Side Hustle Ideas: A Step by Step Guide to Help You Start

Mailbox Painting

When it comes to side hustles, you have to find something that you can start doing fairly quickly.  No idea is off limits.  Be always within reach of pen and paper, so that when an idea pops in your brain, you can capture it.

Keep in mind, though, that innovation doesn’t always produce an income.  You should find out how viable the idea is.  In the technology world, you have a endless amounts of ears listening to help vet your idea.

Let’s take an example of a mailbox.  I recently had the idea of mailbox painting.  In my neighborhood, our mailboxes are encased in a brick structure.  Only about 3 inches of the mailbox is exposed.  Years of sun fades a mailbox, and mine was looking pretty bad.  I thought about how to spruce mine up with a bit of high gloss paint.  But I then thought maybe this is easy enough to provide as a service to others.

As I walked along the street, nearly every mailbox I saw was also faded.  If I could benefit from a revitalized mailbox, surely others feel the same way.  And boom…an idea is born.

The first thing I do with my ideas is to see how much cost and time is involved.  If I were to pay for this service, I would probably pay $15-$20 for someone to provide this service.  I would expect the inside of the mailbox to be primed with rust inhibitor and also painted.  Such a job would be approximately 30 minutes at most, and I could cut that down as I got more efficient.  Materials would include a stencil and masking tape (to reduce over-spray), and spray paint costs around $5.00/can.  In my scenario, I think I could keep walk away with about 70% in net profit or around $10-$14.  It’s not much profit, but you should not feel defeated before you even start.  You have no idea about market demand yet.  You could end up cornering the market and branching into many neighborhoods.  You could be doing 5 a day or only 5 per week.  Regardless, side hustles are about doing what you like to do, making money in the process, and coming up with other side hustles.  Collectively, it spells freedom.

The next thing I do with my ideas is to do bit of market research.  What is the market for mailbox painting?  Does anyone else do it?  If so, what do they charge?  You need to find out how you can stand out from the competition.  To maximize the response, I would use technology.  There is a neighborhood app called Nextdoor, in which neighborhoods come together to discuss matters in their neighborhood.  You could post a question or start a poll asking if people would be interested in having their mailbox painted.  Ask for honest opinions.

On a grander scale, you could also drum up interest by starting a website that collects email addresses.  Launchrock.com is a platform that allows you to quickly start your voice about your business without having to take the step of sinking money into hosting.  The premise is to talk about your idea and collects emails of people who are interested in your product or service prior to launching your official website.  Whether buying a domain name or not, you can create an engaging website that talks about your service, and engages a potential consumer.  It’s a great way to vet your idea, and allows you to promote the idea to the masses.  By having a quick, low-cost website that you can promote using ads and monitor web traffic, you can gauge how viable the mailbox painting will be.

Now that you’ve seen that people are interesting in having their mailbox painted (assuming it is), you can start with a real website.  Start with buying a domain name and hosting.  I would recommend BlueHost because they are cheap and recommended by many WordPress users.  (Here’s an affiliate link, if you would please do me the honor:  WordPress Hosting).  Getting a domain name and hosting setup will then allow you to install WordPress.  And after WordPress is installed, you’ll want to change your WordPress Theme to match your tastes in mailboxes.  Most themes have a top banner image.  In our case I would put a before/after picture of a mailbox painting.  I have another article talking about hosting.

A small note:  When you setup hosting, you’ll have the option to setup an email address.  I would recommend doing this, so that you’re using an email address matching your website.  For instance, if you’re domain name was painthebox.com, your email address would be something like joe@paintthebox.com.  It’s more professional than joe@gmail.com.

After you’ve got your web presence setup with engaging content, you can now market yourself.   One super, low-cost way to get a target audience is to walk door to door, handing out pre-made postcards.  Moo, VistaPrint, Kinkos are just a few online ways to create flyers.

If you’d like to be more aggressive out of the gate, or after you’ve got some income you’d like to reinvest later from this business, I would also consider using the United States Post Office.  They have a targeted direct mail program (called “Every Door Direct Mail“) that allows you to target neighborhoods and find out how many flyers you need to print out.  You bundle them up with a printout the USPS gives you, you take the bundle to the post office, and they will distribute them for you.  Awesome!

With a marketing effort of door-to-door, direct mail, Facebook ads, Nextdoor discussions, and word of mouth advertising, you should be able to effectively spread the word about your mailbox painting business.

The great thing about side hustles, is that they are quick ideas with low cost.  Simply rename and repeat this process for any idea you have, and you’re bound to hit upon success with minimal cost.  Just remember, the more poles you have in the water (a.k.a. ideas), the more chances you have for catching fish (a.k.a. freedom and money).