About a year ago, I released a free book called ’33 Ideas to Jumpstart Your Side-Hustle’ (which ended up getting thousands of downloads)!
I got some (very sweet) e-mails thanking me for the book, telling me they DO want to start earning from their passion, but they were so scared and clueless about where to start.
A girl named Nikki asked me to share my own experience, so as to give her a boost of confidence on her own journey. She asked:
How did you get started on freelancing in your early days?
Instead of sharing the story just to Nikki, I decided to share it with you, too. Whether you’re:
- wondering how to freelance, or
- if you’re looking for small business ideas (maybe selling products), or
- figuring out how to start an online business (maybe offering services)
… I really recommend reading the rest of this article below. I share all the details on all the beginning steps I took to get started on earning extra income through my side-hustles. Read on:
First, let me preface: I loved my very first job.
I chose to work at a small NGO in Manila, Philippines (after turning down corporate offers for management positions, because my heart just wasn’t in it).
I was earning PHP 7,500 a month (about $150) doing NGO work — just enough to make ends meet, which means it was literally just enough to cover my rent, electricity, water, food, and transportation.
Here’s how my monthly budget looked like:
It was pretty tight. I was living by myself, didn’t have any financial support, and my bank account was always teetering on the brink of zero balance.
That feeling of dread and uncertainty, of always barely having enough money, was what drove me to sit myself down and tell myself:
We NEED an emergency fund. We HAVE TO find a way to make more money.
(Yes, I talk to myself a lot, and refer to us as “we”… I just try to remind myself not to do it in public. Haha)
I was starting to panic. I was scared that if I fell sick and had to take medicines, or worse, if anything graver happens and I had to be hospitalized — I might not have enough money for it. I was by myself, and I was always, always wrought with worry.
And so, with all the determination in the world, I started thinking about my skills, researching and filling pages and pages of my notebook with notes and ideas.
Instead of spending sleepless nights worrying or watching Korean dramas (both of which aren’t productive at all) — I spent those nights learning about ways I can earn extra income.
One of the things I really enjoyed doing was graphic & web design.
I wasn’t THE most talented graphic designer in the world (or even in the Philippines, or Quezon City for that matter), but I’ve been doing it a lot for quite some time, and it was something that was fun for me.
Here’s what I did, step by step:
1. I STARTED SMALL: WITH MY PERSONAL NETWORK.
I shyly and reluctantly approached my closest friends, the ones who already knew I was doing graphic design (have seen my work for school projects and such), and told them that I was open to designing logos or websites for companies.
“Message me if you’d like to work together!” I said, after sharing my idea. Very simple, authentic, not too sales-y.
At that time, my colleague’ sister’s wedding was coming up and they were looking for someone to design their wedding invitation — and my colleague told her sister that I was doing freelance design work.
I ended up designing their save the date cards, and their wedding insignia, AND they paid me for it!
(I totally just invented my starting rate, something really low, but it was good because: just being paid — no matter how little — started a fire in me, and was a great confidence boost!)
2. I SHARED MY WORK (AND THE FACT THAT I WAS LOOKING FOR MORE WORK) ON MY PERSONAL FACEBOOK.
I posted about the work that I did with them on Facebook. (“So honored to have designed ____’s save-the-date card! Can’t wait for their special day! If you know anyone else with graphic design needs, let me know! I design invitations, websites, logos, and posters.”)
Shortly after, received another message from another former classmate, saying that their family business needed a new logo and website, and asked me how much my rates were.
3. I TRIED MY BEST TO MAKE MY PRICE QUOTE PDFS LOOK LEGIT.
I scrambled to Google (again) how to price myself, and then quickly put together a quote for the project — not knowing whether they’d go for it or not.
I put together a professional looking PDF (again, I just Googled how other graphic designers were doing rate cards), to show them that, hey, I know we’re friends, but I mean business, and my work is valuable.
4. I SHARED MY WORK AGAIN, AND ASKED MY FRIENDS TO REFER ME IF THEY KNEW ANYONE WHO WOULD BE INTERESTED IN MY SERVICES.
After that project, I posted my work again on my personal network on Facebook.
And so one referral turned into two, then three, then four, and after about 8 months of doing freelance work — I had a secure (but small) emergency fund, and I was no longer living in the fear of not having enough money.
Eventually, I was able to seal that untouchable emergency fund, and started doing other side-hustles to now build the more exciting fund: my Travel Fund.
In a year and a half, I was able to buy my very first ticket to travel abroad — to Korea!
The Big Takeaway: Start Small
So — if you notice, my side-hustle did NOT start with “building my personal brand” or “growing my social media.”
It started with doing the ACTUAL work.
So don’t let the fact that you’re not a social-media superstar or a major-league blogging personality with thousands and thousands of followers stop you or make you feel insecure. You can and SHOULD start with your own network.
Okay, here’s a mental exercise:
- How many Facebook friends do you have? Let’s say you have 800.
- If you post something about you selling your work, and say, 3% of your Facebook friends see that — that’s 24 people who now know you’re selling your work.
24 people as your first audience is small, I know. But 24 friends —
24 people who know you, have met you, probably already worked with you, (hopefully) trust you — you have WAY better chances of starting your side-hustle with those 24, than with 500 strangers who are just hearing from you from the very first time.
Homework for you:
Try this at home
Let’s say you already have a side-hustle idea (if not, here’s the link to download my free idea-book), I want you to try what I did for my Step 1 — Approach my personal network.
Here’s what you can send them:
“Hey, I’m trying to start a small side business as a __________ and am looking for clients. If you have any friends who might be interested, would super appreciate if you can pass my name along! They can contact me via _______.”
Just tweak it so it sounds like you and your personality. Example:
“Hey, I’m trying to start a small side business as an events organizer, and am looking for clients. I’m particularly experienced in organizing kiddie parties — I’m pretty much the fairy godmother of my friends’ kids/nieces.
So if you have any friends/relatives who might be interested (new moms, aunts, etc), would super appreciate if you can pass my name along! They can contact me via my website ______ or my number 920-_______.”
Send it to at least 5 of your most trusted friends (or friends who you think might need your service), and then see what happens! If you DO do it (and I really hope you do) tell me about your results — I would love to see if this simple technique worked for you.
Promise it’s not as scary as it sounds! 😉