create a t-shirt design, what should I charge for that hour? Not less than I make at my day job. My free time is worth more.
What’s the bare minimum to make a worthwhile profit?
|Day job||Approximately $50/hour teaching|
|Printing||50 shirts/hour @ $1/shirt (depending on order quantity)|
|Materials||$3 to $5/shirt
$3 - emulsion
$3 - ink (enough for 25 shirts)
Some of the costs of the materials I expect to eat and not pass on to consumers. That’s part of the $1/shirt printing cost. In addition, emulsion and ink costs are recovered after the first 6 shirts.
Since design time is optional, that price can be stripped down to the amount of time it takes to make the screen (30 minutes) and that will help cut costs to consumers.
You’ll need to pay attention to your expenses so that you price competitively, but are still able to make a profit.
My exact expenses for a 100 shirt order are as follows:
- Shirts: $500
- Emulsion: $3
- Ink: $12
- 2 hours of my time: $100
This comes to a total of $615 in expenses – the minimum amount I can charge for 100 shirts in order to see a $50/hour profit.
But is this competitive with other companies?
Let’s look at an example quote from a large company:
I wasn’t happy with this as a benchmark, so I did some more pricing research to see if there were better pricing options offered by other companies.
I found this option – $753 USD – which translates to about $983 CAD, or $9.83 per shirt:
$983 puts me about $400 cheaper than my competition.
So yes, the price is very competitive…but is it too competitive?
What should I do?
So I have a pretty big decision to make...
- Should I up my price to be sure that I’m covering all expenses (tax on supplies, errors in printing, etc.)?
- Should I value my time even higher?
- Or should I just be sure that I’m offering a more personal approach to my customer service (allowing me to charge a little more)?
Day 13: The shopping list
Today I assemble the important parts.
For you, it’ll mean gathering equipment and writing your action plan in simple steps that lead to success.
For me, it means I get to source t-shirts from wholesalers, talk with other t-shirt printers, and learn about the best consumable products (inks and photo emulsions).
Chris Guillebeau suggests 3 steps: Writing, optimization, and revenue generation.
Let's look at each in detail.
In order to take care of this step, I'll need to:
- make a list of materials and potential clients,
- generate emails,
- create blog posts to share my work,
- take pictures of example work, and
- print some shirts with the Port City Shirts logo.
This is the time to gather all of the ideas for content and products and put them in one place.
After content comes Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is an important step.
What it means for you is selecting the right keywords, search terms, and titles for your content. Writing an article about a popular topic will make it easier to find.
Your job is to find ways to make your content show up when someone searches a word related to your content, product, or service.
For me, it means writing blogs about my experiences in screen-printing and showing my work through videos and images.
If someone does a Google search for the phrase "screen-printing" or “custom t-shirts” and I have those words in my article several times (as well as in my title and as an SEO keyword) then my article just might show up in the search.
This step looks different for everyone.
It might be as simple as getting people to buy your product, like me, or you may want them to click ads on your website.
You also might aim to do both.
Diversifying your revenue stream is always a good idea. Aim to have more than one way to make money.
My ideas for diversifying:
- Print my own logo on shirts and sell them on my website in an online store.
- Make specific custom shirts for clients.
- Offer DIY screen-printing courses to people who want to make their own.
- Place ads on my website for suppliers of screen-printing equipment.
Day 14: Getting paid
This chapter is all about finding a way to receive your payments.
Chris Guillebeau presents a few easy options: Paypal, Shopify, and Stripe.
His emphasis seems to be on digital methods, but let’s not forget cash!
If you have a simple hustle, you can get paid in cash.
Selling coffee at a farmers market? Cash works. Making hardwood barbeque scrapers? Cash.
You might even allow e-transfers through your bank.
If you want a digital option for farmers markets, look at Square. It allows you to take credit card payments using your phone.
My plan is to start with Paypal – since I already have an account – and cash.
But if you’re feeling patriotic, Shopify is Canadian.
Remember to be accountable when handling payments
To stay on top of orders and encourage prompt payment, consider sending invoices right away.
If you’re providing a service – like photography, web-design, or vacation planning – then consider sending a simple contract in an email. Include the price and date of payment, details of the service being offered, and a timeline.
Day 15: Managing your workflow
The book is drawing smaller and smaller circles around the tasks that need to be done.
This chapter is about identifying problems and fixing them before they happen.
Most importantly, it’s about asking this question: What are all the steps my customers will have to take in order to buy something?
