Having a side hustle is great, but to make it something more lucrative requires real strategy.
7 min read
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You set out with the best of intentions … Coming home from your day job, you hop on your computer to work on building that ecommerce store, flipping a recent real estate purchase, driving traffic to your new retail site or hiring freelancers to help grow your agency.
Related: 50 Ideas for a Lucrative Side Hustle
And eventually you see results: That side hustle turns into a thriving business which in turn allows you to quit your job and take back control of your life; at least, that’s the idea.
You’re not working those extra hours every evening just for fun, but because you’re investing in your future. And you’re not alone … because millions of Americans are doing exactly the same.
In fact, 44 million Americans have a side hustle of their own, according to research by Bankrate. But as you may have guessed, not all side hustles turn into thriving businesses. Indeed, the same Bankrate research found that the median income for millennials with a side hustle was only about $200 per month.
Why is that? Well, there’s a massive difference between making a little extra cash each month and scaling a corporation. As James Penney, founder of JCPenney, once said, “Growth is never by mere chance …”
He was right: Your side hustle won’t turn into the “freedom machine” you want unless you plan for it and work earnestly toward it. Here are four things you may not be doing that perhaps you should, according to those who have turned their side hustles into thriving businesses:
1. Building a business means doing things that don’t immediately pay off.
Many of the tasks necessary to building a thriving, long-term business conflict with the immediate results that side-hustlers crave. Most people with a side hustle want to make a little extra money this month, next month and the month after that.
The problem is, building a thriving business requires you to not just work on short-term, revenue-generating tasks, but also the long-term, momentum-building items, as well. Believe it or not, as Quartz and others have reported, it took Amazon more than a decade to finally turn a profit.
And as for more identifiable, real-life examples,here’s how Joe Auer, founder of Mattress Clarity, a site for reviewing mattresses, explained things to me in a recent email: “When you’re trying to build a seven-figure business,” Auer wrote, “a lot of the things you work on won’t pay off immediately. In fact, they might not pay off for years to come.”
Continued Auer, “With my own business, I knew I’d have to spend time and money on SEO, branding and content promotion — all things which wouldn’t pay me back any time soon. Now, years later, they are paying me back, big time.”
2. Most side-hustlers have multiple side hustles.
Here’s the thing about the typical person who starts a side hustle: He or she typically doesn’t start just one.
More likely, this person starts one and gets it to generate some money: $1,000 per month, let’s say. Then, instead of learning to scale that same side hustle into a $10,000-per-month or a $50,000-per-month business, this fledgling entrepreneur starts yet another side hustle … and another one after that.
Eventually, the same person has three side hustles, each making $1,000 per month; but the person behind them has too little time or energy to scale any of them — reason enough why people with a side hustle claim time and energy available as one of their biggest barriers to success, according to Side Hustle Nation.
Don’t forget what Steve Jobs once taught at an Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference in 1997: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
Most people with one side hustle have several side hustles. But often, the key to scaling your side hustle into a large, thriving business is simply to give it the attention it deserves — and to say “no” to everything else.
3. You’ll almost always hit the target you were aiming for.
The truth about business is that you’re almost always going to get out what you put in — you’re going to get back exactly what you expect. When you set out to build a side hustle which makes $1,000 per month, you’re probably going to succeed at building exactly that kind of side hustle. When you set out to build a $10,000-per-month business, you’ll also probably succeed, so long as you are determined to make it work.
As Tony Robbins wrote in a recent blog post, “The only thing keeping you from getting what you want is yourself.”
When people with a side hustle don’t reach their goals, it’s almost always because they have their sights aimed at the wrong target: a low-threshold side hustle. They’re saying, “I want to go big,” but they’re not taking the required actions to make it happen. You’ll almost always hit the target that you’re aiming for. The trick is to change what you’re aiming for.
4. You can’t be the horse, carriage and driver.
When most people work to build a side hustle, they do everything themselves. Often, these people are disciplined, hard-working and efficient. They know what they’re doing, they know how to do it and they trust no one more than themselves.
Which is why delegating and scaling their business becomes such a challenge down the road. The more you learn to trust only yourself, the less capable you are of hiring, training and trusting others to work for you.
During a recent call, George Konidis, SEO expert and business consultant, said, “If you’re going to build a big corporation, you can’t do everything yourself. You have to teach people to do high-quality work, you have to inspire them, you have to become a leader, not just a doer. Most people with a side hustle lack that mentality. They are trying to make a quick buck rather than build a high-revenue entity with lots of different moving parts.”
While having a side hustle is great for making a little extra cash on the side, it’s unlikely (maybe impossible?) for that side hustle to morph into something bigger unless you take intentional action to make it more than, well, a side-hustle.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a side hustle, but there is something wrong with expecting that side hustle to become a thriving business — if you don’t change where you’re aiming.