E25: Do you currently have a side-hustle that you enjoy building? Or, do you WISH you had a side hustle? How do you make your first million dollars from it? I'm going to tell you exactly that - how to make your first million dollars from your side-hustle.
On this episode, we'll cover how to CHOOSE a suitable side-hustle, how to BUILD your side-hustle, and finally, how to MONETIZE your side-hustle.
What is a Side Hustle? (2:11)
Your Unique Life Experiences Are a Goldmine For Information (3:42)
What Can You Teach Others? (4:28)
James Clear, Ryan Holiday, Nick Huber, Justin Welsh, Justin Moore (5:22)
Figure Out a Niche You Can Own (6:11)
Build in Public (9:36)
Build a Tribe that Trusts You (13:32)
How to Collaborate with Other Creators to Grow Your Audience (15:49)
Make it Your Mission to Serve Your Tribe (17:25)
Gathering Feedback & Earning Referrals (19:49)
Ask Me Anything (22:55)
Episode 23 - Grow Your Newsletter Fast: Secrets to Skyrocketing Your Subscribers
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Yong-Soo is a serial entrepreneur bootstrapping his business from $0 to $20m over 8 years. Now, he's on a mission to help founders & creators build a loyal audience, create irresistible product offers, and grow their business sustainably.
Do you currently have a side-hustle that you enjoy building? Or, do you wish you had a side hustle? How do you make your first million dollars from it? I'm going to tell you exactly that - how to make your first million dollars from your side-hustle.
Okay, let's start the show!
Hi, my name is Yong-Soo Chung and I am a first-generation Korean-American entrepreneur living the American dream. I started Urban EDC to cater to enthusiasts of everyday carry gear. I also own two other successful ventures: GrowthJet, a climate-neutral certified third-party logistics company for emerging e-commerce brands, and SpottedByHumphrey, an online boutique curating dog goods for good dogs with Humphrey, our French bulldog, as our Chief Marketing Officer with over 150,000 followers across all of his social media platforms. Through these three ventures, my business makes an annual revenue near eight-figures and I'm here to tell you how you can do the same!
When people find out that I made my first million before turning 35, they often shower me with compliments. Some people tell me that I got lucky. Some tell me I had great vision. Some tell me they had the same idea but they were afraid to take the plunge. In fact, almost everyone praises me for my hustle.
Truth is, I'm not the only person who has the hustle. Everyone has it. You do, too. The only difference is you still haven't made your million.
Strap in because, today, I'm going to tell you how you can make your first million dollars from your side hustle.
On this episode, we'll cover how to choose a suitable side-hustle, how to build your side-hustle and finally how to monetize your side-hustle.
I'll also be answering a brilliant question about what channels I’m currently focusing on to grow my newsletter and podcast asked by a member of the exclusive First Class Founders community, later in the show - make sure you don't miss it!
Let’s get down to business!
Wikipedia defines a side hustle or a side gig as "an additional job that a person takes in addition to their primary job in order to supplement their income." With the state of the economy currently being what it is, everyone needs a side hustle. For some people it might be second or even a third job, for others it might be something they enjoy doing in their free time.
Whatever your definition is, we can all agree that a side hustle that brings in tons of additional money into your bank account is ALWAYS a welcome addition. And a side hustle that can earn you a million dollars - that would be the dream, wouldn't it?
Well, let's see how we can make that dream come true, shall we?
Okay, so you've decided you want a side-hustle. But what side-hustle should you do? Like the answer to every ambiguous question in the universe, the answer to this one is also: "It depends. But don't hang up on me yet because I'm about to tell you what it depends on.
It depends on YOU…WAIT! Let me clarify that further - it depends on your past.
Specifically, it depends on what you have been doing until now and what expertise you have accumulated. It depends on what you have achieved in your life so far and what you have mastered over the years. This could be anything - a love of Star Wars memorabilia or a passion for organizing the Star Trek universe, or playing the piano, or - as it turned out in my case - everyday carry gear!
Your unique life experiences are a goldmine for information. What is the one lesson you will never forget? What is it that you can teach someone even if you are woken up out of a deep sleep at 2 AM in the night? What questions or problems do people frequently approach you for help in solving them?
