Where to find customers for your side hustle
It can be hard when you’ve set up your own business and the work isn’t suddenly pouring in. Believe us when we say, as side hustlers, we’ve all been there. You’ve set-up the Earnr app, you’ve chosen your brand name and product and then… nothing.
Going out and getting customers is a crucial part of any functioning business, but when you start out it can be overwhelming. You might have told friends and family and they might have someone in mind for you, but nothing immediate is happening. This is where the hustle part of that side hustle title comes from. You need to go and seek it out.
Here we look at how you narrow down and find your target audience and some actions you can take to get their attention.
How to start getting customers for you side hustle
The first thing you need to do is understand your own business. The product or service you offer is going to decide the people who buy it. The broad starting point for this is whether your business is:
- Aimed at consumers (D2C - directly to consumers)
- Aimed at other businesses ( B2B - business to business)
- Aimed at businesses who are going to sell the product to consumers (B2B2C - yep...)
You’ll then want to narrow your audience around your product. A simple logic would be:
What’s the product or service → who’s going to need this → where do they spend their time
Who will use this, what demographic are they? If you’re selling hair brushes for pets, then your audience will be pet owners. If it’s luxury hair brushes for pets, then you might be targeting a wealthy audience, in which case maybe you’d want to see if you could advertise in your local golf club newsletter. If you’re starting a drop service business then you’ll be putting professionals together so a website and LinkedIn page might be your starting point.
Things you’ll want to consider are:
- Interests / hobbies
- Geographic location
Once you’ve built a couple of personas for your audience (aim for 2 or 3) think about where both online and in real life they’ll be.
Think about who your business is
Some people go to town on this and create a multi-page brand bible to ensure that every aspect of their business has the right, distinct personality. We’re not saying you need to do that, but it could be worth thinking about how you want to be perceived. This decides the way you interact with potential clients in the future from the emails that you send to the social posts you make. Some things to think about are:
- What 3 adjectives would you use to describe your business personality? (For example: smart, witty, personable. Or: heroic, decisive, inspirational)
- Think about your audience. Now that you know their demographic, what kind of personality would they like to interact with?
- What kind of mission is your business on, is it to redefine dog walking, or to make personal training more accessible to the eldarly? The mission doesn’t need to be revolutionary, but having a succinct message can help you stand out.
- What’s the story of your business, did two friends come together out of their love for baking, or was it that you realised your passion for upcycling clothes during lockdown? Having a narrative helps your audience see who you are, and keeps you memorable.
You don’t need to doggedly follow these points for a side hustle, but being conscious of who you are can help define how you approach new customers in the long-term.
Things you can do to get customers for your side hustle
After considering the type of customers you want to attract and the places you’ll find them, you’ll want to think about the methods you use to engage with them and sell yourself.
Social media - For any consumer facing side hustle, social media is a near essential tool, it gives you visibility and allows you to interact with followers and customers. Generally speaking, it’s also free. Choose your social channels based on your audience persona, for professionals LinkedIn and Twitter can be useful, for older groups local Facebook communities are often helpful, and on the note of local outreach, Nextdoor gives you access to people who live nearby. Instagram is also home to many ecommerce businesses if you’re selling things on Etsy or Ebay. Consistency is key and it will take time to build momentum on whatever platform you choose.
Local media - This isn’t to say you shouldn’t target tier one publications like Vogue, but local papers are often looking for stories and a neighbourhood entrepreneur could be the ticket. You could also consider using posters in local establishments, for example, if you’re running a dog walking service then pubs, places of worship and community halls might all be happy to stick a flyer or two up for you.
Job sites and boards - For any kind of freelance work then online sites like Fiverr, Upwork and Craigstlist are good places to make a profile on and see what’s out there. It’s pretty competitive so our advice is don’t expend too much energy chasing work, but certainly good to have on the go. Creative spaces like The Dots, is also a great place to showcase work.
Networking events - These can range in price from free to thousands of pounds - but the idea is that it lands you business and builds your network for the future. It can be worth researching online what industry events there are that suit your business and if you’re trying to keep costs low, go to the cheaper events. Meeting people in real life rather than online can help you get to know people more quickly but virtual events are now a big thing too, so don’t count those out.
Existing network - If you have a side hustle, that suggests you already have another line of work, maybe people there will know somebody, or need your business themselves? Friends and family and friends of friends. Make a list and keep going over it until you’ve contacted every possible person (no matter how remote), because the more people who know about your business the better. That list can also come in handy for future communications and updates.
Clients - If you’ve had a couple of clients then use those to your advantage, ask them to leave reviews - most people leave a 5 star review if prompted. You can also offer a referral to encourage them to tell friends about your business, a referral could be a discount for using your business again themselves, or a cash reward. Word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of marketing.
These should be helpful starting points
But don’t fret, the best part of a side hustle is it allows you to try something and if it works out you can go whole hog and quit your day job, and if it doesn’t you still have the day job to tide you over. Nothing happens overnight but you should find that more customers generally leads to even more customers - so while you have to put yourself out there to begin with, patterns and funnels will begin to come through.