Building a physical product side hustle — whether it’s selling T-shirts or tables — is a great way to boost your income.
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When you’re thinking of businesses you can build as a side hustle, physical product side hustles are pretty top-of-mind. It’s no surprise, since as a business model, physical products are old af, and everyone kind of gets the premise.

“Oh, so you sell T-shirts with dinosaurs on them?” is something anyone’s grandparents can understand as a business.

But beyond just the whole people-understanding-your-side-hustle angle, there are lots of reasons why selling physical products (of any kind) makes for a great side hustle.

What makes physical product side hustles so great?

For starters, it’s much easier to price a product that someone can touch and see. Even if you’re selling them online, a photo goes a long way to reassuring someone that they know what they’re going to get — and toward justifying the price you’re charging for it.

Speaking of price, you’ll also be able to pretty closely compare your item to similar ones in the marketplace. Take T-shirts for example: If I told you I was going to sell a T-shirt for $200, you would immediately know I had pretty drastically overpriced my shirts, right? Meanwhile, if that $200 price tag was attached to a piece of gold jewelry I hand-crafted, it’s a very different pricing story.

We all have experience living in a world with physical products, and buying them as well, so pricing a physical good is going to be a lot easier and more straightforward than pricing a digital download or an hour of your time.

So how — and what — can I actually sell?

There’s a whole wide world outside of T-shirts when it comes to physical products, not to mention a wide world of sourcing options.

If you want to start a physical product side hustle, you can consider all of the following options.

  • Dropshipping. This is when you connect with a company that will handle all of the customization of a physical good and ship it out to your customer for you as soon as you get an order. It can be a quick way to get up and running with a physical product side hustle, but word to the wise: You’ll have to come up with an interesting angle to differentiate your business.
  • Selling used items. Whether you’re on eBay, Amazon or just your local flea market circuit, a lot of people have had huge success finding used items at low prices and flipping them for a profit. It takes some knowledge of which items have high resale values, but when you do hit the jackpot, your return on investment is bananas.
  • Handmade items. The maker movement is strong, so if you can make awesome candles, jewelry, soap, art or other niche items, you can do really well in the “I made this myself” segment of the physical product business.
  • Manufacturing items. Lastly, if you have a product idea that needs a specific production run, such as necklaces you can’t make yourself or specialized hats you need to order in bulk, you can do that, too. You’ll need to figure out how you want to sell them, and where — ideally, before you place that bulk order!

Your physical product side hustle can be anything from an Etsy store that sells knit hats to selling used books on Amazon to making soap and selling it at craft fairs. The world really is your oyster on this one.

But side hustler beware: there are some issues with physical products, too

If you think this sounds ideal, let’s chat before you go out and order 500 custom-printed mugs with your face on them.

If you’re starting a physical product side hustle, you’ll need to consider a few key issues before diving in.

How will you ship your items, and how much time will it take?

Every order needs to get from you to the buyer, which might mean paying to attend in-person maker fairs, all the way to handing over a sizeable chunk of your time and cash to printing individual mailing labels.

How will you keep track of your inventory?

If sales are going like gangbusters, how will you make sure you don’t sell out of your items, and at what point do you know you need to order more items, or sit down for a hardcore crafting session? Those things all fall under inventory management, which is a skill you’ll need to pick up, stat.

How will you create demand?

Physical products are decidedly not a build-it-and-they-will-come business. You’ll need a plan to make sure the right people know about your business, and to convince them to buy your stuff. If we’re being technical, you could call this a marketing plan — and you’ll need one.

Still convinced physical products are a good side hustle fit for you?

If you’re ready to jump into the world of physical products, here’s where you should start.

Take a look at your skills first. What are you really good at? Is it creating really intricate products, or is it building killer marketing materials? Make sure to pick a physical product side hustle that lets you really leverage your skills.

Next up, research platforms that let people sell physical products and how people are using them. This could be everything from local maker fairs in your area to how on earth people use eBay these days. You’ll need a plan for getting your products out there, and these existing platforms can be a huge help.

Now it’s time for action. What are you going to create?

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Header image: Adobe Stock

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Posted 03.24.2017 - 03:39 pm EDT