Using Your Degree to Start a Business

“Everyone needs a good side hustle”

I still remember hearing this at a conference I was at recently. It was surprising to hear this idea of having a side hustle – a business that effectively ran itself or which required minimal involvement. Something that brought in a bit of extra money. But how does one achieve this? I have had a somewhat decent stab at this, so allow me to share my experience.

Private Tutoring

The most obvious side hustle is private tutoring. If you have the time, then in person tutoring is fantastic. It can be done in groups or one-on-one. You are effectively the personal trainer for someone’s brain rather than their body. Moreover, it is a side hustle where you choose the hours, has next to 0 start up costs, and will be sending clients your way quicker than you realise. Letting course and unit convenors/coordinators know you are offering this service will help them to refer students onto you (free marketing).

For a time, I even did ‘academic coaching’ which, rather than helping students through coursework, involved helping to train students how to study, how to manage their time, how to complete an exam, how to survive in honours, etc.

Academic Services

I am leaving this vague, because I am sure it will be different depending on your field, but in psychology I leveraged my affinity for statistics to end up landing a number of casual contracts. People hated statistics and were willing to pay people like me to do it for them or provide consultation on how to do it. Think about the skills that you have learnt from your degree that others do not enjoy doing and offer it as a service.

Starting a Brand New Business

So this is moreso a story of my partner who completed an undergraduate degree, but it still showcases the point. He took his understanding of learning theory, behavioural psychology, and working knowledge of ABA (a type of therapy for children with autism) and created an entirely new business model in that field. He left academia entirely.

“But Chris, I don’t know what kind of a business I could start up” I hear you say. Neither did my partner, and when we arrived at our idea, we were really unsure if it would fly. But it has been very successful. For him, this is becoming a full time job – so it is not so much a side hustle as an alternative to academic. But it does highlight how you can use your degree in a different way.

Another idea (in fact it is how I created my backup plans if academia fell through) is to consider how your degree might provide solutions to problems (that may or may not yet exist) in other areas. You have a chemistry degree, great, how might that relate to, say, childcare? Perhaps you can arrive at some new chemical approach to removing baby stains or something (I am literally making this example up as I go along here – can you tell?). But this kind of creative thinking might just land you a new business idea. Let the inner entrepreneur out!

What About You?

Have you used your degree to start a business? What did you do? What it a side hustle, was it temporary contracts, or did you create a whole business that became your full time job? Did you do something different?

~ Chris

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