How to Start a Business in 7 Days: 13 Real Ideas from Side Hustle Nation

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Last week I had the opportunity to join John Lee Dumas on Entrepreneur on Fire, a top business podcast. It was a ton of fun!

At the end of every show, he asks guests this question:

“Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew no one.

You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500 dollars.

What would you do in the next 7 days?”

After more than 900 episodes, I consider this John’s “signature” question. This is what I told him:

1. Airbnb, Freelance, and Create Content

I think the food and shelter taken care of is part of this question that a lot of people overlook — I mean with just that I’m already better off than a large percentage of the population, and that in itself affords a lot of freedom — I’m already looking at climbing Maslow’s pyramid.

If you recall the Hierarchy of Needs from Marketing 101, the next tiers on the hierarchy are relationships, esteem/achievement, and creativity — working toward something with purpose with people you care about.

So here’s what I might do. Put the shelter up on Airbnb. Boom — All of a sudden I’m making money AND meeting new friends from all over the world. Two birds, one stone.

In the meantime, I’m re-joining and re-engaging all my existing social networks and groups both online and locally because I can trace nearly every big win of mine on the old earth to relationships, and here I’m starting from scratch.

Next I’m asking what I can create that has value? Remember, I still have all my existing experience and knowledge so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to re-create some of the value I already have.

If my cush food and shelter set-up is expiring and I need to ring the cash register, I’ll hustle and sell some freelance service like writing or editing or marketing. I’d get clients by giving free samples of my work to my growing 1st and 2nd degree network.  

If I’m not pressed for cash I’d love to re-create what I’m building at Side Hustle Nation because I believe in the mission. Of course it sucks to start from scratch and it’ll take some time but it’ll probably be faster the 2nd time around.

That plan puts me on a path to re-climb Maslow’s pyramid with relationships, esteem/achievement, and creativity.

And credit where credit is due — the Airbnb thing was actually Bryn’s suggestion!

Naturally, there are some common threads in the answers, including the elements I touched on of networking, selling some service, or re-creating what you had on the “old” earth.

But since Side Hustle Nation is a creative bunch, I posed the question to in my email newsletter:

What would you do?

And with a free Side Hustle Strategy session on the line for my favorite response, here’s what I got back. Jon was the winner, so he’ll lead us off.

(If you have a killer answer for the $500 question, be sure to add it in the comments below!)

2. Create a Productized Service

Jon Subacz |

With $500, a laptop, and the next 7 days, I would do the following:

Day 1

On Day 1, I would:

  • Purchase a domain name (~$5 from GoDaddy with coupon maybe less!)
  • Setup WordPress hosting ($15/mo at Flywheel) and install WordPress.

I would then purchase a license to the Genesis Framework by StudioPress and a child theme. My current favorite child theme is Altitude, so that’s the one I’d probably go with ($100).

jonathan subacz

After that, I would install the theme and my top choice WP plugins including WP SEO by Yoast, Google Analytics by Yoast, Sucuri, and Woocommerce. That should take no more than 1 hour to complete.

The rest of the first day would be used to complete the setup of the website and a create a compelling offer.

I’d create a productized service and set 3 price points, anchoring the mid-level package at a price that I could “live with” per sale. The low package would be priced really low that was just too good to pass up, to hook potential customers that are still on the fence.

Day 1 would come to an end with a finished website, a business model with pricing, some simple copy, and a compelling call to action. Total spent, $120.

Nick’s Notes: here’s a step-by-step case study on how to set up a great-looking website for your service business.

Day 2

I would start Day 2 by testing the website and making sure that everything setup on Day 1 works, including the shopping cart and checkout process.

I would then prepare a series of checklists and simple documents outlining how to perform the services offered in each package. Nothing too detailed as everything will likely change once we get customer feedback.

The remainder of Day 2 would be spent researching blogs, social media sites, and complementary services to develop a list to reach out to for exposure on Day 3. This would take up the rest of Day 2. Total spent, $120.

Day 3

On Day 3, I would start the process of marketing the website and getting information out there. Since my service products are focused on a specific niche, I would reach to the list I developed on Day 2 and try to gain exposure for my new services.

I would offer referral opportunities to influencers within my niche and finish the first half of the day by sending emails to everyone on the list.

During the second half of the day, I would seek out a few customers that were willing to try my services for free in exchange for feedback and a testimonial.

The services I envision could be performed or started within a short time period. This would end Day 3. Total spent, $120.

Day 4

After working hard for 3 days, I would use Day 4 to test the service on new customers and continue to gain feedback.

