Working for yourself can be hard work. But it may also bring you more joy and day-to-day satisfaction than your current full-time job.
According to one survey, half of millennials have a side hustle, and 53% of all people with side gigs depend on that income to make ends meet.1 But what if you want to build a career out of your side hustle? We spoke with three different entrepreneurs about the highs and lows of owning your own business, the importance of self-care, and advice they’d share with anyone looking to work for themselves.
You don’t always have to do it on your own
Sometimes, your business may not take off on the first try. DollarSprout co-founders Jeff Proctor and Ben Huber found this out the hard way. After starting a wealth management firm and running out of money more quickly than planned, Proctor teamed up with Huber to create DollarSprout: a personal finance blog focused on helping its readers maximize their earning potential.
When they launched their new business, they quickly learned that the freedom and flexibility that came with being in charge has both pros and cons. There was a steep learning curve and some financial stress—but the two agree that having a business partner made things more manageable.
“My financial confidence has been improved because of what Jeff and I do in our business,” says Huber. “When you’re fortunate enough to have a partner in your side hustle, there’s a sense of accountability.”
Proctor and Huber have been able to apply the same discipline they have for their business expenses to their own personal spending—and were even able to save for homeownership because of it. But they caution not to jump into full-time business ownership too quickly.
“If you were to quit your job today, and your income drops 50% the next day, are you going to be okay with that?” asks Proctor.
Their other advice for building a career out of a side hustle?
- Take time off for mental breaks.
- Have realistic expectations for what kind of income you might make.
- Start building your customer base before quitting your current job.
- Create a budget—and stick to it.
Offer something that people really need or want
Transizion helps students and professionals alike advance their careers, whether it’s by guiding students through the college admissions process or coaching professionals interested in switching jobs. Jason Patel, Transizion’s founder, started it after he helped a student get into a top college and the student’s mother encouraged him to turn his tutoring side gig into a business.
“Opportunity’s everywhere,” says Patel. His motivation lies in helping people achieve their ambitions and bettering the communities he serves. He also credits his parents, who immigrated to America in 1985, for instilling lessons that he carries with him today.
“What my parents have given me is this value of self-reflection, learning from failure, and learning from the grind,” he says.
While getting the business off the ground was tough—Patel was entering an already saturated market and had to deal with many unexpected costs—he overcame those challenges by budgeting his money and time and learning to find balance in business and life. “When you do that on a daily basis, you’ll gain confidence through discipline and repetition,” he says.
Patel’s top tip for people building a business out of a side hustle is to not quit your full-time job and put everything into something nobody wants or needs. He also recommends:
- Do your research before diving in.
- Plan to spend 2.5 – 3 times more money than you expect.
- Be realistic and willing to compromise.
- Find a hobby to relax.
“Passion will get you going at first, but it’s not the thing that will sustain you over time. Discipline’s the thing that will do that,” Patel adds.
Confidence and knowing your value can help you succeed
Improving communication through improv is what Jen Brown is all about. She uses improv comedy techniques to help people—especially women—become better speakers. As a performer, she realized that improv teaches skills people need for life: staying present, responding to what’s right in front of you, and being flexible to overcome challenges. That’s why she decided to start The Engaging Educator.
At first, she kept her teaching as a side hustle while working a full-time job. But eventually it became too much—Brown says working two jobs was “diluting her personal life and health.” So, she decided to commit to teaching improv full-time and hasn’t looked back.
“I was apologizing for myself constantly,” Brown says. “You have to trust yourself, because if you’re not believing in yourself, no clients will believe in you.”
Brown says she’s learned many lessons from being an entrepreneur, like:
- Be “hyper-aware” of spending and where your money—and time—goes.
- You have to make personal money sacrifices to benefit your business.
- Take time regularly to step back and look at the full picture.
- Confidence can help you get out what you put into your business.
Like many other entrepreneurs, Brown emphasizes the importance of taking time for yourself. Refreshing your mind is incredibly important, especially when an activity you love becomes your full-time job—your once-hobby will feel like work.
“As much as we want to say we’re doing it because we love it, bills have to be paid,” Brown says. “How are you going to get people to pay you for what you do or create? If you can answer that question and know your value, then you should go for it. If you can’t, then keep it as a hobby or a side hustle.”
The advice from all of these entrepreneurs on building a career out of a side hustle follows similar themes: don’t dive in too quickly, learn to manage your time and expenses, and schedule time for yourself. Learning these lessons can help you succeed when attempting to turn your passion into sustainable income.