As I reflect on the year, I think of all of the sleepless nights, early mornings and busy days I’ve had since starting my online businesses. In August 2018, I quit my job in pursuit of starting two online businesses. One in the Merch business and one in the Education industry. At that time, all I had was a bleak savings of $3,000 to carry me into the future.
It's been a fun ride. Running online businesses when you don’t know what you’re doing is a thrilling experience with tons of learning curves and obstacles. Around January 2019, I ran out of money and had to go into hyperdrive to pay the bills. I have to say, it was hard work. Eventually, I had to put my dreams and online businesses back into the "side-hustle" part of my brain.
Despite reducing my passions back to a side hustle status, I have not given up on them. I continue to cultivate the growth of each of my businesses as a side hustle. And it's really paid off.
As of October 2019, I have made $5,000+ dollars in additional income from my online businesses. Here’s how I did it.
I started online business that cost me almost nothing to run
In August 2018, I started an online English tutoring business for Russian speakers called Easy English for Russians. At that time, I was testing the waters and decided to setup a community page on VK (it’s like the Russian version of Facebook) and start posting daily vocabulary memes, English audio files, videos and articles. It was a lot of work. But when I look back, I realize that almost none of that work cost me anything other than my time and an occasional coffee.
The cost to setup a VK community page: $0
The cost to create memes online and post them daily: $0
The cost to set up an Instagram to drive traffic to my VK page: $0
The cost to use Skype to host lessons: $0
The cost to use Paypal: 3% of income
The cost of Internet: $5 at a coffee shop
Income: $15 an hour for my online lessons.
You do the math. I save a lot of money by keeping my overhead low. This allows me to earn and save as much as I can while I put the funds back into my business or savings. One of the best decisions I made in 2019 was to start an online business with almost no overhead.
I sold merchandise online and outsourced production
For my other business, Afro Feminista Vegan, I make most of my income from selling merchandise with clever and provocative messages about being black, feminist and vegan. This is what my audience wants and I love making merch that speaks to them. Instead of purchasing a bunch of t-shirts, tote bags, coffee mugs, etc. and keeping them in my house, I choose to completely outsource production to a different company. I use Teespring to make all of my merchandise.
When a customer places an order on my website, I place the same order on Teespring. I’m always sure to adjust my pricing so that my profit margin is healthy and that I’ll earn profit while handling no physical merchandise myself.
When I outsource production, I cut down on costs and allow myself to focus on earning instead of stock and inventory.
I focus on organic and free marketing
After spending hundreds of dollars on failed paid ads with Facebook, VK and other platforms, I realized that my ideal client doesn’t need an inauthentic catch phrase and some sponsored ad to find my product or service.
My favorite customers and clients are folks who find me organically by word of mouth or on social media. About 90% of my students on Easy English for Russians find me by word of mouth. After spending hundreds of dollars on VK ads, I realized that doing my job well and encouraging my students to tell their friends and family about me was the best and most effective way to grow my business and therefore my earnings.
For Afro Feminista Vegan, the vast majority of my customers find me on Facebook or Instagram. When I paid for ads to market my merchandise and services, it almost repelled my customers. Organic, high quality social media content that doesn’t push customers to my site was my secret to success on that front.
They say no one likes the pushy salesperson. I have found this is to be true for both of my businesses. The more authentic, organic and relaxed I am with my products and services, the more people want to support it.
I supplement my income when business is slow
Part of the $5,000+ I earned this year was from partnerships with organizations and businesses that do similar work. I have found that my businesses don't always thriving year round. They ebb and flow with the lifestyle of my clients. When business is slow, I choose to supplement my income by partnering with stable and reliable companies that do similar work.
For Easy English for Russians, my student base is primarily 8-12 year old Russian children. During the school year (August-May), my students are focused and ready to learn. In the summer months, they go on vacations and relax for the season. I know in summertime my business goes through a dip in the number of students I teach. Instead of feeling bad for myself and letting my income dip, I work for a company called Cambly. It’s an online English teaching platform that allows teachers and students from all over the world to engage in casual conversation in English. No teaching license required. They pay $10.17 an hour and the earning potential is almost limitless. No matter what time or how long you work, there is a student somewhere in the world waiting to be taught.
Last summer, I was in the process of getting my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate so I wasn’t officially certified to teach English. It was necessary for me to supplement my income with another English teaching job that didn’t require me to have a teaching license. This was a great way to maintain my earnings and supplement my income over the summer months.
As you can see, earning $5,000 in a year of side hustles is TOTALLY possible. All it requires is agency from you. It pays to be authentic, do work that speaks to your soul and never allowing your income to lag. If you can stay on top of your side hustle, work those long days, early mornings and evenings, you can absolutely earn thousands of dollars from your side hustles this upcoming year.
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