another, more flexible way to cash in on today’s high demand for tech: Start a
part-time business in your spare time. According to "Freelancing in
America: A National Survey of the New Workforce," 14 million Americans
engage in a part-time
business (also known as moonlighting, freelancing, or running a side
hustle). And in tech there is no shortage of part-time projects and contracts
on offer, some of which will be in your wheelhouse, while others will provide
an opportunity to learn new skills.
who have struck up successful side businesses provide insights on how you can
Get your side business up and running
Skill development, increased income,
and the option to become a full-time entrepreneur are common motivations for
starting a part-time business. But you’ll need to consider what exactly you’d
like to accomplish before launching your side business. Much of your success
will depend on your capacity for additional work, your current skills, your
desire to acquire new skills, and most important, your motivation. Yes, your
skills are in high demand, but following through consistently in your spare
time to make your side business work can be challenging.
Corey Creech, a web consultant based
in central Florida notes that sacrificing leisure time to build a business is
part of the deal.
The fastest way to start a business
is to sell services to a client as a freelancer. This type of business can be
started for less than $100: obtain a business license, open a business bank
account, and put up a simple website. How quickly you start to earn money will
depend on your sales ability and network. For many freelance
businesses, landing the first client presents the greatest challenge.
The first and best place to find
clients is your personal network of contacts. Writing handcrafted emails to
people in your network can be a great way to land a first contract, Creech
says. If your network is limited, offering your services through an online
services platform may be a good option.
Make the most of freelance marketplaces
on client projects through freelance marketplaces such as Upwork can simplify
the marketing process.
freelance sites, you’re competing against a large number of people from around
the world, so they are very competitive,” explains Nick Loper, host of the Side
Hustle Podcast. “Despite the competition, you can still win on these services
if you put in the effort to read the project description and come up with a
detailed response,” Loper adds.
But doesn’t the global nature of
freelance marketplace websites mean a race to the bottom for freelance pay?
Hunter’s experience offers a stark counterpoint to that assumption. In 2015,
Hunter, a developer based in Tempe, Ariz., earned approximately $80,000 through
Upwork as a part-time business while holding down his day job. “When I first
started out, I was typically billing around $15 per hour. Over time, I’ve
raised my hourly rate to about $86, and I often turn down client requests
today,” he explains.
Toptal: Freelance network for high-end talent
itself as an exclusive network of top talent, Toptal is becoming a popular
option for developers and designers to land clients.
starting with Toptal, I worked on a couple of freelance projects,” says Paulo
Castro, who began freelancing while working for IBM in Brazil. “A lot of
customers have difficulties finding developers to do maintenance and support
for existing software”.
contrast to other services, Toptal plays an active role in interviewing
developers, working with end clients, and administration. Toptal’s end clients
include a mix of large and small companies such as J.P. Morgan, Pfizer,
Zendesk, and AirBnb.
Building a product-based business
Earning income from selling
technology products on the side is another path for a part-time business. In
contrast to a services-based business, it generally takes longer to earn money,
though the long-term rewards can be significantly greater. If you already have
significant skills in app development, you might want to consider building a
business around a software offering.
Of course, you’ll need to find a
worthwhile market niche to fill with your app or software. After all, few
side-hustle businesses receive angel or venture funding; money needs to come in
from direct sales to justify the effort.
Gary Vaynerchuk, a digital marketing
expert and author, regularly reviews the “top app” lists in the Apple iTunes
Store, especially paid apps, to find new opportunities. There’s no need to
create a new idea from scratch with this approach. Instead, you can build an
app that leverages existing market demand. Over time, the best-selling iOS apps
include games (such as Angry Birds, Words with Friends, and Plants vs. Zombies)
and productivity apps (Camera+, iScanner, and TapeACall Pro). Performing market
research on previously successful apps can help spark new ideas for areas with
Software as a service
mobile apps, software as a service can be another lucrative option for building
a side business. Consider ConvertKit, an email marketing service created by
Nathan Barry. Based in Idaho, Barry created the service in early 2013 after
becoming frustrated with the capabilities of existing email marketing services.
Prior to starting ConvertKit, Barry’s work focused on selling premium digital
books like "The App Design Handbook" and "Designing Web
Applications." Barry’s approach offers clues on how to build a successful
SaaS product. He clearly understood the problem (ineffective and limited email
marketing) and he defined a target market.
Books: Spread your knowledge as a side business
is another way you can leverage your technical expertise to earn money on the
side. Writing books for a traditional publisher like Apress, O’Reilly, or Wiley
is one approach. When you go with a traditional, established tech publisher,
you earn an advance payment (likely less than $10,000 for a technical book) and
royalties on books that sell. Beyond the immediate income, writing for a
respected publisher is an excellent option to set yourself apart from other
professionals in your niche.
offers another avenue with potentially greater rewards and flexibility. There
are two popular ways to self-publish a book depending on your goals, skills,
and resources: by creating a self-hosted premium e-book or by using a platform like
books are well-suited for the premium e-book model because it is easier to
include code samples, videos, and other instructional materials to help readers
learn. For non-technical authors, Amazon represents a significant opportunity to
build a business by publishing Kindle books.
Should part-time mean forever?
up a part-time business and a full-time job is challenging. Maintaining a
traditional job and a part-time business creates additional pressure on your
life. And that is another great facet of the side hustle: You can quit at any
time. You may decide to close the business once you accomplish a specific goal
such as paying off college debt. Or you may grow their business so much that you
could resign from your day job.