How to run a side-hustle start-up while you're working full-time
Posted: Wed 26th Dec 2018
Ever caught yourself clock-watching while plotting world domination? Have you spent time scheming about how you're going to launch a business while working a nine-to-five?
You're not alone. Many entrepreneurs start working on their businesses while they still have a day job because it's the only way they can afford to startup.
The number of side hustlers - individuals who run their own business on top of their day job - has increased by 32% in the last decade, according to research from GoDaddy and Cebr.
Starting a business is an amazing experience. But the long hours and divided focus make running a side hustle a tough gig. We've looked at how you can manage the stress, prioritisation and make the most of your time side hustling.
1. Managing the time you have
Being proactive about time management helps make sure you get the most value out of the little time you have.
Look for tools that can automate simple tasks. If you're getting bogged down processing simple information it's likely there's an easier option. Recording expenses and cashflow reports can be automated by online software like Xero and Fulfilment by Amazon warehouses stock and automatically dispatches online orders.
Be relentless about prioritisation. Develop a routine for managing your to-do list. It can help to revisit it regularly to think about what can be dropped and the main priorities - what's going to make the most impact?
Plastic Freedom founder Beth Noy launched the business as a side hustle. She recently quit her day job after building the company for 11 months.
"By making a list of your priorities you can easily categorise them and do multiple things at once rather than wasting time getting everything set up and put away each time," Noy advised.
2. Set customer and supplier expectations
You need to manage partner expectations to make sure people aren't disappointed when you're unable to immediately deliver work or respond to communications.
"Making sure I had realistic goals and timescales for Plastic Freedom was vital. I have been very open about my life and the fact that I also worked full time whilst growing my own business," Noy said.
She made sure customers and suppliers were aware of her time limitations and used an auto-reply on emails to set expectations for new contacts.
"So long as you're upfront with customers and suppliers about your limitations you'll be surprised about how understanding they are. We are all human after all!" Noy added.
3. Get a day-job you believe in
Entrepreneurs often start businesses in their existing industry having identified a problem they want to solve in the course of their career. Having access to industry contacts and a reputation helps you get started too.
If you're thinking about starting a side hustle look for work opportunities that help you learn more about the customers you want to work with. The job role could be directly related to the business you're starting or simply in the same area.
A wannabe restaurant owner that's researching their brand could benefit from working as a chef. If you want to open a yoga studio getting a part-time job in a gym might help. Seeing how other businesses operate and structure their work is really helpful.
Freelancing offers a flexible option. Not only can entrepreneurs pick up work from clients that are related to the business, but it's possible to increase and decrease the work as the business - and the amount it can pay you - fluctuates.
4. Use the time to test your hypotheses
Businesses are built to meet customers' needs. Entrepreneurs develop hypotheses about products and services that they believe consumers want. Problems they need solving. This normally starts as a hunch that needs to be tested.
Would you buy shoes online? Do you want to broadcast yourself playing video games? The ideas behind rocketship startups like Zappos and Twitch were unconventional when they launched. Your side hustle might not have a similarly disruptive proposition but your ideas likely include assumptions about demand, price and route to market.
Developing a business as a side hustle provides the time to figure out if you're right without the risk of committing to it full time. Use the opportunity to get to know your customer. Take steps to improve your proposition and the brand behind it. The Mom Test is a useful place to start if you want to learn how to ask questions and learn about your audience.
5. Be frugal with your money
Entrepreneurs working on their startups full-time immediately incur a significant amount of cost. Wages have to be paid. Office space is needed. Growth targets will be set and it's easy to get sucked into investing considerable amounts of money chasing revenue growth.
Working on a side hustle embeds a sense of financial discipline. The nut - the minimum amount you need to run the business - can be really low. Websites and marketing can be run with a few low-cost or free subscription services. Most people running a side hustle do it out of their own home.
6. Look after your mental and physical well-being
Starting a business is tough. It's normal to face setbacks. Worries about money and failure are easily compounded by a lack of sleep. A feeling of loneliness is common among solo founders.
Starting a side hustle helps alleviate stress about money because you have an income to rely on. However, many of the common pressures remain and you have to balance different demands on your time.
Entrepreneurs need to take their well-being seriously. Part of startup culture celebrates working relentlessly. The reality is you need a balanced lifestyle to continue to perform at a high level, enjoy your work and avoid burnout.
Ambition's great but be reasonable about your expectations and build the business that's sustainable for your lifestyle.
Exercising helps you stay healthy and has the added benefit of creating a space free distractions that will help you think and develop ideas.
"Being active is great for your physical health and fitness and evidence shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing," says NHS advice. "Being active doesn't mean you need to spend hours in the gym if that doesn't appeal to you. Find physical activities you enjoy and think about how to fit more of them into your daily life."
It's easy to feel like you're the only person that's struggling with particular business challenges. Whether it's winning sales, choosing a business name or understanding your profit and loss accounts lots of other people are out there facing the same issues.
Building a network that gives you an opportunity to discuss ideas, learn and vent when you need to is incredibly powerful.
"My advice to listen to your mind and body and allow yourself time to enjoy life. When I'm focused I can get a lot done in a short period of time but I allow myself to have time off - without feeling guilty about it - when I just felt too tired.
"Make time for the things you love, stay healthy and get enough sleep. The rest will flow easily; following your dream should be fun!," Noy said.