I would invest $200 in a split between Google Adwords and a Facebook Ad campaign. Each campaign would be closely monitored for conversion rates and adjusted as needed. Any new customers would be responded to immediately to build additional “brand ambassadors” and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

I would spend any remaining time on Day 4 cold calling and emailing potential customers. Total spent, $320.

Days 5 – 7

On these days, I would basically rinse and repeat Day 4. After onboarding and delivering any new work, I would implement the lessons learned back into the business procedures, checklists, and ads.

Any profit would be invested into running more ads. I would determine customer acquisition costs and ROI on ad spend to developing a marketing plan going forward and how to best scale the service.

If needed, I’d start developing a process to bring on additional part-time staff to help deliver the services.

That’s how I would spend the $500 and 7 days to build a business. The business would be in a niche that I am already familiar with and therefore would greatly reduce the effort and time spent on researching side hustle ideas and potential market opportunities.

3. Do Client Work Building Websites or SEO

Matthew Allen |

matthewSince my food and shelter is taken care of — I guess I would have to visit a thrift store or something and get some clothes with a little bit of the $500 so I wouldn’t have to walk around naked!

Since I know how to build WordPress sites and have some SEO knowledge and experience — the fastest way for me to start making some money with my laptop would be to do client work for others.

In the next 7 days, I would find local businesses who either need brand new websites or need website redesigns. I would sell them on my ability to rank their sites in the search engines and get more traffic to their sites, which in turn will bring them more business.

I would do the first few sites for free — just to build up my portfolio. I would use more of the $500 to buy some of my favorite Internet marketing tools (like Long Tail Pro) and some premium WordPress themes.

After I have those first few sites under my belt as proof — making money from there on out will be easy. Just show other local businesses what I’ve done and offer to do the same for them.

4. Set up Lunch Dates

Shane |

shaneAt first I started thinking about creating a product, paying for hosting, setting up a website, and going down that route, and then I realized no matter what I create, 7 days and $500 is too limited to get any sort of traffic/marketing/SEO exposure at all.

I realized the most important thing I’d need to do is connect with like-minded people that can get me hooked up with something that can bring me income.

I’d spend the next 5 days taking 5 people out to lunch (assuming $100 is enough to pay for lunch and cab fare). I’d start with a random stranger, get to know them, and ask them if they knew anyone else similar to me. Then I’d take that next person out to lunch. Rinse and repeat til day 5.

At the end of day 5 I should have connected with a couple people that can utilize my skill set in exchange for income.

5. Find Ways to Monetize Your Skills

Christopher Norris |

chris norris1. Find out what people know. Find out what the best search engine is in the world, and start searching the web.

2. Find out what I know that other people don’t. Make a list of my strengths, skills and experience and find out via the web if I can monetise them. Seek out the competition and look for business niches.

3. Work out what I can offer clients. Write a business plan, starting with the “personality” of how I want to present myself to the world. Research price points and profit margins.

4. Build a website. Present the personality of my business offer to the world, as well as how my skills and experience can help clients increase their profits.

5. Research networks, get registered and introduce myself. Find out the equivalents of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram – and start networking.

6. Focus on key targets. RIMPS: Research, Introduce, Meet, Pitch, Sell — then repeat, with other key targets.

7. Listen, learn and implement. Measure result and level of client satisfaction. Take on feedback from clients and analytics, and act on comments, both positive and negative. Change the business offer to accentuate the positive. Repeat steps 1 to 7.

6. Coffee and Donuts as Icebreakers

Patrick McCoy |

I would take that $500 and buy coffee and donuts for as many businesses as possible and soft sell my skills or idea.

I firmly believe in the law of reciprocity.

I have no doubt that someone in from that $500 would be happy to purchase my skills or idea for an upcoming project.

7. Creative Networking

Gabriel Neuman |

gabriel neumanThe first thing I will do is to find a free computer with Internet I can use. After I find that I will go to a pawn shop and sell the laptop, which will give me another $700 to bring my total to $1,300.

I will go to a charity to help them get more donations and retain their actual donors. That will give me access to a list of people who donate to this charity.

I will create an ad campaign with $100 to retarget these donors thanking them for their support with some sentimental image related to the charity cause.

Next, I will ask the CEO if I can get in touch with the donors so I can promote my lead generation service for their companies, with the promise to automatically donate 10% of my earnings to the charity.

I will continue working half time for the charity, helping them find new donors and retaining existing ones.

8. Build an Email List and Publish a Book

Shawn Griffith |

I would keep creating content to give away to pull in subscribers to my email list. Building the list is a key part of my strategy before I complete my book.

The $500 would be used as investment capital in my book about character. I’d spend it on items needing professional attention like cover design, editing, and internal layout for e-publishing and print-on-demand.

