You Have a Talent You Can Sell as a Side Gig. Here’s How to Discover It

A woman poses for portraits in front of a grow mural in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jessica Hernandez, an experienced recruiter and human resources officer, started Great Resumes Fast as a side hustle and then turned it into a full-tine job two years later. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder
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Before starting a side hustle, you have to find your marketable skill.

One person may be great at spelling and grammar, so they become a copy editor. Another may be quick at selecting the best items in the supermarket, so they become a shopper for a grocery delivery service. But what do you do when you’re not sure what your unique skill is?

The good news is there are ways to figure out your strengths that can develop into future side gigs. Learn how to start a side hustle by finding your marketable skill.

Write Down Your Strengths

The first thing you need to do is create a list. Chris Williams, founder and digital marketing specialist at Clock In Marketing, recommends writing out on a piece of paper what skills you think you’re good at. Also, determine how much time and what days you’ll be able to devote to a side hustle. This paper list will give you a point of reference when doing research on different fields to consider for your side hustle.

Consult Your Friends and Coworkers

After listing any skills or fields that interest you, it’s time to poll the people close to you. Sol Rosenbaum runs The Engineering Mentor, a website that helps engineers develop soft professional skills, such as networking and public speaking. He suggests asking your friends and coworkers what they think your strengths are. You might be surprised.

“Until someone else sees that [skill] in you, you don’t realize it’s a unique skill or a skill [other] people are having trouble with,” he says.

Think About What You’re Already Doing For Other People

A woman shows what a good resume should look like.
Hernandez holds an example of resume created by Great Resumes Fast. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Sometimes the things you do for family and friends as favors may be a profitable side hustle waiting to happen. Jessica Hernandez, an experienced recruiter and human resources professional, regularly helped her friends write their resumes. One day, a friend told her “You should charge for this.”

“That’s what I hadn’t thought about before. I was just doing it to be nice because these were my friends and I wanted to help them,” she says.

In 2008, Hernandez opened the resume writing service Great Resumes Fast as a side hustle. In less than two years, the business expanded to the point where she surpassed the salary of her day job. Now she works on her resume-writing business full time.

Hernandez says, “Don’t think about what other people are doing.” Instead, focus on how you’re already serving others.

Consider Fields That Spark Your Curiosity

A woman poses for portraits outside of Treaty Oak, a tree where its limbs touch the ground, in Jacksonville, Fla.
“If it’s not an enjoyable side hustle, you’re not going to want to do it, especially after having worked all day,” Hernandez says. “It’s going to feel like more work instead of something that you’re passionate about.” Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

If nobody is coming to you asking for favors like writing resumes or managing their social media ads, then what do you do? Hernandez suggests thinking about activities that naturally interest you, such as hobbies, subjects you enjoy talking about or topics that spark curiosity.

“If it’s not an enjoyable side hustle, you’re not going to want to do it, especially after having worked all day,” she says. “It’s going to feel like more work instead of something that you’re passionate about.”

Once some ideas begin to take shape, consider whether you’re going to need any additional training. Hernandez recommends reading books on the subject, taking online courses and following successful people in the field on social media. For example, she follows experts in social media advertising and marketing on LinkedIn.

“Learn from the best because that’s going to help you succeed when you’re building your own side hustle,” she says. “That’s one of the things that has benefited me immensely over the years.”

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Test Your Idea on a Small Scale

Before opening for business, first find out if there is a market for your side hustle idea. If nobody is willing to pay for your services, then it’s not a viable side hustle. Rosenbaum tested his material online before launching his website. He went to forums like Reddit and Quora to see what people were asking about and answered their questions. This testing phase reassured him that there is an audience for his skills, and it helped him develop a following. After about a year, he figured it was time to launch the site.

“I think it’s important not to rush it or push it because you can rush and push in the wrong direction and then you’re back at square one a couple [of] months later,” he says.

Rosenbaum adds that if you rely only on your friends for feedback, it may be skewed because they’re just trying to be supportive of your dream. “Until you have customers and clients within your target audience telling you that [your idea is good], you’re not getting a fair picture of what is out there and what the possibilities are.”

Side Gig Ideas to Get You Started

Not sure where to start? Here are a few side gigs we love:

Help Small Business Owners

Does earning $60 an hour sound appealing? How about the freedom to work remotely while helping others succeed?

Those are the perks of working as a bookkeeper, says Ben Robinson, a certified public accountant and business owner who teaches others to become virtual bookkeepers through his online course, Bookkeeper Business Launch.

And no, you don’t have to have a CPA to be successful in this business. In fact, all you really need are decent computer skills and a passion for helping business owners tackle real-world problems.

It’s a great opportunity for moms who want to work part-time, millennials who are just out of college and anyone who wants to bring in real money while working from home.

Let Someone Borrow Your Place

Have a spare room? Might as well try to earn some money by listing it on Airbnb.

If you’re a good host with a desirable space, you could add hundreds — even thousands — of dollars to your savings account with Airbnb.

A few simple steps can make the difference between a great experience and a less-than-satisfactory one. We talked to Terence Michael, an Airbnb superhost based in Los Angeles.

Here are some of his tips:

  • Break out the labelmaker. “I have the entire house loaded with labels,” Michael says. “They look nice; they’re modern. This helps people feel less helpless.”
  • Be a good host, and stock your place with the toiletries you’d expect at a hotel — toilet paper, soap and towels. Here’s a little hack from Michael: “I order on Amazon and have it delivered when people are there.”
  • Be kind to your neighbors. “I say, ‘I’m not going to put anyone here who I think won’t be good for you,’” Michael explains. “And I turn a lot of big groups away, especially in Nashville. I don’t want anyone going to the cops or the city.”

(Hosting laws vary from city to city. Please understand the rules and regulations applicable to your city and listing.)

Drive People Around Town

Need a fun, flexible way to earn money while also meeting lots of new people?

Try driving with Lyft!

Demand for ride-sharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.

We talked to Paul Pruce, who had been driving full-time with Lyft for over a year and earning $750 a week as a driver.

Best of all, he could do it on his own time. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!

Matt Reinstetle is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.