This Formula Is The Key To Finding A Soul-Satisfying Side Gig (And Earning Extra Cash)

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Some of the most successful side-giggers I've interviewed built businesses that cost very little to start, could be scaled up easily as they grew, fit well with their full-time jobs, took advantage of their own passions and creativity, and most importantly, were incredibly enjoyable.

There are a million things that can jolt you into starting a business. A light-bulb idea, dissatisfaction at work, an unexpected life event. For my friend Jason Wachob, author of Wellth: How to Build a Life, Not a Résumé, it was his health.

The key is to tap into your dreams, whatever they may be. Spreading the word about wellness, teaching—there are a million options out there. In fact, there has never been a better time in history to be an entrepreneur. Seth Godin calls being alive right now "the opportunity of a lifetime." He is right. But opportunities just sit there if you don’t take advantage of them.

Here is my time-tested formula that I use with new clients who come to me eager to start their own side gig but not sure where to start. It’s called the Skill Distiller Formula, and it helps uncover the skills that will form the basis of your side-hustle strategy using only three simple steps. Here's what you need to know:

1. Think of three big problems you've solved or successes you've had.

These don’t have to be work-related, and they don’t have to be impressive by anyone else’s standards. Just brainstorm three things that you're proud to have achieved or three problems you're proud to have solved.

Here are a few examples:

  • I found and bought my dream house in one month, $25K under budget.
  • I helped my best friend through a really difficult divorce.
  • My sister was struggling to find employment and I helped her land a well-paying job that she loves.
  • I graduated from college at the top of my class.
  • I backpacked through Europe, completely on my own.

Once you have your list, you’re ready for Step 2.

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2. Identify the skills that helped you achieve these three things.

I need you to step outside of yourself for a moment. Humble people (or those struggling with that pesky old impostor syndrome) find this step really difficult to do. If you’re used to downplaying your accomplishments, you might look at your list and say, I didn’t do anything all that special to achieve those results.

But you did. You have a set of strengths and skills that enabled you to do all three of those rad things you listed above. Not everyone could have done that, and no one could have done it in the same way that you did. It's so rare that we take time to acknowledge all that we've done and all that we're capable of, but it's essential to recognize your strengths if you want to build a successful side hustle.

Let your mind explore everything you bring to the table that allowed you to achieve those accomplishments or solve those problems. Now let’s keep going with an example from above. To help your sister find a job, you put your feelers out into your network. You asked friends who love their jobs for hiring advice. You connected the dots between the right contacts to find some great opportunities for your sister at fantastic companies.

Your attention to detail made a big difference in polishing up your sister’s résumé. You helped your sister position herself as an asset to the companies so she would nail the interview. You also taught her how to follow up in a way that was assertive but never pushy.

In reflecting, you realize that you’re amazing at engaging your community to help you reach your goals. You’re comfortable asking questions, you’re great at positioning, and you’re excellent at utilizing good connections. These are all insanely valuable skills that will set the stage for a profitable side hustle, if you use them.

Or, in the case of the house purchase, you are comfortable doing the research and processing a lot of information to determine the relative value of real estate in your area. You also come to realize that you are a pretty good negotiator and cool under pressure, not allowing your emotions to get in the way of your judgment.

3. Think about how you can apply your skills in a new way.

Remember, a successful side hustle is all about doing the best with what you have. What you have is a clear set of skills that have already proven to get you results. So let’s brainstorm how you can use them in the best way possible.

Maybe you want to start a knitting group where people pay you $100 for two hours to teach them how to knit on a Sunday. Now, how can you apply your skills to move the (knitting) needle forward?

Your openness to asking questions is going to be a huge strength in building your side hustle. Who could you ask for advice on starting a weekly group? Who’s done something similar who can guide you? Who can point out the unexpected pitfalls to avoid?

You’ll want to lean on your network and strong sense of community, too. Who can you invite to join the club? Who are the social butterflies with big circles that will spread the word quickly? Who knows somebody at Creative Knitters magazine that can run a feature on your new club? You had a way of making your friends want to connect your sister with their HR directors. How can you use that same mentality to incentivize people to spread the word about your knitting club? How can you get people excited about being part of your community?

Your compelling positioning and follow-up skills will be invaluable when it comes to securing venues. How can you show the venue that it would benefit them to let your club use the space? How can you follow up in a non-sleazy way to ensure you get a "yes"?

Or, you can call on your real estate negotiating skills to research, create, and price a highly valuable online course teaching people to knit, or start a virtual knitting group with people from around the world.

You already have a knack for determining value and price point and could easily apply these incredibly advantageous business skills to your side hustle by researching current market offerings that other product/service providers are giving at each price point.

Since your real estate experience taught you the importance of timing, you plan to launch your online knitting course in the months before winter when interest starts to pick up.

Not convinced that knitting sounds like a serious enough side hustle to pursue? I know of a woman who makes six figures teaching knitting online. No talent or experience is too small to profit from. What skills are you downplaying that others might admire and want to learn from?

You don’t need to know everything right now—you just need to know enough to get started. Good luck!

Based on excerpts from What If It Does Work Out? by Susie Moore, with the permission of Ixia Press. Copyright © 2017.

Want tips on how to find the right side gig for you? Here are six ideas.

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