As Rihanna said, it’s time to ‘work, work, work, work, work, work’…
One day, approximately six years ago now, my side hustle became my full-time job. It was terrifying, exciting and exhilarating all at the same time. It weirdly felt like something that could never possibly happen, but exactly what I should be doing. No one in my family was self-employed at the time, so I had no blueprint for how things roll when you’re making your own rules, but there was something about it that just made complete sense. I’m a bit of a loner, who enjoys working on their own and thrives doing self-motivated projects in silence. OF COURSE I WAS GOING TO WORK FOR MYSELF. I just didn’t see it coming.
Although I wasn’t sure that my side hustle could become a job, there were a few things that I did without really thinking about that contributed to it growing into what it is today, so I thought I’d share some advice, seeing as I’m now almost entering my seventh year of working for myself. Who’d have thought it, eh?
Time is Everything. You really have to have a fire in your belly for any business venture that you develop because man does it take up a lot of time. When I began blogging I had absolutely no idea that it could generate an income and even my transition into taking it full-time was something that I kind of fell into, but the passion was there because I enjoyed it so much. Posting everyday on my blog (which is something that I did for about four years!) felt like such a joy. Because of that I didn’t really realise just how much time it was taking up; but I spent my commute to work writing that day’s post, the commute home answering comments and emails and then at the weekend I would record videos and take a round of photos for the next week of blog posts. It can be relentless and it takes up hours, practically whole days of your week. The grind – especially at the beginning – is hardcore, so you have to have some genuine passion for your subject matter to balance it out.
You’re Only Human. Burnout is real and it ain’t pretty. Obviously you’re hardly going to feel at the peak of your energy reserves if you’re juggling a full-time role, another practically full-time role on the side, along with family and home responsibilities – but if you’re body is telling you that you need to rest then LISTEN TO IT. It’s such an important step of this whole thing and it’s a rare moment that any good work comes out of you in either of your roles if you’re wondering if it’s socially acceptable to climb under your desk for a quick 10 minute power nap. Plus, I find whenever I’m feeling a bit stuck creatively, that a step away really helps to get the juices flowing again. It’s a hard thing to get your head around that your new-found business won’t collapse around you in one swift swoop if you take the afternoon off once in a blue moon, but when you do, you’ll feel like a big weight has been lifted off ya.
Do You Need a Plan? Now this a bit of a tough one. If you need further investment for your business and are looking to crowdsource that figure, or look for help from a bank then a business plan is definitely something that you need to arm yourself with. However that’s not going to be the case for every business. I know blogging and YouTube bucks all the traditional trends when it comes to the set-up, but I would say that an over-riding goal (for example I try to make the majority of my content useful and focused around a more mindful way of living and consuming), and consistency can sometimes be the most important things. There is no way that my blog would have grown, had it not been for me pumping out 10 posts a week back in the day. So sometimes a short-term plan that relies on you doing the same thing at the same time of day in order to recruit an audience, might be the most important step; instead of big-picture thinking.
PR. One thing that I was absolutely terrified about in the beginning were friends, family and basically anyone that I vaguely knew on the outer peripheries of my social circles, finding out about my weird secret blogging hobby. I was absolutely mortified when people eventually found out and actually kept the whole thing secret for about six months before I even told Mark. During the first year of my blog I think that I generated about 90% of the pageviews and actually once word started to get out, the viewership increased dramatically. So don’t do as I did and instead spread the word; there isn’t much of a business model in your reading your own stuff and it reaching absolutely no one. So share you stuff on social media, tell mates what you’re up to and they’ll spread the word, experiment with Instagram and Facebook ads if you have a bit of money in the pot, network at local events, join local entrepreneur Facebook groups – basically get yourself out there and don’t keep it a secret.
Accounting. I think I’d made approximately £10 from my business when my Dad marched me down to an Accountant’s office to set-up the financial side of the blog stuff, which seemed like an overreaction of the time, but is something that I preach quite highly of now. Getting all the BTS-stuff in order as early as possible means that you’re set-up in the correct way, especially if you still have a full-time role and have people in your life who can advise on all things money. Whilst I think it’s helpful to have an understanding of how the operation works – invoices, books, expenses, receipts, spreadsheets, VAT returns and all that jazz – it’s a real time zap, so unless it’s something that you actually enjoy, I’d recommend outsourcing it to free up yourself to concentrate on the areas of your side hustle that need your attention most.
The Financial Bit. Here’s the thing, if your side hustle is ever going to become your main hustle, then it’s going to have to make financial sense. Depending on where you’re at in life it might still be a bit risky, but it’s best to have it actually as a functioning business before you ditch your full-time role that pays monthly into your bank account which might not ever happen again if you opt for the freelance life. I left my part-time job when I was asked to increase my hours to full-time or leave the position. My blog was making a small income and Mark and I had just moved to an equally small, but ludicrously priced flat in London. The timing wasn’t great, but the financials from my blog meant that I could somewhat contribute to bills and living if Mark took the majority of the hit and trust me, I am forever grateful for how he helped me and supported us both in those first couple of months after I’d left. If my blog had been making pennies then it wouldn’t have really been an option and I would have had to have taken up the offer of the full-time position and left my leaving for my side-hustle to a later date, which is a-ok. You’ve got to put a roof over your head somehow.
Photos by Emma Croman
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