How to Get Your Side Hustle off the Ground

How to Get Your Side Hustle off the Ground

There’s nothing strange about holding down a day job as a creative.

But all things being equal, you might prefer spending more time on your passion, or something equally creative (passion adjacent).

Well, so far as I’m concerned, this is the best time in history to get a side hustle off the ground, and regardless of your passions, experience, or skills, there are opportunities waiting for you.

Let’s look at how you can make it happen.

My Side Hustle Journey

I first started writing content for the web in 1997. Websites were quite primitive at the time, and generally required manual coding.

I started getting into blogging in the mid-2000s, and by 2007, I had embraced Content Management Systems (CMS) like Movable Type and WordPress.

In 2012, I started blogging for money and at that point, it became more than just a side hustle. I even experimented with various niche sites.

Since then, I’ve ghostwritten for dozens of blogs as well as Entrepreneur and HuffPost contributors. I’ve also written hundreds of blog posts and articles as a freelance and staff writer.

Today, writing is a significant part of my livelihood.

Looking to get your side hustle off the ground? If you know what to do and where to look, you can make it happen much faster than I ever did.

Here’s how to launch.

Step #1 – Start a Website

I know this goes contrary to what some are saying, which is to build a presence on social media, YouTube or Medium because that’s where all the people are.

I like YouTube and Medium and all those other platforms myself, and I even utilize them heavily. You’re more than welcome to use them in your marketing too.

But due to algorithm updates and mounting competition, it’s getting harder than ever just to get your post seen never mind engaged.

Facebook, for example, announced an algorithm update that put more emphasis on original quality news content earlier this year.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily easier to get traffic to your website. It takes some serious work either way.

But if there’s one thing I can say for sure, it’s that you’ll retain full control over your website, its content, how you position the elements, and everything else. You won’t get banned or deleted either.

Plus, if you’re trying to attract clients, I can promise you that you’re going to look far more professional and credible if you have a website at a custom domain name.

I would never send a prospective client to my Facebook page. They’re going to get lost amid all the noise and needlessly cluttered layout (though I would use Facebook to make contacts and drive traffic to my website).

Finally, your website can – and should – act as your portfolio.

Your website should act as your portfolio. Click To Tweet

If you want to become a writer, like me, then you should blog regularly.

If you’re a graphic designer, you should show samples of your latest work.

And so on.

If you use it wisely, your website will become a significant long-term asset.

If you use it wisely, your website will become a significant long-term asset. Click To Tweet

Step #2 – Make Your Presence Known

If no one knows who you are, then it doesn’t matter how pretty your website is. You’re not going to get any work.

Every bit of work you put into your website is worth it, because you can document your journey, track your progress, and share samples of your work. That said, you still need to build awareness.

As I was beginning work as a contract blogger/digital marketer for a music industry startup in 2012, I started interacting with all the brands, bloggers, and podcasters publishing music business related content.

I left comments on blogs and social media posts everywhere I went. Before I knew it, I’d built quite a bit of awareness among blog and site owners, with whom I also built relationships.

I started trading guest posts. I was invited onto podcasts. And long-term, I even got hired on by one of the site owners as a staff writer.

This is also how I ended up building connections in the ghostwriting realm. Basically, one contact kept leading to another.

Freelance writer Alyssa Walker says:

The more you use social media with professional networking in mind, the more you’ll be able to connect with others – and see results.

She’s right. But I would argue that you don’t necessarily need to be “professional.” You just need to add value. And that’s done by leaving thoughtful and insightful comments on other people’s posts and keeping conversations going.

Also remember – even if it is nerve wracking, you can reach out to your entire network letting them know that you’ve started up your side hustle and you’re available to work.

Step #3 – Know the Landscape

So, you’ve built your website and you’ve started interacting on social media.

Although it might take longer if you’re not tech savvy, you should be able to do all this over the course of a weekend. I’m not saying your website will be fully fleshed out in that time, but you can have a nice-looking site with some basic content up and running in a few hours.

But what else can we do to set ourselves up for success?

