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Many of us have fantasised about leaving our day jobs to start a business where we can enjoy the perks of being an owner. Often to the detriment of our personal growth and happiness, we keep these aspirations buried in our imagination.

But every now and again, a generation has the decision to start something of their own made for them.

The covid-19 pandemic has created employment in some industries but undermined it in many others. If you happened to work in the latter when it hit, you might find yourself either unemployed or earning less than you need. Getting a side hustle up and running as your primary source of income might be your only option.

That may sound daunting, but with the right approach, it could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. We offer some advice on how to make the transition successfully.

  1. Let go of the past

It’s tempting to believe that your job or income loss is somehow your fault and that starting your own business is, therefore, a fanciful idea. You may also harbour some ill feelings towards your former employer.

These emotions are completely normal. But they don’t, and shouldn’t, have the power to hold you down.

For one thing, losing your job because of a global pandemic shutdown the world’s economy has nothing to do with your level of competency. And even if you’re convinced that your ex-employer didn’t value you, it’s likely they felt that way pre-pandemic, in which case you shouldn’t have been there, to begin with.

It pays to remember that negative energy saps creativity and motivation, both of which you’ll need in spades to turn your fledging side hustle into a thriving business. So, acknowledge any painful emotions, but instead of dwelling on them and falling into a funk, use them as motivation to take the first step toward doing something great. If there’s a part of you that wants to prove someone wrong in the process, embrace it.

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  1. Ask for help

The idea that our success depends solely on our own ability is nonsense; anyone who’s achieved something worthwhile will tell you they didn’t do it alone. And the truth is that if you make it easy for people to help you, 99% of them will jump at the opportunity.

One of the most underrated ways to give your side hustle an early boost is to find a mentor who’s already successful in whatever it is you’re trying to do. Use your existing network and social media channels to find them. And then simply ask for their help. A good mentor will shorten your learning curve by helping you to avoid the mistakes they’ve already made; that’ll save you time, money and frustration.

If asking for help feels awkward, don’t worry. That, too, is natural. The best way to overcome this hesitation is to look for any opportunity, no matter how small, to reciprocate once a mentor engages with you. There might be someone valuable you can introduce them to or a particular problem they have that you can help solve.

  1. Save, and lower your overheads

The shared struggle of every fledging business is covering costs. Until you’ve built up the necessary scale and client base, you should expect to have months where you don’t earn enough to do so.

To give your business the best chance of survival (healthy profits come later), save money in the good months – despite the strong urge to spend it – to cater for those in which things go slow. But perhaps more importantly, keep your fixed costs as low as possible. This will make your side hustle more resilient under challenging periods, buying you the time necessary to reach scale.

An effective way to do this is to barter your skills for things you need rather than spend money. If you’re starting an accounting practice, for example, and you need a website developed, offer tax advice or bookkeeping services in return for the required coding.

There are, however, some areas where spending money will allow you to make more of it. Efficient cloud-based accounting and payroll software will help you own your business admin, giving you more time to refine your product or service.

  1. Fund your business creatively

There’s a good chance you’ll need capital to put your side hustle on the path to main hustle. You could craft a business plan and approach your bank for a loan. But that’s not your only option.

Online crowdfunding platforms are now a widely used conduit through which to raise funding for your business. Family and friends are also an option, but only borrow from people you really care about and respect; that’ll give you the necessary motivation to make sure their money isn’t wasted. You could even host a classic garage sale to boost your bank balance. Every cent counts in the early days.

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  1. Be great at one thing

This is a big one. The temptation in any nascent side hustle is to chase every cent of revenue that presents itself. But doing so means that you’ll likely end up working on projects that don’t align with the direction you want your business to go in.

We’ve all heard the saying that trying to be everything to everyone results in you becoming nothing to anyone. We hear it often because it’s a fundamental truth.

It doesn’t mean that your business can’t pivot. It does mean that you need to set goals for your business and then think very carefully about every opportunity that crosses your path and whether taking them on will help you advance towards those goals. The risk of becoming a jack-of-all-trades is that you’ll always deliver satisfactory work at best. To really scale your business, to the point where you can rely on it fully for your income, you’ll need to deliver a product or service that wows people.

  1. Create brand advocates

It’s no secret that word of mouth advertising is the best kind. There are many businesses that grow purely on a referral basis; people trust brands that people they know trust.

To leverage its power, you’ll need to look after your early customers with the utmost care. That means engaging with them in a respectful, patient manner – even when they’re unhappy – as well as providing timeous solutions to any issues or problems they have relating to your offering. Be sure to thank them for their support in a personalised manner.

It’s worth reiterating that people will want to help you grow your business if you make it easy for them to do so, and there’s nothing easier than recommending a small business that genuinely cares about its customers.

  1. Manage your own expectations

The reason that starting and running your own business can be so rewarding is that you’re likely to have experienced a lot of hardship along the way. To throw another cliché into the mix, there is no sweet without the sour.

Know that you will have hard days. Know that it may take months or years before you earn what you did in your previous job. Know that you’ll have to make sacrifices. By managing your expectations in this way, you’ll bounce back much faster when you face setbacks, helping you to develop the resilient, problem-solving attitude that defines all great business owners.

But also know this: you have the power to turn your ideas into a successful business. And once you’re on that path, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to find it.

One day, you might even need to thank that nasty little pathogen for pushing you into entrepreneurship. And maybe even your previous employer. 

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