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make money on side hustle

How to Monetize Your Side Hustle with Digital Marketing

I was talking with a friend recently who is contemplating leaving her job to devote more time and energy to her passion work. Her story is far from unique in today’s workforce. More and more individuals are turning to unconventional methods of earning a living with the desire to spend their working hours doing things they find more fulfilling, while also enjoying the flexibilities of being their own boss. We’re in the era of the side hustle, and more of us every day are trying to find ways to monetize the things that bring us happiness.

A study by Bankrate found that about 45% of U.S. workers say they earn extra income on the side. These side hustles, or additional ways to make money alongside your main form of income, are increasingly popular in younger generations. Common examples may include freelance design work, content creation, custom arts & crafts, photography/videography, and more. The freedom that comes with a side hustle (flexible hours, controlling what work you take on, etc.) can be very alluring. However, before embarking on any venture one must ask:

How can I actually make money on this?

Well, if it were easy then everybody would do it. Turning a passion into a sustainable source of income has been the goal since the dawn of time. As digital marketers, it’s our job to find ways to make this dream come true. This blog should help you get started with some ideas on how you can monetize your side hustle.

Step One: Get to Know the Market

competitor research digital marketing

There are almost 31 million small businesses in the United States (via Oberlo). If you’re wondering if anybody is offering the same product or service as you, the answer is probably “yes.” But that doesn’t mean your pursuit isn’t worth trying! Understanding the market and what comparable businesses exist is the first step to monetizing your side hustle. It allows you an opportunity to see your competition and learn more about the industry.

Tips for Getting Started:

  • Create a spreadsheet and title it “Industry Research”
  • Conduct searches on Google for keywords related to your product
    • For example: if you’re planning to start a blog related to fashion advice, search “top fashion blog” or “fashion advice blog” and take note of the blogs that show up on the first couple of pages of Google Searches.
  • Conduct additional searches on social media to find more brands like yours
    • On Facebook: search for your industry/type of business and then filter by “Pages.” You can filter even more by searching for local (if applicable).
    • On Instagram: search for your business type by using hashtags (i.e. “#fashionblogger”) and see the top results that pop up. Navigate to their accounts to learn more and see their websites, if applicable.
    • You can conduct further research on LinkedIn, TikTok, or Twitter through similar methods.
  • Once you’ve compiled a list of 15-20 businesses that fit similar descriptions to your idealized business, start importing them into the spreadsheet. Build columns that include:
    • Company Name
    • Website Link
    • Location
    • Social Media Channels (and following #s)
    • About/Mission Statements
    • Main Products or Services They Sell
  • Utilize this list to go through and find ways to differentiate your business from theirs — identify what can make yours unique

Once you’ve conducted this brief industry/competitor analysis, you can start to outline your own strengths and opportunities. It will be the basis for you to create a brand that sticks and for you to see how to separate yourself from competitors in your side hustle’s space.

Step Two: Build your Brand

building a brand digital marketing

For some, this is the most fun part of the process. For others, the most dreaded. I’ve met both parties before and the ones who dread it are typically those who simply don’t know where to turn. Hopefully this section will help you out. In building out your brand, consider following this checklist:

Tips for Building Your Brand:

