How To Develop and Test Your Side Hustle Idea

You know you want to make some money on the side. Perhaps you hope to grow that side hustle into a full-time gig. But right now, you just feel the desire to do something more. How do you come up with ideas for your side hustle? And how do you test those ideas so you don’t waste your time going down the wrong rabbit hole?

How To Develop and Test Your Side Hustle Idea

Here is what I suggest:

Step One: Generate Side Hustle Ideas

ideas on a table Purchase a notebook that will be dedicated to your idea generation exercises. I like using college-ruled composition notebooks, which you can purchase at a dollar store, Wall-Mart or business supply store for less than $2.

Every day, brainstorm 5-10 ideas. You might find that you come up with more, but make sure you at least have five. Every day. (OK, you can take weekends off.)

Don’t judge these ideas just yet. Simply jot them down in your idea journal.

Some–probably most–of these ideas will be junk. Perhaps they are unsustainable or unviable or just something you’re not all that into. It doesn’t matter. Keep writing the ideas as they pop into your head.

By the end of the year, you should have around 1300 to 2600 ideas. At least one of them will be a good fit for you, your goals, your resources, and your circumstances.

The point of this daily exercise is to keep your brain’s “idea muscle” in fit condition. It also opens you up to the whispers of divine guidance. It activates your intuition, as well.

Step Two: Cherry Pick the Good Side Hustle Ideas

Let your list rest a day. One of two things will happen:

1. One (or more) of the ideas you jotted down will spark something in you. You’ll find you keep thinking about it.

2. Nothing.

On the second day, after you’ve written a new list of 5-10 ideas, go through yesterday’s list and highlight those ideas you think are worthy of further thought. Evaluate them on these criteria:

  • Did you keep thinking about this idea for the last 24 hours? This is an indication of interest and passion on your part. If yes, highlight it.
  • Is the idea feasible? In other words, do you have the resources to get this idea up and running, at least in beta, fairly quickly?
  • Is the timing right? You don’t want to pick an idea that is too ahead of its time or it won’t turn a profit quickly enough.
  • Is the idea profitable? Will you be able to charge enough to pay for any supplies and pay yourself, as well?

Once an idea passes the test, it is ready for testing. Keep in might that you want to make sure people are willing to pay you at the right price point before you put too much of your energy into making it a side hustle reality.

Step Three: Test Your Selected Side Hustle Ideas

lightbulb idea There are several ways you can test an idea. Here are some ideas:

  • Call 10 people. Who would be an ideal client or customer for this idea? Find 10 of them and either describe the idea or offer a demo version. Ask for the sale. How many of these 10 people purchased? If at least three do, you’ve got a viable side hustle that you can improve.
  • Advertise on Facebook. For about $10, you can test an idea using Facebook Ads. Make sure that the ad takes them to an opt-in where they can sign up for more information and be notified once the product is ready. How many clicks do you get? This is an indication of interest.
         Now that you have a list of people interested in your idea, ask for the sale. Provide the service or send them a sample for a fee. How many of your interested list become customers or clients? The greater the percentage, the more viable the idea. You want at least 20% to convert to sales before you put more time into developing the idea.
  • Run a crowd-funding campaign. This can work especially well if you need funds just to create your idea. Using Kickstarter, Indiegogo or one of the other crowdfunding websites, create a compelling description of your idea and ask for money toward creating it. Those who donate to your campaign get the product or service once it is complete. Then promote the heck out of it. If you’re able to raise the funds, this is a viable idea. If you can’t, it is time to let that idea go.

Step Four: Celebrate and Iterate

At some point in time, one of your ideas will pan out as viable. Celebrate your achievement! Then get to work on fine-tuning it so that it is the best it can be. There are several ways to improve upon an idea:

  • Increase efficiency. Can you cut the time it takes to make the widget or provide the service while maintaining excellent customer service?
  • Streamline your systems. Have you been going through too many steps to get to your end result? Write down the process you go through and find ways to merge, delete or outsource some of those steps.
  • Automate. What parts of your process can you make automatic so you don’t have to do the work or outsource it?
  • Tweak your sales copy. One way to make a greater profit is to increase your sales conversion rate. You can experiment with your headline, your subheads and the wording of your offer–but only test one thing at a time. Your goal is to discover which tweak increases your conversions.
  • Create upsells and downsells. Perhaps your original idea is too big or too small for some people in your audience. Offer them an upgrade for even better service. Or offer them a “lite” version that is less expensive.

Bonus Step: Expand Upon an Exciting Idea

Remember that idea that you kept thinking about in Step One? Why not use it as fodder to create another list of 5-10 ideas? Come up with ways to expand upon or offshoot from that idea.

If you take these steps, you’ll come up with at least one viable, profitable and enjoyable side hustle before a year is up–probably even sooner!


This post was inspired by my own experience, Chris Guillebeau’s book Side Hustle, and an article by James Altucher.

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About the author

Carma Spence is an international best selling author and award-winning speaker who helps women, introverts and shy people unleash their content creation superpowers and communicate their message with confidence so that they can create meaningful and fulfilling legacies.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.