With the rest, maybe spend a little on Twitter and Facebook targeted advertisements.

9. Freelance Writing and Online Marketing Consulting

Jessica Burde |

jessica burdeI’d use the $500 to:

  • Join the local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Set up a website advertising my services as a freelance writer and online marketing consultant.
  • Get a nice suit.
  • Put together and send out an introductory mailer to the local chamber members with free info and tools on online marketing for local businesses.
  • Hit at least one chamber event in the first seven days.

In addition (stuff that wouldn’t cost money), I’d read up on the local businesses and economy, identify a half dozen possible clients and send out query letters, get out at least one press release, find one local non-profit that I’d want to support and volunteer my services in return for sponsor status for the non-profit, and find one local radio show that covered local business to offer an on-air interview about the recent changes in local marketing.

10. Selling on Fiverr and in Local Community

Jarrod Dumas | Perception Writing Solutions

jarrod dumasWith the laptop, assuming it is the same world, I would recreate my Fiverr profile, my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and my Perception Writing Solutions business website.

Then, I would set about moving through the local community where I live, speaking with small business owners about the needs of their companies. Whenever someone voiced a need for freelance writing services, I would offer to do one 60-minute job for them free of charge.

I would use the $500 to purchase any materials I would need to complete these jobs, including paper and pen. When my customer received their product, and couldn’t say enough about how amazing it was, I would give them a small piece of paper with my contact information and let them know that the next job was only $5.

Within a few weeks, I would have enough money to begin traveling to nearby communities, offering assistance to other small business owners. Within a few months, I would be able to reach thousands of people, both in person and online, to help them grow their own small businesses.

What do you bet I couldn’t actually make a real difference in peoples’ lives, helping them earn a living to travel to cities they’ve never seen or put their child through school?

Lucky for me, I am able to do these things already in the world I live in today.

11. Seek Out Influencers for a Joint Venture

David Long |

david longIf I was put in that position, I would definitely contact “Sneezers” (influencers) in a particular market I was after, and try to get either an endorsement deal or create a joint venture between us.

That way I would gain access to the prospects I need to reach to create sales and build my business.

12. Pitch a Done-For-You Service Based on a How-To Article

Anton Kimfors

anton kimforsI’d go with the Bryan Harris route:

Search for a “how to” article, learn the tactic, and write to somebody who has shared that article online.

Tell them that you also have read the post and offer to do what the article is about.

Cash in about $1000 and then start a blog about how I did $1000 in 2-3 days, and keep writing about your life in business.

Next, write an exact guide in ebook format about making $1000 in 2-3 days and start collecting emails with it.

Finally, I’d spend $10 on some nice ebook and take a moment off for reading.

1. Affiliate Marketing

Abel Monroe

I would get into affiliate marketing. I would go to a site like OfferVault and identify a keyword that I believe I could rank for — and one that would yield me a return on investment, one that could offer me a decent 3 or 4 figure passive income on a month to month basis.

With $500, I think this avenue, given the passive income it can generate, would be worth the risks involved.

I know HTML and CSS and basics of how SEO works — ie, backlinks from high authority, niche-relevant domains improve a money site’s rankings.

Your Turn

How would YOU answer the “$500 question”?

Leave your response below to help build on these great suggestions and help inspire other side hustlers and aspiring entrepreneurs. I’d love to see us get an awesome thread going here, so fire away!

What would you do?

If you’d like to learn more about starting a side hustle, I think you’ll get a ton of value from my Start My Side Hustle Workbook.

It’s normally $49 but I thought I’d test offering it for just $19 for a limited time.

Not ready to buy yet? Make sure to fill in your name and email below. I’ll send you my free report, The 5 Fastest Ways to Make More Money, along with some of my best side hustle tips.

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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.

33 thoughts on “How to Start a Business in 7 Days: 13 Real Ideas from Side Hustle Nation”

  1. I would basically do what i’m already doing. Since I already have a good understanding of SEO, I would create a website for my SEO business. I would then drop ads on Craigslist, Facebook Ads, and I would hustle locally in order to get deals. About $200 would go into the advertisement, the other $300 would go into fullfillment. Since I wouldn’t have the money to invest in a Private Blog Network, I would have to focus on getting links from paying blogs around the web and setting up guest post opportunities. I think by the end of the month I could be bringing at least $1500/mo. Then it’s rinse and repeat from there.

  2. My business is web design, I have been doing this for the past 13 years, so my money would be probably spent for advertising, since I already have everything I need: reseller account, namecheap account, a portfolio site, a lot of design work under my ‘belt’ etc. I would probably use the money to promote as much as possible, even if I can still get quite some work from my blogs and providing useful replies in specialized forums.

