Hey there friend. I’m guessing if you’re reading this then you’re probably in a similar boat I was about a year ago. You’re working a full-time job of some sort and running your own business on the side. That means you’re probably working nights and weekends to make this business of yours bigger and bigger so that you can eventually take it full time and dedicate more of your time and energy to it.
I was in the same boat. I was working as an in-house website designer for a corporation and I was feeling creatively drained by all the restrictions we needed to adhere to. So I started doing some freelance work on the side. Eventually, it grew enough where I thought that I could maybe make a business out of it. So I did all of the legal things, got an EIN, set up a separate bank account, and then I felt more official. I ran my business as a side hustle for about 3 years before I decided to take it full time. 3 years may seem like a long time, but I want you to know that it doesn’t have to take that long for you to do the same thing. I chose to run my business on the side because we wanted to pay off some debts that we had before I went full-time in my business. Here are some of the things I did throughout those 3 years to make the step into full-time business owner a reality.
Paid Off Debt
Coming out of college, my husband and I both had student loan debt. Then we bought a house and a reliable car to get around, so we had a decent amount of debt. For the first couple of years that I ran my business on the side, I put everything I took home towards paying off our student loans and our car. I knew that for us, I wanted to be able to step into fulltime entrepreneurship without a lot of pressure to make ends meet month after month. I also just wanted to be free of our student loan debt because the interest rates are so high! So about a year before I went full-time in my business, I had paid off both my husband’s and I’s student loans, and 1 of our cars.
I’m someone who needs a sense of security, especially when it comes to money. We are really good about doing a budget, and for us it works out that we do budget twice a month to line up with how my husband gets paid. Before I went full time, my husband and I knew that if something went wrong and I couldn’t bring home a paycheck, we would still be able to pay the bills (thanks to paying off so much debt beforehand!) But I still wanted to have a little bit of a runway in case something went awry. Soo, we built up our savings! We didn’t have an actual goal or a set number of months of expenses, we just knew we wanted to have an extra chunk available!
Established a Presence on Social Media and Built a Website
Throughout the time that I was running my side hustle, I was building a social media presence and working on building out my own website. It was slow, and I definitely wasn’t consistent, but it was something that I continuously worked on. That helped me book clients throughout the time, and I was able to build other things like my email list. I also spent a lot of time in various Facebook groups answering questions and offering my design services to anyone that was looking for them! I was actually able to book a lot of my clients from Facebook groups because I was so active.
Created Systems to Help Me Run My Business Better
One of the best things I did for my business was getting set up with my CRM, Dubsado. I can’t tell you how much it helped to have systems set up to take care of my clients, even when I was working full time. If you’re not familiar with Dubsado, I definitely recommend checking out this post that goes into detail about how I use it in my business. I use it for forms, canned emails, contracts, scheduling, invoicing, proposals, etc.
For example, when I had a potential client reach out via the contact form on my site, a workflow would be enabled letting them know that I had got their message, and give me a to-do item to look over their form and send them a link to my calendar in order to book a discovery call with me. All while I was working!
Seriously, if you’re not using a CRM like Dubsado, definitely check it out. It’s been a game-changer for my business.
Incrementally Raised My Prices
As I started to work with more clients and book out farther in advance, I incrementally raised my prices. About a year before I went full time I had a realization though that what I was charging wasn’t really going to make me any money if I wanted to do this full time. That’s when I had my engineer husband help me figure out how to create a calculator to figure out how to price my services. By putting in a couple of numbers, it was evident that I needed to raise my prices so I could make a decent income and not have to take on a ton of clients at one time.
If you want access to this same calculator to help you price your own services, you can access that here! I know how hard it is to price your services!
Built Up a Steady Stream of Client Work
In the last 3-4 months of me working in corporate, I scheduled all of my clients ahead of time so that I had a few months of work for me already set up. That way I knew I had money coming in and I had a little bit of a runway to find clients for the following months as well.
With that in mind, I did leave a little bit of white space in my calendar to be able to work on things in the business like improving my processes and making time for courses I was taking at the time.
Set Expectations With my Clients
When I was working full-time in corporate, I made sure to manage expectations with my current clients. They all knew that I was running my business as a side hustle so they would likely hear from me in the evenings and sometimes on the weekends. I made apparent what my office hours were by putting them in my email signature and on my website. I also gave them timelines for each section of their project so that they would know when to expect things from me, and when I needed their feedback so that we could keep the ball rolling.
Most of these things are things I still do today, but because I had a weird schedule before, I wanted to make sure that they knew that!
Booked Out Designer Course
One of the biggest things that helped in the transition to full-time entrepreneurship was Elizabeth McCravy’s Booked Out Designer Course. If you’re a fellow designer like me, I HIGHLY recommend you check it out. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post over here!
I took the course shortly after I went full time and it was so helpful to learn from another designer about the business side of running a design business. If you’re not a designer but still want to learn more about the business side of running a business, I highly recommend you do a little research and see if there is a course out there for your industry! I know for me it was a huge help in making the transition easier.
I know there are a lot of late nights and work that happens when you are running your business as a side hustle. And if you’re currently in that season, just know that I know how you’re feeling. It’s exciting and exhausting all at the same time. But I also want you to know that this is a season and I know that if you keep working toward taking your business full-time, you can do it just like I did.