5 Tips for Starting a Successful Side Hustle

Creating a podcast or newsletter is easier said than done

Pursuing a side hustle can pay dividends in a variety of ways. Animation: Yuliya Kim; Sources: Getty Images
Headshot of Kelsey Sutton

The side hustle is more popular than ever. According to a recent survey, 51 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 37 occasionally moonlight, and 38 percent make money from side hustles at least once a month.

Whether millennials are looking for ways to boost their bank accounts, pursue a dream project or simply flex their creative muscles outside of their day jobs, “It’s never been easier in 2018 to start your own business,” said Erin Bury, the managing director and co-founder of the Toronto-based creative communications agency Eighty-Eight.

Bury, whose own side hustle entails running a guided bike tour company to wineries in Toronto, added side-hustlers can open stores on Shopify and Etsy or create a website on Squarespace using the low barrier to entry, existing tools and infrastructure to their advantage.

Bury’s agency runs a project called Agency Side Hustle that encourages agencies to pledge support for their staffers’ own side businesses instead of banning them in company contracts. Bury believes that supporting side hustles can attract the right kind of talent and can make for more entrepreneurial team members, she said.

“It makes you more organized, more attentive, more productive,” she said. “It forces you to say no to those things you don’t really want to do, and say yes to the things you want to prioritize.”

No one’s path to figuring out his or her side hustle is the same, but by keeping these tips in mind, your own path to side hustle success might just be a little easier.

Abu Zafar, a self-described geek and avid gamer, was searching for a podcast that discussed the world-building and storytelling evident in some of his favorite video games, like The Witcher. When he couldn’t find one, he decided to start one of his own.

“I thought that maybe other people like me were looking for these kinds of discussions,” he said.

In November 2017, Zafar, along with a dozen other friends and acquaintances, began building out a podcast about exploring video game universes. After months of preparation, including recording hours of unreleased practice episodes, Zafar and his friends debuted Lore Party in March. The twice-weekly podcast is now nearing its 100th episode.

Alicia McElhaney, the brainchild and co-founder of She Spends, a weekly newsletter aimed at millennial women that has expanded into an active Facebook group and an occasional events business, said she launched the newsletter after feeling like personal finance news wasn’t particularly relevant or helpful to her or her friends.

“I had a friend who said to me, ‘You’re talking about this all the time, so why don’t you start writing about it instead of waiting for the perfect job opportunity?’” McElhaney, a staff writer for Institutional Investor, said.

Along with a childhood friend, UX designer Jemma Frost, McElhaney hustled for about two and a half weeks straight before launching She Spends’ first newsletter in May 2017. The first issue, which Frost designed, included personal finance advice, information about the board seat gap at major corporations and a money diary in which McElhaney laid out how she spent her money—everything she thought wasn’t being covered enough elsewhere.

For McElhaney, a weekly newsletter seemed to be the best way to deliver She Spends straight to readers, and as a professional writer, McElhaney knew she could execute. Plus, two months after She Spends launched, McElhaney had even more help to make it happen.

Amanda Eisenberg, who is now a healthcare reporter at Politico New York (and, full disclosure, a former college classmate of this reporter), joined She Spends in July, contributing interviews every week to the newsletter and editing the weekly product. McElhaney, Frost and Eisenberg all moderate the She Spends Facebook group together.

At Lore Party, team members offered up their various talents to make sure the podcast was well-produced and well-edited. Nick Wilkinson, a musician who’s also a Lore Party host, made the theme track for the show, and Zafar, the podcast’s executive producer, designed the logo and graphics. Zafar already had some podcasting experience under his belt—he once hosted and produced a daily news podcast for the website Mic—but most of the other team members are first-time podcasters. Luckily, Zafar and some other members of the team had some old equipment lying around.

“Being the scrappy team that we are, we shared and donated old or extra gear and spread it amongst everyone so that we’d all have the basic requirements to record episodes,” Zafar said.

Zafar was set on releasing two Lore Party episodes a week, but he knew that was a big ask if he took it on alone. He and the rest of the Lore Party team pair up to produce one 30-minute episode every two weeks, which Zafar says ensures that no one is ever overloaded with work.

“I used to think I was this badass lone wolf who could do it all by myself,” Zafar said. “But you really do need other people on board to make even the smallest things happen.”

@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.