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How to finally bring your side hustle idea to life
Start building momentum by breaking your new side business idea down into manageable baby steps.
- About one-third of Americans take on a side hustle purely for the extra spending money.
- Just because you're no longer commuting to work doesn't mean it's easy to dive in to a new business initiative.
- Breaking it all down into bite-sized chunks may make launching your new side gig feel less overwhelming.
With the economy likely to remain in a slump for months or even years to come, many people will be looking for ways to generate extra income. In fact, one in three Americans who take on a side hustle say they do so purely for the extra spending money, with a large percentage also saying they want to save more, or to pay off debts.
However, there are plenty of other benefits to be had from developing your own side gig as a solopreneur. You could learn new skills, meet new people, or simply experience the joy of building yourself a successful business from scratch.
Many of today's biggest and best-known companies, including Apple and Facebook, started as side hustles. It might be a bit of a longshot, but if the stars align, your side hustle could become a highly lucrative enterprise.
So why haven't you started working on it yet? Despite what you might see all over your social newsfeeds, the truth is, not everyone has managed to become improved versions of themselves during coronavirus lockdown by taking up new fitness regimens and sourdough baking hobbies. Just because you're no longer commuting to work doesn't mean you're ready to dive in to your new business initiative.
There's often a significant gap between having an inspiring solopreneurial idea and bringing it to life, and the entire endeavor can be overwhelming. Here are some tips for breaking it all down into bite-sized chunks so you can hopefully build some momentum and make a few bucks.
Choosing the nitty gritty of your hustle
The exact nature of the side business you build may depend on several factors: How much money do you expect to make for how much effort? How long can you afford to invest in building a slow-burn business that doesn't necessarily generate significant revenue for several months? Are you interested in trading your time for money in the form of services like consulting and marketing, or do you prefer something that has greater potential to scale up, like selling courses and other digital products?
For example, driving Uber in your spare time has low barriers to entry and can provide a steady income, but it's doubtful you'll end up being the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.
If you decide you want to be the next viral blogger, start up as a coach, become a freelance writer, or sell your goods online, there may be a little more legwork required to get your business off the ground. However, taking on these kinds of enterprises stands a better chance of creating something of your own that could sustain into the long term, and perhaps even evolve into a full-time career.
Think about the kind of time you'll have to dedicate to it. How much marketing will be involved? How will you finance activities in the beginning? Will you be working alone or with a partner, or can you get any other help, free or paid? Answering these questions, and perusing any of the many lists of side hustle business ideas, will help you choose something that fits in with your current lifestyle, capabilities, finances, and available time.
Avoiding overwhelm with baby steps and shortcuts
Don't underestimate the time, energy, or finances required to build up a successful side gig. One study found that the first-year cost of a side hustle could be as much as $16,000. Sure, it's fair to assume that many can get up and running without that kind of outlay.
Overwhelm is a real risk, though, particularly if you're balancing your side gig against a full-time job. Do you need a new bank account? To accept payments online, do you need to be verified for merchant services by an underwriter? Will you be building a website to serve as the hub of your business presence? There are so many ways to tackle any of these conundrums, and each involves the potential for huge time investment and risk.
Read up on what others have done in the niche you're entering. Join communities on Slack and Facebook groups to enjoy the guidance of your peers. Take advantage of any available tools or services that can help you manage workload effectively and free up time. Resources like Startup Stash can be extremely useful in this regard. You might find major value in breaking up your projects into manageable tasks using a system like Trello, for example, which offers an extremely powerful free service tier.
Online scheduling by vCita
What's more, business management applications such as vCita can significantly reduce time spent on administrative activities by managing client appointments, along with invoicing and payments. You can use it to build a landing page that accepts self-service appointment bookings and payments and even integrates with Facebook, to get you up and running quickly.
Selecting promotional and sales channels
Once you've nailed down your idea and built out a viable way to start doing business, you'll need to figure out which platforms you intend to be most active on. This is a particularly weighty step for many when committing to a side hustle, since it involves posting content about the business in places where the general public is likely to see it. This level of transparency and accountability can be daunting, but it's something you need to do if you want to attract an engaged audience of qualified buyers.
As far as the channels themselves, aspiring bloggers or writers can use platforms such as Medium to get content out there. If you're selling goods, a platform such as Ebay, Amazon, or Etsy can help you reach an audience. Learning platforms such as Udemy can help monetize your existing skills by sharing them as training content. Social media can be extremely powerful for audience discovery and traffic acquisition, but each network has its own user personas, functionality specialties and cultural nuances, so it's a good idea to do your homework before adopting anything new.
However, it's also important to remember that platforms can come and go – just ask anyone who built their audience on MySpace. Creating your own self-hosted website is the digital equivalent of renting your own shop or gallery, which makes good business sense but takes more work to get going, as there's no built-in audience.
The good news is that building up your own media property can be done at the same time as leveraging existing platforms. The advantage of this approach is that if any given platform goes out of business, or suddenly changes the way they work with businesses like yours, you still have an online presence. While designing and coding your own site can be a huge undertaking, often a DIY website builder can do the job well enough.
