I have been running a side business since I can remember having a work life. At 13 years old, I had a New York Daily News paper route, which was my regular gig. I also mowed lawns on the weekends, which was my side hustle. I use the term side hustle because that's what a side business is: a side hustle. To hustle is to "work energetically" and that's why a side business is so empowering. Throughout my 20 years of working, I have always had a side hustle. In fact, my job as a professor started as a side hustle and evolved into a career. The best side hustles are the ones that give you that feeling of empowerment. The feeling that you control your destiny and the potential for what you offer is limitless. But building a side hustle into a career will provide some hurdles. They can be overcome with planning, persistence, patience and practice.
Here are four steps to transforming a side business into your career.
Use your job as paid practice
Try to work in an industry that you can apply what you learn at work in what you do in your side business. This is what I call paid practice. I learned how to be a graphic designer sitting at a desk getting paid as a Communications Coordinator and then as a Marketing Manager. I was always a decent writer, so my job consisted of mainly writing ad copy, brochures and press releases. But then I started to practice using graphic design programs at work in 1993. I became a resourceful learner and tried to make every experience at my day job count as a useful lesson for my next career. Fast forward to 1997 and I am in grad school and teaching graphic design as an adjunct professor. How did I learn? What was my secret? — I was self-taught and had lots of paid practice from 9-5 in my day job.
Don't be afraid to educate yourself further to get where you want to be.
If you want to leave your job to be a full time consultant, get the degree you need. If you want to be a real estate agent, get your license. Don't ever put off education, you will always regret it. You may not be able to afford it. That's understandable. Ask your employer if the company offers tuition reimbursement. Or, here's a suggestion: get a job at a college that has degree programs that help you in your future career. Colleges provide free tuition to employees and their families. I know because I earned my master's degree for free while working at a university.
Transition slowly into your own business to learn as much as you can without risk
Transforming a side hustle into a career takes time. Sure, you can rush into it, eager and ready to learn. Ultimately, the learning part hurts. It hurts financially if you rely on a certain, steady income stream. And it can hurt your credibility if you seem too amateur in your dealings with new clients or bosses. Get a calendar and map out a date for the plan to go live. Then mark down each day what it is you learned about your new career. Think about what problems you could potentially face and seek advice and gather data on how you will solve those problems if they arise. Look to the experiences of others to find possible solutions to hypothetical situations.
Make self-actualization a goal
It doesn't matter what you really want to do, just move forward and pursue it. See yourself as who you are and act as if. That what's great about the side hustle, it allows you to be that person. From 9-5 you may be an accountant paying the bills, but in real life, you are a __________________ (fill it in). When you introduce yourself to new folks in your private life tell them what you really do. If you are an accountant by day and have a side business as a videographer, introduce yourself as a videographer. It will act as a promise that you make to yourself.
Taking your side hustle to career status may seem like a daunting task and even unattainable. But if you go slow and get smart before you take the plunge things will evolve quicker and smoother than you ever imagined.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.