Get as close to your customer as possible—and create value
As with any business, a side hustle boils down to creating recognized value for others. When you create obvious value for someone else, you can get paid. The more value you create, the more you can make.
When thinking about a new business or side hustle, people make the mistake of focusing on what they want to do, rather than the value they can create for others. You want to flip that: Ask yourself what you can offer that’s valuable to others.
Side hustle vs. employee
As an employee, you sell your time for a relatively fixed value in exchange for a level of certainty.
That’s really no different than driving for Uber. As a driver, you’re offering a service for less than you could get on your own, in exchange for Uber’s distribution to customers who want your service.
If I’m a farmer, I know the value of my products can swing wildly depending on supply and demand factors when I bring products to market. I can gain some certainty by selling all or part of my crops in advance for a fixed price. I might end up being worse off than if I’d waited and sold at harvest time.
The customer decides your value
I usually take issue with the phrase “the customer’s always right” because people look at it like whatever the customer wants, a customer should have.
The intended meaning is that it’s the customer that decides the value that you’re creating in a free market system. If customers decide the lettuce you grew is only worth $2, then it’s worth $2. The fact that you spent 30 hours tending to it makes no difference to them.
Do things ‘beneath’ you
There are a lot of things that people think are beneath them that would actually make good businesses. Depending on the career stage you are in, you should probably focus on these types of things — opportunity exists in the things others don’t want to do.
Here’s a small example: Fewer and fewer people mow their own lawns these days. Rather, they hire big lawn companies that charge a premium price for a mediocre job.
Those are the types of opportunities an entrepreneur can exploit.
Get as close to the customer as you can
With a business or side hustle, you ultimately want to get as close to the customer as possible — because that’s where the real value creation happens.
You might use someone else’s platform starting out, in order to start interacting with customers. You’ll make less money, but you’ll get valuable experience.
For example, if you want to be a tutor, platforms like Tutorme.com will connect you with customers. The site will pay you less than you could make if you found your own customers. But in return, you’ll learn about your customer and the problems they face; you’ll see how the service is delivered and where the holes are.
Own your list
The end goal is to build your own list of prospects.
Starting out these, might be people who are interested in what you’re doing and want to follow you. You raise your flag and say, “This is the business I'm in. This is the kind of stuff I like to do. If it’s interesting to you, let me know.”
We talked in previous episodes about the beef business I’m pursuing here in Colorado. A local rancher had a product he wanted to get to customers, so he started with farmers markets. Once his list grew to 200 emails, he no longer had to go to the markets because he could build a business around those leads.
He migrated from a very inefficient platform (farmers markets) to owning his own list and getting organic growth.
You can offer a lead magnet to draw customers to you — some free tool or valuable piece of information that makes people want to engage with you.
For example, if you’re selling communications services, you might offer up a template for messaging matrix in exchange for an email address. Anyone who downloads that template is likely to be a prime target for your consulting business.
Courses are another way to attract a customer base. I helped create a management course for Early to Rise University that gets great reviews. I could offer that as a consulting service, but this way I can offer it to more people and focus on the things I really enjoy doing.
Once you have a list, you then have a responsibility of creating value for your customers on an ongoing basis. Great information markets you better than anything else you could possibly do.
Your content strategy gives you an opportunity to organically enter the conversation with potential customers on things they’re already thinking and talking about and the needs they already have.
When I run a newsletter, I create editorial pillars — messages that align with what I’m selling — and then look for conversations happening around that topic. For example, one of the pillars for one company was resilience, so we’d look for news stories about people put in situations where they needed to show grit.
Charge dramatically more
Once you’ve drawn in enough people and convinced them of the value you deliver, you can consider charging dramatically more for your services than is typical.
Instead of charging $2,500, maybe you charge $25,000.
You won’t get as many clients from it, but the ones you do get are willing to pay it because of the credibility you developed.
The Reluctant Entrepreneur by Mark Ford (who writes with the pen name Michael Masterson), the founder of Early to Rise and a mentor of mine.
Ryan Deiss at DigitalMarketer.com offers extremely helpful advice for anyone looking to market themself or their business.