In today’s side hustle I am extremely happy to introduce you to a close friend of mine who, for the last few years, has been turning his passion for art into a fantastic little side hustle.
A hustle which has been keeping him busy and earning him a well deserved and respected reputation, as well as extra money each month.
His name is Russell ‘Rigourous One’ Gardener, AKA ‘The Customiser’. He specialises in customising baseball caps and trainers with his own funky style of art.
Over to you Russ…
[Andi] Hi Russ, thank you for taking the time out to answer these questions, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I love to doodle. It’s an absolute passion of mine. I grew up when the breakdancing scene was fresh. My signature move was the hand spin. I got into graffiti and the hip hop scene of the day. BMX and skateboarding was also never far away except I spent more time eating dirt than looking skillful.
[Andi] I remember those days well Russ, I recall you and I had many doodle graffiti battles in an abandoned factory. 🙂
How did you get started painting shoes and caps?
I actually saw a pair of shoes that a tattoo artist friend had drawn a Star Wars theme on. I decided to get some fabric paints and give it a whirl. It felt quite natural to paint on canvas shoes and I just painted random images to start with. The reason I started to paint caps is the fact that I wear them and I couldn’t find anything I liked in the shops.
[Andi] So failing to find a cap to buy for yourself, forced you to paint your own, so what made the move from painting caps and shoes for yourself to painting them for other people for money?
I posted my random shoes on my personal Facebook site, people almost instantly asked if I could paint them some and for how much. Following this, I set up a Facebook page – Rigorous One – and the demand became huge.
[Andi] So your desire to get caps and shoes for yourself meant that you accidentally spotted a gap in the market, one that you could fill.
Do you sell a lot off the peg or would you say that most of your sales comes from commissions?
I have painted a few designs that I have replicated because people had seen them and wanted some themselves. Commissions are a big part for selling shoes. My caps are pretty much designs I love to do and they sell well when people can see them in the flesh, they appreciate the finish and the exclusiveness of a one off hand painted cap.
[Andi] I know that you have a full time job – one which is both physically and mentally exhausting – a young family, plus you like to hit the gym and workout, so when do you do get to work on your shoes and caps and how long do you spend on your business?
Painting caps and shoes can be very time consuming. I try to paint for no longer than 5 hours but occasionally they can take even longer. Doing conventions such as, tattoo or comic cons is a great way of getting your work out there. I had the opportunity to do a festival but I didn’t have the stock and no way to make enough items in the time scale.
[Andi] With the demands of having a young family and working exhausting shifts – many through the night and early mornings, how do you manage your time effectively?
The simple answer is that I’m always thinking of new designs. My brain never stops. Once the idea hits, for example. The Krays – Terrible Two’s. I have to draw it and paint it the second I have a spare minute.
[Andi] If you don’t mind me asking, what was your best month or year?
November 2013. I couldn’t keep up with the amount of orders I was getting. Sadly I had to reimburse a lot of customers who had paid up front with huge apologies to follow.
It was a lesson learnt. In that year I made around £10K from my caps and shoes. Would have made a whole heap more if I could have kept up with orders lol
[Andi] Wow, that’s £10k from your side hustle while working a full time job? That’s fantastic going Russ.
Further Reading: Get your own side hustle going and Brexit Proof Your Rent & Mortgage Repayments. 5 Ways To Generate An Extra £600 Or More Each Month
[Andi] I know things have slowed down recently as you want to spend more time with your family, and rightly so. So how much would you say your side hustle earns today?
I have a few items in a tattoo shop. Anyone who has the skills to do this and the time to put in can make a very nice monthly salary. Currently I am making on average £500 a month. My full time job and it’s forever changing shifts is playing havoc with my spare time.
(£500 a month will help cover the mortgage repayments or could be used as vital overpayments which could save a person thousands of pounds on interest payments… How To Pay Off Your Mortgage Early & Why You Should Do It ASAP.)
[Andi] Yeah, I hear you. I used to work as a shopfitter, working through the night fitting out supermarkets. Changing shifts makes it hard to plan time properly, and even if you can, shift working can leave you tired when you need to be awake and wide awake when trying to sleep. It’s a pain.
So what’s next? What are your plans for the future? Any plans to grow this side hustle into your main source of income and turn it into a full time business?
I’m currently doing an illustration degree. I’m always looking for the next adventure and excuse to draw and paint. I have a few ideas…
Final Thoughts & Wrap Up
I would like to say a huge thank you to Russ for taking the time out to share his story and pics of his incredible art and products. I love them. There really are too many to share.
The most important thing I think this interview highlights is that, if you use whatever spare time you have on a side hustle, doing something positive and using the time wisely, you will be rewarded.
Not only financially, but also emotionally.
Russell enjoys what he does, he is growing a great reputation as an artist and he is earning money doing it.
This is something that anyone can do… all they need to do, is decide to do it, decide on what they want to do and take action.
I wish Russ all the best with his illustration degree, I personally know he will smash it as I have been following his work for a while now. I have known Russ for many years and I know that art is his passion.
To see more of Russell’s fantastic work or order your own custom painted baseball cap or shoes please visit his Facebook Page here at Rigorous One.
You can also follow Russell on Instagram here : @rigorous_one
If you want to learn how to make money, save money and generally manage your money better as well as join a growing community of fellow Smashers with the opportunity to enter competitions and challenges with prizes then join the SmarterCash forum here: (Coming Soon)