5 signs it’s time to turn your Side Hustle into a full-time business

6 min read
Matthew Pattinson

Freelance copywriter turned marketing agency owner, CMA’s Matthew Pattinson, advises when it’s time to take the leap from Side Hustle… and realise your full business potential.

Having the courage to begin a Side Hustle deserves huge praise. After all, doing so takes unbridled grit and determination. But when your bit on the side takes off like a 747, knowing if or when to commit to your passion 24/7 can be tricky.

At least, that’s what I found…

...“When I grow up, I’m going to be businessman,” mum proudly recalls. She’s inhabiting the spirit of the mini-me of yesteryear. Of course, it’s a mantra mum’s extolled a thousand times before. And, of course, I always make out like it’s the first time I’ve heard it.

She’s right, though. This early years sentiment became lodged in my mind’s eye. And indeed, decades later during a tenure as a political journalist, that little voice refused to go away. I loved the job, but had that sense of unfulfilled potential. That sense I could do this myself. If you have it, you’ll know what I mean.

Starting a bit on the Side Hustle

An aversion to risk and financial realities perpetually burst those bubbles of aspiration. Then it happened. It was one of those Matrix-like moments where you awake from a deep slumber.

Resistance was futile; the side hustler in me would ultimately win out. Clocking off from work, I’d clock on to the Side Hustle. A brand, website and value proposition emerged incrementally against the security and salary of a day job.

5 signs it’s time to turn your Side Hustle into a full-time business

The time had come to dip the proverbial toe in the water as a freelance copywriter. My first catch? A client in the cosmetics sector. There’s a certain indescribable exhilaration which accompanies being paid for your passion. Once you cash in, it’s hard to cash out. It’s a thrill akin to riding a rollercoaster. And, yes, during a year and a half of side hustling, there were more twists and turns than a Hitchcock movie. Yet the time had come. No longer was I simply feeding my passion, the side income had become enough to be self sustainable… well, just about.

This trajectory would take me from an employee with a Side Hustle, to sole trader to limited company owner with offices in the UK and US. Everyone’s journey is, of course, unique. How you get from here to there is down to you. And making the leap from side hustler to full-time business owner is fraught with equal amounts of excitement and doubt.

Even so, learning from the mistakes and successes of others is a great way to ensure you make the right move at the right time. So here are 5 signs to help you turn your side hustle into a full-time gig.

1. Testing the market

The great thing about side hustling alongside a full-time job is it gives you the time and security to test out the market. Are you generating interest online? Is word-of-mouth marketing spreading like wildfire? Market response and demand is a great indicator that your Side Hustle has the legs to walk on its own as a full-time venture.

2. Is there life in your hustle?

Side hustling alongside a job can be tiring. In fact, when you start up, it’s you who will need to motivate yourself to get out of bed early and do late nights. Eventually, there’s a turning point. One whereby the Side Hustle takes on a life of its own. If your bit on the side starts pushing you rather than you pushing it, it’s a sign that you’re ready to make the leap.

3. When passion turns to profit

More and more people are finding themselves doing something else on the side. Why? Either to add to their income or to feed their passion. Either way, if you’ve started turning a profit it’s a win-win situation. You get to do what you love and make money.

Ensure you have enough customers to spread the risk should something happen outside of your control. Then, with low overheads and customers, it could be that you’re ready to take the next step.

4. Experience

Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions. Side hustling whilst employed gives you the time and space to build knowledge. And knowledge is most certainly power when it comes to both your craft and business itself.

Embrace your strengths. You love your business. You’ll always be your best marketing tool. Know what you’re great at, good at and where you have gaps. Understanding your own weakness is a strength. It makes you a powerful manager and delegator.

With time, you’ll become savvier. Financially more astute. You’ll able to build repeatable systems and automate tasks that otherwise eat up your valuable time. And, above all, with experience, you’ll be better placed than anyone to stand back and decide if the time has come to turn your Side Hustle into a business.

5. You need to take things hire

Understand, you’ll never replace yourself. You are unique. To you, what you’ve created is akin to person. Something you love, cherish, nurture and think about around the clock. A longtime customer, confidant and seasoned marketing manager once mused: “Every CEO I’ve worked for has strived to replace themselves, and each one failed.”

Boy, was he right. Trying to clone yourself will lead to disappointment. Everyone’s employment strategy is different. But if you find yourself with so much opportunity that you can’t take it all on your own, it might be time to expand. After all, business moves fast and you don’t want to lose it. Perhaps friends or family could help out. If you need specific experience, freelancers and contractors might expand capacity whilst lessening the financial commitment.

Then there’s hiring… gulp. It’s a big step and, if you’re considering it, it’s a clear sign that you’re Side Hustle is ready to rock and roll. Now, whilst you’ll never clone yourself, the key is to find people who share your passion. Those who align with your vision. This is almost as critical as the core skills they’ll bring to your soon-to-be business. Find people who want to grow the venture as much as you do. Who can see the bigger longer-term picture. People who would represent your brand with as much pride as you do. Then build a team around them.

Nobody said it was easy...

… but it’s not nobody who’s doing it, it’s you. And, sure, running a Side Hustle isn’t easy. There’s the work. Then there’s the business. Not to mention the politics at play at every juncture. Forget Dolly Parton: there’s no working 9-5 here. But nothing GOOD comes easy. And, if you love it, it’s never really work.