Turning your side hustle into a full-time business often seems like a dream rather than reality. Ultimately, it takes a combination of luck, strategy and motivation to succeed.
The average American works for dozens of years before retiring. What if you could take your future into your own hands? Self-employment is not for everyone, but with the right strategy, your side hustle can replace your 9 to 5 as your primary source of income.
Below are five tips to help tap into your entrepreneurial side and turn your side hustle into a full-time business.
1. Plan as much as possible before quitting your 9 to 5 job
Assuming you already have a side hustle generating income, it’s important to use the next few months to get your plans on track. Plan to work double time to ensure your success when you take the leap.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind before putting in that two weeks notice:
- Set a budget, and determine where you can trim the fat. The first few months of self-employment can be hard, and you don’t want to go into debt over the things you don’t absolutely need. Popular budgeting tool Mint can help you identify where you’re spending discretionary funds to help you determine where you could be saving.
- Save your money. While you wait for money to come in from your side hustle, it’s important to have an emergency fund stashed away. While this is ideally six months of living expenses (which you hopefully took the time to calculate in the previous step), even three months provides a nice cushion.
- Research benefits options. Here’s the kicker. When you leave your 9 to 5 for self-employment, you’ll lose out on company-sponsored benefits that you’ve probably taken for granted until now. Freelancer’s Union is a great place to start for group medical insurance and dental. If you’re married, your partner’s benefits may be accessible to you. Just don’t wait to figure these things out until the last minute!
- Get real about what to charge clients. A good place to start? Hubspot’s Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator. Don’t forget that paid vacation and sick days are a thing of the past. And don’t undersell yourself! You’ll end up paying for it in extra work to close the gap. Your rate will change as time goes on, but give yourself a solid foundation.
- Start finding clients now. On the down-low, start letting trusted members of your network know that you’re about to turn your side hustle into a full fledged business. Referrals can be the best clients, and it’s a lot less stressful to quit your 9 to 5 when you have some jobs lined up on the other side.
2. Give yourself a deadline to quit your 9 to 5 job
Many aspiring entrepreneurs put off the task of quitting their 9 to 5 job… forever.
Time is a self-employed person’s most precious asset. When transitioning from a main gig to being completely self-employed, your work will take over your life.
Just make sure that all this work isn’t for nothing. The extra work you’re putting in now is to ensure your success when you become completely self-employed. So do yourself a favor. Give yourself a deadline to quit your 9 to 5, and stick to it. Make sure that it’s enough time to do all the things mentioned above, but don’t give yourself enough time to psyche yourself out and change your mind!
3. Find a separation between your business and your life to avoid burnout
It’s tempting to get excited and work yourself to death when you’re first starting out. Knowing that the amount of money you make is ultimately up to you can be both a motivating factor, and the scariest thing in the world.
Here are some practical tips for avoiding burnout when you’re your own boss:
- Set a schedule and stick to it. Block out time for things like calls, client work, etc. Don’t forget to also schedule in personal activities like going to the gym, reading a book or other activities you enjoy. If it makes it into your schedule, you’re more likely to treat it like an important “to do” item.
- Take frequent breaks. The Pomodoro Method involves using 25 minutes to complete a task, then five minutes to take a break.
- Shut down at night. It can be tempting to be tied to your phone to check up on business after typical work hours. In order to avoid burnout, establish some separation. If you work best at night, give yourself a break in the morning. If you must respond to an email, schedule it for later through a program like Boomerang so that it gets sent out during normal business hours. You don’t want to set a precedent that you’re available at all hours, otherwise clients will take advantage of your precious time.
4. Set SMART goals, and hold yourself accountable to them
Just as with setting a deadline to quit your job, it’s important to also apply goal setting tactics to keep your business on track.
Goals can be your highest aspirations, like making a certain amount of money each month, or they can be several smaller goals that make up milestones on the way to larger goals. In any case, goals should always be “SMART,” which is an acronym for:
An example of a goal that is not “SMART” might be: “I will make $100,000.”
The “SMART” version of this goal might read something more like, “In 2017, I will make $100,000 by December 31st, after first having a $2500+, $5000+, and $7500+ month.”
After all, a $100,000 side hustle income doesn’t just come from nowhere, it must be built up over time. By having smaller versions of your major goals in place, you’ll be able to stay motivated and find things to celebrate on your way to success.
Make sure to document your goals in a place that you’ll see often. Post-It notes on a bathroom mirror is an easy and in-your-face way to always stay reminded of what you want to accomplish.
5. Scale with a plan
It’s exciting to take your side hustle to new levels, but don’t focus on growth until you’ve built yourself a solid foundation to stand on.
Part of scaling your business involves determining what tools and processes can help you be as efficient as possible. The following software offerings are great tools:
- Quickbooks: This invoicing software charges a monthly fee and processing fee if clients pay with a credit card.
- Evernote: Very searchable note taking app for keeping track of projects and client notes. Primary functionality can be accessed with the free version.
- Todoist: Task management app that can be used to collaborate with team members. Primary functionality can be accessed with the free version.
- Google Docs: Free document management over the cloud so you can always access important files, no matter where you are, and collaborate in real time with team members and clients.
- Hubspot Sales CRM: This free CRM (with paid upgrades) will help you keep track of clients, conversations and deals, so that you can stay on top of the all-important follow up.
- Buffer: Whether you’re managing a client’s social media, or working on personal branding of your own, Buffer offers free and paid options that make it easy to constantly keep your network updated (without having to spend a lot of time on planning).
When deciding between different software tools to scale your business, proceed with caution. Careful strategy surrounding growth can lead to great results. Just as with your first few months of self-employment, try to keep expenses at a minimum.
Turning your side hustle into a full-time business is possible with the previously mentioned steps. What are your best tips for turning your side hustle into a business? We’d love to hear from those who’ve been successful in the comments section below.