Step by step guide to starting a home based side gig.
*Introduction what we are going to cover*
This guide will show you how to start a home based side gig – exactly what you need to do, in an easy step by step process.
An online, part time, one person business.
It serves as a road map – provides the resources needed and gives you shortcuts – because I did all the research as part of The Entrepreneur Experiment.
I’ve provided what it will cost.
Where you can save money or spend extra money for better service, time efficiency and peace of mind.
It’s both comprehensive and cut down to the essentials you must get done.
This guide is your no-nonsense business plan…
The hard-chargers among you will be able to implement this plan in just a week or two, even while working a full-time job.
But you can proceed at any pace.
- Everyone can do this – everyone should do this.
- Having an independent way to earn income and develop yourself is transformational.
- The money, skills, and experience you gain will ELEVATE YOUR LIFE STRATEGY.
Decide on your idea
Set aside some cash
Starting business structure
Create a website
Make your initial content
Monetize with affiliate links
Make your first revenue
Make it official
Affiliate disclosure. I have tried to remove all affiliate links from this guide. If I missed any by mistake, then rest assured I will not be receiving any commission.
Assuming you have decided that this is going to be worth the effort.
You have also set up your life.
You’re going for it!
Just start… Without action, there is no outcome.
But, don’t quit your day job!
Get to the minimum viable product stage (a live website with 5 – 10 monetized posts).
After that, you have time to learn the in’s and out’s of digital marketing. And the art of content creation.
You will become an expert through learning on the job – you don’t need to know it all before you start – even your subject or niche can and
will evolve as you gain experience.
What you need before you start to execute this plan
- Laptop or desktop compute
- Internet access
- Email address
- Smart Phone (helps)
- Payment option – card or PayPal etc.
- $0 to $250 (recommended)
So an online side gig…
In this follow along example – it’s a blog that’s set up to earn money!
Even if you want to promote or sell products eventually – you should still start with a blog.
It teaches you how to create, market and sell.
Do some reading about how blogs make money so you know what you’re aiming to do.
Also, how much they make – so you know what’s possible.
Be realistic about how much time it could take and what realistic money you could expect
Milestone number one is your first income, then break even.
Ultimately you have the ambition to make good money, just remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.
If you make money fast that’s a bonus.
Hope for the best but play the long game.
Check out guides on Affiliate marketing and advertising on your blog – you need to know how it works in principle before you get started.
Here’s a good one –
Get a google drive to store and organize your work from the get-go.
It’s free and cloud-based so you can access your files from anywhere on any device.
Picking your niche
Do you already know your niche?
Great move on…
If not, don’t worry start broad and narrow in later.
Shortlist some potential niches – it’s usual to choose one of the popular evergreen topics.
You will bring your unique content to an already in-demand subject area.
Check this list for niches –
You can evolve into a niche over time – nothing is set in stone.
You can and you should let your users show you the content they want within your subject.
They do this if you pay attention to their comments and popular searches.
That’s content research.
Don’t give into decision paralysis – there is no perfect niche, no perfect blog name, no guaranteed angle.
The easiest place to start is to either pick something you know a little about, or something you’re interested in.
That being said…
It’s amazing what you can develop a passion for if…
You’re making money from it.
Pick a name
It’s less important than you think so no need to spend weeks thinking about this – make it as specific or general as you wish.
Check the names you consider for availability (Google domains) and trademarks.
For trademarks go here –
Don’t go on domain name shopping sprees (I did this once and wasted $146).
Also, don’t be tempted to buy a domain name that’s for sale aftermarket.
With so many domain extensions these days it’s unlikely to be worth it.
Your site name will not make the difference between low revenue and high revenue.
Check the idea
With a billion blogs there will be competition – lots of it…
Pointless to try and research in-depth about who your main competitors are at this stage.
What you want to know is…
Can my idea generate a lot of traffic?
For that, you want to check the volume of page views.
What you need to do is use some common searches in google for topics in your niche.
See which results pop up on the first and second pages.
You should open and read a lot of those pages.
When you do copy the address and paste it into Ubersuggests it will show you the volume of traffic that website gets.
