Any neighbor who happened to look through my window must have thought that I had gone crazy. In fact, I am 90% sure that is exactly what my wife thought when she first laid eyes on the colossal mess that was once our tidy living room. 

Entire walls had been covered with construction paper, cords sprawled in all directions, and our TV sat on a makeshift stand in the center of the room. A kitchen table stood two feet off the ground, elevated by stacks of books and photo albums crammed beneath each leg. A camping lantern hung from the ceiling and a variety of desk-lamps, headlights, and flashlights lay on piles of stacked furniture.  To top it all off, a camera-laden tripod stood precariously balanced atop a side-ways microwave next to the TV. 

Despite the room’s appearance, this wasn’t an unorganized pile of clutter – I hadn’t gone crazy. In fact, if you happened to look through the camera’s viewfinder you would have seen nothing but a neatly organized table standing in front of a stylish backdrop. This apparent chaotic mess was in all reality a fully functional, makeshift recording studio. 

I’m not a professional videographer, home-based newscaster, or a credentialed teacher. Despite that, in a matter of weeks this homemade studio helped me reach students and parents across the nation through my most recent online course: The Complete Guide to Graduate from College Debt-Free

You see, in addition to my “day job” at a large corporation, I own a small business dedicated to teaching personal finance. Despite running this business at nights from my living room, it continues to grow and generate a higher and higher portion of my overall income. This “side-hustle” allows me to build a business nearly risk-free as I continue to work at my full-time job during the day. 

A New Class of Entrepreneur 

In today’s world, my story is neither novel nor unique. Countless students, working professionals, and stay-at-home parents have successfully launched side-hustle businesses of their own. In fact, an estimated 45% of working adults have started some form of side-business. 

On any given day, a corporate professional may come home from work, eat dinner with her family, and then flip open her laptop to teach negotiation classes to world-wide clients. Similarly, a college student will find a quiet corner in the library to teach English classes to youth in China or Korea; and a stay-at-home parent will work on fulfilling orders and shipping products for her online boutique while her toddler takes a nap. 

These entrepreneurs don’t go to the bank to get a loan, seek venture funding, or pour their life savings into starting their businesses. They don’t open a storefront, hire employees, or risk-it all in order to succeed. In fact, the vast majority of them don’t even quit their day-jobs. 

Despite not starting like, looking like, or acting like a traditional business-owner, that is exactly what they are. These entrepreneurs have discovered a new form of business ownership that allows them to start businesses on their own terms and centered around their own goals. To top it all off, thanks to the power of the internet, it doesn’t take them more than a few hours behind a screen to gain access to a global market of potential customers. 

Why start a side-business? 

At this point, you may be wondering, “Ok, this is interesting, but what is the point? I’m already so busy. If I make sufficient money at my day-job, why would I start sacrificing my nights to build a business?” 

Answers to this question can vary widely as each ‘Side-Hustler’ has his or her own reason for embarking on this journey. 

First, there are the obvious financial benefits. In a world where a company’s promise of “job-security” appears less-genuine than the word of a child with chocolate-stained teeth saying that he didn’t sneak into the cookie jar, having a second source of income can be a godsend. A side-businesses can diversify your income stream in the same way a well-balanced portfolio diversifies your investment risk. 

Additionally, side-hustlers use the extra income they generate to help pay off-debt, have extra spending money to travel or treat themselves from time to time, or to help grow their business into a full-time gig that will eventually replace their day-job. 

Setting the financial reasons aside, there is often a deeper purpose – something more personal and internal that drives these entrepreneurs forward. This purpose often manifests as a desire to build something of their own, to prove to themselves that they can create something of value for the world, and to feel a sense of accomplishment. 

Side-hustlers use their businesses as means of creative expression, to spread solutions to problems that they previously experienced, and to help stay connected to a hobby or passion that they enjoy. 

What Types of Side-Businesses do people start? 

Just as there are seemingly endless types of traditional businesses, side-hustles can come in every shape and size. While certain fads get more attention from time to time (these days drop-shipping is all the rage), there are truly no restrictions as to what a side-hustle can be. 

One common theme is that most successful side-hustlers tend to build their businesses in-line with unique knowledge or skills that they already have. These insights and abilities may have been developed through formal schooling and training, or simply be something that they have learned through years of experience or innate talent. Regardless, they have something that they know how to do, and the world is willing to pay them for it.

I’ve seen stay-at-home parents who teach home-organization and cleaning classes, home-chefs who design cookbooks, mothers who sell boutique baby clothing, and high school students who do landscaping. I know college students teaching English via Skype to foreigners, businessmen who consult other businesses on the side, and skilled tradesman who work for a company during the day and do additional plumbing or electrical work during their off-hours. 

The reality is that every single one of us has something that we can offer the world. Side-hustlers work to discover what their unique offering will be and then take the steps necessary to put it out for the world to buy.  

According to Kevin Miller, CEO of The Word CounterDeciding what type of business you need to start from scratch is through finding your passion. To be honest, I started my career really early for the sake of money. But over time my business grew and I love getting to know people, hearing their stories and trying to help”

What will your side-hustle be?  

In today’s world, you don’t have to be a tech genius, a risk-seeking entrepreneur, or a corporate champion to own a business. In fact, you don’t even have to quit your day job. Millions of people have diversified their incomes, earned a sense of self-fulfillment, and improved their lives by creating a business on the side. Who knows, you may be next.