7 Things I Look For in a Great Side Hustle

Once I decided to start this blog the first thing I did was think back to the countless side hustles I have experimented with to figure out exactly what attracted me to each hustle. As I jotted down my notes, I noticed a pattern. I realized that over the years, I have inadvertently developed a list of criteria I use to evaluate the suitability of a potential side hustle. These side hustle ‘criteria’ are also reflected in my current crop of projects.

I want to share that criteria with you.

Please understand the elements I look for in a potential side hustle may not be the same things you look for, and that should be expected. We have different values, passions, skills, and beliefs, not to mention differing goals. I am working on a series of exercises to help people identify and develop their criteria for a good side hustle, but for now, let’s look at my list.

1. Is the side hustle mobile?

The new buzz word is ‘location-independent’. Any potential side hustle just needs to be mobile. I enjoy traveling and our family moves around a lot. Any side hustle I engage in must not be dependent on being in one specific location.

Ideally, it should require nothing more than a basic Internet connection and a minimal amount of electricity. I consider it a bonus if a side hustle that can run from a cellular connection and a solar panel. A side hustle that requires real estate or needs a geographically located client base isn’t going to score high here.

2. Is it something I enjoy doing?

There are plenty of great ways to make money with a side hustle, and some side hustles generate more income than others. But income is not the only thing to consider, it needs to be balanced with something you enjoy doing.

As an example: cleaning houses can pay very well, but I dislike cleaning my own house and there’s no way I’m going to tolerate cleaning someone else’s.

There are two reasons this is important. First, your side hustle is something you are going to work on after you’ve finished a full day grinding for your paycheck. If it’s not something you enjoy, you’re not going to stick with it for very long.

You’ve also go to enjoy doing the activity enough so that you won’t mind doing it for free. Chances are you’re going to need to offer your services for free (or at least steeply discounted) in the beginning to generate a client base and build some momentum. Working for free is easier if you truly love what you are doing.

3. Does it synergize well with other aspects of my life?

It doesn’t mean I don’t engage in side hustles that stand on their own, but if I come across a project that meshes well with another hustle, my regular job, a hobby, interest or activity I already do, or with my responsibilities as a husband and father, it adds another level of appeal to the project.

As an example: one of my favorite side hustles is freelance writing (mostly blog content) for companies. When I came across a great opportunity to market a legal service to small business owners, it had a synergy with an already existing side hustle.

In working with the company to produce relevant content, I was able to identify problems that could be solved with a legal plan . By providing them a solution to two problems, it increased the value I was able to bring to the client, and it added more income to my business.

4. Is the side hustle scalable?

This is a simple math. Can I increase the income this side hustle generates without increasing the number of hours I invest in the project? Another way to look at it, can this side hustle pay me while I sleep?

Not all my hustles have this element. I can’t write when I sleep, however some of my writings generate income from ad views, so there is a trickle of ‘sleep money,’ but most of my writing income comes while I am awake and writing.

Other side hustles, like driving for Uber, do not scale easily.

My network marketing hustle is different. While the income is less than my writing income, the majority of what I earn comes as residual income on past sales. It also compounds as I continue to protect clients and grow my network marketing organization by recruiting new distributors. It has the potential to scale to incredible heights.

5. Does it require more than three hours per day to execute?

This is one element that is sure to vary depending on your schedule, your goals, and other commitments. I prefer my hustles consume no more than 15-20 hours per week.

I do have multiple hustles, so in total, I spend much more than 20 hours per week hustling, but I try to keep everything in balance. Your time commitment will vary, just make sure you can reach the income level you need within the time you have available to hustle.

6. Does it require more than $50/month to sustain?

A side hustle is a way to bring in extra income, not add more bills to be paid. If a side hustle requires more than $50 per month in overhead and expenses, I’ll likely pass.

Much like #5, this is going to vary depending on your own situation and goals, but the overall theory remains the same. The less a side hustle costs in relation to the income it generates, the better the opportunity.

7. Does it cost less than $100 to get started?

This is another criterion that is going to vary widely from person to person, but as a rule of thumb, I want my hustles to have a total startup fees of less than $100. This may seem low, but there are several advantages to keeping things tight. You’re less likely to jump into a project that will end up being more than you can manage if the cost of entry is low.

You’re also more like to pull the trigger on an opportunity if the startup fees aren’t a hurdle to overcome. You’ll also get into profit mode much faster. It’s easy to recoup a $100 investment fee, ten times easier than it is to ROI on a $1,000 startup.

How do my current side hustles score?

Not many side hustles will score a perfect 7 out of 7. Of my current crop of projects, my network marketing business does land at 100%. It meets all my criteria and is an excellent side hustle opportunity.

My freelance writing business is a solid 6. It loses a point for scalability but meets the other criteria.

My driving for Uber experiment is the lowest scoring of my current side hustles. I’ve scored it a 3.5 out of 7. It lost a point for scalability, ongoing expenses, daily hours (although it may not exceed 20 hours per week) and half a point for synergy because I can write while I am waiting for another ride.

I’ll continue to explore other potential side hustles and rate them based on my personal list of criteria. You’ll find reviews of those I engage with here on the blog. Leave a comment below if you have a side hustle criterion you use to evaluate opportunities or just have a question about side hustles in general.

Look for my worksheet on developing your own side hustle criteria coming soon. Sign up for my email newsletter or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss it.