Too many wantrepreneurs give up when their side hustle fails to make the kind of big-dollar returns promised by those social media business mavens who have apparently bottled the wealth-generating capabilities of the Internet. The fact is, there is gold in them there hills, but the guy standing in front of a private jet on Instagram is highly unlikely to show you where it is.
Success rarely comes in an instant. You’ve got to work at it and take your time to understand what it actually looks like.
Multiple Streams of Income
As an entrepreneur, I like to have multiple streams of income. I believe there is nothing worse than relying on a single big client to pay my bills. This is because, especially when you work in the tech sector, there is no such thing as certainty. Start-ups go bust every day and even when they skyrocket, acquisitions don’t always provide security.
Alongside my regular client work, I also run a handful of my own projects which I can pick-up and put-down with relative ease depending on how busy I am at any given moment. You might call these small projects side hustles — but I think of them as an important part of my business strategy. These projects vary in size and opportunity and revolve around various publishing projects (books, blog posts, podcasts, and online training products).
While none of these side hustles come anywhere near the income I generate from my regular client work, I consider them all to be successful.
Making the Most out of Downtime
Like most entrepreneurs, I’m either too busy working or killing time waiting for a new project to start or be approved. This downtime might not be enough time to start a new client project but it could create the window of opportunity to write a blog post (like this one), sketch out the idea for a new online course, or write the script for a new podcast. Then there are all those “dead hours” — train journeys, flights, nights away from the family in hotels, etc. where I allow myself to focus on those larger projects. For example, I wrote my first book, Becoming THE Expert: Enhancing Your Business Reputation through Thought Leadership Marketing in the evenings while working away from home for an extended period of time.
I believe all the content I produce has value and so I publish it to platforms where it can make money directly and actively create the marketing visibility I need to win new clients. These platforms include Vocal.Media, Medium, Amazon KDP, SkillShare, Udemy, and Thinkific.
Every single one of these platforms generates a line of income for me. It may not be huge but at the end of the month when payments start hitting my PayPal or Stripe account — I’m always grateful for the extra cash.
I have an online writing course hosted on Skillshare which currently generates anywhere between $50 and $100 per month. You might think this is hardly an amount to get excited about but if I offered you $100 a month for something you created two or three years ago — would you turn me down.
The course took me about 40 hours (grabbed here and there whenever the opportunity arose) to build in total. Typically, these wouldn’t have been productive hours and so would have generated zero income for me. Therefore any income created from this time is a bonus. However, I prefer to look at another metric for success.
The minimum wage in the UK is £8.72 per hour. While I charge a lot more money for my services than the minimum hourly wage, I use this as the starting point for gauging the success of mu side hustles. The moment a side hustle pays for itself in terms of covering this minimum wage is the moment I deem it a success. Using this simple calculation, the tipping point towards success for my online course was just £348.80. Every penny generated after that point was free money.
Note: While you might turn your nose up at the idea of working a minimum wage job (others aren’t so lucky), could you imagine how your income would look if you added a minimum wage income on top of your existing earnings?
Successful business can be compared to a war of attrition. The more content I produce, the more free money I eventually earn. With a handful of online courses, a selection of books, and several hundred blog posts to my name, suddenly this second income becomes something worth banking.
I don’t think of my side hustles as a road to riches. I prefer to think of it as a penny jar, with small amounts of money pouring into it every day. And like that jar of loose change on your bedroom shelf, it soon mounts up.
Client work will always be the main focus of my business but that doesn’t mean my side hustles aren’t rewarding. You’ve just got to re-evaluate how you see success.
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