Turning your side hustle into a full-time career is a big decision. If you quit your full-time job too early, you’ll run out of money. If you put off leaving for too long, your side hustle may not achieve its full potential. This decision could be life-changing, but nonetheless comes with intense pressure and anxiety. It’s not one you want to rush. I’ll break down the signs that will help you decide if it’s the right time for you to quit your job and pursue your side hustle full-time.
Many people dream up side hustles to satisfy their passion and help pad their pockets with extra cash to splurge, save, or pay down debt.
Given the pandemic, those with an entrepreneurial itch are springing to action two-fold. Many have found what a fun endeavor it is to take a passion project to market.
Since you found this article, I’ll assume you have two things going on. First is that you have a full-time job that takes 40 hours, give or take, of your week. Second is that you are operating a side hustle in your extra hours.
It’s no small task to build a thriving side hustle, and for that you deserve some applause. Next you want to venture your passion project into a full-time career. But slow down. Because what’s next is the hardest question any entrepreneurial spirit will face — Should I quit my job?
This decision could be life-changing. It only makes sense that such a decision comes with intense pressure and anxiety. Taking a full-time entrepreneurial plunge is risky.
You’ve read of successful entrepreneurs who bet on themselves, defied risks, and came out on top. With every entrepreneurship success story, it’s not about if they made the jump as it is when they jumped. Timing is critical.
Is now the right time to take the full-time entrepreneurial plunge? Answer these questions and find out.
It’s more tempting to work for yourself than for someone else. What they say is true: the grass is always greener.
Before you take the plunge and up and quit your job, ask if you are doing so for the right reasons. Too often, emotions play a role in the decision. And while emotions are inevitable, that shouldn’t always be the primary driver of your decision to quit your job. Try to avoid making an emotional snap decision.
Jobs are invaluable for growth and development. Much of the experience you take from your 9-5 will apply to your side hustle and your business start-up later on down the road.
If you are growing and learning in what you do and it’s something you enjoy — why leave? Emotions inevitably play a role, I get it. But if you thoroughly enjoy what you do, there is likely some value to sticking out your full-time job a little longer.
Ask these questions: Have I reached my full potential with this company? Could I gain more valuable experience in the next six months? What about a year?
Experience is invaluable, especially when you are in a good situation that tasks you with new challenges week in and week out. Meaningful challenge is fundamental for growth. And if you are lucky enough to have good challenge in your job, you are in a good place.
Be mindful that both factors — challenge and excitement — are equally important here. You should strive for an equal balance of the two. If you find few challenges present in your job or few things that excite you, it might be right to move on to your side hustle — something that will most certainly challenge and excite you.
There’s nothing like the comfort of a full-time job with a steady paycheck. Never having to worry about how you’ll pay the bills this month is a key ingredient to peaceful sleep. And that’s invaluable.
Leaving that stability is an alarming wake-up call, and disastrous if not adequately prepared for. Quitting your job to pursue your side hustle full-time means entering into a world of financial unknowns. More or less, it requires you to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Preparation can (and will) minimize the risk of financial instability, and help calm some of that nervous anxiety.
You shouldn’t make the jump into full-time side hustle without some money in the bank. And not just any number will do. It’s a good suggestion to financially over prepare.
Most will recommend six months or better of living expenses in the bank. You should outline this figure ahead of time, taking into account additional expenses that may not be applicable to you now — like health insurance.
Liken your set up to a short-term retirement account. To set it up, calculate modestly what you would need to survive without pay for six months — and don’t short-change yourself. You’d rather have more than enough to get by.
Point is, splitting your cognitive energy between two things means your side hustle doesn’t get the full attention it deserves. Your brain can only be intensely focused for so many hours. You don’t want your attention pulled to be on how you will pay your bills.
Nobody likes a boss breathing down their neck. It’s that strain that’s pushing some of us to leave in the first place. But liked or not, there are benefits to a good manager. One being that they push you to work harder, stay on task, and not slack off.
Once you go full-time in your side hustle, the only person you’ll report to is yourself. How well do you hold yourself accountable? It’s one thing to be a go-getter. It’s another to push through times you feel unmotivated.
Ask if you trust yourself to work independently, because you will. And come up with a plan for what you’ll do when you feel apathetic, because you will.
Bootstrappers struggle to find consistent demand, at times. But if you have work coming to you, it may be a sign to take the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship.
This is especially true if you experience such a demand that you are turning down work and missing out on good income because of it. Nobody experienced this better than my friend, a graphic designer turned full-time entrepreneur.
Her full-time commitment was graphic design at a mid-level marketing agency. In the afterhours, she’d do professional photography — portraits, photoshoots, weddings, you name it. She was met with such a demand for her photography, her evenings and weekends were overbooked.
She had no choice. Either she turn down interested clients, or she leave her 9-5. She ran with the side hustle full-time, and has stayed successful with it ever since.
Unlike her, you don’t need round-the-clock bookings to have permission to go full-time with your side hustle. But you do need a level of proof that your product or service fits the market’s demand.
Having a product or service that fits with the market’s demand is the key to side hustle success. Without a market fit, no amount of time will remedy your business success.
Going full-time should be to accelerate an already growing business, and not gamble that you can make one. If you didn’t have some level of success part-time, going full-time isn’t going to help.
Few who go into business for themselves have trouble generating revenue. Profit is a different story. Before you go full-time in your side hustle, you should be on a path to profitability.
Notice a difference between being profitable and being on the path to profitability. No business needs to be profitable to get started. Few early stage startups are.
Bootstrapping your business requires reinvesting much of your revenue, limiting your profit margin in the beginning. Nonetheless, you should have a plan for how over time, after covering upfront investments, you will be profitable in your endeavor.
Every entrepreneur has doubters, and that’s the norm. It doesn’t matter what outsiders think. What matters is that you believe in the success of your business. To make a believer out of yourself, you should prove there is potential in your investment.
Every business plan should include a timeline for profitability, outlining expected outcomes. How these outcomes measure up against money in the bank and expected expenses is important, too.
Demand, as I mentioned, is crucial.
Finding and landing customers is the hardest part of a start-up business. Most customers will opt for established, trusted brand names when faced with a choice. You want some assurance, and one way to give yourself that is to establish a diverse customer base.
If one customer accounts for 60% of your revenue and that person leaves, then what? Is there a broad base of people with similar pain points and problems that need solving? Can and do you satisfy that demand? How easily can you adapt to the market’s changing needs?
Can you build out and become more robust to satisfy a larger customer profile? It’s an important question to ask, especially if you’re niche.
Demand means paying customers, and repeat customers. How much less does it cost to acquire a customer than the revenue generated off them? (Hint: your acquisition costs should be less than your revenue.) If these numbers are trending upward, you might be in a good position to leave your job.
Being full-time in your business does not equal success. Plenty who run a successful side hustle keep it a side hustle. If you love your full-time job, you don’t need to leave it. Nothing in the rule book says you have to quit your full-time job to succeed.
But if you feel the calling to make that jump, you have the finances to do it, and you believe you are on a track poised for success, make that jump. Don’t let fear hold you back if you feel the calling and have the means to make it happen.
At some point, you will realize every hour you spend on your full-time job is time your side hustle isn’t advancing. It’ll click for you that splitting energy between the two just isn’t working. You can make a decision — keep things as they are, or make the jump. It’s nobody’s decision but yours.
My only advice: try to avoid the stressful scenario of building a company with unsustainable revenue and limited personal savings to fall back on. Be patient. Building a company always takes longer than you think.
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