While steps one and two are the crux of it, there is one more thing we can do to start filling our pipeline with work.

Well, if you didn’t already know, there are dozens if not hundreds of sites where you can list your services and actively seek out work.

If you’re thinking about blogging professionally, for example, you can find new opportunities on the ProBlogger Job Board popping up all the time.

Here are a few other places worth knowing about:

  • Upwork: A few years ago, Elance and oDesk combined and became Upwork, a place where freelancers can go to find work. I have had good success with Upwork, and so have other well-known marketers like Brian Dean.
  • Freelancer: Freelancer is a lot like Upwork, except that freelancers bid on projects and talent seekers can hire (or buy from) whoever they feel is best for the job.
  • Fiverr: A directory where service providers can list and offer their low-cost services. It used to be that all service providers charged $5 (thus Fiverr), but these days they are charging more based on their skill level and add-ons.
  • Funnel Rolodex: If you’re well-acquainted with any aspect of building a funnel, be it copywriting, graphic design, video production or otherwise, you might have success listing your services on Funnel Rolodex as well.

Side Hustle, Final Thoughts

Starting a side hustle need not be complicated. And there’s a good chance you can get paid for something you love, or at the very least enjoy.

There’s a good chance you can get paid for something you love, or at the very least enjoy. Click To Tweet

Depending on the nature of what you’re trying to accomplish, you might leverage different platforms, but your overall approach probably won’t change much at all.

Best of luck in your endeavors!

Do you have any questions? Is there anything else I should have covered?

Let me know in the comments below.

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Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.

Get your copy of The Music Entrepreneur Code.

How to Get a Booking Agent

How to Get a Booking Agent

Are you interested in getting a booking agent?

Wouldn’t it be nice to unload all your tedious, menial, administrative work on your artistic team?

While it sounds amazing in theory, it’s not based in any version of reality I’m aware of.

I understand where you’re coming from, but the most realistic outcome is that once your team is in place, you’ll end up working harder and longer, and need to be more vigilant about your career activity, not the other way around.

Once your team is in place, you’ll end up working harder and longer, and need to be more vigilant about your career activity, not the other way around. Click To Tweet

And, this is one of the reasons many artists aren’t ready for a booking agent – they assume they’re going to be able to kick back and work on their art without being bothered by other tasks (especially business tasks).

If that’s how you’re thinking, you’ve probably got it backwards. Building your team is going to require more awareness, discipline, and diligence on your part, not less.

But a booking agent is what you want, which is why you’re here. So, here are my best tips for getting one.

Disclaimer: Read This First!

Let me be clear about one thing:

I am not a booking agent.

And, while I can point you in the direction of agencies, I am not going to make a personal recommendation for you unless I know you well and think you’ve got something special.

If I make a bad recommendation, it reflects badly on me, and impacts my working relationship with the contacts I’ve worked my ass off to build. You can see why I might be reluctant to give my seal of approval to just anyone.

This is underscored by the fact that I don’t work unless I am paid upfront.

I need to set this hard boundary in place, because I get all manner of inquiries every single day (sexually frustrated Instagram women included).

Many messages come from musicians who can’t adequately string two sentences together and are under the delusion that I’m going to kick money their way merely because they contacted me on Messenger:

Wrong way to find booking agent

It’s a complete waste of time contacting me on social media (or anywhere else, for that matter), asking me to become your agent or manager (you’re always welcome to reach out to say “hi” and “thank you” though).

When such an opportunity becomes available (and it will), I will bundle up the offer and present it to you. It will not work the other way around.

And, if you’re still desperate to know how you can get an agent, focus on becoming endorsable first.

With that disclaimer out of the way, we’re ready to get into process.

Here’s what you need to know about getting an agent:

The Right Fit

In episode 195 of The New Music Industry Podcast, I interviewed Jack Forman of the New York-based agency, BiCoastal Productions.

The New Music Industry Podcast episode 195
By the way, I’m looking for sharp people like you to support the ongoing creation of inspiring, entertaining, and educational content just like this. If you like what you see, consider supporting my content on Patreon.

