5 Tips for Taking Your Side Hustle Full-Time, According to Those Who Have Done It

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Whether it’s for extra cash or because you realized people want to buy those candles you started making as a pandemic craft, having a side hustle means putting in extra hours after your primary job to make it work. It makes you wonder how much more you could do if you had five full days to commit your passion project. 

If you’ve been thinking about taking the plunge to go full-time freelance, know that you’re not alone. The Great Resignation led to 4 million people quitting their jobs in 2021 either from burnout, the need for flexibility, or the dream to become their own boss. I tapped three individuals who’ve made the leap themselves, shifting from self-starters to CEOs of their own lives. Here are their tips.

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Make sure it’s financially feasible.

After beginning her career with a contract job at the Wall Street Journal, Kelsey Mulvey knew she had the ability to write the lifestyle and home decor stories she wanted to write. Continuing her side hustle with other full-time editing jobs, she finally began freelancing full-time in 2017, and later launched the newsletter “Office Hours with Kelsey Mulvey,” where she shares tips on being your own boss and highlights other self-starters.

However, she couldn’t have made the shift to self-employment if she hadn’t built up a roster of clients or initially landed a consistent part-time editing gig that helped ensure there would be money coming in. She says it’s important to determine how much of your “product” you need to sell (whether it’s physical or skill-based) to cover monthly expenses, or make sure you have a solid emergency savings fund.

Before going freelance, Mulvey also recommends letting people in your circle know that you’re open to more work or that you’re officially launching a full-time business, as you never know who might connect you to new clientele. 

Have multiple streams of income.

When Abigail Koffler was laid off from her nonprofit job four years ago, she had a food newsletter called “This Needs Hot Sauce” that she’d started six months prior, and decided to take a chance with freelance food writing. To keep herself afloat, she also took on a babysitting gig and a part-time teaching job. Now, having dropped the babysitting, she’s monetized her newsletter and teaches virtual cooking classes with her friend, personal chef Erica Adler. “It’s been really nice because it uses a different part of your brain than writing, but they compliment each other really well,” she says.

Aside from writing for multiple publications, Mulvey is also looking to monetize her newsletter in the upcoming year. She says some of the beauty of freelancing is choosing which projects to work on, and especially after the uncertainty of the pandemic, it’s smart to diversify revenue streams. 

Lisa Tran, founder of The Elevated Esthetician and a holistic esthetician, offers a variety of services from facials to personal coaching. Eventually, she hopes to open a storefront where she can offer all these services in one place. “[And] of course,” Tran says, “I’d like to offset the income with brand partnership and products.”

Figure out what you’d lose from a full-time job.

Even if you hone in on your craft, there are still aspects of owning your own business to consider before leaving a full-time post. Health insurance, 401(k), and paid time off are all things typically offered by employers that you’ll have to figure out on your own. 

Plus, you’ll need to remember to file quarterly taxes and understand what you can write off when you file. Koffler recommends having a separate credit card for business expenses to make things easier when consolidating at the end of the year. 

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Prepare yourself to be your own boss.

While it sounds nice to set your own hours and take a workout class in the middle of the day, being a self-starter isn’t always so glamorous. Mulvey oftentimes finds herself running late to finish a story or having to respond to emails when on vacation. That means time management is a must. 

“I don’t recommend becoming your own boss to everybody,” Mulvey says. “You have to be very committed to what you’re doing because it’s a lot of work.” She recommends treating yourself as the face of your business, meaning sticking to professionalism and avoiding complaining online — like you would do for an employer. 

For Tran, managing her own work schedule means carving out extra time in the morning to review goals and get into the right headspace. While Koffler says she loves that she no longer has to sit at a desk for a designated amount of time, she tries to stick to a schedule that includes a productive midday walk.

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Lean on a community.

Another benefit the self-hustle world often lacks are colleagues to lean on (and sometimes air grievances with). Both Koffler and Tran bridge this gap by meeting up with other freelancers in their area to keep each other accountable and answer any questions.

They also encourage remembering that growing your own business takes time. Tran says that while social media can be inspiring, watching other self-starters can be disheartening at times — especially with overnight successes you may see popping up from TikTok.

“You have to believe in it and commit even though you’re not seeing results right away,” Koffler agrees. “Be patient, enjoy the actual work, and [celebrate] the little wins.”