What’s a side hustle without anyone to hustle to?
You can work as hard as you want, but it’ll be a wasted effort if you don’t have anyone biting the bait.
Which brings up an important question: how are you reaching your customers?
Your answer better include online presence. If not, you’re missing out on an audience of over 4 billion people.
Half of that audience is expected to purchase something online this year.
How do you establish yourself online?
Sure, word-of-mouth is timeless and beneficial. But it’s equally important to represent your hustle online to people who don’t know about you yet.
This are the steps that I follow to build an online presence that will give me more visibility to the possible customers, and helping me to show my work and skills.
1. Set Online Presence Goals
Before you begin splatting yourself all over the web, you need to think about what your goals are.
Since I am talking here about designers and developers, then you should start showing off your work, which represent your skills.
Who are you trying to reach, and where does that audience go on the internet?
Trying to reach everyone at once leaves you spread thin. You’ll have an account on every platform, so many that you can’t keep up with them all by yourself.
This looks bad to your customers. It makes it seem like you’re inconsistent and don’t care about interacting with them.
If you set goals about who you’re trying to reach you can figure out where to have a digital presence. That way, you can tailor your online image to appeal to them.
Then you can set goals about the resources you want to use.
How much time and money do you want to spend establishing yourself to this audience?
Resources are always limited (such as time), so you have to factor that in when setting goals. But don’t worry.
Establishing yourself online doesn’t require money. It does however require time.
First, spend your time on setting up a social media account, get accepted on design or programming communities and start interacting with them.
2. Get On Social Media
No matter what your side hustle is, you need a social presence for it. This doesn’t include just popular social platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. But also more niche specific platforms like Dribbble, Behance, Github, Codepen, Linkedin, Pinterest and so on.
There are over 2.32 billion monthly active users on Facebook. And that number is only growing.
Facebook, Instagram, Dribbble, Medium, Pinterest, Behance, Twitter and a lot of similar platforms allow customers to access your information without having to leave the site they’re already on.
Not only that, it creates an opportunity for you to interact with them. You can post questions and polls to get engagement and learn more about your audience.
You might not need several social media account at once, depending on your services and goals. They’re free to create if you decide down the road that it would be beneficial.
Choose one platform first, make sure you can maintain it, and then join others later on. Share an original post once a day and interact regularly with people through comments and messages.
If you’re unsure if you can post regularly, create scheduled automatic posts so your consistency doesn’t suffer.
Whichever account you create, you should provide a link in your biography to your website.
3. Create a Website
This step shouldn’t make you nervous and make you wish you went to school for web design.
If you aren’t skilled in web design, there are free website builders out there to ease your worries.
Wix is one that’s intuitive and easy enough for your grandma to use (okay, maybe not your grandma, but you get the point). It takes a matter of a few minutes to create a beautiful site using one of their free templates.
If you’re skilled in web design, take the time to show your skills by building your own site. This becomes a working portfolio of what you can do.
Regardless of how you create it, your website is your home base online. It’s the place where people can find out more specific details about your operation and see what you’re offering.
To boost your chances of people seeing you, engage in forums related to your hustle.
4. Participate in Forums
Think about it — people in forums care enough about something to engage with others about it in a niche place on the web.
Find forums related to your side hustle. This could be as simple as doing a search about it or checking out a related Subreddit.
Reading forums shows you what your competitors and customers are talking about. Writing in forums shows those people that you’re interested, informed, and can offer solutions.
You should respond only when you can offer suggestions or speak as an authority. Don’t engage only to promote your services. Go in with the intention of learning more about what people are talking about.
Then, if you can offer your services as a solution to their problem, leave them your information, such as a link to your website.
As an added bonus, forums can give you ideas for things your audience may like reading content about.
5. Create Content
Generating content creates trust through consistency and allows people to see your personality.
Content should be information you provide that isn’t marketing. Meaning, you’re not trying to sell anyone anything.
It boosts your online presence by adding value to your interactions with customers.
Create content by posting on social media and by writing blog articles on your website or Medium. You can also guest post on other publications to reach a larger audience.
When writing a blog, you’ll want to have content ranging from 500-2,000 words. 1,000-word posts rank higher on search engines, but it’s good to have various lengths to meet reader needs.
Writing quality content allows you to drive customers to you by using search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.
6. Get People to Find You
Once you’re set up on a few different platforms, you have to get people to see you.
This is where SEO and advertising comes in.
You don’t need to be an expert in SEO to direct people to you (thank goodness). A great place to start is focusing on keywords.
Keywords are the words that people are using when searching for something online.
People are more likely to find you if you have what they’re searching on your website and in your content.
This is where content comes in. You have more opportunities to embed keywords in relevant posts and articles.
You can decide which keywords are best by using free keyword generators.
Another way to get people to find you is by buying advertisement on search engines and social media. Even though this is a common tactic, it doesn’t seem to be effective.
70-80% of people ignore paid search results. They choose organic search results instead, blowing right past the sponsored ads.
Although it depends on your goals, it’s probably better to invest in SEO rather than advertising so customers can find you on their own.
Once people are finding you and seeing what your side hustle is about, you’ll want to know what they think.
7. Get Feedback
Feedback lets you know if what you’re doing is working.
Use social media as a tool for this. Ask questions about what people want and if you are providing it.
Once you’ve done business with customers, have them leave reviews on your website and review sites (i.e. Yelp). Create incentives for them to do this such as discounts and freebies.
Why? Because 85% of customers trust online reviews as much as word-of-mouth.
Reviews build a positive image and reputation that everybody can see. Rather than vouching for yourself, other people can attest that you do do a good job.
While feedback is useful, it doesn’t tell you how effective you’re doing in the online realm. You have to look at the numbers.
8. Analyze the Results
Measuring the success of your online presence boils down to engagement.
Are people interacting with your Social Media posts? How many people visit your site in a week? How many engagement you got on the work you shared?
If you build a website on Wix, there is a feature you can pay for to see your website traffic. Facebook has a similar feature for business pages.
Or, if you want to look at everything at once, you can use Google Analytics.
Regardless, you need to keep track of the numbers — including time spent.
You don’t want to spend a ton of time on your online presence if nobody is noticing that you’re there.
If the numbers show that this is the case, you need to find another strategy. Perhaps you were wrong about what platform to use or what content your audience reads.
Don’t let negative results deter you from building an online presence. Think like Thomas Edison:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
You can’t expect to create an online presence overnight.
Not only that, but something that works this month might not work next month. People are dynamic, thus so is the internet.
What’s important is that you’re putting yourself out there. You aren’t afraid to promote yourself and your side hustle.
Keep assessing your goals, your audience, and researching methods to keep hustling.