I Spent the Last 3 Years Building My Side Hustle Into a Full-Time Business. Here's What I Learned.
After spending the last few years growing my side job into a successful full-time business, these are the lessons my journey taught me that I wish I could tell my younger self.
Last month, I took the plunge to pursue my business full-time. What had started as a fun project turned into a side hustle that is now my full-time job. Three years ago, I was planning my honeymoon and was disappointed by the lack of comprehensive information and the lack of websites dedicated to planning a honeymoon.
So I started HoneymoonGoals.com. Now the business helps over 1 million honeymooners plan their trips yearly and books over $15 million in annual sales for my partners.
Here are five lessons I learned while growing my side hustle into a full-time business.
1. Just start
All you need is an idea and a way to make money.
The next step is the hardest (which is great because everything else afterward will be easier). You need to start.
Start small and don't be ashamed. Richard Branson has said, "A big business starts small." You should be somewhat embarrassed by the first version of your product. But don't be ashamed. You need to start somewhere. Every entrepreneur begins with something embarrassing.
You can start your side hustle with a simple website, a Facebook page or post a flyer. Anything to get the ball moving. Your first forway will be incomplete and not thoroughly thought out. You will make mistakes. That's helpful. Use this desire to fix issues and improve the business to fuel the motivation to keep going.
2. Apply consistent momentum
"Rocket ships" are an overused analogy to startups. Spaceships are fast-moving, high-flying, and ambitious, much like venture-funded tech startups. I have worked at three VC-backed startups that all called themselves "rocketships" at one point or another. We can probably blame Sheryl Sandberg for saying, "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on."
I think the better analogy between a rocketship and building a side hustle into a business is the constant thrust needed to reach escape velocity.
Rocketships get off the ground with enormous effort. They move slowly at first. But they apply constant thrust. As they get higher and start to escape Earth's gravity well, the same thrust results in more and more velocity.
Treat your side hustle like a rocket ship. It will take the most effort to launch. It requires consistent effort to keep moving forward. For me, this meant daily work on my business for three years. It could be minor, like adding a new article, scheduling social media posts, or reaching out to a new partner. Daily actions built momentum. As time goes on, the momentum builds and you can reach your escape velocity.
3. Keep it simple
To be a successful business, you need to be in business.
That means not running out of money or ambition. Starting a side hustle is full of distractions. You can take your new business in a million different directions. You will need to decide which ones are worth pursuing.
To keep it simple, focus on the short term and narrow your efforts to things that:
- Grow revenue.
- Reduce expenses.
- Provide value to customers.
This is an overly simple list. But it's extraordinary how many entrepreneurs get distracted by unnecessary goals, building their personal clout or taking far too risky bets.
Focus on short-term wins that grow profits and make your customers happy. When your side hustle has growing profits and happy customers, you can quickly leap into running the business full-time.
4. Network early and often
Networking for your side hustle can be awkward.
You may only have an idea. You may have no customers. You may be embarrassed by your website. Don't let it stop you. Connecting with people in your industry will likely open new doors for your business and accelerate your side hustle's growth.
When I started my business, I worked at tech startups in product marketing. I was not a honeymoon expert. So connecting with other travel agents, my partner resorts and my customers (honeymooners) felt strange. While I felt like an imposter, I didn't let it stop me.
Networking and connecting with people in this new industry was incredibly helpful in growing the business. It allowed me to become a honeymoon expert much more quickly and landed multiple win-win partnerships for the business.
5. Pursue big goals
When your side hustle is successful, will it be big enough to support you full-time? Many entrepreneurs start businesses that are too small to be anything more than an additional source of cash flow.
But if you want to go full-time on your business, you need to think bigger. In the case of my company, I aim to build the world's No. 1 honeymoon planning website. When I started the site, this was a ludicrous goal. I had no customers or partners. But I set a big enough goal to be able to grow the website into a full-time business. Americans spend more than $60 billion annually on weddings and $12 billion on honeymoons — it's a huge opportunity.
By pursuing big goals, I have a significant opportunity ahead of me now that I am working full-time on the business. If you set too small of goals, you'll reach the finish line too soon.
Starting a side hustle is a great way to enter into entrepreneurship. Over the past three years, I have grown my side hustle into a full-time job. I started small, applied effort consistently over three years, focused on customer satisfaction to grow profits, networked aggressively in the industry and set big goals.
If you're looking to turn a side hustle into a full-time business, remember the most challenging part is getting started. So get started and get hustling.
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