From Side Hustle to Full-Time Business

By Laura Wallace |  May 21, 2019

Many of you are working full-time – you’ve got regular day jobs, evening jobs, weekend jobs – but you’ve got this thing on the side, right? You’ve got an idea for a business. You started to slowly build it and it’s starting to gain momentum, but when is it time to start changing the mindset and switching around your schedule to turn that side hustle into your full-time gig?

This week on The Gutsy Podcast, we’re going to talk about just that. I’m going to tell you about all the things I should have done when I started Worx 11 and a half years ago, but didn’t, and what has really helped a lot of entrepreneurs be successful in making that transition from side hustle to a full-time business.

Now there’s a little bit of power behind being naive. If I knew what I know now when I had started Worx, I can’t really guarantee I would have gone on this journey, but there’s a lot of power in that because I also have experienced some of the greatest moments of my life because of this.

Also, if I think back to how I started Worx, I don’t really know I would give that same advice to someone. Now, like many of you, I was absolutely doing the side hustle while I was working full-time. So at the time, we’re going to go back to the year 2007, I was working at the yellow pages designing yellow page ads. And if you’ve listened to the podcast throughout, you’ve heard a little bit about this story. But I think it’s important to reshare it here because we’re talking about that transitional point where I decided to quit that job and take Worx full-time.

When I think back to that timeframe, gosh, it’s such a moment of time. I can really physically and mentally relive it as I’m talking to you today. So I had been freelancing for quite some time. Graphic design is my career. That’s where I started everything and I was designing all day and I’m going to put “design” in quotation marks because when you’re creating yellow page ads, uh, your level of creativity is fairly limited. But I learned some of the most valuable things I needed to know during that season of my career. But I would leave work and feel just kind of unfulfilled. I had a whole lot more to give.

So I started freelancing on the side and I started doing that by honestly meeting people. Prior to even starting at the yellow pages, I was going to school full-time and also working full-time and I had made some connections. I was a photographer at the Walmart portrait studio and a lady came in and she was talking to me. I was asking her about what we were taking her headshots for and she was a business coach.

So I started talking to her about what I was going to school for and she had a need for graphic design for her authors, for her marketing and for a bunch of other things. So I had started, that was honestly my very first freelance client and she stuck with me for many years. We worked together for a long time and even through being at the yellow pages, we were doing some freelance work together. And through that and some other connections, that just kind of started to slowly grow.

So I was working 40 hours a week at the yellow pages and then I would come home. At that time we didn’t have Camden, our son, yet. Um, and I would make dinner and do whatever we needed to around the house and then for a couple of hours every evening I was designing for my freelance clients. I really enjoyed that. I, by the way, was also 22 when I started my business. So I had a whole lot of energy. When I think back to doing that now I’m like, oh gosh, I don’t even know if I could do that. But you know, in that case, I probably could.

What started to happen was my freelance clients started to grow. I had more requests for projects. I was working more on freelance work than just in the evenings. It started to bleed into the weekends and then it started to become, as soon as I got home, I had to eat dinner really quick and get upstairs and start working on my freelance work to make the deadlines that I had promised. And I did this for probably a little over a year before I started to really think, you know what, maybe there’s actually something to this. Maybe this is an avenue that I should pursue. Maybe this is where that dream of having a business comes into play.

By the way, I’ve always known that I wanted to have a business of some sort. I just didn’t always know how to channel that. So I can’t say I went into owning a business 100% naive and blind, but mostly the turning point for me was everything just kind of came to the surface. At my day job. I was really tired. At this point, I was also pregnant, which brings on a whole other set of emotions. But I kind of came to the realization that I was not going to go anywhere else in the company. The leadership was not super supportive of my kind of new journey and endeavor in life with being pregnant and knowing that I was always expressing, wanting to be more creative. And then there was this kind of snafu at work and I just knew I was done.

I wasn’t going to put myself in that position anymore. I wasn’t happy there. I was way happier when I was able to be creative on my own terms with my own clients and I was just really exhausted. Keeping up with two, essentially, full-time jobs is pretty damn exhausting. And that’s the point where I quit. I put in my two weeks notice. I had some vacation and sick time that cashed out, so all in all, I had about a month’s worth of pay. And at the time my husband was the breadwinner. He was financially supporting us so we were able to make it work.

