The Ultimate Guide To Starting A Side Business

Are you wanting to build a side business so that you can eventually escape the 9-5? Or, perhaps you just want to make some extra income with a side business? Whatever your reason is, you’re in the right place! Here, on Making Sense of Cents, I talk a lot about side business ideas. After all, my…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: June 4, 2023

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Are you wanting to build a side business so that you can eventually escape the 9-5? Or, perhaps you just want to make some extra money with a side business?Are you wanting to build a side business so that you can eventually escape the 9-5? Or, perhaps you just want to make some extra income with a side business?

Whatever your reason is, you’re in the right place!

Here, on Making Sense of Cents, I talk a lot about side business ideas. After all, my side business (this blog) changed my life, it allowed me to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt, eventually became my full-time business, and it now allows me to travel full-time with my husband.

Starting a side business can improve the lives of others as well, whether you want to keep it a side business or if you eventually want it to turn into your full-time income.

Making extra money is great for many reasons. It can help you pay off debt, save more money, test out a business idea, reach financial freedom, and more.

Related: 15 Home Business Ideas & The Free Courses You Need To Get Started

Below is the ultimate guide to starting a side business. Enjoy!


Make time for your side business.

To run a successful side business, you’ll have to find time in your day.

Don’t let what you think is a lack of time stop you, though.

Most people have at least some small amount of time in their day that can be devoted to making extra money. It all just depends on how bad you want it.

If you don’t think you have time, I want you to add up the amount of time you spend watching TV, on social media sites, hours that you can’t even remember what you did, and so on. The average person spends around 35 hours a WEEK watching TV, numerous hours on social media, and more- so, I’m sure if you add up random time wasters every day, you’ll find that you have tons of time to run a side business.

Whether you only have a few hours each week for making extra money or if you have a few hours each day, every little bit counts. And, yes, there are side hustles for the smallest amount of time and the biggest amount of time (see them below).

If you still aren’t convinced that you have the time to start a side business, here are some of the many ways to find time to manage a side business:

  • Wake up earlier or stay up later. Yes, this may mean less sleep. When I first started my blogging side business, I only got a few hours of sleep each night. I don’t know how I did it, but remember, It’s all about how badly you want it. Even just waking up one hour earlier may help you accomplish some of the tasks for your side business. This way you won’t need to completely change your sleep schedule.
  • Spend your lunch hour on your side business. If you bring your lunch to work, you can save valuable time and work on your side business while you eat.
  • Use your work vacation days for your side business. This can break your week apart better so that you can use your actual days off relaxing instead of working.
  • Waste less time with TV, social media, and so on. Remember that the average person spends a ton of time watching TV.
  • Strategically use any breaks during your day for your side business. This includes when you’re on hold on the phone, while you’re making a meal, and so on.
  • Set a schedule for when you’ll work on your side business. By sticking to a schedule, things will be more routine, which will help you work better.

After you realize what type of schedule and time frame you have to work on your side business, you can then continue onto the next step to determine what your side business could possibly be.

Read more at How To Squeeze Side Hustles Into Your Busy Schedule.


Determine what your side business will be.

There are many, many different side businesses that you may be able to start. To determine what business you should start, think about things such as:

  • What skills do you have? By analyzing the skills you currently have, you can determine what you would be good at and/or enjoy doing.
  • What do you see a need for? To run a business, you’ll need to understand what people need and how to provide that service or product for them.
  • Are there enough customers for your side business idea? To run a successful side business, you’ll need customers. You should do your research and make sure that there is a market for your side business idea.

I recommend thinking about the things you already enjoy doing, and seeing if you can somehow turn that into a side business. Since a side business will take up a large amount of your time, and the fact that you may be working full-time as well, I believe it’s very important for you to have a side business that you enjoy working on.

Because I do talk about side business ideas quite often here on Making Sense of Cents, I recommend checking out the following blog posts to see if any of these side business ideas interest you.

If you’re looking for additional ways to make extra money, please check out the below as well:


Find ways to grow your side business.

Growing your side business is a must, especially in the beginning, if you want to be successful and earn a profit.

There are many ways a person could grow their side business idea. Whether you eventually want to turn it into a full-time business or if you just want to start making more money on the side, growing your side business is possible!

Some of the things you could do to grow your side business are mentioned below. Of course, different things can be applied to different industries and types of side businesses.

  • Place advertisements for your side hustle in your local community, such as by handing out business cards, posting flyers on billboards, and more.
  • Attend networking events and/or conferences in your area.
  • Start a website so that potential customers can search for your service/product. You may even want to include a blog on your website. This could be a place for you to show how knowledgeable you are in your field and other things that relate to your business. It will help readers find you and see your expertise in the service or product.
  • Reach out directly to those who may be interested in your service/product. Yes, this may mean finding your target customer and emailing or calling them.
  • Ask past customers to share your side business. Your reputation means a lot, especially in this day and age where anyone and everyone can search you online.
  • Continue learning. There are always more things you can learn about your business, which will help you to grow it, improve on it, and more. You may want to seek out online courses, classes at a school or by an instructor, reading books and articles, and more.


Listen to your customers.

Sometimes, the best ideas will come from your customers. You may have never realized that there was a need for a certain service until someone asks you about it.

