Starting a business is tough at the best of times. When you’re only working on it part time, it takes real discipline to extract maximum benefit from every hour you spend on it.
The NBN’s recent Side Hustle Report found that over 80% of Aussies are looking for fulfilment outside of work and 25% already have their own side hustle. Clearly many of us are taking the leap. I’ve compiled six tips to help you get the most out of your side hustle effort.
1. Focus on what’s important
When starting out it’s hard to know what you should be doing. There are just so many tasks to keep you occupied. Focus is about doing the things that matter, not simply focusing on a single part of your business.
While it’s easy to fall in the trap of just doing the things that come naturally, they may not be the most important. For example, if you’re a software engineer you might default towards coding, but simply procrastinate when it comes to customer development. Remember that as you practice the difficult tasks, you’ll get better at them and quicker too.
Author Michael Kerr suggests breaking projects down “into manageable bite-sized chunks and then set realistic timelines for knocking each chunk off your list.” And as you continue to get through them you’ll start to see results, which will provide a motivation boost to keep going. Remember that “the greater the feeling of momentum you can build, the more likely you are to be successful.”
2. Find your ideal pace
Endurance athletes know exactly the pace they can sustain to get to the finish line. Go out too hard and the tank runs dry before the end. A side hustle can be just the same and requires coming to terms with how much time you can put in. One method to help with this is committing to a minimum length of time per day that you can keep to. Over time you’ll get to know how long things really take and can adjust your expectations accordingly.
3. Work in the way you’re most productive
Schedule your side hustle time for maximum productivity. If you simply struggle to be productive at night after a long day at work, consider getting up earlier to work on your side hustle at the start of the day. Maybe you can work from home occasionally and repurpose your commute time? Task Pigeon founder Paul Towers writes: “You know when you work best, so work around your own body clock.”
Whichever approach you take, carve out blocks of focused time where you avoid all distractions. If not, you’re likely to get frustrated with your lack of progress. And the last thing you need is reasons to give up!
4. Know your strengths and weaknesses
Learning new skills is one of the most rewarding parts of building a business. Serial entrepreneur Jack Delosa reminds us that “the more you learn the more you will recognise the sheer amount that you do not know. So it’s important to be smart with your time. Why not get help with the tasks you don’t do well?
If you’re not creative, then learning design tools to create your own logo from scratch can burn many hours. The same goes for building a website if you’re learning to code from scratch. There are plenty of ways you can have someone else can do the work for you (e.g. Fiverr) or reduce the level of effort you need to put in (e.g. Canva, Wix).
5. Get the learning versus doing balance right
Starting a new business means you’ll spend a lot of time learning how to do new things.
But the web makes it really easy to suffer from information overload. Let’s take content marketing as an example. There are literally thousands of resources on how to do it. You could spend forever researching and never put any of it into practice. At some point you just need to start doing. The key is to put measures against your efforts, closely monitor them to understand what’s working and adapt if not.
Jack Delosa suggests that “when you get into full swing that learning versus doing ratio should be 20 and 80 per cent”.
6. Start building your network early on
Launching a new product or service is a whole lot easier if you’ve established relationships with partners and potential customers beforehand. This can often be an afterthought for new founders. Unfortunately, it can result in launching something you’ve worked incredibly hard on which just doesn’t hit the mark with customers.
As Dream & Do observes, by “surrounding ourselves with people who are better than us at all the things necessary to make your business a booming success, we are only serving to lift ourselves higher.”
Networking can lead to relationships with people you can turn to for help, feedback and motivation. Even if you can’t reciprocate in the beginning, you can still ‘pay it forward’ by helping others later. Entrepreneur Social Club founder Jessica Williams reminds us that “someone may not be able to help you now but this can always change in the future.”
Are you working on your own side hustle? What tips do you have for others seeking to get the most out of their effort?