Side Hustle Smarts: 5 Metrics to Measure Success

Committing time to your side hustle was a big decision. The hours and resources you spend need to pay off in a tangible way. But are you really sure that what you’re putting in is actually producing what you need?

Related: The Side Hustler’s Handbook 

The way smart business owners ensure that they’re investing their time and money resources well and actually winning in their side hustle is to measure the right numbers. Metrics are simply the numbers that reflect how well the business is operating. The details might be different for a creative contractor than for a real estate agent, but overall, you’re looking at:

  • What you’re working on
  • How fast you’re working
  • How much revenue is coming in
  • How many resources you’re using along the way

Your goal is to create revenue with the lowest investment of resources possible for you and your business. In some cases, that might mean adjusting work hours to accommodate the flow of customers. In others, it might mean subcontracting and temporarily increasing expenses to maximize personal productivity. Whatever your side hustle, consider tracking these metrics:

1. Clients or Jobs

The number of clients or jobs you take in your side hustle has a direct impact on how much money you can make. It’s vital to keep track of what you’re juggling so you can be realistic about what you can take on next. With this metric, also track the type of clients you’re working with, how big or small their projects are, and what type of work each entails. If you take jobs on Upwork.com, for example, your projects will vary. That kind of up-and-down, feast-or-famine work can be exhausting. But you have the option of offering set project parameters for specific fees that provide more predictable work. Tracking your jobs for a while will allow you to see what’s most popular with clients. Then you can create a package offer that new clients will like.

2. Time

Tracking your time on each job may be cumbersome if you’re not used to it, but this metric will have a huge impact on your business vision. If your designing time is completely taken up with projects from only three clients, you can’t add any more. But what if those three projects aren’t providing enough revenue to pay for your software, website hosting, and continuing education—and still leave you any profit? Then your business model needs to be adjusted so you can take on more clients. Maybe it’s time to hire subcontract help for the smaller tasks, like production edits, and spend your valuable time on the things only you can do.

3. Productivity

Related to time tracking, productivity measures how much you get done in a given time period. If you drive for a ride share, for example, your productivity metric will reflect how many rides you complete per hour over the course of your week. Your productivity will rise and fall in different situations, but if you track it for a week or two, you’ll be able to see patterns. Maybe you’re most productive with short-term fares for errands and least productive when you pick people up from the airport. This info can help you plan your ideal location for the day and target your most productive times.

For freelancers, productivity will be related to times of day, the work you’ve mastered and breeze through, and the mood you’re in. Keep in mind that everyone has rhythms, but your goal with tracking this metric is to find the ideal productivity window for you. And of course, if you have a team, their productivity needs to be measured too.

4. Revenue

If you’re not tracking how much money your side hustle is bringing in each month (revenue), now is the time to start. An app like QuickBooks can help you send invoices and track revenue while synching to your bank account and preparing tax reports each year. The goals with tracking revenue are to be clear about how much you’re earning and to recognize seasonal patterns. Perhaps winter is slower for you than summer. In that case, you can set aside more of your income in the summer to pad your finances come December.

You’ll also want to track the major sources of your revenue. Are the bulk of your sales coming from one customer? If so, that might seem like an easy way to earn money, but what happens if that customer falls on hard times and has to stop their monthly order? Diversifying your revenue streams is vital to safeguard the health of your side hustle. Look for opportunities to spread out the source of your revenue over multiple customers and offerings.

5. Expenses

Tracking revenue is only part of your side hustle’s financial picture. You need to see how much money you’re spending in order to earn all that new money. If you’re investing too much, you won’t make a profit (the money left over after you subtract your expenses from your revenue). Expenses include things like taxes, software, website hosting, advertising, babysitting to free up your time, subcontracting, and overhead for your vehicle maintenance or office utilities.

Metrics like these can give you a clear picture of how successful your hustle is now and how you can keep it growing in the future.


Side Hustles by Season

A side hustle doesn’t have to last forever. You can find a gig that’s seasonal for extra cash and even a little sunshine. Check out these side hustles that change with the weather:

  • Spring arrives along with jobs in dog walking, temp work at amusement parks, and working for tips at local resorts.
  • Summer brings life guarding, lawn mowing, and house sitting while homeowners are on vacation.
  • Fall side hustles include tutoring those back-to-schoolers, selling concessions at sporting events.
  • Winter gigs include holiday rush retail jobs, personal shopping, and ski instructing.

Ask The SideHustler

Q: The pandemic hit my career trajectory hard. Rather than wallow in what I’ve lost, I’ve decided to see it as a chance to start over with a side hustle. But are there still gigs that make money?

A: Grieving a lost career vision is hard. Focusing on what you can be grateful for is the best path to progress. The beauty of a side hustle is that you can try it out and decide along the way if it’s right for you long-term. In fact, you can try several. Here are a few hustles that help folks stay ahead in tough times:

  • Creative contracting – If you’re handy with writing copy or designing websites, being a creative contractor could be a viable side hustle. Skills in IT, design, and marketing are suitable for freelancing, and you’ll find a number of online platforms to help you get the word out to potential clients. Some freelancers even find their previous employers can become their clients. While freelancing can be tough to break into, offering services in exchange for lower prices or even testimonials can help you quickly gain a roster of previous clients that gives you a boost with prospective ones.
  • Affiliate marketing – If you’re looking for something that can provide passive income, affiliate marketing is a popular option. By promoting products on your website, blog, or social media platform, you gain a small profit from each sale. Simply place an ad on your page or write a post that advertises the product and provide a link to it on Amazon, eBay, or primary product website. Then when people click the link and purchase, you get a small percentage of the purchase price. With the right search engine optimization, your affiliate page could bring you a nice passive income to supplement other endeavors.
  • Direct selling – With a variety of products and services to choose from, the direct selling industry has something to offer just about anyone. And direct selling is one of the few industries that has actually been thriving during the pandemic, with many companies tracking record-breaking numbers. Direct selling companies offer stability, mentorship, and back-office logistics to the small business owner who wants to join an existing organization on their own terms. Over time, one business owner can gain enough clients with repeating orders to generate a nice income stream. Another benefit is the opportunity to work with products or services you believe in, creating customer relationships based on integrity.

Starting over may feel daunting, but in the age of the side hustle, it’s doable. Find the right gig for you by trying the ones that appeal to you, but also be open to new experiences. You never know what might pay off.


This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by crystalmariesing/Twenty20

Amy Anderson is the former senior editor of SUCCESS magazine, an Emmy Award-winning writer and founder of Anderson Content Consulting. She helps experts, coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs to discover their truth, write with confidence, and share their stories so they can transform their past into hope for others. Learn more at AmyKAnderson.com and on Facebook.

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