Narrowing down my options and getting close to taking action

After spending my summer binging podcasts on www.thesidehustlenation.com during my long drives for business, in August 2018 I decided I need to create a short list and then take action on something– anything– to move forward on this journey.  

In my last blog post (https://thesidehustlejourney.com/2019/04/14/how-i-spent-the-summer-binging-podcasts-about-side-hustles/) I talked about how I had come up with nine ideas from listening to the podcasts that I thought could be good side hustles.  

1. Sell non fiction ebooks on Amazon

2. Create an online store and do drop shipping

3. Create a website and blog

4. Do podcasts

5. Start an after-school enrichment class

6. Become loan signing agent (notary)

7. Be a virtual assistant (VA)

8.   Teach English to kids in China via video chat

9. Create online videos to sell about anything you know to sell i.e. teaching, tutoring, parenting etc.

I now needed to pick at least one to start.  I wanted to be excited about my first side hustle and several of these I was not excited about.  If I was unemployed, I knew I could work hard and try to make some of these work to pay the bills but I already had a full time job so I didn’t want to just add another job to my list.  What I wanted was something that I am passionate about and that I could hopefully monetize at some point. I made a list of what I was passionate about at this time in my life and came up with the following: family, friends, traveling, dogs, alone time, reading, writing, tennis, skiing, starting a small business, volunteering at my kids’ school and creating community. So numbers 1, 3 or 4 seemed like a place to start.

I had a great sales year in 2018 at work so I put $2,000 aside to go down this path.  Knowing that figuring out side hustles and that I may have to pay some folks to do work for me, I wanted to see if I could spread that amount over the next year.  I’ll document in my blogs how I spent the money and what revenue, if any, I received in return.

I started thinking about #1 Selling non fiction ebooks on Amazon and about what type of ebooks I would write.  In the course I took that I mentioned in my last blog (https://www.udemy.com/kindle-launch/?couponCode=HUSTLERSUNITE), it said that non-fiction books sell more.  While my passion is more about writing children’s books, I tried to think of what was at the intersection of what I like to do, what I have experience in and what value could I offer to others.   I am putting a note to myself to remember revisit the idea in the future of writing children’s books when I have some traction on the side hustle front because it’s a dream I’ve had for ~30 years. Instead, I reviewed my resume, thought about what I like to talk to people about and what I thought I might have some experience in.

At first I thought I’d do something around high tech and education sales as that is what I have done for my whole career.   I thought of the following topics that I thought I could provide value:

  • Filling a pipeline
  • Building customer trust
  • Working with complex organizations
  • Building long term relationships

Although instead of writing another boring old sales ebook, I thought I could make it funny about making it relevant to something that everyone would relate to.  I came up with a few ideas of what I could mix with sales like kids and dogs. I realized that I actually saw a lot of similarity between how dogs interact with each other and sales. I had two dogs at that point and I just love dogs (sadly our 14 year-old golden lab died a few months ago but we still have a 1-year-old destructive but goofy and adorable golden retriever named Oliver).

I thought I could write an ebook titled Everything I Learned About Sales, I Learned From My Dog. (I have trademarked this, something you need to do for your ideas, too.) Here are the thoughts I jotted down:

Always hungry

  • Continuously filling a pipeline
  • Quotas always go up

Needs lots of attention

  • Build customer trust
  • Remember to nurture the relationships

You are the center of their universe

  • Focus on the customer needs, not your own
  • Building long term relationships

Got to go now!

  • Customer urgency
  • Figuring out the customer timeline so there are no surprises

Oops!

  • Mistakes will happen- clean them up quickly without getting emotional
  • How you handle mistakes is more important than the mistake

Butt sniffing

  • Listen first, talk later
  • Take time to get to know the customer

Scratch me behind my ears

  • Goes back to giving your prospects and customers lots of attention
  • Let them tell you what’s important to them before diving into your sales pitch

Fetch (again and again)

  • Continuous personal customer contact is key
  • Continue to market to the same group

Roll down the window and let me take in the smells

  • Be passionate about your product/service, it will show
  • Notice customer signals along the way and be prepared to go in a different direction

I’m not going in there (vet)

  • Check ups and check ins are important to any relationship
  • Dashboards are important to measure your progress and see where you need to put more attention

Dog park rules

  • Working with complex organizations
  • Not everyone is going to get along so you need to know how to handle that

Stay hydrated

  • Develop a healthy work/life balance
  • Take care of yourself and put your safety mask on first or you’ll never survive long term in sales

