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How To Pursue Your Creative Side Hustle on a Budget

Many of us have burning drive for creativity that we'd like to pursue. Creative pursuits can get pricey though. One author shares how she keeps her side hustle expenses in check.

The term “side hustle” has become something of a buzzword as of late. Many workers and entrepreneurs—especially millennials—have one. This trend makes many people wonder what a side hustle really is.

In short, a side hustle is an extra source of income that supplements your full-time position. It’s often a part-time commitment that brings in “extra” money.

For some, side hustles involve writing, painting, theater, music, nannying, dog-sitting, or sewing. For others, side hustles include things like selling baked goods, blogging, bookkeeping, cleaning, or consulting. These options—and so many moregive us a chance to make an extra income to supplement our full-time salary or make a little bit of income from a passion we have.

But side hustles aren’t always free to start. Certain side hustles require an upfront investment.

Consider writing, branding, or selling artwork. These interests and hobbies may evolve into side hustles overtime, becoming a small way of earning extra income.

Unlike babysitting, selling books or artwork requires marketing. The artist needs to create his/her brand and develop a foundation. Turns out, it’s the creative side hustles that can actually cost more money than they bring in.

So, if you’re an artist, how do you budget?

Great question! At GenTwenty, we know how hard it is for bloggers, photographers, artists, writers, and the like to earn profits from their crafts. Most of us have our own side hustles that require significant investments in order for us to earn success. Marketing materials such as business cards, flyers, a website, and more often come at a significant cost. Many of us understand the caution with which to proceed in order to budget a side hustle.

That said, here are five ways to pursue a creative side hustle on a budget:

1. Brand yourself with affordable materials.

It certainly doesn’t cost a fortune to create business cards, a unique website design, and the like. Companies such as Vistaprint and Moo offer standard templates and designs that users can customize freely. Font types, text sizes, colors, and shapes are all easy to manipulate to effect the look you’re after.

Don’t spend $800+ on a brand consultant to generate a unique brand for your business (unless you have the money and reasoning to justify it). Instead, use services like Vistaprint and Moo to give you the affordable, high quality products you’re looking for.

Similarly, consider Squarespace, WordPress, or Weebly for web hosting. These are some of the more user-friendly and cost effective platforms to get your website up and running. Try some of these companies—or businesses with similar price points—to create your brand on a budget.

2. Be practical with your marketing.

Creative side hustles often require some buzz to generate interest. If you’re looking to sell your artwork, writing, services, or the like to potential clients, chances are you’ll need to advertise. Be practical, though. Avoid spending hundreds of dollars on hiring a marketing manager to do the work for you. This is your side hustle, remember? Yes, it’s a way to earn a supplemental income, but you don’t need to spend more money than you’re going to make. Try Facebook advertising. For a few cheap dollars you can create your own ad with images, a finite number of characters, and links. These ads can specifically target audiences from a desired age range, location, sex/gender, race/ethnicity, and interests. Facebook will create your audience pool for you and target people who fall into this category. Facebook’s business features also run reports for you, so you can track impressions and how potential customers react to your ads. I recently spent $25 on a one week ad to market my book signing and I reached 2,000 people! It’s that easy and simple.

3. Don’t purchase extras.

Once you get into the heart of your side hustle, chances are you’re going to begin networking with others who share your interests and passions. I can’t tell you just how many fellow writers and authors I’ve met since I started publishing content and reaching out to people.

That said, it’s easy to get persuaded by what others suggest. Many people have tried to sell me resources, tips, and “extras” to make my brand bigger and more successful. If you’re like me, you might not be able to afford all the bells and whistles that come with a side hustle. You can take your side business virtually anywhere, but it comes at a cost.

Don’t get locked into paying hundreds of dollars on a “how-go” guide to make your side hustle bigger and better. Avoid scams or bonus packages that promise to increase your followers and productivity. By steering clear of these selling points, you’re bound to save money!

4. Don’t pay for customers; network instead.

Sometimes business owners forget networking is actually the best way to generate buzz and clientele. We often get caught up in paying for marketing campaigns and advertising that we then spend far more than we’re bringing in.

Try networking with others. Reaching out to fellow artists, writers, bloggers, etc. will ultimately help you grow your audience. See what they do and mimic their approach to draw in new clients. No, don’t copy them. Mimic. Take certain approaches and make them your own.

Does someone send out a monthly newsletter to their readers? Try putting a spin on your own weekly/monthly/quarterly newsletter.

Did you find someone who kick started their own resource library? Try making one in your own way.

We can acquire a wealth of knowledge by studying what others do. The best part? It means you can save money by avoiding unnecessary spending.

5. Maintain a realistic stock of supplies.

Are you an author? Keep a fair amount of books in stock to sell (e.g. a dozen, twenty, no more). Are you an artist? Maintain a practical amount of paintings in stock to sell (e.g. five, ten, or a dozen). Try to avoid having too many copies or items in your personal stock.

This is a side hustle, not a full-time business. You probably don’t have the storage space to keep hundreds of books, canvases, mittens, or the like in stock. If you’re selling goods, have a modest amount handy. Yes, you may sell your items quickly, but you can always order or create more when needed.

For example, if I know I have a book signing scheduled or a number of people have signed up to order paperback books from me, I order as many as I need. I don’t, however, keep dozens upon dozens of my books in stock at any given time. They take up too much space and they cost me way too much money to have hanging around!

Maintaining a realistic stock of supplies will help you control your budget by only spending money on what you need.

Your side hustle should supplement your income, not become your full-time gig (unless you can afford to and want to quit your day job). Remember to be fair with yourself, while also controlling your spending.

If you’re not earning enough to break even, you need to cut back. Don’t get hassled into purchasing unnecessary marketing materials or “how to” guides. Try to steer clear of scams you may encounter as your side hustle grows.

In short, remember to ask yourself this simple question: “is this purchase going to help my business grow?” If the answer is “no,” you don’t need it.

At GenTwenty, we want you to be successful in all you do; side hustle, full-time job, or otherwise. What we don’t want to see is you breaking the bank to follow your dreams. Be practical. There are so many ways to maintain a side business on a budget. These are only a few. Do your research and you’ll be golden!

What ways do YOU maintain your creative side hustle on a budget?

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About the Author

Rachael Warren (Tulipano)

Rachael is a University of Southern Maine graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in Sociology. She remotely works full-time as a Senior Content Marketing Specialist for Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. In her leisure time, Rachael enjoys traveling with her husband, finding the next Netflix series to binge, and taking too many photos of her dogs Jax and Kai. Rachael is obsessed with chapstick, favors the Oxford comma, and is a proud Mainer. You'll likely find her exploring New England + beyond.

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