I’m a Melbourne mum of 2 cheeky teenage boys and 2 super-cute puppies. And I know what it means to juggle motherhood and this crazy thing called life with running a profitable business you love.
I’ve struggled with it at times. But I’ve also succeeded. In a BIG way.
I’ve got something really exciting that I want to talk about, and that is all about turning your side hustle into a successful business!
I’ve been a business coach for nearly six years and an entrepreneur since I was 24 years old.
I had an idea that I wanted to create my own business and in doing so, I needed to hustle quite a lot as it was a startup business with very little funds. I think I had $2,000, big dreams, a basic computer (it wasn’t like a nice skinny little laptop but a big chunky PCs – I’m starting to sound very ancient by the way) and a passion! It was really a passion project to start with the gift hamper business. I has been doing about six months of research to ascertain pricing and presentation and going to trade shows. I found an industry mentor, someone that was about probably 25 years older than me, who had a family business and they were making beautiful preserves and jam and oils. She really took me under her wing, which was really fabulous. I’ll always remember her, Barbara, as she gave me the confidence to keep pushing, to do the research, to know my numbers.
Barbara used to say, “Sarah trust no one in business or in life!” You know, she was probably a bit skeptical, but they had been around in business and been successful for quite some time.
I had landed a big $30,000 corporate wholesale order when I’d only just started the business. So it was at that point I wasn’t financially able to just throw everything in. So I worked around the business in part-time jobs until I could build up the following six months after my big Christmas order that had come from that windfall of $30,000. I knew then that what I needed to do was to build a scalable, recurring system that would ride out the times in the business when it was going to off-season.
60% of my revenue in the corporate gift hamper business was made at Christmas. It was rolled into basically one month of the year which was incredibly intense for fulfillment purposes but it also gave me an opportunity to think outside the box as to how I could create a recurring monthly income that would pay the bills, pay the fixed costs and give me a full-time income.
That was my first goal in starting that business at 24 from my kitchen table. My very first goal was to validate that what I was doing there was a demand for and I was going to do something I really loved and that I was really passionate about. And my biggest thing was that I wanted it to support me.
So working out your numbers and working out what you need is important when you have got a side hustle that’s really taking off and you’ve really got momentum and got great validation. You might be going to markets, for instance, and selling out of all your popular most designs. And you know you’re onto something. It’s such an incredible feeling when you are so passionate about what it is that you are creating and enjoying so much. And the fact that you are making money from it, that people are also responding and buying it.
You do like a little happy dance. Every time someone orders from you – you are thrilled!
I’m the same in my new business Little Koala Living. Every time I get an order or a reorder, I do that little happy dance and I don’t think anyone ever, no matter how big their business goes, doesn’t love that sound of “CHA-CHING” from their Shopify store when an order is placed. It gives you that little buzz inside!
I think that’s the best thing when women want to turn their side hustle into a successful product business. They’ve got big dreams of quitting their day jobs and going to work on that venture that they love. Some people do hold back. Some people may have limited self-beliefs or maybe concerns about financial stability. Maybe they want everything just perfect.
My saying is “done is better than perfect!”
So for people needing that sort of reassurance and taking blind steps in the dark and lessening the risk, I say, just take it. So in order for you to do that, there are certain ways of growing the side hustle.
A side hustle can be something that you know is solid. That you’re getting a great response for. You might be going to local markets, you might have done a more formalised market like Bowerbird or Finders Keepers market, which is a beautiful national artisan gifts and homeware market. You might have done those things and had a great response and you know that you are on the edge of something really, really great. So if you’ve got the drive and the energy – small business is not for the fainthearted, it can be a roller coaster – and if you’ve got what it takes, then you will find it. And if you have a side hustle that you are really passionate about, one that you’ve always wanted to scale for a while, the good news is that you don’t have to just go out and quit your job, but you do need to take that leap into the unknown and you need to be able to transition and do that.
My first tip is to really lay the foundation – stepping out into the great unknown can feel really risky, but to mitigate that risk, you can create a solid plan before you start. The great thing about a side hustle is that it’s one of the best ways to assess your business idea by giving you a chance to prove if it’s viable or not. So before you quit your full-time job, you need to determine how much money you’ll need to make per month in order to be able to quit and decide how much income your side hustle needs to be generating for it to be successful and for it to be sustainable for you.
So lay the foundations by defining your idea of success;
– some people might only need $1000 a month.
– other people might need $5,000 a month.
Depending on what your monthly expenses are, your lifestyle, your choices, whether you’ve got a nest egg of money set aside that will see you through and cover you whilst you’re building up the side hustle, then get to work by creating and tracking financial benchmarks of what it is that you need to do. What are the indicators that your project is going to be a sustainable business idea.
