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Issue #2 • February 2017

How to Set a Budget for the First Year of Your Side Hustle

Build Your Audience

“I’m starting a side gig because I could really use the extra income.”

Sound familiar?

Yes, creative expression, the road to self-employment, and building a platform to teach are all high up there on the reasons why someone would add another job to their busy schedules, but let’s not forget about this basic necessity of income.

Providing for your family, getting out of debt, or setting up a savings account for your future are big deals these days. If you’ve ever said that statement above, you know how important this extra bit of monthly income can be. Whether it’s an extra $250 or $1,000 a month, it’s needed and it could be life-changing.

The problem is that you’re creating out of a lack. If you need to make money, can you afford to spend money on services and tools to get started on your side hustle?

You’ve got to spend money to make money, right?

I think when you're doing something on the side there's a temptation to penny-pinch a bit. Then you end up doing loads of manual work and have no time or energy for the creative stuff that will make your tiny baby business into something successful (however you define success). If you only have say four hours a week for your project and you spend most of that time fighting with inadequate software, you aren't going to get very far.

It’s true. To get your side gig up and running, you will need to spend some money. Websites don’t build themselves, you know. However, the good news is you don’t need to spend a lot. Some tools and services will be necessary, but many will be up to your preference.

With everything else you have to focus on in your life, the start of your side hustle should be as minimal as possible. But if you’ve never been in this situation before, you might not even know what tools you need or what you need to spend money on.

If you’re not sure how or with what to start your side gig, this article is the perfect list of essential (or nearly essential) tools and services. I’ve taken the liberty and listed them by what I think are necessities for a new blogger/online business owner. Some will have a monthly or annual subscription and some can be absolutely free. And depending on how you use them, you'll see that some tasks can be done with the same tool.

So take some time and read through this list. Do your research­­ and­­ find the tools that you feel comfortable using. But if there's one thing not to do, it's to let this slow you down or paralyze you from the important part: serving your audience and teaching everything you know.

Domain name purchase

Having a recognizable domain name is very important. If you want your site to be searchable on the Internet and if you want your readers to tell their friends where to find you, your domain name needs to be easy to understand, spell, and remember. So when you’re thinking about your url, keep it clear, relatable, and on brand to your business.

Here are a couple main sites to buy your domain name:

Pro-tip: The truth is, you might have a hard time finding a domain name that hasn’t already been taken. If you find that all domain names you originally want are in use, start thinking on an SEO level. What keywords do you want your site registering for? Try using those in your domain name. In the long run, the search traffic will make up for the lack of catchiness.

Website/blogging platform

Once you have a name and a direction for your business, it’s time to build your site. At this point, you might not be able to hire someone to design and build your site for you, so it’s time to look into ways you can build your own.

While many platforms out there cater to all types of bloggers, there are actually quite a few designed with specific niches in mind. When deciding on your platform think about the products you’ll be selling, your needs and abilities as a business owner, and how your customers will interact with you.

Here are a few DIY website platforms:

Web hosting

Who you choose as your web host is a really big deal that many new business owners don’t take seriously enough. Think about it. They control your website, you know, that thing that’s going to make you money. You need to find a company with a good track record of keeping everything running smoothly.

If your site goes down, you’re not only seeing a negative effect on your SEO ranking, you’re probably also losing revenue. Or if your site is hacked and not backed up, you might lose everything. So make sure to do your homework and find a hosting company with good customer service, a solid track record, and the ability to scale.

Here are some of the big players in hosting to check out:

Email marketing tool

Email is still the most effective and direct way to connect with your readers. To get the best use of email marketing, you need an email marketing tool that best fits your needs.

Some things to think about when choosing an email marketing tool are the features you need, what you’ve heard about their customer support, and how you want to manage subscribers, create campaigns, and track analytics.

If you don't know what we do for a living around here, now would be a good time to tell you: We're on a mission to help you make a living online by building the best email marketing tool for bloggers, podcasters, and vloggers in the world. So, we're biased, but you should demo ConvertKit to find out how we can help you get your side hustle up and running.

Demo ConvertKit now!

If you want to research some of our competitors to compare their offerings to how well we'll treat you here at ConvertKit, here are some of our friends in the industry:

E-commerce platform

If you’re selling physical or digital products online, your e-commerce store is going to be very important for you. Many platforms cater to specific products, so make sure you do your research to find one that works right for your business.

