It’s hard to imagine that the mega-hit podcast, Criminal, which boasts over 2 million listeners a month, started by recording in a closet. It’s true (a small area stuffed full of clothes also turns out to have great acoustics!). For co-creators Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer, Criminal was a back-porch idea turned side gig.
Fast-forward to today and the podcast has replaced their full-time jobs – and salaries. But for more than a year, Judge and Spohrer were two of the millions of Americans making a go of it in the gig economy – cobbling together a main job and a side hustle, or a couple of side hustles, to produce an income.
If you’ve considered joining yourself, now’s the time to try it, says Kimberly Palmer, author of The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life. “What’s so exciting is now it’s a universal way to supplement your income – and because it’s so popular – there are more resources than ever before,” says Palmer.
Interested? Here are five things to consider first.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
It’s the number one piece of advice if you’re exploring your options and aren’t exactly sure where you want to go next. Use your passion as a springboard for what you might do, but don’t jump ship until that passion can financially support you. Judge and Spohrer, who recently shared Criminal’s success story on the podcast HerMoney, didn’t quit their jobs until a year and a half in. “I do think that if we had quit our jobs right away, the pressure to make Criminal financially viable, to make it successful, would have just overwhelmed us,” says Judge. “To have the freedom to be making Criminal at a slower pace so we could make sure that every episode was quality – and also not worry about how we were going to pay the rent or health insurance in the beginning – really allowed us to build the type of show we wanted to build.”
Learn As You Earn
Exploring your options requires two things, time and money – and having the latter can give you the former. It enables you to take a little more time away from your primary job in order to road-test things you’re interested in doing. There are ancillary benefits to staying employed, too. You’ll want to update your skills before you walk away from your paycheck (and you might be able to do this on your employer’s dime via career development courses the company provides). You can also use your current salary to help fund your next endeavor.
Know Your Boundaries
In line with not quitting your job, avoid getting fired from it, too. It’s important to check the rules and regulations of your main job, because “Whatever you do, you don’t want to create a conflict of interest for your paycheck,” says Palmer. For example, if you invent something while you’re employed there, your company could – and probably does – own it.
Find Your Niche And Price
Once you decide on your product or service, research the competition on sites like Elance, Fiverr and Etsy, says Palmer. You’ll see how other people are launching their gigs and charging for them. When it comes to setting your price, the more unique your service is, the higher you can go. “One really good way to charge higher prices is to offer something unique and branded just for you,” she says. “The more you can show a service or product is really special, because of your background, for example, the better.” So don’t just say “Life Coaching,” but “Life Coaching For Athletes.”
Keep Startup Costs Low
Palmer says the biggest mistake people make is spending too much upfront on costs that can’t be recovered – and that this can be avoided by asking around. She’s speaking from experience selling her money planners: “I thought, wrongly, that spiral-bound printed ones would be a good option – spent $300 and I still have them all.” (The secret sauce turned out to be PDF planners.) Tap into both your personal and soon-to-be professional networks (through sites like the few listed above) and ask for feedback. Also take advantage of free resources, like using existing sites like WordPress and Squarespace to make a free website, and using social media for free marketing.
This article was written by Jean Chatzky from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.