Side hustle has become a bit of a buzzword in the past few years, but for those not in the know, in essence, it’s a business you build “on the side” while you continue to hold down a job.
Launching a side hustle can be a great way of indulging your passion and realising your dream of starting your own business without the risk of ditching the monthly paycheck.
After all, the fear of failure is one of the most oft-quoted reasons people choose not to follow their dreams of starting their own business – even if it’s their passion to do so or they have a killer idea.
Full-time job, side hustle, new business
In a sense, I was lucky to have the best of both worlds when I started my own business back in September 2018. Although Plan B Marketing was never actually a side hustle as such, I was laying the foundations for it way before I left the security of the 9-5.
For the previous 18 months I had been building up a marketing department with a solid client base as part of my full-time job as one of the directors of a local newspaper.
But when the decision was made that the marketing arm was no longer part of the business’s future plans, I saw an opportunity to take voluntary redundancy and continue what I had already started to create my own marketing business.
In effect, I hit the self-employed road running as my full-time job had been like a side hustle I could now grow as my own business. I had the benefit of guaranteed income from existing clients and the added bonus of a redundancy package to cushion those first few months.
And that is one of the great things about a side hustle. If you do it right, you don’t have to face the stomach-churning fear of how you are going to pay the mortgage while you get yourself established.
Here’s what you need to know about starting a side-hustle:
Side hustle Rule #1
You need to be committed.
No one said building a side hustle was the easy way to start a business.
Just like any business, a side hustle requires time and effort to get off the ground. If you are going to build a business “on the side” you are going to have to work out where you will find the time to make it a reality.
If you are working 9-5 Monday to Friday this is going to mean giving up your evenings or weekends to make the dream come true.
Are you prepared to ditch the Netflix box sets in favour of getting this side hustle off the ground? It’s also likely there will be less time to spend with family and friends. Are they prepared to support you?
No one said building a side hustle was going to be easy. You need to be committed.
Don’t fall foul of your current employer and contract
Only you can make this decision, but in my experience it’s best to be as open and honest with your employer as possible about your plans for a side hustle.
I once tried to start a side hustle without my colleagues knowing and, suffice it to say, it didn’t end well.
I kept my job but there was quite a bit of ill-feeling and distrust.
Aside from that, I can tell you how hard it is to build a business on the quiet when its success relies on as many people knowing about it as possible.
Competition means complications
If you are planning to set up a business which is in competition with your current employer, they are less likely to be supportive.
If this is the case, you also need to be clear what’s in your contract. It may have a clause or clauses which will have a bearing on what you can and can’t do. You may need to take legal advice before going any further with your side hustle plans.
If your new business is not in competition, maybe you can even turn your employer into a collaborator, customer or investor.
Whatever the situation, almost anything developed on company time and using company property belongs to the company.
Don’t be tempted to build your side hustle during downtime at work or use your work equipment or software in anything related to your new business. This means even logging into your personal web-based email account from a company computer could, if things turn bad, leave you in hot water.
Even talking to your colleagues or your employer’s clients about your new business may be construed as promoting your business on company time.
It definitely pays to know where you stand legally before you get started.
Consider your chosen business carefully
Not every type of business is suitable as a side hustle. An obvious example is a bricks and mortar shop, which would require you to be there between 9am and 5pm.
Even if it is suitable as a side hustle, there is still the big question of whether it’s viable.
Businesses only succeed if there is a market for the products or services you are selling. Now’s a good time to get as much feedback as possible from people as to whether or not your business’s products or services or wanted or needed.
You will need to be clear on what sets your business apart from what is already available. What is your unique selling point? For example, is there something different about the product or service itself, or is it your pricing structure, strategic relationships or distribution model that set you apart?
For example, there are many companies out there offering website design, social media management or graphic design. There are several offering all of those things. But Plan B Marketing’s USP is that I am a professional journalist and so able to provide copywriting services for the content for your business website, social media or print materials, as well as public relations.
See the big picture and nail down the details
Before you start it’s a good idea to carry out an honest appraisal of your own strengths and weaknesses. Then you can work out how you are going to plug any gaps in your own knowledge or talents to make your business a success. Do you need to undergo some training or will you need to outsource some elements of your business?
Once you are clear on that, it’s time to nail down your goals for your business.
This could include a timeframe for when you want to quit the day job and go full-time on your side hustle. It could be a financial goal you want to reach or a set number of sales.
Whatever your goals, you need to draw up a roadmap of what actions you need to take to reach them.
These goals and actions need to be realistic and measurable so you can hold yourself accountable to getting where you want to be.
Do what’s right for you
So, your side hustle has launched to a flurry of new customers and you are tempted to hand in your notice at the 9-5?
You want to see your rocket take off and launch into the stratosphere?
One of the most difficult aspects of a side hustle can be knowing when the time is right to go all-in and quit the day job.
In some cases, your side hustle will not be able to reach its full potential until you are able to give it your full attention. In other cases, it may be that your new business has a ceiling and is destined to only ever be a side-hustle.
Take the time to make sure you know which category your business fits into before making that big decision.
In the meantime, try to save the income from your side hustle and put it aside to help pay the bills if and when you decide to take the leap.
And if you decide to keep it as a side-hustle or ditch your sideline completely, you’ll have built up a little bit of cash to treat yourself for all the extra hours you put in to give it a go.