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Find Your Side Hustle Idea in 7 Steps

This post is in partnership with The Side Hustle Journal.

I’ve been dabbling with various side hustles for a few years now but just in the past year, I decided to get serious about it. My “why” for starting a business was to enable more frequent world travel. I knew if I wanted to see all the great destinations around the world the first step was unlocking financial freedom. It turns out, this is no easy task, especially if you are like me and had student loans, a high car payment, and some credit card debt. 

I could have just scaled back and budgeted better (which I did) and pay off the debts slowly but I wanted to expedite that process even more. This meant that I had to find a side hustle that could generate some additional income that I could apply towards my debts.

At the time I didn’t know what I could possibly do to generate another income stream. I had to find my side hustle idea before I could take any additional steps. One thing that I did know was I wanted this side hustle to be location independent (besides the need for wifi) so that I could work on it even if I was traveling with my main job.

That quickly ruled out things such as driving for Uber or getting some other type of part-time job. My personal opinion is that these aren’t really a side hustle anyways, they are jobs. I think that a side hustle should be something that could grow into a business that one day replaces your day job. You aren’t going to be able to do that driving with Uber — unless you figure out a way to multiply yourself.

Below I will take you through the process I used and that I teach people in The Side Hustle Journal and find your side hustle idea.

First, take out a piece of paper and a pencil. Then I will explain how we will go through this process.

I am going to ask you 7 questions and with each question, you will write down 3 responses. Each question has 10 points that must be allocated to it across the 3 responses. You want to allocate the points to the responses based on what is most favorable, you like the most, will be the most meaningful, or will be easiest to execute on. The points allocated between the responses must equal 10.

If you are confused — don’t worry — we will go through an example with the first few questions. One thing to note, this isn’t meant to be a process that you can do in 5 minutes. It will involve really thinking hard about your responses and also gather feedback from others. It’ll be worth the effort though!

Question 1:

What skills do you have, what skills do you want to develop or what are some of your unique life experiences you’ve had?  List 3 of them on your paper and allocate 10 points to the responses. With the best, most favorable, most meaningful, or easiest to execute getting the most points. Take your time.

An example would be like this:

1). I have some basic coding skills, but nothing impressive

Points allocated: 1

2.) I love working out and have helped people with exercises before

Points allocated: 6

3.) I spent 4 years as a coach at a summer camp for underprivileged kids and eventually became the student president.

Points allocated: 3

Think about allocating points from the business standpoint. It may not be clear after question 1 but you can always change the point allocation as you begin to work through the other questions. Apply the points after you have all 3 responses listed. Don’t get hung up on this step.

On to the next question.

Question 2:

What are common pain points people experience with the above-mentioned items?

Pain points are negative or discouraging experiences with a product of service. The “most painful” gets the highest rating.  Take the time to ask a few friends and family members for their pain points.

An example would be like this:

1). People do not know what coding language they should learn, people get discouraged if they are not learning the language fast enough, people struggle to find real-world examples to apply their coding skills.

Points allocated: 2

2.) People feel overwhelmed when walking into a gym, People don’t realize you need a good diet to see results from working out.

Points allocated: 3

3.) The kids would often revert back to their old ways when back in their home environment, finding resources for those kids that want to make a change and improve life

Points allocated: 5

Think about allocating points from the business standpoint. It may not be clear after question 1 but you can always change the point allocation as you begin to work through the other questions. Don’t get hung up on this step.

On to the next question.

Question 3:

What could you do to solve the problems you, your friends and family listed?

Create a new product to solve the issue? Close the gap that an existing offering lacks? Provide a better solution or service?

List your 3 responses and allocate points like above.

Question 4:

How much competition already exists in this product/service niche?

The least amount of competition gets the highest rating. Do some general google searches using keywords related to the idea. If it is a product you should also look on Amazon. Remember, competitors aren’t always a bad thing.

Question 5:

Go to and search several keyword combos for each idea.

The idea with the highest positive trending search history in the past 5 years will rate the highest; any declining results should rate the lowest. 

Here is an example of a positive trend for the keyword “online fitness coach”. Note that most of the trends will not be drastic in either direction.

If we looked up “how to code” which is related to the first response in question 1, then you would see a steady line which means that in the past 5 years, this search has remained highly searched.

Question 6:

Which would still interest you in 3 years?

The item you feel would still be most interesting gets the highest rating.

Question 7:

Which idea would be the least complex to get started on?

Think in terms of time, funding, and skills outside of your own. The least complex rates the highest.

Now, take some time to really give these questions some thought. Gather your feedback and insights from mentors, friends and family. Brainstorm then brainstorm some more.

Once you have all the questions answered, add up all the numbers related to each idea or concept. The number with the highest score should be considered for your side hustle endeavor. You can also do another round of this with the highest ranking idea or concept that you just went through. This will allow you to refine your idea and possibly tap into a niche that you might not have considered.

This process is what I teach in The Side Hustle Journal, which is live on Kickstarter starting November 1, 2017.

The Side Hustle Journal is a tool to take your idea from concept to cash flow. The journal isn’t simply a daily planner, it includes systems designed specifically for side hustlers. The systems built into the journal will teach you how to:

  • Hack your busy schedule to unlock time
  • Break down the process of starting or scaling a business into bite-sized chunks
  • Only focus on what’s important and forget the rest
  • Expedite the process through consistent micro goal setting
  • And do all this while increasing your performance at your day job

These are the foundational objectives of The Molehill System, which lives inside The Side Hustle Journal.

This is the tool to take you to the next level whether you don’t have an idea or if you are already on the path to side hustle success — and every stage in-between.

By Ryan Helms

Ryan Helms is a corporate guy with entrepreneurial tendencies. His goal is to lead by example and show people that you don’t have to be dependent only on your career for income and personal fulfillment. Through educating and creating tools, he aims to show that anyone can add an extra couple hundred (or thousand) dollars to their monthly income through consistent and deliberate small steps forward. Support The Side Hustle Journal here.

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