Due to this, you should listen to your customers and see what they have to say. You never know, this one idea may be a complete game changer for you!


Remember to keep a comfortable balance between work and life.

Running a side business will not always be easy. When running a side business, you may have a lot of other things going on in your life, such as family, your full-time job, spending time with friends, and more.

Work-life balance is very important when a person is making extra money. Due to the fact that you will be holding down more than one job, you may find that other areas in your life are negatively impacted.

When running a side business, you never want the quality of your work to decrease, your family to be negatively impacted, and so on.

There are many ways to manage a side business and still lead a great life. You can:

  • Outsource tasks that will allow you to focus on other areas of your side business.
  • If you are not good at multitasking, try to focus on one task at a time. Note: The average person is actually pretty bad at multitasking, so keep this in mind.
  • Leave work at work.
  • Eliminate time-sucks (see above).
  • Create a schedule that flows together smoothly.

Read more at How I’m A Work-Life Balancing Master.


Final tips for starting a side business.

Starting a side business is something that I believe many can be successful at. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Below are some of my tips that will help your side business become successful.

  • Choose a side business that you are passionate about and/or enjoy. Doing this will help the time pass more enjoyably, plus you won’t feel as drained by working so much if you are happy with what you’re doing.
  • Look for a side business that is flexible with your current schedule. A side business with a flexible schedule is a great thing because you won’t feel as if you are stuck in the day to day.
  • Don’t let your side job interfere with your current job. You probably don’t want to lose your current job, so don’t let your quality of work slip. You need to think about what your priorities are and keep those in mind.
  • Remember to pay taxes and get any legal or professional help that you need. Yes, you still need to pay taxes on side business income.

Are you interested in starting a side business? Why or why not? If you currently have one, let us know in the comments how it’s going for you.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Yes, making the time for it is so important!

  2. Hello Michelle,

    Your comment – It’s all about how badly you want it – is where success or failure will be determined. hard work and dedication cannot guarantee success but without them you can guarantee failure. Another great post.



  3. Lindsey

    I agree with this guide to a tee! In fact I would add that if you want it bad enough, you will find the time for it. It wasn’t until I wanted to blog full time bad enough that I started to really dedicate the time for it. If you are passionate about something, then you will never work a day in your life.

  4. I have more than one side business πŸ™‚ I do freelance SEO writing, self-publish books on Amazon, and run a niche website. By far the freelance SEO writing provided the fastest return for my efforts, and cost the least to get up and running – I’d highly recommend it to anyone! πŸ™‚

    What you said about making time is right on too. Every little bit adds up, and it’s amazing how much extra time most of us can find if we cut back on TV, social media etc., plus make the most of meal breaks and other nuggets of time throughout the day.

  5. Jen @ Saving with Spunk

    I’m always impressed by how successful your side hustle has become. The work-life balance is still one I’m figuring out. As a new blogger there’s a million things I feel I need to have figured out right now but I have to keep reminding myself it takes time to build something that will last. Thanks for these tips. They are so on point.

  6. This is a great post, Michelle! I launched my blog last month as my side business (not that it’s earning anything yet) and I am still working full-time hours at my day job. I’ve been waking up early and staying up late every night to work on the blog. I am so motivated right now that I don’t mind it but I do worry that I’ll burn out if I keep this up long term. Your story is so motivational! I’ll think of you if (when) the days get tougher. Thanks!!

    1. Thanks Heather! You can do it! πŸ™‚

  7. Jackie

    Completely agree, the key is in how badly you want it. My current job requires me to work a lot of extra hours but I make it a priority to schedule time for both in the evenings. I literally have a calendar I follow where I have scheduled specific days alloted for each “job”. I do not stray from it!

    1. A calendar and schedule are so important!

  8. Making time.. It’s the hardest thing to do for a side business. I don’t think I can ever sacrifice my sleep to keep up with my side hustle (kudos to you for being able to do that, I cannot function at all with less than 7 hours of sleep) but the lunch hour tip is handy. I might start brining my computer to work so that I don’t work on my side hustle on their computer. Great tips!

    1. I really don’t know how I survived with such a low amount of sleep, but I’m glad I did it!

  9. Mustard Seed Money

    Like my mom use to say to me show me your checkbook and I’ll tell you what’s important to you. I’ve found that where I spend my money and my time are sometimes unfortunately the most important thing to me. With that said I have really been trying to cut down on wasted time in order to pursue things that are important to me. Hopefully in the long run it will pay off πŸ™‚

  10. Natasha

    You mentioned in your last monthly income breakdown that you earned around 9k from surveys. Is that by doing the surveys that you recommend? How much time do you have to dedicate to reach such a large return?

    1. Hey Natasha,

      The survey income that you’re seeing is under “affiliate income” if you take a look at it again. That means that it’s all referral income.

  11. Do you have any tips on how to start monetizing a blog once you get it up and running, aside from affiliate partnerships?

  12. A lot of great advice here. My favorite is “Outsource tasks that will allow you to focus on other areas of your side business.” It is so easy to think we can do everything or we can’t afford it but if you spend your time doing the time-sucking, low-value tasks that we may not like (bookkeeping and taxes for me) we don’t have the time or energy to do what we are really good at.

    Don’t spend time doing the $10 an hour tasks when you can be doing the $100 an hour tasks!