Ever get tired of the 9-to-5 grind? Find yourself sitting idly at your desk dreaming about another way of making money? If so, you’re not alone.
Around two thirds of Americans are disengaged at work or unhappy in their jobs, and chomping at the bit to unleash their inner entrepreneur. So, what’s stopping them?
Well, lack of funds, fear of failure, an overdose of responsibility topped off with self-doubt. When you build up all the barriers between you and your dream, the road to get there soon becomes filled with obstacles.
That’s why, according to Ian Balina, entrepreneur and author of The Complete Freelancer Guide, you need to break it down into manageable steps. Seven steps, to be precise.
Instead of taking the plunge all at once, you can dip your toes in and test the water. Here's how to make your side hustle your main gig - gradually and successfully.
1. Pick a hobby you like and can make money doing.
“Initially,” advises Balina, “it doesn't have to be a lot of money, but you should consider doing something you have passionate energy towards to avoid burnout.” Spend time practicing outside your full time job first, so you can test it out without taking major risks.
Surfing in Bali may be your ideal pastime, but be realistic. Choose something that might make you money, not cost you money. Like to write? Set up a blog. Enjoy design? Take a course. The point of step one is to get started. And you'll start getting better.
2. Test for social proof.
Once you’ve chosen your hobby and made a conscious effort to dedicate some time and resources to it, start testing for social proof. Take the time build your social media profiles, website, and online presence. This can be a fun experiment to work on, but you also want to show professionalism, so try to develop a branded website and, as Balina says, “fake it till you make it.”
Remember that a crucial part of building positive social proof is also building positive customer reviews. 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before making a purchasing decision; and 88 percent of those trust them as much as a personal recommendation. So, start getting genuine feedback about your product, service, or idea.
“Much of the success of your idea comes through validating it, talking to users, and getting prepared for the daily realities once you’re ready to launch,” explains Ben Lee, Founder and CEO of Rootstrap, a company dedicated to helping entrepreneurs derisk their investment and develop a market-ready product that consumers actually want.
3. Immerse yourself in education.
If you’re going to master your craft, you’ll nou need to learn the tricks and trades of the industry. “Make it a point to read books about your hobby after you get off work, on your lunch break, or on the train during your commute. Watch and listen to YouTube videos or podcasts to soak up as much as possible,” says Balina. There are plenty of free resources out there that can help accelerate the learning curve.
President of Day Translations, Sean Hopwood, started his translation company as a side hustle and began learning languages through music. He’s now a polyglot, speaking five languages fluently, working on his company full time, and currently learning Chinese. Moral of the story? Keep on learning.
4. Build your portfolio and thought leadership.
Practice what you’re learning by trying out new things and upload what you create. You’ll start building experience at the same time as building a portfolio. A great way to position yourself as an expert on a subject is to write about it and comment in online communities and forums that your target is reading.
Ask and answer questions on sites like quora, and share your work on Facebook groups, or local meetups. Over time, the perceived value you receive in the market turns into real value for you site hustle.
5. Did you say free?
Start reaching out to big events or shows in your industry that might need someone of your expertise. In the beginning, you might offer to work for them for FREE (hey, no one said it was easy). This will allow you to gain credibility for covering large events, get in with industry people, and pay your dues. Once you have big names in your portfolio, it allows you to start commanding bigger prices. It also gives you access to invaluable PR and the chance to align yourself with recognized, household names.
6. Promote yourself.
Now that you’ve built up a pretty solid base, you’ll need to start promoting yourself in order to make money and build your PR. Balina explains, “After around three to six months, you can start charging for work, and leverage the capital you’ve built to charge accordingly.”
Be sure to carry out research to determine what other companies are charging, so you don’t price yourself out of the market. And get active in directories like Yelp, Angie’s list, Google plus, and any other high authority sites where people can find and hire you. Remember to ask them to leave reviews to build your social proof!
7. Get picky.
Once you start charging more, understanding the industry, your expenses, and build a strong portfolio, you can decide who to work with. You no longer have to deliver at bottom-of-the-barrel prices, or wonder where your next customer is coming from.
Go to where your audience hangs out, continue to immerse yourself and make genuine relationships. With those relationships, choose the ones you want to work with and go after them. Says Balina, “Make it simple for people to hire you, and make them want to hire you!”
Sounds easy, right? Escaping your full time job may not happen overnight. In fact, if you want to build up a solid second income first, you’ll need to take it step by step and have a little patience.
As long as you choose a hobby that can make you money and stick with it, slowly and surely, you can turn your side hustle into your main gig and achieve success.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.