Starting a side gig has become a mainstream way to make some extra money. Having this type of income is particularly alluring if you're a college student living on a budget. Plus, side gigs can appeal to your entrepreneurial side while providing some real-world business experience or testing your creative chops as you earn your degree.
But how do you start a side gig, and what financial considerations should you make? This quick-start guide can help answer questions as you embark on your ambitious endeavor.
1. Brainstorm your side gig ideas
When starting an entrepreneurial venture in college, consider what excites you the most. One of the best things about starting a side business is the sheer amount of creative and practical things you can do. Your gig can be a direct reflection of your interests, knowledge, and expertise.
A few examples of things you can do to earn money in your spare time might include:
- Pet sitting, babysitting or house-sitting
- Mystery shopping
- Offering lawn care services
- Tutoring or consulting, either in-person or online
- Freelance writing
- Reselling items online
- Being a virtual assistant
- Starting a blog
- Developing an app
- Selling a unique product you've developed
- Taking surveys
2. Set your side gig start-up budget
Every opportunity is different. With some, you can start with no upfront costs; others require a little investment. If you have a specific side gig idea in mind, the next step is figuring out how much you'll need, if any, to get started.
For example, if you want to try freelance writing, your only start-up costs may be a laptop and internet service, both of which you likely have already. If you're going to start your own side business doing lawn care, on the other hand, you'll need the right equipment to get started.
If you know that you'll need a little capital to get your side gig going, consider where you can source the money. Maybe you have enough saved to purchase the necessary tools to get started. Another option is to appeal to your network—ask friends and family for help funding your start-up costs.
3. Develop your side gig launch plan
Developing a launch plan is an essential part of getting your idea off the ground.
For example, if you want to start a pet-sitting side gig, you'd need to advertise your services. Or, if you're selling a product, like handmade crafts, you might need to set up a website or identify pop-up venues where you score a booth.
Some research considerations for your outreach and launch plan include:
- Who is your target audience for your product/service?
- How much time do you have to dedicate to these efforts each week?
- What is the going rate for your product/services?
- How can you set a competitive hourly or project-based rate?
- What is the most effective way to get the word out about your side gig?
- How can you tap into your network to make your launch more successful?
You may want to reach out to anyone in your network like a family friend, or professor who may be able to offer business guidance. Other resources that can help in your planning include reading marketing and entrepreneurship content which may be available on campus or online.
4. Have a plan for the money you're making
Finally, once you start making money from your hard work, you can decide how best to use it.
You can use side gig cash in a myriad of ways— one of which being to reinvest in your business. If you want to expand and improve, you can use some of your earnings to build out business capabilities.
Another way to get ahead financially is to start paying down debt sooner or saving earlier, making a dent in student loans before graduation is a huge accomplishment and can pay dividends in the future. Conversely, if you can afford to start saving for the future now, you can reach goals like building up an emergency or travel fund.