According to some historical records, some people out there have boundless energy, loads of free time, and ambition enough to make a dictator blush. These people are called “not parents”, “morning people”, and “annoying”. Some say these people invented the Side Hustle(™).
Those historical records are wrong. The Side Hustle was invented long ago by people who just needed more money. Could have been Eve for all we know. Now we live in a gig economy, for better and worse, and everyone has a side hustle of some kind. That includes us web designers.
We get into them to make some extra cash, to add to our portfolios, to build name recognition, to build a network, as a creative outlet, or all of the above. As we get into 2019, we thought it’d be fun to go over some of the more common side hustles for web designers, and examine which might be the best to get into this year:
1. The Self-Hosted Blog
Ah the self-hosted blog, where you’re in full control of the branding, all the content, and you have to do everything by yourself. Why would you blog on your own site when Medium exists, and does half your marketing for you? Because the uhh… the slight community issues with Tumblr last year clearly demonstrate how quickly creators can get screwed by policy changes when they’re on a platform they don’t own. Ask any Youtuber, too. They’ll tell you.
Effort: A minimum 10-20 minutes of work. Can be expanded upon as much as you want.
Financial prospects: Depends entirely upon the following you build. Financial returns may be seen in increased clients, rather than directly receiving revenue from the blog.
Should you? Medium proves the demand for blogs has not died, and likely never will. Just about every creative should probably have one.
Free idea for devs out there: build a self-hosted blogging platform with social features that allow you to connect to other blogs. Like a self-hosted Tumblr, with a feed and everything. Well, maybe connecting to other blogs should be optional. Look at Mastodon for a general model of the idea.
2. Authority Site
An authority site is like a blog with no dates and you don’t have to update nearly as often, as they generally feature perennially useful information. They typically run ads for revenue, and the really good ones can generate reasonable passive income. It can be about one of your non-web design interests, or some bit of our own industry that may not be completely understood yet, e.g. Grid by Example.
Effort: More initial effort than blog, but less in the long term. It’s kind of like writing a mini-wiki.
Financial prospects: Again, varies greatly depending on traffic, and your monetization strategy. Sometimes these are best used as portfolio pieces.
Should you? There’s no real reason why not. Good information is search-friendly information, and launching a few of these could help you build up a reputation, if nothing else.
3. Themes, Plugins, and Other Resources
What the title says. You can always make stuff for your fellow designers and front-end developers to use in their own sites. Everyone loves stuff that makes their own lives a bit easier, and gets their own work done faster.
Effort: Depends on what you make. A single icon could be the work of a day. An icon set is another matter. Anything with code gets real interesting, because code generally requires maintenance.
Financial prospects: Making things for free earns you goodwill. Selling them makes money, but you’ll hardly be the only stall in the marketplace.
Should you? The market is saturated right now. Unless what you’re creating fills a specific and under-served niche, you’re going to face very stiff competition. You’d better know, for a fact, that you’re going to stand out.
4. Contribute to an Existing OSS Project
Ah, the beauty of open source software: anyone can make it. Okay, if you’re primarily a graphics guy, you may stick to creating assets for the project of your choice, but that is something that is still good and necessary.
Effort: Depends on what you contribute. Expect to spend some time figuring that out with other people, and factor in time for that communication.
Financial prospects: Prospects for immediate financial gain are poor to nonexistent.
Should you? If you don’t need extra money any time soon, but do need contacts, yeah. Go for it. Having your name on some OSS projects can be a big resume booster, and you’re giving back to the community in a big way.
5. Start a YouTube Channel or Twitch Stream
Video… it’s like podcasting, but with more work. Interestingly enough—and considering that web design is a very visual discipline—there seems to be a lot more podcasts and blogs of note in the web design space than there is video content, even as other industries trend toward video. Mostly I’ve seen app tutorials, some videos about the very basics, with a few vlog-style shows thrown in. These are all good things, but there’s room for growth. Heck, a lot of the content I’ve seen was made by marketers.
Effort: Loads of effort.
Financial prospects: Ad revenue on YouTube is a notoriously finicky thing, and building an audience takes time. Between patron, sponsors, and ads, Youtube videos and/or streaming can be turned into a full-time career, but that’s a long-term thing.
Should you? If you have the time (you do need a fair bit of it), and can eventually put a budget together for some entry-level hardware, it may be worth getting into the video space, ‘cause I don’t think it’s quite saturated.
6. Public Speaking
Stand up in front of people, sweat profusely, and stammer through a presentation. Then do it again and again until you’re good, and can effectively convey your knowledge to others.
Effort: There’s writing, nerves, and sometimes a bit of travel. It’s not the hardest thing you can do, but neither is it for the faint of heart.
Financial prospects: Local events are good for networking, but you may have to speak for free, or even pay to speak, depending on the event. Get real good, and conference organizers might pay you to come speak. Don’t expect to make a living, but it’s not bad for a side hustle.
Should you? If you’re comfortable with public speaking, go for it. Check out local events, and go to one or two of them. Get a feel for the audience, and then decide if you have something to share that they might need.
7. Start Your Own Events
Hosting events means networking opportunities, having fun, and making a decent bit of cash once the events start to grow. It’s a great way to bring the local design community together and learn. Of course, you need to make sure there aren’t maybe too many events like your in your area, maybe try to pick a unique theme, but it may be worth it.
Effort: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH YES LOTS OF EFFORT. Obviously, if you keep the events small, it’s not too big a deal. It’s like a second business. But if it really starts to grow, running events could quickly take up a lot of room in your life.
Financial prospects: Decent, if you get people showing up.
Should you? Only if you really, really like talking to people, managing people, dealing with people’s complaints, scheduling for other people, chasing other people, and basically doing a whole lot of undesignery stuff.
And whatever you do, remember to have fun with it. No point in a side hustle that isn’t fun.
Featured image via Unsplash