Before starting a side hustle, you have to find your marketable skill.
One person may be great at spelling and grammar, so they become a copy editor. Another may be quick at selecting the best items in the supermarket, so they become a shopper for a grocery delivery service. But what do you do when you’re not sure what your unique skill is?
The good news is there are ways to figure out your strengths that can develop into future side gigs. Learn how to start a side hustle by finding your marketable skill.
Write Down Your Strengths
The first thing you need to do is create a list. Chris Williams, founder and digital marketing specialist at Clock In Marketing, recommends writing out on a piece of paper what skills you think you’re good at. Also, determine how much time and what days you’ll be able to devote to a side hustle. This paper list will give you a point of reference when doing research on different fields to consider for your side hustle.
Consult Your Friends and Coworkers
After listing any skills or fields that interest you, it’s time to poll the people close to you. Sol Rosenbaum runs The Engineering Mentor, a website that helps engineers develop soft professional skills, such as networking and public speaking. He recommends asking your friends and coworkers what they think your strengths are. You might be surprised.
“Until someone else sees that [skill] in you, you don’t realize it’s a unique skill or a skill [other] people are having trouble with,” he says.
Think About What You’re Already Doing For Other People
Sometimes the things you do for family and friends as favors may be a profitable side hustle waiting to happen. Jessica Hernandez, an experienced recruiter and human resources professional, regularly helped her friends write their resumes. One day, a friend told her “You should charge for this.”
“That’s what I hadn’t thought about before. I was just doing it to be nice because these were my friends and I wanted to help them,” she says.
In 2008, Hernandez opened the resume writing service Great Resumes Fast as a side hustle. In less than two years, the business expanded to the point where she surpassed the salary of her day job. Now she works on her resume-writing business full time.
Hernandez says, “Don’t think about what other people are doing.” Instead, focus on how you’re already serving others.
Consider Fields That Spark Your Curiosity
If nobody is coming to you asking for favors like writing resumes or managing their social media ads, then what do you do? Hernandez suggests thinking about activities that naturally interest you, such as hobbies, subjects you enjoy talking about or topics that spark curiosity.
“If it’s not an enjoyable side hustle, you’re not going to want to do it, especially after having worked all day,” she says. “It’s going to feel like more work instead of something that you’re passionate about.”
Once some ideas begin to take shape, consider whether you’re going to need any additional training. Hernandez recommends reading books on the subject, taking online courses and following successful people in the field on social media. For example, she follows experts in social media advertising and marketing on LinkedIn.
“Learn from the best because that’s going to help you succeed when you’re building your own side hustle,” she says. “That’s one of the things that has benefited me immensely over the years.”
Test Your Idea on a Small Scale
Before opening for business, first find out if there is a market for your side hustle idea. If nobody is willing to pay for your services, then it’s not a viable side hustle. Rosenbaum tested his material online before launching his website. He went to forums like Reddit and Quora to see what people were asking about and answered their questions. This testing phase reassured him that there is an audience for his skills, and it helped him develop a following. After about a year, he figured it was time to launch the site.
“I think it’s important not to rush it or push it because you can rush and push in the wrong direction and then you’re back at square one a couple [of] months later,” he says.
Rosenbaum adds that if you rely only on your friends for feedback, it may be skewed because they’re just trying to be supportive of your dream. “Until you have customers and clients within your target audience telling you that [your idea is good], you’re not getting a fair picture of what is out there and what the possibilities are.”
Matt Reinstetle is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers side hustles and the gig economy. Follow him on Twitter @MattReinstetle.