Successful side gigs don’t have to be complex and time consuming. If you want something that’s simple and that’ll earn you cash on the side, it’s possible.
Here are three examples of people doing just that — and what you can learn from them about creating your own side gig.
Jerry James Stone (cookingstoned.com — recipe site — last month: $3,045.34)
Jerry used to do some work for my last company, as well as a few others like discovery.com, back when digg.com was a website you could game to get traffic.
Jerry’s a savant at tweaking the headline and image of an article to give it an unfair advantage to get shared around the Web.
Even though the digg.com game dried up, Jerry is constantly evolving and has been driving boatloads of traffic to people’s websites since traffic became a commodity. One day, I had lunch with Jerry, where the goal was to explain that while most bloggers write for large publications because they have no choice, he was able to point traffic where he so desires. Shouldn’t he point traffic at his own website and scoop 100 percent of the money, instead of the 3 percent he was getting?
He agreed, and shortly thereafter began his website cookingstoned.tv. Like clockwork, his methodical and relentless production of high-quality, beautiful and shareable recipes, coupled with his ability to promote things through social media (through his prior life he had developed an enormous social media following), started to create traffic to his website.
He also taught himself the basics of search engine optimization and was able to help people searching for specific recipes to find his recipes. The money started small: ones-a-month, then tens-a-month, then hundreds-a-month, then rent money, and soon, thousands a month.
It’s all about having a clear strategy and methodically marching towards your goal with hard work and dedication. Most of the traffic today would continue, even if Jerry dropped everything and stopped producing great recipes. He’d still be able to reap the recurring benefits of the hard work he invested over the prior year.
The lesson: If you’re really good at something (say, making delicious food and taking beautiful photos of it), then you can turn this into a business. People are going to be interested in what you have to offer if it’s interesting, period.
Evan S. (professional poker player on the side — last month: $860.00)
The vast majority of professional poker players who say they’re professional are actually lifetime losers at the sport and would have probably been better off never learning of the possibility of playing for profit. So take this following story with with a grain of salt, knowing that Evan is a special case.
If you’re good at poker and you’re a serious, thinking player (meaning you’re willing to discuss and rethink hands-played to evolve as a player)… and you’re willing to track your results… and you’re willing to be honest when “running bad” isn’t just a few standard deviations off where you should be… and you have a bankroll that can withstand the “risk of ruin,” go for it. Just know that it’s a job like any other and that it’s a grind.
Poker isn’t nearly as glamorous as the movies make it out to be, and you won’t be on TV. Most pros are cash game players, meaning they’re not playing tournaments; they’re playing games where you sit down and get up when you choose to — and they’re not televised.
The lesson: If you have a hobby that involves taking money from others who aren’t as good as you at said hobby, you can turn it into real income — if you take it seriously and treat it like a business.
Dan Hahn (solarpowerrocks.com — lead generation website — last month: $2,874.43)
Dan was the reason I started down a path in solar energy that led me to found One Block Off the Grid in 2008. I had paid him a visit in Portland, and he had penciled out the economics of a subsidized solar system in Portland.
At the time, it was a double-digit fixed-rate return — a return on investment that, despite being non-liquid, was unachievable with almost any other investment vehicle for a homeowner. I was blown away and thought, “Why doesn’t everyone with sun hitting their roof have this?!”
While I was working a sales job to get my hands dirty and learn the industry, we started a blog about our research in solar called solarpowerrocks.com. After a few years, the website began to get real search traffic from Google, and those visitors were valuable because they were searching for things related to the purchase of a large-ticket home improvement.
We drove the people who were investigating home solar power to a natural path for monetization: We helped connect them with trusted installers through a lead form, and sold the lead information to those solar power installation companies interested in selling solar to said potential customers.
Some states had strong subsidies that made the leads very valuable. A lead in the right area of California with a nice sunny roof could garner $200 all by itself.
The lesson: If this site was monetized with just online ads, it would make one-tenth the money it does. If you have an extremely valuable readership, monetize it yourself with lead generation instead of giving most of the money to someone else.
You can do this yourself. Seriously, you can.
If I’ve learned one thing at the 60-Day MBA, it’s that aspiring entrepreneurs with day jobs who have a side gig don’t give themselves enough credit for what they’re capable of. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Technology and many other factors have leveled the playing field between old-money and secret-handshake inside circles and the everyday Joe and Jane. You can start your own business, and if you’re smart and put in the work, you can make real money on the side and be your own boss as well.
Dave Llorens is the CEO of the 60-Day MBA. If you liked this, here are a few posts at the 60-Day MBA on running a side business: How to Quit Your Job By Next Month, 70 Side Businesses You Can Start and 15 Business Opportunities for Making Money at Home.