Turning my side hustle into my main hustle was a decision that just made sense for me. In the following paragraphs, I will share what drove me to my decision to work for myself and what actions I took to establish my business as my full-time job.
From Side Hustle to Main Hustle
For years, I had been working my business as a side hustle while working a full-time corporate job. The problem was I was becoming busier and busier in my corporate role and spending less and less time with my family or on what I wanted to do.
My job was becoming my life. Here is an example of what I mean. I once went on a family vacation with my husband and daughter and while walking through the zoo with them, I had to step away for a 30-minute work call. In the mornings before they would wake, I would work. And, on the drive to and from vacation, I worked in the car. I was always working. Daily, my toddler would cry and say, “Mommy, no work!”
After my vacation, I was told that a particular higher-up wasn’t happy with my performance while I was on vacation. Really, I didn’t work enough while on vacation? SMH. I was crushed. I felt like I was constantly making choices to sacrifice my family for my work out of fear of disappointing management and being perceived as a slacker.
Now, I don’t blame the company for any of this, I blame myself. I am the one who continually made the choice to put my job before my family. It was me who made the choice to show up to work instead of going to the oncologist with my mom. I am the one who chose to miss out on family events to try and look good at work until one day I didn’t.
The day arrived when I had found that I had just had enough of not choosing my family. The day had come when I realized I was tired of being unfulfilled both professionally and personally. When nothing you do is good enough at work, you’ll never find joy in what you do even when you love the work.
So, I resigned.
My plan was to take a year off to spend time with our daughter before she started school but anyone who knows me knows that I thrive on achievement and projects so that didn’t go exactly as planned. Instead, I started some personal projects, like building my website and building my online course, The Instructional Design Lab. I started putting myself out there to work with clients, and before I knew it, I had as many clients as I WANTED to handle given the number of hours I wanted to work each week.
Notice I said, “given the number of hours I wanted to work each week.” As a consultant and freelance instructional designer, how much I work is now completely within my control. I have the power to balance my work and family life as well as dedicate time to my health. And, I do keep things balanced! I still get up early to work but I don’t work weekends and nights. And, I put family and health first.
While this path is NOT for everyone, it is definitely for me RIGHT NOW.
So, how did I transition my side hustle into my main hustle and attract enough clients to pay myself a salary?
Before making the decision to go full-time, you need to consider expenses and tradeoffs. First, if you are giving up a salary from a job, you won’t have that and you won’t have the benefits that came with the job. I recommend having at least 6 months of savings in the bank or a spouse/partner who can support you while you ramp up your work to ensure that you are not hurting your life financially. It’s one thing to live smaller while starting out and a whole different thing to go broke and to miss out on benefits like insurance.
Avoid putting yourself and your family in a bind.
How Much Do You Need to Make?
It’s time to apply the math you learned in school. You need to figure out how much you need to make before your turn your side hustle into your main hustle.
Some things to consider:
- What will your hourly rate be?
- How many hours do you need to work to reach your income goals? Remember, not all hours are billable. I typically have one full day each week that is not billable.
- You also need to keep in mind that your work will ebb and flow throughout the year, so your income is not always stable.
- How much time will you need to take off during the year for things like vacation, check-ups, or other things?
- What are your business expenses? You might think you don’t have any, but you most likely do. How much does it cost for your email account, your website, your software programs, your tools, etc.?
- These are all business expenses that should be factored into your breakeven point. Yes, you should figure that out! I know exactly how much I need to make each week to stay in profit mode.
What Products and/or Services Will You Sell?
I sell both services and a product. I offer my services as a consultant and freelancer to businesses, and I sell a product, The Instructional Design Lab, as a learningprenuer.
When deciding what you have to offer, it can be hard to use an objective lens to determine whether or not you have something to sell that would interest others. The one sure fire way to find out is to test the waters.
If you’re already in business with a side hustle, you probably already have some ideas on this. If not, starting a side hustle is a great way to put yourself out there to test the interest of your target market while maintaining your safety net (i.e. your job).
Treat Your Business Like a Business
I have worked for a couple of different network marketing and direct sales companies, and let me tell you, they are so good at selling the dream of entrepreneurship. And, the network marketing builders are so generous in sharing what they believe are the key principles of building a successful business.
One of the principles that has stuck with me over the years is to Treat Your Business Like a Business, Not a Hobby. If you treat your business like a hobby, you will earn a hobby income.
How do you treat your business like a business? Every business is different so how you do it may be different from how I do it. Note, that I am not a lawyer, and I do not offer any legal advice only personal opinions and recommendations. In fact, I do recommend you use a legal service for advice and assistance with setting up your business.