When looking around think about responsive design, mobile optimization, user experience and interface, and customer support.

Check out these platforms out to being with:

Calendars

One of the most basic tools that you already have easy access to is your calendar. The only true way to keep track of all your meetings, projects, family events, and your very necessary break time is to write it all down.

Not only does it help to keep track of all your to-do’s, a calendar can also serve as a accountability partner. If you can look at your calendar and see a blocked off time that you’ve dedicated for writing a blog post, you’ll be more likely to actually sit down for that hour or so and make it happen than if you simply told yourself at the beginning of the week that you needed to write a post.

But the best part? This tool can be completely free. Sure there are some fancy calendar tools for all your business needs, but honestly you don’t need that. As a side gigger or a new business owner on a budget you really need to picky about what you spend your money on, and a calendar just doesn't need to be one of those things.

Here are a few great calendar tools that I would recommend to create a schedule and actually stick to it.

As a bonus, if you plan to have a lot of meetings or you'll be offering a service that'll require you to meet regularly with clients, try out Calendly or Acuity for easy meeting scheduling.

Editorial calendar

If you’re running a blog (which I hope you are), staying organized is key to success. No matter if you’re posting once a week or every day, it’s too easy to push your writing responsibilities to the backburner and fall behind. That’s why you need an editorial calendar.

Can you image how thoughtful, succinct, and well-researched your writing could be if you had a month to write it? If you can plan your content one to three months in advance, you’re going to be less stressed, more consistent, and miles beyond most bloggers. According to our State of the Blogging Industry survey, 52% of our respondents write their posts the day before or the day of publishing.

Never miss a deadline again with these tools:

Pro-tip: If you’re not ready to put a monetary investment into your content calendar, any free calendar tool can work for now. Just open up a month view and start assigning content.

Design tool

Let’s face it– we’re not all designers. But when push comes to shove, we also don’t have treasure troves in our side gig budget to hire a designer to handle every little project we have.

As a small business owner it’s smart to find a design tool that you’re comfortable with to help you create simple pieces of content like banners, social media images, content upgrades, and other graphics.

Here are a couple tools that might make sense for you to check out:

Project management

When you're side hustling, it’s inevitable that you’ll be juggling multiple projects at once. To make sure that no proverbial ball is dropped, it’s a good idea to look into a project management tool. This is the place you’ll plan, execute, and control all the aspects of your projects.

Depending on the tool you choose and how you choose to use it, a project management software can be a clean way to track a to-do list or can go in depth to create complex schedules, budget for projects, and even store documents and images.

Here’s a list of a few project management tools to check out:

Social media tool

While it may not be the most important thing at first, social media is still a great way for your customers to interact with you and your brand. The problem with social media is that many companies make the mistake of trying to be everywhere at the same time.

When you're side hustling it doesn't make sense to try to be everywhere because you could be spending that time focused on the more creative or income-focused aspects of your project. I recommend picking two to three social media channels and focusing only on those. Find out where your customers are hanging out the most and be there. And if you really want to focus, just pick one! Better to be great at engaging on one platform than exceedingly mediocre on three.

If you decide to go with more than one social platform, even just those couple of channels can be a lot to keep up with. Finding a social media tool that combines all your communication in one app is essential.

Here are a few tools to help:

How to set a budget for your side gig

If you focus on just these basic tools and can set a good side gig budget, you'll know exactly how much you should expect to spend in the first year of your side hustle. Save that money up and dedicate it to the project so that you have the resources you need (and a healthy limit on the amount you're willing to spend before the project starts making money on its own).

To help you actually set that budget, we’ve created a quick spreadsheet for you to fill in as you decide which tools and services will best help you start your side gig. Simply save a copy of the document and plug in the prices to find out how much you might need to budget for your side gig.

Side Gig Budgeting Calculator

Did this blog post help you create a reasonable side gig budget? If so, please share it with your friends and help them set up their side gig budgets too.

Dani Stewart

As a daughter of an entrepreneur, the wife of an entrepreneur, and an entrepreneur herself, Dani has lived and learned all sides of creating and growing businesses. She is excited to bring all that life experience as well as a decade of crafting content to the ConvertKit community. She is a part-time baker, dinner-party planner, and lover of good bourbon living the simple life in Nashville with her husband, Sean.

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