  • Identify a name for your business
    • Think of something that is search engine-friendly and that has a domain and social handles available (for buying your website and social media presence).
    • You want your brand name to be fun & unique but still want it to quickly articulate what you do so newcomers will understand
  • Secure your domain and social media handles.
    • If you’re planning to build your website on a content management system like WordPress, you can secure your domain right there. Otherwise, you can purchase from a site like GoDaddy.
    • For social media marketing, we’d encourage at least having a couple of platforms. Facebook is great for advertising purposes and reaching Baby Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial populations. Instagram is good for younger demographics and more visual brands. LinkedIn makes a nice option if you’re running a B2B business, and Twitter is great for striking up conversations and networking. If you’re in the content creator field or various arts/crafts fields, try giving TikTok a shot.
  • Develop your written content
    • On your website, at a minimum you’ll want to have pages for “Home,” “About,” products/services, and “Contact.” Start putting together that content.
    • Consider writing a mission statement and a unique selling proposition. The mission statement will show what you’re aiming to accomplish, and the unique selling proposition will help you define how you’re different from your competition.
    • Make sure to update any social media bios to reflect some of the same text in your mission/USP.
  • Build out your logo
    • Many people have found inexpensive logo designs from sources like Fiverr and Upwork.
    • You could also keep it local by finding a marketing agency in your hometown or approaching a local college or university and inquiring if any students are looking for work.
    • Whoever ends up creating your logo, you’ll want a folder with all of the various types in it.
      • Horizontal vs. Vertical
      • Full Logo vs. Wordmark or Icon Only
      • Vector Format (.ai or .eps, for scaling) and Raster Formats (.jpeg with a white background or .png with a transparent background)
  • Develop your website and social channels
    • For your website, consider utilizing a web design company if you have the budget for it and it makes sense. Depending on the scale and scope of your project, this could be anywhere from a $3,000-$30,000 project for your side hustle. Realistically, I’d consider securing about $5,000 to have a professionally done site.
    • If this is out of budget (totally okay if it is), then you would likely benefit from trying to create your own site through a platform like WordPress.
      • Consider doing the Business account ($25/month) which will allow you more premium templates to customize your design, increased support, and more plugins which will help you boost your SEO and implement integrations for merchandise and more.
    • On social media, start creating organic content before diving into the advertising world. For platforms like Instagram and Facebook, people will spend a fair amount of time on your page so it would be wise to build up a good amount of content in the early days to make your pages look more “full.”
    • It’s also important to grow your social pages organically in the early days. Some tips to do so, without advertising budget, are:
      • Facebook: invite friends and family members to like your page by clicking “Invite Friends” (on the dropdown next to “Promote”).
      • Twitter: start following or engaging with other accounts that may be interested in yours.
      • Instagram: use hashtags and follow other accounts that are in your market. Engage with posts and start dialogue.
      • LinkedIn: use your 100 monthly credits to invite new people to like your page. Anytime somebody does like it that you’ve invited, you’ll earn your credit back. You should readily be able to get a couple hundred followers in the first month or two of doing this.

If this feels like a lot of work, trust me when I say it’s worth it. According to 8ways, it takes about 0.05 seconds for people to form an opinion about your brand. The way you present yourself has a huge impact on how you’ll be able to grow your side hustle. Once you have the brand taken care of, then you can start working on driving people to your site and socials.

Step Three: Generate New Traffic

getting new traffic digital marketing

We exist primarily in the digital advertising (paid search and paid social) space, so this is the fun part for us. The organic growth options we talked about above work well for getting your existing circle to check out your brand, but can be less helpful in expanding your reach to new audiences. To help drive new traffic to your website, you’ll likely want to experiment with some digital advertising.

Tips for Digital Advertising:

  • Develop a budget that you’re comfortable using by projecting what it will cost to get the results you want. Based on 2020 data across all industries, we know:
    • Facebook: average $0.97 cost per click
    • Google Search: average $2.69 cost per click
    • Google Display: average $0.63 cost per click
    • LinkedIn: average $5.26 cost per click
    • Bing: average $1.54 cost per click
  • If you want to generate 1,000 new website visits per month, for example, you can use the information above to map out (roughly) how much you’ll need to devote to your budget to get you there.
  • Make sure you’ve installed Global Site Tag (Google Ads) and Facebook Pixel (Facebook/Instagram Ads) to your website. This can be done by just copy/pasting directly into the header or footer on most websites.
  • If you wish to track data to an even better degree, consider adding:
  • Review Facebook and Google’s best practices for advertising on their platforms, or contact a professional digital advertising agency to help.
  • Consider other platforms that can help increase your exposure, including OTTV (i.e. Hulu, Roku), Streaming Radio (i.e. Pandora, Spotify), and more.

Digital advertising is pretty nuanced, so it can take a while to learn what works best for you. By beginning with a plan (i.e. “I want to drive more web traffic” or “I want more page likes on social media”), you’ll be able to guide your efforts accordingly. If you ever get in a bind, contact us and we’d be happy to chat through best practices.

Step Four: Identify Ways to Make Money

make money digital ads

You’re probably feeling annoyed by how long it took me to get to the actual point of this article. The reality is, many people ask too early “how can I make money off this” before getting their house in order. If you skip or grant less attention to the research, brand building, and traffic acquisition phases, your chances of monetizing your side hustle become significantly weaker. 

Your ability to make money off your side hustle depends a lot on what you’re doing. For people selling an actual product or service (i.e. fitness coaching, home decor items, freelancing), the process of making money off your side hustle is more streamlined. You have a product or service, you educate people about what you do, and if they’re interested, they’ll reach out.

