side hacks: earning money at something i love

One of the ways that I earn a little extra cash is by teaching dance one night a week. Specifically, I teach a tap class to elementary-aged children. I always refer to that as my “fun job”, because that is how I view it. Teaching that one night a week doesn’t make me big bucks, but it does give me a sense of fullfillment – and I am able to earn money doing something that I would do for free (don’t tell my boss that, though!).

Growing up, I took a variety of different dance lessons, and I loved it. Ballet, Pointe, Tap, Jazz – if the studio offered it, I had taken it. My studio owner took me under her wing once I graduated high school and let me work in the office and teach. Not only did she provide me with a job (which I loved), but I am forever indebted to her because she helped me take a skill that I was passionate about and turn it into something that could provide me income. She taught me how to teach. I already knew the steps, but I did not know how to teach or manage a classroom or deal with unhappy parents – and she taught me all of that.

Unfortunately, her life circumstances changed and she made the decision to close the studio. This broke my heart at the time, but it opened a lot of doors for me. Armed with the confidence that only a 19-year-old can have, I printed up about 40 resumes and mailed them to every dance studio in a 40 mile radius. Then I waited. I ended up teaching or substitute teaching at several studios in town. I got to know a lot of well-known local dance personalities and experienced several different types of studios – whether they were competitive, technique-driven, or recreational. Now, I am with a studio that fits my needs and has been really good to me. Over the summer and into next fall, I will be increasing the number of classes I teach a week – and I can’t wait!

The best part is, the money is steady enough that I can deposit it to my savings, but not so much that I want to split it up. Thus, I can deposit whole checks directly to my savings, and never feel the loss of income! Dancing is something that I love so much that I would do it for free, but I don’t have to. It is a skill that is completely marketable, and I intend to capitalize on it as long as I can. All of the money I make from teaching goes directly towards savings for travel. By sharing something that I am passionate about with others, I’m able to fund another passion.

That being said, is there something that YOU could do that would earn you a little cash? A little cash is always helpful. You can put it towards your next vacation, or remodeling your home. Throw it at the principle of your student loans. Maybe you are in the market for a new car, or you simply want to be able to afford a night out on the town with your significant other or friends. Here are a few ways to target and capitalize on what you love:

1. Determine what you love. This sounds simple, but it is oftentimes more complex than people give it credit for. What are things that you like to do? What do you feel passionate about? What are you good at? Some skills are easy to define: musician, artist, woodworker, yoga enthusiast, etc. Others are not as easy to define, or as marketable. Say you like to cook, but don’t know how to market it. Maybe you like to read, and have no idea how that can make you money. You may find total satisfaction by organizing things, but now that your own home is completely organized, you don’t know what to do with that energy.

2. Determine how to market it. As I said before, some skills are easier to market than others. A musician could easily make side money by teaching a few lessons a week, or playing a regular gig. A woodworker could sell their work online, at art shows, or even the flea market. A yoga enthusiast could get certified and teach classes. Other interests are harder to market, though. Like to cook? Maybe you start a small catering project. If you have access to enough kitchen space, you could teach a children’s cooking class. Stay at home mom? You could start a small business delivering meals prepared in your home to busy, on the go families. Love to read? See if the local library needs part-time help (my local branch ALWAYS seems to be needing help!). You could also scour used bookstores, garage/estate sales and flea markets for rare books or signed copies and then resell them (Amazon and eBay are always good venues for this). Organization your thing? Start a small side gig by offering your organization services. If you think about it long enough, you will think of a way to market your interest – either by providing services (lessons, as an employee) or by providing goods (used books, meals, etc).

3. Create a business plan. This sounds formal and intimidating, but it really isn’t. It starts with gathering some information. This is where the interenet is your best friend. Search for your interest, or different terms that are used in your industry to find out more about what people want and how others have profited by cashing in on that particular interest. Sometimes, you just need some inspiration. One time I was in a rut teaching one of my dance classes. I googled the subject and found many different sites that were educational AND inspiring. Once you have gotten some background knowledge and are full of ideas, then it is time to sit down and really outline what you want to do and how you are going to accomplish it. Do you need a special type of license? Are you going to do this casually, or are you going to make it a full-fledged business complete with taxes and a business license (Note: I always endorse keeping everything above-board. If you are making money on a regular basis from your efforts, you may need to consult with a professional regarding your best interests!)? How are you going to advertise? Online? Word of mouth? Do you need to build an inventory first, or perhaps polish yourself some?

4. Make it happen. Reality is never going to go as smoothly as your business plan. Be prepared for bumps in the road and setbacks. Allow yourself to recognize that it will be very easy to get frustrated and decide how you are going to deal with it. Knowledge is power – make sure you are informed about what you are doing, and always get more than one opinion. You’ve done the leg work and the soul-searching, now it’s time to take your passion and start earning MONEY!

Soon, you will see an update (hopefully!) on how I have implemented these very steps to start another, small stream of income. Mum’s the word until it happens, but just know that I am very excited.

Have you already set up a side hack that you love? Tell me about it! Have a great idea, but aren’t sure how to implement it? Let me know in the comments!

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