5 Tips for Making a Side Hustle Work the Way You Want It To

If you’ve ever thought about starting a side hustle, you’re probably motivated by one of three reasons:

  1. It’s a hobby, and you’re feeding your interest during your free time.

  2. You’re supplementing your primary income. Maybe you have financial goals you want to reach, and having an extra income source will help get you there quicker.

  3. You plan to transition into entrepreneurship full time, so you’re testing the waters with a side hustle before taking the big leap and quitting your full-time job.

Regardless of your motivations, you’re about to start a business. And the moment you expect people to start paying you money in exchange for value that you provide, you can no longer treat it as a passive endeavour. But when you have a full-time job – in addition to a life that you’d really like to enjoy – that’s easier said than done.

There’s a reason it’s called a side hustle: you need to work hard to make it a success. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Establish a routine and set goals

Having a routine will help keep you on track. If you start working on your side hustle every evening after dinner, you’ll train your mind that after dinner, it’s time for work (and not time to send yourself down another YouTube rabbit hole). When your side hustle is part of your routine, it will feel less like a drain on your resources.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about habit stacking, where you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage. The formula for habit stacking is “After [current habit], I will [new habit].” So, for example, “after washing the dishes in the evenings, I will sketch designs for my swimwear line.” Washing the dishes becomes the cue that triggers the next behaviour (in this case, something to do with your side hustle).

Of course, you’ll need to be sure your routine is based on solid goals. Sketching designs after dinner could go on forever – what’s the goal? When time is a limited resource, you need to be specific and realistic about your goals (try using SMART goals to get started). Remember: you are now your own employer and no one else is holding you accountable.

2. Create boundaries

A side hustle doesn’t mean working during all your free time. But if you’re not careful, it’s easy to fall into that trap.

Set boundaries to ensure that you don’t end up taking time from other priorities in your life, like family time and engaging in relationships that enrich you. There are plenty of ways to set boundaries for yourself:

  • Try time blocking. Decide ahead of time when you’ll work on your side hustle, and stop working on it when that time is up.

  • Use focus apps. If you’re totally focused while working on your side hustle, you’ll make more of your time and be less likely to need to work outside of your planned hours. Focus apps can block distractions on all your devices, allowing you to use your motivation and energy on meaningful work.

3. Set up processes and automate

It can be tempting to do everything yourself: we sometimes make the mistake of valuing money over time. But time is also a limited commodity. And a side hustle in particular means limited time. Your focus should be on the activities that fulfil you and generate revenue.

Take stock of all your processes to figure out what you might be able to automate. Once you’ve automated your tedious tasks, you’ll have a better understanding of your actual capacity. You’ll be able to more clearly set expectations for clients (and for yourself).

4. Ask for feedback

A side hustle is a great opportunity for you to do something you love. But, as with any skill, it will take time before you’ve mastered your craft.

From the start, make sure to get feedback from your customers and clients to find out where you can improve. Whether it’s the quality of your offering, the efficiency of your processes, or the ease with which your customers can find you and do business with you, everything should be reviewed for potential improvements.

Learn as much as you can from others who are doing what you want to do and ask questions. Remember: you’re testing an idea and working your way to product-market fit on your terms. Your biggest advantage with a side hustle is that you have time to test your business model and validate your ideas over time without the stress of wondering how you’re going to pay the bills. Use that time to make sure your business is the best it can be.

5. Think long-term

Side hustles don’t turn into income-generating businesses overnight.

With this in mind, you need to play the long game. Ask yourself if your current habits and routine can be sustained for several years—or more. As with any business, your actions have to be guided by a long-term strategy that should motivate you to keep going even when faced with adversity.

If you do decide to pursue your side hustle full time, your confidence after having experimented and learned everything on your own terms will be more than someone diving into full-time entrepreneurship with no prior experience. Even if you don’t decide to go full time into your side hustle, the skills you develop from running one can help you excel at your full-time job and life in general. Your side hustle doesn’t have to overrun your life. What’s important is that you lay the right foundations in order to draw the most value from your experience.

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