Career Change

5 Successful Side Hustlers Share How They Did It

With Lydia Lee

Thinking of launching a side hustle?

You may be looking to expand your income past your full time job to earn more on the side, test a business idea before quitting your job, or to grow a side business.

If you’re starting a side business for the first time, I bet you have some questions. Perhaps these are some of the questions you are asking right now:

How do I find time for a side hustle when I am still working full-time?

How do I find my first customer?

How much money do I have to make from my side business?

When is the right time to quit my 9-5 job?

To help inspire you to start a side hustle and kickstart your journey to start now, we’ve handpicked five case studies of ordinary people who sought an alternative solution to how they can live and work.

Each of them had an individual approach to escaping the cubicle and launching their very own business.

1. Find something that you will enjoy working on for years and years, whether or not it’s profitable.

Financial independence was the motivation for Brandon Pearce to start his own business.

This Computer programer from the United States is the founder of Music Teacher’s Helper, a software to help independent music teachers and studio owners to manage the business side of teaching lessons.

Being a piano teacher himself he knew the pain point of tracking students’ payments and schedules. Using a problematic topic he was well familiar with, he decided to create a solution for people just like him.

Brandon started his side hustle while still working full-time for this previous employer.

“I created Music Teacher’s Helper in my spare time, working early mornings, lunch breaks, and late evenings.”

Brandon believes that starting a side hustle requires, by all accounts, time, effort and dedication.

Patience and persistence is the long game to success.

“Due to the limited time I had, the business grew very slowly in the beginning. It took several years until I earned $1500 a month – a point where I felt ready to quit my job. From there, the business has been growing steadily.”

Being in the music industry himself, Brandon highly benefited from word-of-mouth and started by selling the program to colleagues. Starting with his own inner network, this helped him spread the word within the community that already knows and trusts him.

“Starting a business is a huge commitment. Be patient and persistent with it. So many people start something, don’t see results right away, and then give up. Find something that you will enjoy working on for years and years, whether or not it’s profitable. Also, be mindful of when you might want to sell or exit the business to do something else.”

2. Save money and test your business idea before walking away from a full-time job.

Tomas Laurinavicius worked as a UX designer in a London-based agency when he was fed up with climbing the corporate ladder without getting the creative fulfilment he was looking for. This couldn’t be all there is.

Craving freedom and a life where he could combine travel and work, he started his own freelance web design and content writing business. Luckily, his employer supported him during his transition period.

“I believed I could do it. I felt confident about it. I told my boss that I am starting my own thing and would like to transition to a part-time position working only two days a week. I stayed in the office full-time but worked for the agency only two days a week for three months. That transition period allowed me to pay my bills, save some money and kickstart my freelance career.”

Start with low hanging fruit contacts and start freelancing to get better at your skills.

Tomas started by pitching to his network and scraping freelance job boards to find his first clients. While working part-time at the agency he was working with remote clients from all over the world.

But getting first clients and generating regular revenue streams does take time.

“I cold-emailed at least 30 design blogs with my work examples and offered to write for them. In the first month, I got 3 clients.”

Three months after switching to the part-time position, Tomas felt confident enough to leave the job. He continued working with the company remotely for another six months.

Tomas has a clear advice to everyone who is preparing his transition:

“Don’t burn all the bridges. Save money, minimize your expenses, test your business idea before working hours and on the weekends. Once you have something viable with your business, switch to a part-time position and later on to remote position until you earn enough to live off your business.”

3. Start small, grow gradually, and keep getting feedback as early as possible.

Unlike Brandon or Tomas, who continued working in their corporate jobs until they reached a point where they earned enough from their side business to support them financially, Tijana Momirov quit her job and lived off her savings for a while.

However, looking back, she has some advice for other side hustlers.

“It might be better to at least validate your business idea before putting yourself in a situation with no income at all. Start small, grow gradually and keep getting the feedback from the market as early and often as possible. Change, adjust, keep on learning. You are now the active element, so everything needs to start from you.”

Grow from your area of expertise and repurpose what you already know.

Seeking location-independence and more flexibility, the former corporate software engineer started looking for freelance opportunities in her area of expertise.

“Having been familiar with the IT industry, I assumed there will be enough demand for my services.” I found my first clients via online marketplaces. Along the way, I transitioned from software engineering to product management and consulting for startups. “By quitting my job first, I took a risk. But it worked out well for me.”

4. Be open to various possibilities and trust in the unfolding of things.

Mona Motwani’s story shows that you don’t have to be an expert in the area you are going to launch your side business.

7 years before her side hustle became her full-time business, Mona had to leave her 9-5 job due to a disabling illness, lyme disease. Listening to her instinct, she moved to Bali to take care of her health and to live her dream of being location independent.

“I didn’t plan it out. I just followed my gut feeling and trusted in the unfolding of things. I let go of any idea of what my life should have looked like and opened myself up to possibilities I had never imagined.”

The former human rights lawyer took a course at Hubud, a co-working space located in the heart of Ubud, Bali. There, Mona found the community she was looking for.

Without any prior knowledge in e-commerce, she launched her online business Nidra Goods.

“I was lucky to have meet fellow entrepreneurs who helped me launch and validate my business.”

5. Figure out what you really need to feel comfortable and get real with your worries.

When Amy Scott quit her job as an editor at a publishing company, she did not plan to start her own business.

“I quit my job to travel and didn’t want the adventure to end! While I liked my job, I had always craved the freedom of working for myself – but was scared to take the plunge. For some reason, quitting my job to travel (with plenty of savings) didn’t seem nearly as scary, so I did that first. After my trip, I had nothing to lose – no job, not much money – so it seemed like the perfect time to give freelancing a try. That was more than 12 years ago and I’m still at it.”

Her network and experience as an editor made it easy for her to start freelancing.

“I had hired freelancers myself when I worked in-house for several publishing companies, so I knew I had the skills and contacts to be able to get work right away. I had decided August 1 was my official start day, and I got my first project that very day.”

Use your comfort zone goals as a cue for when you’re ready to quit

Leaving your comfort zone is challenging but Amy has some useful advice to overcome the imposter syndrome and to feel more confident with your decision of escaping the 9-5.

“It can be scary to take the leap and to know when the time is right. Figure out what you need in place to feel comfortable quitting your job—maybe it’s a certain amount of income, savings, clients, etc.—and use that as your goal and the cue that you’re ready to quit. I think it also helps to identify what you’re worried about, how you can avoid that happening, and how you would handle it if it did happen.

Finally, staying focused on why you’re doing this, and what your end goal is, can keep you motivated over the long haul.”

The only way to get successful at your side hustle is to START.

There is no master plan for escaping the cubicle and starting your freelance career or business.

The individual stories of Brandon, Tomas, Tijana, Mona, and Amy show that different approaches can lead to a successful transition.

They utilized what was available to them, and leveraged their strengths to move ahead quickly with their side hustle launches.

What could be YOUR ‘right for right now’ side hustle plan?

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