Now here’s where the naive 22-year-old brand new business owner stuff comes into play. Here’s where all the advice that I would not give a new business owner today is. There’s a whole slew of things I missed that I could have helped set us up for better success and maybe would have even been able to prevent some of the hardships that came in the two years after this all happened.

The saying older and wiser most certainly comes into play here and through working with a ton of small businesses, a ton of entrepreneurs, and supporting a lot of our friends and other colleagues in their business endeavors. I’ve learned a lot of things I can now advise people on some of the tips and triggers, things to look out for and how to really set yourself up for success because let’s face it, quitting your full-time job or even your part-time job to take your side hustle into your full-time is kind of unknown, scary territory, right?

There are a lot of gray areas, there’s a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of times you’re giving up mainly comfort things that are secure in your life – like a paycheck for instance. That’s super freaking handy. Sometimes it’s benefits, sometimes it’s vacation. I know that sounds kind of silly, but even being able to build in vacation to take adequate time off is really important.

So I was reading on Forbes and Forbes says that you have a 30% better chance of being successful if you don’t quit your day job before you have started the actual process of starting your business. In other words, you’re going to be more successful if you get your shit together first. The other thing is, this journey is not the same for anyone. Ever. So my playbook may look different than someone else’s and the way that someone else quit their job is going to be a very different scenario than your next door neighbor or someone else that’s doing it within your inner circle. So don’t feel like just because Suzy down the street was able to do it one way that that’s the exact way you’re going to do it. The things we’re going to talk about today are just some cues and how you can really start to set yourself up for that transition.

One of the first things to really just even start opening your mind up to, and this is not something that you can really prepare for, is that there’s a period where you’re literally working your ass off. So if you think you’re tired now working full-time and side hustling, there’s a whole new level of exhaustion that comes with starting a business. Because there’s a lot more pressure and there are a lot more things that fall on your shoulders. Now I don’t tell you that to discourage you because you can absolutely do it, but I think it’s important to be very transparent and matter of fact about it because it’s a transition where people think, “Oh, I’m going to be an entrepreneur. Oh, this is just this glorious life where I’m just going to quit my job and I’m going to be a millionaire overnight and I can go to the Bahamas 16 times a year. My Instagram feed is going to be fabulous and life is going to be perfect.”

Okay, let’s just be real. We’ve got to work up to that. That is something you can most certainly obtain if that is part of your goals. But being an entrepreneur is literally not an overnight success. Actually, there’s a period of time where you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Your budget’s going to be cut, you’re going to have to be a lot more frugal with your spending, and you’re going to have a whole lot more responsibilities. If you think about your current boss and your coworkers and the people you work with right now, absorb all of their roles and that’s your new job.

I often equate starting a business to having a baby, right? There are a lot of books on how to do it and how other people have been successful, but there isn’t a manual that comes with it. You know, when you have a brand new baby and you come home for the first time, it’s kind of terrifying. Honestly. I mean, it was for me anyway. Like all of a sudden I have this human I have to keep alive and I’ve never done it before and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m going to kind of rely on other people to help guide me along the way.

Business is no different, honestly, because it’s the same thing. It’s brand new. You’ve never done it before and all of a sudden you are responsible for keeping it alive. I really don’t think there’s a way to mentally prepare for that because it just kind of happens in the moment and in the seasons. But it is important to know what’s coming, right? Like if you’re terrified about having a child, it’s not always going to stop you from doing it, right? You just learn along the way. Having a business is the same thing. It’s not necessarily going to stop you, but you’re going to have to be open to learning a whole lot of new things you’ve never been exposed to before to set yourself up for success.

It’s really important to make a clear list of things you have to do to be able to make that jump. These are some really important life necessities like your income. For instance, do you know all of your bills and build in some fun money as well? Because if you’re only just paying bills and staying head down and working all the time, you’re going to burn out. And as an entrepreneur, burning out is one of the worst things you can do. How much money do you need to be able to live?

Take into account your bills, your fun money, travel, emergency expenses, your debt – everything. Anything you spend money on. I want you to get an excel sheet or a pen and paper and just really break it all down. How much per month do you need to be able to live and to thrive? There’s going to be a day where that can be expanded to include more fun and extravagant things (if that’s part of your plan), but right now we just really need to focus on the basics.