Expanding your audience
If you're going to actually make any money with your new side gig, then you have to attract an audience. Even if you've decided to become a blogger, you'll need significant traffic before you can start monetizing. And to do that, you'll have to run experiments that allow you to better understand your ideal customers' psychology.
If you already move in the right circles, perhaps you have an audience or customer base within your own network. However, in most cases, you'll need to invest in advertising and promotions. Facebook Ads are a popular choice, with around 73 percent of small businesses investing in social media marketing.
Building an audience organically via social media is also an option. It will involve spending time on engagement and will take longer to develop a reach than paying for advertising.
If you take the route of launching your own website, then you can start building an email list, which most marketing experts agree is the only thing you truly "own" when it comes to marketing your business. It's easy enough to use email signup services such as Mailchimp or Aweber, which offer customized forms that you can embed into your website. Using a premium tool like OptinMonster can be even more effective for building a subscriber base, because you can use it to offer ebooks and other content behind personalized in-article registration forms.
Scaling up on operations
If you end up taking on more people to help with your side hustle, then once again, make use of the right tools to ease the process of onboarding others.
Google also offers several tools for monitoring the growth of your website. Google Analytics can track website traffic, showing you which sources refer the most visitors and helping to target your marketing efforts accordingly. Google's Search Console is also a great tool for understanding how your site ranks in search engine results.
Until it’s time to quit your day job
Ironically, the reason that many side hustles fail is precisely that they're treated as side hustles. Like any business, your side hustle will benefit from the time, energy, and monetary investments you put into it.
Think like a CEO, focus on the big picture, and your side gig could one day become the full-time career you dreamed of having.
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So much for rest in peace.
- Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
- Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
- This study could help better identify time of death.
We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.
An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.
Dead bodies keep moving
Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.
Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.
"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.
The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:
"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."
During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.
The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Implications of the study
The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:
"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."
While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.
The distances between the stars are so vast that they can make your brain melt. Take for example the Voyager 1 probe, which has been traveling at 35,000 miles per hour for more than 40 years and was the first human object to cross into interstellar space. That sounds wonderful except, at its current speed, it will still take another 40,000 years to cross the typical distance between stars.
Worse still, if you are thinking about interstellar travel, nature provides a hard limit on acceleration and speed. As Einstein showed, it's impossible to accelerate any massive object beyond the speed of light. Since the galaxy is more than 100,000 light-years across, if you are traveling at less than light speed, then most interstellar distances would take more than a human lifetime to cross. If the known laws of physics hold, then it seems a galaxy-spanning human civilization is impossible.
Unless of course you can build a warp drive.
Ah, the warp drive, that darling of science fiction plot devices. So, what about a warp drive? Is that even a really a thing?
Let's start with the "warping" part of a warp drive. Without doubt, Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity ("GR") represents space and time as a 4-dimensional "fabric" that can be stretched and bent and folded. Gravity waves, representing ripples in the fabric of spacetime, have now been directly observed. So, yes spacetime can be warped. The warping part of a warp drive usually means distorting the shape of spacetime so that two distant locations can be brought close together — and you somehow "jump" between them.
This was a basic idea in science fiction long before Star Trek popularized the name "warp drive." But until 1994, it had remained science fiction, meaning there was no science behind it. That year, Miguel Alcubierre wrote down a solution to the basic equations of GR that represented a region that compressed spacetime ahead of it and expanded spacetime behind to create a kind of traveling warp bubble. This was really good news for warp drive fans.
The problems with a warp drive
There were some problems though. Most important was that this "Alcubierre drive" required lots of "exotic matter" or "negative energy" to work. Unfortunately, there's no such thing. These are things theorists dreamed up to stick into the GR equations in order to do cool things like make stable open wormholes or functioning warp drives.
It's also noteworthy that researchers have raised other concerns about an Alcubierre drive — like how it would violate quantum mechanics or how when you arrived at your destination it would destroy everything in front of the ship in an apocalyptic flash of radiation.
Warp drives: A new hope
Credit: Primada / 420366373 via Adobe Stock
Recently, however, there seemed to be good news on the warp drive front with the publication this April of a new paper by Alexey Bobrick and Gianni Martre entitled "Introducing Physical Warp Drives." The good thing about the Bobrick and Martre paper was it was extremely clear about the meaning of a warp drive.
Understanding the equations of GR means understanding what's on either side of the equals sign. On one side, there is the shape of spacetime, and on the other, there is the configuration of matter-energy. The traditional route with these equations is to start with a configuration of matter-energy and see what shape of spacetime it produces. But you can also go the other way around and assume the shape of spacetime you want (like a warp bubble) and determine what kind of configuration of matter-energy you will need (even if that matter-energy is the dream stuff of negative energy).
Warp drives are simpler and much less mysterious objects than the broader literature has suggested.
