I took the not-so-conventional route to growing my side hustle into a business, and now my major source of income. Or maybe it is actually a more conventional route. I started freelancing as soon as I knew I could do design. I had originally gotten into graphic design because I wanted to one day own my own business and have the flexibility that that brings – so I went into this experience eyes wide open knowing that running my own business was in my future. The vision with the side hustle was to start small and work my way up. Get a book of clients together, enough to cover my salary, and then when I got there, quit the corporate job and go legit. And I guess it kind of worked out like that – but there are some things I did well, and others I didn’t do so well that have taught me a few things about the change from nights-and-weekends side hustle to all-encompassing small business.
Start small, but make a start
Get your side hustle going, whatever that looks like for you. Start an Instagram and talk about what you’re doing, or start trading your services with your mates and go from there. Be serious about it as future business, register yourself for an ABN, speak to a financial advisor about how to work this into your tax and create a brand. However you choose to start is completely fine, but make a start and do it intentionally.
Build it up slowly
No-one is going to go out and tell you to quit your day job and make candles full time. And if they do I think that’s really crappy advice. Yes, if you’re loving your side hustle more than your job and you KNOW that’s what you want to do full-time, then have that as a goal. But that takes time of the side hustle being just that – so don’t just go and pack everything in so soon. Work out whether the business model is sustainable, work out whether it’s truly something you can do for a career and not get sick of it, work out how you are going to cover your monthly expenses. Get your ducks in a row. Use the time while the side hustle is that to work out kinks – are you any good at chasing invoices? No? Me either. Better work on that, or get someone on your team to help you. Know how to go out and hunt for new work? Know where your clients are? Know what your tax bill is going to look like this year? Probably not. Take your time and learn the hard parts of business while you have a fall-back position.
Take the plunge
This is the bit where I struggled. The tipping point from side hustle to business looks different for everyone. It might naturally grow into a business that is making you enough money and bringing you enough joy to sustain you – but the pressure to get to that point is undoubtedly going to be immense. Sometimes, you are really going to need a push – whether it’s losing your job or quitting your job in a fit of rage or a moving to a completely new state. While initially, it is the scariest thing in the world, the worst that can happen is that you fail and you have to go back to your other job. Sometimes the fear is actually the best motivator in the world, it means you HAVE to make your choice and CHOOSE to make this project, service, idea succeed – and that means that you absolutely WILL give it your all. If it fails and you have to go back to your “regular” corporate job – you can also always do that. Corporations aren’t going anywhere.
Be Smart about Money
Money is tricky for that transition period between side hustle and business. Set aside money for tax, or it will come back and bite you. Hard. Make sure that when you take the plunge, you have a buffer of some kind of money to get you through the first month. If you need that financial security blanket (like me), choose a part-time gig or ongoing contract to give you some of that stability while you work on the rest of the books and develop a strong customer base. The money will undoubtedly be the hardest part of your transition from side hustle to business, but it is the one area where you can absolutely reap rewards if you do it right.
It comes down to who you want to be, what you envision is your best self. For me, when I was making the decision to turn my freelancing gig into a full-time business, I was petrified. I had a mortgage and a partner and a love of coffee that bordered on the sociopathic. What if I couldn’t have all these things anymore? So I sat down and wrote out what I wanted my future to look like and looked at all the women I admired and why. Turns out they all had one thing in common – they all ran their own business, and that was in my future-self list. And so, to be my best future self, no matter how scary the step was to take, it was one I absolutely had to do. And it turns out it was the absolute best decision I could have made.