Let’s say you’ve been putting in the time and effort required to maintain a successful side hustle for a while now. Maybe it’s your passion, or maybe it’s just something you started doing to earn a little extra cash each month. Either way, you’re enjoying it, and now you’re wondering if it’s possible to turn your side hustle into a business.
The good news is, that it is totally possible to turn your side hustle into a legit business.
However, you shouldn’t just quit your day job on a whim without any plan for how to take your side hustle to the next level. Turning your side hustle into a business takes careful planning, and you definitely don’t want to take the leap without preparing first.
So, without further ado, let’s get into how to turn your side hustle into a successful business.
Summary: Turning Your Side Hustle Into a Business?
To take your side hustle to the next level and turn it into a business, here are a few of the things you’ll need to do:
- Be professional no matter what
- Put in lots of time
- Have a solid business plan
- Avoid scaling up too quickly
- Manage your time carefully
- Be willing to take the jump when you’re ready
How to Turn Your Side Hustle Into a Successful Business in 6 Steps
First of all, it should go without saying that if you’re thinking about turning your side hustle into a full–time job, it should already be a pretty well-established gig.
If you’re still in the early stages of figuring out how to turn your hobby into a side hustle or even still thinking about what kind of side hustle is right for you, check out my 2023 guide to the best side hustles for inspiration.
Now, back to the business of building a business.
1. Lay a Foundation of Professionalism
Even if your side gig takes up only a few hours of your time every week, treating it like a “real job” is the first step towards turning your side hustle into a business.
What this means is that you should take it seriously as a responsibility in your life and put in the appropriate amount of time and effort accordingly.
Let’s say you have a side gig as a freelance web developer, but you’re looking to turn it into a full-time job or even open your own small web agency.
Even if you only have one client, or are only working on relatively simple projects, treat them with the professionalism they deserve: communicate professionally and formally with your client(s), don’t miss deadlines, and definitely don’t do sloppy or half-effort work.
In your own work life, sticking to a regular work schedule every day can help you be more productive and also start to view your side hustle as a business venture.
This can be hard, especially if you’re working from home, but try to act as though you’re in an office: work regular hours, avoid distractions like social media or Netflix, and don’t wear your pajamas or work in bed.
After all, if you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will.
2. Be Prepared to Put in the Time (Seriously, a Lot of Time)
Source: Lynn Scurfield for the New York Times
No one ever said creating a business was easy, and I won’t sugarcoat it: if you’re trying to turn your side hustle into a full-fledged business, you can kiss your weekends goodbye.
Why? Well, not only does getting a business off the ground take a lot of time, but most people who have a side hustle have, well, a main hustle, too.
And unless your full-time job is very relaxed, you probably won’t be able to spend any time working on your side hustle during your work day.
That means that all that extra effort will have to happen in your free time – i.e., on weekends, evenings, and during vacations.
But don’t let this discourage you: in fact, you can think of the time you spend working on your side hustle as an investment you’re making in yourself or even as vacation time that you’re earning for your future self.
If your business becomes successful thanks to all your hard work, that’s money in your pocket for the future vacations you’re dreaming about.
3. Draw Up a Business Plan
For many people, one of the most attractive things about having a side hustle is that it’s informal. You can work as many or as few hours as you want, and you don’t have to worry about too much planning or paperwork.
However, if you’re trying to turn your side hustle into a legit business, planning and paperwork are exactly the things you’ll need to worry about.
To have the best possible chance at success, you’ll need to draw up a business plan that includes a budget and profit targets.
This is particularly necessary if your business requires you to look for investors, who will be expecting you to deliver a professional pitch that includes more than just your brilliant ideas.
You will also need to look into the laws and regulations in your specific state, town, or region regarding the type of business you plan to create.
For example, you may need to start an LLC (limited liability company) or something similar for your business to be legal and legitimate.
There’s also the pesky matter of filing taxes for your business: this can be a headache to figure out, but if you don’t want to break the law, then, unfortunately, it’s the price you’ll have to pay.
This is also a good time to consider whether you can handle your business alone.
You very likely won’t be able to afford employees yet, but bringing on an equal business partner (a friend, family member, or someone else who shares your vision) can ease your workload and raise your chances for long-term success.
As they say, two heads are better than one.
Long story short, having a clear business plan modeled after other successful business ventures in your field is necessary to ensure success.
4. Scale Up Wisely
“Scaling” a business is another way to refer to a growth strategy or how quickly you plan to expand your business.
And while it can be tempting to go all in and try to grow your business as quickly as possible, it’s very likely not a wise strategy.
Silicon Valley startup culture may be partially to blame for why people dream about becoming billionaires overnight.
When thinking about how to turn your side hustle into a startup, many people envision themselves getting VC (venture capitalist) funding and immediately having a nearly unlimited source of money.
But in reality, this is very unlikely to happen. Additionally, when you consider how many startups that receive VC funding fail because they scaled up too quickly and didn’t have a well-developed plan, it’s easy to see what the pitfalls of immediate exponential growth can be.
If you expand too quickly, you run the risk of taking on more work than you’re prepared to handle – not to mention potentially exceeding your budget. It’s best to start small, put in the hard work, and grow responsibly and sustainably.
This brings us to one of the reasons that starting with a side hustle is a great way to found a business: it gives you the opportunity to try it out before you jump all the way in.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a graphic design business and you begin by taking on work as a freelancer, you’ll have a better understanding of whether it’s the right fit for you – before you put in too much time or money.
5. Work Smarter, Not Harder
The sad truth is, there are only 24 hours every day. That’s 24 hours you have to work at your day job, exercise, have fun, do housework and chores, sleep, and – of course – work on expanding your side hustle.
Yikes! If that all seems daunting, it’s because it is. Creating a business is hard for many reasons, and time management is a big one.
I talked in step two about the importance of being willing to give up weekends and vacation time for the sake of your business. However, at the same time, it’s important to avoid burnout.
“Rise and grind” culture can seriously damage your physical and psychological health, and running yourself into the ground is definitely not a good way to start a business.
So, what can you do? You can’t add more hours to the day, so to keep yourself balanced, try to do as much of your work as possible in concentrated periods during your most productive hours.
For many people, those are the morning hours, but this varies from person to person.
And as always, if you’re feeling stuck or frustrated, taking a break to do something that centers you is a great idea. Go for a walk, play with your dog, or take a relaxing bath – whatever works for you.
6. Go for It!
The last step may actually be the hardest: take the plunge, quit your day job, and start working for your own business full-time.
As with many things in life, timing is everything. It’s important not to go all in before you’re ready, but you also need the courage to finally pull the trigger.
Remember, you’re never going to feel like it’s the “perfect” time to upend your life and make such a big move.
But if you’ve carefully laid the groundwork, written up your business plan, made all the necessary legal and technical preparations, and tested it out (i.e., built up your side hustle long enough to see that there’s steady growth and the potential to increase your profit), then it’s time to go for it.
The Bottom Line: How to Take Your Side Hustle to the Next Level
Turning your side hustle into a business won’t be easy: it requires drive, passion, and commitment to make it work.
You should know that you’ll likely fail before you succeed – maybe even more than once. It’s not something you should do if you aren’t prepared to give it your all, or if you aren’t sure it’s the right move for your life.
With that said, starting your own business from the ground up can be a majorly rewarding experience – and at the end of the day, who doesn’t want to be their own boss?