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TB#2: The Minimum Viable Side Hustle for the Busy Professional

2022-10-24

I bet you’re busy.

All modern professionals tend to be busy.

So, there’s just no extra time for building a side hustle.

Except that of course there is. It’s just another excuse people tell themselves so that they don’t have to take the very real risk of “failing”:

  • Your product getting criticized
  • Nobody buying it
  • Or you just being scared of looking silly

None of those is a real loss, by the way, but that’s how our brains work: The fear of failure is always stronger than the prospects of success.

Last week, I provided a higher abstraction level look into building your first passion project.

This time, let’s dig into how to create one fast, just to take the first step.

Because starting small is always the right thing to do when you don’t have a lot of resources.

Let’s talk about the minimum viable side hustle: Checklists.

Everyone loves checklists because they’re useful, short and easy to follow. For inspiration on what everything can be a checklist, I recommend doing a quick search on etsy.com.

Cleaning schedules, todo lists, monthly planners, wedding budget planners, habit trackers – and many of these are selling like crazy!

A good checklist is easily worth more than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and there’s no reason to not take advantage of this.

You’re free to build a checklist on anything, but one good way is to align your checklist to your work.

Here’s how:

First: Identify What You’re Good at

What is a specific process you do well at your job?

Sit down and ask yourself what’s the ONE (not two) thing you believe you do better than most. What is a thing you have figured out that some other people clearly haven’t?

This requires some introspection, so just take your time. Write it down. Be confident.

Then:

  • Isolate the recurring actions that help you do that one thing well time after time.
  • Write them down on a piece of paper.
  • Circle the ones that generalise outside your specific organization.

This simple exercise clarifies your thinking and completes the first step: Choosing your checklist topic and your unique way of doing it.

An example could be something like “Preparing a good meeting in a multinational company”, or in my case “Supervising a Tech-Oriented Master’s Thesis”.

You create something that resonates with people by tackling a broad topic your way:

Second: Create Your Checklist

Choose the medium you’re most comfortable with. What would you use yourself? Maybe you already use one?

  • Set a strict limit. A checklist is not an eBook. It has to have a manageable amount of items. Usually one A4 (or the equivalent in e.g. notion.so) is a good length so people can print and pin it on a wall.
  • Create the list. Do not worry about production value yet. Some of the checklists at Etsy are extremely slick in design, but you don’t need to worry about that now. This is about creating value in your professional environment, not to make it cute. If you’re a Canva user, they have you covered too: https://www.canva.com/checklists/templates/
  • Create the first draft fast, sleep over it, and then edit it once more.

Wow.

You’re done.

It takes 2-3 hours if you do this really well.

But you just have to start.

Third: Publish it

If it’s not out there, it doesn’t exist. And let’s just say it aloud: Most people don’t have the balls to put it out there.

I’m not good enough to advice anyone.

But you are. Where’s the data you’re not?

You get the data by selling and getting feedback on your checklist.

Do this:

  • Publish your checklist on Gumroad and set the price as “pay what you want” (important)
  • Put the link to your product in your email footer and social media bios.
  • From time to time, mention your checklist in related discussions. Offer it to people as a free resource (you’ll be surprised how many people want to pay a few bucks for it).

This simple process adds to your credibility, gets you the occasional sale here or there, and most importantly proves to yourself you can do this.

If you avoid overthinking and get this done, you’ll quickly realise how easy it always was.

Why More People Don’t do This?

It’s difficult to be vulnerable and open yourself for criticism.

It’s easy to just talk about safe topics and parrot the ideas of others.

People don’t think it’s possible for them.

This is the first step toward “doing your own thing.”

Remember the four-minute mile?

The first sales email from Gumroad is your four-minute mile.

After that, it’s just doing more of the same but better, bigger, and in a more scalable way.

You can do this.

Until next Saturday,

Simo

About the author 

Simo Hosio  -  Simo is an award-winning scientist, Academy Research Fellow, research group leader, professor, and digital builder. This site exists to empower people to build passion projects that support professional growth and make money.

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