In 2009, Kimberly Palmer felt anxious about money. She worked a full-time job as a writer, but she’d just had a baby and worried what would happen if she lost her main stream of income. To ensure she’d have enough money for her daughter, Palmer decided to find a side hustle.
In July 2017, 44 million Americans earned income separate from their full-time jobs, according to a Bankrate survey. The reasons behind the popularity of the side hustle vary: Some people do it to pay off loans or score extra spending money; others start in hopes of building a business that might liberate them from their 9-to-5. Some, like Palmer, do it for financial security.
Palmer researched online and got the idea to sell planners. She launched a line of digital planners on Etsy, and was surprised by how popular they became.
For those seeking a side hustle, the options are almost endless. Etsy makes it easy for crafty types to sell handmade goods. With Lyft or Uber, drivers can play chauffeur for extra cash. Websites like Fiverr and TaskRabbit offer miscellaneous freelance work. Teespring invites creatives to design shirts; Wagwalking connects dog walkers with dog owners.
After building her Etsy business, Palmer wrote The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life. While researching for the book, she talked to more than 100 side hustlers, from an instrument repair person who does voice-overs to a former deli worker who built a lucrative cake business.
“Many who started side gigs were motivated by the sense that they had something to offer,” Palmer says. “They wanted money, but also a deeper sense of satisfaction.”
Related: The Art of the Side Hustle
Before you plunge headfirst into a passion project, do your research. Spend time online to see what others are doing, and keep initial costs low by using a free website builder and advertising on social media. If you plan to keep your full-time job, Palmer advises checking carefully to ensure your company’s policies don’t ban freelance work.
The balancing act can be tough, so use your free time wisely. To build her business, Palmer worked from her smartphone while riding the train or waiting in line at the post office. And if you’re planning to scrap your full-time job, test-run your side hustle for at least six months to make sure it’s viable and scalable.
Though she doesn’t plan to leave her full-time job yet, Palmer keeps her Etsy side-business going strong.
“For me, it’s about having the option to expand if I want to,” she says. “I think of it as my security net. It’s peace of mind.
Related: What to Do If You Hate Your Job
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.