Now, create workflow to address those areas and any problems that may arise.
Some sample problems
- What will the auto-reply email look like for when I get a question or a custom order request?
- What will the checkout look like when people buy my products?
- What message will greet customers during checkout?
- How will I design the email receipt that is sent out?
You need to sweat the small details. Answer all the questions that pop up in the process of building your hustle, and the ones that don’t.
Create an order of operations
What does this mean?
You need to set up a list of all the actions a customer will need to take, in order, and try to anticipate any problems they might encounter.
The goal is to solve these problems before they even happen and make sure your customer has the best experience possible.
For instance, I can fill in the checkout message with a generic message, or I can choose to create something a little more unique and personalized:
Thank you for your purchase! Your invoice # is _______. You will receive a follow-up email with your shipping information and tracking number.
Thanks for supporting our small business in the Port City of Saint John, NB. Two things we take seriously are hospitality and quality. With your order, that’s what you’ll get:
- We will take care of every aspect of the order and work with you along the way. We want you to be happy.
- We will be in touch shortly with your shipping info and tracking number. And if you have any questions, feel free to reply to this email, or visit our website and fill out the question/order form. Just remember to use your order number included in this email.
See the difference?
The second one attempts to provide warmth and a genuine response. Things like that can make your business feel personal, and that will help customers develop a connection with your brand or company.
The level of detail in the second example also helps customers feel more informed so they aren't worried about anything, eliminating that problem before it starts.
My workflow example
For now, this is what my workflow looks like:
- Create the silk-screen to print my logo.
- Finish designing the website.
- Design the social media pages.
- Post to social media.
- Create a storefront and link to paypal.
- Get an invoicing system.
- Create a purchase confirmation email.
- Design an email newsletter subscription/follow form.
- Create an intro email that greets people and welcomes them to the email newsletter.
I recommend being at least this detailed.
Find the small tasks that need to be taken care of and remember that everything is figureoutable.
Look at each thing on your list and ask this question: "What smaller tasks do I need to do for this to be done?"
There are 2 questions you should ask yourself when creating your workflow:
- What will people experience when they buy my service?
- What needs to happen for me to deliver that experience?
Related: Save Money On Your Everyday Services
Day 16: Focus on the things that matter
After writing out the tasks we need to do, no matter how small, Chris Guillebeau asks us to do the opposite: focus on the bigger things.
There are too many little tasks that can consume time.
If you’re trying to build a full-time business, then you may be able to spend hours on small tasks like designing logos and refining wording in content – but these things aren’t necessarily important.
A side hustle that takes away your free time defeats the purpose.
You should enjoy the time you spend working on your project, which should be profitable so that it allows you to enjoy your remaining free time.
In order not to get lost in the small things, you should focus on the 2 things that are most important for you.
For me, those 2 things are customer experience and making more money.
Focus area 1: Customer experience
I need to be sure that I’m always providing a great quality product at a great price. My shirts need to be soft and comfortable.
For the custom design work, my mission is to walk my customers through the design process, allowing input during each step. That way they’ll feel involved and be more likely to be happy with the product.
Make sure you’re making life better for your customer.
Social media will be another area of focus: It’s important to share your work and your process in fun and interesting ways.
This will be one area that I'll struggle with, but I think it'll help grow an audience. And an audience can turn into a customer base.
Focus area 2: Make more money
The next big thing is ways of creating revenue.
You need to be profitable, and once your business is working, you’ll need to create new ways of generating income.
One example is ad revenue. Most hustles will need a website. Most websites can host ads. When ads are clicked, they can generate revenue.
You can build a side hustle on top of your side hustle, or extend your current project into a different area.
I currently have 4 areas to create some revenue:
- Custom shirts made for smaller consumers.
- Branded logo shirts sold on my website.
- Ad revenue from the website.
- Group screen-printing workshops.
The first 16 days: A reflection
These last few days feel a bit like being thrown into the deep end.
But I’ve learned a lot through the experience, and I hope you have too.
Some advice: Each day, set aside 25 minutes to work on your hustle.
Do something that will make a difference for your ideal customer, whether you’re improving their experience on your website, or creating a physical piece of art that they can buy.
You can improve your service, improve your product, or make more products.
I will need to actually create all of the things I’ve listed in the past days, including the product, website, content, videos, and graphics.
In the next article, I’m going to launch my hustle. Hopefully, you’ll be able to launch yours right along with me.
Let me know how yours is going in the comments below!