Roll over

  • Yes, sometimes you have to do things for your customer that you don’t want to do but you need to always be true to yourself and have your limits
  • Have a customer-first mind set but also have some hard limits (for me it’s profanity, dirty jokes, gay jokes and lack of integrity)

Shake off the mud and get back into the mess

  • Sometimes you need to change your mindset
  • Things don’t alway go the way you planned them so try to accept that instead of always moving forward, you may have to zig or zag

Sometimes their bark is worse than their bite

  • Dealing with difficult customers
  • Letting angry customers vent

Be true to yourself: Don’t try to be a pitbull, if you are a poodle

  • Things will go badly at times so how you handle them creates your brand
  • How to navigate an inner circle i.e. the old boys network if you aren’t part of it

I decided this would be a lot of work and didn’t know if I was ready for that for my first side hustle.  I switched to thinking about #3. Create a website and blog. I didn’t know anything about creating a website (could I afford to hire someone to do it for me or would I have to learn to do it myself?) so I was really daunted by this.  I decided to think about starting even smaller by creating a closed Facebook group about something I was passionate about and eventually tie it to a website in some way.  I wanted to do this for several reasons:

  1. It wouldn’t cost me anything so I could experiment with it without putting much skin in the game
  2. I could invite friends in family that I already had on Facebook so I could have a base to start and might be able to create a following that I could eventually monetize in some way
  3. I could experiment about what engages people and maybe then create a website to drive people to the website and from the website to the Facebook group

Now I just needed to think of the topic.  I brainstormed what I would be excited to connect with other folks on and hopefully offer some experience and thoughts on the matter and/or just create a group that is also passionate about the topic.

Right at this time in my thought process, my sister and her family came to visit us.  I shared my thoughts with my sister, my wife and my brother-in-law and over some wine they all gave me some great feedback that was exactly what I needed right then.  I’m a believer in sometimes you have to throw things out to the universe and see what comes back and getting feedback from them was exactly what I needed as I was about to start my first side hustle.

They all agreed that I needed to step back and create a master brand first.  I should have a brand that describes me and what I’m passionate about and let everything flow from it. Even though I just wanted to start small with a closed Facebook group, they really emphasized that I should assume that it could grow into something bigger and have a brand created for myself right from the start. 

We talked about how my sister has a friend who loves the Bad Ass brand and I have a friend who writes under The Bad Girls Guide (funny that both have Bad in their brands). This got me thinking of what I’d want my brand to be and also see if the URL was available for it in case I wanted to create a website in the future.

I started with what I wanted my brand to reflect and came up with this list I hoped reflected me:

  • Kind
  • Funny
  • Busy
  • Juggler
  • Mom
  • Wife
  • Sister
  • Aunt
  • Hard worker
  • Dog lover  

Then I came up with the following list of possibilities of brands:

  • Good dog
  • Big dog
  • Busy Mom
  • Just Julie
  • Boo Hickey
  • ShuShu
  • The Zen Mom (I’m not really zen but was trying to be aspirational with this one)
  • The Dog Lover
  • The Regular Mom
  • The Everyday Mom
  • The Ordinary Mom
  • The Relatable mom
  • The Normal Mom
  • The Every Mom
  • The All Day Mom
  • The Lifelong Mom
  • The Anytime Mom
  • The Everytime Mom
  • The Momotron
  • The Generalist
  • The Mom Pundit
  • The Ninja Mom
  • The Spontaneous Mom
  • The Resilient Mom
  • The Daydreaming Mom

I wanted to make sure that whatever brand I created had an available URL to support it.  I plugged each of these into the WordPress domain search bar at https://wordpress.com/domains/.  

I had decided that I would only purchase a .com domain but that became a little depressing because so many of the domain names I wanted with .com endings were taken.  I decided to stick to my guns and wait it out until I found a .com that resonated with me and what I wanted to be the umbrella name of everything I do. If you are doing this, try to be patient and keep brainstorming possible names and eventually you will find one.

After searching a lot of possible URLs and a lot of frustration, I found that www.theordinarymom.com was available so I decided that would be my brand and website url (if I ever decided to create one).   It really resonated with me because being a parent was a big part of who I am at this phase of my life and I didn’t want to try to live my life trying to be perfect or model for my kids that I think they need to be perfect either.

Now that I had a brand and a possible URL, I was ready to take action.  Stay tuned for the next blog when I tell you how I decided to just do something and took action.  

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