side hustle

Q&A with Nick Loper of Side Hustle Nation

Many budding entrepreneurs may be taking on a side hustle such as driving for Uber, starting a freelance business or reselling goods on Amazon or eBay to dip their toes into the business world and test-drive an idea before they leave their full-time job. These side projects can also help fund loftier business ideas.

StartupNation talked to Nick Loper, founder of the blog and podcast Side Hustle Nation, about why side hustles matter, how to choose one and more. The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.

StartupNation: Why do you think it’s important for people to have a side hustle or multiple side hustles?

Nick Loper: The biggest reason that I hear is, ‘I want to make extra money.’ That’s the primary driver for a lot of people. Many times the secondary drivers would be learning new skills or exercising different skills than at your day job. A lot of people would say, ‘My day job doesn’t let me exercise my creative muscles the way that I’d like to, so maybe I can practice that on the side versus watching TV or going to the golf course when I’m very unlikely to ever make any money doing that.’

The other side benefit that I see that helped me in my day job was thinking like a CEO. I was at the big bottom rung of this Fortune 500 company and by running my own business on the side, I got to see a bigger picture view, which I think made me a better employee, even though it wasn’t my long-term goal to climb the ladder.

What are some of the more unusual side hustles that you’ve tried or that you’ve heard about?

Nick Loper
(Nick Loper, photo courtesy of Brooke and Bryn photography)

My first side business was a comparison shopping site for shoes. I had an internship at a shoe retailer, so that was my inside look at this industry and my first exposure to online marketing and search engine optimization. At that time it was still pretty pioneering that people would buy shoes online. I also noticed that a lot of these other comparison engines out there were trying to be everything to everyone, whereas I thought if I can build something that’s vertical specific, hopefully I could deliver better results and really become the go-to place for footwear. It’s not something that I’m doing anymore, but that was the vehicle that let me quit my day job, so I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for shoes.

I met a guy who started a vending machine side business with $36. He found a used vending machine for gumballs on eBay and the seller happened to be local, so he drove across town, picked it up and then went knocking on doors until he found a karate studio that let him park it there. He said he went back a couple weeks later, opened it up and quarters spilled out all over the floor. That was his first taste of passive income and he parlayed that to the next machine to the next machine and this whole empire of vending machines.

Publishing on Amazon is one of my favorite side hustles. Amazon for e-commerce is really hot right now. One thing I was surprised to learn is that almost half of the inventory isn’t actually owned by Amazon. It’s owned by individual sellers like you and me.

How can readers identify the right side hustle for them?

I suggest taking inventory of your skills and cross reference that with your interests. Start with your resume. By definition, every job you have is a skill somebody thought was worth paying for. Try to find the unique angle or intersection with an interest, a hobby or some sort of industry connection. One side hustle I always wanted my brother to do was he has years of experience in the service industry working at restaurants and bars. He’s also studied psychology in school and has all these kind of positive hacks on how servers can improve their tips, how restaurant owners can get their Yelp reviews, how you can increase your average check by 10 percent, all of these little psychology hacks. I thought it would be a cool service to try to go out and sell it to some restaurants.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?

The sharing economy is a low barrier to entry to get started: your Uber drivers, your Airbnb hosts, pet sitting hosts. If you wanted to rent out a spare room in your place 10 or 15 years ago, your market was probably limited to a sign in your yard or maybe an ad in the newspaper classifieds. But now they’ve built this marketplace with millions and millions of users. That’s kind of exciting.

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