LEVEL UP YOUR SIDE HUSTLE: GO ONLINE

The new ways to earn extra moolah: from drop-shipping and virtual teaching to affiliate marketing. Learn from those who've been there, done that.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
My Reading Room

“I sold a variety of products, from beauty, lifestyle to fashion... The biggest earning in a month was $5,000.” − Cherie Lim

SELL TO THE WORLD, EVEN WITH A TIGHT BUDGET

If you want to start a small online business but lack the funds, drop-shipping is a relatively low-risk and fuss-free way to start a side hustle.

Basically, there’s no need to fork out any money up front to invest in an inventory of items. Instead, you can trawl websites like Alibaba.com and Amazon.com (through its Fulfillment by Amazon programme) for drop-shipping manufacturers, and choose what you want to sell from their catalogues.

All you have to do is to set up a website with an e-commerce store and promote the things that you’re selling online. When a sale is made on your website, you simply act as a middleman to transfer the customer’s orders and shipment details to the manufacturer, who will ship the items directly to the customer. You earn a cut out of each sale.

Cherie Lim, a 22-year-old business and marketing undergraduate, dabbled in drop-shipping for four years.

“I found the cheapest ways to set up my website,” she recalls. “I experimented with Shopify, Wix, WooCommerce, and I’m still exploring other platforms.”

She worked fast as a one-woman show, capitalising on the free two-week trial on e-commerce platforms to launch the site to save costs, and test if the products were saleable. If they were, she would continue subscribing to the e-commerce service. Cherie spent about $100 a month on social media ads to promote the products that she was selling.

With its low entry barriers, she says that drop-shipping is one of the best ways for students or those with low capital to start a business.

She adds: “I sold a variety of products, from beauty, lifestyle to fashion, on multiple websites that I created quickly. The biggest earning in a month was $5,000.

“Like any business, one needs to know how to price your items, as you don’t want to over- or under-charge.”

Cherie spent a fair bit of time on research, trawling the Internet looking for the right manufacturers and products that she wanted to retail.

“Not all manufacturers are willing to participate in drop-shipping,” Cherie shares. “You have to reach out to them personally if you want to customise something that’s different from what they have.”

Instead of selling readily available products, look for innovative merchandise that’s unique. A product’s novelty-factor often influences online shoppers to go ahead and make a purchase.

The downside of drop-shipping for Cherie: While there are all kinds of goods, she had difficulty looking for eco-friendly and sustainable products to sell.

The upside: Thanks to drop-shipping, she has picked up a slew of digital marketing skills over the years. “I must say that drop-shipping sparked my entrepreneurial spirit,” she says. “It (drop-shipping) was manageable for me, juggling my studies at the same time.” 
My Reading Room

TEACH IN A VIRTUAL CLASSROOM

Teaching is no longer restricted to a traditional classroom. Conducting virtual lessons or e-teaching is the new way to fully utilise your skills in your spare time. And it can become a stable source of income – if you have curated a well-thought-out course, says Singapore-based rocket and data scientist Marianne Michaels.

She has been teaching mathematics and environmental studies for five years on online platform Udemy, while working as a Nasa citizen scientist.

Udemy is a global teaching portal that helps people learn new skills, advance their careers, and explore their hobbies by sharing knowledge. As of January, the platform says it has registered more than 50 million students and 57,000 instructors teaching courses in over 65 languages.

Marianne, who has a masters degree in engineering, offers four courses, including the 36-lecture Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind, Geothermal) + Climate Change, and the 14-lecture 15 Speedy Math Tricks. The duration of each course ranges from one to three and a half hours, with each priced between $29.98 and $168.98.

Marianne has amassed more than 2,000 students, of whom half are regulars. “Setting up my teaching account was really easy,” she says. “You just have to sign up, and you’ll be directed to a dashboard where you can either upload videos, PDFs or go live with your students.”

Coming up with a good topic takes work. Marianne says: “You should utilise Udemy’s Marketplace Insights tool to understand the demand for a certain topic.” But before that, equip yourself with the basic tools: a good camera, microphone and a reliable computer.