Try and focus on the posts that look like they are from real independent blogs.
Rather than the big mainstream ones from the likes of Entreprenuer.com or Lifehacker.com or Medium.com
What you want to see is good organic monthly traffic
Bookmark or list in a spreadsheet the articles you like and blogs you admire for later.
Start to notice how the articles that rank highest are constructed and named.
Some examples of content you will see a lot are…
Best lists, 10 ways, How-to guides, etc.
This kind of problem-solving content is what you will be competing with when you want traffic.
Once your happy that your idea is viable, proceed to the next stage.
Remember you have to be in it to win it.
With so much competition and so many things to learn it can feel overwhelming at first.
Small actions that are taken consistently over time lead to big changes.
If it’s feeling too much – focus on just doing something tiny each day.
It’s not a race.
You can lose a lot of time in this stage if you are not careful – don’t overthink it – time to be decisive.
Even if your idea doesn’t pan out, you will learn so much it will still be worth it.
Here’s your elevator pitch to friends & family when you describe what you’re planning.
‘[Site Name] is an online platform attracting viewers through great [Niche] content. We help solve people’s problems with useful advice and resources. We find our users with digital marketing. We embrace them into our online community, provide them real value. Then share in their generosity if they use our affiliate recommendations or click on advertisements.’
Now you have your idea it’s starting to get real. Time to figure out what it’s going to take in resources to get this done.
Bootstrapping is the way to go at first for a solo part-time blog.
Any spare cash can be thrown at the project later when the idea is proving out.
By then you will have the skills and data to get value from any extra money you have to invest.
Two areas to focus on – start-up costs and the first year’s cash needs.
Looking at start-up costs
You’re starting a business.
You can try and do it for free, but if you’re serious about this you should be prepared to make some financial investment.
Seriously, if you are not willing to invest anything in helping your success you are probably not ready for this in the first place.
If you literally have no money then start with a different project like earning money on Fiverr
And whatever you do don’t waste your time with a free blog site. You may as well just write yourself a diary.
Here is the minimum I would personally allocate – starting as a sole proprietor.
Theme (Divi), $89
Plugins (legal), $67
The minimum start-up cost $240
Consider additional costs that may occur with growth.
Like needing an LLC (covered in the next section).
Thankfully these costs are somewhat discretionary.
Most only need to be incurred once you start generating revenue.
Example expected cash flow over a year
For a full year
Insurance $850 (General & professional liability)
More plugins $100
Marketing (Logo etc) $25
Marketing (email service) $240
Hosting plan growth $300
PO Box or virtual address $80
Registered agent $50
Phone service $120
Bookkeeping software $240
Tax software $55
Year 1 estimate total cost $2988
If it were me bootstrapping it I’d start with $1000 to $2000 in available funds to start my blog business.
This makes it realistic and will keep you accountable until revenue starts rolling in.
It also means you can automate time-consuming tasks like social media posting.
Plus you don’t need to panic rush to monetize the site at the expense of your users’ experience as soon as you get a little traffic, with ads
Setting out with $2000 to $5000 makes for some good time-saving possibilities.
You can access premium plugins, services, and outsourcing.
But with more money, you can also become less frugal.
Be careful of what you spend – remember my domain name shopping spree!
I allocated my LLC with $5k to start this site. But you can get going with as little as $250.
allocated my LLC with $5k to start this site. But you can get going with as little as $250.
Do you have assets to protect? Form an LLC. If not make it easy and start as a sole proprietor.
But I should have liability protection right?
What are you protecting? Most people don’t have real assets like an owned home or expensive cars, investments, etc.
Insurance should help protect what you do have and most importantly pay any legal costs.
But if you do have real assets then seriously consider a company structure like an LLC.
Running it correctly can help shield your personal assets from business debts and liabilities.
Even if it’s just you try and keep business and personal money separate if you can.
A business account may cost a few dollars a month but it keeps things clean.
If you do set up a company then you need a business account in the company name.
Never mix business and personal money to keep that liability intact.
General liability insurance is pretty cheap and well worth having for any business.
Professional liability insurance is sometimes known as errors and omissions insurance and may also be worth it.
