Advertising Your Side Hustle and Driving in Clients Like a Pro

*Post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclaimer here.


As I’ve mentioned, a personal side-hustle is face-painting. It doesn’t pay all my bills, but that’s to be expected with a “side” business, right? However, the growth within the last six months has been exponential, so maybe it’s not entirely far-fetched to think that in a year from now, it will be a full-time type of income.

Regardless, I attribute my moderate side-hustle success to some personal tenets that I’ve stuck with. As ever, these bits of advice are applicable to any side-hustle out there, not exclusively face-painting.

‘Real World’ Advertising

Regardless if your side-hustle is done remotely or not, you should still be advertising ‘in the real world’. Google Adwords, newspaper advertising, mailers… those are great and likely effective, but they can become extremely expensive. To cut costs, I designed my own quarter-page ad , found a good coupon for a store where I could print out a hundred or so, and then cut them all myself. As for where to put them, it made sense to me to advertise at the places where parents take their children. I called up pre-schools and day-cares in the area and politely inquired if I could leave some ads and business cards (read: I did not show up unannounced). I posted on community bulletin boards in places like indoor jungle gyms, trampoline parks, bowling alleys, etc.

Another way is to make use of networking. I don’t go to conferences, but that’s definitely an option for others. I do go to meetups designs for young professionals which I find out about through scouring sites like Meetup.com or Eventbrite.com

You don’t have to burn yourself out or break the bank trying to advertise everywhere all the time, but be smart and think about the places where your potential client would go.

You need your own website. Like, yesterday.

Sites like Thumbtack, GigSalad, GigMasters are good for driving new business your way, but it’s hard to start from scratch and their commissions and credits to bid on the jobs can be prohibitively expensive. That’s why I work around it as much as I can.

I started with making my own website for my services by setting up hosting with DreamHost and buying a brandable domain name. The website design itself is simple and responsive—this is important. Your site cannot look like garbage on someone’s phone or tablet because they will click away. My site has a photo gallery of high-resolution photos from gigs, the review widget from Thumbtack, and a short bio. Most importantly, it has a simple contact form that encourages people to reach out to me for a quote, and I make the lofty promise that I’ll follow up within 24 hours.

There’s tons of psychological tips and tricks that I’ve employed for my Calls to Action. Example: offering them the promise of a freebie if they request a quote and book an event with me. There’s other little tidbits like that out there; you just have to find what works best for you and your needs.

From behind the scenes, I make sure that my site is Search Engine Optimized. One easy way to do it is by incorporating a blog. I update with fun content like ‘My 5 Favorite Face Mask Designs’, but the main goal is to pepper in the name of my city. It’s paid off: I’m now ranked on the front page for ‘[my city] face-painting’ in Google. Make getting organic search traffic a priority, as it is basically free advertising. Plus, if someone comes to you directly, you can avoid the fees and commissions from websites like Thumbtack.

Ready to start your own website for your side hustle? You’ll need hosting. I personally recommend DreamHost because they are fast, affordable, and top-tier quality (unlike some of those other hosts who may or may not have a color in their name…)

The Social Aspect

I made sure every friend and family member knew I was a professional face-painter and accepting gigs; I had to resist the urge to put the word ‘professional’ in quotations, since it was just a side hustle I did for fun. You have to take yourself and your business seriously if you want others to as well. I built an email list of everyone who could stand to be annoyed by me, and I offered referral incentives, such as a ‘friends and family discount’.

For those of you unfamiliar with the free app Next Door, it’s a great place to advertise your side-hustle. It’s like a private message board for your neighborhood, and only those who verify their addresses can post to the app. No spam, huzzah! The exclusivity works to your advantage if you’re the only face-painter around. And, if you’ve got competition, then it sharpens your marketing skills to prove that you’re the better face-painter in town.

‘Cold Calling’

Here and there, I will send an unsolicited email to potential clients to offer my services. I’m polite, never aggressive or pushy. For face-painting, I look for the organizers/administrators/marketers of events like city festivals, fundraisers, company holiday parties, etc. I make sure that my pitch is engaging and illustrates how I can provide value. I tailor it specifically to whichever event I’m trying to wiggle my way into and send relevant photos (ex: It’s a winter festival? Here, have five different pictures of my ‘Frozen’ face-mask that almost literally every small child will ask for).

If the people you’ve cold pitched to don’t respond, don’t give up. Why? Because you’re going to send a follow-up message. That’s right. As I’ve mentioned before, sending a follow-up message is necessary and a non-negotiable part of marketing yourself. You might not land a gig, but that’s a mild outcome for ‘worst case scenario’. Best case is that you’ve created a lead for yourself and landed a gig. Cha-ching!

It’s Not About Having the Best Gear

There’s something called the Illusion of Productivity. For me, the Illusion of Productivity would unfold in a scenario like this: perusing a supply shop like Silly Farm and dropping $200 and calling it a day. I’d give a weak justification of something like, “But buying good supplies helps me be a good face-painter! That was productive!”

It’s called an illusion, you see, because you haven’t actually accomplished anything. It only seems like you have. I’m not saying that good gear, equipment, or supplies aren’t worthwhile. You should take the time to research and order quality materials. However, you can’t let yourself think that having the best supplies is all it takes for your side-business to succeed. Your supplies don’t do all the advertising and marketing and lead-generating and gig-landing… that’s all on you.

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While there’s no 100% absolutely correct and optimal way to advertise your side-hustle, these ideas at least get you thinking outside of the box. Remember, growing a business–side or otherwise–is like growing a flower. It takes time, nurturing, and patience.

It’s hard work. That’s why it’s called hustling, people.

How do you spread the good word about your side-hustle?

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