When I first started my side hustle, I did so to express myself more fully, do something I love and of course build an income independent of my job. I quickly realized that my bank account looked pitiful and between rent and medical bills I knew I had to build the business fast. But it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Business books and advisors recommend that you start a business with at least six months of runway cash. But it’s possible to start a company with $500 or less.

Most Americans have little to no savings and a ton of debt

America is the land of opportunity, but not everyone is sharing in the wealth. Despite low unemployment rates (around 4.4%), research indicates that wages have barely increased since the eight years after the recession.

A new study from GoBankingRates.com also confirms that more than half of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. The average indebted household owes more than $16,000 in credit card debt.

Find out what you’re good at and sell it

The first step to starting a business is to find out what you’re good at and how you can use your skill to provide value to others. If you’re a music teacher, you can create online courses and teach the world how to play the guitar. If you’re a marketer, you can create a product or service offering that companies can use to further their marketing efforts.

I’m a writer, and I knew that companies need good content all the time. When I jumped into the entrepreneurial world, I decided to use my skills to help companies produce effective blog posts and articles to further their business goals. I realized early on that it was easy to sell my services to companies that couldn’t afford to hire full time, but could still use the services of a professional business writer.

If you’re not sure what to sell or are a multi-passionate individual, then brainstorm a list of services you might be able to provide to businesses and individuals and then pick one or two.

This is the story of MissDesignBerry.com a graphic design company is close to generating a million dollars in revenue. Kristen Berry started it as a side hustle on Etsy in 2011 to earn extra money to pay bills and save some cash. She started by selling logo design, illustrations and more.

“I quickly realized that the wedding products were selling faster than any others, and my illustration style lent itself perfectly to the designs,” she says. – thebalancemb.com

Two years later she hired her first part-time employee. Berry’s company now employs over 20 women who work remotely and also pursue their own creative projects on the side.

Start as a freelancer

Freelancing is simple, and you can start today. All you need is the right level of motivation and the ability to deal with rejection. Freelancing just means taking the skills you already have (or are actively building) and pitching it to companies and individuals who could use them in their business on a contract basis.

“When I started my company, all I had was a laptop and the ability to make animated videos by myself –no extra funding or special equipment was needed,” says Video Igniter Founder, Derek Merdinyan.

Any somewhat established company with a handful of employees should be interested in using the services of a freelancer or consultant who can provide enough value.

It doesn’t matter you’re a copywriter, web developer, software engineer, designer, marketer or photographer – all of these jobs have given you an opportunity to build your skills, and there’s a high demand for freelancers in all of these fields.

Brandon Pearce’s story is empowering. He was motivated to start a business to earn extra cash on the side. As a piano teacher, he knew he was struggling with payment schedules of his students. And he instinctively realized that he wasn’t the only one.

He ended up developing the Music Teacher’s Helper – a software that helps independent music teachers and studio owners keep track of payments and students’ schedules.

Pearce started the project while he was still working for his previous employer.

“I created Music Teacher’s Helper in my spare time, working early mornings, lunch breaks, and late evenings.” – Screwthecubicle.com

Move somewhere less expensive

Living in the most expensive city, area or apartment may not be a great idea when starting a business, especially when you are cash-strapped.

I realized it was challenging for us as a family to pay rent and start a business simultaneously. Consider making a move that lowers your cost of living.

If you haven’t got a day job, or left it, like me, then maybe hop on a plane to Mexico or Romania. I know many writers who are living in Vietnam and Thailand and making the most of the digital nomad lifestyle.

Start by investing little or no money

Spending on glossy photo shoots or expensive websites may be a bad idea at the start. Your set-up cost should be truly minimal.

There are ways to start making money before spending a dime on your business. ‘What if it does work out?’ is a book by Susie Moore that sheds light on these ideas.

A side hustle allowed Susie Moore to walk away from a $500k job as a sales director to pursue what she loved, full-time. But 18 months before quitting her job, she had laid the groundwork for her coaching business.

“I was making great money, but in my heart, I knew what I was doing every day was not my life’s work. I had read 500+ personal development books and was a natural advisor, so I felt called to pursue coaching.” – Forbes.

Another side hustler, Jay Money from Budgets Are Sexy, found unexpected success from his blog. He shares;

“I spent a whopping $10 for a domain name! I started it on Blogger back in the day which was completely free, and then even when I moved to self-hosted WordPress, it still came down to less than $100 for the entire year.”

Jay advises novice business owners that all they need is an internet connection for a blog-based side hustle!

Ryan Robinson took a vote on side hustling set-up costs, and here are the results;

Depending on your venture, if it’s not $0 in investment costs, it should still be really, really low. And its possible too. That’s the beauty of a side hustle.

Pro Tip: Your hustle money should be invested back into your business, so it keeps growing. This is the entrepreneurship spirit in its true sense.

A business needs to be incredibly simple in its early days. When you’re just getting started, any time and money spent on not directly helping people is a waste.

Don’t quit your day job (just yet)

Giving up a reliable source of income is not easy (not to mention inconvenient) and many of us can’t jump in with both feet. You need cash to pay the rent, buy groceries, pay off a student loan and probably feed hungry mouths.

The most important thing that a day job provides you is the certainty of a paycheck and time to work on creating a product or service that the market needs. A winning product requires testing. Along the way, you may be required to learn new skills which can take a while.

The smart thing to do is developing a client-base while holding your day job. As you develop positive cash flow, you can say goodbye to your corporate job.

If you don’t have a full-time job to support yourself during this period, you can easily become desperate. It can have an impact on the way you develop your products and present your services to clients. You may also feel forced to work with clients you don’t want to.

It’s more risky not to start your side hustle

A stinging comment or bad decision is all it takes for your boss to ruin your life. Allowing one person [even if you like her] to have so much power over you doesn’t feel good. You don’t have to work a corporate job if you don’t want to. A 9-5 job isn’t as safe as it used to be anyway. Just take a look around you – layoffs happen in droves.

A side hustle gives you the economic cushion you need to make better choices. It also provides a buffer to help you manage stress levels. As soon as your business starts to grow legs, you’ll get a boost of confidence.

Your income from a side hustle may not be big [at least in the beginning], but with persistence and consistency, it can grow. And there’s no glass ceiling for how much you can earn or how far you can go. For some people, it can mean the difference between just getting by and building a life.

But most importantly, a side hustle give you a chance to build some truly valuable life skills – and the gift of knowing that you’ll be taken care of no matter what.

‘When you know better, you do better.’ – Maya Angelou.