What It Really Takes to Grow a Side Gig

January 9, 2013

Don’t miss this upcoming webinar: Launch Your Side Hustle Like a Rock Star. (Yes, it’s free.)

Starting a side hustle — whether you’re working a designer, writer, coach or whatever — isn’t easy. And one of the biggest challenges is TIME.

How on earth are you supposed to launch a business when you’re already working a full-time job AND spending time with family, working out, reading books…?

So I'm a sticky-note junkie. So what?

So I’m a sticky-note junkie. So what?

That’s exactly what this reader was thinking when she wrote me this note a few months ago:

The thing I struggle most with is having to do my work in very short time frames. I have maybe two hours in the morning during the week before I go to my full-time job, and the evenings are often spent unwinding or hanging out with my boyfriend. I’m not willing to sacrifice my quality of life to start a business ““ especially when the business is supposed to be about a better quality of life!

Let me offer a little tough love here: starting a business isn’t going to be easy, and it’s not going to start itself.

If starting a side hustle were easy, everyone would do it. Instead, it’s left for the go-getters, the ambitious innovators, the cream of the crop. Which makes it easy to spot people who will do great things with their career; just keep your eye out for the hustlers.

And on the flip side — I’m getting on a tangent here, but it’s a worthwhile one, I promise — if you want to propel your career forward, spearheading a smart money-making pursuit on the side of your full-time job is one of the best ways to do it.

Anyway. The truth is, it IS becoming easier to launch a side biz. The Internet’s making it easier by the day to make a name for yourself, land clients and sell your work. That’s one of the main reasons the side gig is gaining popularity.

But it’s still not easy. Like any business, it takes some serious effort and sweat to gain momentum. And that’s going to take time; there’s simply no way around it.

So what should you do if you’re short on hours and finding it difficult to make time for your side hustle?

1. Ask yourself: How badly do I want this?

The truth is, you probably WILL have to give up some of your down time if you want to build a business or project on the side of your day job. There are no shortcuts. You’ll have to spend some evenings and weekends working if your daytime hours are full. (Been there, done that. And still do that sometimes.)

If spending time with family or enjoying a certain hobby is your priority, that’s totally fine — no one will deny those are worthwhile pursuits! But your biz simply won’t take off unless you’re willing to give up something else to spend time on it. (Click here to tweet that idea.)

What that means is this: You have to CHOOSE YOUR PRIORITIES. You have to make choices.

Pick and choose, and then execute. And focus on what you accomplish rather than sulking over what you’re missing. Because you can’t have everything, can’t do everything, and thinking about what you’re missing rather than what you’re enjoying is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserable.

If you’re NOT willing to give up something in your life to make room for a side hustle, you might be better off focusing on what you’ve got rather than starting something new.

2. Make sure you’re super productive when you DO work, spending time only on what’s most important.

Don’t let yourself get distracted by menial tasks that aren’t integral to your success. Focus on what pays, what grows your business and your network, and what helps you learn new skills. Practice saying no and letting small bad things happen so you can get big things done.

I say “practice” because this isn’t a skill you will develop overnight; it takes time to understand and build upon your work habits and strengths, especially if this is the first time you’re giving yourself orders (as opposed to doing what your boss tells you to do). Being productive when no one’s looking at your time sheet requires self-discipline.

If you have a side hustle or are thinking about creating one, how do you make time for it?

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    12 Replies to “What It Really Takes to Grow a Side Gig”

    • I’m just starting up my freelancing adventure being recently married and just moving to Dallas, TX (next week :D), I’ll not be in a rush to quit the new job I got so it’ll give me time to fail some first.

      My take is I want to make my wife as comfortable as possible and once we have a kid the same, so I’m happy to take my time building up a side business, but your advice has been excellent Alexis. thank you!

    • Anna says:

      I’ll be giving up sleep. Though, some things are just non-negotiable, such as taking care of young children. They don’t feed and bathe themselves yet, and unfortunately, my 4-year old doesn’t drive a car.

      When you have a full-time job that sucks the life out of you 12 hours a day, you’re pretty much in zombie mode in the quiet of the night. How productive could I possbily be? But as you mentioned, how badly do I want this? Pretty bad. My current state of affairs is unacceptable.

      Sounds like an execuse? That’s because it is. Something more has to give. Maybe I shouldn’t indulge in eating my lunch over the computer. Instead, I should pry myself out of the self-imposed shackles and use my lunch hour to work on a small but crucial task toward freedom.

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Anna — I see you’re going to succeed simply because you’re thinking about this in a smart way, how you can give something up to make room for your priorities. I imagine it’s all more difficult with kids, but still possible! We’re rooting for you.

      • Do you have the type of job where you have little breaks in addition to your lunch hour? If this is the case, perhaps you can eat on your breaks (this will also force you to eat smaller meals per day). Then have one hour of undisturbed concentration towards a task for your side gig.

    • Rob Farquhar says:

      I need to give up the idea that I can just cruise on without direction. While I put in close on an hour every morning toward writing and usually grab half an hour of lunch on editing time, it’s not really going anywhere beyond blog posts.

      Goal setting is the biggest thing I struggle with; it’s the fear of picking the “wrong” thing, or investing time toward something I later discover I don’t really care about. I have this habit of shooting myself down in my own head before I even start.

      Which means that one of the other things I can give up is not talking to those closest to me about it. It’s a combination of fear of disapproval and being able to get out of doing things when no one is expecting me to. Problem is, if I can’t tell anyone what I’m doing, I can’t ask for help.

    • David says:

      I’ve just started blogging as a side gig and I agree that it’s tough to find time- most of my best thoughts come when I’m driving, brushing my teeth, etc., which makes it tough to get everything down. I do my best to make notes and then hopefully I can recreate the magic when I have an hour or two before bed or on a weekend morning.

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