1. Prepare for the Long Haul
Businessman and philanthropist Tony Robbins recently shared with me that he believes, “business success is 80 percent psychology and 20 percent mechanics.” What he means is that even a great product or service won’t take you very far if you lack the grit, determination and genuine interest in helping your future customers solve meaningful problems.
So before you start a side hustle (or any business for that matter), you need to ask yourself how badly you want to succeed. If you’re just toying with a business idea and entertaining the notion of striking it rich, don’t expect success to happen overnight or that you’ll make it past the finish line. Remember, your side hustle will begin taking many hours each week away from precious moments you’d otherwise be spending with friends, family and elsewhere. A side hustle also requires herculean effort to succeed, given that the majority of your time each day goes to your full-time job. Make a serious self-assessment about whether or not this is something you’re willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve. If you are willing to sacrifice, develop a system of positive triggers and routines to help support your self-discipline and exert all your extra effort to grow your side hustle, then you have the psychological foundation to build a successful business.
2. Identify Your Skills and Areas of Interest
Never enter a battle ill-equipped for the challenges you’ll be facing. In order to experience quick results, your side hustle must be backed by relevant skills , experience or industry knowledge. After all, business success happens only when the right skills meet the right interest areas. As billionaire investor Mark Cuban recently shared with me, your business will succeed only if it’s, “something you love to do and something you’re good at.” For example, many musicians monetize their skills by offering online guitar, violin or piano lessons. On the other hand, some creatives also have profitable freelance side hustles as graphic artists or digital storytellers. If you lack key skills that relate to your interests or the side hustle you want to create, there’s no better time than the present to learn them.
3. Validate Your Side Hustle With One Paying Customer
Your side hustle idea may seem incredibly awesome and disruptive to you, but that’s not necessarily how your potential customers will see it. More likely than not, they’ll ignore it like the vast majority of “brilliant ideas” that have been productized and unleashed given the sheer amount of daily distractions and advertisements we’re exposed to. The real reason you need to validate your side hustle idea with a paying customer before getting too far into the business is to make sure you’re not creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. The “lack of market need” has been cited in an extensive CB Insights study as the top cause of startup failures . So be warned, there’s a good chance you’re nurturing an idea that not enough people will find value in. And if nobody wants your product or service, the resources (time, energy, effort) you invest in building it will just go down the drain. To prevent this from happening, be sure to validate whether your product or service will gain traction in the real world. You can do that by getting objective feedback from potential customers and asking them to join a waiting list, pre-purchase your solution or hire you as a service provider. Quickly abandon ideas that aren’t getting a positive response and consider more feasible opportunities.
4. Differentiate Yourself From Competitors
Unless you’ve built a totally new product or service that’s a class in and of itself, chances are you’ll be positioning your side hustle against other established players catering to the same target audience. Competition is an inevitable part of doing business. In just about any niche, competitors will try to outperform your product or service, nab as many of your customers as they can and look for opportunities to innovate past you. To prevent this from happening, all you need to do is secure your value propositions with a serious competitive advantage . Your competitive edge can be anything that differentiates your business from that of your competitors. This can range from smart (or low) pricing, aggressive sales tactics, higher profit margins, unmatched customer service, best-in-class features, strategic relationships, intellectual property and other specific factors that clearly differentiate your brand from the competition. Your competitive advantage is what makes customers choose you, and continue coming back for more.
5. Define Clear Goals
It’s commendable to dream big. But when it comes to actually making your side hustle a success, you will get absolutely nowhere by aiming for the end zone straight out the games. In order to make your larger goals happen, you need to start with very small, incremental goals. After bringing on one satisfied customer, it’s time to get your second. Then your third, fourth, fifth and so on. If you begin by aiming for 1,000 customers instead of just one, you’ll get too overwhelmed with everything that needs to be in place before handling that many customers. In my experience, having practical goals that are attainable on a daily, weekly and monthly basis helps you develop positive habits and train yourself for success. One good framework to use when formulating goals is the SMART Goals Criteria . Developed by management icon Peter Drucker, SMART is the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
6. Set Milestones That’ll Force You to Launch
A good, viable side hustle idea should be launched, monetized and iterated. Don’t obsess over trying to build the perfect solution when you don’t yet know what exactly your customers will resonate with most. Otherwise, you’ll just waste precious time, trapped in a perennial dream state. To help you beat the inertia, draw up a simple action plan that lays out key milestones and deadlines that’ll guide you from start all the way to launch date. Stick to your deadlines , tell friends and family about them, hold yourself accountable and don’t allow yourself to make excuses. Then perform the actions needed to move from one milestone to the next. Again, never aim for perfection because it will bog you down and prevent you from ever launching anything.