Every year there are more than 6.5 million new small businesses, many coming out of hustles and side jobs that expanded into something more substantial. And, despite the scary stories you’ve heard, more than half make it to the five-year mark. That’s a lot of potential and opportunity for anyone, including you, if you’ve found a side hustle that feels like it could be a little more.
At some point, every hustle faces the prospect of joining those businesses, but fear can keep you back from taking the plunge. We’re going to try and tackle some of those worries to help you understand if you might be ready for the next big step, both with signs about your business and the way it makes you feel, or what you prioritize.
Remember, the business is going to consume a lot of your life, so let’s start looking at if that’s worth it to you.
1. You’re Getting Positive Attention
We’re going to get into more technical and financial aspects shortly, but here’s the big driver for most people reading this article: your heart is in the hustle, and people are responding well to it.
When you’re starting to get noticed for that side work, take stock. Do you enjoy getting recognition here more than in your traditional employment? Is it more fulfilling to get acclaim in this setting? Break this down as much as possible. And be brutally honest with yourself.
Here’s the toughie when it comes to attention: Why do you like it more for the side hustle?
You want to check and see if it is about substance or style. Know that your side hustle is going to be all about you. So, praise is all about you too. This could be how smart you are, how good you run a business, how fun your product is, and so on. You’re the center and getting all the praise, which is fantastic.
If your regular job shifted and gave you positive feedback like this, would you like it more? How about liking it more than the side hustle? There’s nothing in the world wrong with saying “yes” to these. Everyone wants praise, and we often look for it when it’s lacking in the 9-to-5.
If you say “no,” then there’s one final question about attention to consider: Could you handle it if the negative criticism was just as intense and all about you?
When you go full-time with your hustle, you own all the good and bad. Positive and negative attention. Make sure you feel comfortable handling it and have outlets to get support. Even if customers love you from day one, it’s going to be tough to run this business, and you’ll be at your best if you have outside friends, family, and community support.
2. The Tools You Need Are There
There’s a lot to running a business, especially when you take it full time. One of the more crucial factors to figure out is if you have the tech infrastructure to manage your day-to-day, plus if you know how to use these systems.
Trying to move to full-time and then realizing you don’t have the email you need to generate new leads or aren’t sure what industry tools are used to find help can make it incredibly difficult. You might also need specific equipment when you run your own shop.
Yes, small freelancing projects or odd jobs may allow you to use a client’s account or tools, but running your own business will require you have your own access — or you have to be comfortably baking these purchases into the cost of your first clients. Know that you’re ready to invest in them.
If your hustle involves subcontractors, moving full time means having enough of their time and capacity too, which leads us to our next point.
3. Outsourcing Part Sounds Helpful
A side hustle usually involves us doing everything for ourselves, no matter how big or small the task. Graduating to full-time will mean full-time responsibilities and more of every kind of work you do. That’s more IT tasks, project management, accounting, and so on. It’s everything that you get paid to do for your customers, and all the “unpaid” work you’ll have to do to keep things running.
If you’re already experiencing this growth and realize that it would be a tremendous help to have someone do these tasks — and that you can afford to outsource — that’s a reliable sign you’re reading for full-time. Some of the biggest areas are things like IT and accounting, where having specialists counts. E-commerce hustles should also start considering ecommerce fulfillment designed to help them operate and sell in many places.
Getting the right partner might be the best step to getting your products on Amazon or optimizing for other marketplaces, while also supporting orders people make on social and your website.
4. The Hustle Has Financial Room to Grow
If you’re here and thinking about scaling — and potentially outsourcing aspects of your operations — then we know that you’re beyond the question of if you can make any money in your hustle. The question you need to ask about finances is if you can scale to the place where you need to generate enough to protect the business and yourself. As you grow, that expands to protecting your employees, too.
You can’t just have one big question to get things done. You need a market.
It’s time to start researching to see if the market, and your place in it, is broad enough to sustain you while also niche enough to allow you to be the best solution or product. The side hustle can grow if you’re solving an issue that many people have, and when they have the same pain points and preferences for a solution.
Define your current customers as best as you can. Look at all the customers of your competitors. Determine if you can reach them, if your offer will be compelling enough to get them to buy, and if there’s enough room for you to expand.
5. There’s Protection for You
When you move away from a “traditional” job and turn your side hustle up to 11, there are going to be some things that you miss. Chief among them are the benefits that you had from regular full-time employment. This set includes things like retirement savings and matching, paid vacation and sick days, and health insurance.
When you’ve done the budget for your new job, you’ll need to be able to pay for all of those things. Don’t go without, because you may never know what life will throw at you. It may be that you need to use some savings to acquire these while you grow or at least protect you when there’s going to be a gap in payments you need to meet expectations.
Plan accordingly if your hustle has a longer lead time or takes longer to get paid. You may move to a net-30 or net-60 day pay schedule for projects, and you’ll need capital on hand to account for the 30 or 60 days between completing the work and getting paid. Plus, every business is at risk of fraud, past due payments from clients, unexpected emergency costs, and many more things lurking in the shadows.
However, you should know that it’s risky to pay for benefits and other personal costs with credit if you’re going full-time with your hustle.
Will You Regret Saying ‘No’?
Most people who find themselves at this precipice start questioning their career choice when they’ve had to turn down work related to the hustle. There’s more demand than they can keep up with, so there’s a chance that it could grow enough to replace typical income.
If that’s you, have you been thinking about the latest “No” you had to say? Is it gnawing at you when you find a break in your day or when your head hits the pillow and sleep is slow to arrive? Did you already space out while reading this article and start imagining how you would take some of the steps above?
When you hit this point, there’s little holding you back from making the jump. So, what we’ll say is that the more research and preparation you do right now, the better your business will be. Leaving a traditional employer is tough, and it can be scary when you jump into a hustle, but you know what your heart is telling you.
Now, just work to ensure the mind agrees.
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others. He is a regular contributor to Business2Community, Forbes, Entrepreneur and other publications.