    • Hi Ramona, what is your web design business? Do you have a website you can share? It sounds like you have a good set up. I’m learning a lot about many topics that are new to me–it seems intuitive that you need to expand your knowledge of many topics, including web design, when you are trying to start your own business without a large bankroll to work from.

  3. Those are some complicated-sounding answers! I’d just take stock of what my skills were and go find some people that needed my help. Contact them directly. Do it for free on a trial basis if I had no way to prove to them that I had something valuable to offer them. Get up to a survival income first and then expand from there.

  4. I still don’t have an answer for this question Nick ! I saw your e-mail and I listen to EOFire regularly but I was really at a loss answering the question myself.

    Nevertheless, this is me thinking on my feet – I would rest on day 1. On day 2, I would create a meetup group on and get some ladies together in my city and find out what they are struggling with when it comes to building an online presence for their biz. I would then take that knowledge and create a service to sell to these ladies.

    FB ads would be one major way I would use to get the word out about my service.

    Does that sound silly ? LOL. Oh well.

  5. I finally remembered to read this last night. It really kicked my ass in gear. I’ve been trying to start working as a freelance copywriter as a side hustle, but have no idea where to start and how to get my first client.

    I’ve used some of these answers as inspiration for my own 7 day plan which I want to start as soon as my ebook is launched at the start of June (cheeky plug – Here it is below. If anyone has any suggestions then let me know!

    Day 1

    * List all the tasks that a copywriter might be asked to do in a spreadsheet
    * Organise this list by most to least confident in my own ability to do these for a client
    * Isolate top ten tasks I would be confident I can provide and write some samples to test this and practice

    Day 2

    * Research and list all businesses I know of in my town in a spreadsheet (internet search and pounding the pavements)
    * Research which businesses would need any of the services in my top ten

    Day 3

    * Pick at least one task for each business and complete it as if it was a real job – this is just a full day of writing

    Days 4-5

    * Introduce myself to the person at each business who would be responsible for contracting me for real
    * Give them the work I have done for free, give them my details and ask them to contact me if they would like to employ me as a freelancer in the future
    * Record who I have spoken to and how this was received to allow me to follow up in the future

    Days 6-7

    * Fend off all the new clients I have magically received work from, or repeat the steps from days 4-5

  6. Funny. I was just figuring this out before reading the post. I make and sell wire jewelry. I am also an autistic activist [I am the coordinator for AutHaven, a retreat by and for autistic people, held in Colorado] I have been looking for a new thing with my jewelry that will go well with my activism. I have no idea why I did not think of it before. Precious metal clay. I am going to make pendants for my necklaces with pro autistic messages on them. I actually have to wait about 9 days for my ultra lite mini kiln, 5 days for my precious metal clay, stampers, and other materials. The necklace, other than the pendant, will be pretty much the same as I generally use for the majority of my necklaces. I made a couple of dozen in the past 28 hours [there is this thing called autistic perserveration, can’t eat, can’t sleep,feel compulsed [happily compulsed] to DO. For some months I have been working on a new representative symbol for autistics and will be incorporating that. {NOT A PUZZLE PIECE!} Today I spoke with a few places excited to see my new work idea. My idea for the necklaces with pendants can make statement messages for any group. Monday, I will bw getting in touch with organizations that are commited to helping autistic people to be independent. By the end of the week I hope to have my first partners, and then? You know, just build our empire!

  7. Since I’m trying to get out of services completely, I’d focus on courses (just getting into that now). My plan is to break the course into a series of ebooks that are free/cheap, then give people a big discount if they buy and review all the ebooks. Courses have to be on something a lot of people want, but each ebook would be very specific, keyword rich benefits towards achieving that goal. On the course page, they can get the super cheap/free version (after they’ve bought all the books) or upgrade for a more expensive version where they get more help and personal feedback ($297/$497/997). On my site I’d also post all the articles, videos, and give away huge value bombs like infographics and blueprints for each stage in the process. Then I’d start networking with the influencers in my field by guest posting on their blogs, and posting “expert roundup” posts with their pieces of advice on the topic. This will also boost traffic. On my site I’d start with a “sign up for the free email series” where I’d give a lot of the content away for free, each email links to a video on my site where I give away the real benefits. The email series will give value and then sell the course at the end. I could set all of this up in a week, the automation would start going, building the email list, and I could presell the course if I haven’t finished it yet.

    Alternatively (something else I’m working on) I’d publish dark fantasy romance books, because there are a bunch of self-published books with crappy covers that are making $10K / month per book. You can’t really write one in a week, but I could easily write 5 to 10,000 words (first three chapters) put an amazing cover on it and set it for sale. If it starts making money and gets good reviews, I can continue the series.

