In a gig economy, turning passion to profit is within your reach.
Who wouldn’t want to be their own boss? While it feels like a pipe dream for most, the current shift from salaried positions to freelance and project-based work has made the goal of self-employment more attainable – and far more attractive. Gone are the days when hopeful employees took the first offer they got out of school, where they would spend the next forty years grinding away at the same company in the name of 3% raises, a half-decent pension, and a gold watch. The era of the “company man” is long gone. Good riddance.
The gig economy now accounts for one-third of US employment, and while many workers benefit from the supplemental income, few realize the possibility of turning their passion projects and side hustles into full-time, meaningful work. According to this study by the Hiscox Group, which surveyed 400 successful small businesses that began as side hustles, over half of respondents were driven by their pursuit of a personal passion or the desire to be their own boss. And 30% of those side hustles were in industries separate from the full-time jobs they were working at previously. With time, planning, and a whole lot of hustle, starting your own business no longer has to be a pipe dream. Here are a few tips to get you started.
At the time of this writing, I have yet to win a Pulitzer prize – and blogging isn’t my full-time job, either. But I’m a writer, and writing is what I do. When you first start networking and building your brand, don’t refer to yourself as an “aspiring” this or a “hopeful” that. You are what you do and who you say you are, and you don’t need an LLC to prove that. Present yourself accordingly – just be sure to have some work samples or a portfolio at the ready to back it up.
Call it a business, not a side hustle
Don’t work for free just because your business is in its early stages, and decline any offers to work for “the exposure”. That’s a euphemism for “I see you have the skills for the job, but I don’t want to pay you for it.” Politely explain that you are a business and, if necessary, break down your pricing strategy for the potential customer. If they refuse to pay, walk away.
Scale your pricing as your business grows
Unless you already have a killer portfolio, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to charge your full worth in the beginning. Don’t lowball yourself into poverty, but when first starting out, it will be easier to accumulate clientele if you set your price slightly below market average. Quality work at an affordable price will not only earn you loyal customers but referrals as well, which can help your business expand exponentially. As your portfolio grows, you can structure your pricing accordingly, progressively increasing fees as you take on new customers.
Consider a freelancer platform to get you started
Fiverr, Upwork, and Dribbble are just a few of the many platforms that help connect customers with freelancers looking for work. If you’re struggling to build a client base, sites like these are a great place to start. As you build your base and begin taking on referrals, you can eventually cut out the middleman and work with clients directly. Some full-time freelancers opt to use platforms like Fiverr as their primary website, as it already has built-in marketing tools and doesn’t require HTML or web developing skills.
Put the time in
There are no shortcuts, and it will take a lot of hours and late nights to turn a side hustle into a full-time job. Ignore the tales of supposed overnight success; these stories almost always leave out the years of hustle it took to become successful. You will have to sacrifice some weekend trips and burn the midnight oil as often as you can to make this work. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Just be sure to know your limits and take a rest when you need to avoid burnout.
Don’t throw a Hail Mary with your finances
Had I known that a digital currency named after a Shiba Inu meme would blow up overnight, I would have invested my life savings in Dogecoin immediately. But I didn’t know that, and neither did anyone else, and it would have been a horrible financial decision. Starting a small business is always risky, but these risks should be calculated. You will need a good deal of capital and a substantial safety net for unforeseen costs and times when business is slow. Ease into it and try to build a decent client base before quitting your day job.
If you have a passion or hobby you’ve always dreamed of turning into a full-time endeavor, you can. Just plan ahead, don’t give up easily, and be ready to hustle. Good luck out there.