Image: Ratthaphon Bunmi/123rf
1. Spend Time Marketing It
Failing to market their business is the number one reason most people can’t build a consistent side income. A lot of people only answer ads, ask friends to recommend them, and just wait for opportunities to come their way.
Getting a consistent side income is like setting up a business, though. It requires you to invest some capital. This capital isn’t actually money (money just provides a shortcut), but time.
Some things to consider:
- Set up your social media channels to promote yourself. Is there a Facebook page for what you do?
- Set up a blog or site. You can do this for free, with no knowledge of coding. That’s what Weebly, WordPress, and related sites are for. If you want your own domain, a relatively affordable site that lets you host and design your site is Squarespace.
- Print some name cards. Or if you want to save money, make some.
- Build a customer database listing their phone number, address, and when to get back to them. You don’t even need Microsoft Office, the tools you need are free in Google Drive.
- However, there will be times when you have more than one source of side income, and you need to pick one. You can’t be providing dog walking, cooking classes, and pants repair all at once, which brings us to our next point…
2. Apply the $500, Three Month Rule
Say you made $500 helping someone to design a T-shirt this month. Should you now bother to set up a Facebook page, blog, or print name cards? Or was it a just fluke, which you shouldn’t waste time and cash on?
When in doubt, go for the $500, three-month rule. This just means you invest the capital only when the job or product pays at least $500 and is able to do so for three consecutive months.
If the amount is below $500 it’s might be too trivial to invest time and money in. If it can’t happen for three consecutive months, then you haven’t found a viable market–just a one-time project.
3. Actively Ask for References
After you are done with a client, thank them for their business and ask why they chose you (take note of the reason, its important feedback). Right after that, explain that you depend on referrals to grow your business, and ask them to recommend you to someone.
Seasoned, full time freelancers don’t usually need to do this–most of them become so associated with their jobs, they get referrals whether or not they ask. This is the point you want to reach some day. But until you get there, always ask for referrals.
If you don’t ask for it, you probably won’t get it.
4. Work Toward Retainers Rather than Individual Payments
When your side income fluctuates, it’s a pain to plan your finances. The most common cause of this charging per hour or per project, which makes your income whipsaw every month.
If you want consistency, work toward selling your services on a retainer basis. Say, you make a side income as a researcher. Rather than charge $500 for a project this month, $700 for a project the month after, $0 no projects the month after that, try to convince the client to have you on retainer. Offer a flat rate for three or six months of work, with a specifically defined job scope. Once the contract is signed, you’ll know exactly how long you have before you need to start looking for new jobs.
If you are selling products, this can be much harder. But you can try methods such as a membership scheme, which gives out rewards only if the holder spends $X each month.
5. Stay Focused on Your Core Product or Service
“Feature creep” is an inevitable part of any product or service, including your little side-business. Based on feedback, you will be tempted to add a lot of extras to what you do, or even to take on brand new responsibilities.
If you freelance as copywriter, for example, you may be tempted to expand and become a WordPress expert or illustrator as well. You may feel that this could get you more clients.
Most of the time, you are wrong. You are not a big company that can raise the capital (time and money) for whole new product and service lines. Unless your side income has become a full blown business, it’s usually best to stick to what’s proven.
When you start offering every service / product under the sun, you will almost certainly lose track of which one makes you the most money (and hence, which one deserves more marketing spend).
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