For others, particularly those in the content creation space, it can be more challenging. Once you do start monetizing, the reward is boundless. But trying to get there too early (before your brand is well-built or your website and social channels are well-trafficked), it is really challenging. Here are some ways that content creators, bloggers, and individuals in similar spaces can grow their sales:

  • Merchandise: most successful blogs or websites that are out there will tell you that the bulk of their revenue comes from the selling of shirts, stickers, and other forms of merchandise. There can be a fair amount of overhead involved, but if you are purchasing shirts for $8/piece and selling for $30/piece, naturally there’s a good amount of profit to be earned. This phase usually can’t come until you’ve generated ample traffic on your marketing channels, but it’s important to  think about the prospect of merchandise in the early days. Make sure your website will allow for e-commerce integrations (read my earlier blog about the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin) and consider early designs that could be used for merch sales.
  • Affiliate Marketing: this involves earning a commission based on your marketing efforts for another company’s products or services. If your site starts generating ample traffic in a niche space, you should begin to consider this prospect. Essentially, you can write blog content or feature other business’ products on your website and when your viewers become customers of said product/service you can receive a financial kickback. It’s a hard space to get into, but those who have success with it can generate a huge amount of income. This article will tell you a little more about what you need to know before entering an affiliate program.
  • Sponsored Content and Guest Posts: you can also earn some dollars by allowing others to guest post on your website (typically brands who want an SEO or traffic boost to their own website) or by doing sponsored posts on social media. Earning your way into the world of sponsorship can be challenging – you need to have built up a fairly large community before brands will see the value in investing (see more about influencer marketing). Guest posts, on the contrary, can happen pretty quickly. You can set your own rates for how much you want to charge for somebody else to post on your website. The downfall is you lose a little bit of your own voice & authenticity, but the benefit is that it’s more cash from companies.
  • Google AdSense: I should preface this by saying that if you’re opposed to ads being put on your website, keep scrolling. AdSense is a Google product that allows advertisers to bid for positions on your website’s ad spaces (usually sidebars). You get paid based on the amount of clicks that are generated from the ads on your site. In our opinion, these are often accidental clicks which makes it a bit less valuable for an advertiser to be on these sites. However, from a content creator’s perspective – as long as you don’t mind your site being a bit more cluttered this can help generate some extra cash for you. 
  • Do it for the Long Game: content creation is sometimes just a “foot in the door” for people. It helps them build up a circle of influence and website traffic which will help them launch their next venture (and get more money behind it!). For example, if you start a healthy food blog that gets you a lot of recognition and praise, you may find a way to start selling meal kits through a separate business you launch. Having a mindset that’s rooted in future cash-generating opportunities is a great practice for any entrepreneur.

To reiterate, the lengths you’ll have to go to turn your side hustle into a primary source of income may vary depending on what you’re offering. For freelancers and those who are selling a tangible product or service, just getting exposure to your brand may open up opportunities on their own. For those in the content creation or blogging space, it can be a bit more challenging. Hopefully you’ll benefit from some of the opportunities we mentioned above, but if you’d like to chat any more about your strategy – contact us here.

Step Five: Re-engage Your Audience

re-engage audience digital ads

Everything seems peachy until the next best thing comes along. For most creators and side hustlers, it’s important to keep a constant eye on the competitive market well beyond the launch of your business. If you’re not continuing to adapt or engage with your audience, somebody else may come in and take over the reigns. The brands who find ways to make frequent touchpoints with their customers & community will have the most success. 

Ideas for Keeping Audiences Engaged:

  • Build out incentives or loyalty programs. It may not make sense for every brand, but if you have products or services that lend themselves to additional sales, make sure to build out a program that incentivizes your loyal patrons.
  • Develop unique new forms of content. Podcasts and special fan pages are just a few ways that you can start to build a deeper connection with your community. Constantly look for new ways to stay in people’s eyes and ears.
  • Build an email newsletter. Use it as a referral source for all of your content. Provide some exclusive offers like discount codes, special/hidden content, and more that can promote people to subscribe.
  • Retargeting ads. You can develop ads on both Google (Display) and Facebook/Instagram that retarget web visitors. If somebody has visited your website recently, you can make sure to serve them more content to stay connected. You can even create unique ads that get delivered to previous customers and promote another purchase.
  • Old-fashioned love. You can’t put a value on showing genuine appreciation for those in your community. Sending hand-written letters, responding to comments on social channels, engaging in conversation, and striking up Zoom Conferences with some viewers will all help to establish more customer loyalty. You’d be surprised how many people fall short in this department.

As side hustles continue to be on the rise, it’s important to start thinking about yours. If you’re reading this article then it’s safe to assume something has been pulling you towards making dollars off your passion. We hope that you found this guide helpful, and would encourage you to reach out for a free proposal or conversation about how we can assist. Good luck!

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