That depends a lot on your subject matter and how much you advise or recommend to people.
Other more specific insurance can wait for when you have established the business and have the funds.
The thing with insurance is that its peace of mind for potential legal costs.
I’d hate to lose my hard work to a lawsuit by accidentally infringing copyright or something.
I use Hiscox insurance for digital marketing – it’s a reasonable cost and you can pay monthly.
Ok, so far we have done a lot of admin and upfront work – now it’s time to start creating things!
For your online side gig, you need a domain name (website name like AccidentalMentor.com).
And you need a host to give you a place for your website to live.
These first two things that are essentials.
Without them you don’t have a side gig, you have a diary.
If you want to earn money from your blog then it’s not a good idea to use a free platform like wordpress.com.
Not only will you be unable to run your own ads.
But it marks you out as an amateur to potential affiliate programs you may wish to join.
Find the money for hosting.
Domains and hosting are often purchased together so that everything is in one place.
But you don’t have to do it that way.
You can have your domain name registered with one company like Google domains and your hosting with a separate company.
It’s a simple thing to link them together once you have both.
Hosting is by far one of the most important things you need.
And most people just look at the cost, plumbing for the cheapest option.
That’s very short-sighted.
With so many hosting services out there all with multiple ‘plans’.
You should also consider some other things that can have a major impact on your new website and your future quality of life.
Speed – Importance #1
How many websites the plan allows you to
How many page views per month you are
Additional services like SSL, security, etc.
In the end, most everyone starts with a relatively cheap shared hosting plan.
The rationale is that if they need to upgrade later then that should mean the revenue is rolling in.
Also if blogging turns out to be not for you, then your not out that much money.
But if you’re confident that you are in this for the long haul, then save yourself a possible host switch later down the line.
By choosing a more premium managed host or at least a virtual private server plan.
It’s not that much more money but it will be so much faster and could save you a whole lot of effort – what’s your time worth?
You could be creating content or marketing instead of doing admin on your website.
If this idea appeals, then try Kinsta – it’s who I plan to use for my product affiliate and e-commerce projects.
If you want the very cheapest option then choose Bluehost
But you should want the best starter host.
The one that consistently gets the best reviews for speed, reliability, and support.
Then choose www.siteground.com
Ok, for this follow-along example we will use Siteground and their middle price plan option.
This plan has a good reputation for both the domain service and the hosting.
It’s good value, popular and allows you to host unlimited websites.
It’s how we started.
Click the picture below to find the Managed WordPress hosting – then choose the middle “Grow Big” plan, it’s just $5.95/month – reduced from $19.95/month
Press get plan
Type in your domain name. Choose to register or use a name you already own.
Complete your account sign up
Then select the install WordPress option.
Congratulations you have a website!
First things first – how to find your website.
You log in through your browser.
In the top website address bar type in the website name followed by /wp-admin
This brings you to your login portal
Throw in your email and password and log in.
It will redirect you to Siteground to run through an easy setup wizard.
Then you see this.
Go to the Dashboard – you can view the site from there anyway.
You’re now in the back end of your website from where you manage the site.
Take a quick look at your site.
That’s the great thing about all these popular hosting companies is that they all have super easy WordPress installs.
That means no messing about with setup especially if you purchased your domain with the same company.
WordPress is the platform of choice to build your website on.
You don’t need to download anything to your computer it’s all done live on your host.
Then accessed through your browser – 31% of all websites on the internet use WordPress – it’s legit and it’s free.
No need to look for any other option for your blog
It will even run eCommerce if you branch out in the future.
Now let’s use a house analogy.
Imagine you’re in the house.
WordPress is the foundation and framing of your website (the layout).
The way your site will look inside any room (the drywall and woodwork) is separate software called a Theme.
Your new site is using one already – you choose it in the setup wizard.
Inside WordPress, you will find many many other free Themes.
If this is your first time using WordPress and building a website feel free to experiment.
You can always delete the site and start again at no cost except for your time.
Once you pick a Theme you will need a page editor (to decorate your rooms).
WordPress has one built-in but you really should get a drag and drop (easy to use) page editor.