Remember, most people are not overnight successes. The ones that portray themselves as that – you’re just coming into the part of their story where they’ve reached it. Forbes recommends having a six-month buffer in your bank account. So if you think about how much money you would need monthly and times that by six, that’s the magic number you need to have in your bank account before you can quit your job. Now I know that can seem a little bit disheartening because you’re like, Laura, I’m ready to do this today, but I might have like, um, a half a month’s supply.

Here’s why this is so important and besides the obvious, we need money to live. Right? That’s obvious. The reason it’s so important beyond that though is a business is so unpredictable. Remember earlier when I said there was a couple of life scenarios that we could have maybe prevented had we done some of these things? Well, we did not have six months in savings. We might have had one or two months, but my husband was the breadwinner and we knew we could make our income based on what he was bringing in. But guess what? Not long after I quit my job, he got laid off and then all of that money went away. If we would have had six months in savings or five months even, we would have been able to recover a little bit easier and maybe not ended up in the bankruptcy we ended up in.

It’s also a really great idea to purchase all the things you need for the business prior to quitting your job because all the money you’re making working on the side can be directly invested back into the business without affecting your bottom line from your full-time paycheck. So I want you to really think about purchasing everything you need to be successful. Computers, software, technology, your branding (which we’re going to get to), clothing. I mean, what do you really need to be successful? If you just all of a sudden tomorrow were full-time in your business, what things would you need to be able to run your business efficiently? Because when you quit, that paycheck goes away and all the money you’re making with the business not only has to support the business, but it has to support you financially as well.

The best way to do this is research everything. And again, go back to that excel sheet or handy piece of paper and write it all out. It’s best when your thoughts are not trapped in your mind, but actually tangibly on something where you can see it, where you can scratch it off or check it off. You need to be able to really interact with the things you need. Spend some time researching how much these things cost, not just, “Oh, I think a new computer is 1000 bucks,” but what type of computer do you actually really need? Do you need a laptop? Do you need a desktop? Do you need a tablet? Like go to the websites, spend time. You’re going be spending a lot of time investing in research, so you might as well start now. Really look up the exact things you need. Talk to people, get quotes and write it all down. And see how much is it going to cost to start this business.

I want you to also think about some of the benefits you receive from your job that you’re going to lose when you transition over. So things like health benefits, dental benefits, 401k, things of that nature. They’re not always the most fun topics to talk about, at least not for me, but when you quit the job, those things are going to go with it. So I want you to really take time in creating a plan. Is there a private insurance you can transition over to? Do you have a spouse that you can be on their insurance? Your 401k is going to need moved. How are you going to do that? There are some logistical things behind the scenes that you want to really be ready for so you can make educated decisions and not in the moment rash decisions.

You should also really be thinking about your revenue streams. So what are you selling? How are you selling it? What is your pricing structure? And one of the most important things, who is your audience? Who are your customers and how are they going to purchase from you? There’s a bit of market research here, focus groups, trying it and selling it. In my case, I had been freelancing so I had some clients set out, so there was a little bit of revenue already coming in and I knew what was working and what wasn’t. So I really want you to take some time to identify who these customers are and what are they purchasing from you. You can’t say, “Oh, I’m going to sell jewelry” and quit your job, then just all of a sudden figure out how you’re going to sell jewelry and who’s going to purchase it.

To be able to successfully make that transition, you would need to know, “Oh, I’m going to have an Etsy shop” or “I already have one set up” or “I’m going to sell it on my website” or “I have these particular trade shows set up.” Yes, there’s a lot of winging it in business and saying yes and figuring out later, but there are also some ground rules you really need to establish your foundation on.

Now, I don’t want you to mistake this with you have to have all the answers before you go out on this venture because if you do that, it’ll never happen. But knowing who’s buying from you, where are they buying it, and how much does it cost is a really great way to go out of the gate successfully.

And that transitions me into building a brand. Now you guys know that branding is our jam. That’s what we focus on at Worx, and I want to really push the importance of building a brand and having it ready and in place. When you start your business, what this is, yes, it’s a logo and color schemes, but it’s so much more than that. It goes back into knowing your target audience. What are their pains? How are you going to solve that for them? Which makes you their favorite person on the planet. Understanding the kind of online presence you need – a website, which social media platforms to be on. The way you speak and write all the way down to the texture of your paper. Any type of interaction that your customers have with you should look and feel the same as if it’s an old friend that they’re doing business with. It’s familiar to them and it’s something they have grown to love and appreciate.

