Take Your Side Hustle to the Next Level in 2018 

Committing to a side hustle can be a viable way to generate more income and get out of debt. If you are interested in getting started with a side hustle, then you are not alone. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, over one-third of job holders and nearly half of all millennials have some type of side hustle. But if your New Year’s resolution is to take your side hustle to the next level, there are important considerations to bear in mind. Whether you want to increase your side hustle’s earnings or transform your work into a full-fledged business, a look at the most important steps for taking your side hustle to the next level can jumpstart your journey toward a fulfilling new year.

Get Organized
The first step to upgrading your side hustle is to get organized. If your ideas or plans are all over the place, it can be that much harder to achieve your financial goals. Sharpen your plans for monetary success with the following organizational goals:

Divide Your Daily To-Do List Into Categories
Rather than keeping a scattered to-do list, divide your daily milestones into categories. You can use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets or free apps such as HabitBull  to set daily goals for reviewing and improving your side hustle.
Work With an Online Timer
Many people lament that they cannot accomplish their side goals due to time constraints. However, studies have shown that even a half an hour of time (or 3.5 hours per week) can help improve side hustles such as consulting or blogging. For time management, consider using an online timer or tool such as Tomato Timer. This free clock app automatically sets to less than the length of a sitcom. Use this app to finish a project per day before the clock runs out.
Reset Your Priorities
Take advantage of the newness of the year and create a fresh work schedule for your side hustle. If necessary, have a conversation with family about the importance of reserving at least an hour a day to your side hustle. You may also wish to invest in organizing software such as Setmore or Get Goaling for both personal and professional use.
Plan Ahead
It is easy to forget even important deadlines when encountering daily distractions. For this reason, keeping a wall calendar or large pocket organizer is a must for staying on top of your side goals. You can also purchase a foam module or table calendar and plan your side hustle goals for the year. If you decide to turn your side hustle in an actual business, now is a great time to register a domain name and create a logo with an online logo generator. The beginner of the year is also an ideal time for registering your business as an limited liability company (LLC) and obtaining an employment identification number (EIN) for tax purposes.
Find Accountability Partners
One of the best ways to take advantage of the new year is to establish a new accountability partnership. This alliance with like-minded individuals can help keep you focused and can also provide ideas and resources you may not have discovered alone. Accountability partners include Facebook groups, online forums, and Meetup.com for in-person gatherings. If you are committed to operating your side hustle as a business, the Small Business Association (SBA) often offers free counseling and accountability mentors for those who qualify. Since time is limited, take advantage of someone else’s research and expand your horizons in 2018.Review Successes and Challenges From the Previous Year
In addition to setting fresh goals, it is important to review both the adversity and triumph of the previous year. This process helps provide a buffer against repeating mistakes, demonstrates your most important skill sets, and gives you an edge above any competitor who has failed to evaluate their hustles. There are two types of evaluation: process-based and outcome-based. Process-based evaluation refers to time, cost, and results. For example, you should clearly record how long it took you to complete a scheduled project, how much it cost, and the results. Since most people work full-time jobs in addition to their side hustles, ensuring that benefit matches time and cost investment is key to taking the mission to the next level. Outcome-based evaluation refers to upgradability, learning, and value. Consistently seeking ways to increase profitability of your side hustle can greatly improve the outcome of your efforts.Set SMART Goals
Set SMART goals to ensure the success of your side-hustle venture. SMART criteria refers to the acronym based on Peter Drucker’s management theory of setting objectives to reach important goals. According to the criteria, goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. The following breakdown can help you understand each component in the theory:Specific: Write down a clearly defined, bottom-line goal that you will work toward (For example, ‘I will strive to make X dollars per week by December 2018’). The goal should be simple, sensible, and have a reasonable impact on your hustle.
Measurable: You must be able to record progress on this goal and track it every step of the way. Use calendars and calculators to measure benchmarks and results. You should also feel that the goal is motivating enough to see it through until the end.
Attainable: Ability to achieve a financial goal ensures that you will stick with it. For example, drafting that you would like to make several million dollars before the year is out may be unrealistic, causing you to become discouraged quickly. However, a goal of several thousand before the end of the year may be attainable with concerted effort.
Relevant: Your goals should match the business model for your side hustle. For example, if you teach fitness classes on the side, your goal may be to acquire a new student per week. If your side hustle is YouTube marketing, you may set a goal to achieve X more subscribers per month.
Time-Based: Also known as time-sensitive, this component is one of the most important of the SMART criteria. Without a deadline, you will not have a definable goal. Fortunately, the onset of the year is the perfect opportunity to set weekly, monthly, and year-end goals and commit to keeping this deadline.After writing your SMART goals, you should be able to answer the “Five Ws” (who, what, where, when, and why) for your side hustle. You will also be able to answer honestly (yes or no) whether you achieved the goal in a specific amount of time.