One like Elementor which is free with some paid premium features.
The page editor is what you will use the most and a good one makes creating websites and new posts easy and fun.
So far everything has been free – but…
I have one strong recommendation.
Consider buying a premium page editor with premade theme templates.
One like Divi by Elegant Themes
This is like having the house already modeled and decorated from a plan.
You just need to add the personal finishing touches to the place, make it your own.
I use this method for my websites.
Divi is a great page editor with hundreds of pre-made website templates.
You can choose from templates already made for many business niches.
It costs just $89 for as many websites as you like.
It’s used by millions of users – and will enable you to have a great looking site up and running in rapid time.
Even if you have never made a website before in your life.
You can do themes for free but this is money well spent…
Grab Divi by signing up and downloading the Divi theme Zip file.
Upload to WordPress from your dashboard and install it.
Activate then pick a premade layout.
Visit your site again.
Click on the page and ‘Enable Visual Builder’
Choose your template
Now marvel at your fantastic new website!
Top tip – keep it simple at first.
Users come for your content, not your flashy website.
Make it clean, simple fast and functional and wow them with your
An all-singing dancing site may be great for an eCommerce operation.
But it’s not needed for a start-up blog.
The priority is content and promotion – don’t spend weeks making the ultimate website.
There will be plenty of time for that when the money is flowing in.
About this time you may be thinking about a logo.
The same thing applies.
It’s probably best to live with your site for a while before you buy or make a final logo.
You want to get a feel for your brand personality first.
Use some interesting font to make a temporary logo jpeg until your site coalesces into an identity.
A good free tool for this that you will be using again later is Canva.
Next up are plugins
Going back to or house analogy…
Plugins are the contractors you hire to help you do the work on your new house.
There are so many free plugins available and they are so useful the temptation is to search for all recommended plugins.
Then grab a bunch and activate them.
But plugins come with a cost – figuratively and often literally.
The more plugins you have the slower your load speeds = bad.
Also, while most plugins are free for the core version, almost all have features that need to be unlocked if you want the most use from them.
Some plugins are super useful and you should prioritize the ones that help you get your site functional, secure and compliant.
Those that just offer bells and whistles suitable for more established blogs can wait.
The plugins this site used at first were:
Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress
Now take some time to think about what pages you need on your new site.
For a bare minimum, you need a home page, a blog page and a privacy page (more on that later).
These will already exist on your new website.
But you may want to add some others like and about page.
When I started AccidentalMentor.com we had just:
Terms & Conditions
Again, keep it simple – you can and will always add more later.
Those footer pages bring me to being compliant with the law…
As a blogger who aims to make money from affiliate links and or advertising, you need to have some legal bases covered on your website.
Frankly, I hope this is top of mind for you anyway.
Privacy and transparency are vital to us all.
Let’s go above and beyond.
Not just comply with the letter of the law but with the spirit of protecting all our freedoms.
Unless you are a lawyer then you will probably need some help with this.
WordPress has a basic privacy page enabled by default – but it is super basic.
This is where I would splash some cash and pay for a plugin or a template from a legal site.
Also the disclaimer and disclosure language you should have.
One option is a plugin like WPlegalpages which is $67 for the premium version.
If you want a more comprehensive attorney consulted tailored service use LegalZoom starting at $399
Whichever way you choose – it’s money well spent.
Disclaimer – I’m not a lawyer or legal professional, the above legal section is my opinion and not a professional recommendation. If in doubt seek a real professional opinion on your situation.
Finally, time to actually blog…!
Great content is both an art and a science.
The science comes in knowing how to help solve people’s problems.
How you do that is first to identify what people are searching for – keywords, search results, traffic analytics.
There are many ways to get clued into what people are looking for.
This will be a subject we return to again and again in future How To’s.
Then the art comes in your crafting of the solution they seek.
To keep it simple…
At first, you could just write some posts on the stuff you want to share!
Compelling and unique content is not only informative, but it’s also narrative.
The story, personality, format even idiosyncrasy are all part of what sets content apart.
Here’s the thing, you have to write about what people are looking for.
