When I started hauling junk as a way to pay for school, I had no plans to make it a career. But when my little startup got so busy that I had to duck class to take calls, I realized my side hustle had serious potential. Little did I know, I was a part of the gig economy before it was cool!
Now the gig economy is mainstream; many people work a side hustle for extra cash or to pursue a passion they don't view as a viable career. For me, it was a little of both: I needed the money but I also had big entrepreneurial dreams and wasn't willing to settle. It wasn't easy to create a sustainable career out of my junk hauling gig, but it's been worth every challenge -- and I believe anyone can do it.
Here are my 5 tips for turning your passion project into your profession.
1. Do Your Groundwork
When I told my dad I was ditching college to grow my fledgling junk removal company, he (understandably) thought I was crazy -- but he couldn't ignore the evidence that the business was going strong. While he may not have seen my vision at the time, he at least had faith that I had a plan.
As Tim Ferriss says in his book The 4-Hour Workweek, the success of your side hustle depends on how you plan for the transition. First, determine how much money you need to make in order to leave your current job, and then assess realistically how your new venture will support you. One of the benefits of a side gig is that it's basically a test run for your business idea. It gives you a chance to prove its viability before you put everything on the line.
Before you get ahead of yourself, don't quit your day job -- yet. Set yourself up for success by building a solid foundation first.
2. Be Prepared to Work Long Hours
But remember, there is no four-hour work week when you're in startup mode. Becoming your own boss isn't a fast-track to freedom; in the beginning, it requires sacrifice. If you're not prepared to give up your free time to make a career of your passion, then you're unlikely to succeed in the long run.
When I chose my business over my education, I pulled 16-hour days. I poured everything I had into our growth, doing my own PR and sales until I was earning enough to hire help. It was an exhausting grind -- but I loved it because I was building something I believed in. If you plan to turn your side hustle into a viable business opportunity, you need to put in upfront effort. Eventually, it will pay off.
3. ...But Don't Burn Yourself Out
As you make the transition from employee to entrepreneur, you'll be doing double duty. All of your time and energy will be going towards juggling your regular job and your new business. It won't take long to feel the effects of burnout.
In the early days when I was working around the clock, I reached a point when I nearly cracked. I started having panic attacks and suffered from severe anxiety. I realized overworking myself wasn't doing me or the business any favours: our growth had stalled and I wasn't having fun anymore.
It was only when I learned to delegate to my team that we started to pick up momentum again. While growing a business requires long hours and hard work, it's important to carve out time for your personal well-being, too.
4. Be Patient
Making the decision to pursue your passion is exciting and rewarding. But try to resist the urge to do too much, too soon. Building a business from nothing is a long, arduous process and it will be slow (at least in the beginning). If you try to grow too fast, you'll set yourself back.
The first 1-800-GOT-JUNK? office was in the closet of my bedroom at my parents' house. The first truck was a $700 jalopy that cost double its worth to repair. My point is that you don't need fancy office space or shiny new gadgets. Be patient, make smart choices, and wait for the flywheel momentum to build.
5. Just Do It!
We're all guilty of making excuses not to make a change in our lives. Maybe you've always wanted to start a business, but you think it will take too long or you won't earn enough. This kind of thinking only leads to stagnancy; dreams of "one day" eventually turn into years of stifling your true passion.
I won't lie: entrepreneurship is a tough road. It's stressful at times and it's a high-risk career path -- but it's even higher reward. At the end of the day, you need to trust in yourself and have faith in the process. Every positive change starts by simply taking the first step. If you want to change your life, stop waiting and start doing.