More and more people are no longer doing just one thing. Sure, they go to work every morning, and come home every evening, and get excited when the weekend rolls around. But then evenings, weekends and lunch hours are spent focusing on one or more side hustles. In my company, this ranges from DJing to breeding exotic pets, designing skincare ranges, selling home-made goodies, and let’s not forget a really important one: parenting.
Some colleagues are testing the entrepreneurial waters, others say their side hustle feeds their soul and many simply need the extra cash. All excellent reasons for having a little somethin’ somethin’ on the side.
But what happens when your side hustle becomes your main hustle? Is it possible to flip the coin so that your nine-to-five becomes the thing you do in your spare time? Or to split your time equally(ish) between two avenues?
I’ve done it. Let me tell you how.
Just over a year ago I started my own business. It wasn’t the kind of business that could be done in my spare time, but I knew, as with any new venture, I wouldn’t be able to rely on a guaranteed income of any substance for the first few years. With bills to pay and a family to raise, a loss in income wasn’t an option. So, my plan was to resign from my job as a User Experience (UX) Designer and beg the agency I worked for to offer me some freelance gigs. The trouble with freelance work, of course, is that it isn’t always there for the taking.
Imagine my delight when I finally plucked up the courage to discuss my plan with my boss who immediately said: “That’s amazing – how would you feel about working part-time for us while you get your business off the ground?” It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting but it was a dream come true. The fact is that not everybody has the privilege of working for a company as progressive as mine that embraces and supports the side gigs their staff have going on.
So, with the opportunity to keep working at reduced hours I made the switch from nine-to-fiver to fulltime small business owner. My day job has been my side hustle for a year now and these are the lessons I’ve learned that make it doable. An open channel of communication. An initial teething period goes without saying. But if anything’s not working for someone, it must be discussed and rectified if necessary (and possible).
Enough of the right kind of work. Without this, I am a very expensive part-time employee. It takes some foresight and planning between me and my managers to keep me billable. Support and cohesion from my team. I need team members to be aware of, and sensitive to the days and times I’m in the office so that meetings are scheduled accordingly, and client expectations managed.
Self-discipline. It’s all too easy to let time run away at the office. Sometimes, it feels like a little holiday from my now-main-hustle! I have to remember how much time I’m contracted to work there and stick to it in order to give my own business the time and attention it needs.
Flexibility. The nature of my company means that I can’t just move things around randomly. But if I can make things easier for my team by offering to be available at a different time or on a different day, I do.
People tell you not to quit your day job. And yes it’s true, I didn’t actually have to quit mine completely. But still, I miss the banter and general office vibe, finances are a constant struggle, and let’s be honest; paid leave is a perk I’ll never again enjoy. But nobody said starting your own business was easy!
I’m lucky to have the best of both worlds. I’ve managed the switch. It’s not impossible.
Zoe Sevitz is a Small Business Owner and part-time UX Designer at VMLY&R South Africa.