But you need to do it in a way that is unique, compelling and high quality.
That may sound a little overwhelming but remember tiny steps.
Just write at first.
You have time and you will learn as you practice your art – nobody produces great content the first time out.
Posts can mature over time as you do, edits, re-works, all help to polish the final product.
As long as it is pertinent, unique and useful it’s got a chance to be a winner.
Tips and tools to help you
First, write a post without reference to links or other material – that way you know its unique creative work.
After completing the first draft search out link articles or posts that reinforce the content.
Or provide resources to help validate the advice.
Write a rough draft first, it’s hashed out in your unique typing style.
That means it may make little sense to anyone else and be difficult to read at first.
Let it sit overnight and then rework it.
Once it’s in some kind of format your good with – then run it through Grammarly and the Hemmingway App to clean up and make it more readable.
Only then format it and add media plus links.
You may even want to let it sit for another day before a final review and edit.
Then look at search engine optimization and monetization opportunities (more on this later).
Here’s the other thing, don’t write for the affiliate linking potential of a post either.
Any linking opportunities develop organically from the subject matter and narrative.
That way it’s not forced and you produce content with more integrity.
Finally, post it.
You don’t need to be a prolific post writer, maybe you’re focus is much more in-depth.
Either way, I hope you love writing!
Priority = Content
5 to 10 posts are the minimum before you even think about promoting your work and finding traffic.
If you’re serious you can decide to spend the first few months only working on content and optimization.
There is a very good reason for this – at first, no one will know your blog exists.
Once you start spending a lot of time attracting visitors you better have something of value for them to visit.
Or they will bounce away again very quickly.
Quality over quantity always.
But, you should enough quantity to make the site look worthwhile exploring.
This is where you create the potential for a post to earn money in the future.
Hopefully, your posts at least in part lend themselves to the use of some affiliate links.
If you decide they don’t, then move on to the next step (finding traffic) because your monetization strategy will probably be via ads.
You don’t need to wait until you have all the affiliate accounts and links set up before you post.
As long as you disclose correctly you can add the links as you enable the affiliate relationship.
Blogs are not like Twitter, your post has a long shelf life.
Talking of disclosure…
be sure to follow the FTC rules – that means having an easily visible disclosure on each post.
Not just in the footer of your website!
Which affiliates to use and how to be legal
This very much depends on the content you have created and your niche.
You can use affiliate networks or go direct to the company you wish to promote.
For some examples of networks check out Clickbank, Markethealth and ShareASale
For examples of direct affiliations, I’ll tell you how I originally used an affiliate link in this guide.
In the hosting section, I inserted my affiliate code from Siteground to the hosting company hyperlink.
When anyone clicked that link – if they brought a plan
AccidentalMentor.com would receive a % commission.
Go to your Siteground account and find the page for affiliates
Apply for the program and once approved you will receive an affiliate link – which is your identification code.
Post this link into your content – simple!
Most companies have affiliate link programs.
Use Google – search the company name and affiliate or go to their website and often there is an affiliate page in the footer or the site
***Just be careful of affiliate networks like Amazon. If you have no traffic at first, you may get your account shut down or denied in the first place. It’s best to add direct affiliate links at first like for hosting and build up to the big networks when you have traffic.***
Once you have your initial content and have it monetized you have your MVP – minimum viable product.
It’s time to start the really fun and really difficult part…
promoting your blog finding traffic and selling!
Driving traffic and digital marketing are subjects I’m going to cover a lot more in other guides.
They are subjects you will become very familiar with and become an expert in.
That is if you ever want to make money…
The information here will just be hints and tips to start you in the right direction.
When your online side gig is new and you don’t have an audience it pays to go where most people already are.
To where they are searching for info.
Obviously, your blog subject and niche will play a part in where your audience is likely to be hanging out.
But, where they are looking for information, is pretty specifically search engines.
Major engines like Google obviously, but don’t neglect other search engines like Pinterest.
And if your content includes video (it should) YouTube.
Beyond search engines the large social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram can also drive traffic.
If you spend time engaging and promoting your work in the right ways.
Once you have the MVP set up – send your time researching and learning digital marketing techniques.
