5 Tools To Help You Self-Start Your Side Hustle

You’ve most likely read an article in the last year categorizing millennials as “lazy” or “unmotivated”.

The tide on that thinking has thankfully started to change as research firms conduct studies on millennial workplace preferences and employers come to realize that it’s not laziness, but rather a rejection of post dated working structures that are no longer in line with our values. From personal experience, many of the millennials I know are busting their asses at full time jobs while pursuing side hustles or passion projects. A recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 44% of those ages 25-34 and 39% of 18-24 have a side gig. If you are someone looking to grow a side business now is a pretty excellent time for it – there are so many inexpensive tools available to you that can help you accomplish what it would have taken a team of four to do a generation ago.

I know for myself, when I set out to begin growing my side venture(s) it seemed like a very daunting task. I thought that having your own business cards equalled having your shit together on a level that I could never achieve. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are so many resources available that make creating these assets a complete breeze. The hardest thing for me was making the mental shift to thinking I deserved to have my own business cards. Once I got over that the rest was incredibly easy and probably cheaper than you think. Whether just getting started or up to your waist in freelance work, the below sites will help you in growing your personal projects.

Free to sign up
Costs to download certain templates
For those of you who can’t afford to pay Adobe $100 a month, or have projects that don’t require all of the fancy functions of the Creative Suite, let me introduce you to Canva. It’s a free, easy to use alternative to Illustrator, with hundreds of templates to get you started or to spark inspiration for your projects. Choose from social banners, flyers, even upgrade your resume. This tool completely simplifies Illustrator and allows you to create beautiful collateral quite quickly. You can quickly choose from templates broken down by collateral types that take into account parameters specific to your project (correct sizing for different social media banners for instance). If you’ve worked your way around photoshop before Canva will cater to your needs to — you can upload your own images and colour codes to work from. It’s extremely intuitive to use. A word of caution, some of the templates will cost you to download. They are free to work in, but when you try to save the PDF to your computer they will ask for payment. So if your budget is $0 take note of the paid or free designs up front so you don’t waste time.

Free to sign up
Free templates
Costs to print collateral
There is a moment at networking events when the conversation is winding down and you make a move to either exchange information or continue on your way. Without business cards I found the part of the exchange really clunky and awkward. I told myself a lot of crap like, “I don’t have the proper time to dedicate to designing them” or “I have no extra money to spend”, or “I’m not legitimate enough”. Wrong wrong wrong. I was made aware of Moo, which has many pre-set designs for business cards and delivers them right to your door. 50 “super” cards (made from extra thick paper, it’s worth it I promise) came out to less than $35. Equivalent to a dinner out. Moo can also help you out with flyers, stickers, invitations – If you can print it out Moo can send it to you.
PS. now I feel really badass at events when I drop the line, “Here, let me give you my card”. I’m actually more likely to GO to events just to hand them out. Positive action inspires positive action people!

Free to sign up
Sometimes the hardest part about freelancing is building up your client base. Upwork is a secure platform from which you can browse open projects or promote your services. Payment is agreed upon before you start the project and transactions happen through the site to avoid any funny business. Some people criticize sites like Upwork and Fiver because it reduces your skill to a commodity, the only differentiator you compete on being the price you’re willing to work for. While I do agree with this point, I think these sites can be helpful for people starting out to build up projects for their portfolio and to have some money coming in while growing their network and learning to market themselves. If you do use these sites it’s important that you’re taking the time to build up your own business simultaneously by investing in many of the other projects I speak about here, like creating your own website. Speaking of…

Free to sign up
Monthly or Yearly subscriptions for website templates
It is stupid easy to build your own website and with Squarespace it’s pretty difficult to create a shitone. There are so many resources out there to help you get started, but Squarespace is my favorite because of the striking designs. A website took me years to commit to because I figured I’d need to learn to code, and every step of the process seemed complicated and overwhelming (I have to buy a domain name?!) All of these steps have been simplified and beautified. The entire process from choosing your theme to setting up individual pages was seamless. It’s approximately $12 a month, or $120 for a year to host your site. You can use a domain you’ve already purchased, or they’ll set you up with one for free.

Free to sign up
Costs to download preset filters
If you’re trying to grow your instagram account or you use photography in your business, hands down VSCO is my favorite photo editing app. It’s free to use and is another gorgeously designed app from which to work in. Upload your pictures directly from your phone, tablet or laptop and apply a preset to upgrade your photos almost instantly. If you actually know what you’re doing VSCO has an elaborate editing palate as well. VSCO really feels like an editing app for photographers by photographers. While they do have free filters (they call them “presets”) available to everyone, they also have beautiful collections of presets (approx. $5 for a package of 3-5) that go so far beyond what Instagram and other photo editing apps offer. They’ve taken time to think about what people are photographing, and the light/colour compositions that will help your content stand apart.They’ve just launched a subscription service, VSCO X™, which gives you access to hundreds of presets for $25 a year.

If you’re thinking about investing a little more time or money in your side hustle, just jump in. I spent too much time obstructed by the notion that I’d have to have all the details figured out before I began, but when I took the first step to create business cards with my domain name printed on them, it forced me to get my ass in gear to create a website (even if it just says “Coming soon”, it’s up!). You will always find an excuse, so shift to thinking about action instead. Once you get going all will fall into place, you’ll see. Lastly, if you do end up spending money on your budding business make sure to save all your receipts for tax season as you’ll be able to write a lot of this off.

Do not go gently into that 9-5.