Write it down. Write it all down. Write down as many of the important lessons that you can remember. Pretty soon, you'll start seeing a pattern emerge out of it. You'll find that there is something that you have learned over the years that you are incredibly passionate about. Something that you have invested your time, efforts, energy, and attention in and earned a significant amount of expertise in. Something that you can turn around and say confidently, "Yeah, I can tell you how to do this!"
Ask yourself the question, "What can I teach others?" That, in fact, is your first step towards making a million dollars:
Step 1. Ask yourself the question, "What can I TEACH others?"
Once you have figured out YOUR expertise, the next step is to make it your identity. In zen terms, you need to 'become one with it'. In his book 'Atomic Habits', the author Jame Clear puts it quite eloquently. He says -and I'm paraphrasing here- "You need to assume the identity of your highest goal. You want to write a novel? You need to convince yourself that you are a writer. You want to run a marathon? You need to introduce yourself as a long-distance runner." By assuming the identity, you stop making efforts just for the goal and, instead, make efforts towards building the corresponding lifestyle - which is a much healthier and stickier habit!
Heck, even this example that I just gave is an example itself - James Clear is KNOWN for his insights on "habits" and related behaviors. Because he literally WROTE the book on "habits". And, once you start looking, you'll find many more examples like James Clear. Ryan Holiday is known for his thoughts on "stoicism". Nick Huber is the person you go to when you want to know more about the "self storage" business. Justin Welsh is a leading voice for anyone wanting to become a "solopreneur". Justin Moore is someone you follow if you want brilliant insights on "Sponsorships".
All of these thought leaders, they did something incredibly simple and incredibly basic - they chose a niche and they worked towards OWNING it. That's what you need to do - OWN a niche. That's step number 2, by the way.
Step 2. Figure out a niche you can OWN.
Now, I'll be honest here. It might so happen that someone else is already occupying the niche that you want to own. And they may have already made a name for themselves in the niche. So much so that they might have become giants in that niche.
Well, that just makes your job easier actually.
You heard me. I said it makes your job easier, yeah.
Let me explain.
See, the thing about a niche is no one knows for sure how narrow it can actually get. Have you heard the phrase, standing on the shoulders of giants?
Yup. You have the opportunity of taking the work started by the giants in your niche and BUILDING on top of it! You have the opportunity of taking their knowledge and improving upon it further. The people who discovered the DNA double helix structure did not end the science of biology. Instead, they started a new branch of science called biochemistry. Similarly, you might be someone who adores James Clear and thinks that his book of Atomic Habits is gospel truth. That doesn't mean you don't have your own tweaks to the techniques suggested in the book!
Those tweaks will become YOUR unique twist to the niche. In the process, you will find a niche within the niche. And then you can own THAT niche within the niche - isn't that awesome?
In fact, that's how UrbanEDC was born!
You know what, let me take this opportunity to tell you about UrbanEDC, my business that made me my first million dollars!
Before I started Urban EDC, there were already several sites selling outdoor gear, that is, everyday carry gear. In recent years, the everyday carry community has exploded. People love posting photos of what they’re carrying with them on a daily basis whether it’s a pen, flashlight, keychain bottle opener, or a pocket knife. Heck, even Amazon was selling EDC gear! And you might look at them and think that they were my biggest competitor and there was no way I could compete with them.
But, here's the thing: Amazon wasn't DEDICATED specifically to EDC. That meant, people looking specifically for EDC -people like me- would often get frustrated. One day, it struck me that this was a problem and it needed solving. There wasn’t a well-curated shop just for everyday carry gear lovers. I wanted to create an experience serving this community. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
If you’re a gear geek like me, looking for the best flashlights, titanium pens, fidget tools, or the latest pocket knives, I literally built this website for YOU! And if you’re not a gear lover, we’ve been told our shop has the best gifts for dads, graduates, or anybody else who appreciates gear like a CNC-machined, fancy bottle opener. Go check out our awesome gear at UrbanEDC.com.
Urban EDC was built because I found that there was a niche of outdoor gear lovers who were looking for a curated collection of everyday carry gear. I found that niche and decided to own it.
