Ten years ago, my finances were a mess. Due to dumb mistakes, divorce, unpaid taxes, and a down economy, my balance sheet was a disaster. As a parent, this weighed even heavier, as it’s my job to provide for their future too.
While I had a great job in technology that paid well, I had over-extended myself.
Per Bankrate, I wasn’t alone, as my fellow Americans are “carrying an average personal debt of $90,460.” While personal lines of credit have decreased, auto loans, student debt, and retail card balances are increasing with double-digit percentage rates. We all need some help here.
In addition to being smarter with money, following the guidance of Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman, I started a side hustle.
What’s a side hustle? It’s a part-time job you do, working for yourself. Instead of delivering pizzas, driving for Uber or delivering for Amazon, you do your own thing.
But, as a busy parent, how can one accomplish this? We have so many responsibilities.
Here are five steps to get you there.
The first step is to realize that thousands do this successfully, and you can find a way to make it happen. Overcoming the “I can’t” or “I’m too tired” or “it’s too hard” is the first and most important step. Do get out of this mess, you are going to have to do something different.
There are many “get rich” schemes that appear enticing at first. It’s a modern-day gold rush here – so be careful. Many of these courses will you that you can make $100k your first month if you just buy their $3000 course (along with another $2000 in other tools and courses). Be very careful with these and see if the course maker is getting rich off of your class tuition or has been truly successful at what they do. Sadly, it’s usually that they are very good at taking your money - and very few of their students have real results.
Start with what you are good at or would love to learn. We recommend considering something you already know or do, that ideally is not a conflict of interest with your current employer. However small, brainstorm ideas you can start with little or no capital and test them out. For the ones that attract buyers, refine your product or services and keep going. Remember this needs to be profitable and not just a fun hobby.
This isn’t a time to let pride win. Sometimes a side hustle is cleaning a peers’ house, car, or other “grunt” work. Focus on your result – financial freedom – and not if this is “beneath” you. You can also use this if you are tempted to increase your debt load again as a reason not to do it.
Stay with free sources as much as you can when starting. There’s a lot of great content on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram – among other sites (remember to beware of pirates and their upsells here). Your local library as a great resource in the business section. You can even consider interviewing someone who does this full-time in your area or another (noncompetitive). Search on Google and Yelp for what may exist locally. If someone is already doing it – keep going with your idea – that means there is a market for your idea!
Yes, there’s a happy ending to my story. My side hustle of choice was car detailing. Even with a busy family schedule, I was able to do this a few weekends a month, along with evenings and weekends.
For me, this was an ideal hustle as it pays immediately, provides instant gratification for customers, and was even a little fun. My self-esteem rose tremendously knowing I was taking action and not being a victim of my own bad choices.
My kid’s college funds are now solid and my debts are paid. For some of the years, this side income was considerable, and I considered making it my full-time gig.
Mistakes and difficult life circumstances will happen – it’s how we respond that defines who we are in life. Along with learning from these, look at a side hustle to help get you through!
Want to try your own detail side hustle? We're starting a class soon.
Chris has worked in tech for 30 years, and healthcare tech for 8 of those. He's on the advisory board of Harvard-Based Think:Kids, and runs Rad Dad Rules. He is the proud Dad of two awesome kids, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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