So, throughout this guide, I will be weaving in Jack’s advice while offering some commentary around it.

When I asked him how artists get to work with agents, Jack shared:

It’s important for me to have an act that I love and can get behind passionately. If I don’t, it’s going to show through very evidently whenever I’m talking to a buyer or just about anybody.

Even in dating, some people take a shotgun approach, going after anyone who gives them a smidgen of positive attention.

Unless you’re ready for the rocky, bumpy, turbulent ride that will surely ensue, this is a horrible approach to finding your one and only.

You need a way to filter out the bad fit from the good, so you can cultivate the strong, supportive long-term relationship you desire faster.

It works much the same way with an agent. Even if you had all the “goods” (more on this later), not all agents are going to be interested in working with you.

Since you may end up needing to “go through the numbers”, you may as well take a marathon approach instead of sprinting, huffing, and puffing.

Take a marathon approach to finding an agent. Click To Tweet

I know, taking a long-term mindset sounds like the trope of all tropes, but it has stuck for a reason.

If this doesn’t compute, perhaps take a moment to reflect on this quote:

Jack Forman, booking agent quote

A Strong Brand

The next thing Jack shared was this:

If an artist can have a package for me from the get-go, that really makes me visualize what selling them is going to be like, it’s more attractive for every type of agent.

Most artists try to go about this the other way. They come to an agent hoping they will figure out the selling process for them.

But when you think about it, this makes the agent’s job harder.

Is an agent more likely to work with artists who are already selling out shows, or are they more likely to work with artists who don’t have their poop in a group?

It’s a rhetorical question, but if you’re still scratching your head, the answer is “the former.”

There are a lot of things at play here, including how long the band or artist has been around, where they’ve played, how they’ve been building their fan base, whether they have a website and email list, and so on.

But I can basically boil it all down to one thing – branding.

If you’ve got your branding sorted out, the rest tends to fall into place, because your brand embodies the impact and difference you want to make in the world. It’s your core message.

If you've got your branding sorted out, the rest tends to fall into place. Click To Tweet

If you know your purpose for existing, the rest will sort itself out.

By the way, you can also listen to/watch my full interview with Jack Forman here:

Actionable Data

Jack said:

If an artist comes to you and they have wonderful promotional assets, they’ve got data they’ve collected from wherever they’ve put their music out or done shows, that really helps me. You can only be that good of a salesperson until people say, “okay, but how many tickets am I realistically going to sell?” And, if I’m able to pull out of my back pocket, “well, the last time they were in the market, their average ticket price was this, and they sold X amount of tickets at this venue, knowledge is power.

So, at this point, you might be saying to yourself:

“I didn’t know I was going to need to become a data analyst.”

I get it.

But as I pointed out in my book, The Essential Guide to Creative Entrepreneurship, even if you hate data, there are a lot of great tools that make it easy for you to figure out who your audience is and what they’re interested in.

These include:

(As for how to use them, that’s a whole other post. If you’re interested, request it in the comments.)

I recently interviewed Ben Mendoza of Beatchain, and that’s another fantastic platform for artists (seriously, go sign up for it and connect your social media accounts NOW – you won’t believe your eyes).

Beatchain metrics

The point is that there’s just no excuse. You don’t need someone following you around 24/7 to know how many tickets you sold at your last show or where your top fans are located.

Just don’t be lazy. And, if you need to make the process as simple, repeatable and predictable as possible, read my guide on creating systems as a creative.

A Clear Path Ahead

This is what one might call an “intangible” or “ineffable”, but it’s a key point, nonetheless. So, don’t skip over it.

Jack expressed it this way:

If an artist can really show you the path of what your job with them is going to be, they become a much more attractive client.

You might need an agent, but an agent doesn’t necessarily need you.

If you’re clear on why you need an agent at this juncture of your career, you’re far more likely to get a favorable response.

And, if you can show them what their duties and responsibilities might be like working with you (as opposed to the “figure it out for me” approach discussed earlier), there’s a better chance you’re going to blaze the path ahead.