That’s probably the biggest advice that I give to people. If I speak to them and they’re wanting to take off and go into business, you really do need to create a plan and track your financial benchmarks so that you can actually lay the foundations to scale a successful business.
My other tip is putting in the time, preparing yourself for what’s ahead. So when you first start out, you’ll have to put in a lot of hours and there’s just no denying, no avoiding that because at the start out stage, most of us do wear all the hats. So there’s a lot of balls in the air, a lot of hats on heads and the idea of the next stage, the scaling stage, is outsourcing so that you can take some of those hats off. So that you can start delegating and you can start working on income generating goals in the business rather than actually being on the tools and doing all the daily grind.
Putting in the time at the start is so, so important. If you have been working on growing a startup in your spare time, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. That might mean skipping those after work drinks giving up some outings, and focusing your time back into the business and your marketing dollars are all going back into the business. You have to do that. There is intensity at the start, but it does get easier!
At the beginning of any project it will always take up a lot of time and seem like you’re pouring a lot of money into the business in the first 12 to 18 months. But the outcome of being able to do that and build it up is definitely the best way of being able to have a highly successful business and a business that you work on your own terms.
My next tip is learning how to avoid burnout. Burnout is a real risk when scaling a business, working around the clock at your day job and trying to fit in your side hustle can be also exhausting and draining. And it can make you question whether you actually have made the right to decision.
So to protect yourself from burnout you need to devote just the hours that you can be most productive in your business. Its hard when you are also working a full-time job and then you are going to have to work your side hustle business around those hours. That means that you might be up until midnight and exhaustion can lead to burnout and burnout is not a great place that you can work on any level or get any success from. You need to fit in your side hustle, wherever you can, but avoid the temptation to work seven days a week. You need at least one day off to recharge, and that might be a Sunday. It could be a Monday depending on what your weekends are like, but it’s really, really important to be able to try and find that balance even in the early stages to avoid burnout.
Now, my next tip is something I’m really passionate about that I absolutely love. It was something that I put in place in my corporate gift hamper business, Hampering Around, back when I ran it for 10 years when I was 24.
I had rapid growth and rapid success and when it comes to growing a business, you have to avoid the temptation to spend loads of money. It’s so tempting. I think people see startups it kind of is glamorised. There’s the idea that you have investors or they’ve got silent partners, but the fact is your business growing slowly is sometimes better because you are growing with it.
I have seen many people make mistakes early on where they’ve got a great deal on a particular product – it could be something that they need to commit in volume to get that price – so they’ve got a garage full to the brim of, beautiful gift boxes they got it a phenomenal price. But the problem is that this $20,000 order has now wiped out any money for them to be able to spend on advertising or marketing. So sometimes holding off and not having everything brand new and being able to keep your overheads really low is the way to go.
I remember in my first business at 24, I read the book about the serial Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith. He’s got Dick Smith’s electronics. He kept his overhead so low initially in his business – he worked out of his garage – he minimized all his costs just so the money could be redirected back into the business. So you don’t necessarily need to go and rent a huge space, commit to large volumes of stock before you’ve actually tested it, or you’ve got any sales or customers to sell to. It can really damage people and stop them in their tracks from being able to be successful in a business when they overspend in the beginning.
So taking it small and just keeping it on a level that you’re not having to outlay huge amounts of money and redirecting that money back into the business for your marketing and to help support you financially is, is vital. So test the waters and then scale your business gradually if you can and always be really cautious about taking on extra unnecessary debt in the very beginning.
And my final tip is taking the leap. I absolutely love to empower women in business, taking that leap that you need. There’s never going to be a perfect time to quit your job, to take the leap and be full-time in your business. But at some point, you’re going to just have to do it. You’re gonna have to go for it.
If the business that you’ve been testing is showing great promise, great validation, and you are checking off some really amazing financial milestones, then the smaller details will fall into place once you’re devoting more time on it.
Where your focus goes, your energy flows.
So it’s something that I really believe if you’ve got the energy that is actually focused and flowing on a particular area, then you are calling on the universe to bring you a successful business, which is something that all of us can do. Every one of us can do what we wanna do and take taking that giant leap. That’s what will take you to from having the first idea – the initial embryo – to the fetus stage – to a baby – to a toddler – then into a teenager. All those stages of building a business are for a reason and validating that you have a fabulous side hustle that you just know you need to put out there into the universe and really take it next level.
Do you want to Take the Leap from Side Hustle to Successful Small Business? I can help.
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