Side Hustler's Life: 5 Ways to Make It Work
You are working a full-time job, expectant to have a social life (debatable if this expectation is even realistic) and grinding away on your side project – with only 24 hours in a day. Oh and then there’s sleep, pretty essential, too.
As the special projects director at Entrepreneur.com and the founder of This Dog’s Life, a website for dog lovers in cities and beyond, I know that this sort of lifestyle can be a juggling routine that at times feels impossible.
But With This Dog’s Life up and running a few years, I know that it is possible. Here are some strategies I have learned to help semi-manage it all.
1. Outsource what you don’t know
You can’t do it all, so don’t try.
Could I have taken a 12-week course on coding (something so many people recommend) to build the website and manage it? Technically, yes. But by being heads down in HTML gobbledygook, I wouldn’t have had time to do what I am good at: writing and editing. I had to choose my battles. So, I outsourced the development to a third-party, but could still be part of the process.
For those looking to start a side hustle, take stock of what you can do and get help with the other areas. It doesn’t need to be super expensive – there are plenty of people out there that can do the job without draining your funds – but it does take time. You need to vet people, ask questions, get referrals (and reach out to them!) and have a thought-out plan to help them do their job better.
2. Grab the low-hanging fruit.
Focus on what will provide the greatest output.
For This Dog’s Life, I tend to write the news articles, as that is something I can do quickly. And while news is just one facet (the lion’s share will focus on improving a dog’s life), I know it is the fastest way to grow the audience base in the least amount of time.
For those looking to start a side hustle, focus on the low-hanging fruit. Think about the areas you are good at -- the skillset you have excelled in -- and spend your time there.
3. Get a partner
This can be a hard one to swallow for many founders. When I started This Dog’s Life, I got to focus on my mission and create a pathway for the long-term vision. I also owned 100 percent of the company. But between the day-to-day tasks and long-term goals, it wasn’t manageable.
I needed a partner, which ego wise, was a bit challenging. Not only am I giving up control and ownership in the company, but I also must discuss my vision with someone else – and make compromises.
And while compromise is hard, the benefits far outway the negatives. If you are doing a side hustle, I do recommend teaming up with someone. It is the divide-and-conquer mentality that helps businesses scale.
Look for someone that has the opposite skillset as you, but is not so super specialized (i.e. product developer for Android devices), as the person needs to do a little of everything.
Also, you need to like the person. Your partner doesn’t have to be your best friend (and most likely shouldn’t be, as arguments will occur) but he or she should be able to pass the “airport test” -- Would you want to be stuck in an airport with this person?
Be honest with yourself. Don’t welcome the first person that expresses interest, has the funds or the capabilities. Think of it like dating: It takes a while to see if there is long-term potential. Work on a smaller project together. See how the person is with her schedule, commitments, work ethic and what she can bring to the table.
After a set period – 30, 60 or 90 days – have a conversation about how it went. If you feel like it is a good fit, discuss what it would look like working together. I used this alignment document to go through a number of potential issues that could arise.
4. Manage expectations.
Caesar didn’t conquer Rome in a day and neither will you. Don’t expect to have millions of customers in a week, month or even a year. A side hustle is definitely a slow journey and one that requires a lot of patience.
Working a full-time job, while focusing on a side project means you aren’t ready to dive in, with the reasons running the gamut – no revenue, feeling out the market or simply not 100 percent comfortable with the entrepreneurship lifestyle. Be okay with not moving at lightening speed, if you aren’t ready to do so.
Celebrate the wins. I often forget to do this and instead focus on all my shortcomings. But it is important to give yourself a pat on the back. There will always be something else that needs to get done, so be happy with the small milestones.
Figure out ways to automate. This could be in your communication strategies to your billing or SEO.
With This Dog’s Life being run on WordPress, I use a number of plugins, while I have used Hootsuite to schedule posts on social media and MailChimp to quickly create email campaigns.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead focus on just having a smoother ride.