February 5, 2018

Side Hustle vs. Full Time

There are some people who can put in their 40 hours a week at ok jobs and then go home to the activities they really enjoy. I imagine most of these individuals don't love what they do, but they recognize that this work funds their chance to devote time and energy elsewhere when they're off the clock. I'll admit, I tried to fit this model thinking it was what I was "supposed" to do, but I wasn't happy. Now with one year of doing my own thing on the books (yay, I made it!), I'd like to share a few thoughts about pursuing your passions full time. First and foremost, it's not easy, but if you plan, it can be totally worth it. Like many makers and handmade entrepreneurs, I started with a side hustle. I was working full time for someone else and making time in the evening and on weekends to do what energized me more. This allowed me to test out my ideas and get to know my future customers. I wasn't able to dedicate nearly as much time to this passion project as I wanted, but I was saving up money to be able to take the plunge into full time. So how do you know when the time is right to go all in with your dream? The answer is different for all of us, but there are some key considerations that will help you gauge your readiness to become your own boss.

1. Do you have to start with a side hustle?
No, it will really depend on your business and your personality. For those of us who prefer testing the waters first, starting small gives you time to figure your plan out slowly. Test out your market. Find your niche audience. Refine your offerings. Make sure you know your costs. It's hard work, and you run the risk of spreading yourself pretty thin for a while, but you get to set your timeline and milestones. Plus, as you're figuring things out, you have the safety of not relying solely on this new venture for your income. Of course, your time to spend on this project will be limited until you dedicate yourself full time, and some business ideas can't be started half way. If you're not sure which route suits you best, seek out a mentor in the same field and learn from their story.

Ask yourself the following questions to help determine if the entrepreneur life is right for you.

2. Can you afford to take the leap?
Call me naive, but I would love it if we could all focus our time just on what makes us happy. Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. Some people have to take whatever jobs they can find to make ends meet. Personal fulfillment takes a backseat to paying the bills. If you're in that camp, it's ok. Hold on to your dreams until your circumstances change. While I'm not equipped to give you true financial advice, I've read over and over again about the troubles that come with getting into debt. Before you make a side hustle your full time gig or even start a side hustle, make sure you have the funds. That may mean waiting until you can save up enough or finding financial backers. Know what you need to support your business and your living. You'll find many artists and crafters who've pulled double duty, making and saving up money while also making their art so they could eventually focus full time on what they love. It takes work, but you can do it if you are smart about planning.

Your ideas deserve the best, and you can't give them your all if you are stressing about money more than the products and services you have to offer. 

3. Are you passionate enough?
Could I ask a more subjective question? Enough means something different to each of us, so the really what I want you to consider is your boundary. How passionate do you need to be to deal with the less glamorous side of business? Your art may be the most fulfilling thing you’ve ever done, but to dedicate yourself full time, you need to account for making a living. Are you prepared for the marketing, bookkeeping, sales, customer service and so much more? In most cases, you’ll be wearing all of these hats in a side hustle and when you switch to full time (at least until you can afford to outsource). Will your passion get you through the ups and downs? Having that driving force and an overarching goal can help you see purpose in even the most mundane of business upkeep.

Follow what you love, but make sure it’s not just a crush that will leave you broken-hearted the first time you have to file taxes or deal with an upset customer.

4. Do you have the proper work ethic?
Most people with the urge to be an entrepreneur have excellent internal drive. They make time to get the work done even when they have to juggle all of things on their schedule. Can you set up a space without distractions so you’ll get up and get to work each day? Starting and running a business takes work. It also requires that you figure out your priorities. You may have hundreds of tasks in mind, but you need the discipline to guide you from one work day to the next. Know yourself and how you work to gauge if you really want to be your own manager. Moreover, consider if you are ok working by yourself most days. If you're an extrovert, you may want to consider finding a co-working space to help you stay energized and in the right mindset to be productive. And if you need someone else to help keep you accountable, maybe you want to go into business with a partner. Dealing with customers should give you plenty of interaction with others even if you work from home. Just be mindful of the environment that suits you and your work ethic best.

Can you be accountable to your new boss, i.e. yourself?

5. Are you ready for the schedule (or lack there of)?
The separation between work and life can become very blurry when you pursue your passion instead of working for someone else. All of a sudden, your 40 hour, clearly defined work week is completely up to you. I know plenty of people who love the flexibility of being an entrepreneur, but be prepared to finesse your schedule. When do you work best? How much can you put in each day? Will weekends be just as important as week days? With art, a lot of events happen Saturday and Sunday. As such, you need to be prepared to redefine your weekend. When you love what you do, it’s easier to spend all of your time doing it. Just be wary of burnout and factor in time to not work.

You are far more likely to work smarter, not harder if you set yourself a schedule that suits your style.

6. Is it the right time for your market?
No matter how great your idea or how beautifully crafted your work, you have to find an audience to support you. Do your research to make sure you’re launching in the best place and at the right time to reach the people who will ultimately determine your success. Consider what’s going on in the industry. Who will help you meet your goal? Is it everyday consumers or perhaps high end collectors? What “problem” are you solving? It could be a true need or perhaps a desire; just know how you plan to fit into your target’s life. Do you have competition? How successful are they? Can you do what they do differently or better? For the inquisitive, this deep dive into the landscape can be tons of fun. The more you know, the more likely you are to strike a relevant cord. If you can’t find your ideal customer or your offering doesn’t have a real role to play, wait. Take time to polish your concept and explore other angles. It can be truly disheartening to pour yourself into something amazing, but not find success because your timing was off.

Idioms exist for a reason – being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference!

Can you tell that I'm a cautious person? I like to plan and consider lots of different possibilities. In case that's not your style, I hope these questions help you get more introspective about your passion. I love being my own boss. I never dreamt this would be where I would land though, so I had to figure out a lot of these lessons while managing my side hustle. Thankfully, I had the time to save up money to fund my project and figure out how best to serve the customers I cared about. Now this is what I do full time, and I'm still learning. Thank you for the support and giving me the chance to turn my side gig into my own business! If you need help getting the exposure to grow your art or handmade business, let's talk. I want to help you with your creative dream!