  8. Some great ideas here, Nick and all who contributed, thanks for yet another GREAT “Roundup” post.

    It’s time for everyone (me too for sure) to get off the cushion and start DOING. Especially for old guys like me who tend to grow fat and lazy living off a pension. Pensions (just like regular, good paying jobs) are on their way out … perhaps sooner rather than later.

    Don’t get stuck having life left over at the end ofm your income ….

  9. I thought there were some great answers here, but one thing I did not see here in the discussion of starting a business with $500 in seven (7) days was the actual legal setup of the business. After all, a business is a legal entity and asset as well as an idea, and to have that asset legally established as an entity opens the door to potentially millions of dollars in business opportunities through registering that business entity with corporations and agencies offering business services and products opportunities. You can setup/register a corporation for less than $500.00. And the other thing is that I would try to register for as many free services and resources I can leverage as possible that would help me run, grow and promote the business, draw and build up my client base. There are hundreds of these kinds of resource, everything from web hosting to free promotional tools. Many websites assemble and offer whole directories of potential clients and sources of funding absolutely free. Finally, a site like Craigslist allows you to advertise your product or service absolutely free, while at the same time offering hundreds of potential clients in multiple cities for any service or product you want to offer or promote. Just some thoughts and ideas I thought I would offer.

  10. Everybody loves their dogs but hates cleaning up after them. Do the AirBnB with the house, buy a bike, a pull behind trailer, a bucket and a pooper scooper and start cleaning yards. Advertise on Facebook. Amazing what people will pay for good clean service, especially if you can hone in on affluent neighborhoods.

  11. This post and comments are a gold mine! I’m in the process of helping my wife get our family side-hustle going, and the references to key techs (Sucuri! Woocommerce!) were worth the price of admission. Amazing group of people in this community, Nick!

  12. Interesting comment from Shane in his response:

    ‘7 days and $500 is too limited to get any sort of traffic/marketing/SEO exposure at all.’

    I disagree with this, you can get instant traffic with the likes of SEM e.g. adwords/ Bing ads. Add on top of that a compelling CPA offer and you have traffic+revenue almost immediately. Not only that, set up a new account with adwords/Bing and you’ll likely find a sign up offer for $100 credit.

  13. I love this article because it dives into tactical steps (such as what platforms and plug-ins to use) and touches on the big picture (such as adding value, building an audience, and that relationships and authenticity matters). I would take similar steps as above on setting up a website so that I could begin to create content in my niche. I would carefully spend the remaining money on some hand picked experts on so I could get some quick answers on some very specific questions on how this new world works.

  14. I’d start out by building a Shopify e-commerce store in a niche that I’ve properly researched (it’s free for the first 14 days)
    Then get a domain name from GoDaddy or Shopify for about $10-$15
    When I’m done I’d find an influencer that will agree to promote the website on their page and I’d get sales from that which costs about $20-$50 dollars. I’d rinse and repeat with another influencer in the same niche
    Total spent so far: $65
    Total amount left: $435

    Day 2: I’ll go on the equivalent of Craiglist and flip something maybe a car or something else for big profits adding an additional $300-$1000 to my pockets
    And then I’d repeat the same process over and over again

  15. I loved Patrick McCoy’s answer with the warm gesture of coffee and donuts to local businesses and I completely agree with his quote:

    “I firmly believe in the law of reciprocity.”

    This gave me an idea to help get my product off the ground locally. I just need to hustle now!

  16. I would buy 3 years of hosting from companies like Bluehost (~$110) and setup my WordPress website. I’ll be okay with a free theme and minimal design.Then, I’ll put the $390 in a savings account. Then I’ll reach out to publications that need freelance writers. At the same time, I’ll check if I’ll look if I can offer Pinterest management services. This would help me get “started up”. Gradually, I’ll look into adding blog posts to my website to increase my reach and monetize it with affiliate links.

  17. I would open a brokerage account and split my $500 in 2 parts. $375 for weekly dividend capture in stock-only super dividend ETFs. There are few such that don’t also hold REITS, which carry more risk. I might also consider covered call writing ETFs, but always with monthly payout. The remaining $125 I would use to day trade one slightly out of the money call option – end of week or more likely the following week – of a blue chip stock with relatively low volatility – a household name. On most days there is an up and down phase. Absent news there is a morning climax and a counter-move in the afternoon. I would monitor the price action on real time charts with 3 minute time frames, and buy the extreme low of the day and sell on the bounce. Rarely – rarely – hold overnight because this is part of risk management.


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