Build the plane as you fly

Side hustles. It seems that everyone wants one but very few start one. You may be asking yourself “what side hustle can I do?” or “what side hustle is right for me?” Your reason for a side hustle might be because you need some income during college or to act as a stepping stone for your own business. The opportunities and ideas are endless, at the end of the day, it all depends on you.

As with anything, a successful side hustle comes down to self-discipline and dedication. You have to want a side project for yourself, not just to say you have one. I see side hustles and projects as a gateway to true entrepreneurship. You will find yourself experimenting with it and learning so much from it and yourself. It might find it addicting, which also means it can become distracting. So you must decide upfront if your side hustle will be just that, a hustle, or a soon to be business.

I have launched my own side hustles and businesses that have been both successes and failures. I have had the opportunity to help others grow their side hustles into fully-fledged brands. And I have worked for “the Death Star,” a publicly traded ride-share brand that was a startup within itself. With every experience and opportunity, I have noted important factors that can apply to your own path for a side hustle or business, and even into your professional life.

Time is money

Old news right? Old news but often forgotten. When you decide to start a side hustle the first task that you need to complete is to not only find the best time to work on it but also put work on a schedule. When you start a side hustle, you will find that schedules will consume your life. So if you are the type of person who is not used to working on a schedule then you may want to make an adjustment before you dive into your project.

If you are a night-owl then consider working on your project during the night and if you are an early riser then get working early in the morning. That being said, do not let your side project take away from your rest as you will burn yourself out from loss of sleep. I know, the Internet says all of the top CEOs go to bed at midnight and wake up at 5 AM. In my opinion, it’s hype. A lot of successful people who sleep to 8 AM or beyond hardly get any notice. The point is, you need your rest. So get it, because without it you will find yourself being less productive, wasting time, and essentially wasting or losing money.

It’s also best to not let your project interfere with your career. The time you are paid to be at work is obviously both time and money for your employer. Don’t screw them over. If it is a true side project this should not be an issue, but if you find your project requiring you to work on the clock then you may have problems.

Maybe you’re not focused on your hustle

If you find yourself having to take care of business on your employer’s time, then maybe it is time to look into what you are actually doing off of the clock. Are you spending more time playing video games rather than working on your hustle? Maybe you have had a lack of sleep and produce a sub-par product or service to your own clients causing you to have to do more of your own support.

Or maybe, just maybe, your side hustle is at the jump point, going from side hustle to an actual business. And what could that mean for you as the founder? Is it time to hire someone? Maybe get a consultant to improve your operations? Maybe you should ask to work part-time? Or maybe it’s now the time to make the jump itself and dedicate 100% of your time to your new-found business.

Be aware of how you spend your time.

Whatever the case, be aware of how you spend your time. Don’t just be busy, be productive. Productivity is what will help you grow both personally and professionally.

Your hustle should be a solution

Whether your hustle is to create supplemental income or it is the beginning of something much more, your hustle must provide a solution. For the former, it’s for allowing you to do more in your personal life. For the latter, it’s for creating an actual solution to a problem that you are passionate about, such as the story of Zoom and Eric Yuan. Why is this important? Because when there is a solution there is passion. And where there is passion there is success. You will find yourself dedicated to ensuring your solution is an actual success.

woman working on a computer focused on creating a solution
Photo by Sarah Pflug

If you have no interest in knitting then don’t start selling custom made sock-caps. You are then just wasting your time and will find yourself bored with the process. If you are bored, you are not focused. You know what comes next, failure. You don’t have to rush into a project, don’t try to force yourself to find a problem. Let it come to you naturally. Then let those “ah-ha!” moments come to you on their own. See who else has the same problem as you and how they feel about your solution. Then push your solution and as you grow and tweak things, perfect your solution.

An idea is worthless without the execution. So many people can think of an idea and many have the same idea. But only a few can come up with a plan to execute. And out of those who came up with an execution, only a few will actually act on it. And knowing this, do away with the “I can’t tell you about my idea” nonsense. Don’t be afraid to talk about your idea, because the majority of people won't act on it anyways. I like to look at ideas like a cup of coffee. Nearly everyone wants it and nearly everyone can make it. But yet people still take the time out of their day to just go to Starbucks and buy a cup. The same applies to your idea, a lot of people want an idea to make them rich and a lot of people can go out and do it. But at the end of the day, people will still carry on about their life and wait to just buy it, and then say something like “this was my idea” out loud.

Make it a group project

This might be a shocker for many people. And it can be hit or miss as partnerships can really change the dynamic of relationships. If your side hustle is for supplemental income then let people know this. Specifically those closest to you as they should become your support system. Who knows, they may even join you on this endeavor. Going in alone on anything can be daunting and stressful, which could lead to you becoming burnt out and giving up.

group of people working on a task together
Photo by Matthew Henry

If you’ve decided to start on your path to a business with a side project, then consider having business partners. I would suggest people that you are already close with and are like-minded in both your solution and work ethic. Most importantly define roles and duties upfront rather than along the way. You might be having flashbacks to group projects in college right now, but I can promise you that this is not the case. The best part of working on a side hustle as a partnership is that everyone has some skin in the game, your overhead for expertise is low, in many cases, you will have fun doing it, and most importantly you will have another set of eyes on your progress.

Partnerships can change the dynamic of relationships

That might be a very optimistic approach to a partnership, but it can happen and it can work. Keep in mind that yes, partnerships can crash in a flaming ball of fury. I’ve been there and it’s extremely taxing on your life. But it happened because there were no guidelines set upfront, it was built on trust and friendship. And this circles back to what I said above, partnerships can change the dynamic of relationships.

Have fun

If you have applied all of the above to your mindset before you even get started then you should have no problem having fun. And with that, you should have no problem achieving success. Even if you fail, as long as you had fun doing it you will walk away a champion because you have a newfound experience and valuable knowledge on what to do, or not do, the next time around.

Remember your solution, remember your passion…remember your why. Why are you doing this? Why do you want this? Remembering your why is the easiest part of a side hustle or even a business. It can also be the most impactful on your day to day experience.

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