Side Hustle Showdown: Sweaty Startups vs. Laptop Lifestyle

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Starting a side hustle is all about finding new ways to make extra money outside of your regular 9-5 job.

And in today’s digital world, there are two primary paths people take — starting a local business or building an online business from your computer.

But which strategy should you pursue to start earning real income as a side hustler?

That’s the discussion in which Nick Huber, co-founder of Storage Squad and host of The Sweaty Startup podcast, and Miles Beckler, an online business expert, share their perspectives on both approaches.

Tune into episode 578 of The Side Hustle Show to learn how to:

  • Leverage your existing skills and interests
  • Identify underserved needs to fill
  • Commit for the long haul
  • Delegate extensively
  • Provide real value to others

The Case for Online Businesses

According to Miles Beckler, we live in an unprecedented time where anyone can publish content without gatekeepers. With over 5 billion internet users constantly searching for solutions, there is a massive opportunity to build an audience by creating helpful content and positioning yourself as an authority.

Some key benefits Miles highlights include:

  • Huge audience of content consumers to tap into
  • Ability to publish freely without gatekeepers
  • Potential to reach millions with scalable content
  • Leveraging technology over labor to grow

In summary, the sheer size of the online audience and possibility to scale with content makes building an online business extremely lucrative in Miles’ view.

The Case for Local Service Businesses

On the other side, Nick makes an impassioned case for local service businesses.

He encourages budding entrepreneurs to “close your computer, look around you at your town” and observe the brick-and-mortar businesses already making money all around you.

Nick argues convincingly that many local businesses are behind the times technologically, woefully underserving customers, and presenting a prime opportunity for tech-savvy entrepreneurs to outcompete them.

Some benefits Nick sees in local service businesses include:

  • Huge array of business types to choose from
  • Less competition in niche local spaces
  • Low startup costs in many categories
  • Hands-on work trading time for money
  • Your geographic region can be a defensive moat

For Nick, keeping costs low while meeting demands for services in your town is the perfect recipe for a profitable local business.

Ideal Business Idea Generation & Niche Selection

Whether you decide to go local or online, the first step is generating potential business ideas and selecting the right niche. So what should you focus on during the idea generation process?

Nick stresses the “long tail of opportunities” available by simply observing businesses everywhere you look. He recounts an enlightening example of a highly profitable Kentucky company that makes millions a year driving around to pick up dead horses.

Beckler agrees niche opportunities abound, but encourages entrepreneurs to “go inside” and focus on problems or interests they are already passionate about. He points to the wisdom of “paying attention to what you pay attention to” over the past 3-5 years as a starting point for identifying promising niches.

Both guests warn about the risks of choosing niches that are too competitive. Nick cautions against businesses others are passionate about, since “people work for free” in those fields.

Miles uses the loaded make-money online niche as a prime example, describing the “assassins” that make it brutally competitive.

This initial guidance holds true whether you want to start pressure washing houses in your neighborhood or launch a YouTube channel about mountain biking adventures. Lean on your passions, talents, and knowledge as the genesis for your business concept.

Balancing Passion & Business

Nick and Miles diverge a bit on whether you should directly monetize a hobby or passion.

Nick advises against basing a business solely on personal passion. His core argument is that emotional attachment clouds business judgment. When money is involved, you need to evaluate opportunities objectively, not based on passion.

Miles has a more nuanced perspective, arguing passion and business can co-exist under the right circumstances.

In Miles’ view, starting with a passion you want to share with the world is fine. But you need to apply business acumen with production volume, conversion optimization, and financial diligence at sufficient scale.

This contrast shows that different philosophies on this issue can still work. Know yourself, and think critically about whether a hobby-based business aligns with your temperament or not.

Beyond personal interests, an ideal niche also needs sufficient market demand and low barriers to entry. As Nick explains:

“I see industries where the person who’s doing this business and making a lot of money, they’re not that smart. Look at real estate. Real estate is the highest concentration of wealthy, dumb people. If I’m going to become an influencer and I’m going to get that following, there’s also something that’s really important about that is that people want to follow people who are successful and kind of already have done something.”

For local services especially, picking an unsophisticated niche with customers willing to pay simplifies the path to profitability.

Meanwhile on the online side, Miles suggests:

“I mean, do you constitute like these two pieces that cost less than $20 capital? Because if you look at the empire that Mr. Beast has built, it really came from him just cutting videos and there is a creator path today that you can start.”