You May Also Enjoy…

The Essential Guide to Creative Entrepreneurship: Making and Selling Your Neon Yellow Tiger

The Essential Guide to Creative Entrepreneurship

I’ve talked a lot about branding and using tools to gather actionable data. If this is a mystery to you and you’re struggling with it, I’d suggest picking up a copy of The Essential Guide to Creative Entrepreneurship, which is all about finding your niche and identity as an artist.

The Right Timing

Jack said it well when he shared:

Not every artist is necessarily ready for an agent, nor would they necessarily need an agent who’s going to be having to take a part of whatever they book for the artist, and it may be premature. So, I would encourage any artist to really do your homework on what it really means to have an agent, and do your homework on the agent you’re reaching out to, to make sure it’s the appropriate kind of agent. You may be reaching out to somebody who doesn’t even dabble slightly in the types of things you’re doing.

This also goes back to what was said earlier about the right fit.

There are a couple more factors, however, that will determine the right timing. Let’s discuss those factors.

A Manager

I will let Jack do most of the talking here, as he had a lot of great things to share about timing.

Let’s start here:

Typically, artists don’t just approach us. A lot of the people we work with were referred to us by a manager or somebody we know at a venue. When you’re at the point where you see the steam picking up in your fan base, in your ticket sales, and you’re launching a national campaign with whatever it is you’re doing, whether it’s an album release or something similar to that, and you want to have the infrastructure there to really get it out, that would be a good time.

Jack elaborated by saying:

Come to an agency with a plan and say, “I’ve got this in the pipeline. This is what I’ve done so far on my own or with my own team that exists right now.” An agent still may say “no.” But you’ve got to ask everybody. You can’t just approach one or two agents. I would recommend finding all the agents that you think are appropriate to you and give it a shot. The only thing stopping you is you at that point because agents do want to find new clients and they are looking.

And, finally, the key takeaway:

You may want to search for a manager before you search for an agent because most of the people I deal with are managers.

A Financially Viable Opportunity

This is not something Jack and I discussed at length. But for most booking agents (including Jack), I would imagine this is a major factor.

We’ve got to be realistic here. Agents need to make a living like anyone else. We shouldn’t be trying to send them to the poor house!

I know it can be tough seeing things from someone else’s perspective, but when pitching and striking up deals in the music industry, you’ve got to keep this in mind.

So, just for a moment, let’s step into the shoes of a manager…

Roll This Scenario Around in Your Mind

So, let’s say you’re a new agent and you’d like to make $4,000 per month.

Agents typically get paid 10 to 15% of what an artist earns. Since you’re new to it, you’re probably going to earn closer to 10%.

If you were booking artists who make $400 per month in performance revenue, you would only make $40 on each artist. So, you would need to work with 100 artists to reach your monthly quota.

We’ll be generous and say these artists are making $200 per gig, so basically you would need to book two gigs for each artist. That’s 200 gigs you’ve got to hustle for each month!

No matter how ambitious and hardworking you are, this just sounds unrealistic.

Meanwhile, if you were working with artists who make $4,000 per month, you would make $400 on every artist and would only need to work with 10 acts to making a living. Sounds more reasonable, right?

So, you’ve got to assume agents are thinking the same way. They may love their work, but if they can’t make a living on it, they’re not going to be able to put their time and effort into booking you.

Booking agents love their work, but if they can’t make a living on it, they’re not going to be able to put their time and effort into booking you. Click To Tweet

Getting a Booking Agent, Conclusion

So, if you want an agent and you:

  • Haven’t found agencies that work with artists like you
  • Haven’t established your brand
  • Don’t have a sizable, engaged fan base
  • Haven’t collected actionable data
  • Don’t know how an agent is going to fit into your team
  • Don’t have a manager
  • Aren’t sure you’re making enough money to hand off booking

It’s going to be an uphill battle.

Nevertheless, the above tips are there to help you figure out your next steps. If you can get clear on that, you should still consider it a win.

And, don’t forget:

The Essential Guide to Creative Entrepreneurship is a great resource to help you achieve more clarity on your path. Be sure to pick up a copy.