Marianne explains: “You want to ensure that your videos are of top-notch quality so your students will find your online classes interesting. Finding ways to retain their attention when you don’t see them in real life is the challenge.”

She adds: “Compared to physically teaching in a classroom, teaching online is easier when it comes to delivering a class, as you can pre-record it.”

Instructors are also rated by their students on Udemy. “When I just started, my students asked me many questions,” Marianne reveals. “I was a little slow in replying them at first, but now, I have a well-rounded lesson plan figured out.”

The bestsellers, according to Marianne, are beginner courses. “Most people want a quick class that is direct and fun,” she shares. “My best-selling class is a video on how to convert your Keynote and Powerpoint slides into a video format.”

Online instructors should read up on plagiarism and cyber safety rules. “I’ve had hackers posting my videos and selling the courses as their own,” she says. “Udemy has a programme in place for reporting such offenses.”

 
My Reading Room

“The key is to be consistent, as with building anything worthwhile.” − Cheryl Tay, digital content creator

EARN AN INCOME FROM SOCIAL WITHOUT BEING AN INFLUENCER

Imagine waking up in the morning and realising that you made hundreds of dollars overnight – and all you did was share a link on your website and social media accounts.

This is affiliate marketing, where one promotes other people’s products to your network of friends and family, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.

Today, affiliate programmes have grown in size, especially with the availability of new software that supports such businesses. Social media channels have become the new phenomenon to help promote what you’re selling.

When you join a programme, you get instant access to these materials, which help your promotional efforts. Back in the day, you usually had to compile your own materials.

One affiliate marketer is digital content creator Cheryl Tay. The 33-year-old joined an affiliate programme by Pruvit in April. It’s an American company that specialises in ketone health supplements. Ketones help boost energy levels and physical endurance, as well as improve body composition.

“As affiliates, we’re not resellers or distributors,” the fitness influencer explains. “We have a unique referral link given to us, which many of us attach to our social media sites like Instagram. My sales are mostly through Instagram (@cheryltaysg) and word of mouth.”

The barrier-to-entry for an affiliate is low, and one doesn’t hold on to an inventory of physical stock. This means, marketers don’t have to deal with the shipping process. It’s managed by the source (of the products), who will ship the items to customers.

“Some time and effort are needed to learn more about the products, and how to manage your customers,” Cheryl notes.

She also promotes Pruvit through her personal experience on her website, www.cheryltay.sg. Cheryl was introduced to the product by her good friend. She says she felt sluggish all the time, and started reading up on ketones. She tried Pruvit and felt improvements in her energy levels.

If you’re looking to earn a sizeable profit (more than covering your grocery expenses), you have to be consistent in promoting the link. “There are people who do it full-time, while others like me do it as a side hustle and find pockets of their day to do the business,” she adds.“The key is to be consistent, as with building anything worthwhile.”

 
My Reading Room

GET CLUED IN ON GROWING A SUCCESSFUL CONTENT SITE

With many looking for information online today, a useful content website can generate advertising income and commercial engagement for the author of the site. But what goes into making a successful content website?

Dawn Cher, 30, who’s behind the popular finance blogging site, Sgbudgetbabe.com, tells Her World: “It should be content that you love. I advise others to think about what their passion is, before setting up a website.” The main goal, she adds, is to set yourself apart from the others with your content. “I started my website in 2014 because I saw many gaps when it came to financial and life advice for women,” recalls Dawn, who has a passion for writing.

And writing for her site is a hobby. “I have a full-time job, but I do take on the occasional sponsored post on a project basis,” says Dawn, who works as a freelance public relations consultant and tutor.

Sgbudgetbabe.com draws millions of visitors each year, and has been ranked as one of the world’s top budget and finance blogs by Feedspot, a global social network for RSS (Really Simple Syndication) readers.

Dawn’s success with her website boils down to having evergreen and easy to understand financial topics, publishing a wide variety of articles consistently, and her keen engagement with the audience.

She adds: “With a plethora of web-creator services today, it’s definitely easier now to build a website, as web-services have a more user-friendly interface.”

