The job you have right now probably isn’t your dream job. But if you have a side gig, it could be.
Chasing that dream is one reason nearly half of Americans have a side hustle. Beyond earning extra money, side jobs allow people to spend time doing what they love.
Why don’t they simply switch? Many worry their side hustle will never be profitable enough to support them, or that it doesn’t fit the mold of a stable and worthwhile occupation.
With enough tenacity and dedication, you can make it work. After all, being happy is what matters most.
If you’re looking to upgrade your side hustle into a full time gig, know this: You’re going to have to put your nose to the grindstone. If you’re ready for that, these eight steps can help you make your dream a reality:
- Set Milestones
Achievements rarely fall into your lap. If you’re going to turn a side hustle into a career, you need a plan.
Start by thinking through your goals. How money do you need to make to support yourself? How many hours per week are you prepared to work?
Next, you’ll need a timetable. Where do you want to be in three months? In six months, might you be able to make $1,000 per month? Perhaps in a year, you’ll be ready to quit your full-time job.
Everyone’s financial situation is different. Know yours, and set reasonable goals to bring your income and expenses in line.
- Work From Home
The Covid-19 pandemic has created more work from home opportunities than ever. Not only can working from home keep you safe, but it can lower your bills. You won’t need to pay for office space, much less gas for your commute, if you’re able to hustle from home.
Consider the pros and cons of working from home before you make the switch. If you have young kids at home, is saving money by skipping the babysitter worth the distraction? You’ll have to answer that question for yourself, but the flexibility of remote work can give you more time to grow your business.
- Do Something Every Day
Turning your side hustle into your main hustle is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t quit your day job before you’re sure your side gig is steady. Instead, put in a little effort every day until you’re confident you can decommit from your current responsibility.
Think back to your milestones. To meet your three-month target, is it enough to write one article each day?
When in doubt, use the “one more thing” system: If you’re used to writing that one article each day, your “one more thing” might be making a trip to the bank, choosing a new project management system, or checking in with your accountant.
- Focus on Time Management
In order to make the time to work on your side hustle every day, you’ll need top-notch time management skills. Managing your time well not only lets you get more done, but it cuts down on the stress that comes with juggling two lines of work.
There’s no “right” or “wrong” system, so long as it works for you. Some people love time-boxing — splitting your entire day into 30-minute chunks, and dedicating each to a particular priority — while others prefer more flexibility. Maybe you set three key priorities for the day, only letting yourself worry about other tasks and chores once you’ve tackled that trio.
- Network With Other Hustlers
All around you are people who are working to grow their own side hustles. Even if their line of work is different from yours, you can gain valuable insights and advice from them. Make time at least once a week to network with these people.
Where can you connect with these people?
- Social Media
Are there Facebook groups or Twitter hashtags for people who do what you do? Send them a message, and see if they’d like to chat.
- Industry Conferences
Depending on your industry, virtual and in-person conferences might be a good bet. If you’re not sure how valuable an event might be, opt to attend online.
- Alumni Associations
If you went to a design school and are trying to build your own graphic design business, what are your classmates up to? Touch base with your alumni association to find out.
- Business Development Sessions
Especially if you’re just starting your side hustle, sign up for a class put on by a group like the Small Business Administration. You’ll learn more about running a business while meeting people in the same boat as you.
- Join a Community
Speaking of conferences and associations, it’s never a bad idea to solidify your network by joining a community dedicated to what you do. Beyond giving you advice, these organizations can also make collaboration easier and offer benefits like health insurance.
A good example is the Freelancers Union. Whatever your industry, you can join as an independent contractor. Members get access to everything from legal representation to finance tools to life insurance.
- Build Your Sales Skills
Not everyone is born a salesperson. But if you’re going to actually generate enough income to replace your main job, you’ll need to learn to sell. Careful listening, above-and-beyond service, and concise pitching are three areas to focus on.
The good news is, sales is like a snowball. Once you’ve proven yourself to a couple of clients, word about your skills will get around. Bolster your efforts with low-cost marketing tactics, like email campaigns, social media, and blog content.
- Never Stop Learning
The more knowledge and skills you acquire, the more successful you’ll be. Whether it’s working on those sales skills, learning to write, or trying your hand at your own taxes, you’ll need a wide range of skills to build your business.
For side hustlers who also hold down a job, online learning makes the most sense. Everything from YouTube tutorials to massive open online courses to your competitors’ content can help you grow your skills for free.
Once you’re ready to switch your side hustle to your day job, don’t rest on your laurels. Set some new milestones, identify another skill you’d like to develop, and never stop pushing toward your passion.