A quick side-note before we move to the next part: Remember that it’s not just owning the niche that matters. It’s HOW you serve your niche that will also differentiate you from the others.
Okay, say you've found your niche. Say, you've started building something that satisfies the gap in this niche.
The next step is to start talking about it.
Yeah, you heard me. Talk about that AS YOU ARE BUILDING IT. Build in public! Share your journey of building it. Choose a platform and start talking about your experience of building it. Believe it or not people love hearing stories of stuff being built.
Don't believe me? Go search on the internet for the phrase "How stuff is built". You will find that there are ENTIRE podcasts and youtube channels dedicated to the subject and they get millions of views and downloads! Why? because people are curious about that stuff. People want to know how things are built.
If you aren't convinced about building in public, let me give you an example. Think of a twitch streamer, someone who typically streams themselves playing a story-based game like Witcher 3. Ever wonder why they have so many subscribers? All these subscribers, they can buy the same game and experience playing it themselves! Why follow some random person who's playing the game AND talking over it? The answer is simple. They follow the streamer for the insight and the commentary, which is exactly what you should also aim to provide through your content.
Your insight, your commentary, is what will hook people to you. People love hearing stories, so make sure to serve as many of them as you can through your content. Let's note this down as step 3 of our process:
Step 3. Share the story of what you are building AS you are building it.
An important note here: you need to be totally honest and authentic while sharing your journey. You also need to make sure that the content you share while building your journey falls under your niche. Your unique insights about the niche combined with the honesty and the fact that you are building in public will slowly begin to earn you a following.
Once you start to build a following, you'll begin to notice that they will slowly start to become a community, a tribe amongst themselves. This community, this tribe will be your biggest strength in the days to come. So make sure you engage with them regularly. Listen to them, work with them as if they were your co-workers and colleagues. Find out stuff about them. Build a relationship with them. Remember, if you show up for them, they will show up for you - so, show up for them, without fail, every single day!
If you do this consistently, your followers will soon begin to look towards you as someone they can trust. They will start to rely on your expertise in matters of your own niche. Over time you will establish an emotional connection with your followers. And it is this emotional connection that basically transforms a bunch of followers into a community, and the community into a tribe.
Building a tribe is necessary for two reasons. One, people don't buy products. People buy stories and emotions. There is a reason why a simple recommendation from Linus of Linus Tech Tips or Marques Brownlee of MKBHD is considered so valuable by all brands associated with their niches. Because their followers trust them implicitly. Because they command a position of authority in their niche. This authority, this trust that Marques and Linus exude wasn't built overnight. It was painstakingly and agonizingly collected, bit-by-bit, over the years with all the content they created regularly for their followers.
The other reason, your tribe will be your biggest source of strength and support during your lean period. And it will come. Because every process has a lean period. And during these lean periods, it helps to have people you can simply talk to, or rant, or vent, or just generally chat with. If you've built yourself a tribe, you will find them to be your biggest source of strength and motivation during this time - much like a second family!
This is the next and in my opinion the most crucial step in building your million-dollar side-hustle.
Step 4. Build a tribe that trusts you and your authority.
The one thing you need to understand here is that this process takes time. Like, a LOT of time. And there is no saying how long this will take. It could take weeks, months, or even years. But, if you stick to the task, if you follow steps 1, 2 and 3 consistently, honestly, authentically, I can assure you that it WILL happen. You might be tempted to find shortcuts by buying fake followers or doing other shady deals to inorganically increase your numbers.
Honesty, authenticity, and patience are crucial to this endeavor. They are the three things that will determine the stickiness of your tribe. You cannot build a band of brothers out of mercenaries looking for a quick buck. So, be patient and at the cost of sounding like a character in a Shakespearean play, be true to yourself.
Once you have established credibility within your niche, you need to look outward. Because this is the time when other creators within your niche will start noticing you. Like you, there will be others who will serve the same audiences or customers that you are looking to serve. You might be tempted to think of them as your competition. At least, that's what most business textbooks will tell you.
That's because the most commonly accepted belief is that this is a zero-sum game. That is you can only win if someone else is losing. The internet has shown that this doesn't necessarily have to be true. That, at least in the content-creation game, people in the same content niche can win together.
