The BEST Side Hustles I've Found
How I did with my Side Hustles in 2021
Truth: I created 8 notebooks that I never marketed. I got distracted by money that was coming in through other sources. Now, I plan to take some of the designs I made for POD and add them to notebooks and journals. I use Book Bolt for this.
Print on Demand
Truth: I've created 10 designs for a specific niche and I am putting them on various products. Right now, I have about 30 products for sale. Time to market them. I have another niche in mind but just need to create the designs. I use Gear Bubble and Sale Samurai to rock my Etsy store.
Fun: I love dogs and started dogsitting for others. I consistently serve 4 famlies year round. I can do my remote job from their home since all I need is internet and my laptop. I get all the doggy love without any of the real responsibility.
Domain + Affiliate
Winner: In June 2021, I bought the right domain, signed up as an affiliate, then started collecting passive income. I didn't do any advertising and have no following. This runs by itself bringing in @$1000/mo.
Truth: I wrote an ebook walking people step by step through the domain + affiliate side hustle. I just never finished designing the book and putting up the landing page to sell it. Coming soon? I sure hope so.
Long story: Denver real estate is crazy right now and prices skyrocketed. Some buyers were going $100k over asking. I found a way to get into the home I chose with about $5000 and there were offers higher than mine. I want to show others how to do this.
Ok, let’s talk money. Recently, I sat down with my younger siblings, who are both 20 years younger than me. The large age gap is due to my parents’ adoption choices when I was in college. Anyway, we started talking about their future, finishing college, choosing a career, making enough money to afford their lifestyles, etc. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about retirement; specifically, how to save for my own retirement. I’m in my 40’s and have very little saved up. I know, I know. Not smart. I played too much, traveled too much, and generally enjoyed life. Better late than never, so I’m getting started.
I found a retirement calculator online and entered my age, projected retirement date, and expected income. This thing told me that I’d need to save about $2,500 a month to catch up. Ugh…. Shoot me now. So basically, ramen and rice for months or find a way to make more money.
Now, I already have a job providing marketing, web and design. When I read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” 8 years ago, I basically put the info in the back of my mind and told myself that I’d start saving one day. My emergency fund is actually a line item in my mint.com account, but there are no funds in it. I even thought about delivering for Amazon or Door Dash at night, but never did. Goes to show you, knowledge without action is worthless. So now what?
Enter the side hustle idea. I like most ideas for making money, however, you have to do the math. If your skills allow you to make $40/hr doing something, it doesn’t make sense to get a side job making $20/hr or less. Most would think it is wiser to get something that pays the same with flexible hours, yet you run the risk of burnout. I will be honest and admit that I’d probably get annoyed and go off on a “Karen”, if she decided to berate me about a pizza being made incorrectly when all I did was deliver it. So, to keep my ass out of jail and off the 10 o’clock news, I decided to find a side hustle that used my skills, paid well, had flexible hours and created passive income.
I am ALL about passive income. I want to build something once and sell it a thousand times. I want to wake up to messages about new sales. In order to find an easy side hustle, I headed to YouTube. There are a lot of videos on side hustles, so I scanned the description and a few comments to see if the ideas in the video were things I’d be interested in. The YouTube algorithm knows that I watch marketing, design, web, and sales videos a lot. I’m always down for a new idea or more efficient way to get a project done so, the suggested videos didn’t disappoint. It didn’t take long for me to discover the concepts below.
The idea of selling low content books on Amazon is new to me.
When I think of Amazon, I think of products and distributing books from other publishers. I had no idea that you can self-publish books on Amazon. Keep in mind, I’m not about to write content for books. I hate that stuff. So, I needed to find how much you can make from low or no content books on Amazon, as well as how much effort would be involved.
Once again, YouTube didn’t disappoint. Some of these people were making $50,000 a year doing this, however they had accumulated over 2500 titles. That’s a lot of damn books. One lady said she would get home from work and spend a few hours a night doing research on new books, designing covers and uploading books. The money sounds good, the time commitment… not so much. I don’t get to design as much as I used to so I kind of miss it, but do I miss enough to start this journey? Only time will tell.