She’s referring to website-building platforms like Wix, Wordpress, Squarespace and Weebly, which offer thousands of custom templates for your site’s design. You can create a website in minutes – using a drag-element method on all the pages, after choosing a colour theme and layout.

Weebly, for instance, is priced between US$9 ($12) and US$29 ($39.88) a month. These platforms also provide the option for users to buy a renewable domain name (of your choice) to connect to the site.

That aside, Dawn tells Her World: “You need to keep up with the ever-evolving technical details, like readability and SEO, and incorporate them into your site.” 
My Reading Room

“I made sure my tutorials are clear and easy to follow.” − Tiara Surya Dusqie 

My Reading Room

MAKE MONEY FROM VIEWS EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT A TOP YOUTUBER

If you’ve been drawing loads of traffic to your self-made videos on social media, why not make some money out of it on Youtube?

Today, anyone can make a side income via video hosting channels, says Tiara Surya Dusqie, who is behind fashion and makeup YouTube channel, Tiara S. Dusqie.

“I began with makeup tutorials because my friends were asking me for eye makeup tips,” recalls the 28-year-old. “So I decided to share my passion by creating videos on the platform.” Tiara started her channel in 2013 and she has 4,400 subscribers.

One can earn an income through videos on YouTube by signing up as a YouTube Partner. YouTube pays content creators by inserting ads into your videos. You can choose the number of advertisements to insert, and the video timestamp where you want them to appear.

How much you earn depends on your channel’s traffic and advertisement clicks, says Tiara. On average, a YouTuber who has a sizeable amount of views (say more than 1,000) can earn at least US$3 ($4.13) for every 1,000 views.

The ads are delivered through various advertising widgets like AdSense auction and Google Ad Manager, which the creator has to manage.

Having run her video channel for nearly seven years, Tiara says she makes “a significant amount to cover her daily expenses”.

Starting the channel and uploading videos is easy. Gaining followers, though, can be an uphill task. Tiara says: “One thing to note is that YouTube is a very saturated platform, and you should rely on other platforms to promote your videos in order to gain traction on your YouTube channel.”

Tiara grew her subscribers by promoting her video content in creative ways on Instagram.

After you know the type of videos you want to put out, ensure that they’re of good quality.

“I made sure my tutorials are clear and easy to follow,” says Tiara, who took a while to invest in pricey equipment such as camera, lighting and audio .

“I’ve kept this channel for so long because I personally like what I am doing,” Tiara enthuses. “I think that’s important... you have to enjoy the process of making content.” 
My Reading Room

THE BEST SITES TO LAUNCH YOUR SIDE GIG

SELLING ARTS & CRAFT

Etsy is probably the biggest online craft marketplace. Other popular platforms are Artfire, Shop Handmade, Hyena Cart, and Handmade Artist’s Shop. Some charge sellers a monthly membership fee, while others don’t. Etsy has no membership fee but takes a 3.5 per cent cut from the sale of items.

IF YOU’RE OFFERING CREATIVE SERVICES

Upwork is one of the largest gig portals for freelancers online. It offers services like graphic design, animation, content creation, writing and editing, and video-making. Other platforms include Fiverr, Freelancer, Guru, Freeup and SolidGigs. Some take a commission from freelancers’ earnings.

IF YOU WANT TO TEACH ONLINE

Coursera is a popular platform for professionals who want to upgrade their skills. The classes are structured like college courses with set start and end dates. Other highly recognised platforms are Udemy, Skillshare, and The Economist-owned Learning.ly, which is popular among entrepreneurs.

IF YOU’RE SELLING A VARIETY OF PRODUCTS

While Amazon.com is one of most popular e-commerce websites, the prices of items can be costly when shipping charges are added. Alternative global sites include AliExpress.com and auction platform eBay.com, as well as local sites like Shopee.sg and Lazada.sg. Facebook Shop also offers a shopping experience where businesses can create an online store on Facebook and Instagram for free. Sellers can connect with customers through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct to answer questions, offer support and more.