We all have hobbies. Whether it’s art, making craft beer, baking, web design, or crocheting, it is important to have passions beyond the day-to-day slog of a career. Not only does it keep us sane, but it makes us more interesting as well. So what happens if you’re really good at your hobby? I mean, what if you’re really, really good? In fact you’re so good that you’ve turned that hobby into a side business that’s bringing in some extra cash. And now that the money is streaming in, you’re actually considering the possibility that this could become a full-time thing. This could be your thing! Your business! But what steps do you take? How do you even start the process? How do you turn a side hustle into a full time gig?
Start Moonlighting Now
Before you start writing your resignation letter, take at least a few months to build up your side hustle while you’re still employed. The longer you spend working on the side, the more prepared you’ll be to make the switch to full time. Plus, if you have several months (or even a year) under your belt, you’ll have a better idea of how the market cycle works in your industry – and how to prepare for it. You should also make as many contacts as you can before you quit your day job. Having a strong interpersonal network will help you find new work, open you up to practical advice and let you know when you’re ready to join the full time ranks. You can find contacts online, at your local Chamber of Commerce or at a conference in your field.
Set up an Emergency Fund
No matter when you quit or what kind of side hustle you have, it’s important to set up a lifestyle emergency fund before you leave your full-time gig. An lifestyle emergency fund will cover your bills and expenses when you don’t make enough in a certain month or a client is slow about sending payment. (NOTE: this is different from your every day emergency fund which is meant to cover unplanned for emergencies like insurance deductibles, leaky roofs, car repairs, etc.) People who are self-employed should have about six months’ to a year’s worth of expenses in a savings account. It can take time for a business to grow, and a lifestyle emergency fund will help keep you solvent while your business is expanding. Remember, this fund doesn’t need to be six month’s worth of income – just six month’s worth of expenses. These should include any regular bills you have, variable expenses such as gas and groceries and the minimum you need to keep your business running. Having a lifestyle emergency fund will keep you from scrambling when it comes time to pay your rent, or being forced to take on clients who don’t fit your ideal business model.
Make Adjustments Where Necessary
If you’re going to make the leap or get serious about considering it, evaluate where changes may be necessary. Will you need to get your own health insurance since an employer will no longer provide it? Will you continue saving for retirement? If so, where will you stash away without an employer-sponsored plan? Can you reduce your expenses in order to reduce the amount of income that’s necessary to bring in at first? Being flexible with your time and spending will pay off in ramping up your side hustle and your full-time business. Put structure in place when needed, but don’t be afraid to make alterations when things are veering off course.
Talk to Others in the Field
It’s easy to imagine what a career looks like before you actually try it. Some jobs that seem perfect for you may end up being your worst nightmare. That’s why it’s important to do your research and figure out what your future full-time gig actually looks like. Talk to people in your field who you admire and ask them what their job is really like. Is it as glamorous or simple as it seems? Do they have a good work-life balance? What is it like being your own boss? You should also try joining some forums or groups where your full-time heroes hang out. That way you’ll see an unfiltered look into their lifestyle and what day-to-day life looks like for them. The common theme for most of this advice is preparation. As important as it can be to jump into new challenges head first, you also want to make sure you’re not diving into a pool that’s two feet deep. Do your research, get your ducks in a row and create an environment that you can succeed in – then do it.