How to Turn Your Side Hustle Into a Full-Time Business
Deciding to become an entrepreneur is a big deal.
The benefits are awesome. You can ditch the 9-to-5 and create your own schedule. The earning potential is huge in the long run. The flexibility to spend more time with your kids while also doing work you love makes for a very rich life… rich in ways that are far more meaningful than only financially.
For all the positives there are some truly hefty risks.
Can you afford to quit your full-time job and give up benefits? Do you have the knowledge, skills and support to start up a business? Most importantly, is there a market for what you’re selling?
In my work as a career coach, I always present the option of entrepreneurship to the moms I help through job transition. Especially for those who are looking to reinvent their career entirely. I’ve worked with a number of moms whose entrepreneurial dreams percolate while they continue working full-time. And I’ve seen it’s a great option.
Starting a business on the side is a fantastic way to dip your toes into entrepreneurship without all the risks. You build credibility and brand awareness as you work on your business in a part-time capacity. You can lay the groundwork for quitting your day job and position yourself to leave your company gracefully. Most importantly, when you’re ready to jump into your business full-time, you won’t have to start from scratch.
Here are some key steps that will make this transition more successful.
1. Plan... to take action
Map out your idea, conduct market research, look at the competition and write your business plan. Attend a workshop to help you get started on your new business. Also think through how your lifestyle will change when you go from working for a company to working for yourself. Consider when you’re most productive, what kind of childcare you’ll need and what systems need to be in place at home to support your business.
I have a client who is working full-time in a corporate career while starting a home organization, staging and décor business. She is a master planner, but planning could only take her so far. She realized she actually had to get started with client projects to move forward. You don’t need to have everything lined up perfectly. The best businesses evolve as the products and services receive feedback from customers. Don’t let over-planning paralyze you.
2. Consider a slow transition from part-time to full-time entrepreneurship
Don’t give up your day job right away. It’s best to approach the full-time switch in phases. Phase one could be offering your product/service to family and friends to test the viability of your idea. Phase two might include starting social media channels for your business and securing a web domain. Phase three is when you launch the website, announce to the world you’re in business and give your notice to your employer. Have an end date in mind for work and you can work towards that.
3. Build savings and/or secure financing
You need to know how you’ll fare without your full-time income in the first few years of your business. I recommend changing your lifestyle while you’re still employed and banking the extra money you would normally spend on restaurants, vacations, gifts and other discretionary items.
Look into bank financing if you need it or small business grants. My client who is living this transition right now says, “review your finances in a realistic and detailed way so that when you make the leap, you know your timeline for getting things going and whether you can survive without your salary!”
4. Create milestones
Determine realistic goals for different areas of your business that will propel you towards a full-scale launch. What is your revenue target per month before you quit your job? Will you need to hire employees to support you and when will you do so? How many customers will you have before you officially become a full-time entrepreneur? What systems will you have in place to ensure you’re operating your business efficiently. Write down the specifics around each of your goals and review how you’re tracking monthly. I guarantee you’ll be giving notice to your boss a lot faster!
5. Network and tell your closest friends about your plan
The more people you share your dreams with, the closer you’ll get to making them a reality. You can do some pretty stellar market research as you tell your besties about your business. Your friends and family want you to be successful so they’ll help open up more opportunities and potentially attract customers too. When I mentioned to friends that I was starting to do career coaching and fitness classes/personal training, one of my girlfriends told me about the grant that effectively put me in business. I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise, and applying for and receiving the grant helped me officially launch CareerFit Mom within 6 months.
Sure, you’ll hear lots of ideas and opinions. Even negative ones, like, “are you crazy to give up your full-time job with paid vacation and benefits?” Don’t let the haters sway you from your big business idea. Listen to your intuition. Something is driving you towards your true calling, which will be monetized in the form of the products and services you sell. You know in your heart what is important to you and the folks who really care about your happiness will support you 100%.
6. Educate yourself
Now’s the time to get your Food Handlers certification, your police background check, your licensing, insurance or whatever official must-haves you need. Also read books, blogs and news on your business topic. Listen to podcasts for entrepreneurs. Attend workshops and seminars and connect with other entrepreneurs (Mamas & Co. is great for this!). The more knowledgeable you are the better prepared you’ll be to launch.
7. Build your audience
Start a Facebook Page and/or a Facebook Group, include your part-time business on your LinkedIn profile. Get a free Mailchimp account and find ways to collect email addresses. Be active on social media with content attributed to your business that you can also share on your personal pages. The early audience members will be your first customers and your biggest champions.
8. Be transparent with your boss and at your workplace
Don't burn bridges. Let your boss know you have a side gig and over time, express how much joy it is bringing you. They’ll be happy and supportive when you go out and try it full-time. Be part of the recruitment and selection process to hire/train your replacement.
If you can swing it, try negotiating a year long secondment. That way, if it doesn’t work out exactly as you’d hoped, you can come back to your position. Research to see if there’s been precedence set by another employee for a secondment (to travel or start a biz). Or you can offer to consult or do project work on a part-time basis. This serves two purposes: a higher cash-flow as you set up the business and keeping that professional relationship warm so you can fall back to that type of work in the future.
9. Take action!
My client with the home staging/decorating side hustle has registered a business name, HST number, a domain name and secured all social media names. She has a designer working on a logo and once it’s created she’ll order her business cards and start on her website. She’s set up a business bank account and phone number. She’s started working with family and friends. While she’s done only one paid job so far, she says it was completely eye opening. Starting out with discounted services or products for your inner circle will allow you to test and easily adapt your offering, pricing, unique selling proposition and processes.
A side hustle can mitigate the risks of launching a new business and allow you the precious time you need to plan, develop and trial your offering. It’s also the perfect way to build confidence in yourself and your offering before going full-time. Yes, it’s a lot of work to manage family, your day job and a side business, but the intensity will pay off. You’ll be well positioned to transition into your entrepreneurial dream full-time with the foundation already laid for success.
My client remarked about her own experience, “There are so many obstacles to starting a business but the biggest one was that I kept thinking I had to have the entire plan mapped out to the finest detail. Actually I just needed to get started.” There’s no time like the present to do a little something on the side. Take action and you’ll see your business grow and grow into a fulfilling and profitable career in itself!
Beth Yarzab is the founder of CareerFit Mom, helping women through career transitions and offering fitness classes.