And for that to happen, you need to start thinking of these other creators as potential collaborators.
Connect with them and find ways to amplify your message through cross-promotions or partnerships. Help each other grow. Each content creator always brings something unique to the table. As long as you bring your unique flavor to your product, your customers, your audience, your tribe will continue to stand by you. In fact, I personally believe that if you introduce them to new creators, it will further cement your position as a person of authority and trust in their eyes.
In short, this isn't a zero-sum game - everybody can win together! And that is…
Step 5. Collaborate with other content creators to grow your audience.
More and more content-creators are unlocking the power of collaboration these days. TikTok duets are the simplest example I can think of. What is a TikTok duet, if not a collaboration between two creators? Also, do you remember what I said in the episode about growing your own newsletter? It's about getting on each other's ground floors and boosting each other all the way to the moon!
Collaborating also helps audiences discover new creators, which means that as your audiences discover a new creator, that other creator's audiences will also be discovering you! And, in case you are worried, let me assure you that audiences who are a part of a tribe don't switch allegiances that easily.
Speaking of tribes, as your tribe grows, you might notice that you are finding it difficult to maintain a 1-to-1 relationship with the members of your community the way you used to in the early days. This might lead some of them to feel ignored or sidelined. Therefore, it is incredibly important to always make sure that they feel included and recognized.
One way to do this would be to create offers for your tribe. Another thing you could do is to specifically look at solving problems for them. You can decide what specific action you want to take for your tribe but you MUST take *some* action to serve them specifically. You can be flexible about what problem you want to solve for them but you also need to be stubborn about WHY you want to solve that problem for them.
Note this down as step 6 of your journey:
Step 6. Make it your mission to serve your tribe.
If my calculations are right, then you might stumble on to a very important realization somewhere around this time.
Assuming that you haven't blindly set out towards achieving the goal of making a million dollars...
Assuming that you have your ear to the ground...
Assuming that you have built solid relationships with the members of your tribe...
Assuming that you kept your ego in check all through this time...
I believe that this is when you will arrive at the realization that your mission is much bigger than just earning your first million. You will realize that your mission is actually solving the problem that your tribe is facing. The million dollars that you are hoping to make is just a byproduct of this mission. Yes, it is a very lucrative and important byproduct but in the grand scheme of things, it is still just that - a byproduct!
This realization is crucial to the process because it helps you focus on something much bigger than yourself - your tribe and your community that you are serving through your offering. When your community is happy with your product, your offering, they spread the word about your product and that automatically creates and stimulates growth. The million dollar figure then ceases to be a destination and, instead, becomes a milestone along the way!
So, focus on serving the tribe and believe me, good things will happen!
…And this brings us to the last step of this journey, but before I tell you about that, I'd like to take a moment here to quickly tell you about my newsletter!
It's called "The Brief'' and it is a companion newsletter to this podcast. I'm building First Class Founders in public. That means I share weekly reflections including valuable lessons that I learned while experimenting with strategies on growing my podcast and newsletter. I don't hold anything back. In fact, I reveal all my podcast and newsletter metrics like downloads and subscriber numbers inside the newsletter.
So if you are curious and want to see some behind-the-scenes content of this podcast, you'll love my newsletter. Go ahead and sign up at FirstClassFounders.com/Newsletter. I’ll link it in the show notes as well. I'll see you there!
Okay, back to what I was saying…
The final step of your journey to making a million dollars through your side-hustle is something that you already know - to keep improving. Ask your audience, your customers for feedback and incorporate that feedback into your offerings. Feedback is the heartbeat of your offering. Feedback doesn't always have to be elaborate and extensive - it can be something as simple as asking each customer what is the one thing they would change about your product. Encourage them to tell you their honest thoughts about your product and then look for patterns in the feedback you received. Use these patterns to iterate and improve your product and offerings. Always look for opportunities to improve your customer's experience.
But what if your customers are happy? What if they have no complaints or no feedback to give you?
Well, then ask them for referrals! Who better to talk about your product than a happy customer, right? Happy customers are the best growth channel any product can ask for! And, the best part? It is absolutely free!
Step 7. Ask for feedback from your unhappy customers and referrals from the happy ones!
