How to Succeed at a Side Hustle When You’re Working Full-Time

If you’re thinking about making some extra cash outside your 9-to-5 job, you’re not alone. Nearly 46.5 million people are embracing a side hustle in Canada and the United States.

In fact, Canadians leading profitable side businesses added $2.5 billion to the country’s economy last year alone. And this side hustling trend isn’t going away. 49% of Americans under 35 had a side hustle in 2019, according to Fortune.

While the motivation behind starting a side hustle is often financial need, there are a wealth of possible benefits. It can be a low-cost yet highly rewarding way to boost your income, build new skills, exercise your creativity and grow a network of contacts.

It may seem intimidating to take on a new business venture while you’re still working full-time, but we’re here to assure you that you can make it happen — it just takes some planning.

Here are seven tips to follow when starting a side hustle, including resources you can tap into to help you on your new business journey.

Tip #1: Commit the time to your business

To get into a new routine, plan when you’re going to work on your business. Setting aside time that’s strictly dedicated to your side hustle will help you settle into a new workflow. That might mean an hour every night or half a day each weekend; choose a schedule that works for you.

“Over 80% of the investment needed to start a side hustle is time,” says Ryan Robinson, content marketing consultant, writer and host of The Side Hustle Project. “It’s the period you need to acquire (or sharpen) a skill, find and serve clients who will pay for your work.”

To keep you focused, try using the Pomodoro technique: A method for productivity where you work for 25 minutes followed by a five-minute break. You can also use time management software like Toggl or RescueTime to keep you accountable and stay on track.

Don’t be discouraged if you’re struggling to find the motivation to work on your project after your day job or on your weekend break. You might want to start waking up an hour earlier and venturing out to a local coffee shop to get the ball rolling.

Being in a lively environment can stimulate productivity. If you aren’t a morning person, try staying up later in the night to squeeze in the time.

Also consider cutting back on time spent scrolling through your social media feeds, watching YouTube videos, and binging Netflix shows. You’ll gain a couple of extra hours in your day from curbing your online behavior — trust us.

Remember: Don’t work on your project when you’re at work. We’ll dive into some of the legal considerations when it comes to this later.

Tip #2: Pursue a passion

The last thing you want is for your new business venture to seem like a chore, becoming something that you feel that you have to do rather than want to do.

While not everyone has the luxury of pursuing a passion project, thinking about an idea that gets you super excited is the perfect starting point for a side hustle. That excitement is what you need to drive you forward.

For example, Ben Francis started his multi-million dollar fitness apparel brand Gymshark from the desire to make things.

“A lot of people are forcing themselves to do something they do not enjoy — work out what you love and build your business around it,” Francis told The Times.

You need to drill down into exactly why you are pursuing a side hustle. Ask yourself what you truly want to get out of it.

Tip: Don’t just do it for the money! Along with more income, you should be motivated by factors like developing new skills and having the flexibility and freedom to do something for yourself.

Need some inspiration? Listen to podcasts like How I Built This or The Side Hustle Project for advice and stories from entrepreneurs. To tap into your mind and get your creative juices flowing, consider buying a journal or Productivity Planner.

Tip #3: Invest in a growing industry

Like any other venture, it takes a lot of time to nurture and grow your side hustle into a money-making business. It is thus important to invest in a product or service that has a steady or growing demand.

Take the example of fidget spinners that shot up in popularity in early 2017. Since then, the product has seen a dramatic drop in buyer interest. Investing your time in this industry could have been pretty disastrous.

Take a look at the Google search trends for the product or service you are passionate about and look for a steady growth in demand. These are the industries that can make your side hustle a success and is worth investing your time and money in.

Tip #4: Keep your cash investment small

You don’t have to invest all your savings into your side business to fuel its success. It’s smart to start something that doesn’t require a lot of capital or an idea that can be tested at a small scale.

Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, found 1,500 people who’ve turned a modest investment — some of them less than $100 — into a $50,000+ business.

How can you keep costs down? Creating social media accounts and a website to promote your product or service are cost-effective ways to build brand awareness and credibility. WordPress is still the cheapest website building option, but we’ll warn you that it requires a bit of work to customize your site fast.

The good news is that with all the online tools available, you should be able to contribute to the development of your idea without relying exclusively on outside help — something that can get expensive.

If you do run into needing some extra cash flow to set your idea into action, we’ve pulled together a list of simple money-making ideas.

Tip #5: Seek out startup resources

It’s not expected that you know how to do everything when you start a side hustle, and we know it can be tough to find the answers that you might be looking for. To guide you along your way, find a mentor who can be that go-to person when you have questions and need advice.

You can also find and connect with like-minded people in your area — and other side hustlers — through social platforms like Meetup. Signing up for a membership at a co-working space in your city is another way for you to meet local freelancers and entrepreneurs.

There’s a wealth of information that already exists online that can help too, whether that’s one of the podcasts that we’ve mentioned or other entrepreneurial resources. We love Side Hustle School and Freelance to Win. On Medium, follow The Startup for all things about building a business.

Tip #6: Plan out next steps and deadlines

Be realistic about what you want to accomplish and how quickly you want your goals realized. You’ll want to break down your “idea to launch” plan into clear, defined next steps with deadlines.

We don’t want you feeling overwhelmed about making progress or that your efforts aren’t paying off because you can’t check off a task on your list.

Here’s an easy hack: If you break down bigger tasks into bite-sized to-do items (like making a logo), your list will start to fill with check marks, encouraging you to keep at it. Task management tools like Trello can help you tackle projects by dividing them into easily digestible chunks using boards, lists, and cards.

Using Trello boards to stay organized

You might want to look into following the Action Method, a system for dividing life projects into three primary components: Action Steps, References, and Backburner Items. Scott Belsky, founder of Behance and author of Making Ideas Happen, conceived this popular approach.

“The Action Method starts by considering everything around you with a project lens and then breaking it down,” he says.

“We call it the ‘Action Method’ because it helps us live and work with a bias toward action. The actionable aspects of every project pop out at us, and the other components are organized enough to provide peace of mind while not getting in the way of taking action.”

Tip #7: Understand your employment contract

If you’re going to pursue a side business outside your 9-to-5, you might need to disclose your entrepreneurial pursuits with your boss.

New York-based lawyer Jenny Odegard specializes in consulting with creative professionals. She advises employees to carefully read through all employment documents.

That might mean your contract, offer letter, employee handbook acknowledgment, or an intellectual property assignment agreement.

“Does it say anything about rights to your inventions or ideas? Does the employee handbook offer any guidance on continuing education?” wrote Odegard in Forbes.

“Take time to review everything you have to be sure that there aren’t any obligations or terms lurking that didn’t stand out to you in the euphoria of your new job.”

Try not to mix business with business — in other words, avoid discussing your side hustle at work functions or with colleagues. To ensure you legally own your ideas, you shouldn’t use company resources for associated work, either.

Tip #8: Slow and steady wins the race

We’re not here to tell you that a side hustle can replace your day job. You need to have a proven, sustainable side-hustling project before thinking about quitting your 9-to-5.

“Don’t hastily quit your job for greener pastures until you’re certain you could make more with your time elsewhere,” Grant Cardone told CNBC. The real estate mogul added: “Commit to never ignoring your primary income source.”

Making the decision to start a business part-time while having the security of full-time work not only minimizes your risk, it gives you more breathing room to test your idea before launch. Good luck!

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