Example: Sample SMART Profile for a Tutoring Business
Goal I want to make more money tutoring.
Specific I will gain three new students for my tutoring side hustle.
Measurable I will measure my progress by keeping track of marketing with the aim of getting a new student every two weeks. This amount of time will also help me keep my current tutoring schedule while avoiding burnout.
Achievable I will gain three new students since I realistically have time to tutor three more people (according to my calendar and spreadsheet).
Relevant Taking on three more students will increase my income and spread word of mouth for my business.
Timely With the goal of a new student every two weeks, I will have three new students at the end of six weeks.

SMART Goal I will add three new students to my tutoring business within a six-week time frame as accorded by my current schedule. This will increase my income and potentially help my tutoring business grow.

Perfect Your Elevator Pitch
Another important way to improve your side hustle is to perfect your elevator pitch. Whether you need to pitch a product or service or need a new mentor, improving your pitch helps make the most of everyone’s time involved. The simplest way to improve the elevator pitch is to use five notecards to answer the “Five Ws” about yourself or your hustle. One notecard should focus on who you are, another on what you can do, another on why you do it, and so on. After you have mastered speaking naturally about these five important facts, work on an attention-grabbing opener for your pitch. To ensure that the pitch flows elegantly, record the elevator pitch into an MP3 file and evaluate the playback. You can also practice your speech in front of a trusted friend or career coach to receive constructive feedback. Finally, you may also want to practice the pitch in an actual elevator to ensure delivery in a timely fashion.

Turbocharge Your Marketing
Revamping your marketing is another great way to improve your side hustle for the new year. Recent trends in marketing include using video and interactive media to promote your brand. With this platform, you can also make money from webinars and short YouTube trailers that also promote your business. In addition to video and direct marketing, you can also automate social media marketing with apps like Hootsuite. If you have a large social media following, signing up with an influencer marketing company is another great way to make money while spreading the word about your business. If you are stumped for new ways to market your side hustle, you can sign up for Primer (Google’s free marketing lessons app) to keep up with the latest trends in marketing.

Assess and Learn From Competitors
Learning from the competition is one of the most important ways to improve your side hustle. Performing competitive analysis and market research can shield you from repeating competitor mistakes as well as provide important suggestions to use in your own hustle. Assessing competitors also sharpens your predictive analysis skills. By evaluating patterns on what competitors will do next, you can stay ahead of the game. When researching competitors, be sure to evaluate direct competitors (people doing exactly what you are doing), substitute or alternative competitors (those providing a product or service that could replace yours), and available-spend competitors (those providing a product or service that your target market could choose instead of yours or any similar alternatives). Online tools for evaluating competitors include SpyFu, Google Alerts, and Google Trends. If you run a website, use SERP Checker tool and SEMRush for keyword analysis along with SiteWorthTraffic and ComScore for traffic analysis of competitor sites.

Survey Your Customers
Customer surveys can provide candid insight on your ability to deliver on your claims. Both sole proprietors and large corporations use customer surveys to perform SWOT analysis (assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to their brands). The following tips can help you craft the best survey for your customers:

– To increase the response rate for your customer survey, offer an incentive or freebie such as a gift card or coupon code.
– Keep surveys short and simple. Ideally, each question in the survey will address one letter in the “SWOT” analysis.
– Focus on one project at a time rather than your whole side hustle or company
– Follow up the survey with an invitation to purchase your product or service again

Track Progress Quarterly
Once you have established this framework, it is also important to regularly track progress of your goals. Quantitative evaluation of progress includes measurements (numbers-based report on goals), metrics (the standard for measurement such as dollars or units), and benchmarks (ultimate goals for your business or side hustle). If your side hustle is a full-fledged business, you will also need to review the seven standard metrics of progress: direction of cash flow, accounts payable, accounts receivable, direct costs, operating margin, profit, and burn rate. Qualitative performance metrics include time frame used to reach a goal, satisfaction or dissatisfaction with responsibilities, and the ultimate resources gained from embarking on an activity. Tools that can help your track your progress include Track-n-Graph, the Stickk app, and the Strides app.

Taking your side hustle to the next level may seem daunting at first. But with careful organization, SMART goals, and custom analysis, you can build a side hustle that will positively impact your life for years to come.

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