bootstrap your side hustle

How to Bootstrap Your Side Hustle into a 6-Figure Business

Latest posts by Luisa Zhou (see all)

How do you successfully bootstrap a side hustle into a six-figure business? Building a wildly profitable business is simpler than you might think. With the right business model and strategy, you can build a successful side hustle that doesn’t require any external funding and turn it into your full-time job. 

Here’s how I did it and you can, too. 

The benefits of a side hustle 

Why should you start a side hustle? 

A growing number of people are seeing the benefits of side hustles. After all, 34% of all Americans have a side gig, while 50% of millennials and 70% of Gen Zers run a side hustle. 

Luisa Zhou

And if you’re interested in ultimately running your own full-time business, a side hustle is a great place to start. Our own research shows that 81% of successful businesses with a six-figure or higher income start as side hustles. 

For me, the reasons were clear. I wanted to have more freedom and flexibility in my life. My “aha” moment came when everyone in my family went through serious illnesses, but I had a limited number of vacation days and couldn’t be there to support them. 

And within four months of starting my side hustle, I had made six figures and handed in my notice. (Note: It wasn’t the first business I started as I had previously built a tutoring company and a payments startup, so I wasn’t new to entrepreneurship.)

Most importantly, my now full-time business feels incredibly fulfilling. I get daily messages about the impact my business has had on my clients’ lives and how they in turn have swapped their jobs for online businesses. 

The best part is that I did it without any external funding. Instead, I focused on two things: 

  • I used the right business model.
  • I chose the right growth strategy. 

These are key factors for building a successful side hustle without a single cent of funding. Plus, they help you bootstrap your side hustle without burning yourself out so that you can perform at your day job and live your life outside of it. 

Next, let’s look at how to choose your business model.


15 Quotes That Will Motivate You to Start a Side Hustle (and Be a Better Entrepreneur)

How to choose the right business model

A common mistake new entrepreneurs make is to think that they have to come up with the next Facebook or Amazon.

Building a new Facebook or Amazon will require millions in startup capital and hundreds of hours … not exactly a business model that offers flexibility and freedom or that you can start on the side. Instead, build your side hustle with a far simpler business model. 

The most profitable business model

So what’s the best business model for high-profit side hustles? Easy, a service-based business as a coach, consultant or freelancer. 

With a service business, you can charge higher rates because you’re offering your personal time and expertise. Compare this business model to an e-commerce business, which requires you to source products and pay shipping costs. While you can make at least $1,500 per service business client, you’d make $50-$100 per e-commerce product. 

Your service business rates depend on what you sell. As a freelancer, you can charge $50-$100/hour or higher depending on your skills and as a coach or consultant, your project rates might start at $1,500. 

Bootstrap your side hustle

What’s more, you can easily bootstrap your service business. You don’t need much more than a laptop and an Internet connection. 

The key to a successful service business is to use skills you already have instead of building a business around a skill you have to learn. 

The thing is: You have sellable skills. These can be skills you’ve learned at your job or on the side. Just a few examples include career coaching, health coaching, copywriting or social media management. 

Sometimes, it’ll take a few tries to find that ultimate side hustle idea you want to focus on. 

For instance, I first started a business teaching people how to use Excel. At the time, I used Excel daily at my day job and I knew there were people who wanted to learn how to use Excel more efficiently. But I set that business idea aside when I realized that I wasn’t that interested in teaching Excel. 

I then started a career coaching business. I constantly got career-related questions from friends and coworkers and I figured I could help my clients with those same questions. But again, I quit career coaching because I didn’t feel like it was the business for me. 

Fortunately, my third attempt paid off. I decided to start a consulting business helping entrepreneurs use Facebook ads, a skill I had learned at my day job. And this time around, I enjoyed what I was doing and started selling consulting packages.

But you also need a winning strategy besides your business model. That’s what we’ll look at next. 

How to choose the right strategy for growing your side hustle  

You can build your side hustle in so many different ways. You can use LinkedIn, Instagram or TikTok. Or tap into your network, get interviewed on podcasts, or write guest posts on different blogs.

Whichever strategy you choose, you need to focus on that strategy. Don’t add on other strategies before you’ve mastered one and have built up a proven system to get consistent clients.

When I started my business, I chose to focus on Facebook. I’d use all its features, including live streams, groups and posts. I learned how to engage people, connect with them and get a steady stream of sales calls whenever I posted something on the platform.

It’s thanks to this focus I was able to grow my side hustle to six figures so fast. Instead of trying to do too many things, I dedicated my lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends to work in a focused way and maximize my results on that one platform.  

That said, it didn’t happen overnight and I went through 30 “no’s” at one point. (Not to mention, at one point I was told I looked like I was 12 years old. Ouch.) But without taking no for an answer, I slowly learned how to get people interested in what I had to say and see the benefits of my services. 

Finally, I didn’t hand in my notice before I was sure my business would work in the long run and I had plenty of people lined up to work with me. The biggest reason you won’t have to take on external funding is your day job, so stay at it until you’re making at least two times what you’re making in your 9-5. Financial stress can ruin your business, so making enough money in your side business is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your business.

Get started today!

Yes, it takes work to build your side hustle. But you can be smart about how you grow your business so that you build a profitable business from the start. Ultimately, your side hustle will allow you to experience more flexibility, freedom, and fulfillment and build the type of life you want. 

Verizon Small Business Digital Ready: Help for Small Businesses

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StartupNation and Verizon are bringing something special to all small business owners. Verizon Small Business Digital Ready is a free resource for learning basic business skills, the latest digital technology and more, including chances at $10,000 grants. Sign up now.

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