With a smartphone and free software, the barriers to launching an online business are lower than ever.

Evaluate your personal skills and interests, market demand factors, and startup costs to zone in on the optimal niche for your first business.

Gaining Initial Traction – Achieving the First Money Milestone

Once you’ve identified a promising business concept, the next step is getting it off the ground by attracting your first paying customers.

Earning those initial sales or revenue is a major milestone that boosts motivation and validates your business model. For both local and online businesses, how can you most efficiently gain that initial traction?

According to Nick, starting a local service business can generate revenue quickly by tapping into needs right around you. He says to look at what you have and what you can buy without spending too much money.

For example, he had a car and a spare room, so he used them to deliver and store boxes. He didn’t spend a lot of money at the beginning. After two weeks of work, he made a few thousand dollars. This shows that you can earn money by offering services that people around you need.

Leveraging skills with minimal startup investment is the best way to get a local service business off the ground. Get creative providing services around your neighborhood to hit that first dollar milestone.

On the online side, Miles emphasizes the importance of consistent publishing over a long time horizon:

“Shortcuts create long delays, my man. And the shortcut is to start right now, publish your first thing today, and then stick with it for 3 to 5 years and publish somewhere to the tune of 500 to a thousand pieces of content.”

This long-term content production flywheel generates the necessary data to identify what resonates with your audience — and starts bringing in revenue.

But rather than perfecting your first pieces of content, Miles suggests:

“What are you doing? So there has to be a frequency and this furbish kind of pitch to it. So if somebody hasn’t published 150 or a hundred, Roberto Blake has his a hundred rubbish videos idea.”

The key is to build your content catalog quickly based on a publishing schedule, not endlessly perfecting each piece. This velocity is required to get meaningful traction data to refine your content.

For both online and local businesses, avoiding lengthy planning delays is critical to getting started. As you achieve those first sales, the positive feedback loop of progress kicks in.

Growth and Scale – Building an Asset vs. a Job

Once you’ve achieved initial traction, the next consideration is growing beyond a one-person operation to truly scale.

Nick boils down the requirements to scale a business into three key factors:

  • Operational skills – sales, marketing, delegation
  • Capital – Funding to expand operations
  • Network – Employees, partners, investors

As he expands:

“The first company, in my opinion, company number one. It needs to be about acquiring those three things and less about acquiring money. Do your first company to learn operations, to learn sales, delegations, and these things that are just totally unique to a normal life that most people don’t get exposure to.”

Mastering the skills and processes required to run an actual business is a prerequisite for long-term success.

From there, you can leverage capital and network connections to fuel expansion. But without operational proficiency first, rapid external scaling will likely fail.

This truth applies equally to local services and online businesses. But how do the scaling trajectories typically compare between the two models?

Local service businesses grow primarily through increased labor and locations:

  • Hiring employees to serve more customers
  • Opening locations in nearby towns and cities
  • Adding vans, trucks, and equipment

Effectively managing processes, people, and logistics across geography becomes very complex at scale for local service businesses.

Meanwhile, online business have inherent technology advantages:

  • Content scales with zero marginal distribution cost
  • Highly leverageable technology platforms
  • Virtual team support across regions

Once the content production and monetization engines are built, online businesses can scale revenue rapidly at very high margins.

As Nick notes regarding local services: “Yeah, geography can be a pretty serious moat.”

Rapid national or global distribution online disrupts traditional geographic limitations.

Overall, the consensus is that online businesses are inherently more scalable than local service businesses. The table stakes for operational skills may be similar across models, but the growth trajectories diverge considerably.

Delegation Pivotal for Growth

Expanding on operational skills for a moment, our experts emphasize delegation ability as perhaps the most important entrepreneurial skill.

Nick emphasizes the absence of delegation education both in schools and sports. He points out that the concept of delegation is not covered in school curricula or sports training.

For instance, he highlights that no high school athletic coach would ever suggest having someone else perform your workout to achieve fitness, and similarly, math teachers wouldn’t advise delegating an exam to be completed efficiently by someone else.

Nick underscores that the skill of delegation is lacking in people’s life education, as it is not taught or emphasized in any context.

Teaching employees to successfully complete tasks (task delegation) is a relatively straightforward first step.

But the real advancement is training your team to independently make decisions (decision delegation).

