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How to turn your side hustle into your main gig

Have a special talent that's got you dreaming of ditching the corporate wear, handing in your security tag, and telling your boss to start typing up a new Seek ad? Best read this first.

The side hustle is rapidly taking up our spare time, with 80% of Australians now looking for fulfilment beyond their day job and one-in-four people admitting to already having a business on the side.

Whether it's filling Etsy orders until the wee hours, spending your weekends running a spray tan booth, or brewing that perfect craft beer – where there's a niche, there's a way.

But before you hand in your two weeks' notice, here are five things to consider.

1. Know your numbers

Not understanding two very important numbers is the biggest mistake people make when attempting to turn their side hustle into their main gig, says Business Growth Strategist at Tenfold Business Coaching, Mace Rushgrove.

“It all comes down to your break-even point and your budgeted targets,” he says.

Your break-even point is the point at which your total revenue equals your total costs or expenses.

Understanding this number helps you work out how to set prices and sales volumes, and how far your sales can decline before you incur losses.

Once you know your break-even point you need to set targets to meet or exceed it.

“Break your targets down into daily activity based key performance indicators for yourself. For example: complete 6.5 chargeable hours or 15 orders per day,” Rushgrove recommends.

2. Have the right systems and processes in place

Rushgrove uses the example of two clients he was working with last year. One spent three years saving and didn't start the business until he had 6-12 months of capital behind him.

The other client, John, started his business as a side-hustle.

“After coaching both of them for 12 months John's side hustle came out well in front,” Rushgrove recalls.

He puts that down to two key things. Firstly, John had cash flow.

“Seven out of every ten businesses fail in the first three years because of cash flow so if you've got a 40-hour a week income you mitigate that risk,” he says.

But just as importantly, from day-dot John developed the habits and systems that most successful businesses rely on.

“He only had five to ten disposable hours outside of his 40-hour a week job,” he explains.

“He simply couldn't fall into the trap of being sucked into every aspect of the business – he had to outsource, delegate and automate.”

Quite often when people transition to full-time they look for new ways to achieve the same result and forget what they did at the start that really worked.

3. Gather a “Board of Advisers” or appoint a coach

As great as it is to learn from your mistakes, you want to limit them as much as possible.

As such, Rushgrove recommends finding a coach.

However if it’s too early in the life of the business to justify this, look to your personal network and gather a “board of advisers” who can help moderate the learning curve.

“It could include a relative, a good friend, an ex-boss – people in your network who have worked in the same industry, been out on their own, have financial or small business legal knowledge,” Rushgrove suggests.

To supplement this network, get a coach or support person who can help you prioritise your goals and keep you accountable.

“Otherwise days and weeks just roll into one and before you know it you're two months down the track and, while you have felt immensely busy, you haven't really achieved anything,” Rushgrove explains.

4. Don't forget what worked at the start

When you switch your side-hustle to a main gig you may find you have more time to innovate or experiment with your modus operandi.

While this can lead to excellent outcomes, Rushgrove cautions against trying to reinvent the wheel.

“Quite often when people transition to full time they look for new ways to achieve the same result and forget what they did at the start that really worked,” he notes.

5. Are there signs you should stick to your day job?

Before taking the leap, think carefully about whether you want to run your own business full-time.

“As an employee you switch off at 5pm, you don't have to negotiate with the ATO, recover money from clients, or deal with HR issues,” Rushgrove says.

“But by taking on all those things people can fall out of love with something they really enjoyed.”

It's also wise to stop and consider if you have the right personality. If you get paralysed by decisions, or change your mind ten times about whether to order Mexican or Italian for dinner, then running a business full-time may not be for you.

The trick is being honest about what you’re doing. When your side-hustle becomes your main gig, your dream job becomes your job. That’s an amazing opportunity but – like most things worth having – it’s also going to be a challenge.

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