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The Big Interview: Expert advice on marketing your side hustle

12 February 2024
5 minute read

Is your side hustle a secret or are you showing off your brilliant idea and making the extra money you need? More than 30% of South Africans have side hustles or second jobs, but in most cases, the side hustles account for less than 20% of total monthly income, according to the 1Life Generational Wealth Survey. So how about a little more? We asked Wei-Ling Chiu, an entrepreneur expert, small business owner and part time lecturer on entrepreneurship marketing at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, for her top tips on how to market your side hustle and get your business growing.  

Make sure you have a good business idea 

Okay, you’ve got what you think is a great idea for your side hustle and you are all ready to find your first customers and start earning but before you do, have a basic plan of what you want to do and how, and then make sure that people will pay for your product and/or service. “Validate your business idea,” says Wei-Ling, “and make sure it is sound.”

She suggests asking people close to you, who you know will be truthful, what they think of your idea and if they would pay your asking price. Change and or tweak your idea until you have the thumbs up! “Nothing is great the first time round,” Wei-Ling says.  

You can find tips on how to start a side hustle in this blog

Network all the time 

We don’t buy what we don’t know about! “Don’t be shy about your side hustle,” says Wei-Ling. “Tell people what you are doing, share your side hustle idea and be proud of what you are doing.”

“Network all the time,” she says. “Network with family, friends, colleagues (current and ex) – always be networking!” 

Networking is about building connections and relationships, such as a catch-up coffee with an ex-colleague where you share what you have been doing. From networking you will hear about opportunities and build your network. Some of those networking efforts will translate into opportunities and customers. 

Look for opportunities  

Be on the lookout for opportunities. An event or local, seasonal market may be the place to sell your products, or your community may have a market day where you can pitch your product. You can keep a perpetual diary of these, so you know which days to look out for when. And keep up with community WhatsApp groups as these can be good places to network and gain new customers. 

Be the master of one social media platform 

Yes, you read that right that, one! Just one!  

Wei-Ling says you should choose one social media platform to market on, making sure it is where your prospective customers will be, and then master it.  

“You are one person. You cannot afford the time or money to be everywhere.”

She also says it makes no business sense to use the same content on different platforms. Facebook, X, Instagram and TikTok, as well as WhatsApp community groups are very different platforms, the same content on all of them just doesn’t work.  

“You have to tailor your content to your audience and platform. Pick one platform only, research it, find out and use everything it offers, such as using features on Facebook and Instagram, and you will reach your customers.” You can, later on, with enough time and resources, add platforms - if it makes sense for your side hustle.  

Consistency is also critical on social media. You have to be seen and engage on a regular basis.  

“Consistency will win the race,” Wei-Ling says. “Be persistent, have a structured approach, such as posting on certain days of the week, and you will build momentum. Remember, that one like can turn into other likes and business opportunities.”

Consider spending a little on online advertising  

Find out what paid-for options are available online, such as Facebook advertising, and allocate a monthly amount for your chosen channel.  

Wei-Ling shares her own social media marketing experience for her Airbnb side hustle in KwaZulu Natal. “I chose Facebook to market the Airbnb. I did spend money, but only R50 a month at first. I started getting guests and when my income increased, I could increase my spending – to no more than R500 a month. The Airbnb is usually booked up two weeks in advance so the money spent on Facebook has been a good investment.”  

Be visible and listed  

This is about being seen and help you reach the right customers in the right location!  

Websites are usually a good idea as they are your shop front. “They make your business real and give it legitimacy,” says Wei-Ling. They can also be just a few sections such as who you are, where you are and what products you offer. 

But a website may also not be strictly necessary for your side hustle, a Google pin, or Google Business Listing, will also help you reach your target market.  

“I worked with a friend in the Western Cape who started her own baking business from her home kitchen. We created a Google pin, so people knew where to find her, and she networked and marketed her products on WhatsApp community groups. Her business has gone from baking six loaves of bread a day in a home kitchen oven to baking over 50 loaves a day in industrial ovens.”  

Commit to email marketing before newsletters 

Wei-Ling says that email marketing works, but newsletters must be approached with caution. They can be effective but take a lot of time and effort because you have to meet the commitment of preparing and sending regular newsletters covering new and interesting topics. Which is hard enough for full-time big businesses, and a lot more challenging for side hustlers!

But don’t write the newsletter concept off, because regular contact with customers is a good idea. Rather, do emails and newsletters differently and quickly! This could include a one liner on X, or quick update and share on a WhatsApp group.

Use AI and other tools to create content 

The majority of people with side hustles (54%) spend less than 8 hours a week on them, according to the 1Life Insurance Generational Wealth 2023 survey. It's a side hustle, so you just won't have endless hours in the day and night to spend on plans, products and especially marketing!  

However, you do need to market your side hustle and you do need content to do that! Use AI tools to create content, such as website copy, blog posts, videos and even social media posts. There are a lot of tools out there so take some time to find the tools that work for you and your brand and start creating professional content quickly. Remember not all tools are free and you may be required to pay a monthly subscription. 

Start small and commit to mastering the basics

Wei-Ling says she always leaves her students with the advice of “be the master of one!” Side hustles are small businesses, so you don’t have to have big grand ideas (yet!) but you do need to have a sellable product or service and get the word out on how good it is! Good luck!  

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