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The world of work is changing. More people than ever are self-employed, with 4.3 million workers taking on the role of being their own boss. Not only that, but the number of women in self- employment has grown sharply over the last 10 years. The number of freelance working mothers has also increased by 79 per cent since 2008. Research from IPSE suggests that freelancing allows mums to pursue their career and spend time with their family in a way that simply was not possible half a century ago. If you want to make the move from employment into self-employment, starting a side hustle can be a good way to do it. But how?

The phrase “side hustle” has been thrown around a lot over the last few years. It’s become shorthand for everything from a hobby that keeps us out of mischief to the career that helps us put food on the table. But, in reality, a side hustle is the thing you do in addition to your day job or in the stolen hours of your day. It may be that it turns into your day job, but a side hustle that helps you pay the bills can be a game-changer. It can mean the boiler gets fixed without you needing to break into your emergency fund. Or it can mean the difference between panicking about paying for a school trip and being able to afford it more comfortably. So how do you start a side hustle? And how do you make it work for you?


Find the right hustle

Figuring out where, and how, you should hustle is the first step. And the best way to do that is to ask yourself a few simple questions.

  • What is my skillset? Think about the things you’re good at and the things that are available to you. Always been a whizz at writing? Maybe copywriting could be your side hustle. A dab hand at crafts? Maybe it’s time you start to sell your designs. Mean baker and cake decorator? Perhaps it’s time to open your own little cake business. Amazing photographer? Can you start offering headshots of local business owners? What are you the go-to person for? If other people consistently turn to you for help with something, that’s usually a good indicator of what might work for you as a side hustle.
  • What’s a problem? All the best business ideas start with a problem and provide the solution to that problem. When you’ve figured out what you can do, you’ll be able to see problems you can actually solve.
  • Is there a need?  And be brutally honest when you answer this one.
  • Is my idea realistic? Can I fit it into my life? Is the output (how much time you spend on it) worth the income you’ll get for it?


Work out how you’re going to run it

You can make a lot of progress on a side hustle with not a lot of time, especially if it’s something that you’re already familiar with. If you’re starting something from scratch, it can take a bit longer, but blocking out time in your calendar to dedicate to starting a side hustle in the early days is essential. Schedule at least an hour a week of time when you’re not accountable to anything (or anyone) and get your head down. List tasks and tackle them so you know what you’ve got to do and how it’s going to get done.


Work out your budget and financial plan

It’s easy to skip this step when you’re thinking about how to start a side hustle, because it doesn’t seem important, but you really shouldn’t. Create a start-up budget so you can plan ahead for the things you need to buy. Buy as little as possible and opt for a less-is-more approach. Make sure to include costs for any office equipment, tech (like a computer or mobile phone), materials, preliminary marketing expenses (such as your website, registering your domain and any ads you might pay for), and for any accounting software you might use. And don’t forget to think about your tax plans.


Set some goals

You can dream as big as you want when it comes to the long term, but it also makes sense to think about some attainable and realistic goals. While goal setting might feel a bit boring and formal and give you terror flashbacks to appraisal time at work (yeah, we hate it too), they are super helpful for helping you get from A to B and to C and D. In order to make the big picture happen, you need smaller, incremental goals to act as stepping stones to get there. Aim to bring in your first customer, then your second, rather than aiming for 1000 customers straight off the bat. Think about creating attainable and practical goals that you can tackle on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.


Find your first customer(s)

So if your first goal is to get your first customer – how do you do it? The cold, hard truth is that for most people, networking is the best way to get your first customers. It might not be ‘networking’ in the traditional sense of the word, but getting your products, services or ideas out into the world by talking about them is the best way to get your first client or customer. And you’ll remember that first person who says ‘yes’ to your services for a very long time.

Talking to people (whether in real life or virtually) is the best way to let people know you are starting a business. Ask them for advice or tell them about the solutions you have to problems they’re facing. Chat at the school gates, send messages to old mates who might benefit from what you’re offering, think about whether a newsletter might be a good use of your time. Before you know it, one customer will become two. Two will become four and four will become many more.


Give your biz some TLC

Starting a side hustle, and maintaining it when it’s off the ground, takes a lot of time and energy, especially when it’s still very much a side hustle. You’ll probably find yourself dedicating a lot of late nights, early mornings and weekends to your new venture. When you’re employed full-time, you’ve got to find the time to give your business the TLC it needs to grow from somewhere. Consider giving yourself a standing 8am ‘team’ meeting every week – even if the team is only you. This can be an opportunity to check in on how things have been going and what you plan to do next.

Make sure you schedule time beyond that meeting to actually do the work. If you’re awake at 6am because the kids are up, maybe you can squeeze in a couple of hours between 6am and 8am. Or perhaps you find you work best when they’ve gone to bed. Find whatever works for you, and stick with it to keep it thriving.


Find a network/support system

Having people you can talk to about the trials and tribulations of hustlin’ alongside employment is really, really handy. Having a group of people that you can vent to or ask for guidance is key to helping you keep your sanity, which is vital to helping you make your biz a success. Surround yourself with people you can talk to, bounce ideas off and get genuine feedback from. The internet is awash with groups that can help you find your people – and when you do, you’ll be so, so grateful for them.


Making the jump from employment to your hustle

When things start going well, you might find yourself in a position to consider leaving employment to pursue your side hustle. That’s a pretty sweet state of affairs. First of all, if you’re even thinking about doing it, give yourself a bloody big pat on the back. A LOT of hard work, blood, sweat and tears go into getting to that point. Generally, it’s recommended that you build a sustainable flow of customers and a growing cash flow that exceeds at least
75 per cent of what your day job pays you.

Leaving employment to be your own boss is always a bit of a gamble but this gives you a cushion to make sure your costs are covered. It’s generally a good idea to have at least six months’ worth of savings too, so you’ve got a buffer here if things go a bit pear-shaped at any point, or if your business doesn’t grow as quickly as you hoped.


So, thinking about starting your side hustle? Now is as good a time as any. Take that leap!


Recommended reading

The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon | 100 Things Successful People Do by Nigel Cumberland | When to Jump by Mike Lewis | Self Made by Bianca Miller-Cole | The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

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