I was recently going down memory lane as I am about to celebrate 15 years as a full time business owner and founder. The road has been filled with tremendous highs and many learning curves (I will never call them lows), which have made me stronger and more valuable as a leader. 

None the less, when I decided to start my first business, I started it as a "side hustle." I had a full time job during the day that was not in line with my purpose, passion, nor my degree; it was strictly a way to pay the bills. However, I knew that I wanted to build my own company, but like anyone who is earning a lofty, steady income with great benefits, it was difficult to take the plunge and quit. 

So, I devised a plan and started my first company in the basement of my home as a "side hustle." It was a legal consultancy that supported law firms and solo-practitioner attorneys with family law document preparation and filing. Within months, my night hustle was becoming profitable and I began taking time away from my lunch break at work to facilitate calls and meetings during that hour. 

After a year, I realized the side hustle stage was over and I needed to make a decision. I worked my corporate job from 9am to 5pm and my business from 5:01pm to 4am. The lack of sleep was worth it as I was living my dream. The decision was not hard to make at all, but I was still apprehensive to take the risk, until I was forced to make a decision. 

The trap of the gig economy and side hustle creates a false reality that you just need some "extra income." It is worth it to ask yourself if your side hustle is your passion or if you are settling. Here are five ways to create and grow a side hustle that is in alignment with your passion into a successful company, before quitting your current job. 

Treat your job like your first investor .

Funding your start up is the most difficult part of growing a successful company. A side hustle that is in alignment with your passion will need funding to grow. Before you approach investors to invest in your business, fund it yourself. Once you have "skin in the game," it is easy to attract capital. Think of your job as your investor. Make sure you are accountable for where you invest in the early stages

Know that long days are worth the sacrifice  .

I experienced several years of 18 hour days in the early stage, but the transition from full time employee to full time founder requires a specific level of personal and professional sacrifice that is often overlooked in the average success story. Before you hand in your resignation and publish your website, make sure you are up for the "side hustle sacrifice" of long days with at least one non-negotiable daily goal on the list. Use your "hustle" time wisely, 

Build your Proof of Demand .

The purpose of the long hours and sleepless nights are to validate your business model. Before you quit your job, use your "hustle" hours as your exploratory time to make adjustments and changes. It is less risky during the side hustle phase to go through this process. The purpose is to prove that your business model solves a problem, while compiling data on customer/client retention.

Set a time frame for your side hustle  .

Start your hustle with your exit plan for your employer in mind. Your exit strategy can be either a time frame or a specific profit margin that will allow you to see the concept is valuable in the market and sustainable. Remember, you cannot hustle forever. 

Treat it like a business, not a hobby  .

I survived the early days of my dual role as a full time employee and business owner by prioritizing both roles, while treating the business as a business. There were very few days off and I was committed to growing the company. Although it is a side hustle, it needs your attention through advertising, networking, SKU's/UPC's, quality control, case studies, pricing, monitoring EBITA, market volatility, etc. Monitor the growth of your side hustle.