Never be afraid to ask your customers for a testimonial or a referral or a lead. If you'd like you can use lead magnets and referral bonuses to incentivize this behavior. I spoke about these methods and a few ways to implement them, just a couple of episodes ago - in episode 23, which was titled, "Grow Your Newsletter Fast: Secrets to Skyrocketing Your Subscribers" - if you haven't heard that episode yet, I suggest you queue it up next in your podcast player and listen to it immediately after this episode ends!
Let’s quickly summarize the seven steps of building a side-hustle to earn your first million dollars, shall we?
Step 1. Ask yourself the question, "What can I TEACH others?" All of us have (at least) ONE subject in which we have gained considerable expertise through our life!
Step 2. Figure out a niche you can OWN - owning a niche is the first step to establishing your authority as a trusted creator.
Step 3. Share the story of what you are building AS you are building it. By building in public, you will be able to build a dedicated community of followers who will root for you throughout your journey.
Step 4. Build a tribe that trusts you and your authority. To build a tribe, you must interact regularly and honestly with your followers and build relationships with them!
Step 5. Collaborate with other content creators to grow your audience. Growth is not a zero-sum game. In fact, collaborations in the early stages help boost growth tremendously for the creators involved!
Step 6. Make it your mission to serve your tribe. Earning your first million dollars is actually about solving key problems for your tribe and keeping them happy.
Step 7. Ask for feedback from your unhappy customers and referrals from the happy ones! Happy customers are the best lead-generators that you will ever have and - best part is - they are FREE!
...which brings us to the final segment of today's show - the AMA. The AMA or Ask Me Anything segment is where members of the First Class Founders community submit questions for me and I answer them on this podcast!
This week’s question is: “For your newsletter, what are your top 3 channels for acquiring new subscribers? How do you leverage them?”
Great question! Right now, I'm using Twitter and LinkedIn only for posting organic content, which leads to newsletter subscribers. When I get a new follow on either platform, I'll message them individually and start a conversation. From there, I mention my newsletter or, if they listen to podcasts, I'll mention my podcast. This works surprisingly well. The key is add value to them first in your conversation. If they're working on a project, give feedback on their project.
For podcasts, I'm actively getting on other people's podcasts to promote my own podcast. I've found that promoting WITHIN platforms is much more effective. Newsletter to newsletter, podcast to podcast. It's not as effective bringing podcast listeners to your newsletter, or newsletter readers to listen to a podcast.
Ultimately, you want to be everywhere your audience hangs out. Now, of course, you may not have the bandwidth right now to be on every single platform, and that's OK. You'll eventually build out your systems to be able to be on all the platforms where your potential audience is spending their time.
For example, I would love to be on YouTube and TikTok right now. But I simply don't have the time to record videos, study the platforms, and post on a regular basis. I know I'll get there eventually, just not now.
Hope that answers your question!
Alright, that wraps up today's show! If you also wanna ask me a question like this, you can sign up for a membership at FirstClassFounders.com/join.
In the next episode of First Class Founders, we’re talking to Justin Gordon, Founder of Just Go Grind and the Director of Marketing for Vitalize Venture Capital. Justin has an interesting background. He worked as a personal trainer where at one point, he worked with top NFL athletes like Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson during their prime years. This was when they were breaking all sorts of NFL records. Eventually, he found his way into the world of Venture Capital. We talk about the underlying similarities between athletes and entrepreneurs. This conversation is one you don’t want to miss!
And, one last thing before I go... If you're a new listener and you enjoyed this episode, you can follow the show by going to FirstClassFounders.com and clicking on the link that matches your preferred podcast player - like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you are a repeat listener, I'd really appreciate a five-star review. I know every single podcast show asks you to leave a rating and a review but this is a relatively new show and your ratings and reviews really help new listeners find the show! Every single review matters and I really appreciate them! Please head over to FirstClassFounders.com/review and leave us a five-star review. Thank you so much!
If you wanna connect with me, I'd love to hear from you! You can follow me on Twitter @YongSooChung and let me know if you enjoyed this episode. I take feedback very seriously and would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve the show. You can find links to all my social accounts in the show notes.
I'll see you on the next episode of First Class Founders.