Finding an extra source of income typically revolves around getting a better-paying job. This is an easy answer that is typically difficult to make happen. For many people who are stuck with limited incomes, making extra money can be achieved through different – legitimate – ways, however. It only takes creativity and the ability to think outside the box to know what skills and capabilities you have that can be turned into activities that pay.

To do so, you must start with a realistic look at your skills (beyond your profession) as well as the amount of time you’ve available for an extra activity. With these two points, you will be able to define how big or small your project can be. If you have more than one idea, it may be wise to select an activity that fits within your time limitations. Here are a few steps that can help you make extra money within a short period.

Define your passion

Other than your job, what are you good at? Your passion can be anything from cooking to playing a sport or even writing on a particular topic. Everyone has an edge in something that, with a little bit of thinking, can be packaged into a product for money. Once you know what you’re good at, think of what can be added to your product to make it attractive. Take, for example, cooking. Do you excel in a particular cuisine? Can you polish your knowledge to the extent that you teach a cooking a class or write a book about it? If this is too complicated, have you considered blogging?

Set a plan

You don’t have to come up with a full-fledged business plan to know how you’ll make money out of your selected activity. But still you need to make sure that you know how to turn your activity from a hobby into a source of income. This will take a clear definition of your product, its selling point and method and your target customers. For example, are you good at crafts? Think of making personalised gifts, develop a website to sell them, and place some ads in local websites to make sure that people get to know your activity. Today’s social media presence can give a good starting point for exposure, but still you will need to have a clear idea of how you will market your product aside from your immediate contacts. This is a simple plan that doesn’t require fixed hours – like a part-time job – and it is very low cost.

Turn it into money

Now that you’ve your plan in place, your next step is to meet your own goals. If you’re selling a product, make sure that your meet customers’ expectations. If you’re developing a website or a blog, put enough time to develop it appropriately and consistently. If you’re looking for local groups to join hands with in providing training, exercise or any other service, make sure that you commit only to what you can do and you do it as good as you can. With that, you will be able to develop quickly into a valuable resource and get paid accordingly. It is important to always check the local labour and tax laws to make sure that your activity doesn’t require a licence and it is not taxable.

Manage your budget

Just as you started with a plan for your costs and desired income, it is important to review this plan once money starts to flow. Your goal is to make sure that your revenue makes you profitable. To do so, you need to account for all expenses (including material, marketing, transportation, etc). It shouldn’t be a concern if you’re just breaking even in the first few months, but try to make sure that you’re headed to profits.

Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is currently a Seattle-based editor.