Turning your side hustle to a successful business can be a daunting prospect, but having a clear purpose, plan, and patience are key to making the shift. Here’s how to do it right.
Most multi-million dollar companies all started as side hustles Facebook, Apple to mention a few. They started from late nights in garages, college projects, and makeshift gifts, the founders all recognized that their extra work had the potential to be huge. But following in their footsteps takes a huge leap of faith, and going from side hustle to full-time founder is not without its challenges.
For you to grow your business, you need to be sure that you are starting a business for the right reasons. Whether it be solving a specific problem that has played a big role in your lives, or simply being able to choose your working hours rather than following a 7 to 5 pm job, starting a business is a big risk that requires total commitment.
The new normal has revealed a multitude of social and economic problems that need solving fast. That creates a strong opportunity for founders who already have the solution in their hands (or at least the seedling) to convert their side hustle into a full-fledged company.
Here’s how to overcome the common obstacles of turning a side hustle into a business, as told by the experts who have done just that:
1. Don’t rush. Take your time.
While the thought of starting your own business is exciting, apply the brakes before you move too fast. A survey by Hiscox revealed that entrepreneurs took an average of 19 months before quitting their full-time job to pursue their side hustle—and for good reason. Having a clear understanding of why you’re doing this, as well as a secure foundation to build upon is a smart (and necessary) first step. Especially now that unstable market conditions are going to make the journey more complex and you will need to have a financial fallback.
Don’t leave your full-time job until you’re confident everything is in place, not only the business side of things but also in terms of bringing on some form of support. Julie Subotky, founder and CEO of Consider It Done, says that finding a mentor or someone to help you with the things you don’t know how to do, is invaluable at this stage. Get into a system of asking for help, leveraging your network as much as possible, and drawing from other people’s experiences to put together an in-depth business plan.
2. Check out the competition and get feedback early on.
Assess who is already operating in your space, and how well they’re doing. By knowing the current state of your niche, you can identify what makes your business different and establish your competitive advantage. It also tells you if there’s enough demand for your product to sustain your company. Subotky adds that sussing out your competitors is a clever way to see if you actually complement each other and could work together in some capacity.
Dive right into communicating with your future customers, too. The sooner you start collecting user feedback, the sooner you’ll know if you’re heading in the right direction. Talk to existing clients from your side hustle as well as friends, test groups, and online users (like people on forums and Facebook pages relevant to your sector).
3. Be flexible and experiment with different models.
One of the biggest luxuries you have in turning from side hustle to a business is that you’re agile. Most established companies don’t have the freedom to play around with models and structures, whereas you can adjust and adapt to find your perfect market fit.
Test different hypotheses and rely on data (both qualitative and quantitative) to let you know when you’re hitting the mark. Subotky says that his side hustle Consider It Done started as a concierge service but morphed into a moving business after she realized that the highest number of requests were for help moving. Subotky advises side hustlers to pay attention to what’s in demand and pivot toward these demands—you could even turn them into different parts of the same company. For example, Consider It Moved, Consider It Coached, and Consider It Gifted became new branches of Subotky’s original idea.
4. Operate lean and don’t be afraid to charge users.
Scaling from side hustle to a business involves a number of costs that previously weren’t part of your gig. Not to mention, it’s easy to get carried away with extensive plans before checking the price of making them a reality. Keeping costs low while not being afraid to charge people early on is important to get traction, and position your company for growth.
Subotky said people don’t take things as seriously if they are not paying.
She stresses that you shouldn’t be tempted to go down the freemium route just because you’re new to the game—if you want your side hustle to really be a business, you need to charge more.
Going from side hustle to a business can be a daunting prospect, but having a clear purpose, plan, and patience are key to making the shift. In the current climate, when consumers are enthusiastic to support smaller businesses, your part-time passion can become a long-term, successful career.