The Amazon book rating system is in the footnotes of every book listed on their website. It’s super useful when researching what people are buying. One of the best self-published books on Amazon is a notebook with a black cover and white text that says NOTEBOOK. Super simple. So, I looked this book up on tckpublishing.com to get an estimate of sales. The book is selling about 630 copies a month and it sells for $5.99. Amazon takes their cut plus the cost of printing which means they might be making about $2 per book. That may not seem like a lot, but the author is making $1260 of monthly passive income from that one notebook that probably took 10 minutes to make. I like those numbers! On average, people make $2.50 per book depending on how they price their books and what’s in it. If I can design a book that sells 300 books every month, 300 books at $2.50 is $750/month. If I can get 4 books to do that, I would have my $2500 retirement investment. I just don’t want to have to design 2,000 books to have 4 winners, especially since there’s no telling how long my best sellers will be popular. I guess this is where the market research part comes in and the commitment to keep designing winners.
Another thing to consider is whether this is still a viable option for passive income. Some of those YouTube videos were three years old. A lot can change in 3 years, just ask TikTok. The only way to find out is to jump in. I have some time and I would rather be behind my computer designing, than in my car in the summer heat or winter snow making sure people get their food.
Now, that I decided to move forward, how do I upload a book to Amazon? What is the best book layout software out there? Do I want to just do it all in Illustrator or Photoshop or Canva? Are there book cover designers for self-publishers so I don’t have to start from scratch? Well, my trusty YouTubers told me about Book Bolt. Book Bolt is an online software platform that allowed me to research the most popular books on Amazon, helped me narrow down keywords to help people find my book, gave me the Amazon book cover size, and helped me design the cover. They even went as far as letting me choose from a bunch of interior pages that were already formatted correctly. Talk about efficient! They made it super easy to make an activity book which is super popular right now. Puzzle books, food logs, journals, and password keepers are just a few of the ideas. If you plan to publish public domain books, you could just use Book Bolt for the cover and do what you want to with the interior. The point is you have options.
Here are the steps to self-publishing a book for those who need the bullets:
- Sign up for Amazon KDP. I signed up with my existing Amazon account. It was super easy, just tell them who you are, prove you can earn money, and tell them where to send your money.
- Sign up for Book Bolt. If you use my link and the code: CREATIVE, you will get a discount. :) You’re welcome.
- Research best selling books using the Cloud feature in Book Bolt.
- Create your book and interior pages using the Book Bolt Save your designs and download them so you can upload them in pdf format to Amazon.
- Use the keyword tool in Book Bolt to help people find your book.
- Decide on your author’s name if you are not using your own and write a book description.
- Upload your book to Amazon KDP with all the pieces above. The uploader will take about 5 minutes to process each book once you fill everything out. I had 3 browsers open so I could upload multiple books at once.
- Decide on a price for your book and where you would like it to be available. Once you save, that’s it. Sit back and wait for Amazon’s approval.
There are many YouTube videos that will walk you step by step through this process. I highlighted a few for you on this page. Book Bolt also has a video library to help you. Right now, I am waiting for Amazon to approve my first few books. While I wait, I’m going to focus on marketing. There is an advertising feature inside of Amazon KDP, but since I have a marketing background, I’m always trying to think of ways to cross market a product for a specific niche. I want people to head to Amazon looking for my designs which might increase my sales vs them stumbling on my designs when they were browsing for something else. I love impulse buys, but there is less competition if you find them in a blue ocean rather than a red one.
Since I have a marketing background, my mind immediately tries to find the blue ocean. Which niche can I be one of the few to provide products to? I started asking my friends and family about the past and passions. You know, get them talking about what they care about. I interviewed a few of them and wrote down some of their sayings, inside jokes and sentimental reminders. I've turned some of these into designs then uploaded them to GearBubble. GB puts my design on the product then generates a mockup for me in about 5 minutes. GB allows me to create a store for each one of my niches so I can market that store's link to the people who are passionate about that topic. The best part is that GB will provide order fulfillment. I don't have to do anything once I upload my designs which makes it truly passive.
Now I have the choice to put some of these same products on Etsy, especially since Gb gave me all of the mockup images that I'd need to duplicate the product listing. I'm getting there. All of this takes time. I did hire a few freelancers on Fiverr and Upwork to try to get this done faster. I'm writing this on Nov 30th, 2021 and it's killing me that I don't have products to sell for Black Friday and the holiday season.
But instead of beating myself up about what I haven't done yet, I will keep plugging along and just get my products done. There will always be another holiday, birthday or special occasion for someone to want to purchase a product them love. Hell! I buy stuff for myself any time of the year just because. No holiday needed. lol