Here are some things that have worked for me.
I have an accountant and a full accounting, payroll, and tax compliance provider, whom I work with to help me keep my business in order. They stay on top of my expenses, bank reconciliation, taxes, and pay my salary.
The tool I use to manage all of this is Quickbooks in the cloud. With Quickbooks, you can manage sales and expenses, generate invoices to customers and establish payment terms as well as pay bills, create reports, tax filing and more, all for a nominal monthly fee.
Quickbooks also enables my customers to pay my invoices with one click directly from the invoice itself, or through any other method of payment, and the payment is reconciled directly in Quickbooks since my bank statements are also fully integrated. It is really easy to use and surprisingly cheap!
I mentioned both hourly rate and invoice terms earlier. These are things you may want to think about as you prepare to work with clients. These both factor into how you pay yourself.
- Will you pay yourself a salary or will pay yourself by project?
- Will you bill hourly or by the project? To bill by project, you will need to know how you work and what your velocity is. Velocity is speed. Before accepting a flat fee project, I recommend you know how long it takes you to do different activities. The best way to know this information is to document your work. Even when working on flat fee projects, I use a time tracker to track my activities by the minute. If you don’t have any projects to use as a guide, here is an article from ATD by Robyn Defelice that lays out how long it takes to develop a one hour training.
- Speaking of time, some consultants track their time in 15-minute increments, always rounding to the nearest 15-minute increment. Personally, I track exactly what I work. I have an excel spreadsheet where I enter my start and stop times, breaks, and the hourly rate to calculate the charge to my client.
If you want to be seen as a professional business person, you should look the part with the rights tools and image. You can do that with a sleek, professional, working website. That means using quality images, proofing your content, and testing links regularly to make sure they work. I also recommend setting up a business entity that works for you. As you see on my website, my business is set up as an LLC. I am operating a legit business, which lends to my credibility and enhances my professional image.
What about your email address? Are you using a plain gmail account or is it customized, such as @yourbusinessname.com? What do your social sites say about you? Are they set up to be personal or professional? If you are using your social sites to market your business, I recommend keeping your personal activities separate from your business activities. Not everyone does this. Some people marry the two together very well.
When will you work? What’s your starting and quitting time? Whatever schedule you set, honor your schedule. Let your family members know that you are working during the hours you set. These hours are not for laundry, cleaning, running errands, or long lunches. These are your business hours and should be used as such, unless your business is a hobby.
In a future blog post, I will dedicate a full post on marketing your freelance instructional design business so I will only briefly cover how marketing influenced my transition from my side hustle to my main hustle now.
In network marketing and direct selling, there is a key principle that says you should do 2-5 exposures every day. Two if you are part-time and 5 if you are full-time. And, I believe this applies to soloprenuers too.
An exposure is marketing. It is exposing people to your business. I market, or expose others to, my business every day of the week via my website, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I also blog.
Doing these things gets my business name out for people to see. It’s not about pushing services or my product as much as it is about creating awareness. I also participate in group discussion threads to engage with others. These are a handful of the marketing strategies I used to transition my side hustle to my full-time hustle.
Right now, today, if you asked me what my goals were for 2019. I could tell you. If you asked me what my goals are for Q1, I could tell you. In fact, I could open a PPT document and show you exactly what I have planned for the year.
No one sees this except me. So, why did I go through all of the trouble of planning out my year and my quarter and putting it into a nice presentation? Because I NEED TO SEE IT regularly. I need to know what I am working towards and how I am measuring up against my planned achievements.
Having something to work towards is motivating. It pushes me to do things that I may not want to do and when I may not have the motivation to do it.
Use goals like a light post to guide you through the darkness and uncertainty. Even if you miss your mark, you will find yourself closer to your target than if you had done nothing.
INVEST IN YOU!
How does this fit into my transition from my side hustle to my main hustle? Well, it fits like a glove. I quickly learned that I did not need to figure this all out on my own.
There are soloprenuers and entrepreneurs out there who are giving away free content as a carrot to get you to buy their full products. The great thing about their free content is that it often gives you just enough information to put you on the right path.
You don’t need perfect knowledge or to know everything when you are just getting started. You just need enough information to get moving and get yourself to that next milestone. When you get there, level up your knowledge and skills a little more and stretch again to the next milestone.
In addition to free courses, I did pay for one online course, and I purchased some books. I even watched some YouTube videos and joined some Facebook groups and Reddit discussions. We live in the day of information and there is a lot of great content accessible for little to no cost. I recommend learning a little, doing a little, learning a little more and doing more.
Got questions or comments?
My free Facebook page is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation.