5 things to do to start your side hustle

4 February 2022

In 2020, Nikki Ray picked up her first Cricut machine. A few weeks later, she started her side hustle with The Brownie Boutique.

On October 5, 2020, I picked up my first Cricut machine. The color was what jumped out at me first — it was a mint green Cricut Explore Air 2. With no prior experience but with all the time in the world (note the year), I took a chance. I was intimidated at first, but then I opened the box to find a perfectly wrapped machine, some supplies, and an owner’s manual. I had a three-tier cart that had been a dumping station for all things virtual school. I found another storage space for those supplies, put the Cricut machine on top, grabbed my laptop, and got started. My first project was a crown (It’s what they suggested). The look on my face was priceless. To see the precision in which that machine cut that crown — watch out Hallmark, I just knew I was the next card creator.

I quickly realized that cards were not my forte, and changed directions to clothes. I was intrigued by the fact that I could see a design or dream one up, create it, and wear it! On October 20, 2020, I posted a picture on social media of a shirt I MADE. From there, the side hustle began. If you can relate to any part of my story, then follow along to find out how you too, can create your own side hustle.

1. Decide what products make

What is it that you enjoy making? Cricut Design Space is full of projects that you can try to get started with. Want to make your own earrings? Maybe it’s designing branding materials such as cards and mugs for another business? Have your own style that you want to see come alive in the form of wearables? Identify one area that you can be creative in. Don’t worry, you can always expand and scale up later, but focus on one thing first. If you are stuck, search a topic in the projects tab in Design Space or look at ideas on the Design Space home page, and let the creative juices flow.

2. Know your customers

Who is your target audience? A better question would be, who are you helping to fulfill a need or want for? In building your side hustle, you will first rely on those who already support you day to day. But do not be fooled, they will not STAY your customer. That’s ok, stay with me on this journey and I can show you how to grow beyond your reach. In the meantime, those closest to you are a good test group; use them to bounce ideas off of, and launch from there.

For me, I knew right away that my target audience was someone like me. A minority woman, who is juggling mom life, military spouse life, and trying to find her why. I was looking for items that spoke to who I was, and I wanted to see those items on women who looked like me; Perfectly Imperfect Beings. I wanted the women to feel confident in the clothes I made. My goal was for them to be brave enough to wear a bold statement tee, and to be ready for the conversations that came along with wearing it.

3. Get the right equipment

If you are wanting to start side hustle, solely by what you create with your hands, then you need to spend money, in order to make money. I do not have an MBA (yet), but I do believe in investing in quality products that will help you grow your ideas. You remember I started with the Cricut Explore Air 2. Shortly after that, I bought my Cricut Maker, because I wanted to increase production. When the Cricut Mug Press exploded on the scene, so did a whole other branch to my business. So ask yourself, how are you going to make the items you want to sell? You do not have to go out and buy all the machines like I did; become a master of one first. If this is the sign you need to get that piece of equipment off the floor, out of the box, and onto a shelf, DO IT! You are creative. You can do powerful things with your hands and mind. But having a reliable piece of equipment to start with, and knowing how to operate it, will allow you to excel, early in your business.

4. Have a place to sell

Great, you have created an awesome product, you know who you want to sell it to, and have mastered your skill to the point that you are ready to produce more of it, what now? It is time to show off your hard work. But where? Remember, at first, we are going to sell to those we know. Maybe you create an exclusive Facebook group that you use to launch your products. Next, start with a product specific Instagram page that showcases the beauty of your work. Most importantly, I believe you need a website. The quicker that you can get your business automated, the less hectic your direct messages (DMs) will become. I create the bulk of my pictures that I post and display on my website, in Cricut Design Space. Because my products are designed in that space, it is easy to transform those images into a visual that I can share with my customers. There are numerous places you can sell your products, no matter what, get your product out to the world. You owe that to yourself. This is where we jump from having a hobby, to a true side hustle.

5. The brand to build (and protect)

Once your items are out for the world to see, they become an extension of you. Everything you put out will speak to your brand. By creating it, you become it. Just as a mom brings a human into this world and strives to protect it with her whole heart, protect your brand. What do you mean, Nikki? There are few good business practices that you can accomplish to legitimize your brand:

  • Make a logo (or get one made).
  • Allow most, if not all of your business traffic to flow through official means, whether through your own website or a shopping platform — don’t rely solely on social media, text messages, or word of mouth.
  • Secure an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business, along with a business license and reseller license. This allows you access to products at a wholesale rate, so that you can increase your profits.

This is the true meaning of HUSTLE. Finding the ins and outs of each of these lanes is what pumps the heart of a growing entrepreneur. A part of protecting your brand is becoming your brand. Wear it proudly. Your logo can be put on everything! Wear it while you are out, that way, you are your own walking advertisement. Always be thinking of how you can represent your brand well. From the quality of the product, to packaging, to your customer service. Think of the journey that product will go on, and how you want to influence every step it takes.

That is when you will see that the hustle is real, and that it is yours to protect. Good luck on that journey. You can make it exactly what you want it to be. You’ve got this!

Nikki Ray is the owner of The Brownie Boutique, LLC