What Bobrick and Martre did was step back and look at the problem more generally. They showed how all warp drives were composed of three regions: an interior spacetime called the passenger space; a shell of material, with either positive or negative energy, called the warping region; and an outside that, far enough away, looks like normal unwarped spacetime. In this way they could see exactly what was and was not possible for any kind of warp drive. (Watch this lovely explainer by Sabine Hossenfelder for more details). They even showed that you could use good old normal matter to create a warp drive that, while it moved slower than light speed, produced a passenger area where time flowed at a different rate than in the outside spacetime. So even though it was a sub-light speed device, it was still an actual warp drive that could use normal matter.
That was the good news.
The bad news was this clear vision also showed them a real problem with the "drive" part of the Alcubierre drive. First of all, it still needed negative energy to work, so that bummer remains. But worse, Bobrick and Martre reaffirmed a basic understanding of relativity and saw that there was no way to accelerate an Alcubierre drive past light speed. Sure, you could just assume that you started with something moving faster than light, and the Alcubierre drive with its negative energy shell would make sense. But crossing the speed of light barrier was still prohibited.
So, in the end, the Star Trek version of the warp drive is still not a thing. I know this may bum you out if you were hoping to build that version of the Enterprise sometime soon (as I was). But don't be too despondent. The Bobrick and Martre paper really did make headway. As the authors put it in the end:
"One of the main conclusions of our study is that warp drives are simpler and much less mysterious objects than the broader literature has suggested"
That really is progress.
The Black Death wasn't the only plague in the 1300s.
- In a unique study, researchers have determined how many people in medieval England had bunions
- A fashion trend towards pointed toe shoes made the affliction common.
- Even monks got in on the trend, much to their discomfort later in life.
Late Medieval England had its share of problems. The Wars of Roses raged, the Black Death killed off large parts of the population, and passing ruffians could say "Ni" at will to old ladies.
To make matters worse, a first of its kind study published in the International Journal of Paleopathology has demonstrated that much of the population suffered from another plague — a plague of bunions likely caused by a ridiculous medieval fashion trend.
If the shoe fits, it won't cause bunions
The outlines of a leather shoe from the King's Ditch, Cambridge. It is easy to see how these shoes might be constricting. Copyright Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
The bunion, known to medicine as "hallux valgus," is a deformity of the joint connecting the big toe to the rest of the foot. It is painful and can cause other issues including poor balance. The condition is associated with having worn constrictive shoes for a long period of time as well as genetic factors. Today, it is often caused by wearing high heeled shoes.
The medieval English didn't care for high heeled shoes as much as modern fashionistas, but there was a major fashion trend toward shoes with long, pointed toes called "poulaines" or "crakows" for their supposed place of origin, Krakow, Poland.
This trend, already silly-looking to a modern observer, got out of hand in a hurry. According to some records, the points on nobleman's shoes could be so long as to require tying them to the leg with string so the wearer could walk. At one point, King Edward IV had to ban commoners from wearing points longer than two inches. A couple years later, he saw fit to ban the shoes altogether.
But, just knowing that people back in the day made poor fashion choices doesn't prove they suffered for it. That is where digging up old skeletons to look at their feet comes in.
Beauty is pain: the price of high medieval fashion
To learn how bad the bunion epidemic was, the researchers looked to four burial sites in and around Cambridge. One was a rural cemetery where poor peasants were buried. Another was the All Saints by the Castle parish, which had a mixed collection of people that tended toward poverty. The Hospital of St. John's burial ground contained both the poor charges of a charity hospital and wealthy benefactors. Lastly, they considered the cemetery of a local Augustinian friary, home to monks and well-to-do philanthropists.
The team considered 177 adult skeletons that were at least a quarter complete and still had enough of their feet to make studying them possible. The remains were classified by age and sex by observation and DNA testing. Each was examined for evidence of bunions and signs of complications from the condition, such as falling.
Those buried in the monastery's graveyard were the most affected. Nearly half, 43 percent, of the remains found there had bunions. This includes five of the eleven members of the clergy they found. Twenty-three percent of those laid to rest at the Hospital of St. John had bunions, though only 10 percent of those at the All Saints by the Castle parish graveyard did.
The rural cemetery had a much lower rate of instances, only three percent, suggesting that these peasants were able to avoid at least one plague.
Overall, eighteen percent of the individuals examined had bunions, with men more likely to have them than women. Those at cemeteries known for exclusivity were more likely to have them as well, though it is clear that the condition also affected members of other classes. This makes sense, as it is known that these shoes had mass appeal.
The authors note that the rural cemetery having fewer cases is partly because that cemetery "went out of use prior to the wide adoption of pointed shoes, and it is likely that those residing in the parish predominately wore soft leather shoes, or possibly went barefoot."
Those skeletons with evidence of bunions were more likely to have fractures indicative of a fall. This was more common on those estimated or recorded as having lived past age 45.
In our much more enlightened times, 23 percent of the population currently endures having bunions, most of them women, and one of the leading culprits behind this is the high heeled shoe.
Some things never change.