This is how businesses can scale — by removing the founder from the critical path of every business decision.

Nick uses a “monkeys on the back” analogy to illustrate effective decision delegation:

“When an employee has a problem, they walk into my office. Their problem is that monkey, that monkey jumps on my desk. And all of a sudden it’s my problem as soon as they tell me about it. The good business owners make sure it [the employee] walks out with that monkey back on their back.”

Business education traditionally focuses on production, products, and profits – not people and teams. Developing management and delegation skills takes proactive practice and mentoring. But it pays huge dividends as you shift from technician to executive.

Both local and online businesses require delegation proficiency to expand, hire teams, and build assets. Mastering delegation unlocks the true potential in any business model.

Other Key Success Factors to Consider

Heed the responsibilities that come with leadership.

As Miles notes, to deserve and attract an audience long-term, you must put in the hard work up front:

“A leader is not someone swinging in the hammock, passive income, telling other people what to do. No, a leader is there with the spoon in front of the pile of manure, shoveling the manure day after day after day after day.”

Don’t expect quick, passive results without first establishing your authority.

Start hyper-targeted locally.

For local services especially, dominate one narrow niche in one geographic area first. Wider expansion comes later.

As Nick says:

“The best way to get a big following if you want to be known for building businesses or making money is to stop tweeting and like actually go out and make some money.”

Proving your concept locally reinforces credibility.

Delay immediate gratification.

Miles emphasizes that real traction takes consistent effort over years, not days:

“We’ve all done things that we had to do. We had to get through. It sucked in the moment. ‘Embrace the suck’ because the success that you desire is on the other side of a lot of little failures and people are trying to avoid fail.”

Stay persistent through early struggles to build momentum.

Diversify online revenues into physical assets.

Once you build robust online cash flow, Miles suggests diversifying into real estate:

“Invest in real estate. Once you get the cash flow going, a bunch of digital money coming in like get some physical tangible things. Don’t be all in on digits and bits and bytes like get you some tangible cash flow.”

Balance digital assets with physical ones.

These closing pieces of advice apply useful perspective to guide your success.

Nick’s Takeaways

Nick’s closing advice is simple yet profound:

“Ignore the noise, start something small. Set a small goal.”

The most surefire path is methodically validating a concept through initial traction. Fancy proclamations and rushing to scale can be perilous.

Nick emphasizes that the path to entrepreneurship involves a five-year journey to gain momentum and a decade to achieve generational wealth.

He underscores the need to prioritize delayed gratification and wise decision-making to avert failure in the long term.

With local businesses especially, build your skills steadily with modest goals at first.

Miles’ Parting Guidance

Miles reiterates the importance of playing the long game, being consistent, and letting delayed results compound over years:

“Don’t compare your step number four with my step number 778. Okay. That’s just a recipe for you getting your ego mind engaged for a toxic internal conversation, which is going to stop you from taking any action at all.”

In closing, persistently publish content for years, learning and optimizing as you go. Stay consistent, ignore quick fix promises, and achieve mastery one day at a time.

Start Small and Embrace the Journey

While local services and online businesses have their unique pros and cons, Nick and Miles agree that mindset and execution trump any inherent superiority of one model.

Stay humble, start a niche, delay gratification, and always be learning. If you choose a path that leverages your skills and interests, then pour your heart into mastering it, the financial results will follow in due time.

Ignore the hype of overnight success or passive income promises. Take it step by step, building real skills through practice and experience. If you embrace this daily progress, increasing impact and income earned from the expertise developed will be inevitable.

Recap and Next Steps

  • Local services – Leverage existing skills to meet consumer needs in your town
  • Online business – Build scalable content to serve the billions online
  • Idea generation – Start with your interests and experiences
  • Niche selection – Low competition and barriers preferred
  • Initial traction – Consistent publishing of local services or content
  • Growth – Operational skills plus capital and network
  • Delegation – Both task and decision delegation
  • Mindset – Delayed gratification and persistence

For further guidance on launching your own successful local service or online business, check out:

With the right priorities and perseverance, you can build a profitable business that aligns with your life. Now that you understand the landscape, it’s time to take action on your entrepreneurial dreams.

Nick’s Other Businesses:

#1 Tips for Side Hustle Nation

“Set a small goal.” – Nick

“Don’t compare your step number four with my step number 778.” – Miles

Links and Resources from this Episode

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

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