We’re often asked, how long does the branding process take? Well, that can really depend on what types of things we are doing, but you really want to allow probably a three to six month period to really establish a solid brand face. Can it be done in less time than that? For sure. Should it be? Not necessarily, unless there’s real urgency behind it and not just because I really want to get it done quickly. It’s a really great idea to have these things in place before you go full-time. Again, your investment, all the money you’re making on the side, can go into investing in a solid brand and not just some fly by night thing that you’ve paid $5 on the Internet for.

It also sets you up for success because when you launch, you’ll already be launched. All these things will be in place and instead of saying “Now I’m full-time and oh wait, in three months I’ll also have all the branding in the place where you can go online to see me.” No, you’re going to come out of the gate and say, “Hey, I’ve launched and here’s everything you need to know about me.”

It’s also a really great idea to distinguish between the gut checks and the fact checks. If you know you are mentally getting to the end of your line – you know you’re ready to do this, you’re thinking about it more and more on a regular basis, it’s a topic of discussion at the dinner table almost every single night, things are really starting to move along – it’s really important to set a deadline for yourself. What do you need to be able to quit the job and make that transition? Going back to the numbers, going back to the things you need in place, give yourself a checklist like what do I have to do to be able to quit my job?

And that creates a sense of urgency within yourself. Ideas can go on for days, weeks, months, years, decades. But if you hold yourself accountable – knowing what you have to achieve so you can get to the other side to do the thing that burns inside you, knowing you have so much more to give but you’ve not been able to, but saying “if I accomplish X, Y, Z, one, two, and three, I know that I can live that life” – you’re gonna all of a sudden start to find ways to make that stuff happen.

I also want you to use your gut as a compass as well. You may not have all 15 things on your list checked off, but you might have 13 and you may know in your gut, “You know what? It’s okay. It’s time. It’s time to make that transition.” When you launch your business, it’s not going to be perfect and if you wait until it is, you’re going to be waiting a really, really long time. You’re going to learn things along the way. I do things very differently now than when I did 11 and a half years ago. But the way I do them now would not have suited me back then.

So also be patient with yourself. Know that it’s okay to kind of stumble on your feet and drop the ball and fail along the way. Failing is absolutely part of this process and it’s honestly how you learn to improve. Timing really is everything. And using your checklist along with your gut check is a really great combination of knowing when it’s time to make that leap.

You know, sometimes running a business has that same clock as the update on your computer, you know, it pops up and it says this is only gonna take 20 seconds and then an hour and a half later it’s still doing the same update. Then all your programs freeze. So what do you do? You manually shut down the computer, you restart it, and get back into the grind. Making this transition and honestly running a business is the exact same thing. Be patient with yourself while you’re working out some of the details. Know that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be able to launch, and be diligent about knowing what you need to be able to make this transition happen.

And last but not least, make sure you tap back into your “why” along the way. Why are you doing this in the first place? What makes you so excited about doing it? And what opportunities are on the other side of this short, uncomfortable phase? It’s easy to get wrapped up in the details, the worry, and the concern, but you know what? People do it every day, and if you believe in yourself and put the necessary steps behind it, there are some really, really amazing things on the other side waiting for you.

Join me this Thursday for our #powerback ass we talk about setting clear intentions. I mean, this topic and transition this week directly streams right into setting intentions so you can achieve the goals you have created.

Until then, follow The Gutsy Podcast on Facebook and Instagram or for more business insights, follow me on Instagram @thatlauraaura. See ya next time!

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Ep. 22: Bouncing Back from Setbacks

Setbacks can be something as little as you have to reroute your day and they can be something so monumental that you want to just crawl in your bed and stay there for the next week—or month.

Ep. 21: Mindset it EVERYTHING

“What you think is what you are.” Nothing in the world feels truer than the things we tell ourselves within our mind. So how do we manage those self-inflicting thoughts that quite nearly drain our confidence and motivation to do or be more?

Ep. 20: Identifying and Removing Toxic People

Let’s face it, approaching toxic people and saying, “You know what? I’m good. We’re not going to do this anymore,” is probably one of the more harder things to do as a human. Especially if you’re not sure how to identify these people from the start.

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