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One of the best lines from Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker in 2008’s “The Dark Knight” comes when the killer clown tells Gotham’s mafia bosses why he hasn’t put Batman out of commission yet.

 “When you’re good at something,” Ledger quips. “Never do it for free.”

Now the Joker’s skill set is probably a bit different than yours, but his message is a true one. Beyond your regular 9-to-5 job, you’ve probably got an interest, a skill, or a passion that you dedicate hours perfecting. So why not take that talent, start a side business and make it a source of extra income?

Whether your passion is photography, carpentry, painting, or web design, there’s never been a better time to start a side business.

You can turn your learned or innate skills into money for yourself and satisfied customers of your friends, neighbors, social network contacts, and everyone else who you might encounter. The best reason to start a side business in the digital age is that your startup costs can be as little as no money at all depending on what your particular skill is.

If you’re a writer, a coder, or a graphic design artist, the odds are high that you already have your tools of production located in your house, most likely on a personal computer. If you do something artsier, like creating clothes, jewelry, or crafts, you’ll have to buy raw materials, but with the proliferation of craft stores, both the brick-and-mortar and the online variety – you should have no trouble getting what you need without breaking the bank.

Here are five reasons why 2018 is a great year to start a side business:

Rainy Day Funds From Starting a Side Business

If the last decade has shown us anything, it’s that no industry is safe from a significant downturn in the economy. First, the real estate market went under, then the big banks followed. More recently, it’s been the oil business taking a significant hit, with the petroleum giants slashing costs and cutting back hours. You do your best to build up savings, keep credit card debts low, and all of that good stuff, but life happens, and it’s great to have a little something extra tucked way to bail you out when things get tough or when you want to splurge a bit.

A word to the wise, however, most side business profits do no report taxes the way your 9-to-5 profession does. The money you earn isn’t taxed upfront in most cases.  It’s your responsibility to either pay estimated taxes on a quarterly basis or pay a lump sum every April 15. On the flip side, having a business entitles you to all sorts of tax deductions, including anything you might purchase for the job – equipment in the way of tools or equipment, even a vehicle and the gas it consumes. If you work out of your home, you can also deduct percentages of your mortgage and utility bills for the square-footage of the room you use as a home office.

Free Advertising

Digital technology has done a remarkable job of shrinking the distance between customers and vendors. The need to pay for advertising for your garage-door installation and repair business can be organically outsourced to word-of-mouth on social media websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

If your company has a physical location, you can get a review page on Yelp, and your customers can be your new best friends (or worst enemies) when they review your products and services for the rest of the Internet to see. If you want to go even more professional, use WordPress or another free web hosting site to build your business a website of its own, complete with contact information, services provided, and reviews.

The more well-versed you get in how online advertising works, the more you can add on to your website concerning mailing lists, newsletters, surveys, marketing campaigns, SEO campaigns, and more. This is key when you start a side business of any kind.

Online Marketplaces

With instantaneous communication paving the way, online marketplaces like Guru, Upwork, TaskRabbit, and Fiverr have sprung up for every service imaginable under the sun. Instead of stumping door to door to try and find business owners interested in your digital marketing services, you can compile a profile on the likes of Upwork and watch your customers come to you or apply for jobs posted.

Many of them now have safeguards in place regarding payment, so you don’t get stuck with the bill. You can build up your profile, create or add to an online portfolio, add personal and professional references, and cite work that you’ve done in the past.

Best of all, you can work on projects by the job or by the hour, whatever suits your situation and gives you the blend of freedom and finance that you’re seeking. The only downside is that most of these marketplaces are going to want their share of the pie, often as much as 20% of every dollar you earn ends up in their pocketbooks.

Upwork is probably the best of the bunch in that it reduces its take to 10% once you’ve reached $500 earned from the same client, and drops it all the way to 5% should you do more than $10,000 with one client, regardless of how long it takes you to reach that figure.

Make it a Family Affair

You create cool jewelry from shells your kids collect at the beach. Your husband is an accountant with a few extra hours a week and a passion for metallurgy. Combine your desires, and suddenly you’re making his and hers pendants, bracelets, rings, you name it. Some are nautical, others forged in fire, but together they’ve carved out a neat niche on Etsy.

So you work as a team: The kids scour the beaches for exciting shapes and colors every weekend; Mom and Dad blend their talents into creating one-of-a-kind offerings. Heck, maybe your cousin chips in 5 hours of accounting work per quarter to make sure your taxes are on point with the federal government in exchange for one of the cool creations.

Everyone’s involved, and the extra money pays for a family vacation or two. Who would have thought to start a side business could positively impact so many!

Do What You Love

From an early age we’re told that if we find a job doing what we love, we’ll never work a day in our life. That seems like great advice until you start thinking about what jobs are out there that qualify.

If you’re an accountant by day but still love wood-working from a class you took one summer as a Boy Scout; this is the time to start carving again and see if people are interested in your creations as home decorations.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom whose kids are reaching that age where they’re in school all day, perhaps you can finally start the cupcake business everyone keeps telling you is a lock for success. If you’re a retired teacher, why not do some tutoring on the side for kids trying to get a high score on the SAT or make that final push for the college of their choice?

Starting a side business allows you to delve a little further into your real passions in life. You’re not doing this job because you need to, but rather because you want to.

You don’t need an MBA to start a side business – in many cases, you barely need anything other than a computer, an Internet connection, and a passion. Take the time to deduce yours and turn your favorite hobby or trade into a well-paying side business this year. Your bank account and sense of self-satisfaction will thank you for it.

About the Author

James is an avid investor in real estate and the stock market. He has found an edge in his real estate investing with digital marketing.

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