Winning search engine traffic is an entire art form with ever-changing strategies and tactics.
But the basics are universal things you will need to learn anyway.
Things like search engine optimization, building links to your site, outreach.
Essentially building up your domain authority.
This takes time.
Unless you are extremely competent, supper hard-working, amazingly lucky or can call in a favor from someone with a huge following.
Then don’t imagine your site will start to rank high in Google search anytime soon.
Patience and consistency are key.
Guide to SEO
The same goes for social media traffic, it’s never as easy as it sounds.
The pure amount of competition means you have to fight hard to be seen and heard and to get the traffic to your new site.
For a bonus mentor tip
Tools like Tailwind can help you automate the scheduling and distribution of your promotion to all the social media sites.
Worth the money!
But – pick one social media site to be your main focus.
Spread yourself too thin and you will be ineffective.
Remember this is a part-time side gig – only start what you can sustain.
The reality of promoting your content is that you will need to make more content…
promotion content, think adverts…
but free ones (unless you want to invest dollars as a shortcut).
You need to capture attention somehow and producing promotional content is one way to do this.
Tools like Canva can help you create images with text and effect overlays.
This is needed for things like Pinterest pins, Facebook and Instagram images.
This is where many people hit the first roadblock in their journey.
They don’t realize that the hard work in making money online is not the blogging – it’s generating traffic.
Blogging is not a get rich quick gig.
But don’t lose heart and make sure never to give up…
The skills and the discipline you learn doing this are going to be priceless.
This is a valuable investment in your life skills as much as anything.
I can’t say this enough…
Guides to traffic.
*** We don’t use ads but will experiment and add an advertisement case study later ***
If you eschewed affiliate links maybe your more set up to take advantage of advertising for monetization.
Now you have growing traffic it’s time to consider ads on your site.
Of course, you can use both methods – just be aware that too much monetization is detrimental to the user experience.
Pick an ad service such as Google AdSense.
Research their policies in detail to make sure your site complies with the rules before you apply.
Also, make sure the site is at least a couple of months old and has some real traffic and content before you apply.
Once accepted set up your site and your posts to host the ads – enable the service and Bob’s your uncle!
Without traffic, there is no point in trying to have ads – in the name of efficiency and your sanity – prioritize content and traffic.
Whichever way you eventually monetize the day you get your first payment is going to be special.
Enjoy and hopefully, it motivates you, even more, to continue, improve and provide value in return for a reward.
By this stage, you will have a whole new set of life skills that are worth a lot of money to you in your future life.
The value of your time may have radically increased.
If you made it to this stage consider yourself a winner already.
Now it’s just about continuing the journey and as always – commitment.
Once revenue starts flowing start thinking about how to re-invest it into your business.
Maybe it’s time to set up that LLC or to buy better hosting, maybe even some paid ads to drive more traffic.
Whatever you decide it’s the start of a whole new phase of your journey and probably your life.
Congratulations you’re a real business owner.
Don’t rest on your laurels.
Passive income is mostly a myth – huge amounts of upfront work are always required to start receiving any revenue.
But ongoing work is also needed if you don’t want it to wither and die.
I always smile when I read people say work smarter not harder…
You need to do both.
I have shown you the steps and the process to make this happen, you now have a road map. Remember…
Everyone can do this – everyone should do this.
Having an independent way to earn income and develop yourself is transformational.
Whether it’s a few thousand dollars a year or a few hundred thousand dollars a year.
The money, skills, and experience will ELEVATE YOUR LIFE STRATEGY.
Don’t be put off by the investment.
If you need to bootstrap it with the bare minimum of cost, you can.
Start with a hundred bucks if needed.
Invest in yourself.
Don’t be put off by the competition or the work required – be part of those making life happen, not just getting in the way.
The very best advice I can give you is to just get started – feel the fear and do it anyway.
Take small steps – try to do something every day.
Stay on the road.
Starting with simple activity and being consistent leads to momentum and often ends up in great outcomes.
Use our process to guide you – reach out when you need help.
Leave a comment and let us know what you think? Got Questions? I will be answering everyone I see in the comments.